Maisie Lockwood and Sylvie: How to Advance Plot Without Sacrificing Character Growth (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1, I showed how two franchises advanced the growth of two main protagonists, Claire Dearing (Jurassic World) and Loki Odinson (Marvel) while still ushering in terrible world events. These two characters grew while still maintaining active participation in the story moving forward. The growth required from both Claire and Loki was that they show restraint where they previously had not. Both characters passed the test and chose to limit themselves.

However, if they had been the only players on the board, the terrible events would have been stopped right then and there. Which is great in a real-life scenario, but not so great for a fictional story that requires conflict to keep moving. The storylines in both the Marvel and the Jurassic franchises needed terrible events to happen in order to move forward.

This is where Maisie Lockwood and Sylvie come in. They are what I like to call “the innocents”.

Maisie Lockwood takes the role of “the innocent” in Jurassice World: Fallen Kingdom. She also fills that vital child role that exists in every Jurassic installment.

Look at that face! So much sweetness and fresh life!

Maisie Lockwood is the granddaughter of Benjamin Lockwood, who was apparently John Hammons’ business partner back in the pre-Jurassic Park days. A difference of beliefs separated the two and is our “convenient” explanation for why we have never heard of Lockwood before. Maisie is about 10-11 years old. She’s sweet, playful, curious, and has the beautiful sense of wonder that all of the child characters bring to the Jurassic series. The themes of the Jurassic franchise are never more clear than when we see how they affect children.

One thing we discover about Mr. Lockwood that is different than John Hammond is what Lockwood does with genetic technology. Lockwood decided to use genetic cloning technology to create a clone of his beloved daughter, who was tragically killed in a car crash. Maisie is not actually Lockwood’s granddaughter, but a genetic recreation of his daughter. The ethical questions involved there raise the roof to a whole new level. As I said in Part 1, every Jurassic installment is always engaging with the important theme of how we value life.

Maisie discovers Eli Mill’s evil plan to exploit the dinosaurs instead of saving them. She is caught by Mills when trying to investigate further, and he locks her away in her room and then murders her grandfather. Maisie finds her dead grandfather and has to escape where she blessedly crosses paths with the good guys, Owen and Claire. During the evening they are hunted by Eli’s latest pet project – the Indoraptor (your worst nightmare of a dinosaur). To put the cherry on top, Eli drops the bombshell that Maisie was created the same way the dinosaurs were. She’s a genetic clone that he had hoped to maintain control over. God only knows what he might have done with her if she hadn’t escaped! This revelation trumps any birds and bees or puberty talks any of us have ever had. Try processing that kind of information when you’re having the worst day ever!

The day ends in the control room where Claire has to make a horrible choice between letting the dinosaurs die, or setting them loose on an unsuspecting population. She wants to, but she cannot, so she walks away from the button in tears as she watches the beautiful creatures in agony. It’s awful…but then…

The light goes green, and the doors open releasing the dinosaurs to the wilds of California outside. All adults in the room turn around to the control panel to spot a tearful Maisie, her hand on the button. She has let the dinosaurs go.

Maisy I had to. They’re alive, like me.

Imagine having just learned you were created the same way these dinosaurs were?

It’s a uniquely triumphant moment for every dinosaur lover watching, even as we know there will be consequences in the end. The beauty of this scenario is that the dinosaurs were let loose, but we cannot actually feel anger towards the person who released them. Why? Because she is innocent, and from her perspective we understand her decision.

Maisie is a young child who has been through the most traumatic day imaginable. Her grandpa was murdered. An evil man wanted to control her. She was almost eaten. Everything she thought she knew about her life was wrong. She doesn’t even have a biological mother and father. Can you imagine getting hit with all of that in one single day when you are only 10 years old?

Children have very straightforward and honest logic. Sometimes it makes more sense than adults’ logic. And sometimes it has the best of intentions and the worst of consequences. They’re alive, like me.

In Maisie’s mind, the only right and moral decision is to release the dinosaurs. If she is alive and has value, so do they. Her value for life is strong, untainted by greed or bitter life experiences. Her heart was in the right place, even if she doesn’t yet have the wisdom or maturity to think beyond this moment and understand what she has just done.

Claire could not push that button and maintain her character growth, she knows better. But Maisie had to push that button to explain and advance hers. It’s all understandable and we follow the emotions and motivations perfectly. The Big Bad Thing has happened without compromising the growth of the characters who knew better. But Maisie doesn’t know better, and in every way possible she believes this is the right choice.

And who can blame her? Who in her life has ever taught her otherwise? The writers get their cake and get to eat it too!

Sylvie is female Loki variant who was stolen from her happy life as a child.

Sylvie was probably about the same age (in Asgardian years) as Maisie when she was kidnapped. She was committing the terrible crime of being a happy little girl, playing with toys in her own bedroom when a door from the TVA opened up and a Hunter came through and stole her away. They gave a timeline reset charge, and just like that, Sylvie was erased from existence. Scheduled to be pruned – KILLED, IT’S CALLED KILLED, PEOPLE – Sylvie made a brave escape and has been on the run from the TVA ever since.

She is a powerful woman in her 30s now (in Asgardian years). Her entire growing-up experience was about trying to hide throughout the multiverse and stay one step ahead of her pursuers. Revenge is what raised her. On the outside, she is beautiful, intelligent, cunning, witty, and bitter. On the inside, she is still that little girl who is devastated, terrified, and asking the obvious question -WHY?

Why was she removed from her happy life? What had she done that was so wrong it was okay to try kill her? WHY???

Observe. This is a child. A CHILD! The TVA just grabbed this child from her own bedroom floor, shoved her around like a criminal, and judged her worthy to be pruned. Not a single tear shed, not a single person listening to her cries for help. This is sick!

Loki falls in love with this vulnerable and aching place in her. Not because he can exploit her, which would have been the old Loki’s approach, but because he has compassion for her. Because he wishes he could restore that sense of peace, safety, and beauty of life that was stolen from her. I think he also finds her fight for life refreshing. The odd contrast between them is that Loki actually had a semi-decent life and often squandered it. He missed what was right in front of him and held true relationship at arms length.

Sylvie dreamed of getting to have that life but it was stolen from her without any decision on her part. Loki kind of deserves a lot of the crap he gets, Sylvie deserved none of it.

One of the most devastating moments to me in all of Loki was when Sylvie confronts Ravonna Renslayer, the judge who ordered her to be pruned as a child.

Sylvie Do you remember me?

Ravonna Renslayer I do.

Sylvie Why did you bring me in?

Ravonna Renslayer What does it matter?

Sylvie It was enough to take my life away from me.

Ravonna I don’t remember.

Ravonna’s dismissal of the pain she’s caused Sylvie is sickening. But then when Sylvie and Loki fight back against their TVA captors, Ravonna faces off against Sylvie with bitterness in her face.

Ravonna Renslyer This time I finish the job!

This time. This time, as opposed to last time when Sylvie WAS A CHILD ABOUT TO BE MURDERED?!? Ravonna regrets she wasn’t able to kill Sylvie sooner. This scene makes me ill. Ravonna wishes she had succeeded in murdering an innocent child. That’s so sick.

And yet, this belief system is alive in our world today. People justify the killing of unborn children, the elderly, or the disabled for a variety of reasons. “You wouldn’t belong in our world”, “You don’t fit our definition of perfect”, “You will have problems and might have a hard life”, “You will get in the way of someone/something else more important,” “You didn’t belong on The Sacred Timeline.” Etc.

The same, sick, twisted justifications that we see with glaring clarity in Ravonna are fed to men and women in the real world every day. We are fooled into destroying precious lives (young and old) by the same evil logic.

I do not say this to condemn anyone, but to condemn the lies and root of the evil itself. Life is PRECIOUS, this is a theme we see upheld in both Loki AND the Jurassic series.

When Loki and Sylvie reach the End of All Time and see He Who Remains, it’s clear to the viewer that there really isn’t a nice or safe option. We can figure out that the story probably needs He Who Remains to die. We also can figure out that the Sacred Timeline and the measures taken to protect it are evil. But is there a right choice here? That Multiversal War, whew, that’s a hefty price! The enormity of the choice sounds just dreadful.

Sylvie is right, you have to set things free. You cannot control everyone and call it “love” or “compassion”. True love does not control, this is a truth from God Himself. Loki is also kind of right, freedom and free will is a two-edged sword and there are sometimes dark consequences for it. Our own world has startlingly clear evidence of both of these facts.

Sylvie’s motivation and the intended goal remain focused. She’s going to destroy this man who destroyed her life, and in doing so she’s going to protect others from enduring the same suffering she’s had. Sylvie has had one thing to keep her alive, one purpose in life for who knows how many centuries: revenge. Destroy the people before they destroy her.

After seeing the horrors of the TVA firsthand, I can totally understand her motivation. It’s a heck of a better motivation than Loki ever had.

When I look at Sylvie, I don’t just see a woman. I see a terrified little girl trying to survive. Every time I stare into her big eyes, I see that raw fear and torment. I see her saying, “Somebody help me!”

Nobody ever tried to help Sylvie, so she had to help herself.

If I were in her shoes, who knows, I might do the same thing and feel entirely justified in doing so. Even so, enough information is shared by He Who Remains to give Loki himself major pause. Hold the phone, sister, we should think BEFORE we stab!

Loki is “right” in what he is saying. Most importantly, the hesitation and restraint he shows with both finesse and compassion are RIGHT for his character arc. Loki says “no” and I couldn’t be prouder!

Sylvie is also right. Both characters sort of face a no-win scenario in this scene. You don’t know what is going to happen, but either way, it’s going to be awful and messy. I loved that Loki said no, and I also understood why Sylvie said “yes”. She first removed Loki from the situation, and then followed through on her intentions to destroy He Who Remains once and for all.

She sees this moment as saving lives while avenging her own. She’s seen the waste and destruction of human life, and the trampling of freedom across the universe as she’s waged this one-woman war. Sylvie never had someone to fight for her. But she believes she can fight for others and spare them the grief she has suffered.

It makes sense, and it needs to happen. Marvel needed a bigger problem than the Purple Abomination Himself. A multiversal war should do the trick, and Sylvie was the perfect choice to stab that door open.

And now? Well, now we watch all of our characters face the consequences of choices made in the past and in the present.

…..

Well-crafted characters who are “innocents” should not be stupid or consciously rebellious. Many stories have made use of foolish or stupid characters to create trouble for the smarter characters to solve, and it gets obnoxious very quickly. An example of this would be every single scene with Frances in Disney’s classic The Swiss Family Robinson. That kid is anything but innocent, he’s a brat who almost gets his family killed time and again. His reasons for getting into trouble are not compelling or defendible, they are just foolish.

No, a truly innocent character has a legitimate and “logical” reason for the decisions they make. They may be naive, uninformed on some things, or unaware of the full consequences of their choice – like Maisie Lockwood. She’s an orphan child with a great deal of courage and a very simple sense of morality. You understand her heart and love her for it even while you know she is wrong.

Some innocents like Sylvie began as helpless victims caught in a whirlwind that they now seek to undo. This type of character can easily morph into a monster who believes any and all means justify the ends. They can become as evil as the thing/person they seek to destroy. One of the saving graces of Sylvie’s story is that it’s so incredibly twisted up, complex, and confusing, that you really can’t find a firm ground beyond one thing – all lives matter. Sylvie does fight and sometimes kill, but that’s usually after she’s attacked first. When she enchants Hunters to use for her purposes, she leaves them with a clearer mind and a memory of who they were before. Is every choice Sylvie makes good? No, I wouldn’t say that. But I understand many of them.

We see the evidence of a tender heart in Sylvie in the candy that she gives to the small French child Mobius interrogates. Or the comments Sylvie makes regarding a woman who is in love with her husband. We see it in how she looks at Loki when she kisses him before shoving him through a portal. Sylvie believes 1000% that what she is doing will bring greater good to the universe, and she will follow through on that even if it means losing a relationship with Loki.

…..

Complex and well-crafted stories can be intimidating to storytellers. I guarantee you that these stories are not as out of reach or impossible to create as you might think. The best stories are grounded and driven by beautiful, human characters.

Claire, Maisie, Loki, and Sylvie are some prime examples of brilliant storytelling and character development that we all can learn a lot from. When you create characters like these, it’s not hard to have your cake and eat it too!

My Top 5 Marvel Movies

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This isn’t just my top Marvel movie, this is one of my top 5 movie movies. It makes my very short list of “perfect” movies that I have seen. I’ll write about those another day. This is the one movie poster that I own, and I’m proud of that fact.

Everything about this movie is perfect. The character introductions and reveals. Seriously, Steve giving Sam Wilson “on your left” is the best character introduction ever. The pacing. The horror of realizing what is actually happening. The road trip Steve and Nat take. The combat sequences (oooh, so perfectly choreographed and executed). The jaw-dropping moments (Fury’s car chase, elevator scene, fighting the Winter Solider on the highway!!!). This movie just makes you tingle from head to toe!

This movie features my favorite 3 Avengers: Steve, Nat, and Sam, and has the political thriller genre running strongly in its veins. The build-up and payoff are satisfying on every level possible. The quiet moments of reflection and resolve perfectly complement the big moments of sudden horror and “eat your failure” moments that get shoved in the villains’ faces.

But the best part is how this movie enables even the little guys to be the hero. That’s a big part of who Steve Rogers is, he believes in the little guy. He never sees himself as above someone else, and he’s all about using his gifts and strengths to lift others up. That’s true leadership, and his leadership brings Hydra to its knees. I love the throwing off of false morality and heroism, call crap what crap is and truth what truth is.

This movie is brilliant, unapologetic, heroic, and full of normal people doing amazing things because they believe in doing what’s right no matter the cost. It’s a movie of revelation, friendship, humor, glorious action sequences, and an extremely strong character heartbeat that keeps everything grounded.

2. Avengers

I never get tired of this one. The feeling I have when I watch it is something I haven’t felt so much with the more recent superhero movies. Things were simpler at this time, clearer, more fun.

And dang, if this movie isn’t just the most fun. Unlike DC (really? Justice League before the origin stories?) Marvel took the time required to properly develop a superhero team-up worth our while. We knew everyone, already loved them and wanted to see what would happen when we threw our favorite characters into the blender together.

Half of this movie is spent with everyone showing their worst side. They clash, misunderstand each other, or have their most vulnerable spots rubbed. It’s a hot mess. A beautiful hot mess. A hilarious hot mess. A delightful hot mess. I love this hot mess, and so does Agent Coulson.

Coulson. Y’all, Phil Coulson is enough of a reason to fall in love with this movie all on his own.

The hot mess almost completely falls apart (except Nat, she’s surprisingly put together minus that slight Hulk panic attack, but that’s Nat.). And then they come together with such a great show of humility, respect, and teamwork. It’s inspiring.

The pure glory and unabashed superhero swagger of this movie are unparalleled. From the soundtrack to the superhero poses and power moves, it’s just delicious. Absolutely delicious. And The Battle of New York is something I never tire of. Never ever. Never.

Even though it’s one giant glamor scene to the next, this movie still never sacrifices character development and interpersonal growth. Some of the best friendships, pairings, character clashes, and important Marvel moments are birthed in this movie.

And shawarma. Have you ever wondered how much shawarma sales spiked after this movie came out?

3. Ant-Man and the Wasp

If you just did a double-take, I ask that you rewatch this movie. See if you don’t finish your day feeling happier, fuller, and inspired to be a little bit more “out there”.

How can anyone spend time in the company of Paul Rudd for a few hours without coming out feeling happier? I’m also quite fond of Evangeline Lily and would like to see a LOT more of her. There’s not a single actor in this movie that I do not enjoy.

This movie arrived at a time in my life when I didn’t have as much to laugh about. It was a heavy time. This movie came right into the middle of my heavy, pulled me out of it, and gave me the gift of laughter that was grounded with heart. I literally felt like I’d gone through some healing for the 2+ hours I sat in the theater and laughed.

Scott Lang is one of my favorite characters. He’s an everyman. He’s us. He’s cool, but not so cool that he’s not also totally in awe of anything cool that comes his way. He wants to brag about knowing “Cap”. He’s going to learn online close-up magic sing karaoke and play a fake drumset.

Ahem, this is where I pause and I point out that Scott Lang lives in San Francisco and sings karaoke and is a cool dude. And Shang-Chi ALSO lives in San Francisco sings karaoke and is a cool dude. If these two don’t meet and team up I’m going to riot. I don’t care if people are worried that the combination of Luis and Katy might create a nuclear explosion, it’s worth it.

Infinity War (one of the 3 Marvel offerings in 2018) was a miserable watch. It had nice moments but mostly it was just echoing the heaviness and grief I was already dealing with in my own life. And while Black Panther was an absolute masterpiece, it was an extremely intense movie to watch. I wanted a break. I wanted to feel grounded again. Ant-Man movies are always more grounded (literally) and single-minded than other Marvel movies. Scott isn’t always trying to solve a whole world problem, sometimes he’s just trying to save one person. Hope and Hank just wanted to save their Janet. Bill Foster just wants to save Ava. Scott just wants to get his life together and to stop letting his loved ones down. Luis just wants their business to succeed and is willing to buy oatmeal packets to make it happen. Jimmy Woo just wants to be as cool as Scott (just wait a few years, Jimmy, then you’ll be cool all on your own).

Ant-Man and The Wasp takes a group of very sincere people who are flawed, sometimes dysfunctional, and throws them into a scenario that is both lighthearted, serious, and beautiful. It’s just about people loving people. There isn’t even a truly big “human” villain in this movie, the biggest battle is against Time. I love that even Ghost is redeemed.

This movie literally healed places inside of me and was salve on a very sad soul. I love it. I can watch it without feeling dragged down by larger Marvel events, it’s just perfect. The weight and enormity of the MCU has become a heavy burden at times, but Ant-Man and The Wasp never feels that way.

And who doesn’t need to see a hot wheels-sized car chase through the streets of San Francisco that also includes a larger-than-life Pez dispenser being hurled at the bad guy’s car? We all do, that’s who.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I am not someone who likes or supports crass humor. I do not personally support every statement/joke/or attitude expressed in these movies. And I don’t recommend them for children. Morally gray characters are a line I think you have to walk very carefully and can easily take too far. But when they are done well they end up teaching you a lot.

The Guardians are definitely a mixed bag, but I learn a lot from watching them. Yondu is not someone I would hold up as a role model, neither would I hold Peter Quill up as a role model (Chris Pratt is another matter. Love him.) These people are desperately flawed, often annoying, and they know how to push each other’s buttons. They are not the crew you would invite to an elegant gathering or your child’s preschool show-and-tell.

Here’s the thing about the Guardians though, for how little sense they make, for how awkward and messy they are, I just love them. I saw Volume 1 and I was like…What. Is. Happening…oh crabapples! Suddenly I’m crying and have a huge lump in my throat. And that dang, that raccoon on screen worming his way past my emotional guard is in reality just a puppet. A PUPPET!

I kid you not, the characters most guaranteed to make me cry are the Guardians. I could see that special moment that was coming, the hand-holding that reminded Peter of his mom that was going to contain the Power Stone that followed the dance-off that was going to save Xandar! The fact that the previous sentence is the actual plot is really a thing of beauty.

But Vol. 2. Volume 2. Wow.

For the first 2/3s of the movie, I was like, “What are we doing here? Nothing means anything. Everyone is losing their mind, being a jerk, or all over the place. Sylvester Stallone is definitely still a knockout, but beyond that, why am I here?”

And then I hit the last 45 minutes, and it all came together and I saw it and was mindblown. Oh, wait! This whole movie has been all about meaning! It’s been about love, forgiveness, and healing. It’s been about friendship, sisterhood, fatherhood, giving yourself permission to love and be loved. Letting go of the things that keep people from getting close to you. It’s about loving people with their flaws and through their painful, vulnerable times. It’s about understanding what truly matters in life! It’s ordinary people loving each other, and that love creates an extraordinary strength that defeats the inflated, twisted agendas of those who think real meaning is about power and self.

Ego with his sick, twisted expansion missed the true meaning of everything that was right in front of his eyes. He could have stayed with Peter’s mom. They could have loved each other. He could have enjoyed being a dad. But he was blind to the meaning of anything, and he went so far as to destroy the beauty that did exist. He killed his children. He killed Peter’s mom. So Peter is gonna smash that perverted creep in the face with a giant Pac Man and doggone! I’m going to enjoy watching it!

I think the clincher moment for me in this movie was watching Peter mourn Yondu. I do not like Yondu. I still don’t “like” him. Yondu is unpleasant to me, but there are a lot of Yondu’s out there, and they are worth something and they need to be told so. They need to be seen and loved too. When Peter was grieving Yondu, I heard something in his voice. “I had a pretty cool dad.” I don’t think Chris Pratt was just being Peter Quill at that moment, I think he was being Chris Pratt. Chris lost his father far too soon, and I think at this moment he was being given the gift of feeling his own loss and love on screen. That was a very intimate moment that I felt lent gravity to the movie, and I felt honored that he was willing to share that with us.

I love the Guardians because on paper they make no sense, they are so messy, and yet they love so hard and they don’t quit. I can respect that. I learn so much from them that I don’t from other characters. I know the love they are learning to have comes less easy for them than it does for other characters. I was highly displeased with the Guardians’ portrayal in both Infinity War and a lot in (only Nebula and Rocket were handled well) Endgame. I felt they were not treated with the respect and growth their characters had earned. I’m hoping Vol 3 can fix some of these problems.

But yeah, I like my Guardians. I like them a lot.

5. Shang-Chi

It does not hurt that this was the first movie I’d seen in theaters since Far From Home in the summer of 2019. You know, a thousand years ago before the Dark Ages of Covid and everything else that has happened since. I didn’t mean to stay away from the theater so long, it just happened that way.

Shang-Chi was a treat that I got to go see with my mom as a celebration for my 25th birthday. I’d had a really good feeling about it going in, but wow. Wow, was I ever right!

This movie is amazing. I mean, AMAZING! It’s been a while since we’ve seen a completely new character with no prior introduction in the MCU make their debut. Shang-Chi did it and did it so well I’m still amazed. Nothing about this story was wasted. Every aspect of the movie, from the script to the humor to the costuming to the martial arts was all working in harmony to tell a very fantastical, very human story.

I loved the fantasy elements. I loved the bright colors. I loved how Chinese legends and otherworldly elements were seamlessly blended with some very American-tasting characters/conversations. I LOVED the characters. Shaun and Katy are what got me out of movie blog retirement.

This movie was powerful in its messaging, handled flashbacks with fine dexterity, and never lost the momentum. It used visual symbolism as well as honest dialogue extremely well. You could see the character growth portrayed in multiple ways. The story had deep moments of trauma and darkness, but they were well-integrated alongside moments of hope and humor.

Also, I just think Shaun is really cute. Like, REALLY cute.

I also like where he landed at the ending. His choice to stay true to the beauty and light inside of him, while also acknowledging the skills and history from both sides of his family was a more sustainable, mature approach to life. A lot of people think in terms of black and white and they don’t take the time to pick through the pieces of what’s worth keeping vs what you throw away. Living with extremes is usually an exhausting and dead-end way to live. It’s certainly NOT how you successfully woo the magical rings away from your father in a one-on-one battle.

It was nice to see a new origin story that felt like a Marvel movie, but more like the old ones used to feel. Exciting, fresh, making you hungry for more.

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet or not, but I have some MCU fatigue. Endgame was a big movie, no one can deny that, but I was disappointed in many regards. The need for the story to keep getting bigger and bigger than the last thing has caused a lot of complications and overwhelm. Some things have been done that can’t be undone and I’m not happy about it. Often when a story grows to this point, it can get out of control. I am not enjoying the MCU the way I used to when things were simpler and more defined. Perhaps it’s naive or silly to expect/want it to feel the same way it did when I first started. I’m not the same person I was in my teenage years any more than the MCU is the same “world” it once was. I would say where I am now is I try to focus on individual chapters/characters more than just the world as a whole.

And that’s why I loved Shang-Chi, it was a fresh start with someone new that I have no baggage with. He was a character I was 100% happy to root for, and even his introduction to other big characters like Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner was far more honest. They told him what he was in for right up front. “Your life has just changed and it’s never going back.” “Welcome to the roller coaster.” That’s exactly how I feel about life in multiple areas, so I could relate with those statements a lot. I have 0 martial arts skills and a very normal human origin story, but on an emotional level, I connected deeply with large parts of Shaun’s story.

Honorable Mentions: Spider-Man Homecoming and Far From Home

I haven’t seen No Way Home yet. I’m honestly very sad at some (not all) of the choices made for the movie, I don’t see how leaving Peter friendless and family-less is beneficial. One of those things I could swallow even if it tastes bad, especially the death part because it was an unexpected thing for Peter. But to leave his friends in the dark? To lose them not just as Spider-man, but also as Peter Parker? To do both? Why??? How does that make sense? Why is that “necessary”? Why should he have to lose Happy after he lost his mother and father, his uncle, Tony Stark, and now Aunt May????

What are we learning here? It’s “safer” or “nobler” to be on your own? What people don’t know can’t hurt them and it’s better that way? That’s crap and we know it. Marvel has proven it time and again, together is better. Family is better. Stick together, make it out the other side or die protecting each other. It’s worth it. #avengersassemble

The only reasonable thing I can think of that would justify causing Peter separation from everyone is Sony is hoping for another trilogy. Otherwise, I think it’s inexcusable.

But yeah, I love Peter Parker. I love his humility and his kindness. His stories are so easy to learn from and he’s so endearing. That’s why the Spider-Man movies get an honorable mention from me.

These are my top 5 Marvel movies. I chose them because they are movies I still want to watch more frequently. They are ones that still echo in my mind and I know I will enjoy them. I watched them and had a uniquely warm experience, or, they came at a very pivotal moment in my life and touched me more deeply than other chapters of the MCU.

These movies are not necessarily my most nostalgic Marvel movies (Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor have that honor). I like many installments in this series (Age of Ultron is a highly underrated Avengers film). And Captain America: Civil War has some of the best footage in the MCU. And the Marvel Disney+ series is a whole other ball of wax. But when I sat down and I thought about it, these were the 5 that rose to the top. I found my answers both expected and unexpected.

So, what are your top 5 Marvel movies? Why are they your top 5?

Review of Disney+ Marvel 2021

2021 is almost over (holy cow!) and it’s been a busy year for Disney+ and the Marvel franchise. In order to try and be really relevant, I’m going to give my drive-by review and score of each show.

WandaVision (7/10)

I always felt that Wanda Maximoff was a character who was horrendously underused. She had been through so much and yet still had such a tender heart. Tenderhearted characters often get pushed to the background, especially if they are women, for fear that we might view these characters as “weak”. That’s a broken philosophy and the film industry/culture is suffering for it. Wanda is incredibly tender and incredibly strong. Tenderhearted women are often stronger than everyone else around them.

Vision as a character is one I’ve never focused on but always enjoyed. Back in the Civil War days of the Marvel, I wrote how Vision’s failure in Civil War when he accidentally shot War Machine was the doorway to him discovering what it means to be human. He’s only continued that trend since then, and grown more likable every time we see him.

The beauty and humanity of Wanda and Vision were shown quite briefly in Infinity War, but it made an impact. It made me hungry for more. On that note, WandaVision absolutely delivered. I had no idea that Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen were so funny, I was constantly surprised by their incredible comedic delivery. However, their comedy wasn’t even paralleled by the depth of emotion and heart both leads brought to the table. They poured their guts out into the show and I felt it. Tears ran down my face multiple times as I watched them process love, fear, grief, curiosity, and hope. It was layers and layers of humanity unfolding and it was beautiful.

WandaVision was revolutionary in terms of TV-style. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I grew up watching sitcoms of much older decades, so I am right at home in a world influenced by The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and more. The architecture, clothing styles (Elizabeth Olsen was MADE for the 70s look), and pop culture references of WandaVision were like a love letter to American television and culture through the years. I enjoyed watching these larger-than-life, otherworldly characters interact with a world that I already felt at home in.

That being said, WandaVision got weird. Like, weird weird. Do y’all remember back in Spider-Man: Far From Home when Mr. Dell was asked his opinion on the strange happenings around them? His response

As a man of science? I think it’s witches.

was incredibly prophetic. The MCU has just gotten weird, and I’m not a fan of all of it. In full disclosure, I didn’t watch part of the second-to-last, and the final episode of WandaVision. Once we got into the territory of deeper witchery and dark magic, I was out for personal reasons (which I may share someday). I liked it better when we thought Wanda’s powers came from the Mind Stone. The show took her character to places I was not interested in going to.

*I do appreciate the fact that her new costume has more body coverage though. It’s about time!

I would be remiss in speaking on this show if I didn’t mention my favorite part. Or rather, my favorite character. Am I the only girl who walked away with a bit of a crush on Jimmy Woo? For real, he is the biggest surprise I have had in the MCU yet! How they took Jimmy Woo from being the funny but oblivious FBI agent in Ant-Man And The Wasp, to a dogged, smart, still hilarious character in WandaVision is close-up magic at its finest! I couldn’t wait for him to show up on screen and I want to see him so much more! And the pairing of Jimmy Woo with Darcy Lewis was yet another surprise. It’s like putting together two foods you think have nothing in common, and discovering that they were actually made for each other.

I’m 100% voting for a Jimmy Woo + Darcy show and I totally ship them. They were such a surprise and a delight. I enjoyed Monica Rambo’s character as well, though she didn’t hit me in a deep place. I admired the fact that she let her compassion and intuition drive her interaction with Wanda, even when Wanda pushed her away. That’s an important side of being a hero and Monica was worthy of that title.

All in all, I give WandaVision a 7/10. But I have no interest in delving deeper into the witch side, and I will not be a viewer of the newly announced show featuring Agatha. She played her role well, but no thank you! WandaVision was something incredibly unique, but not something I will watch again. It was a once and done for me.

This much handsomeness in one place is almost dangerous.

The Falcon And The Winter Solder (6/10)

I loved this show because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel movie. In fact, it’s not just my favorite Marvel movie, it’s one of my top 10 movies of all time. I think it’s one of the most perfect movies ever written and carried out. Steve Rogers was the character who carried my heart into this new world of Marvel that I first entered into as a teenager. Steve, Sam, and Nat were my favorite Avengers. Sam’s introduction into the MCU is my favorite character introduction.

All of that to say, I love this window into the Marvel world and this side of the story matters to me a lot. I was pleased that Steve chose Sam to carry the shield, even as I was grieving the loss of my Avenger. I was also angry at the huge lack of answered questions in Endgame regarding the details of Steve’s…I don’t know, return? Disappearance? Is he living on the moon? I’m happy for Peggy and Steve, but sad for me.

As I said above, the MCU has just gotten weird, and I don’t like all of it. Captain America stories were always very down to earth, very human. The trend continued in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and my heart just really needed it.

Here’s the funny thing, in terms of overall plot and story execution, I think large parts of TFATWS were actually terribly weak. The show struggled to gain traction for the first episodes. There were a few places that didn’t fit well with Sam and Bucky. It didn’t deliver well or clearly on the villain front. Neither Karli Morganthau or John Walker fully occupied that space. And once we broke Baron Zemo out all we cared about was that fabulous dance scene, so nevermind on him. I just kept waiting for the reveal, the hand holding the puppet strings behind the smaller characters. I thought that person was going to be The Power Broker, who would be revealed as a Big Bad from the comics. But no…

My biggest beef with the entire show was the very lazy (in my opinion) choice to make Sharon Carter The Power Broker. We got a big fakeout build-up “oh guys it’s probably Sharon but we’re gonna make you think that’s the red herring” and then it actually turned out to be Sharon! But the execution of her character wasn’t even done well. It was too harsh, jarring, and obvious. So obvious it seemed like the lie they wanted us to believe, and then just decided it would be so. As a Sharon Carter fan, I felt gypped. It’s not my fault that the entire MCU creator group forgot about her existence since Civil War, and it’s certainly not Emily Van Camps’ fault. In fact, I read that they intended to make The Power Broker the Big Bad for Captain America 4 (yay!), but after the poor fan reaction they may be reducing that role (internet rumor). Well, if that’s the case, then that’s on you, Marvel creators. The way you treated her character stinks and I didn’t even believe it while I was watching it unfold.

While I felt the overall plot elements were shaky and messy (potentially due to changes made after COVID hit), I think the nuances of this show were done really well. Like, really well. I was noticing everything and there was a lot to notice.

I need to address the Bucky elephant in the room. I’ve always liked Bucky, always rooted for him. But I wouldn’t say I ever loved him. And now? OH MY SEBASTIAN STAN, SWEET GLORY WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY FOREVER? We’ve never gotten to see Bucky like we got to see him in this show. The layers and levels of emotion, humanity, and joy that this man displayed left me breathless every time! I just wanted to keep staring at his face when he smiled, or laughed, or made a breakthrough. I couldn’t get enough of Bucky and I want SOO much more of him!

The nuances of this show where character developmental storytelling happened was excellent. They made use of everything: body stance and choreography, the script, costuming, soundtrack, location, everything! Every layer and detail told you what a character was currently bringing, feeling, or needing. Even the props were used to tell a story behind the story. I don’t have time to jump into the details in this post, but in this regard The Falcon And The Winter Soldier excelled.

I found the ending (aside from the Sharon thing) very satisfying. It was nice to end a show where two characters are actually happier and at peace with long-standing issues. It’s not that every problem has been solved, every war won. But the personal war Bucky and Sam had going on inside of them / with each other is over. They’ve taken their places as brothers of the shield and have become family. I could watch the barbecue on the pier scene over and over and over again. That was something special and it needs to be protected. Despite the fact that I think that in many ways WandaVision was better executed, I don’t want to revisit that show. But I will be rewatching The Flacon And The Winter Soldier in days to come. Love can be forgiving like that. I wrote in-depth articles on each episode for my personal social media back when they were released. Some day I may clean those up and take you on a deep dive into this series, but for now I will end with this.

Ahem. #releasethebuckysarahcut

Loki 9/10

I was nervous about this series. I’ve been so disappointed by Loki in the movies over and over again. Every time it seemed like we took a step forward with Loki, something stupid made him slide two steps back and we started all over again. If Tom Hiddleston wasn’t so incredibly adorable I would have given up sooner.

I hated his ending in Infinity War. The movie just went downhill from that moment on. It felt incredibly meaningless and worthless. What a waste of talent and potential! Once we found out about Loki after Endgame, I waited with skepticism. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a bazillion more times with one of Britian’s finest, shame on me for thinking you had changed.

I didn’t watch Loki as it came out, I waited until I had more information. The reports I received plus the research I did gave me enough of a reason to give it a chance.

Wow, just wow.

Again, I have never, ever seen anything like this show. It was like the weirdest scifi/fantasy trip mixed with some sort of 70s show featuring a beaurocratic government agency, all while bringing game-changing plot elements to an entire franchise! It wrestled with questions involving the value of every life and free will. And above all, this show actually changed Loki for the good.

Storytelling-wise, I think this show did a bold thing by having so many “just talking” scenes. In book storytelling, a long conversation doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as it does in visual storytelling. Writers and directors can love these scenes, cinematographers can hate them. Many viewers can complain about them as well.

I’m a writer so I love talking scenes. But even more than that, a good conversation is something that will attract me more than anything else. I have talked with people for 5-8 hours before and not gotten bored. Conversation is a foundational layer of relationship and growth (with God or with people), and one reason we all are struggling so much is we don’t know how to converse well.

Loki embraced conversation wholeheartedly. And when someone as talented as Tom Hiddleston is the speaker, that conversation becomes like an action scene to me. The way he and Owen Wilson (Agent Mobius), or he and Sylvie tossed words back and forth felt like active, stirring story.

To cap it off, one of the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed in the entire MCU took place during a seemingly normal conversation. He Who Remains gave the worst download of information. It was like Gandalf telling Frodo how all of Middle Earth is about to go to hell in a handbasket if he doesn’t destroy that oh-so-normal looking ring his uncle left him. He Who Remains was so casual about life and death and the fate of the universes, it was awful.

Loki’s transformation throughout his show set the stage for some of the best storytelling to come. The introduction of characters like Sylvie and Agent Mobius (and He Who Remains) all gave such unique viewpoints. I cannot wait to see what happens next and I am still in awe of how well this show was made.

I think what we are discovering with both the Marvel and Star Wars Disney+ shows is that some stories are told better in a episodic format, where more time and attention can be given to details and subtle development. Loki was absolutely proof of this as it accomplished for the character of Loki in 6 episodes what 5 movies could not.

Despite my dislike for the show, I acknowledge the animation is quite beautiful.

What If 3/10

Whew! Harsh rating eh? Well, it’s my blog, I can do what I want to. Full disclosure here, I only made it through a few episodes. 4 to be exact and I didn’t even finish the zombie episode because it was terrible. I cannot believe that episode is the inspiration for a whole new series on Disney+.

I am likely not the target audience for this particular show, I’ll give them that much. This show is for deeper Marvel fans than I am, and for people who don’t mind the rearranging of their characters. I have a friend who absolutely loved this show and we have still remained friends despite our differing views.

The stars I do give here are in honor of T’Challa’s Starlord episode. That one I truly did enjoy, probably because it was actually an episode that had a happier outlook than the main MCU timeline. The other episodes I tried I just felt more depressed and found them dark. Also, it felt like the characters had no real emotions. They were cardboard cutouts of the characters we’ve come to know and love. I felt that things were done just for a cheap joke that were actually disrespectful to the characters. I also felt that some of the voices didn’t adapt well. Sebastian Stan’s voice acting left something to be desired. Hayley Atwell, on the other hand, fit it like a glove.

But T’Challa’s episode was beautiful (visually), happy, genuinely funny, and it made me feel really glad to know that Chadwick Boseman’s family gets to enjoy that episode in memorial of him.

Beyond that, I really have nothing to say. I may try a few more episodes and if I change my mind I’m not above updating a post with new info. I think this show was for a niche audience and that’s who enjoyed it.

The colors of this series already look amazing!

Hawkeye (Prediction) 11/10

I know, Hawkeye hasn’t even come out yet, but I have a feeling. I have pretty good instincts on these things, plus, I can read the room. Everything is aligned to make Hawkeye the most successful and beloved Marvel show yet.

Clint Barton has never gotten his day in the sun that he deserves. He’s been around in the MCU almost longer than anyone (who’s still alive that is), and he’s still been waiting for that spotlight. In fact, Jeremy Renner said that in the first 2 weeks of filming Hawkeye he had more lines than all of his previous movie appearances.

Clint Barton is our last original Avenger who hasn’t gone through radical physical changes, been killed, or travelled back in time to marry his sweetheart. Clint is also radically normal compared to every other superhero. He’s a family man (cheers for the family men!). He’s got a farm. He just oozes dad feels everywhere he goes, often taking in the strays and giving them a chance to succeed.

Clint Barton is a hero for the deaf community. He’s a hero to the normal people (which we all are). He’s a hero to those who have suffered grief and loss as well as regrets. He’s a member of the “cool movie dads” Hall of Fame. He’s also hilarious. Oh yeah, and this show has a DOG and IT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS TIME IN NEW YORK CITY!

The world is ready for this. We want some normal. We want a dad. We want a good guy who doesn’t have it figured out but is doing his best. We want a dog (okay, I want a dog). We NEED a little Christmas, right this very minute!

We. Need. Hawkeye.

And finally, we are being given Hawkeye.

This show is going to be incredible.

What are your thoughts? How would you rate the Marvel Disney+ shows so far?

Loki Odinson and Claire Dearing: How to Advance Plot Without Compromising Character Growth (Part 1 of 2)

As writers, we often face a challenge when trying to figure out how to usher in Big Bad plot elements, but do so in a way that does not also compromise character growth. Typically these game-changing plot elements take place in a larger narrative like a series or franchise where a story has been building up to this climactic point. Both Marvel and Jurassic Park/World are excellent examples of a continuing storyline where the single-story installments fit into a larger picture that is always building upon itself.

In recent years, some big changes needed to happen in both franchises. We’re talking huge, world-changing plot elements.

For the Jurassic series, we needed dinosaurs to be set loose on the mainland and to begin mixing with people on a global scale.

Ian Malcolm Welcome to Jurassic World… #fallenkingdom #jeffgoldblumforever

For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we needed a bigger problem and evil than Thanos wiping out half of all life in the universe. 10 years had built up to Endgame. We needed something bigger. Enter…the multiverse!

Coincidence is not a strong plot mover, every good writer knows this. Neither is it good or honest storytelling to only have the villain characters be involved with dramatic and damaging events. We’re all flawed, broken people. Sometimes those with the best of intentions can create terrible scenarios *coughs* Tony Stark. The triumph of these deeply-human stories comes when a character grows and is able to face the new challenges with a fresh perspective that leads to victory.

Two protagonists for recent installments in the Jurassic and Marvel franchises are a perfect example of how to not compromise character growth for the sake of plot advancement.

Claire Dearing is the primary protagonist for Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Claire Dearing is all business, even at the expense of her own humanity. She’s not mean, she’s not visibly evil or a “villain”, but she has a broken perspective on life that blinds her to the dire consequences of her choices.

The protagonist is the character that changes the most throughout a story. While many characters have life-changing revelations throughout the two Jurassic World movies, Claire Dearing is without question the character that undergoes the most change.

The running theme of the entire Jurassic franchise is this question: how do we value life? We see characters and animals interact with this theme in both positive and negative ways in every movie. Even the short film Battle at Big Rock faithfully follows this theme. One day I will discuss this franchise and its message in depth.

When we first meet Claire Dearing she is the director of the larger-than-life theme park, Jurassic World. Finally! John Hammons’s original dream for Jurassic Park has been realized and it is magnificent!

Claire is a cold and removed person when it comes to human relationships, and she has zero connection to any of the animals under her care. In short, Claire does not have value for life. She fails to see its beauty, purpose, or hope. Her nephews come to visit and she cannot even spend more than five minutes with them. She’s got a disdain for the very human character of Owen Grady and disregards his good advice about understanding her own animals. Without thought, she is a party to the creation of the Indominus Rex, the chief animal antagonist of this story.

Throughout the beginning of the movie, we see Claire make choice after choice that is irresponsible and emotionally removed. The worst decision she makes in conjunction with the park’s owner, Mr. Masrani, is to send a containment team after the Indominus with non-lethal weapons. They ignore the warnings of Owen Grady – the character with the most accurate worldview – and send the team in any way. Claire’s hard shell begins to crumble as she watches one person after another get violently killed by the dinosaur.

Throughout the rest of Jurassic World we watch Claire change. Her attention turns from the park’s reputation to just saving lives. She goes running off into the dangerous forest (IN HEELS) with Owen in pursuit of her nephews. She lets herself feel the grief and pain of a dying brachiosaurus that is mauled for sport by the Rex. She does insane things to protect what matters – life! By the end of the movie, Claire is functioning as a fully engaged human being.

Claire throws everything she has into protecting her nephews and Owen from the Indominus Rex. She lets herself be touched by the pain, the beauty, and the wonder of life. Claire is fully awake by the end of Jurassic World.

Has she learned her lesson? Has she grown?

When we see Claire in the next installment, Fallen Kingdom, she is employing the same drive we saw in the first movie, only this time it’s about protecting the dinosaurs that are left. Isla Nublar is about to be destroyed by a volcano, and all of the dinosaurs will die, becoming extinct once more. Claire’s life mission is to try and ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s a noble goal, and it’s a joy to see Claire giving her energy towards preserving life instead of exploiting it (and this time she does it in boots like a sensible human).

But Claire still exhibits some of the same recklessness we saw her use at the beginning of Jurassic World. Her panic to make up for her past mistakes and guilt has caused her to pendulum to another extreme – a very common reaction among humans. She’s overcorrected too far, and this leaves her in a broken relationship with Owen Grady, and vulnerable to being manipulated and used by Eli Mills, the primary human antagonist.

Claire has thrown herself fully into the mission of saving the dinosaurs, but it’s gotten beyond her reach at this point.

Crazy things happen, and at the end of the movie a large collection of dinosaurs has ended up on the mainland in California. Multiple species have already been sold via an illegal auction and shipped around to world to be used for nefarious purposes. The dinosaurs that remain are trapped in a large facility that is filling up with toxic fumes. It’s a horrifying scene, dinosaurs wailing and trying desperately to get out as they are dying at the expense of greed.

Claire discovers she can free them with the push of a button, but to do so means they are set loose on the general population.

Owen Grady Claire, you press that button there is no going back.

A beat…Claire We can’t let them die.

Her hand hovers over the button…but then she steps away in tears. Finally! Claire Dearing has learned her lesson at a horrific cost. It’s a terrible decision to have to make, but her lack of restraint (along with others) has helped create this mess, pushing that button will only further it. It’s awful, but it’s solid proof – Claire Dearing has grown, her character arc is intact.

The agony of having to say no to pushing the button…

Aha! But for the overall story plot we still need the dinosaurs to get out…so what do we do now?

Loki is the primary protagonist for the show Loki. Obviously.

This character is only beloved because Tom Hiddleston IS SO CRAZY ADORABLE!

To say Loki is a stinker would be putting it mildly. He’s wild, unpredictable, violent, cunning, and constantly keeping you guessing as to whether he will help you, or betray you. Unlike Claire Dearing, Loki definitely fits into the villain category. If Tom Hiddleston wasn’t so everlastingly adorable, Loki would not have been the fan favorite he is. His character was brought to a tragic and emotional end at the very beginning of Infinity War. It was unsatisfactory and Loki fans were devastated. Then in Endgame, a freshly butt-kicked Loki managed to escape through time right after the first Avengers movie. This Loki is raw, unedited, and still the jerk that killed 80 people in just a few days + invaded New York because he’s Loki.

The running theme for the show Loki is this question: are we trapped by destiny or do we also have free will?

It’s a hard question to answer in a pretend universe that doesn’t have the true, gloriously good God in it. I don’t have time to dive into that topic today.

Loki finds himself quickly taken into custody by the TVA – Time Variance Authority – and taken to a place outside of time. He is shown the story of his whole life beginning to end, told that his entire life purpose is for his worst to bring out others’ best. He’s also told that as a Loki, he is “destined to fail”. Loki learns that he is just one of the thousands of other Loki’s from thousands of other universes. The TVA is the organization assigned to protect the “Sacred Timeline” and ensure that all events go according to the instructions of the Time Keepers, who somehow know more about everything than everyone else. It’s rather vague and full of bureaucratic red tape.

Also, now that Loki has stepped outside of the “Sacred Timeline” by escaping from his story, he has created a timeline branch and as a rogue variant, he could quickly be scheduled for pruning. A nice word for – execution. Loki, doing what he does best, negotiates for a chance to help Agent Mobius track down another Loki variant that’s been kidnapping TVA agents and wreaking havoc.

The best of Britain paired with the best of America on one screen. It was SOOO GOOD!

Loki’s initial desire and character goals are pretty standard for him. He wants to conquer the TVA and rule the timeline/worlds/everything/everyone.

The funny thing is how small Loki appears in the eyes of all he comes across. The only character who shows any interest in Loki as a person is Agent Mobius, the kindest person we run across at the TVA. And even Mobius isn’t overawed or impressed by Loki’s grand statements or drastic threats. A Loki is a Loki, they always lose, right?

Loki crosses paths with the other rogue Loki and discovers she’s actually a woman named Sylvie who, unlike other Loki’s, has zero desire for ruling anything. She wants to kill the Time Keepers and end the TVA once and for all as payback for them kidnapping her as a child. Apparently, she was a variant who didn’t “belong” on the Sacred Timeline and therefore was scheduled for pruning. It’s horrific but shows something true that happens in our real world. More on that another day.

A very sad little girl is now a very angry grown woman.

Loki has not previously been known for quick character growth, but in the course of just 6 episodes, he is confronted with the ugliest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of himself. He’s drunk on his own selfish ambition. He hurts other people in order to appear powerful. He’s self-obsessed, angry, scared, and doesn’t know how to create healthy relationships. And the worst part is this, according to everyone he comes in contact with besides Sylvie, this is just his destiny. He’s destined to never be happy, to never succeed at anything, to always be this terrible person.

Throughout one of the craziest and most brilliant shows I’ve ever seen, Loki finds himself pushing back against this empty version of himself, which is actually his own antagonist. Loki, as he’s always been, IS Loki’s own worst enemy! What if he can be more? Who says he has to be the villain in everyone else’s story? As the show progresses, Loki begins to care more about the needs and well-being of characters like Mobius and Sylvie even more than he thinks about his own selfish needs.

Watching layer after layer of Loki unfold as he spends more time with Sylvie was a joy. THIS is the Loki we have been hoping for! Not the petty, selfish, angry Loki. No! The Loki who uses his brilliant mind, witty humor, and genuine strength to protect, uplift, and do good. It was always possible, but now we see him fighting for this better version of himself.

Loki and Sylvie reach the End of All Time and discover He Who Remains. In a quiet discussion held in an office, we hear the most frightening story yet revealed in the MCU. This man is from the future. He is a scientist who discovers the multiverse and connects with other variants of himself. Things are great for a while and the multiverse enjoys travel and communication among the universes. Until, of course, a variant of He Who Remains decides he wants to rule all, and multiverse wars ensue. It’s apparently so awful that He Who Remains decided the best way to solve the problem was to create the Sacred Timeline and control everyone’s lives. He created the TVA to protect this timeline and quickly prune and reset any timeline where something gets out of line. He has been doing this for millenniums. But now he’s tired. He gives Loki and Sylvie two options (1) kill him and unleash the timeline and the multiverse (2) take over his job and rule.

Sylvie still wants to kill He Who Remains as he is responsible for her kidnapping and erasing her life. She believes he is lying just to save his own skin. She is about to kill him when Loki stops her. A back and forth of passionately emotional dialogue, magic, and fighting ensues where Silvie is trying to reach He Who Remains, and Loki is trying to intervene.

Sylvie Ah, you want the throne.

Loki No, that’s not it, no. Sylvie, the universe is in the balance, everything we know to be true. Everything. I know that the TVA has hurt us both, but what if by taking him out, we risk unleashing something even worse? I promise you from my heart, this isn’t about a throne.

More fighting.

Loki Sylvie, the cost of getting this wrong is too great.

Sylvie Fine, then kill me and take your throne.

Loki Stop. I’ve been where you are. I’ve felt what you feel. *crying* Don’t ask me how I know. All I know, is I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want a throne. I just…I just want you to be okay.

NO ONE IS SOBBING HERE! NEVER MIND, WE ARE FINE! IT’S TOTALLY OKAY THAT LOKI IS LOOKING AT HER SO SOFTLY WITH SO MUCH COMPASSION AND TENDERNESS! WE ARE FINEEEE!!!

They kiss, it’s gorgeous and no one is sobbing on the floor. We’re fine!!! And then Sylvie shoves him through a portal back to the TVA, removing him from the situation entirely. Determined and dreading what is coming, Loki runs to find Mobius to fill him in on the drastic changes that are about to take place.

Loki He’s terrifying. He planned everything. He’s seen everything. He knows everything. It’s complicated, okay. But someone is coming. Countless different versions of a very dangerous person. And they’re all set on war. We need to prepare.

These two were just the greatest.

Loki went from rampaging around the universe, causing wreck and ruin all because he was burdened with glorious purpose, to suddenly only caring about others’ needs and future. He now only says “I” in reference to his selfless feelings for someone else. He uses the term “we” when speaking of himself and Sylvie, or himself and his allies/friends at the TVA. Loki is no longer alone and no longer seeking a throne. His life actually is burdened with glorious purpose now. He’s free, Loki won over Loki.

The ironclad proof of Loki’s character growth was his attempt to restrain Silvie from destroying He Who Remains. Whether that was the right choice for the future of the universe or not, it was the right choice for Loki’s character arc. He said no to the throne, and yes to what he believed someone else needed. Loki has grown.

I love that turned-up collar, it’s so him.

Aha, but we still need the timeline to be unleashed…so what do we do?

The answer is simple, we bring in the “innocents”. We solve our plot problems with the innocents. I’ll explain in Part 2.

Katy and Shaun, Shang-Chi’s Real Superpower

Marvel’s recent origin story Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was good enough to pull me out of movie blogging retirement.

I could spend article after article talking about the depth, meaning, and symbolism of this movie. Everything from the costuming to the scenery was full of purpose and interest. The character work was excellent. Shang-Chi carried a balance of sadness, triumph, humor, and potential.

But what actually got me to put words on the page is the relationship between Shaun (Shang-Chi) and his best friend Katy. They are probably one of the best things the MCU has created in a long while. Here’s why – warning, spoilers ahead.

Katy and Shaun are the defining relationship of the movie.

That may sound funny given how many other turbulent and dominating relationships we see Shaun experience throughout this story. But Katy and Shaun’s relationship is the most important one in the entire movie; and every other relationship (good or bad) can be contrasted or compared to it.

His relationship with his father is a twisted one. It’s defined by abuse, sick expectations, deep desire for something genuine, broken heartedness, and whatever true love is left in his father’s heart. It’s turbulent, nauseating, angering, and aggressive.

His relationship with his sister is one of broken promises, a broken heart, bitterness, coldness. At the root is a little girl who lost everything/everyone. It’s sad.

His relationship with his mother is one of remembered sweetness and meaning and beauty that he once had. He can’t reach her, he can’t get her back, and he couldn’t save her. It’s full of guilt and longing. It’s tragic.

Shaun’s new relationship with his aunt brings back some of the light he’s had hidden inside of him from his mother. It helps remind him of who he is, but it’s still much more of a mentor relationship.

And then there’s Katy. Quirky, witty, adorably awkward, forever faithful Katy. Katy is Shaun’s defining relationship throughout this entire movie. He deals with every demon (literally) of his past and present. From the bus fight in San Francisco to a magical valley in China where a dungeon full of soul-eaters exists, Katy is there. She’s Shaun’s reference point, his only constant, the anchor. He orbits around her as he faces everything else.

Unlike his father, Katy isn’t always about what Shaun has to do for her in order to earn her love. Unlike his sister, their friendship has been one of constants. Unlike his mother, Katy is very real and in the present. And unlike his aunt, Katy is facing some of the same struggles he is when it comes to being grounded in her identity and life direction.

We see Shaun experience many relationships in this story. We meet many layers and versions of Shang-Chi/Shaun, but we always return to Katy and Shaun. The way they laugh together, the way they tackle problems, the fears they both have, the way they listen to one another. It’s a healthy, life-on-life kind of relationship that keeps Shaun from jumping off of a character cliff. Katy grounds him even as she helps him fly. For a character with no superpowers, Katy is one of the most powerful characters in this movie.

It’s subtle, well-written, and woven logically and beautifully into the story. It feels real. Katy and Shaun are forever even if other things/people are not.

Katy saved Shaun

No, I’m not just talking about when she jumped in between him and the bully (honestly, she saved that jerk’s life). I’m talking about Shaun. He’d been through horrific things and had no where to land – until Katy showed up. She gave him a home, a family, a friend, and a sense of normal he lost the moment his mother was killed.

We see just how much this one friendship has defined Shaun when we see the contrast between him and his sister – Xialing. Where Shaun is warm, Xialing is cold. Shaun is gentle, Xialing is harsh. Shaun is normal, Xialing is very much abnormal.

You can’t really hold it against her. Shaun got to spend more years nurtured by their mother. Once their beautiful mother was gone, their father didn’t just see Xialing as a neutral presence, he treated her like a negative. She became someone lesser, someone to step over. He looked away from her in pain for something that wasn’t her fault. Even though his relationship with Shaun was perverted and full of abuse, he still affirmed Shaun in a twisted way. Xialing never got any of that. The only place where she found affirmation was in the gross underworld of using force to gain respect and admiration. For how much she hates her father, she has learned to be very much like him.

At the end of the movie, Shaun goes back to his normal life of karaoke and storytelling over drinks and appetizers with Katy – until Wong comes along with what is essentially a gold-lettered invite to the Avengers. Shaun has maintained the ground he’s gained and grown a few sizes larger as well. But he’s still Shaun. He’s a pretty amazing knight-in-shining-armor character.

Xialing isn’t as far along as he is. While at her father’s compound (where Shaun thinks she’s cleaning up the mess) we see Xialing uncovering the wall in her room. It’s full of angry, dark, violent pictures/posters/images. Half of the wall is uncovered, revealing a beautiful painting of a sad little girl. Xialing sits in normal clothes on the floor (the first time we see her this way) clutching a beautiful drawing of her mother. It’s symbolic – half of her heart has been uncovered – but the other half is still caught in darkness.

Her scene ends where we see that she is actually taking over the Ten Rings name and running the thug group on her own. The black leather is back, she’s still chasing affirmation and identity through force. She hasn’t learned as many lessons as her brother has, her future is still more in question.

What’s the difference between the two siblings? Shaun had a Katy, Xialing didn’t. Katy’s tiny family apartment in an old corner of San Francisco represents more genuine wealth than the entire stone compound Xialing possesses. The life that Shaun has where he gets to argue with Katy’s grandma about where the whiskey went, gulp down cereal before taking the bus to their shared valet job is more real, beautiful, and genuine than anything Xialing has. For a movie about the child of a 1000 year old warlord and his magical, soul-sucker fighting wife, Shang-Chi gave a place of great honor and value to the everyday beauty of a normal, loving family.

When Katy stepped in between Shaun and that bully she was saving his life. She was bringing in beauty, truth, life, warmth, hope, and a future. She didn’t know that, she doesn’t overthink it, she’s just herself and that’s what he needs.

Shaun’s mama used to sit at a table with him and make construction paper dragons and tell him stories from her homeland. That kind of beauty is what had literally caused his evil father to put the rings away and act normal for a while. It’s magic – powerful magic woven into ordinary, extraordinary, everyday kind of love. I finally found something worth growing old forXu Wenwu

Shaun lost that life the moment his mama died, but he was given it anew the moment he met Katy. It didn’t matter if his mama was from a magic corner of China with fantastical creatures, and Katy is the self-described “Asian Jeff Gordon”. It’s the same magic presented differently, but the fruit produced is just as good.

Katy and Shaun are a perfect team.

Are they perfect as people? No, they are beautifully flawed and that makes the story that much more enjoyable. But they are a perfect team.

A mistake many people make is they create a normal character like Katy, and a super-character like Shang-Chi, but then they don’t know how to keep the two together throughout a story. The Katy’s of the world get pushed off to the sidelines to ooh and ahh at the wonders of the Shaun character.

Shang-Chi didn’t do that once. Katy was always as relevant and important to the storyline as Shaun was. It isn’t because she is crazy brilliant, superpowered, rich, famous, etc. She’s just a good friend who doesn’t give up, and that’s an overlooked and under-utilized power. Her loyalty and faithfulness to Shaun is what made her the perfect boom to his pow. They need each other and they give to each other.

Shaun gets attacked on the bus and fights back – so Katy drives the bus.

Shaun has to go face his deadly family – Katy buys a plane ticket. So what if we are going to a seedy corner of Macau? Girl’s got a fanny pack, she ready.

They have to escape his father’s compound – Katy drives full speed towards a cement door trusting that Shaun is gonna get a henchman’s bio print on the screen in time to open it.

Shaun admits to murdering someone at the age of 14 – Katy is the first person to point out what a bad situation he was in and how he needs to be kinder to himself.

Shaun is about to lose to the soul-eater as it’s sucking the soul out of the dragon – Katy fires an arrow at the soul-sucker’s throat and causes a pivotal interruption.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina)

Shaun and Katy are a one-two punch, on and off the battlefield. They fill in each others gaps, listen to each other’s problems, and have each other’s backs. They develop together, something that many movies struggle to portray. Their friendship naturally produces growth in both of them even if they take turns supporting each other. They are a both and kind of relationship, not an either or.

The director of the film (Destin Daniel Cretton) said very clearly that Katy and Shaun are just friends for the majority of this movie. Shang-Chi is going through a lot and Katy’s friendship is what he needs, there isn’t room for anything else….But now? Who knows?

I could easily see (and let’s be real, AM TOTALLY ROOTING FOR) them becoming more in the future. Shaun and Katy are one of those legendary kind of relationships that are quite simply, best friends forever that slide smoothly from one phase of friendship into another. They are never gonna find someone else to connect with at the level they connect with each other, and they don’t need to. What they have is powerful and the world needs more of it.

The friendship of Katy and Shaun created this base rhythm for the rest of the movie to build off of. Their humanity and love for each other gave a heart and soul to a story that without that human base could have felt very bizarre. But with them in the center of it, it was just perfect. The strength and health of their friendship created a measuring mark for every other character interaction. As a writer and a fan who is always looking for character-first stories, I was incredibly pleased.

What did you think of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?

Black Widow…Too Little Too Late?

A trailer for the new Black Widow solo movie came out today.

It looks like a pretty good movie.

But in all honesty, friends?

I do not feel very excited about it.

Can you just hear the exclamations of shock from Hollywood?

What’s wrong with you? Are you just not a fan?

It’s cause she’s a woman, isn’t it? People these days are so unevolved.

It’s a fantastic movie! You should love it!

You must just not love Black Widow.

First off, I sleep under a Captain America blanket every night. I protect that thing from harm like it was my baby. My Avengers leggings are my favorite leggings. I am a woman in her 20s who drinks out of a Marvel water bottle made for children. And I write a movie blog that often features Marvel content. Clearly, I am a fan.

Second, hello, I am a woman. Don’t play the woman card with me. Also, Captain Marvel was a smashing success and that was only her introduction movie, she wasn’t even an already a deeply beloved character. So, yeah, drop the woman card.

Like I said above, it looks like a good movie. I can see myself enjoying the action, the humor, and getting more of the backstory. The issue here is not actually with the movie itself.

Nat trust

“Maybe you just don’t love Black Widow that much.”

Wrong, the opposite is the truth. I loved Natasha Romanoff too much. That’s why I am not very excited.

Why do I feel this way? Endgame, Endgame is to blame.

endgame

The further I get away from Endgame, the more I am disappointed.

I didn’t want to be. I don’t walk into movies full of skepticism like many movie-goers. I prefer to live with excitement about something and then deal with the disappointment rather than live as a cynic and only be surprised now and then when something good actually happens.

I went into Endgame with high hopes. And I enjoyed many moments in the movie.

But truthfully…

Endgame fell far short of what Marvel had set us up to expect. And they failed heavily on the one thing that mattered the most.

Closure.

thor endgame battle

Thor gave up his entire 6 movie character arc to go hop around the galaxy and drink beer…and yet he gets another movie?

Tony Stark

We were not given a chance to properly mourn Tony. A choice was made to cut a scene that was under 2 minutes and could have changed the whole scope of how both we and our onscreen heroes were allowed to mourn our beloved Tony Stark.

This would have given us a chance to gain some closure from as far back as Civil War. The fact that Clint Barton is the very first Avenger to drop to one knee would have been deeply healing to me.

cap endgame

Steve left for the past without a proper goodbye. He left his two best friends in the world behind. Bucky he had fought tooth and nail to bring back to the light, and Sam had fought alongside him without complaint. They deserved more. We deserved more. Steve means more to us than no proper goodbye.

Now Steve has made a choice that largely rearranges Marvel history and we are supposed to just be okay with that? The dancing scene with him and Peggy didn’t even last long enough for us to get a full kiss.

With the exception of Rocket and Nebula, the Guardians were treated as a joke. It was entirely disrespectful of their beautiful character arcs and all of the progress they have made in their movies.

thor and starlord

I have other complaints but I’ll spare you the rant. The only Avenger done complete justice in Endgame was Scott Lang. And his reward is that he currently does not have any more movies on the docket.

Oh…but Nat. Nat.

Nat and Steve

Beautiful, warmhearted, undying spirit Nat. She was treated the worst.

Not only was her death incredibly unfair, but we were never given a chance to properly mourn her.

True, the heroes had to jump into the next thing immediately, I understand priorities. But we should have revisited her more beyond the few comments made by the people who loved her most. She deserved more. We, the fans, deserved more.

And Marvel let us down.

Natasha Romanoff absolutely 100% deserves her own movie. The issue is not with this movie itself, the issue is all about the timing. This movie is 2-3 years too late.

I do really appreciate that Marvel understands that a raw origin story movie for Natasha would not work. She’s come too far since appearing in Iron Man 2 for us to actually enjoy watching her as a “devolved” character. We wouldn’t even know her.

Marvel is smart with the place in the timeline they chose to feature Nat. Post-Civil War she’s a highly complex and beautiful character who is finally strong enough to face her past and deal with it properly. We get to enjoy learning the backstory while taking that journey with the Nat we truly know and love.

Natasha Civil War

But this movie should have been done 2-3 years ago. Much sooner after Civil War. Before we knew what happens. Before we knew how Nat’s story ended. Before we had tasted the bitter flavor of disappointment and grief.

That’s the danger of many Prequels, you know that eventually, Anakin must become Vader. And in this case, you know that Nat must die on a stupid planet in the middle of nowhere for a dumb stone and never be properly mourned.

Endgame created a ton of new gaps in our timeline, in our understanding of our characters, in our experience of this story. We are still walking around with those wounds, and now they want to go back and play with an old gap that should have been filled ages ago?

The world did need a Black Widow movie.

But my concern is that this may be too little too late. And that’s a shame because Natasha Romanoff deserves better.

Marvel trained us to expect deeply human stories. Powerful emotions. Gut-wrenching redemption arcs and betrayals. Characters that gave us the courage to keep facing our lives and live them well. Marvel has taught us to laugh, to cry, to grow, to grieve, to heal, to fight!

It’s not our fault that we feel the way we do, we responded to what they gave us. And in Endgame, Marvel let us down.

steven and nat endgame

Yes, I love Natasha Romanoff. I love her so much that I do not feel as excited about this movie as I want to. And that makes me sad.

I have a dream, a shy hope, that maybe, just maybe, the end scene of Black Widow will feature a certain Star-Spangled best friend popping up on Vormir and returning a nasty little orange stone. And then a flash…

“…I told you I’d see you in a minute.”

If that were to happen, my entire outlook on the future of Marvel would change.

I have struggled to put into words the disappointment and grief of things I have felt post-Endgame. I wrote a few articles on a few aspects of the movie I thought they did well.

The use of food in Endgame to connect characters and moments was really brilliant.

Sam Wilson really is the right heir-apparent for the shield, even though I do not like how he got it.

The amount of torn timelines, gaping holes, and unanswered questions post-Endgame is huge. Marvel cannot expect to just leave us hanging and grieving, can they?

Right now I look forward to Spider-Man’s story continuing, his story is always well-done and Tom Holland is a pure delight. But beyond that? Beyond that, I do not know. I do not feel very excited.

Widow and Hawkeye

Dear Marvel, you did me and my friends wrong, especially my girl Natasha here. You made this mess, so are you gonna fix it or what?

She deserves it.

I will likely see this movie. Whether I see it in theaters or not, I cannot say. But I fear that Black Widow may not make the splash it is expected to, and that has nothing to do with the character herself, or audiences, it has everything to do with the choices Marvel has made.

I hope that I see this movie and I enjoy it. I hope that I see this movie and find out my girl’s story isn’t over, in fact, it has just begun. I hope that Marvel has some secret-laid plans to untangle this mess and bring it back around.

That is my hope. I guess we’ll have to wait until May to see if it’s fulfilled or not.

……….

Were you disappointed by Endgame?

What is something you would have changed about the Marvel storyline up until now if you could?

Are you looking forward to Black Widow?

Comment and let’s discuss!

 

 

 

 

Thor 4, Why I Don’t Want It

Yesterday it was announced that Taika Wahiti (Thor: Ragnarok) would be directing the fourth installment of the Thor movies, starring Chris Hemsworth…

…wait, the fourth installment??? Did we actually ask for a Thor 4?

Without a doubt, there are going to be fans who are excited about this. Not all fans feel negative about the road Thor’s character has taken. Those fans are having a really great day right now, and I do not begrudge them that.

(Y’all, if Captain America 4 were ever announced you would hear me give the squeal heard around the world, so I get it).

I, however, am not at all pleased with where Thor ended up when the credits rolled in Endgame.

Please, stop disrespecting Thor even more than you already have.

I was a fan of the first two Thor movies. His first film was actually my introduction into the MCU and I loved it, I loved him.

angry thor

His transformation from Grade A royal jerk to a compassionate hero was lovely. I liked him and Jane together. I loved how powerful he was. I thoroughly enjoyed his involvement in both The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Ragnarok was a deep disappointment to me. To drastically change the tone of Thor’s storytelling and practically obliterate all ties to his earlier movies on the third installment of his series was awful to me. It felt like someone had accidentally picked up a Guardians of the Galaxy script and a “Thor” movie was made instead.

That being said, even I can admit that Ragnarok was a proper continuation of Thor’s character arc. Ragnarok pushed Thor to a place that 4 previous movies hadn’t been able to get him yet.

Thor became the king.

It was a nice arc and Ragnarok was a vital part of that.

thor background.jpg

Thor: He learns what truly makes a hero, he learns humility and kindness. He uses his might to protect rather than ravage. He begins to have an appreciation for humans. He learns what worthiness actually is as he becomes worthy of the hammer. It’s glorious.

The Avengers: He grows beyond just an almost patronizing appreciation “I must protect these infants” for humans and learns to see them as comrades and equals. He joins a team rather than fighting alone. He chooses what is right over family loyalty.

Thor 2: Again, he chooses what is right over family loyalty. His father is an idiot, Thor goes against his father and commits treason because it is right. He chooses to love someone even though it may devastate him later on. And he chooses to be honest with his father about his lack of desire to be king.

thor and his father

Age of Ultron: Thor sees the beginning pieces of Thanos’ plan as well as the future of Ragnarok. This sets him off on a journey of discovery across the cosmos and sets a lot of things in motion.

thors vision

Ragnorok: Through the exposure of Loki’s deception, Odin’s death, and Hela’s unleashing on Asgard, Thor has to finally step up to the plate to become who he was born to be.

thor gladiator

He loses everything, his father, his hammer, and his dignity as he is reduced to being a gladiator for sport. It’s a lot of hits at once. He feels very low but he refuses to give in to grief as his desire to take care of his people and do right by them is stronger. #hero

Against all odds, Thor makes it back to Asgard where has to fight his sister, the goddess of death, without his hammer. He is mighty but at this moment she is mightier. Until he ends up in a vision where his father reveals the truth, “Are you Thor, the god of hammers? The hammer was only to help you channel your power.” And the final bit of encouragement that we have all known about Odin and Thor, “I’m not as strong as you.” “No, you’re stronger.”

Next up is the most epic takedown and my favorite part of Ragnorok (THIS IS THOR) where the god of Thunder blasts his sister and her armies with his lightning because THAT’S who he is!

Ragnarok ends where Thor has to allow the destruction of Asgard in order to save the true heart of Asgard, his people.

He is down one eye but looks very regal and handsome as he is crowned king and takes his “throne” aboard a borrowed ship among the surviving Asgardians and a ragtag group of friends. His brother is at his side once more and we hear the same coronation music we began this journey with back in 2011. It was really, really nice.

thor in arena.jpg

  • Thor had to gain humility and perspective before he was ready to be king.
  • His knowledge of the greater universe enabled him to be exactly what Asgard needed when they needed him most. Odin could never have been what Thor is.
  • He forgave Loki and paved the way for them to rejoin as brothers and friends.
  • He brought Valkyrie back from her drunken despair and gave her purpose.
  • He saved Bruce and destroyed Hela.
  • He had to grow beyond the hammer and he did an awesome job. And it was THEN and only then, after all of this learning and connecting with other people that he became the king he was born to be.

Infinity War: Enter, Thanos. Thanos never played fair, so, I don’t blame Thor for any of this mess. To me, the Thor of Infinity War was the most glorious Thor I have ever seen. He was the perfect combination of all that he had been and all that he was becoming. He WAS the god of Thunder, his arrival on the field of battle in Wakanda is one of my top 3 moments in that movie.

infinity war thor

Thor still made mistakes (GO FOR THE HEAD) as did all of our heroes. And I knew Thor needed to have a meltdown at some point. You cannot lose literally everything and never break down.

Endgame: Thor tries to defeat Thanos, and while he does kill him, the damage done by that Purple Abomination cannot be undone. So Thor disappears into New Asgard and becomes a drunken pile of a depressed man.

chunky thor

Believe it or not, I was actually pleased with this. I needed Thor to be human enough to fall apart after all of the hellish things he’d been through. I felt that this was appropriate, all the more so for how handsome and grand he is. That beer belly didn’t bother me, the tears in his eyes just made me ache more.

Thor is brought back into the action by his friends who still believe in him. He contributes what he can to the plan, and then he goes back in time with Rocket (love this pairing) to the day his mother died in order to retrieve the Reality Stone.

I loved this part. I felt like it restored some of the first two Thor movies to us.

Thor is totally falling apart, and Rocket has to be the one to save the day. #thisracoongetsitdone

Oh! But that scene with Thor’s beautiful mother, Frigga! I loved, loved, LOVED that scene! I have always felt that she was an underused character, a rich well of untapped potential. Odin was a mostly rotten father, but Frigga? What a mother!

thor and his mother

Thor needs his mama, that great and mighty god of Thunder who has fallen so low just needed his mama to look into his eyes and actually see him.

He needed her to gently brush back his matted hair as if he’s still arrayed in royal robes and love him as only a mother can. She listened. She encouraged. She blessed him, and she told him with so much love and compassion to eat a salad. It was such a gift, that scene.

And that moment gave Thor the courage to face the final conflict against Thanos. He is still worthy, Mjolnir still comes to him. It’s a beautiful moment of encouragement for anyone who has ever faced grief and depression.

thor depression

He fights the battle well and we see once more, the god of Thunder is still with us.

thor endgame battle.gif

Thor is among the victorious Avengers who are still standing when the dust settles *sobs* and he returns to his people in New Asgard to begin a new life as their king. He’s been humbled and is raw, but he is still a worthy hero and he deserves a second chance, what a triumph…

…oh wait, no, he actually decides to become a homeless man and go traipsing around space with the Guardians?!?!

He leaves New Asgard in the hands of Valkyrie whom we have only known for a movie and a half? Didn’t he already give up a chance to be king once before, only to take the throne in Ragnarok because he was finally ready???

You mean to tell me that I just went through 6+ movies of bringing Thor to this incredible place of a complete arc where he actually became his own kind of king despite every obstacle —only to have him be treated like some half-eaten leftovers that the filmmakers wanted to put in the freezer to reheat later???

Thor + Starlord for about 5 minutes = funny.

Thor + Starlord for a long time = disrespecting both characters.

thor and starlord

Starlord was already given a raw deal in both Infinity War and Endgame. He was treated like a laughingstock and idiot. Is he sometimes an idiot? Absolutely. Has he been through horrible things and grown immensely as a character and made grown-up/mature/hard decisions on behalf of other people? YES! WATCH HIS DADGUM MOVIES! He’s saved the Galaxy twice!

And Thor, Thor is funny, but he is NOT a laughingstock! Stop it!

Both of these characters deserve to be worth more than just a laugh.

And as for Thor 4?

If Thor had actually made the harder choice to go back to New Asgard, face his people in humility, and try again, I would actually be looking forward to Thor 4. I am curious about this New Asgard, how the Asgardians and the humans interact.

Thor has almost become a child of two realms, Earth and Asgard, he would make a neat king. Would he find someone new to love? Would some more of those “ancient enemies” that the Asgardians seem to have a cabinetful of show up and we could see an awesome alliance of Asgardians and Norwegian fisherman against Said Ancient Foes? What is living in New Asgard like in 2023?

Thor’s choice in the final moments of Endgame was not only out of character for him, it pretty much stabbed in the back a beautiful character arc that has been in the works for 6+ movies.

I was so, so, so disappointed. Thor is one of the Big 3, both Steve and Tony had stunningly gorgeous arcs that ended appropriately for their characters. And Thor was left as a homeless man.

the big three endgame

Dear Marvel, I don’t know if you are trying to replicate the success of Ragnarok or what, but I sincerely doubt that’s ever going to happen. Too many people are disappointed, too much has happened. Let a dead thing lie, don’t try to stir it up again.

Marvel is more than welcome to prove me wrong, I wish nothing but the best for the people involved in this film. I’m not a crazed jerk who starts uttering death threats just because I don’t want a movie.

I just cannot fathom why Thor 4 would be their first choice when we have so many other, fresher characters to work with. You think Thor (who is a strung-out character) is a good use of your resources when you are literally the top dog right now???

ragnarok is it though.gif

#yesijustwantedtousethisgif #youwouldtoo

I have to wait on another Ant-Man and the Wasp but you have time for Thor 4???

For the first time in my life, I don’t want another Marvel movie.

So, are you #TeamThor4 or are you #NoMoreThor? What do you think the next installment will be about? Were you excited to hear about Thor potentially joining the Guardians? I’d love to hear any and all opinions.

 

 

Disney: Why Disney+ is a Good Thing

There have been mixed reactions since Disney announced their intention to create an exclusively Disney streaming service that will be available in 2019.

As more and more news has come out regarding the service, the conversation has heated up.

I’ve spent months thinking about the pros and cons of this service, how it is going to affect media in general. I have come to one conclusion…

…this Disney streaming service is a good good thing.

Here’s why.

Why Disney’s Streaming Service is Good for the Consumer

During a discussion on this very topic, someone brought up a very real point regarding the multitude of streaming options available. Yeah, I know I’ve felt like I am straddling so many different services it’s becoming obnoxious. The desire to find everything in one location (like shopping at Wal-Mart once rather than 5 different specialty grocery stores) is deeply appealing.

However…streaming services are not like grocery stores, they are more like the fast food of the visual storytelling world. They are fast and immediate.

I could spend fifteen minutes just listing the number of fast food options we have available in this country. Some are nationwide, like McDonalds, and some are more localized. Dear Folks, do give Braums a try if you are ever in the Lower Midwest.

That many options can be overwhelming, wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one?

Maybe. Would it be better? NOPE!

Ask any person in a one-stoplight town that has ONE McDonalds. They will give you a resounding NO.

nope kermit

 

One restaurant means the same food all the time. Occasionally there may be a new menu item added, but that’s rare. No guarantees on the quality of food or service, after all, there is no competition for our One Restaurant to force it to be its best in order to stay in business. Food, service, prices, bathroom cleanliness, our One Restaurant dictates these things because due to the law of scarcity, they can! They know we have nowhere else to go, they are our One Option if we want to eat out.

However, suppose we added five other restaurants to the mix? What happens?

competition minion.gif

Now our One Restaurant is one of Many restaurants, we have other options, now they have to step up their game and compete, or go out of business.

Think about the deals we have available right now in fast food. Wendy’s 4 for 4. A McDonald’s $1, $2, and $3 menu. Taco Bell has a pretty dang tasty $1 menu. And on, and on, and on.

So much variety and constant change that is to our (the consumer)’s benefit.

Competition.

You may not have realized it, but I just described capitalism to you. Capitalism gets spread around the media like it’s a dirty word, and socialism is the “cool” thing that makes life better for everyone!

Wrong. Most people don’t actually understand capitalism or socialism. You love getting a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, a toothbrush from Wal-Mart,  and a hand-knit wool hat from Etsy? Cool! Thank Capitalism!

Capitalism is not all about trampling everyone underfoot in a mad scramble for the top spot. Capitalism that is done right can create freedom, opportunity, options, and competing in a way that holds each business accountable. The ultimate judge and jury for said businesses? Us, the consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I really like options. Sure, if I decide to eat at Fazolis, I can’t eat at Taco Bell. We do eventually have to choose one thing or another. But that’s okay, I make the choices I want for my life. And I appreciate the ability to choose.

What does this have to do with Disney’s streaming service? Lemme tell ya…

…Disney just majorly upped the ante…and we as consumers are going to benefit.

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Netflix is gonna have to up their game. I know they are trying. Lost in Spacis a work of beautiful storytelling and art that I applaud from the highest mountain. They just signed a deal to create a Narnia series, another decision that I am incredibly excited about. Netflix has its claims to fame with Stranger Things, but that’s not gonna be enough anymore, and I am interested to see how Netflix decides to combat this new challenge.

Amazon is a fierce competitor. This online giant has more than just a streaming service in its empire, Amazon has a little bit of everything, and they are getting bigger by the day.

*Sidenote, just so that you can become aware, I am starting to suspect that Disney and Amazon are secretly working towards world domination, and one day this battle will come to a head. Choose wisely, Citizens, will you be a Prime Member or belong to the Micky Mouse Clubhouse? Sides must be chosen. Choose wisely.

We all know Disney is giving their streaming service the red-carpet treatment. They are intent upon taking every wish we have made upon a star and making it come true. And while I have a love/hate relationship with Disney, I have to honestly say, they usually deliver.

Yes, some of these streaming services/shows that exist are going to die. We are going to take some hits. Daredevil and it’s fellow Marvel shows are early casualties. I can understand why those shows will no longer be continuing from a business perspective, but I can also understand the grief from fans. I’m sorry you feel disappointed, folks. I know how that feels. *coughs, AGENT CARTER! 

In the end, however, we as consumers will reap the benefits. Every streaming service with its own content is going to have to do their absolute best to compete with Disney, which means better content with higher quality.

Now, onto the really fun part.

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Why Disney’s Streaming Service Is Good for the Fan

Loki.

Scarlet Witch and The Vision.

The Mandalorian.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Live Action Lady and the Tramp.

CASSIAN ANDOR!

 

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I am looking at a whole new world right now, ladies and gentlemen. A world made possible by streaming services.

I am never going to stop going to the movie theater to enjoy movies on the big screen. I do not go to the theater because it is convenient, no, I go because I value the experience so highly. Millions of other movie fans do as well, therefore I have no fear that we will lose our movie theaters into the black hole of streaming services.

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Putting a movie into the theaters is more complicated than you may realize, however. It costs tons of money, and you have to not just make that money back, you have to make a large profit for that movie to be considered a success. Next, you have Blu-ray and digital sales, and then your film ends up on streaming services.

It’s a tough world, which means that film studios really have to be choosy about what they put their time and money into for the theaters and television. Despite the number of amazing characters and stories that we as fans love and want to see told, we are only given a few at a time because they HAVE to be picky. Which means that large groups of minority fans are left disappointed.

Enter, the Disney Streaming Service.

loki looking bad

Loki Odinson has delighted viewers since 2011. He’s a complex character, one moment the villain, the next, an antihero? He’s fast, his motives blurry, his emotions unpredictable. But what is predictable is the love of his fans for this character. A large minority of Marvel fans have been begging for a Loki film for years, but in the grand scheme of the Marvel storyline and budget, it just hasn’t made sense. Until now…

Loki is getting his own miniseries. Given how complex his character is, a miniseries is a far better format for his story than a film would be. Miniseries have the option of telling a story more slowly and going into greater personal depth than movies do. It’s just the type of storytelling the god of mischief deserves.

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Scarlet Witch and The Vision are all about exploring what it means to be human. They are complex enough characters on their own, and together? Even more so. They have not been given the amount of time required to really dig deeply into the wealth their characters’ have to offer. Not to mention these characters are not big enough mainstream favorites for a full theater release to be profitable. But a miniseries? Perfect!

captain cassian andor

The moment I saw Captian Cassian Andor my brain was on fire (yes, the man is gorgeous). But what truly got me electrified was the story he represents. It’s the untold story of the darker side of the Rebellion. A dark, painful, morally complicated side. A whole realm of questions and potential we have never seen before. We had no time for side trips in Rogue One, it was such a beautiful and focused movie that was precisely what it should have been. But at the end, my heart didn’t just ache for what we had lost, my heart ached over the stories that had been briefly introduced that I felt we had lost. Stories that I was desperate to discover. And now, I can.

the mandalorian

The Mandalorian. I’ve watched 6 Seasons of Clone Wars and 4 Seasons of Star Wars Rebels. Mandalorians are the kinds of characters that take up all the oxygen in a room. They need to be explored. I love how Star Wars films/series have recently started exploring more characters beyond just the high profile heroes and villains. It’s a fascinating world, let us explore it more!

Falcon

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I am constantly saying that Sam Wilson never gets the credit or time he deserves. He’s just the greatest guy ever and I am so thrilled to finally get to see more of him. And we can all agree that there is a big question mark hanging over Bucky Barnes’ life. It’s about time.

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My other big hope for this streaming service is that we will have resurrected series/films. Star Wars fans fell off of their tauntauns when we discovered that our beloved Clone Wars series (which ended horribly) was being renewed for a proper send off. Dreams really do come true!

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My personal request is that shows like Agent Carter and Girl Meets World who ended FAR TOO SOON would be next up on the renewal docket. These shows had strong enough fanbases and quality storytelling to make said endeavors worthwhile. But we shall see.

Don’t you all understand? The possibilities available to us? The potential? We may actually get a National Treasure 3 out of this service! It would flop in theaters but on the service?

And the best part yet, the monthly cost for this magical service is supposed to be less than Netflix.

take my money

In conclusion, Disney is moving into the 21st Century with style. And we, the consumers and fans are going to reap the benefits.

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I can’t wait. How about you?

 

Spider-Man Far From Home: Peter Parker, Next Level

What a delightful surprise to have this Spider-Man trailer dropped in our lap this morning. If you haven’t seen it yet, take 3 minutes and enjoy yourself!

Currently, this is the Marvel movie I am most looking forward to. I know that sounds like crazy talk with Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame on the docket for this year, but I’m telling you, I love the fresh perspective that this sweet boy brings.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was a beautiful movie. There are many movies out there termed “coming of age”. What that really means is, “let’s show teenagers drinking, having sex, and making stupid decisions that could have long-lasting consequences but oh well that’s life so let’s enjoy it”.

Yep, that’s totally the kind of movie I want to take my 13-or-more-year-old child (because yes, teenagers are still learning how to transfer from childhood thinking to adult thinking) to. That’s totally the kind of behavior I want them to emulate.

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I for one am sick of it. The kind of trash we are giving to teens is ridiculous, non-beneficial, and teaches them nothing but how to make huge mistakes in a time when they are already struggling to find their way.

Enter, Peter Parker. Ah! Yes! This is what a coming-of-age movie SHOULD BE! Here we have a teenager who is a good kid. He works hard, he’s kind to people, he loves his aunt. And, oh yeah, he’s a superhero!

So, starting off, Peter Parker is already a shining example of someone I want young people to appreciate. He gives value to the right things, treats people with respect, and has a true heart to serve.

That would have been cool enough, but Marvel took it a level further. They showed us how even good intentions can be hazardous if used at the wrong time, and in the wrong context.

We felt Peter Parker’s growing pains. He wants to be a big hero. He has the heart, but he lacks the maturity and decision-making skills wrought by experience to be ready for the job he thinks he wants.

The disgusting movies I mentioned above are often justified by, “Oh, that’s life, everyone sows some wild oats and makes mistakes!” True, mistakes are often made. But they do not have to be the kind of mistakes that are glorified as “life experience” in those films. You know, the kind that can lead to ODs, STDS, car accidents, etc.

What I loved in Homecoming is that we get to see Peter making mistakes. True mistakes that so many of us with good intentions have made. It shows that just being a “good kid” and having “good intentions” are not enough. There is a level of wisdom and maturity required.

Peter employs his new wisdom at the end of the movie when he recognizes that he has a lot to learn, and he chooses to take the slower path to become a rising star because he’s learned the value of “faithful in little, faithful in much”. He knows just how much he doesn’t know, and he respects the process.

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As we all have seen, Peter is called to a big battle far sooner than he ever anticipated when he joins in against The Mad Titan himself in Infinity War. And our baby Avenger ROCKS IT! This kid is totally going places!

So, with all of that knowledge, I found myself just a bit confused by these slightly confrontational and challenging words uttered by Nick Fury to our friendly-neighborhood Spider-Man.

You’ve got gifts, Parker. But we have a job to do…are you going to step up and do it or not?

Uhhh, didn’t he just majorly step it up? What are we fussing about? Obviously, we have no idea what just happened in Endgame. Clearly Peter’s fate was reversed or erased somehow, but what happened in between?

And then I caught on, oh, these fightin’ words from Nick Fury are about 2 important pieces in Peter Parker’s arc.

1. PTSD

Like I said, we have no idea what just went down. Did Peter’s mentor/father figure Tony make it out of the battle? What did Peter have to do in order to come back to his life as we see it in this trailer? Who did he lose?

Peter looks at his suit hanging in his closet and you can see the reluctance in his eyes. Grief? Fear? A desire to forget?

peter and ptsd

He may be Spider-Man, but whatever he just went through is making him just want to be Peter Parker for a while.

This is so natural. Often our gifts require us to do really hard, sometimes traumatic things. We were needed, vital to that moment and that situation to set things right, but it cost us. And we are carrying the scars to prove it. This face is holding some scars. And when this happens, often we want to pull back from that aspect of who we are because it hurts too badly.

I don’t blame him, even though I know he can’t stay this way. If you watch the International Trailer, you will see that May sent his suit along anyway. This is very telling about their relationship. People who love you remember who you are even if you have forgotten, they believe even when you can’t.

may sent the suit

2. Faithful in Little Leads to More, More Is Scary, But More Is Necessary For Growth

Despite the fact that Peter has gone toe to toe with Thanos, he did it with his mentor and the best warriors in the universe. He wasn’t alone. Even now he’s not truly alone, clearly we’ve got Fury lurking in the shadows, plus this mysterious and cool Black Spider-Man who appears briefly in the trailer. I get the feeling that Ned and MJ are going to be a very important part of supporting Peter as he takes this next step.

Peter has been faithful in little. He may think that he needs to keep being little for a while longer, but life is telling him something else. It’s time to level up, kid. Whether you feel ready or not.

What is right for us in one season is not always right for another. This is a new day, a new era, a new world. It’s time to extend the comfort zone, Parker. I know you’re scared, but you’re not alone, and you can do this.

We believe in you.

I cannot wait for this movie. Peter Parker is a great role model for children, teenagers, and adults alike. I am so excited that we get to “grow up” with this character!

Until next time, Marvel fans!

Here is the international trailer with a few more scenes and wider shots.

Avengers Endgame: Steve’s Past, Or His Future

If you haven’t seen the Avengers: Endgame trailer by now, then drop everything and take a moment to inhale this heroic humanity…

Aside from Scott Lang being the delightful goober that he is (I would have died of misery if I hadn’t had his comic relief during Ant-Man and the Wasp to ease the tension of this year’s movies)…

…the best part of this trailer to me is Steve and Nat.

I was originally very disappointed with Infinity War as I felt that everything was off.

For the large variety of unique and beloved characters the Russo Brothers had at their disposal, I felt like some characters were given all the spotlight while others (like Steve and Nat) were left backstage. Add to that the ridiculous melee that took place in Wakanda that was in complete opposition to that country’s entire infrastructure, I was unimpressed.

Some time has caused me to view a few aspects of the movie more gently.

No, there is no excuse for that ridiculous melee. Sorry, Mr. Russos’, there is no excuse. The most basic military strategy available is to NOT pile all of your warriors and resources in one big mass and yell “charge” at the enemy!

infinity war melee

I don’t care if you have a Force Field or people with powers. It was a gross misuse of your resources and insulted my intelligence. You made it even worse by placing the world’s greatest soldier, Captain America, and the King of the World’s most advanced technological and military nation, T’Challa, at the head as leaders.

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That was an insult. I don’t care if you thought it looked glorious, especially Thor’s stunning entrance, it was insanity and we all knew it. Here’s another article that shares some (not all) of my sentiments regarding this film.

But, there is nothing I can do about that now. The mess has been made. People are gone (PETER PARKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I have read a few articles since then that have given me a bit more perspective.

I now know that showcasing characters like the Guardians, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and Bruce Banner was a conscious choice.

They are reactive characters and when something happens, they react immediately. Characters like Steve, Nat, Falcon, etc tend to dig in and deal with the problem at hand, saving their reactions and or breakdowns for after the fact.

Therefore, as was shown by the trailer above, and confirmed by an article I read, we will actually be getting more of The First Avenger and The World’s Greatest Spy, Steve and Nat, in Avengers: Endgame.

It’s been theorized and practically confirmed that time travel will be the solution to defeating the Mad Titan and getting half of the universe back. Actors have been spotted in their Battle of New York costumes from the original Avengers movie, which leads us to the conclusion that we are going to be blasting to the past to save the future.

Natasha: This is gonna work, Steve.

Steve: I know it is, cause I don’t know what I’m gonna do if it doesn’t.

These dramatic and beautiful lines come right on the heels of a quick scene where we are shown Steve looking at his old compass from the 1940s, the one containing a cutout picture of Peggy Carter, his first love.

Mixing this highly emotional moment with the idea of time travel obviously leads many fans to this question: after he saves the world (again) will Steve choose to return back to his original time and be with his first love for a lifetime? Will we actually get to have that dance?

My answer?

No.

And…yes.

the nomad

First, on a practical note, both Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter have been major power players, forces of good in world history. To misplace them, to change their destinies would be to rearrange the Marvel Universe as we know it.

Peggy Carter’s story was continued in the brilliant series Agent Carter that was ended far too soon. Oh, yeah, Dear Disney, if you are looking for another pet show that needs a renewal on your streaming service, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE QUEEN OF MARVEL HERSELF! It’s ridiculous that this show hasn’t been renewed already.

Peggy Carter

In the short 2 seasons that the show was allowed, we saw just what a huge impact Agent Margaret (Peggy) Carter was going to have on the world. She runs circles around literally everyone else. She’s faster, stronger, smarter, and has the best lipstick in the business.

Peggy would go on to fight Hydra as well as forces from other worlds her entire life. She created SHIELD. She was vital to keeping the world as stable and safe as it was by the time Steve awoke from his chilly beauty sleep. In Agents of Shield, Season 2 during Hydra’s big “coming out party” (contemporary to The Winter Soldier) it was revealed by high-level Hydra baddies that the one reason they hadn’t revealed themselves sooner is that they had to wait for Peggy Carter to retire.

They knew she’d kick their face in. So let that sink in, folks. Peggy Carter singlehandedly kept Hydra at bay for 70 bloomin’ years.

It is obvious that Steve Rogers will forever be a part of Peggy’s heart. Even as we watch her learn to let him go and move on with someone equally special and wonderful, we know that Steve lives on in her legacy.

The bond between Steve and Peggy is still deeply obvious in that beautiful and gut-wrenching scene in The Winter Soldier. Steve’s grief at Peggy’s funeral speaks of the still deep connection that is never going to end. We know how special these two were to each other, and how special they remain to us.

Sad Steve

I don’t need to tell you all how different the world would be if Steve stayed in the past. We’ve seen that play out before our eyes.

My point is this…it just doesn’t work to change the timeline. I am an avid Flash fan, believe me, peeps, I know what I am talking about.

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Point 2, Steve Rogers is not the same man he was in the 1940s.

The story of Steve Rogers is one of triumph and tragedy. The thought of being ripped away from your entire world and everyone you hold dear is horrifying, to some, a fate worse than death.

But of all things, we know that Steve Rogers is not a quitter.

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So he didn’t quit. He jumped back into the fight and kept going.

Steve has had a busy arc. He started out as the knight-with-shining-shield of his day, Captain America: The First Avenger. Next, he was a man out of time who tried really hard, Avengers. Steve integrated himself with the world following that event, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He made some friends and kept fighting the good fight. But something wasn’t sitting right. He was told it was his problem, he needed to get with the program. Good thing Captain America is actually terrible at following bad orders because he ended up being right.

After that Steve wasn’t going to apologize for what he believed to be right. He also showcases a rather frightening belief that fighting is kind of his destiny. Avengers: Age of Ultron. There is no world for him outside of this never-ending battle. No picket fence, no wife, no mini Steves running around. It’s a natural place for his character to go. He’s tired.

Next up, Captain America: Civil War. Steve chooses what he feels in his gut to be right, and he chooses the person who needs him most over being the status quo Captain America. He drops the shield and goes to discover who he is outside of Captain America.

Tony Stark to Peter Parker : If you’re nothing without the suit then you shouldn’t have it.

The above statement is a good one for any hero. Having seen Steve from his slim beginnings, clearly, we all knew that Steve Rogers is more than just a suit. But I think Steve needed to remind himself of that.

Avengers: Infinity War. We didn’t get much of Steve, but we saw was quite clear. He is not apologizing anymore. He’s going to take care of this world whether we like it or not. #hot And he’s still a really, really nice guy. He looks a bit tired, and yet, there is burning energy that wasn’t there before. Perhaps he hasn’t accepted the fact that his future is decided yet? It’s like he’s freshly alive, freshly awake…

Future.

Steve is not the same man he was in the 1940s. I believe he loved Peggy Carter with all of his being, but that is a past dream. It just a beautiful memory now. He still has the same noble heart, but he’s tread different soil. He’s got family here. He’s made a mark on the world, and he may actually want to stick around to appreciate it.

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I do think we may finally get our dance scene. It has been teased before and we have walked away disappointed. Despite the fact that Steve needs to move on, it would be appropriate to have one dance with his best girl. I believe Nat (whether she is just a friend, or more) would fully approve. Heck, she’d help him fix his tie and take photos for him on the dance floor!

nat and steve endgame

Life is not about trying to recreate every perfect and beautiful moment from the past. Our good memories are to be treasured, but life is about living in the here and now. It’s making the most of this moment that you are currently living.

If whatever “this” is actually works, and Steve makes it out (there are substantial rumors that he may not actually be leaving for good), Steve Rogers has a future here. 

Characters have to keep moving forward or they become stale. Steve is moving forward, and if he has a future in this world, it’s going to be here and now with either Sharon or Nat (please be Nat, PLEASE BE NAT).

Welcome home, Captain Rogers.

steven and nat endgame

 

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