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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That Parker Luck (Again (Again)), or, Spider-Man: Homecoming

spidermanhomecoming

I’m not actually going to come up with a Beats by Dre/Spider pun, but I’ll sure as hell let you know that’s theoretically what goes here.

When I started putting together some notes for my inevitably groundbreaking Spider-Man: Homecoming blog post a huge part of my thinking about the film involved the perceived tug-of-war between providing a fresh take on the character for fans who have seen Spidey in six previous films and providing a traditional take on the character for younger audience members who may not be familiar with Spider-Man because they were six when Tobey Maguire (did you know that’s how that’s spelled cause it was a shock to me) danced himself clean in Spider-Man 3.

Then I remembered there had been a whole other Spider-Man between then and now, one that came out in a post-Avengers world no less.

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s greatest weaknesses are arguably not its own. In a bubble its blemishes would perhaps go entirely unnoticed, but it can be hard to escape the fact that it is the second reboot of a franchise in five years.

Though one always has to keep in mind that every superhero film is somebody’s first, Homecoming doesn’t go out of its way at all to do anything particularly revolutionary with the character. While it spares audiences the drudgery of watching Batman’s parents be gunned down for the 27th time, in comparison to its IP forerunners Homecoming feels more like the transition between Dalton and Brosnan than Connery to Moore. Even thrust into the expanse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, RDJ in tow, it doesn’t manage to make the exploits of a charming young man perpetually disappointing his love interest and alienating his Aunt in the name of responsibility feel any fresher than they did in 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man. Watching Peter Parker, this time played by Tom Holland who is quite likely the best Spidery yet, get himself into one secret-identity-SNAFU after another really drove home just how much I appreciate the unspoken heroism that is the MCU’s usual dismissal of secret identities.

Tired tropes aside, Homecoming does spare its audience the insufferable “she can’t know my secret identity because somehow that equates to protecting her” shtick. Contained to the film itself, Peter Parker’s secrecy is totally sound, but lined up with 15 years of cinematic Spider-Man storytelling, the frustrating social predicaments Peter finds himself in prove just as frustrating for a viewer who’s seen any other Spider-Man movie before.

Thus, the first two-thirds of Homecoming, while fun and charming, are not a revolution in cinematic Spider-Man, which may or may not be a problem, depending on the viewer.

The final act of Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, has the rare distinction of being a superhero film finale that is better than the rest of the movie preceding it, a feather even The Dark Knight can’t put into its cap.

In defiance of prevailing superhero wisdom, or lack thereof, rather than devolving into a mush of CGI and sky lasers so vast in scope as to be entirely devoid of relatability, Homecoming turns up the tension and emotional stakes and offers a third act with the sort of boiling intensity only Michael Keaton’s eyebrows and incessant gum chewing can truly communicate. It offers the kind of conflicts that are claustrophobic and thrilling, and the kinds of seemingly insurmountable challenges (brought to life by a brilliant and vulnerable performance on Tom Holland’s part) that make the promise of triumph all the sweeter.

Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t fix what wasn’t absolutely shattered. It isn’t a new kind of Spider-Man movie and for many it likely won’t even be the best Spider-Man movie. But the revolutionary thinking that wasn’t necessarily applied to its protagonist isn’t just THWIPed into the empty sky. It might not go down as the best Spider-Man movie ever made (I don’t know, people really like Spider-Man 2), woven into Peter Parker’s larger narrative within the MCU it has abundant potential to be a chapter in the best Spider-Man story put to film.

My Least Favorite Superhero Movie/My Favorite Romantic Comedy, or, Amazing Spider-Man 2

Somewhere in the first two acts of Amazing Spider-Man 2 it occurred to me that with a little elbow grease and a pair of scissors the superhero movie could be cut into a romantic comedy.

Somewhere in the third act of Amazing Spider-Man 2 it occurred to me that I wished I were watching that romantic comedy.

My favorite scene in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

My favorite scene in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Much like the first Amazing Spider-Man, the sequel’s charm rests largely on the undeniable chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. It’s a chemistry that becomes all the more alluring in this second outing because of just how much more interesting it is than everything else around it.

I went into Amazing Spider-Man 2 with low expectations after finding out the film had made the same misstep its reboot-inspiring predecessor Spider-Man 3 had: too many villains. But surprisingly enough the quantity of bad guys isn’t the problem here. It isn’t even that there’s so much stuff going on in the movie. It’s that there’s so much stuff going on in the movie that I couldn’t even pretend to care about.

When Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy weren’t being adorable together I just didn’t care.

There’s a power outage? And two planes full of a bunch of strangers might collide midair?

I don’t care.

Aunt May is going to nursing school?

I don’t care.

Peter Parker’s parents this and that?

I just don’t care.

Peter spies Gwen from across a crowded city street?

I’m in.

Another Amazing Spider-Man 2 highlight.

Another Amazing Spider-Man 2 highlight.

Director Marc Webb a flat out auteur when it comes to portraying the quirk and confusion of young love. His camera melts away while Garfield and Stone exchange lines that flow so organically I can’t imagine them having been typed out on a page of script. When Webb swings through the romantic borough of his sprawling film it triumphs.

Only, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, theoretically, a superhero movie. And for all the nuance and charm Parker and Stacy’s romance brings to the table the superheroics wind up feeling shoehorned in. This isn’t a bad superhero movie, but CGI aside it isn’t one that feels like it was made in 2014. Where Amazing Spider-Man 2 might have been a superhero romance, like Winter Soldier was a superhero political thriller or The Dark Knight a superhero crime drama, it instead winds up feeling like the superhero and the romance were quarantined from one another. And one clearly outshines the other.

Watching Spider-Man swing around like Spider-Man will always be cool, but Spider-Man’s conflicts in this movie are never as interesting as Peter and Gwen’s. Remember those villains I mentioned?

Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx, is a quiet, mild-mannered employee of OsCorp Industries who has no friends. How do I know he has no friends? Because people cut in front of him to get in the elevator and crowds shove him about and scatter his blueprints to and fro. And because he sings happy birthday to himself.

But then he falls into a tank of electric eels while holding a wire.

Bada bing, bada boom, he’s Electro! And it takes Electro all of five seconds to go from a shy man terrified and confused by his new abilities to a maniacal murderer literally spouting one liners.

The Green Goblin also shows up, getting the reboot treatment after the long shadow the character cast over Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. Those who thought Raimi’s interpretation of the Goblin costume was a bit too Power Rangers can breathe a sigh of relief, as this one has real-live claws and sharp green teeth, which I guess is why he’s angry?

Paul Giamatti plays the Rhino? I think? Is the Rhino actually in this movie?

In Amazing Spider-Man 2 the plot and the character motivations that set it in place feel like machinations of a bygone era. Like a superhero outing conjured up long before The Avengers, or The Dark Knight, or Spider-Man 2, or even Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie.

A third installment in  The Best of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

A third installment in The Best of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

But damnit do I love me some Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. Watching their scenes unfold feels like eavesdropping on the cutest couple you can find in a quaint public park on a Sunday afternoon.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a full on five acts. No superhero film needs five acts. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t have five acts. In a perfect world Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a three act movie about a brilliant young woman dating a charming young vigilante whose action-packed exploits are left to implication and imagination.

Get all that superhero crap out of there.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. Too cute, am I right?

2. I mean come on. Pretty adorable, huh?

3. Can Spider-Man really do WHATEVER a spider can?

4. Seriously though, are Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone legitimately too cute?

 

For more Spider-Man check out my thoughts on Dan Slott’s recent Superior Spider-Man and listen to the weekly Pony Tricks Comic Cast (also available on iTunes and SoundCloud).

Swap Thing, or, Dan Slott and the Very Idea of Spider-Man

SPIDER ATTACK

SPIDER ATTACK

Spoilers ahead for the ending of Amazing Spider-Man #700, as well as the general idea of Superior Spider-Man

I’d wager a guess that Peter Parker is one of the most famous, recognizable alter-egos in comic books, right up there with the likes of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Parker’s youth and wit define the Wall Crawler, who’s just as likely to swing from webs as he is to be a wise ass in the face of impending death. It’s safe to say that there couldn’t really be a Spider-Man without Peter Parker behind the mask.

Or could there be?

It’s a question writer Dan Slott has been pondering for over a year in the pages of The Superior Spider-Man, something of an interlude between the end of Amazing Spider-Man with issue #700 and the rebooting of Amazing Spider-Man with next week’s issue #1.

Comic books, am I right?

The Superior Spider-Man sees a dying Doc Ock, in a stroke of villainous genius, switch bodies with Spider-Man, leaving Peter Parker to die in the body of a gross old man while the consciousness of that same gross old man gallivants about in Peter Parker’s nubile young body, assuming both his personal and super-heroic identities and dedicating himself to becoming The Superior Spider-Man.

Hey, that’s the name of the book.

I won’t lie, when I first learned of the aforementioned setup to Superior Spider-Man I immediately wrote it off, because I’m open-minded. Freaky Friday Spider-Man sounded like all of the wrong kinds of silly and ridiculous, the makings of many a retrospective eye-roll.

But I wanted something new to read over the holidays and damned if I didn’t really miss Spider-Man. I gave the first volume of Superior a shot and immediately after I burned a hole in my pocket collecting back issues.

A body swap story could have been the most derivative drivel this side of Top 40 radio, but in Superior Spider-Man Dan Slott took a tired trope and used it as an existential springboard to ask not only what defines both what defines an individual and what defines an iconic superhero whose status in popular culture has far surpassed his comic book origins?

DA END

The end..?

Is Peter Parker a warm body? Is he a mind? Is he a soul? Or is he perhaps a collection of memories and experiences somewhere between all three?

And if the definition of Peter Parker is up in the air, what of Spider-Man? Is the hero defined by his alter-ego? Or perhaps his superpowers? Or is Spider-Man an elemental avatar for personal responsibility?

Classic superheroes go through something of a swap every month.

In any given week Batman could be the concoction of Scott Snyder, or Pete Tomasi, or Grant Morrison. Multiply that by 75 years and hundreds of creators and you have a wealth of different iterations of Batman. And yet whether you’re reading The Dark Knight Returns or The Court of Owls there’s never a question as to whether Batman is Batman because the character is built upon fundamental truths and represents a specific facet of the human experience.

The same can be said for Spider-Man or any other classic superhero worth their legions of fans. Slott’s Superior Spider-Man, much like Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, is a definitive examination of both the fluidity and resilience of superheroes not as characters, but as ideas.

In the midst of reboot madness, Marvel could have simply ended Amazing Spider-Man #700 one month and turned out Amazing Spider-Man #1 the next. Instead, Dan Slott took Spider-Man on a winding existential journey that tasked readers with defining not only what Spider-Man fundamentally is, but what Spider-Man fundamentally isn’t. And after the events of Superior Spider-Man I’d say the brand has earned a fresh start and a new #1.

...or the beginning, AMIRIGHT?

…or the beginning, AMIRIGHT?

One day The Superior Spider-Man is going to be released in its entirety in some monster hardcover collection of all 31 issues for like $60. It will be totally worth it.

 

 

For weekly comic book coverage check out the Pony Tricks Comic Cast, available on Pony Tricks, SoundCloud and iTunes.