Next in the Marvel Sequence: Black Panther, Doctor Strange & Thor Ragnarok

Yesterday I mentioned I owed everyone my ruminations on our latest Marvel movie viewings— and I mentioned my impressions of Black Panther and Doctor Strange. The former has me pondering how we represent African culture in Western entertainment while also leaving me to rejoice in the fact that Wakanda, the fictional East African nation in Black Panther, leads the world in technology while still maintaining traditional African practices.

This is what I wrote yesterday: “Today was supposed to be the day I blogged about Black Panther and Doctor Strange, which I will do when I finish this and schedule it for tomorrow. Short version: Black Panther was amazing but made me think about how we represent African cultures, cultural appropriation and stereotypes AND how comic books in general have to start with some sort of basic cliché and try to improve from there. I loved how Doctor Strange blended an action hero with sorcery and in the process led to some great philosophizing about the nature of reality and the definition of good versus the definition of evil.”

I don’t know what else to say about those two except I both enjoyed them and found myself troubled by them.

And now we’re onto the latest Thor movie, Thor Ragnarok. I am tickled by the appearances of Doctor Strange and Hulk. I immediately had my guard up as I hate movies with ridiculous names. And Thor is full of words I don’t know. And I’m just now realizing why Odin retired to Norway.

We’re half way through Thor Ragnarok and the plot of Thor’s journey back to Agard (which has happened once already and now needs undertaking again) leads places I enjoy.

But…

SPOILER ALERT

The idea that Thor has an evil older sister that looks like Maleficent seems ridiculous to me, though I am thoroughly intrigued by the idea that the Asgardians began as a violent race.

So we shall see.

The Next in the Marvel Sequence

The teenager and I have been working our way through the Marvel movies. A friend from my Target days warned me that the middle batch of movies had a different feel than the rest. He said this as I started to complain about the Avengers movie featuring Ulltron.

We’ve now made it all the way to Black Panther which means I have four movies to add to my previous assessments. Previous installments (or at least the most recent) can be found here.

Ant-Man: I loved the concept and the humor, though I wonder how much of this movie was CGI. How much of the movie is an excuse to explore various special effects?

Captain America: Civil War: I feel like this movie was made just as a reason to tie new characters into the franchise. After seeing this, Spider-Man: Homecoming makes a lot more sense. But I don’t enjoy movies that makes up geographic regions just to destroy them. And a lot of these villainous plots seem to be awfully elaborate just to achieve something simple.

And if the theme of this one is to see what happens when heroes fight amongst themselves— isn’t that the storyline for the Thor movies?

Black widow: I am so thrilled to finally know the backstory for this one. Loved the family dynamics and the discussion it makes about people in power brainwashing those below them, and those who “don’t matter,” in this case, young, poor girls.

That said, I very much wanted to turn it off during the avalanche in the prison break scene. It felt way longer and more dramatic than it needed to be.

Spiderman: Homecoming: This might be in the top five of the teenager’s favorite movies. I, on the other hand, am not the target audience.

I like about half the movie. I like seeing Spider-Man act like a kid and balance his need to grow up with his desire to be a superhero. I love that Tony Stark is in the fatherly role in this one.

I love that Michael Keaton is the villain in this one. I have rated Michael Keaton in my top five of actors since approximately 1987. And yes— I like Michael Keaton as Batman and in general I am more of a DC fan versus a Marvel Fan.

My husband had me collecting Superman comics, as well as Catwoman and Batgirl (the Kassandra Kane run, not Barbara Gordon). Black Widow reminds me of her.

But I digress. Michael Keaton does a great job portraying the villain as a family man, and Peter Parker’s interactions with him encapsulate the feelings of many teen boys regarding their relationships with adults and specifically fathers.

So there you go.

Rainy Icy Friday

I don’t have many plans this weekend— defined by my work schedule as Thursday, Friday and Saturday— in part because my body has been unpredictable, the weather has been crazy and the teenager’s work schedule varies.

I went to the chiropractor at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, leaving work 30 minutes early to get the last appointment of the day. I wanted Dr. Jensen to see my body after four ten-hour shifts in Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.

And, for the second or third week in a row, I could barely crawl home on Tuesday night but felt pretty good on Wednesday. So I feel like I’m not getting closer to solutions to my physical issues.

Yesterday I tried to do some work for Parisian Phoenix, did a lot of laundry, visited briefly with a friend I’ve missed and haven’t seen merely enough of, taught a high school student how to write a press release, watched several episodes of Cobra Kai, ran the dishwasher and went to the gym.

The teenager working on her squat form

The teenager did a lot of work on her squat form while I did some accessory work. I also weighed myself— 157 lbs. Sigh. Still 20 pounds overweight.

Then we had Taco Bell, including the new Cinnabon balls.

Today I worked on the index for the Parisian Phoenix nonfiction anthology on marginalized identities, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix web site later tonight. F. Bean Barker was my helper.

Indexing is only half complete and man does it allow me to interact with the text in new ways.

Louise has an appointment with a potential adopter tomorrow and today she was quite cuddly, video here. I don’t know how she’ll do in the backroom of PetSmart but all least we’ll be with her.

Nala and Louise

In the afternoon, I accompanied the teenager to her audiologist appointment for a tune-up on her hearing aids.

Then we went for shoes. The teenager needed some and I wanted to buy a warmer pair that fit more loosely — hoping that would ease the blistering and burning in my toes.

The teenager got new black Vans and a new design, the orange blossom Vans.

We ran into Target just to use the bathroom and I told the pouty teenager we could get a drink at Sonic. But turns out Sonic is still drive through only, so if you can’t have drive-in service what’s the point of visiting Sonic?

So we went to Sheetz, and had appetizers. Which would have been fine if the teenager hadn’t suggested going to see her grandmother, my mother-in-law. And her aunt— who recently destroyed her elbow falling on the ice.

We’re finishing Captain America: Civil War right now. The ice is slowly building up outside as the cold rolls into town. And Peter Parker just made his debut in the series.

Marvel update: Two Guardians and Ulltron

The teenager and I are working our way through the Marvel Comics Universe, watching the film in what is reportedly the order of events.

It certainly gives me more depth to Tony Stark, as the Avenger movies seem to hinge a lot on him.

The teenager adores Hawkeye.

And we both enjoy Joss Whedon’s and James Gunn’s humor in the scripts.

But these three films, though completely occupying space as Marvel movies do, with crazy action scenes, internal bickering and often violence among the team, tenseness and humor, fell flat for me.

Why?

Because these movies are based on comic books— comic books from an age where the science fiction of it was wild and the world still had so much unknown. Many of these characters/heroes predate space travel.

Captain America eludes to that when he says he misses the days when he was the biggest monster science had made, or something like that.

So to believe that Hawkeye has a family hidden on a farm that no one knows about in the 21st century seems unbelievable to me, primarily because I have to ask where those kids go to school.

And the larger the cast, the bigger the threat has to be, and the more the story is less about people and more about danger. The solutions in many of these scripts make no sense and the amount of civilian destruction is insane.

And to me, a Generation Xer, Age of Ulltron recreates September 11 (specifically the scene where Tony Stark asks how quickly he can buy a building and throws the Hulk into it, causing its implosion and a giant plume of dust through a major though fictional city). Also, the very idea that Ulltron infiltrates the Internet and represents artificial intelligence gone rogue, is very pertinent for the time period but has lingering air of the late 1990s panic that the opposite would happen—computers/operating systems weren’t smart enough to survive the Y2K date change.

In the Guardians series, the plot just never develops in proportion to the characters. We have these quirky misfit characters that have flimsy plots, and themes that don’t really go beyond their two dimensional comic book origins.

And this business with the infinity stones better have a satisfying conclusion. The idea that these mysterious power sources may all have some sort of intelligence/life map coded within them is fascinating.

Does each stone have part of the blue print to create the next incarnation of the universe? Or do the stones if reunited serve as a self-destruct mechanism?

Anyway, Ant-Man is next.

And I’m intrigued. Can we really trust Vision merely because he can yield Thor’s hammer? Or can he hold the hammer because he was forged by the hammer?

Previous Marvel post

Iron Man 3

Remaining Marvel posts (start here?)

Iron Man 3: a Christmas movie?

The teenager and I have a favorite Christmas movie— The Ref with Denis Leary.

But Denis may have lost his place as our unorthodox Christmas hero because Tony Stark has usurped his place.

I had the vague feeling of déjà vu watching the film as I remembered more of this one than I usually do with films I’ve only seen once.

This one is fun because Tony Stark spends much of the film without the use of technology and his suits, relying instead on his wit and his body.

There’s a theme of taking responsibility for one’s actions running through the film, perhaps getting us ready for Spider-Man’s line, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

There is also a young man named Harley who I hope to see in a future film, and I also want to see Agent Caulson’s cellist. She was mentioned in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. But I digress.

But what really steals this movie and provides probably the closest thing to reality is Tony Stark struggling with PTSD and anxiety attacks after fighting off robotic aliens in New York (Avengers). It’s refreshing to see a good guy deal with mental health issues on screen.

More Marvel Movie Reviews— Can we go for shawarma?

The teenager and I started watching the Marvel movies in order, as I posted here and here.

This is what we have watched so far:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Captain Marvel
  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Marvel’s The Avengers

I left off with the last movie we had completed, Iron Man.

The teenager had to rent The Incredible Hulk as it is not available on Disney Plus, Netflix or Hulu. And she made a good point that if we were going to commit to watching the whole franchise, we had to watch the whole franchise.

The teenager has the very strong opinion that the actor portraying the Hulk in The Avengers is physically better suited to the role. (Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk vs. Mark Ruffalo in the later films). I realized that I had never seen The Incredible Hulk but instead I had seen Ang Lee’s Hulk. (I have also seen the TV Hulk as, after all, I am Gen X.)

I enjoyed both men, but Mark Ruffalo, to me, had the right demeanor in the role to seem intelligent, mild, and also funny. To me, Ed Norton always seems a little awkward and a little cocky.

But the movie was fun.

I, of course, enjoyed Iron Man 2 because Iron Man is an eternal wild card. I like that Pepper takes control of Stark Enterprises, and I also like that Tony Stark has to both fight and work with his friend Rhodes in this installment.

This push-pull of situations that force friends/family into enemies and enemies into friends resurfaces everywhere in the Marvel Universe. In Avengers, we see Natasha Romanoff have to fight Clint Barton, Thor have to detain Loki, and the whole damn Avengers team resort to bickering amongst themselves.

Is it a theme of “watch your back?” Or merely a reminder than humans are creatures that respond to their circumstances? We will turn on one another — sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for selfish ones.

Speaking of The Avengers, from the original Iron Man to The Avengers, Tony Stark has experienced the largest transformation. He, more than anyone in the group, transitions from a typical human to a hero.

I have a very large problem with my willing suspension of disbelief with Tony Stark. In Iron Man, he receives an oversized magnet in his chest to prevent a piece of shrapnel from entering his heart. In Afghanistan. In a cave.

The person who tended to Tony in this environment could rig up a massive magnet, somehow make a hole in Tony’s chest and find a way for it to heal into a nice little chamber, and power it with a car battery… but he was incapable of finding the shrapnel and removing it?

But that aside, and ignoring the subplots created by that device, Tony Stark is the one in the group who choses, as Bruce Wayne similarly choses in the D.C. Universe, to arm himself. Except Bruce has motivation to become a vigilante. And Tony just wants to build cool toys as a thrill.

So, Tony progresses from a thrill-seeker, to a weapon, to a hero. He voluntarily carries a nuclear bomb into outer space.

Tony Stark controls every change in his character arc and actively choses where to go.

Captain America? Drafted by the army and chosen to be transformed by super serum.

Captain Marvel? Military accident then kidnapped and brainwashed by aliens.

Hulk? Radiation accident.

Thor? Alien/God.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the movie Thor. Chris Hemsworth— he’s easy on the eyes, especially when he takes his shirt off. I love the speech patterns of the Asgardians. I also love the humor in the alien-arrives-on-earth scenarios. And I respect Jane Foster’s physics research.

That brings us to The Avengers. I remember being ridiculously tickled by Joss Whedon’s script when I saw this in the theaters. (Has Joss Whedon been officially canceled for his bad behavior on the Buffy set?)

The humor stands the test of time.

I also remember being confused by the plot. There was a great deal of character soup and the enemies came out of nowhere.

Watching the series in this order certainly solves those particular problems. The movie is still funny, but also ridiculously long. It took three days for us to get through it.

The movie made so much more sense now, and I look forward to the next on the list, Iron Man 3.

As for my title, at the end of The Avengers, Tony asks the team if they can go for shawarma. The very last scene, after the traditional teaser for the next movie, is the group eating silently at a table at a restaurant called Shawarma Palace as the owners clean up after the big end fight.

Movie review: revisiting the original ‘Iron Man’ movie

As mentioned earlier, the teenager and I started watching the Marvel movies in chronological order, the order that the story occurred in.

Today we revisited Iron Man. Now this is one of my favorites— Robert Downey Jr.’s performance is legendary, his taste in classic hard rock impeccable, and moving the story into the modern Afghanistan war is classic.

So, in trying to watch these in story order, I have to ask if the chronology stays so disparate.

Captain America debuts in World War II. Captain Marvel follows in the 1990s— so fifty years later. And now Iron Man jumps another twenty years to circa 2010.

But so far, the movies pass quickly and painlessly. I still prefer D.C.

Review: A Marvel Challenge

First, an update for my regular followers:

  • Dr. Anna Williams of the My Gothic Dissertation responded to the link I sent her of my review of her magnificent podcast. She also commented that some of my interest (cats, photography), she also enjoyed.
  • My hip and spine and leg are, I believe, not in pain today, just incredibly stiff.
  • We received our first snow last night, a fluffy white four inches. The teenager has her first and only snow day of the season— as the school district has proclaimed that any further inclement weather closings will be remote instruction days. “Baby Dog” F. Bean Barker refused to go out into the snow.
  • Our foster pride through our volunteer work with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is “down by two” as Mama Danu of the Celtic Pride and former community cat Georgie are in local pet store habitats. Danu is at Pet Supplies Plus in Bethlehem Township and Georgie is at Chaar in Forks Township. Georgie tends to be vocal and melodramatic but she’s adorable… this is her playing fetch yesterday before we took her to Chaar: YouTube video of Georgie.
Danu
  • Nala, my naughty Goffin’s cockatoo, celebrated her gotcha-versary this week. She has now been with me two years. She will be six years old next month. This is her most recent YouTube video, featuring our tripod, cancer-surviving cat Opie. This was her first video with me.
  • I am editing both Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, Parisian Phoenix’s first non-fiction book, and my third novel, Recovery. I am also trying to write the fourth novel, Road Trip, my werewolf Bildungsroman. That is very slow going and making me nervous.
  • And I think, while I was out sick having my hip tended to, there was a mandatory overtime dictate at work. I think I’ll have to squeeze eight more hours into my work week before Jan. 16— which means I will either have to work 12 hours a day (5 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or somehow squeeze 8 hours into Thursday, Friday & Saturday. I have an 11 a.m. appointment Thursday, three doctors appointments Friday and the warehouse is only open for a 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. shift Saturday. Because, of course, Saturday I have no plans.

On to the Movies…

A few days ago, I mentioned to the teenager that it might be fun to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order of how they supposedly happened. I haven’t seen most of them. We decided to use this list as reference: The Wrap.

We watched Captain America: The First Avenger (which I have seen) on Wednesday. I’ve always enjoyed this movie. I wouldn’t call it a good movie, but I love the goodness in Captain America’s motivations and the mix of history, mythology and comic book nonsense.

Last night we started Captain Marvel, which I have not seen but I do remember some controversy about Captain Marvel being a woman in the movie.

We have not finished it, as life happened, but I am thoroughly enjoying reliving the 1990s and seeing a young Nick Fury. Even more fun is seeing my daughter react to the nineties.