Pit Stop After Infinity War, or, Fifty Outcomes

It’s out! It’s out! Infinity War is out! And I saw it! Twice! And now the bill has come due and I’ve got to live up to the fifty predictions I made for the film just before going into the theater opening night. I got basically everything and the stuff I didn’t correctly predict is absolutely there in the subtext, so without further adieu, enjoy how impressive I am!

 

 

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Thor and Black Panther “King High-Five”
I mean… maybe off-screen?

2. Ebony Maw is horrifying
This is a bit of a gimme, since he was a total creep with his creepy little “shush” finger in the trailer, but whatever punks, called it!

3. Cap and Doctor Strange “Steve High-Five”
This is a sore one as not only did Cap and Doc not “Steve High-Five,” I also failed to predict that Star-Lord and Spider-Man would “Peter High-Five” and on top of that Star-Lord and Spider-Man didn’t “Peter High-Five”

4. Cull Obsidian turns to camera and says “remember when my name was Black Dwarf? Anyway, where’s Supergiant?
Look all I’m saying is I didn’t understand a word that doofus said, so I’m probably wrong, but, I mean, you don’t know

5. Tony and Doctor Strange “Facial Hair High-Five” a.k.a. “kiss”
Okay I’m “wrong” in the sense that they didn’t actually kiss, but I’m right in the sense that they actually came really, really close

6. Lando shows up
I found this blockbuster both as thought-provoking and as infuriatingly Lando-less at The Last Jedi

7. Hela lives! #goddessofdeath #Avengers4
If I’m being real, this theory was based on Hela replacing the role of Death from Infinity Gauntlet in Infinity War, but if I’m being petty… juries still out suckers!

8. Surely someone makes fun of the name Proxima Midnight
Seemed like a dead-ringer and than no one in Thanos’ Black Order, or the Black Order itself, ever got name checked, aside from Ebony Maw getting the illustrious “half-name-drop”

9. That GD soul stone is in Wakanda whether they know it or not!
Swing and a miss!

10. By the time the movie starts Thanos has already murdered Glen Close and John C. Riley
“Blah, blah, blah Xandar, blah, blah, blah last week.” -Thor. Boom.

11. Tony quips. Cut to: Thanos making “Jim” face
Tempted as I am to try and claim “Jim” face just means a purple face, I can admit when I’m wrong

12. The real Hawkeye was the friends we made along the way
Prove me wrong.

13. Bucky is very unhappy with Cap’s beard and he’s not to keen on his facial hair either
Inconclusive

14. Bucky gets to work on a jealousy beard and starts growing out his facial hair too
Slightly less inconclusive, but he’s got stubble and he certainly had a moment with that racoon!

15. Tony and Pepper already divorced
Even though they didn’t say it’s their first wedding, I’ll own up to this one

16. Red Skull has something to do with something somehow
Alright come on, this one was pretty freaking impressive

17. Vision just gets totally #*%@ed over by the whole mind stone thing
I mean, obviously, but still

18. Groot experimenting with recreation drug use, or the implication of as much
Video game addiction is a thing! But I guess it’s not a drug…

19. The Guardians’ various space-gibberish languages revealed at last!
I’m just saying I did genuinely think this would be a thing

20. Rocket bullies the shit out of Thor
Who’da thunk?

21. Scarlett Witch? She’s just kind of there
Wouldn’t ya know it, the ol’ Witch arguably had more to do than ever before. Spooky!

22. No one invites Ant-Man to the war and when he confronts everyone about it they’re all like “oh you weren’t there? We thought you were just tiny” but they didn’t, they knew
I mean… half right.

23. Justin Hammer saves the day, again
Apparently we’ll have to wait until Avengers 4 to find out… all I’m saying is, Rockwell’s got that Best Supporting Actor Heat

24. Peter Parker still a virgin
Prove me wrong, I dare you

25. Some crafty backpedaling regarding the ol’ Aether
Not a word! Just go with it I guess?

26. Joke or jokes made at the expense of Bruce Banner’s penis
Seemed reasonable at the time

27. Nobody notices Black Widow changed her hair
Boom!

28. No explanation of Thanos’ hat provided
So what? He get’s the space stone and all the sudden he doesn’t need a hat anymore? So it’s, what? A space hat? Huh? Huh?

29. Banner Hulks out in the Hulkbuster armor and is like “Hulk bust!” or some shit
Nope!

30. We find out who bought Avengers tower and it’s just sort of whoever
Nada!

31. Anthony Mackie kills it
Briefly, but I’ll take it!

32. Someone calls Rhodie “Iron Pants,” then remembers he’s disabled, and feels like a dick
But somebody probably thought it

33. Gamora stabs someone or something to death
Thanks, reality stone. More like “BS” stone, amiright? #aether

34. Nebula and Bucky “Metal Arm High-Five”
I don’t think anyone ever high-fived in this whole god-forsaken movie

35. The Outriders are way creepier on film than in LEGO
Look, those LEGOs aren’t creep at all, so, right by default

36. Someone makes fun of Thanos’ chin right to his face
Huzzah!

37. Peter Quill’s Zune has transformed him into an insufferable hipster
Mark my words, they’re holding on to this for Guardians Vol. 3

38. Nobody says anything about the Agents of SHIELD TV show and nobody cares
I said predictions, not impressive predictions

39. Nobody says anything about any of the Netflix Marvel shows and some people care for a second but then they GTFOver it
Not an immortal weapon in sight!

40. Groot in Infinity War is a third Groot and the Baby Groot from Guardians Vol. 2 died off screen and if nothing in the movie explicitly contradicts this than I’m right
Called it!

41. Wong and Thanos go way back
I’m just thinking about prequel sitcom spin-offs here

42. An Avenger gets the gauntlet, but, like, in a bad way?
Not yet anyway…

43. Dinosaurs, surely somehow dinosaurs. Or at least a shark or dragon
Sorry, you did what with the time stone? Anything but bring dinosaurs back alive? Oh, oh okay, sure. Sure, real realistic. Oh brother

44. When Thanos finally gets out of his space chair he puts his hands on his knees and goes “ooooooooooph”
Definitely offscreen though

45. Loki not happy about Cap or Bucky’s beards and he’s not to keen on their facial hair either I’m here all week
Yeah, yeah… rule of threes though!

46. All the white Avengers constantly embarrass Rhodie and Falcon in Wakanda
I mean… didn’t they though? Just in a not funny way?

47. Thor is missing an eye and I’m pretty sure Rocket and Groot stole an eye from the Ravagers and I’m just saying this specific prediction is actually cool and good!
I mean, c’mon! Pretty, pretty, pretty impressive. Maybe not a Ravager, maybe. But c’mon. This should count for all 50

48. Nick Fury finds a way to creep out of a dark corridor even though everyone’s on, like, $&@#ing Pluto
Nope, he just creeps out of the dark and into our hearts and souls in this one

49. Someone acknowledges Mantis
Mantis actually had, like, stuff to do in this movie!

50. Thanos is at least 38
Inconclusive, but you sure as shit ain’t going to convince me he’s 37

 

Come back next year for, I don’t know, like 100 predictions for Avengers 4? Maybe some Ant-Man & the Wasps predictions in July? This is so much easier than baking hot takes.

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Road to Infinity War – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or, The Mack Attack Begins

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

wintersoldier

Avengers Assemble? March 26? This isn’t American at all!!!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for my money, is the second truly great Marvel film. It takes the character-over-costume mentality its heavyweight predecessor The Avengers exceled at and runs with it, offering an entry in the MCU that is as compelling in its own right as it is to the mythos of the franchise as a whole. It’s also the first instance of a now tried-and-true Marvel method of steeping its films in the language of another sub-genre to spectacular effect. The Winter Soldier was a new high watermark for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it didn’t even need Robert Downey Jr.

The Avengers succeeded not only by competently bringing together previously disparate superheroes, but by doing so while still emphasizing them as compelling characters rather than just flashy costumes to be smashed together like so many action figures. The Winter Soldier continues in that same vein, fleshing out returning characters and endearing audiences to new ones with the utmost tact.

Here Nick Fury is finally more than an authoritative figurehead. Here Black Widow is given the nuance and respect the character deserves, with nary a creepy cinematic impulse in sight. Here we are introduced to a truly unsung MVP of the MCU, the Mack Attack himself: Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson. Here we get Robert Redford in a superhero movie. Here we get a villain that is straight up menacing. Here we see Chris Evans’ Captain America become the beating heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This film boasts great performances all around and despite entirely changing up its supporting cast, once again the Captain America franchise managed to have the best supporting troupe of any Marvel movie up to that point. But, without taking anything away from those performances, so much of the achievement in characterization in The Winter Soldier can be attributed to the dialogue in Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely’s script. Joss Whedon’s quip-heavy Avengers films are endearing and clever but aren’t above prioritizing witticisms for the sake of witticisms. While there is humor in The Winter Soldier, quips even, they never feel like they’re running the show, as if they’re being steered into.

The more dramatic dialogue in the movie is no different. When Samuel L. Jackson monologues away in an elevator it never feels written or recited, it feels like something Nick Fury would say. When Steve Rogers airs his concerns with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s schemes I believe they’re Captain America’s concerns, not a screenwriter’s thinly-veiled soapbox.

And on top of these excellent performances and that adept writing, The Winter Soldier boasts some truly first-rate action. Cap’s opening assault on a cargo ship plays like a confident statement of purpose, a declaration that the action to come will have a sense of true physicality and gravity. You feel the punches and the falls and the hurried steps. The film’s spectacular climax isn’t two CGI models flying around a MacGuffin, its two dudes beating the shit out of each other on a kick-ass set.

The Avengers proved the concept of a shared cinematic universe could pay off. That it could work. The Winter Soldier proved that it could thrive, that it could continue onward and upward without relying on the delayed gratification of passable solo outings between The Avengers’ triennial reunions. The Winter Soldier is the first film that proved the Marvel Cinematic Universe was sustainable and could have merit on a film by film basis, and while it still wasn’t the movie that made mine Marvel, revisiting it four years later it absolutely blew me away.

For my thoughts on The Winter Soldier upon it’s arrival in 2014:

April 14, 2014: Patriotism vs. Heroism, or, I Read Way to Much Into Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Perhaps more interesting, however, is this golden oldie from four days later in which I ponder the age old question… IS THE WINTER SOLDIER RACIST!?!?!?!

April 18, 2014: Food For Thought, or, Race in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Road to Infinity War – The Avengers, or, Keep it Simple Stupid

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

theavengers

Oh boy, what a neat poster that they didn’t use for the cover of the Blu-Ray + DVD combo pack. It’s fine. Whatever.

“You’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

Such was the promise lobbed at audiences in 2008 at the end of the end of Iron Man (remember when we used to be able to leave the theater when the movie ended?). Nick Fury’s words proved all the wiser in retrospect. So much of Marvel’s formative first phase was concerned with individuals stepping into circumstances far beyond anything they previously could have imagined. There’s an ignorance to those first steps, be they arrogant or altruistic, which is shared amongst the likes of Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers. Their reach exceeds their grasp and there are consequences that come with that disparity. In Thor, we learned the same was true of SHIELD and the shadowy government and military institutions prominent throughout these first five films. They entered into an arena they were woefully unequipped for. Shoot, by the time The Avengers wraps up, we learn the same was true even of Loki, who strikes a bargain with severe cost and consequence that, even if only momentarily, he has to second guess.

In The Avengers, what separates the heroes from the villains from the bureaucrats is how each individual dealt with the consequences of that excessive reach. Loki doubled down on his actions. The World Security Council wished them away with a nuke. The Avengers, though? The Avengers took responsibility. The team only finally came into their own when they shirked authority altogether and took matters into their own hands. And without a soul to tell them “with great power must also come great responsibility” even!

Thematically, The Avengers is a fantastic climax to the first phase of the MCU. Cinematically, six years on it’s still a landmark in blockbuster history. I really don’t feel like I can gush enough about how far Joss Whedon’s script knocks it out of the park. He took what could have been a stunt, a gimmick, a train wreck, and made a film of extreme competence and proficiency.

Perhaps the smartest move Whedon made was keeping things simple. The force of antagonism is clear, unburdened by philosophical or emotional justifications, and the rationale for every Avenger’s presence in the film is sound and straightforward. This is a script that requires no narrative gymnastics on the part of the viewer. It’s all there in the script. Rather than weave a convoluted, interconnected web of motivations to bring the team together, or plumb the depths of villainy in the search of the next Joker, Whedon dealt out hands quick and efficiently, giving him ample time instead to bounce these characters off one another to compelling effect.

Save the comic books from whence these characters came, there was no precedent for what Whedon pulled off with The Avengers. I’ve got my issues here and there with the film, but nothing that can take away from how deftly Whedon executed a cinematic first. He needed to bring these characters together and to make their fellowship worth the wait and he went about doing it elegantly, emphasizing quality over intricacy.

Four years later, Joss Whedon who delivered on Nick Fury’s ominous promise in spectacular fashion.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, or, Marvel’s Big Comic Book Movie

Superhero movies are nothing new. Long before everyone and their mother decided they needed a “shared-universe” Superman and Howard the Duck were running around on the big screen to the delight and chagrin of moviegoers. But in a lot of ways Avengers: Age of Ultron feels like the first full-on comic book movie.

BIG ATTACK

BIG ATTACK

It’s all there. From the exciting feeling that any one of dozens of characters could pop up just around the corner to the dead weight of ever-imposing continuity, viewing the second Avengers movie is like reading one of DC or Marvel’s massive semi-annual, line-wide , status-quo altering crossover spectaculars. And it comes with all of the same highlights and hindrances of a big comic book event.

Characters from across the Marvel Universe are brought together to interact with one another, be it with clever quips or exciting fisticuffs. There’s all kinds of fun pairings to be had, all in the face of massive, eye-popping set pieces and world-threatening antagonism.

But that epic comic book event scope comes at a cost on film just as it does on the page. The places Age of Ultron goes are huge, explosive and over-the-top. By the monstrous climax of the movie even Hawkeye points out the ridiculousness of it all. It’s spectacular and ludicrous and getting their in two hours requires a few lapses in logic. The same type of lapses found in massive event comics that have to condense a fight for the entire known universe into six issues. Age of Ultron is a fun, exciting ride from A to Z, but it makes that journey in way fewer than 25 steps and it isn’t graceful enough to cover up the letters it missed along the way.

A lot of that is because, much like a major comic book event, Age of Ultron is up to its neck in mythology. I feel confident asserting that Age of Ultron has to contend with more mythology than any other film ever made. It’s the eleventh film in a series that simultaneously has to react to not only its own direct predecessor but also a half dozen other sub-franchises while simultaneously setting up not only its own direct sequel but half a dozen others.

Just a couple of dreamy teens.

Just a couple of dreamy teens.

It’s a lot to grapple with and Age of Ultron doesn’t always do it flawlessly. A lot of the bigger moments wind up feeling a little out of left field and I find myself left with questions I don’t suspect there are particularly compelling answers to.

But Age of Ultron isn’t just like a big, brash comic book event. It’s like a really good, big, brash comic book event. The new characters introduced here are exciting. James Spader’s Ultron is fascinating and entertaining and menacing. The movie is consistently hilarious, the cast always charming and the dialogue sharp. The little, intimate moments in Age of Ultron are fantastic.

I recently posted a piece on Daredevil in which I put forth my opinion that the show is very much Marvel’s take on a DC movie, much as Winter Soldier was a Marvel political thriller and The Incredible Hulk was a Marvel fugitive movie. I suspect the most obvious argument to put forward for Age of Ultron is that it’s Marvel’s artificial intelligence movie, but more than anything before it Avengers: Age of Ultron is very much Marvel’s quintessential comic book movie.

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 52, or, The Cult Classic Finale

I did it, gang! 52 weeks and 52 episodes (plus four bonus episodes, just saying) and the Pony Tricks Comic Cast has come to an end. It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun, but now I need to go a week without talking to myself out load about comic books. Don’t worry though, a new podcast will be coming to Pony Tricks soon enough.

This week: Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers v. X-Men: Axis, Batman and Robin, Black Widow, Daredevil, Justice League, Multiversity

Lastly, now that the Pony Tricks Comic Cast is over I’m going to explore new options for hosting my podcasts on the web, which means that as of a month from now I’ll no longer being paying for hosting on SoundCloud, which means all 50+ episodes the Comic Cast won’t be available here in a month. But I’ll do my damnedest to make sure they’re available somewhere else. Stay tuned to ponytricks.net for more information about where these episodes will ultimately end up, as well as whatever podcast I waste my time on next.

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 45, or, Exercise Balls Are the New Cuban Cigars

If my lecture on sitting, and its being the new smoking, blew your mind back in Episode 31 then boy do I have a revelation for you! Also, there were a lot of comic books out this week. So there’s that.

This week: Action Comics, American Vampire, Detective Comics, Black Widow, Death of Wolverine, Edge of Spider-Verse, Justice League, Silver Surfer, Swamp Thing, Thor, The Walking Dead, Wonder Woman

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 41, or, Lordy Lordy the One After 40

Join me whilst I pick a bone or two with shoe sizes and the U.N. on the first proper episode of the Pony Tricks Comic Cast since getting my terrible ASUS laptop back. Not that I’m bitter about the whole thing or whatever.

This week: Action Comics – Future’s End, Black Widow, The Death of Wolverine, Detective Comics – Future’s End, Justice League, Original Sin, Swamp Thing – Future’s End