“this is the end. the end of the road i started us on.” i rewatched every mcu movie to get ready for endgame and wrote a megareview of all of them. I am not sorry.

i decided when endgame was almost in theaters that i wanted to rewatch all the other marvel movies (and first-watch captain marvel) before seeing it, which is nice because it also means probably not having to deal with crowds when i finally get around to seeing endgame. this will also give me the opportunity to really solidify my opinion of the marvel cinematic universe in general, which let’s be honest, i love having the opportunity to do that kind of navel-gazing.

iron man (2008)

“keep the skies clear.”

(cw: sexual metaphor, imperialist war, weapons)

it’s easy to understand why i loved iron man so much when i first saw it. it’s like the movie is trying to talk your clothes off. it’s effortlessly (which means a lot of effort doubtlessly went into it) fun and breezy and charming. and i just was not equipped at the time to notice, let alone call out, the shit about it that was horrifying.

it’s not difficult to understand why i fell so hard for this movie when i first saw it. or why it remained a staple for me for so long. like, it’s just this movie-long exercise in hanging out with tony stark, right? and he gets to have this arc where he goes from being a witty asshole to… well, actually still a witty asshole, but one who’s been forced to confront his own failings. (the movie would likely want me to add “and atone for them,” but… yeah, we’ll come back to that.)

also, just… the way the movie was made is obviously shooting for (and hitting) mass appeal, but it also just works super well for me specifically? there are all these witty little cuts that still can’t help but elicit a begrudgingly approving smirk from me when i rewatch this now. and… you know that thing that everyone by now knows marvel movies do where they undercut serious emotions with humor? this does not do that. it incorporates humor at times to give things layers, but the sincerity of whatever emotion is happening in that moment isn’t compromised. rhodes asks tony “how was the funvee?” when rescuing him in the desert, and it gets a laugh from the audience, but like… it’s actually part of showing how much rhodes cares about him and how visibly relieved he is to see him. there’s a running joke with one of tony’s robots (who is apparently named dum-e btw!!! i love them!!!) that they’re super useless and tony just yells at them all the time. but then, in a very climactic moment, dum-e literally saves tony’s life, and the running joke again just adds to the sincerity of the moment. it’s more like genuine emotion undercutting humor than it is humor undercutting genuine emotion. in other words, the total reverse of the eventual dynamic the marvel cinematic universe will come to rely on.

it also just makes being a superhero look extremely fun. and you just can’t pretend that doesn’t matter, because it does. when tony is learning how to fly, he looks like he’s having the time of his life. and even though it’s not a montage, it has the exact breezy positivity of a training montage.

and no matter what else i think of this movie now, i still have to admit the ending is completely brilliant. when tony looked down at his cue cards to read, “the truth is,” trailed off, gathered himself, and impulsively announced, “i am iron man,” i almost jumped out of my seat in shock just like all of the suddenly-yelling reporters on the screen.

i don’t exactly know if marvel had the same kind of relationship with the military/intelligence industries at the time that they made this movie, but whether they did or not, wow this movie licks america’s boots something fierce. and what’s really appalling to me is that it did so while getting credit from some (including myself) for being superficially critical of u.s.-based weapons companies. and like… let’s dig into that for a second, because i think that one is very worth dispelling.

first of all, the hero of this movie is a smarmy billionaire. he’s a womanizing asshole who blows off work to go gambling even when “work” is accepting an award presented by his best friend. but he’s also supposed to be brilliant and hardworking somehow? he designs new technologies as a hobby. when he’s kidnapped and held prisoner in a cave he manages to escape by building an armored suit from scrap metal. (this shit works. i used to love the shot of him literally taking hammer to anvil.) he’s resourceful. everything about him subliminally tells you that billionaires are brilliant and hard-working and deserve to be where they are even though he literally fucking inherited all his money from his father!!!

this is just the start of why iron man is basically just american ruling class mythology: the movie, but like, just in case my reasons for having a problem with this aren’t self-explanatory: billionaires are parasites. billionaires have by-and-large never worked a day in their lives. you really want to tell me that if you dropped one of these fuckers in a cave surrounded by people with automatic weapons, they would invent a new, impossible form of renewable energy and build a suit of armor from scrap metal to escape their captors? if you dropped one of them in a low-level position in their own company they would probably have no idea what to do.

you also get a lot of “brave soldiers” kinda imagery, which, you know, whatever. transformers did it the year before and not only is that just kinda where we were in pop culture, that’s basically inescapable in hollywood, which fundamentally exists to advertise the u.s. to the world as their benevolent protector. when tony escapes from captivity one of his first demands is “an american cheeseburger.” because, you know. he’s an american!

but like… hey! this movie is actually critiquing things, right??? because tony decides it’s Bad, Actually that his company is selling weapons because (and i quote) “i saw young americans killed by the very weapons i created to defend them and protect them.” it was totally fine when it was brown people being killed according to plan, of course. and we’re meant to believe that tony had no idea that his company was selling weapons to terrorists while he was getting rich off of it. i’m sorry, guys: they know. this isn’t something that’s just sort of… happening. there are no innocent billionaires. they know exactly what they’re doing. they are your enemies. they are the most existential threat the human race has ever faced. and that makes any movie that puts a friendly face on them a lie. (but like, most of these movies are financed by people who are that ridiculously rich, so guess what.)

a vital part of the propaganda here is how upset tony is when he finds out that his company is selling weapons “under the table” (he uses this exact phrase when attempting to confront obadiah about it). in reality, someone like tony would be not only aware, but responsible for putting weapons in the hands of terrorists. (not to mention the fact that the largest terrorist organization in the world is the u.s. military, but fucking iron man isn’t going to make that point.) but the key point for me here is that it wouldn’t be “under the table.” selling weapons to terrorists isn’t just not illegal, it’s u.s. foreign policy.

so, when tony stark, the majority owner and ceo of the biggest weapons company in the world, suddenly decides to notice that his weapons company manufactures weapons, he’s prevented from putting a stop to that by internal machinations from within his own company that end up being initiated by his trusted advisor and family friend, obadiah stane. and while we’re here, jeff bridges absolutely nails this character. he just overbearingly takes up so much space and puts such an obviously fake veneer of friendliness and wholesomeness over everything that you pretty much immediately know he’s the bad guy, but also you totally get why tony and everyone else trusts him so much. honestly, he’s perfect.

so! when unilaterally announcing “my bad” about his weapons company making money selling weapons doesn’t do the trick, what’s a beleaguered billionaire to do? why, build a super suit and fly over to afghanistan to enact the quintessential “america is the good guys!!” power fantasy, of course. the mythmaking here is just so staggeringly blatant that i don’t understand how i swallowed it the first few times i saw this thing. because of course america is over there to protect innocent brown people from the other, mean brown people. that’s totally what american foreign policy is based around, right? it’s definitely not the advancement of american imperialism no matter who gets hurt or killed in the process. (also, like, the u.s. military is way more likely to be shelling an innocent village than whoever they’re over there to fight. sorry.)

this is obvious the really, really big problem with iron man, but it’s not even the only thing i picked up on this time around that totally flew under the radar in the past. like, ok, obviously a lot of tony’s casual misogyny is something that’s consciously included in his character, but how about pepper getting in on the game by cattily telling one of his conquests that one of the duties she occasionally performs for tony is “taking out the trash.” i mean. ouch? (“but [miles], you love when women call you trash!” but oddly-knowledgeable reader: that’s only ok in consensual situations!)

or how about the super transphobic joke that tony tells a bunch of cadets to embarrass rhodes? that one i actually hadn’t failed to notice in the past. like, when i saw the first establishing shot for that scene, i was just immediately like “oh no” because i knew what was coming. i had just forgotten until that moment.

i guess this all just goes to show you that no matter how fun it might be, you should be careful about which movies you let talk your clothes off.

(b-rank)

the incredible hulk

“don’t make me hungry. you wouldn’t like me when i’m hungry.”

(cw: monster thirst)

in most of these reviews i’m gonna be talking about what these movies meant to me, how my opinion of them evolved over time after numerous repeat viewings… but that just isn’t going to be the case with this one because i think this is literally like the third time i’ve seen it? i saw it in theaters, and was basically like “yeah, that was fine/way better than the other hulk movie that came out a few years ago but the ending was kinda unnecessarily loud” and like… that was basically my entire opinion of it? i saw it again a few years ago and my opinion got drastically worse. i specifically remember using the word “soulless” to describe it, which… is honestly harash af and i’m not sure what i was on about.

rewatching it now, i’m much closer to my original opinion of “yeah, ok, that’s fine.”

it’s nothing special. it’s nothing to write home about. i kinda dig the score. i kinda love liv tyler. i super love liv tyler elbowing a soldier in the face and him just freaking dropping.

like, ok. admittedly most of the action doesn’t do much for me? and that’s… not good in a superhero movie. most damningly, the final battle scene–which should be the bread and butter of this kind of movie–especially just bores the heck outta me. (which should be fucking impossible given that it’s a fight that prominently features a chain being wrapped around someone.)

the action scene towards the middle of the movie where the military is attacking hulk in the park is better for reasons i’ll get into in a sec, but it honestly still isn’t great in terms of an action scene. it was kinda distracting how general ross just kept barking out stuff like “where are those 30 calibers” and then a humvee would come flying in and hulk would beat the crap out of it, so then he’d be like “where’s the gunship???” and then a helicopter would fly in. it was just so weirdly linear. (and like, the writing is weird? it makes it sound like ross is just wondering out loud where these things are and they’re sort of just coincidentally showing up, not like he’s exercising agency.)

the thing is, this scene at least has effectively communicated pathos. (something the final battle shoots for but just badly misses.) like, i honestly feel something when betty is distraught over the military/her father hurting hulk. or when hulk shields her from harm by literally putting his body in between her and an exploding helicopter.

and… yeah, ok, i guess all the betty/hulk stuff brings me to the fact that this is the first time i’ve seen this film since i became consciously aware of the fact that i’m thirsty for monsters. (and hulk is even green, like my orcs! sorry.) i’m… i’ve never really been into hulk, honestly, but… the fact that betty is into him and he protects and blatantly loves her even in monster form is… yeah. it does stuff for me. it makes me like this a lot more than i would otherwise.

in terms of raw entertainment value, though, it’s still pretty underwhelming. monster thirst can’t sway me that much. (and i’m not even thirsty for hulk! i’m just like… feeling seen because of someone else’s thirst. lmao.)

(c-rank)

iron man ii

“aren’t you iron man?”
“sometimes.”

(cw: emotional abuse, daddy issues)

the disney machine indifferently churning out 2-to-3 mcu movies a year every year, strategically spaced to divide up the year’s box office, is so relentlessly reliable that it’s sometimes a little hard to remember it hasn’t always been this way. as i mentioned in my last review, the first two films came a mere month apart. the franchise then actually proceeded to lie dormant for almost two whole years.

iron man 2 isn’t one of those mcu movies that i’ve seen dozens of times and used to have a very fully-formed opinion of and an unwarranted amount of affection for. but it’s also not like the incredible hulk where i didn’t even really count it as an mcu movie or bother watching it when i was marathoning the others. when i was (shamefully) a marvel fanby, i tended to go to bat for iron man 2 when it came to interacting with other fans. yeah, it was kind of a mess, but it was an entertaining mess!

even when i was going to bat for it, i admitted iron man 2 was kind of a mess, but it’s a mess that’s consistent with marvel’s brand. and i was always willing to give it a lot of benefit of the doubt because all of its messy worldbuilding and super foregrounded moving around of pieces felt like something it “had” to do. this was back when i was militantly defending this kind of shared universe filmmaking, mind you. there were also just a lot of moments in it that really worked for me in isolation.

tony’s discovery/creation of the new element to replace palladium was something i really enjoyed at the time because it brought back some of the imagery/energy of him doing physical work to create something like in the first film. true, it was scaled back considerably. and even at the time i noticed that it was quite a bit less effective. but it was still something i appreciated.

combining the above-mentioned plot point with emotional catharsis around his relationship with his father… yeah. i don’t speak to my father anymore. needless to say, he didn’t ever say anything like “what is, and always will be, my greatest creation… is you” to me. in the past, characters with daddy issues who got a happy ending resonated very strongly with me because… yeah. nowadays i’m moreso about characters who have parental issues that don’t have happy endings, but said character doesn’t so much rise above it as soar above it. (hi, pariah. and like, feel free to recommend me more of that variety thanks.)

i loved tony and pepper’s kiss when i first saw this, but their relationship… bothered me this time. their little miscommunications/arguments seemed cute in iron man (though now i’m wondering if i was paying enough attention) but in iron man 2 tony just literally can’t stop talking over her. he talks over her while making her ceo. he pretends to be sympathetic (but can’t stop interrupting her) when she tries to resign because the stress is “literally killing her,” shuts her up with a kiss, and then cockily asks how she’s going to resign when he doesn’t accept.

i don’t want it to feel like i’m wasting too much energy here defending a literal ceo, but the images being presented here are important to highlight because of their gendered nature (and because gender is, obviously, a system of dominance within capitalism), so it’s still worth highlighting even if we have much bigger, more real problems than a fictional billionaire not respecting his fictional ceo girlfriend.

black widow beating the shit out of guards is still amazing and i have nothing new to say about it. sorry. i’m gay.

other than that (which was really just natasha being a badass), the action scenes felt pretty damn underwhelming this time around? the racetrack one in particular, i remember loving the suit-up at the time but upon rewatching it just felt… pedestrian? and the big final battle at the end just did nothing at all for me.

as far as connective tissue, the most interesting bit in this category by far is the senate hearing. it not only connects parts of this movie together, it connects this movie back to the previous movie. it gives us a sense of where everyone is and what directions conflict is going to come from. and tony gets to be totally above it all, just swatting aside every challenge that comes his way.

what’s interesting to me about this scene is how it’s accidentally revealing of the function/operation of the state in imperialist america. in the communist manifesto, marx defines the state in capitalist countries as “but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” tony’s power struggle with hammer is played out in a senate committee hearing because of course it is. the senate has no more important business than mediating the petty squabbles of capitalists. it’s literally what they’re there for. (that, and to maintain the orderly flow of wealth generated by our labor into the capitalists’ pockets. just saying, this is why it’s so crucial not to let voting be the sole expression of ur political power.)

i say “accidentally revealing” because, oh hey, it’s worth noting that in addition to their warm relations with marvel in general, the u.s. military enthusiastically supported the making of all three iron man films in particular. and that’s not something they tend to do unless it serves their interests to do so.

but really, the only thing that was even coming close to propping up my opinion of iron man 2 was all the aforementioned stuff about having been a marvel fanby. now that they don’t have my buy-in…

hey, did you notice iron man 2 kinda sucks?

(d-rank)

thor

“run back home little princess”

almost exactly a year passed between the releases of iron man 2 and thor. my expectations were virtually nonexistent, and at the time it blew those expectations out of the water and then some. my only real complaint back then was that the movie coulda used more space bullshit and less just kind of being stuck on earth. and not just on earth, but in basically one of the most boring places on earth (new mexico). i also felt like natalie portman’s character was badly underwritten, but also sometimes when natalie portman is a movie my mind just kinda goes blank and happy because um natalie portman is really pretty. (the shots after she hits thor with her car and she’s just lit with the headlights behind her and her hair is gently blowing in the wind woulda made me gay if i weren’t already.)

it’ll probably come as no surprise that i totally dug the mix of outer space and high fantasy-ish trappings. like, that was just so completely my jam. and idk the whole thing was just such a pleasant surprise. and the main hero of the movie is just going around smiling all the time. the movie had the same boisterous, positive tone that its hero did. (the score helped with this!) very little could’ve made me not like thor at that moment in time. throw in stuff like, “your ancestors called it magic and you call it science. well, I come from a place where they’re one and the same thing,” and just forget it. i’m so weak for that kinda stuff.

you’re almost tempted to give thor a pass because it’s theoretically so far removed from the military industrial complex just by virtue of being largely outer space bullshit, right? and coulson even seems kinda like an asshole for stealing all of natalie’s (fine, jane’s) stuff. but eventually everyone’s all buddy-buddy by the end of the movie because the shadowy spy agency isn’t all bad, honest!

i mean, even when i was writing from a more liberal perspective i kind of had feelings like “hey this whole monarchy thing is kind of awkward hahaha.” this time, i was immediately wary from odin’s introductory speech about how asgard is the “beacon of hope” and how its warriors “brought peace to the universe.” even without the benefit of the third film’s weak (but still present) critique of imperialism letting us know what was actually going on, we should already be thinking “wait a second… this is sounding awfully familiar.” asgardian exceptionalism, i guess.

it’s one of those sweeping prologues that sets the stage for many a high fantasy, and in the past it seemed like a harmless part of the texture of the story to me, but now i have the theoretical grounding to know that this sort of very broad approach to a story’s historicism and political situation is anything but harmless. moreover, it bears an eerie resemblance to exactly how the ruling class wants us to see our history.

so, the other side of this particular coin is obviously the frost giants. the first bunch of times i saw this movie, i honestly didn’t give them much thought, and in retrospect i think that’s by design. they’re just kinda… there. being vaguely menacing. being othered. being props for various permutations of a white, imperialist patriarchal struggle between thor, loki, and odin.

now that i’m thinking about it, i think it’s kind of telling that even the film that weakly critiqued asgard’s imperialism (the aforementioned 3 thor 3 thorious, or thor: ragnarok if you must) doesn’t actually mention asgard’s enemies at all. again, i’m reminded of vague, half-hearted liberal critiques of imperialism that end up amounting to little more than navel-gazing.

i’m taking this too seriously, right? like, none of this stuff is even the direct byproduct of marvel’s cozy relationship with the military/intelligence arm of the imperialist government this time, right? that’s exactly the thing, though. this sort of simplistic way of looking at the world comes so naturally to people that buy into the ruling class’s narrative, they don’t even have to be consciously trying to propagandize to end up looking at the world (both real and fictional) through this lens. it’s literally the only lens they have. and when all you have is a hammer–

wait, that wasn’t even supposed to be a mjolnir pun.

(b-rank)

captain america: first avenger

the first time i saw this i remember being underwhelmed but thinking it was fine and maybe a bit of a “pleasant surprise” because i expected to find it overtly jingoistic. (which… it is, but not in ways i would’ve understood to be so at the time.) so, i’m sitting there waiting for the post-credit sequence, as you do, and i’m very innocently thinking like “hey, yeah, that was pretty ok i guess! like, it wasn’t the best one of these, but i like the dude playing cap i think?” thinking i had just had a pretty ok experience watching a movie. then that fucking post-credits teaser for the avengers hit. when i realized what was happening, i think i actually gasped out loud and then proceeded not to breathe for the rest of the teaser.

what it mostly amounted to was the feeling that, y’know, this was happening. this was really happening. seeing all of the characters on screen together for the first time was a huge deal. and just… knowing that there was nothing but time left between us and the thing this had all been leading to was a massively huge deal at the time.

in the years that followed, my opinion of cap gradually improved until he was maybe my favorite avenger? a lot of that is just that chris evans does a fantastic job playing him. but for a while i just really bought into the whole brand of like… patriotism that wants the u.s. to “be better.” patriotism that’s disappointed by all the bigotry/corporate greed/etc that’s killing us. patriotism that’s based around the idea of what the u.s. “could be” rather than pride in what it is.

so, here’s why that’s bullshit.

a lot of liberals like to latch onto this sentiment that “the u.s. is an idea.” if they expand on this, you’ll hear some hoo-ha about freedom and democracy and some other stuff that the u.s. is supposed to be the stalwart defenders of. and the illusion of nuance. “hey, we have problems, but” etc. i used to really, really buy into this stuff. i used to be blind to the fact that it accomplished absolutely nothing but letting me sublimate my guilt and feelings of helplessness (not the fun kind) and frustration.

the u.s. is not and has never been an “idea” worth defending. the u.s. is a white supremacist patriarchy that was built by acts of genocide on an unthinkable scale. and this is the part where a lot of these aforementioned liberals will protest, “but we totally acknowledge that!” which, in fairness, they do. i did when i had this worldview. in isolation. compartmentalizing them. never engaging with them as something that is solvable. never actually doing the fucking work.

you cannot compartmentalize these things. there is no u.s. apart from these things. the u.s. is these things. and that’s why it doesn’t matter that captain america mirrors your idea of being patriotic and “critical” of the u.s. at the same time. there is no acceptable or correct way to be patriotic towards this country. it should not exist. it is an affront to humanity. that is not reconcilable.

steve rogers wants to go fight in world war ii so desperately because he “doesn’t like bullies.” leaving aside that that may be the most ironic reason anyone has ever joined the u.s. military, it’s… rather off-putting that his reasons for fighting in this particular war are so generalized and sanitized by the narrative. even on this particular point the movie can’t see its way to being more specific (and therefore maybe marginally more brave.) defeating the nazis was important. of fucking course it was. but why was it important? you could watch this movie without ever even knowing what the fuck a nazi is. (this is frequently the case in movies where nazis are the bad guys, actually. they’re just shorthand.)

we’re supposed to understand that captain america stands against bigotry when he’s comfortable with a german scientist experimenting on him because it’s gonna let him go fight nazis. it’s worth noting that it isn’t a japanese scientist. maybe because then we would have to deal with rogers wondering, “wait, aren’t you supposed to be in an internment camp?” instead, of course, the pacific theater isn’t mentioned by the film at all even though it’s what supposedly drew the u.s. into the war.

of course this is another one of those american world war ii movies where you would think the u.s. went over to europe and delivered the decisive blow of the war. where what they were fighting for was to defeat nazism. at no point do we hear anything about the red army that was doing the vast majority of the fighting in the european theater, and that racing against them was the allied army’s primary motivation.

what these two last points have in common is that they obscure the motivations the u.s. ruling class had for entering world war ii, and simultaneously obscure how the ruling class did what they always do in manipulating the working class to do their dirty work. we’re very heavy-handedly shown that rogers isn’t xenophobic. we aren’t even shown that he was motivated by patriotism, even though this has long been an essential feature of the character. we’re not shown that if he had been motivated by either of those things, it would’ve been because he was taught to be that way by schools, by radio (they didn’t have tv back then), by newspapers, all owned by the ruling class.

right, so, while we’re propagandizing about the u.s.’s role in world war ii, why not throw in some casual misogyny and homophobia as well? throughout all the boot camp scenes we get the usual calling male soldiers “ladies” and “girls” to encourage them to “man up” (even freaking peggy gets in on that at one point). while we were burdening our star-spangled lead with the task of representing our wishy-washy liberal critiques of the u.s., we really couldn’t also have him have a problem with that? moreover, cap’s relationship with peggy leans heavily on tropes about women being some kind of bizarre, incomprehensible alien species that poor, sweet guys like steve don’t have any hope of understanding. howard stark comments at one point that “the moment you think you know what’s going on in a woman’s head is the moment your goose is well and truly cooked” and the movie aligns itself to this idea. (in fairness, i should admit that the moment when steve asks peggy what she thinks of the vibranium shield and she responds by grabbing a sidearm and firing at him repeatedly without warning before coldly assessing “it works” made me laugh way more than it should.)

and, you know. no matter how much i might critique the construction of this relationship, the scene where they’re on the radio together while cap is in the act of sacrificing himself still made me cry. i just cannot deal with people losing a loved one. it’s still not something i’ve personally had to grapple with, but it’s just the quickest and least fair way to hit me in an emotionally vulnerable place. and it’s not cool, movie! we’re not cool.

(c-rank)

the avengers

“is not this… simpler? is this not your natural state? it’s the unspoken truth of humanity. that you crave subjugation. the bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. you were made to be ruled. in the end, you will always kneel.”

wow, loki hangs out with a lot of bottoms.

i was, unfortunately, once a joss whedon fan. like, i never got around to buffy, but i had seen all of firefly and was one of those people who was super duper mad that it had been cancelled. i also read his run on astonishing x-men, and loved cabin in the woods. i even bought into his fake feminism. (in my defense i was extremely gullible and dumb. wait, i don’t think i structured that defense very well.) i was super excited that he landed the avengers gig because it seemed like marvel “listening to the fans” and i guess that was something i was in favor of at the time in a rather uncritical way.

at this point i was also fully onboard with the marvel brand, and would frequently write passionate diatribes about what a big deal it was that marvel let their movies be “fun” and “nerdy” and let them have things like jokes and smiles and primary colors in them. if you’ve ever met me, it probably doesn’t surprise you that these things drew me in. i tend to do my best to be a pretty positive and optimistic and friendly person. i do this in spite of crippling anxiety and occasionally depression. it may sound contradictory, but it’s the only way i know how to be me. it just happens that there are better places i can put that energy than buying into stuff like this.

an internet movie critic that i was super into around the time that this came out drew attention to the fact that the “money shot” in avengers, the moment the entire film seemed to revolve around, was the wraparound group shot of the team standing shoulder-to-shoulder with each other looking formidable. teamwork 🙂 america 🙂 etc. he read the fact that the film as a whole was leading up to and built around this group shot as indicative of the filmmaker’s liberal political sensibilities, and honestly i’m inclined to agree.

to be completely clear, though: he considered that a good thing. i do not. liberalism calls for the preservation of capitalism, but nicer capitalism. for bosses, but nicer bosses. for exploitation, but nicer exploitation. for prisons, but nicer prisons. for extrajudicial murders and indefinite detention, but–etc. it does all the same imperialist bullshit but pretends that if we all say the right combination of words/feel the right feelings, that makes it ok.

i don’t know what could be more peak liberal than a liberal movie critic saying that a movie financed by a nakedly exploitative corporation that’s currently aggressively collecting every intellectual property they can get their greedy hands on and made mostly in cooperation with the u.s. military (oh actually hold that thought for a second) is the expression of some liberal “ideals.” let’s all join hands and defend the status quo. but like, a nicer status quo.

there is actually more overt u.s. patriotism on display in cap’s story here than there was in captain america: the first avenger. a disheartened cap asks agent coulson “aren’t the stars and stripes a little… old-fashioned?” and coulson responds “everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light… people might just need a little old-fashioned.” when he first meets bruce banner, we double down on the whole ‘look how not-prejudiced cap is!!!’ thing from the previous movie when he tells dr. banner the ‘word on him’ is that he can help them find the tesseract, to which banner responds “is that the… only word on me?” and cap curtly responds, “only word i care about.”

we also have cops and soldiers as sort of… background good guys, but we get cap interacting with them to more or less tell the audience ‘rooting for cap is rooting for them!’ one of the moments that i used to love is the part where an nypd officer gapes at cap and demands why he should take orders from him, which is followed by cap beating the crap out of a few aliens and then the cop immediately doing what cap told him to do. now i can’t help but roll my eyes at how unintentionally appropriate it is that the way cap convinced them to take his authority seriously is by beating someone up.

iron man in this is… fine, kind of? his dynamic with pepper is way healthier than in literally any of the iron man solo movies for some reason. i will admit the suit-up scene towards the end was aces. his conflict with cap was kind of a joke, though. i can’t believe i used to care that this subplot was “patiently developed” over the course of several movies before becoming the emotional through-line of the entire series.

iron man 2 sees tony brashly declare that he’s “privatized world peace.” in this one, he’s “the only name in clean energy right now.” the idea of a capitalist solution to world peace is kind of worse than a joke given that war exists to address the internal contradictions of capitalism. and clean energy? you might notice that real billionaire capitalists like him aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to supplant the fossil fuel industry despite the fact that it is quite literally destroying our planet. but, you know. we don’t need large-scale structural changes to our society that remove profit as the primary motivating force. we need nicer capitalism!

i do still like mark ruffalo’s bruce banner better than eric bana’s or edward norton’s (not that that’s an especially high bar). and he is still responsible for two of my absolute favorite movie moments ever here. i’ve cited the part where he rolls up to the battle of new york, walks up to everyone, surveys the devastation around him, and announces understatedly, “so… this all seems… horrible” more than once as reminding me of exactly how i feel when i walk into work on a busy day. (don’t work retail, kids.) the other is, “that’s my secret, captain. i’m always angry.” i don’t care how much my esteem for the rest of the film has dropped, that one moment is the coolest fucking thing ever. (ok and let me get this out of my system: that’s my secret, captain. i’m always subby.)

i don’t want to think about how much natasha beating everyone up while tied to a chair probably had something to do with joss whedon’s women issues. like, ok, still being able to kick ass while tied to a chair is obviously a pretty empowering idea to me for… reasons? i still love her wry sense of humor (“yeah. it’s gonna be fun.”). i used to love the little bit where she uses the appearance of vulnerability to goad loki into gloatingly giving away his plan to her and then immediately snaps back to being a deadly-calm secret agent. i was like “hahaha yeah look at her playing with that dumb boy’s expectation of what women are like.” but now it just reeks of Strong Female Character to me. with the unspoken implication that if she were actually emotionally vulnerable about her best friend, that would be Bad and make her a Bad superhero.

(this may be a bit petty, but at one point natasha quips, “regimes fall every day. i tend not to weep over that. i’m russian.” and that shit annoyed the hell out of me. because polls have consistently found that roughly two-thirds of the russian public miss the soviet union, thank you very fucking much.)

thor and hawkeye were also there, i guess.

this was also before marvel really committed to”hey! let’s put a diverse face on our imperialism!” this time it was a bunch of white guys (and one white guy who turns into a green guy) and a white girl. but there was some fan outcry about this and eventually the needle got pushed a little and wow this is so exactly how actual liberalism works.

oh, and while we’re here, i just fucking ‘love’ the little bit where tony regains consciousness surrounded by his male teammates and the first thing he manages to say is “please tell me nobody kissed me.” thank you so much for that casual homophobia, joss. (it’s ok because he’s a feminist!!!)

in spite of… all of this, if i can jump ahead a bit and quote that random henchman in avengers: age of ultron, “it’s… the avengers.” i’ll never be as wildly positive about this movie as i used to be, but it’s still wildly entertaining.

ok, so, about that thought that you were holding earlier. this is actually a kind of fun note to end on. did you know that the u.s. military actually withdrew their support for this movie, and the reason they did was absolutely hilarious? (don’t worry, they went right back to holding hands with disney/marvel for the very next movie. they love them some iron man.) they were upset about the idea of what appears to be a shadowy international cabal being in charge of s.h.i.e.l.d.

maybe they would’ve been placated if marvel had told them the shadowy cabal was just the u.s. ruling class.

(b-rank)

iron man 3

“it’s a big bunny! relax about it!”

dum-e in a dunce hat is my robotsona.

shane black and the mcu and “quirky indie filmmakers” do not have my buy-in the way they used to, and there are a lot of problems with iron man 3 that i’ll be more than happy to delineate, but i will say that it’s still a pretty fucking fun movie. when i first saw it i was still very much an mcu fanby so i cared about stuff like “wow it has to respond to iron man 2 and the avengers!” (what the fuck “response” could iron man 2 possibly even warrant, past-[miles]?) that doesn’t really factor in for me anymore.

what does still really work for me is this film’s sense of humor (usually), fast-and-loose approach, and holy wow that soundtrack. especially that first bit of the end credits. it’s got this amazing energy to it that just makes me want to dance.

one thing i initially loved but have since reevaluated is pepper’s Big Tuff Woman moment. it is admittedly a much more authentic Big Tuff Woman moment than u usually get! because she bashes killian in the back with a pole thingy and you’re just like “oh ok this is pretty typical Tuff Girl stuff.” but then it keeps going and yeah she does get to be a legitimate badass and save tony’s life like twice and literally uses him as a springboard at one point.

at the time i first saw it (and a few times after that), i admired the “bravery” of like… actually having your protagonist literally being used as a prop by his much more badass girlfriend, but in retrospect… nah. pepper is all flustered and embarrassed at how violent what she did was, and tony makes it all better by taking the badass juice out of her system. we get the optics of a badass woman without any story consequences. it’s kind of just a great big shrug.

nor is this the only thing involving pepper in this movie that i have complicated feelings about. the part where tony promises pepper over and over that he’ll catch her and fails to do so… that hit me especially hard this time, actually.

like, ok, you could argue that it’s a plot contrivance to put pepper in the position where her coming back to save tony is more of a surprise and that it’s ok because the agency being exercised in that situation gets totally flipped. but really it ties into tony’s emotional arc throughout the film. he earlier tells pepper that he has to “protect the thing he can’t live without” and that that “thing” is her. and like. yeah, ok, it’s nice when someone feels protective of you (seriously, i fucking love it when people feel protective of me), but he literally calls her a “thing” and i’m guessing she’s not as into being objectified as i am.

apart from all that, though… while i don’t think we ought to empathize with tony for reasons i’ll outline in our next topic, the fact that pepper apparently falling to her death represented tony failing her really hit me on an emotional level this time more than it ever has before. (i blame estrogen.) like, i actually kind of teared up. and no, i don’t think we should be getting super, super into identifying with what tony is feeling (again, more on that in a sec), but if we just take that moment in isolation (as much as is possible to do so) it really hits me somewhere vulnerable. (inb4: yeah, ok, i’m like 90% “somewhere vulnerable.”)

tony’s panic attacks… ok, this one actually took me some time and discussion with a friend to think through. when this movie first came out, i kinda glommed onto them as like “omg! this movie is having a hero go through stuff i go through!!” and i have to confess that even after rewatching it, i found myself more or less thinking, “… huh. this still kinda works for me.” but with this nagging feeling that there was something i was missing.

the thing i was missing, of course, is that this character is not going through stuff i go through, or you go through. the symptoms are the same. and those symptoms are so viscerally real to me that i got stuck on them for a while. the problem is the way this portrayal encourages you to sympathize with that which should not be sympathized with.

he’s a billionaire. he’s an imperialist. he’s experienced trauma because he’s inflicted trauma on a scale that none of us are capable of and (i hope) most of us wouldn’t inflict if we were capable of it. so no matter how good of a portrayal of anxiety disorders this might otherwise be, the fact that it’s used to basically say 😦 poor tony he’s going through so much 😦 😦 kind of disqualifies it from being in any way admirable.

and then he saves the president. just like… to be clear where this movie stands.

when i heard the villain of the third movie was going to be the mandarin i was pretty resistant given how blatantly racist i had heard the character was. when the trailers started coming out i started getting guardedly excited for what seemed like it was going to be an epic showdown from the way it was being built up.

i actually kind of genuinely loved what they ended up doing instead. it bolstered my fanbying of the mcu, with my take on it being that marvel “wasn’t afraid” to jettison things about the source material that didn’t work while still preserving their spirit.

nowadays… ok, look. i still appreciate that we didn’t really do the mandarin, and i even kind of like the direction it did go with the american businessman being the real bad guy. but the fact that in the process you had to have one of your heroes draped in red, white and blue, save people from air force one (yes i still kind of fucking love that sequence but that’s not the point), and save the goddessdamn president really detracts from any goodwill you build up there. (also, y’know, killian was a “bad” capitalist. tony/pepper are “good” capitalists. this is not a new approach for this series. it’s literally iron man 1.)

fake-mandarin continues marvel’s storied history of placing arguments much more closely resembling correct ways of looking at the world in the mouth of someone who clearly has no credibility whatsoever in order to poison those arguments. the colonial genocide on indigenous people. cultural appropriation. the blank check our government gives oil companies. you know what we do about these things, though? hint: it isn’t sensationalist, self-aggrandizing terrorist acts. it’s direct, collective action. it’s organizing. it’s demonstrations. there will likely be violence in a revolution, but this kind of adventurist violence in the pre-revolutionary period doesn’t help and is not pursued by any credible revolutionary organization. (important clarification: property destruction is not violence unless that property is materially important to someone’s survival. i know our legal system is set up to value ruling class property over working class lives, but let’s just all agree that’s bullshit.)

as if that’s not blatant enough, killian says his plan to kill the president for the atrocities committed by some oil company he failed to prosecute is just so it’ll “play well” on tv. the cumulative effect of this and all the fake-mandarin stuff is that when our brave heroes save the president, you know, “because he’s the president!” is that you just don’t question the political context in which that’s happening at all. because all the anti-american arguments were all put in the mouths of two very different kinds of bad actors (sorry, trevor).

iron man 3 is a fun movie, and one i used to wave around defiantly as an example of everything i liked about the mcu. it’s still not unpleasant to watch, for all the reasons i outlined earlier. i just think it’s crucial to keep in mind that this is a movie that was made with the material support of the military of the largest force of evil in the world today, and it shows.

(b-rank)

thor: the dark world

“is there a point to all this? ’cause there really needs to be a point to all this.”

is natalie talking about her appearances in the thor movies, or the mcu as a whole? because either way, i have some bad news for her. (actually, ok, to be fair, “holding hands with the defense department’s propaganda arm and making an obscene amount of money” is a point, just not a good one.)

my initial reaction to this was “that wasn’t great, but it was fine.” over the years i kinda stood up for it as “not that bad” whenever other marvel fans were bashing it. i appreciated that they did more space bullshit (while not noticing that they managed to do boring space bullshit), which… actually they may have spent just as much time on earth in this one as they did in the first one. i wasn’t keeping track or anything, but i definitely noticed this time that there was a lot less space bullshit than i remembered there being.

anyway, this is actually kinda bad.

like, the most recent time i rewatched it (a year or two ago?) i kind of came to the conclusion that like “oh ok it’s mostly fine but the ending really sucks.” and the ending does really suck, but i’m not about to call the rest “mostly fine” anymore.

oh hey, you know what i have zero complaints about? natalie portman.

ok, like. i have complaints about how her character was written. like… she wasn’t written, tbh. she was just kinda… there. and all her reactions to being whisked away to asgard were just so generic and obvious and not at all worthy of an actor of her caliber. but like, then there’s her brilliant smile in the post-credits scene and i’m just like “oh right it’s natalie portman and wow i’m gay.”

sif, uh… existed! i guess! actually, i was genuinely annoyed with pretty much all of her scenes in this. thor shows up on vanaheim, she says she has everything under control, and he asks “is that why everything on fire?” and haha! yeah! that totally doesn’t detract from the way she was presented as one of the most effective asgardian warriors in the previous movie for a cheap quip or anything. and then odin kinda gestures in her general direction when telling thor he should forget about jane and focus on “what’s right in front of him.” oh hey yeah great she gets to be his literal consolation prize. how nice for her. isn’t that nice? that’s so nice.

the compulsory heterosexuality thing with darcy was just… ugh.

oh hey, frigga got to do something! … and then promptly got fridged.

y’all, i think this movie may have had women problems???

i was 0% interested in loki replacing odin again (but this time disguised as odin) and it seemed like a really boring sequel hook so i’m really glad the sequel didn’t go in that direction. like, we’ve literally been there before, why would you do that again? (and then they didn’t, so it’s fine i guess?) also, loki sniping at thor when they were stealing that dark elf ship got weirdly repetitive??? like, there would be an external shot, then it would cut to an interior and loki would be saying something biting, then another external shot, then another internal and loki dialogue, over and over, and it had this weird rhythm to it, and none of the lines were even good? like? was i supposed to care about any of that?? because i didn’t. very weird.

the part where loki is ‘dying’ and thor says he’ll tell their father about his bravery and loki says “i didn’t do it for him” was actually a little interesting and multilayered. like, there’s a few different ways to read that line! he could mean he did it for his mother, which would make sense because her death obviously fucked him up. he could mean he did it for his brother, because underneath it all he still loves him etc. or he could mean he did it for himself. in the context of the moment even that last one might still sound kinda noble, but taking into account the fact that we later learn he was faking his own death, “doing it for himself” could mean tricking thor so he could take the throne.

anyway, don’t worry. that fleeting moment of being interesting isn’t something that was repeated much.

the dark elves are boring and bad. which is really personally frustrating to me because the entire idea of combining high fantasy-esque stuff with scifi space bullshit is extremely “yes please” and the main reason i’ve been so consistently willing to go to bat for this series in the past. obviously what we need here are some space orcs. the frost giants in the previous movie seemed like they were more or less slated to fill that role, but they are a) not hot enough, b) not orcy enough which i guess is kinda the same thing since i’m the one saying it. space orcs, people. i’m not asking for much.

it also doesn’t help that the space dark elves (“[miles] you can just call them dark elves they literally call them that in the movie” “space dark elves”) are thrown at you in the most boring ways. the attack on asgard was actually kinda great (loved that first bit with heimdall attacking an invisible ship with his giant-ass sword tbh), but then thor and loki just kinda fight them on this completely barren planet (and not even like… interesting barren, it is the most boring-looking setting ever), and then they attack earth sorta but not really idk look the climax of this movie is really bad and not engaging. i noticed that even back when i defended the movie as a whole.

oh hey remember when i complained that thor was more or less establishing american–i mean, uh, asgardian exceptionalism? well, not to worry! thor: the dark world picks up right where it left off! in the aforementioned scene where thor rescues sif from her womanly mishaps, what’s happening is that there is very vague unrest on vanaheim (and in the nine realms in general, apparently). thor and his friends are running around pacifying them (i.e. beating people up until they stop being discontent.) after which odin thanks thor, saying that the nine realms are “well reminded of [asgard’s] strength.”

imagine what they were getting up to when they weren’t safely under asgard’s boot, after all! maybe they had some of that self-determination or other similarly alarming stuff going on. if this is sounding uncomfortably familiar, it’s probably because it is. it’s just american imperialism, but it’s in space! so it’s fun! and look, everybody’s having such a good time! it’s fun! it’s fun, guys! we’re having fun! wait, are you not having fun? don’t worry, i’ll have thor come beat you up. that should take care of that.

(d-rank)

captain america: the winter soldier

“on your left.”

this used to be my favorite marvel movie.

this came out back when i thought of myself as a Serious Reviewer and my marvel fanbyness was probably at its peak, both of which certainly played into my resoundingly positive reaction. as did the fact that natasha was basically the co-main character of this. she got a bunch of very obvious badass moments, of course. but her personality also really gets to shine through. like when cap hides a usb drive with critical intel on it in a hospital vending machine behind some gum, comes back later and discovers to his dismay that it’s missing, and natasha just walks right up behind him and tauntingly blows a bubble with that same gum. or when falcon is describing how heavily-guarded something they need to retrieve is, and cap glances at nat who just shrugs carelessly which leads cap to assure falcon “shouldn’t be a problem.”

i also loved the almost “buddy cop” vibe between her and cap. the aforementioned hospital vending machine scene. nat spending the entire movie trying to set cap up on a date. (“secure the engine room. then find me a date.” “i’m multitasking!”) her schooling him on espionage techniques while they’re on the run, especially her making out with him in public to maintain their cover and then later teasing him about whether it was his first kiss since 1945. i loved all of it.

and… yeah. captain america was my favorite avenger at the time, which is just embarrassing in retrospect for so many reasons. but at the time i just loved how obviously and earnestly “good” he was. how dedicated he was to doing the right thing. all the stuff that made iron man roll his eyes at him for being a “boy scout.” and on top of that i loved how much of a badass this movie let him be. like the famous/trailer-worthy moment where he jumps out of a plane mid-banter with natasha (while landing the parting shot) and one of the s.h.i.e.l.d. agents asks runlow “was he wearing a parachute???” and runlow just smirks in admiration/amusement and deadpans “no. no, he wasn’t.”

worth noting: my politics were kind of a mess at the time, given that when i was looking through old reviews a few months ago i found some from around this time where i was openly writing in support of revolution and others from the same time where i was explicitly supporting democrats. i think i was basically a democratic socialist who was buying into liberal approaches towards identity politics super hard. and that made cap’s “the u.s. is fucked but i love it and want to fix it” vibe a lot more palatable.

i already talked about my reasons for finding cap so admirable at the time at greater length in the captain america: the first avenger section of this review. my reasons for feeling differently now should be fairly obvious, but in case they need to be delineated: it’s not just that i’m not “patriotic,” it’s that the u.s. should not exist and should cease existing after the revolution. self-determination should be extended to all of the groups that have been oppressed by this regime for over 200 years, reparations should be made, and then the u.s. should quite literally cease to exist.

so, yeah. the quote that i used as a header for this section wasn’t exactly an accident.

what’s really of political interest to me now about the winter soldier is the entire idea of hydra infiltrating s.h.i.e.l.d., or rather having always been “a beautiful parasite inside s.h.i.e.l.d.” as zola says. this was part of what i appreciated about the movie at the time, that it took a “hard turn” into a “more serious” genre by being more of an espionage/conspiracy movie. i also appreciated that it did that without sacrificing the optimism/cheerfulness/humor/etc that i so zealously championed about the marvel movies. (i was such a fucking unpaid shill ugh.)

it also allowed the movie to put cap in a position where he appears to be a figure of resistance and although i just fundamentally disagree with the politics that inform the entire framing of the character now, it’s easy to see why this was attractive to me at the time. and it really is the best use of the character if you must buy into him. at the time i considered this move “brave” and a stinging critique of the american military/intelligence apparatus that honored the bravery of whistleblowers like chelsea manning (who is back in fucking prison again, by the way).

nowadays, i see the entire “s.h.i.e.l.d. was hydra all along!” plot in a much different light. i mean, obviously there’s the fact that i don’t see patriotism like cap’s as compatible with any real critique of the u.s. that goes far enough. (though, someone could certainly be motivated by patriotism initially and later come to realize that patriotism/the u.s. in general are Bad Actually, but that very much doesn’t seem to happen with cap.)

more to the point, though. if i had the same mindset about movies/politics now that i had then, i could see myself today looking at this plot and thinking “um wow this is very prescient and brave!” because the idea of a nazi parasite growing inside of the apparatus of the u.s. state feels alarmingly relevant. of course, i want to pause here and say this is not any more relevant now than it has ever been, that the u.s. state has always been an instrument of repression and oppression of the working class and has always needed to be resisted with every ounce of strength and solidarity we can muster.

regardless, i actually super don’t think that was the intention here anyway. i don’t think it’s an accident that cap gives that rousing speech and the “good” s.h.i.e.l.d. agents stand up to the hydra infiltrators. i think the intention was less an indictment and more an excuse. which is also something we should all be familiar with today. so it’s less prescient about the growing openness of fascism in the u.s. government and more prescient about the deflection of responsibility for that onto “outside” elements.

yeah. it’s time to talk about russiagate.

i know, i know. it’s hella anachronistic. but the parallels in the ways of thinking about things are just eerie. like, it can’t possibly be that our government and its institutions are designed to oppress us, right? it’s gotta be someone else’s fault. honestly, using xenophobia to combat a president who’s (rightly) derided for his nativism/authoritarianism is just alarmingly misguided.

because it’s not possible that the u.s. electorate has been divided and conquered by the ruling class using every means at their disposal. because it’s not possible that that divided and conquered electorate was given a choice between a ruling class warmonger and a ruling class demagogue who successfully appealed to the basest instincts that have been carefully nurtured within a portion of that electorate. because it’s not possible that all of the ruling class money poured into this inherently dishonest electoral system/government could be responsible for any of this. (that’s not from “outside” after all!)

it couldn’t be the fact that the ruling class owns the education system, owns the media, owns the police, owns every single state apparatus. that can’t be why the u.s. is corrupt. that can’t be why the u.s. is imperialist. that can’t be why racist police are mass-incarcerating and murdering black people. that can’t be why the u.s. is the single largest source of evil in the world today.

no, no. fuck all that. it has to be those damn russians.

ultimately, the real problem with the kind of “critique” we’re presented with here is this: there is no conspiracy, guys. there doesn’t need to be one. what you’re reacting to right now is seeing the u.s. state doing exactly what it was designed to do. it’s ensuring the orderly flow of capital from the working class to the ruling class. it’s enriching the rich and impoverishing the poor. it’s keeping us weak and divided and out of the streets. it’s making us work ourselves to death for them.

this is what the u.s. state has always done, and it is what it will always do, no matter who is occupying the white house and no matter how they got there. it may be more obvious to you now, but i promise it is not a recent development. your favorite president did the exact same stuff, he was just quieter about it.

and i guess that’s what makes it so much harder to engage with this movie the way i used to. because a big part of it was believing in the rightness of what it was depicting–a brave, inspirational figure of resistance standing up against “corruption” within the otherwise redeemable u.s. state. and i get why that was so appealing. and now that i think about it, that’s probably why i wanted to buy into hillary clinton so much when the time came, too. because i just really, really wanted to believe that everything was going to be ok. that all i needed to do was vote and get out of the way. but that just doesn’t work, folks. it’s a harder fight than that. and it will be ok, but it’ll be ok because we’ll make it that way. and that’s going to require exercising our real political power, and our real power is solidarity. our real power is each other. our real power can only be exercised in the streets, not the voting booths. not hashtag resistance, real resistance.

seeing cap as admirable was the way to be drawn into all the other stuff. the admittedly well-choreographed action scenes, the catchy soundtrack that’s designed to make him sound like the most heroic dude ever, all of it is built around you buying into the goodness of this character. and now that i see things more clearly, that’s just not something i can buy into about a white boy who drapes himself in the american flag. i’m sorry.

(c-rank)

guardians of the galaxy

(cw: misogyny, islamophobia, cops/incarceration, animal cruelty, horny enby)

“i am not a princess.”

(it’s ok, buddy. i am.)

i think my first, very unnuanced reaction to this was something along the lines of “… do they even have to make the new star wars?” this was just so everything i wanted out of a space opera. i did buy in a little too hard at the time about how “brave” and “risky” it was that marvel was unapologetically using one of its “weirder” ips with the talking raccoon etc. but leaving that aside, it’s just joyful watching a visually-interesting space opera with big emotions and a colorful group of characters. this is exactly the sort of thing i want out of blockbuster movies.

other than the fact that it’s owned by the disney corporation so you can have talking raccoons and shit but heaven forbid there be a single queer person anywhere.

actually, ok. that’s really not the only problem here. like, star-lord is the lovable misogynist with the heart of gold. his second interaction with anyone in the entire movie is him telling a girl whose name he can’t remember who wakes up on his ship in the middle of a daring escape “look, i’m gonna be totally honest with you, i forgot you were here.” and it’s all supposed to be so disarmingly cute and then you’re supposed to be so in his corner when he has it bad for gamora and omfg i have seen this in popular media like ten thousand times  i am so over it.

i’m just gonna turn to the camera and talk here for a second. hey, boys. this whole idea of being charmingly inept at talking to women is just beyond grating. moreover, given that it occurs within a really, really fucked up power dynamic called patriarchy, it’s actually actively harmful. and no matter how you dress it up, the entire idea is to make women responsible for men’s emotions and let any “nice guy” into their pants, because, y’know. he’s trying. stop it. just… stop it. please.

ok, we’re back. before i entirely move on from star-lord, i found it off-putting that the flashback scene that opened the film has him regaling his mother with the tale of how he got beat up by other kids for trying to stop them from torturing a frog and then literally the first scene of him as an adult has him engaging in acts of animal cruelty, kicking lizard-looking things out of his way and grabbing one and pretending it’s a microphone before tossing it carelessly away. and like i woulda been fine with this if the movie did something with it, but it never comes up again so i think it was just the result of carelessness. and that’s honestly super sad to me, i’m not gonna lie.

anyway, the other obvious big problem here that i need to address is how the nova corps is depicted. so, they’re essentially space cops, right? and while rocket is being dragged away by arresting officers he yells that they’re “fascists” but while they’re actually being processed into detention at a prison known as the kyln (without a trial, by the way) he changes his tune, saying that he guesses most nova corps officers just “wanna uphold the laws” but the ones guarding the prison are “corrupt and cruel.” this is reinforced by the film later showing the nova corps as genuinely caring about the well-being of all citizens of xandar, willing to work with the guardians and ravagers and expunge their criminal records, etc etc.

this is copaganda. this is copaganda in a movie that includes a freaking prison break scene. i know this isn’t the only example of that contradiction by far but it always just throws me for such a loop because it feels so obvious and wrong to me.

anyway, while we’re on the topic of contradictions, let’s talk about how gamora in this movie really hits an awkward spot in a venn diagram of my feminist principles and my dumb lesbian brain.

so, i hinted earlier about hating the nascent star-lord/gamora romance. but it’s not always entirely possible to keep that in mind when she’s beating him up and has him pinned down with either her knee or her boot and my gayness is going “UM HI” and my feminism is going “… i’ll brb hon.” and i’m not sure how to resolve that contradiction so i’m just acknowledging that it’s a thing.

and the scene where star-lord rescued her in outer space fucking rocked and is exactly the kind of romantic bullshit i want to see in this kind of movie, even if it shoulda gone to a more deserving character. (this is virtually identical to how i feel about the bit in tomorrow never dies where bond kisses michelle yeoh’s character underwater to stop her from drowning. “this is so dumb. i love it.”)

also her shoulders are bare through a majority of this and i just recently recently realized that bare shoulders is a look that i really like on myself and others (which i realize can be a surprising thing to hear from a transfeminine person). anyway, in conclusion, im gay.

while we’re being superficial, ronan is a pretty alright baddie. like, he’s kinda got the darth maul “cool looking, not complicated” baddie thing going for him, which is honestly pretty nice in this setting. the only problem is his m.o. of religious fanaticism-motivated terrorist attacks feels… not especially well-handled. specifically, this bringing him into conflict with the suuuuuuuper white xandarians feels like it might be trying to “reflect the complexities of the rapidly-changing modern geopolitical situation” or whatever we’re calling islamophobia these days. (i’m not saying this is an especially egregious example, but it feels like–intentionally or unintentionally–it is an example.)

but, like… this is still a space opera about a group of misfits coming together, getting their shit together (to whatever extent each can), and fighting something that appears more powerful than them. it’s very imperfect, but i can’t… not like that. and fwiw, it really does feel like each of them is really, really trying to do their best. and that goes a long way with me.

and damn it, i know i keep kinda talking around it, but i love space operas. i love starfields and spaceships and wildly dissimilar settings and cool-looking aliens and blue/green/purple/whatever dudes/ladies/enbies. i don’t have to be dumb enough to let a bunch of white nerds talk me into considering this sort of movie “brave” or “risky,” but i can still enjoy the hell out of it.

seriously, more space bullshit please.

(a-rank)

avengers: age of ultron

(cw: misogyny/casual homophobia/joss whedon)

“i got no plans tomorrow night.”

i’m basically defenseless against dramatic trailers. they get me so excited about movies and in the past i often found myself watching them so many times that if you were to add up all the times i watched them, it would probably end up eclipsing the runtime of the movie itself. the quantum of solace trailer had me convinced it was gonna be the best bond movie ever. two of the dark knight rises trailers activated my inner child (they were a huge batman fan) and got me impossibly hyped for that movie.

one thing those trailers had in common is they were almost brutally effective in how they employ their Dramatic Trailer Lines that so many people seem cynical about but which i greedily lap up. you know the way you get a song stuck in your head? i got moments from these trailers stuck in my head. in quantum of solace it’s the way the music quietly builds with intensity during m’s lecture to bond until it silences completely when he unconvincingly reassures “you don’t have to worry about me” and then boom! explosions, exciting music, etc.

none of the age of ultron trailers were as well-composed as these, but there were three huge things that jumped out at me and were very present in my mind in the weeks/months leading up to me seeing this film the first time. the first gives a lot of weight to tony saying “this is the end. the end of the road i started us on.” and yeah, i live for that sort of consequential character-heavy shit so i was immediately hooked. i once tweeted something like “my sexual orientation is black widow dropping out of a jet in a motorcycle” about the moment that is used in i think every single trailer? and i’m happy to say that this rewatch didn’t change anything in regards to my feelings about that bit.

the last thing, which i very distinctly remember jumping out at me in the last trailer and really sticking with me until i saw the movie was a line that cap says. the one i quoted at the top of this section. it rhymed (thanks, george lucas) thoroughly with a bit in the dark knight rises trailer where catwoman pleads with batman that he doesn’t owe the people of gotham any more, that he already gave them everything. and batman replies forebodingly, “not everything. not yet.”

it’s grossly emotionally manipulative, but it’s such a direct way of demonstrating the depth of a hero’s commitment. at the time, i was really happy that the mcu gave what could’ve been a silly, overly earnest character like cap so much depth and weight. it’s amazing to me how much this universe really falls apart when i’m not taken in by stuff like this anymore.

another big thing that really played into my initial reaction to age of ultron was an article i read (that i tried to locate to link here but couldn’t) about how stressed out joss whedon was on the set juggling the demands of the studio with his own vision etc etc. we don’t need to rehash my feelings about the fact that i used to be a joss whedon fan, but yeah. it primed me to be very impressed when the movie seemed to juggle all these demands effectively. like, i was as nonplussed as anyone when thor just basically goes “brb” out of nowhere and goes to a magic cave to have a vision about the plot of the next few movies, but i was more or less like “y’know what, whatever, it’s impressive that the movie was still like 99% good.” and i decided that this was Very Impressive.

all of the (… mostly-male) critics i followed on twitter threw their hands up in frustration at the suggestion that there were things in this movie that were maybe kinda a little sexist, and at the time i was like “yeah! what the heck!”

anyway, this movie is kinda sexist.

anyway, this movie is kinda a lot sexist.

natasha being turned into a love interest for bruce is bad enough. doing it in that weird awkward supposed-to-be-cute casablanca-ish scene where bruce goes up to the bar and listens to natasha explain how a “fella done [her] wrong” was… weird? but not necessarily inherently awful. and her including “dorky” among the list of things that were appealing about him was endearing. (though… with whedon’s pen behind it, awkwardly male nerd culture wish-fulfillmenty, ofc.)

the hide-the-zucchini joke was not ok.

sidebar. you know, it’s funny. every time i watch a whedon movie since i stopped being a whedon apologist, i notice so many casually misogynistic and casually homophobic jokes? with this smirky tone of like “yeah but i love The Gays so it’s fine. it’s fine, right? it’s fine.” like. BOTH his avengers movies feature homophobic jokes centered around tony in the films’ denouement??? in avengers after he regains consciousness he says “please tell me nobody kissed me?” (with all his male teammates gathered around him and natasha nowhere in sight), and here natasha chides cap “i thought you and tony were still gazing into each other’s eyes.” haha! it’s funny because they’re both boys.

but the zucchini joke isn’t even the worst of it. no. the worst of it is the way natasha considers herself a “monster” because she can’t carry a child. and the movie fucking agrees with her. the reason bruce agrees to run away with her is that she’s also a monster. just. uh. ew. ew. ew. (also, “the ceremony is necessary for you to take your place in the world.” “i have no place in the world.” “exactly.” because if you can’t have babies you can’t be part of the world. KAY.)

like, if an entirely different perspective were taken here we could maybe have had some pretty important stuff in here about bodily autonomy, but that didn’t happen and i really wouldn’t have trusted joss fucking whedon to make that point regardless.

anyway, some more thoughts/observations that didn’t fit anywhere:

  • ultron is part of a select group of robots (also see: k2-s0, l3-37, hk-47, wait all of the other ones are star wars???) whom i would totally fuck. he more or less considers himself a god, and that sense of superiority… does stuff for me, ok? he also just has an excess of personality that i’m super here for. the scene where he’s just standing over klaue really crystallized it. (to be clear: please do not rip my arm off before standing over me. ty.)
  • the fact that mjolnir thinks thor is worthy but not quicksilver just confirms that it’s measuring people by bullshit bourgeois values.
  • speaking of bullshit bourgeois values, tony and steve’s argument about ultron is just two clashing bourgeois liberal perspectives. cap wants to fight an “honest” war (for capitalism!) while tony wants to make the world safe (for capitalism!). it used to really interest me as a philosophical argument but now it just totally falls flat.
  • ultron’s ideology is pretty hit or miss, and i don’t feel like a staggeringly brilliant artificial intelligence would have so much come up in the ‘miss’ category. his generic misanthropy is just lazy (and we’ll later see this repeated with thanos). it doesn’t take an intelligence as vast as ultron’s supposedly is to see that “humanity” isn’t responsible for the destruction of itself and the planet we live on, like a few hundred very specific very rich people/corporations are. (i may be slightly off on the number, but i’m right conceptually.) you don’t need a meteor, my dude.
  • one line very much in the ‘miss’ category is “everyone creates the things they dread” which i guess can be kind of true but his first example is “men of peace create engines of war” and uh hahaha no? the whole reluctant warrior thing is just a super played out characterization of those who will happily spill oppressed people’s blood to defend the status quo.
  • when quicksilver calls out tony because klaue’s weapons factory must feel like “old times” to him, tony says “this was never my life” and the audience is supposed to agree that tony is being misunderstood/mischaracterized (more on that later) but like. hey that’s only because your privilege isolates you from the actual effects of your actions/decisions??? that doesn’t make you blameless.
  • the runaway train scene is a pale, pale imitation of spidey 2. it’s also super unclear to me why scarlet witch and quicksilver are supposed to be impressed by cap in this scene. he doesn’t do anything? he points out to quicksilver that there are civilians in the way and quicksilver exerts himself getting them all out of the way. he asks scarlet witch if she can use her powers to stop the train, and she does. he didn’t do anything and suddenly they’re like “you’re our new dad.” and then when they see nick show up with a helicarrier to save civilians they decide s.h.i.e.l.d. are the good guys after all. and then quicksilver sacrifices himself for one of the avengers 😦 this is like… wish-fulfillment for how america wants everyone in the countries it blows up to react.

woof.

like, ok, on a base level this is still watchable/engaging i guess? but like? who cares at this point?

(c-rank)

ant-man

(cw: kink reference)

i’m sorry, but i just really don’t have that much to say about fucking ant-man.

this is a nothing-movie full of weird product placement (“baskin-robbins always finds out.”) and bad physics and really gross patriarchal father/daughter nonsense that would be better if it were just a movie-long version of the training montage where evangeline lilly kept beating ant-man up.

or a movie-long version of evangeline lilly beating me up. y’know, whatever.

(c-rank)

captain america: civil war

when i first saw this all i was worried about is how “awkward” it felt in the trailers when all the heroes started fighting each other. i was very, very concerned about whether the movie “earned” that moment when everyone was running at each other ready to beat each other up or whether it would feel totally forced and artificial. when i saw the movie, i was relieved that all of the character building and ideological clashes that brought everyone to that point made it feel earned.

and if you must know, i was team cap.

of course, now all i can see in the ideological conflicts of this movie are two sides of the same false dichotomy. i am just so not interested in picking sides between a representation of liberalism’s libertarian tendencies and a representation of liberalism’s subordination to american imperialism. i will admit i still find it mildly eyebrow-raising that the red, white and blue guy is the leader of the former camp rather than the latter, but i think that unintentionally says a lot about how americans view themselves/their country vs. reality.

actually, stepping back for a second, even that false dichotomy is a bit murky here. secretary ross’s argument for putting the avengers in check is that they “inflict their will wherever they choose” without any accountability or oversight, and it’s not actually a terrible argument if it weren’t for the fact that the oversight is coming from an “international” body that is being represented by the fucking u.s. secretary of state. so like. both cap’s approach (going around, ignoring sovereignty of other nations to “do what has to be done” while telling everyone it’s to protect them) and the people who want to put it in check are essentially representations of u.s. imperialism.

so anyway, now i’m team “i could totally recruit cap if you gave me time and resources.”

(actually, i don’t know if i could. but i don’t think it’s impossible.)

(i could probably recruit any of these fuckers except tony.)

besides that traileriffic moment where they’re all running at each other, i remember the other big takeaways being HOLY SHIT black panther is awesome and spider-man is fine i guess.

i know the russo brothers catch a lot of flack both inside the fandom and out for pretty unimaginative filmmaking, but i’m a pretty basic bitch so there were plenty of moments in this film that really stood out to me. i really noticed that black widow was just kicking all of the ass in that first action scene. i swear, every single movie, she’s somehow an even bigger badass. cap’s fighting style is also very physical and rewarding for the audience when it’s presented the way it is in a lot of the action scenes here with the close-ups and the heavy emphasis on the sound of impacts when he’s throwing hands (or shields).

there are also a lot of emotional beats that just still really work for me. plenty of moments where cap’s regret, especially, shines through. and the score, while probably basic (again that shit works for me) does a lot of work to help emphasize these moments.

unquestionably the score’s biggest moment though was tony’s helicopter suit-up, which is still one of my favorite moments of the entire damn series. i mean, just look at the damn thing. i was over the moon for this scene. i posted it on twitter a lot with captions like “when i get to leave work early.”

the music swelling actually starts when tony is walking to the helicopter and secretary ross is barking at him. it really builds up to the idea that everything is gonna be just fine. the superfriends are gonna get back together. we got this, guys. it feels like a big turning point in the movie. and in the commentary, the russo brothers talk about how they asked henry jackman to give it the most over-the-top, rousing, heroic score he could. i think he knocked that out of the park.

the thing is, these moments only work for me in isolation now. and all of them are systematically undercut by a film that’s just not willing to commit to its central conflict. even after all is said and done, after cap and tony have beaten each other half to death, after things have been said that can’t be unsaid… you still get cap extending tony an olive branch. literally telling him “hey if you ever need me you can call me.” it just feels like the wrong way to end this one. just let things be bad.

the spell is broken. what i would have belligerently championed just a few years ago now mostly falls flat for me because of the very ideological underpinnings that made it feel so “mature” and “real” when i bought in. and cap’s winning personality just isn’t winning anymore.

unless i can convince him to become a fucking communist.

(c-rank)

[i can’t actually find my doctor strange, guardians of the galaxy vol. 2, spider-man: homecoming, or ant-man and the wasp reviews anymore, sorry about that.]

thor: ragnarok

“she’s so beautiful and strong and courageous.”

this is the kind of mcu movie that i’m still ok liking, i think? it’s just so disconnected with everything else and it’s all out in space and being weird and stuff so it doesn’t really have an obvious path to worshiping the u.s. empire the way the other defense department-supported movies in the franchise so uniformly do.

that doesn’t mean the politics don’t suck, but they suck in the way high fantasy politics pretty much always suck what with the monarchies and all.

the movie doesn’t really earn the moment when hela breaks down the ceiling of the throne room to reveal the mural of her father’s “peaceful” reign has been built over a mural depicting asgard’s bloody conquests which her father presided over and she executed. nor is hela the right person to be doing so. (i’m sorry, hela! i still think you’re a fucking goddess, but you’re just… really not a great person. i’m sorry! still hot as hell, but also like, really just… really not a good person!!) the audience isn’t really forced to grapple with this because thor basically shrugs it off. it’s a stirring visual but the movie around it needs to treat it with more weight.

similarly, thor supposedly agrees with valkyrie that asgard’s monarchy is unjust, and then just takes the damn throne anyway at the end of the movie, in front of an apparently-approving valkyrie. what the fuck was even the point of any of this?

but yeah i love the setting and the soundtrack and i badly need valkyrie to step on me (she seems pleased with herself for beating up and chaining loki so i’m pretty sure we could have fun together), so yeah. but i still love how fucking pretty and dorky and weird this movie is so i guess whatever? kinda hard at this point to imagine this one ever not being my favorite mcu movie tbh.

i mean, they made it for me specifically.

very little of the action happening on earth (something I’ve wanted from this series all along)? check! lady villain who demands people kneel before her and commands a skeleton army. big fucking check mark. lots of thor/loki stuff. sweet. thor actually learning how not to be tricked by loki? extra sweet.

oh, yeah, and so many people get tied up in this movie, you guys. okay, not exactly tied up, but like. thor opens the movie in a cage in chains basically doing a “so you’re probably wondering how I got here” monologue. and then he’s hanging in chains in front of a big, scary demon thing sitting on an ancient throne and i’m thinking “that’s how i’d like to spend my summer vacation, dude.” (yeah, i’m a little fucked up.) and yeah, that joke where he was slowly spinning because of the dangling chain so he had to keep interrupting surtur’s speech to ask him to wait when he was facing away from him was pretty damn hilarious. (i said there were a few moments when this movie opted for funny when it should’ve gone with dramatic sincerity, but that doesn’t mean that most of the funny wasn’t spot on.)

anyway, because this movie loves me and wants me to be happy, thor isn’t free for much longer before he’s told to kneel before his queen (which he refuses because he’s some kind of weird idiot), escapes, immediately gets captured by a gang with some kind of awesome net gun thing, only to be “rescued” and immediately captured by valkyrie. who is amazing, by the way. and then he wakes up in a glass cage literally beneath her feet, and just… okay, i don’t want you to think that the only reason i enjoyed this movie is because it kept putting its hero in bondage peril, but guys, come on. (i promise marvel didn’t ask me for notes, no matter how much it seems like they did.)

i just love this weird space techno bullshit so much.

(cw: thirst)

avengers: infinity war

(cw: abuse)

“i know what it’s like to lose. to feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. it’s frightening, turns the legs to jelly. i ask you to what end? dread it. run from it. destiny arrives all the same.”

this movie is bullshit and it made me cry (though it was nothing on the latter front compared to endgame), and the fact that these two reactions can coexist so strongly within me says a lot about me as a person.

we’re going to start by talking about why this movie is bullshit and then we’ll get back to why it made me cry.

this isn’t a bad movie. it is, however, bullshit, for two very key reasons. one is overarching, one is specific. both have to do with thanos. if you know me you probably already know exactly what i’m gonna talk about and could basically write a reasonable facsimile of this part of the review before reading it and get pretty close to nailing it. but we’re still gonna talk about it because it deserves to be talked about.

so. overpopulation? kinda not a thing. and this movie just seems to accept thanos’s ideology at face value a bit too much. yes, he’s the bad guy. i get that. but his sob story about his world being destroyed because they wouldn’t listen to him is never really pushed back against. we’re just kinda… fighting him because he’s the bad guy and because genocide is bad, we guess.

hey, here’s an idea. maybe explain where environmental destruction actually comes from. maybe show that it’s not this racist idea that there are “just too many people.” maybe put any effort at all into at least presenting a competing ideology rather than having your villain be the only person in the film with a coherent ideology. the answer can’t just be Just Because. this isn’t hard. i did it in a sentence. he’s not just wrong (morally). he’s wrong (factually).

the other huge problem i have with this movie is the fucking soul stone.

i want to be very, very specific here. it’s not just that a female character is being marginalized and treated as a plot device. it’s not just that segments of the audience seem to be genuinely sympathizing with thanos.

you really want to tell me the best measure of whether someone should be wielding this power is whether they’re willing to sacrifice someone else’s life? and on top of that, the way you have designed testing that allows an abuser to sacrifice the person he’s victimized??? and that’s a totally valid answer to the challenge? even as she’s screaming and crying that what he feels towards her isn’t love?

fuck off.

so that brings us to… like i said earlier, i actually like being emotionally vulnerable in a controlled environment where nothing can actually hurt me. this scene is bullshit. everything that goes into it is bullshit. i deeply, violently disagree with the writing and the in-universe sequence of events… and it’s made me cry every fucking time regardless.

not for thanos. not for fucking thanos. but just… the scene is too damn effective. the way it slows down. the way the sound dulls. that damn music…

and that’s not even the scene that hits me the hardest.

that would be vision successfully begging wanda to destroy the mind stone.

that would be wanda having no choice but to turn her powers on the man she loves.

that would be vision reassuring her gently but firmly that she could never hurt him, that he just feels her. that he loves her.

i think that’s the only time they say it out loud in the movie? i could be wrong.

and it destroys her. completely, utterly destroys her. and it’s drawn out so perfectly that i’m just wracked with sobs for what feels like a solid minute or two. maybe longer? maybe it just feels longer.

and even whatever cold comfort wanda might glean from vision having died with her there, with the two of them connected, with their mission that he cared about so much he was willing to give his life for it succeeded… even that is cruelly ripped away from her by thanos.

heck, i almost teared up a few times writing all that.

a lot of what led up to infinity war was bullshit. a lot of infinity war is bullshit. but i can’t say i don’t enjoy it. i can’t say that it’s something i’m not glad to have experienced. part of that is the fact that it’s mashing the nostalgia button pretty hard for a time when i didn’t see all the problems with the vast majority of superhero stories. but honestly it’s also just not a bad movie.

and whatever, sometimes i like crying.

(c-rank)

captain marvel

this is the kinda thing i woulda eaten up a few years ago, but it’s kinda hard not to see it as the individualist nonsense it is now. so yeah it turns out that the kree, who keep saying that they’ve granted carol her powers, have actually been suppressing them. and eventually she decides she’s had enough and this inhibitor implant thingy on her neck explodes and she stands up and unleashes her full power and owns everybody

like… it’s a potentially useful visual representation of how patriarchal capitalism prevents women from bringing all their strength to bear, but on the other hand this is presented as just a specific thing that’s happening to carol, not part of any larger structural problem. and she overcomes it on her own, because she’s just like so strong. and the only thing women have to do to overcome structural oppression is just… stand up for themselves! damn, why didn’t they ever think of that.

also, this has got to be the least self-aware thing marvel has ever put out. the entire story revolves around carol discovering that she’s on the wrong side of a war. it has her learning that the cosmopolitan space empire she serves is evil. that her hated and feared enemies are just trying to defend themselves, just trying to be safe and keep their families together and find a place they can be free from harassment, a place they can call home.

and then she designs her costume based on a fucking u.s. air force t-shirt.

you cannot be serious with this shit, guys. you simply cannot. i refuse to entertain the notion that someone in some decision-making capacity didn’t throw that one in there as some kind of cruel joke.

on the other hand, there’s a kree sniper lady that i crushed on hard. and she’s clearly gay as fuck. she has one of those asymmeterical haircuts going on where it’s all swept to one side and she’s blue and she’s pretty and she would probably murder me and i’m so sorry but i’m gay.

anyway, the most important thing is the cat was the best character in any mcu movie.

avengers: endgame

“five years ago, we lost. all of us. we lost friends. we lost family. we lost a part of ourselves. today, we have a chance to take it all back.”

endings make me cry.

they aren’t the only way for a piece of media to make me weepy, mind you. plenty of mid-series episodes/films and self-contained pieces of media have also emotionally destroyed me. but endings really do seem to have a special hold on me.

natasha’s death primed me. as soon as they showed up together on vormir together i knew exactly where it was going. i heard someone say “oh no” out loud a few seconds later, and i just nodded in sad resignation. the moment when natasha pleaded with hawkeye to let go and he did absolutely crushed me even though i had been prepared for it for the entire scene.

tony’s death theoretically shoulda hit me a lot less hard, given how i feel about the character. i think it hit me harder because of pepper and everyone else’s reactions. and because it was the culminating moment of the film. the moment everything else was leading towards. and we were allowed to linger on it longer. and it was that definitive moment of like… “ok. we’re closing the book on this story. this is it. this is how it turned out.” i’m so weak for that kinda stuff the behind the scenes documentaries of lord of the rings’ productions made me cry when they got to the part where everybody was saying goodbye.

but we weren’t done. because we also got cap’s ending.

obviously i have my problems with that character and i no longer see him through the rose-tinted glasses i used to see him through. but i am so, so, so, so happy that he got the happy ending he deserved. especially because it was a second chance. that means so much to me, because unlike a lot of the things i empathize with characters about in this arena, i know exactly how it feels to lose your love but end up getting a second chance. it is a really, really fucking good feeling. it has me walking around feeling like i’m playing with house money. like there’s nothing stopping basically any day from being a great day.

off the top of my head i have two fairly substantial complaints. the first is that it bought into thanos’s racist bullshit about overpopulation. at one point when natasha expresses depression about the decimation, cap tries to cheer her up by saying he saw a pod of whales on his way over because the seas were more clear because “fewer people, fewer boats.”

this is not how it fucking works. environmental destruction is not a result of there being “too many people.” it’s a result of capitalism. it’s the result of corporations. any individual impact any of us has on the environment is negligible next to that. if thanos had snapped his finger and eliminated ceos, owners, landlords, and anyone anywhere who lives off of the exploitation of other people’s labor, he would’ve actually solved the problem. we aren’t impoverished because there’s too many of us and too little to go around. an absurd problem that’s actually unique to capitalism is overproduction. but rich people greedily hoard more resources than they could ever conceivably need, and destroy the planet in the process. committing genocide on a global scale would not “cure” that.

(neither will not using straws.)

my other big complaint (it’s barely worth the attention i’m giving it, it was just eyeroll-worthy) is that moment where captain marvel takes the gauntlet from spider-man, he asks “how are you going to get it through all that?” and two other women heroes reply “don’t worry” “she’s got help” and all women heroes form up in a hella contrived team to smash through the bad guys. like… i’m all for all-women superhero teams, but this was totally out of nowhere, totally forced, and totally exactly the kind of superficial girl power thing i woulda eaten up a few years ago.

of course, the real problem here isn’t that moment itself, per se (which is what a lot of people will likely fixate on). it’s that there is absolutely zero narrative support of momentum leading up to this moment. like, i don’t want to be saying anything that sounds remotely aligned with misogynistic dudebros who will roll their eyes at this Because Women. it’s just that what we got here was such an empty gesture that it might actually have been worse than nothing. it’s something disney/marvel can point to to be like “look!!!!!! look how progressive we are!!!!!! #representation!!!” y’know. that shit capitalists love doing.

so, yeah, ok, this giant disney blockbuster is a capitalist product informed by capitalist bullshit. but like… it also pushed the right emotional buttons to make me sob uncontrollably in public. that cap/falcon callback (“on your left.”) was sublime. and a big reason i enjoyed this movie more than u might think given how critical i’ve been of the series as a whole is that, damn it, i used to love these movies and it’s difficult to entirely escape the impact of that kind of nostalgia. though it may seem a bit weird that infinity war and endgame manage to cash in on that nostalgia despite the fact that most of the films that created that nostalgia have been getting more critical appraisals from me of late. idk what to tell ya there. movies are dialectical?

i liked it in spite of this. part of it is that in spite of everything i have quite a bit of nostalgia for this franchise, and probably always will. but that’s not all of it. it’s also that the entire movie is about second chances and making the most of them. and the timing and synchronicity of that with what’s happening in my life right now is just kinda freaky.

cap and peggy aren’t the only example, but they’re the biggest, and the one i feel the most resonance with.

he sees her on the other side of a window and it hits him like a physical blow. he’s not prepared for how beautiful she is. he feels pulled towards her. desperately wants to call out to her. wants to get her attention. is confronted with all the reasons he fell in love with her in the first place. she’s real and she’s right there. he wants to jump through the fucking window.

i see vir walking up to the table and it hits me like a physical blow. i’m not prepared for how beautiful ve is. i feel pulled towards vir. i jump out of my seat and give vir a huge hug. i spend the rest of the dinner wanting to feel vir in my arms again. i’m confronted by all the reasons i fell in love with vir in the first place, plus plenty of new ones. ve’s real and ve’s right there. i want to jump over the fucking table.

the metaphor is a little mixed here because i’m not the one who took the leap. so i’ll shift perspectives and say ve came back for me. so yeah. i don’t know how many other people can say this, but i know exactly how peggy carter felt.

here’s to second chances. here’s to taking them.


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