Mon Capitan: Steve Rogers in Cap 2

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Then I read some reviews, discussed it with friends, babbled about it for about 6,000 words. Then I swore that I would tidy things up and post some reviews.

The next instalment is now up! (oh, only 6 months later, no biggie)

For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Falcon, click HERE!

For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Winter Soldier, click HERE!

Cap’s earnest look begs you to reconsider and watch the film first, if you haven’t done so. Spoilers abound!

Okay. I have to confess: at first, I was completely confused by Steve and Natasha. Utterly bamboozled. They spoke differently (seriously, Scarlett Johansson drops register completely), and it seemed that they had undergone a complete character shift, especially Natasha. Now, here, I have to admit something. It’s been a while since I watched the film Marvel Phase 1 films, so my characterisations might be a bit muddled. But upon research, I immediately encountered comments and interviews and responses which showed me that there had been adjustments made to both characters, so at least I wasn’t delusional :)

This review deals with my thoughts on Steve.
Steve, after some consideration, began to make sense. The violence – especially that stabbing of the bad guy’s hand at the start – was displayed by Steve, became more justified (although that particular moment still doesn’t sit well with me), especially after I found out that the film takes place a year after Avengers does, (which I hadn’t known going in, somehow). That development already took place in Captain America: The First Avenger, as was pointed out to me (thanks, capsicleironman!). At the beginning of the film Steve says “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies” but after Bucky ‘dies’, he says he wants to take out and “kill” as many Hydra agents as possible. This is simply a continuation of the desperate and broken man who has just lost his best friend, which for Steve happened last year, not 70 years ago.

Here, I really agree with hellotailor, the author of a series of intelligent responses to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which you can find here); this film depicts a Steve that is fine physically – his healing factor is as efficient as ever and he’s processed the technological and mechanical  advances well – but isn’t coping mentally. He’s all alone – as he jokingly says to Natasha, everyone he knows is dead or really old (oh, that heartbreaking scene with Peggy that will be discussed later) and he has no one to lean his back on. Because in Avengers, Tony Stark and he rubbed the wrong way, Bruce Banner has probably disappeared (and seems to be very introspective and private in any case), Thor isn’t on Earth, who the hell knows where Clint is holed up after his shot period of mind-control, and Natasha and he, well – you see in Captain America: the Winter Soldier that while they might be okay in battle, and they’re fine with the camaraderie of a joking front, their friendship isn’t deep enough yet to allow Steve to display any vulnerability. In addition to the lack of true integration of the members of the Avengers as a team is Steve’s psychological isolation; he is constantly aware that he is 70 years out of time; that his army friends are mostly dead, that his old flame Peggy moved on and married and is now an old woman suffering from dementia.  I think it should also be pointed out that for Steve, this loss is achingly recent; fresh out of WWII, he simply hasn’t had the time to mourn his comrades; definitely not enough to move on. More importantly, Bucky – the person who’s ALWAYS  been there to support him – isn’t, and that’s left a huge hole in his life. He clearly wasn’t dealing well with Bucky’s ‘death’ at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, doing reckless things like flying planes over the Arctic, and since then it has just been one world-threatening situation after the next, leaving him with no time to internalise or accept his grief.

In a nod to comic-verse, Captain America battles Batroc the Leaper, who thankfully doesn’t have such an atrocious French accent in the film :D

Thus Steve is depicted as lonely and cut-off, expressing a lot of nostalgia towards his time in the 1940s not because of the old-fashioned tech and attitudes, but because of the sense of belonging he had with the Howling Commandos and his certainty in the moral boundary between right and wrong. Watching Captain America: The First Avenger in order to experience Steve’s transformation is so important to understanding why he is angrier, and no longer as cheerfully genuine and earnest – he is still that, but it’s been shoved to the background and overtaken by new bitterness and doubts as a result of working for a year in a greyscale, modern world in an organisation built upon espionage and killing and, apparently, corruption. Steve’s ideal of ‘good and bad’ was broken down; as he told Peggy, he just wanted to do what was right and “I don’t know what that is anymore“. I think we started with a character who, reasonably given the era he lived in and the experiences he had, inhabited a world of binary opposites. When you were fighting Nazis, you had a very clear enemy that was almost universally acknowledged (except by the Nazi themselves, and their erstwhile allies), as the ‘bad guys’. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it was harder to figure out who exactly that bad guy was, and that’s a much better representation of our morally ambiguous age and the character arc Steve is developing.

I love the woah moment. That emotionally climactic scene that is chock-full of symbolism and catch-phrases. It was well-executed indeed. Steve, who never knew how to back down from a fight, who fought against the odds ever since he was wee little Steve Rogers, who fights until the end, be it his own or the enemies – throws down his shield and gives up. He doesn’t swim, has to be pulled out, because he cannot fight his best friend when it literally doesn’t depend on the world surviving.There’s a gif set somewhere that shows the number of times Steve has said that he’d fight, and then one at the end where he surrenders to Bucky. It’s a pretty powerful thing. The absolute loyalty towards his friend; “I’m with you till the end of the line” was very clearly highlighting Steve’s priorities, and the importance he placed in Bucky, especially since by giving up after the world was saved (and I don’t see why, if Hill had the activation codes and everything, blowing up the helicarriers couldn’t have waited for the battle to end, and for them to fly somewhere that didn’t create to much destruction. Or why they couldn’t be re-purposed), he was saying, basically, I can’t live in a world where Bucky does not know me. Or, that’s how I interpreted it. I’d be really interested in other’s point of view on this pivotal scene, though!!

The one aspect that I’m still confused about is Steve’s healing factor – he seems to be completely fine, showing no bruising or wounds or anything – just keeps going … until the last scene with Bucky, when suddenly he needs hospitalisation and is almost incapable of moving, and moreover, wakes up still bruised. So I’m not sure how the continuity people figure his healing factor into battles, but there were moments that didn’t fit, for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and apologise for the continuing delay, but I hope that you enjoy my discussion and come away with new things to think about :)

-Let’s call me Lily

A Perpetual Moment

Now is when I will tuck your hand into mine, reach over and cross your scarf once more.

Now I will ruck up your sleeve and draw frozen mice with my fingers, running down the inside of your elbow

 

Now I shall step on your toes so I am the same height, and then, also now, I will breathe on your face and watch you blow out fog

Now, the kettle is boiled and I add two spoons of sugar, but let you stir, just as you prefer.

 

Now is never-ending, and encompasses all of space and time.

 

 

BRING CHOCOLATE

And a shoulder to weep on, and an ear that is secretly muffed so that when I rant and rage about incoherency

and my own inadequacy,

you won’t have to hear it, only hand the chocolate block by block and murmur empathic I knows…

 

because this is what second-hand stress feels like, and friendship is strengthened by the power to complain

about my really awful day

about my terrible procrastination, and the future-deciding decisions I have yet to make

and the choice – the choice that we long for! yet which I could loath right now

 

I longed for eloquence, but it departed long ago – my head is filled with, like, stuff and things and those, watchamacallits? And there are

no words

proper words

left, they have all fled, ashamed to be in the vicinity of the growing pile of nothings and the

I dunno

Incandescent Glow

There is an exquisite lightness in your eyes; it settles in your crows feet and cuts a

high angle across your cheekbone, sharpening on the arch of your brow until it is

almost

solid, warmth radiating out like an aura of risk

a forge ready to melt an outstretched metal hand;

reform it into puddle of raw emotion and skin traced with a red caress.

 

The heart was carried (without contempt)

Today I got some glorious mail – snail mail always makes me happy, because I receive it so rarely (actually, all mail makes me happy), and today a big A4 envelope arrived.

In it was my complementary copy of the October issue of Teen Ink, because one of my poems was published there!!

The poem chosen (you think to carry my heart?) was my response to one of e.e. cumming’s poems, trying to mimic his style. You can read it here, if you like :)

i just wanted to say that if you are a teen, this is an amazing opportunity, because there are several issues published a year, it’s free to enter and there are unlimited entries in every media form you can imagine, and the website is always up and running as well, with criticism, voting and feedback available from other teens. give it a try!!

Thor: Dark World Review Part 2

As always, my review just grew and grew… (you should see all of the unfinished Cap 2 drafts) and as always, I seem to have put off writing my response up till  – gosh, half a YEAR – later. Not on purpose, I swear. Here is part two of my review on Thor: The Dark World. It pertains to everything else, apart from the premise and the first act of the film, which I discussed here in my first review. The delay has been terrible, and for that, I apologise.

Have a beautiful shot of Asgard’s gate to the Rainbow Bridge to cheer you up!

Directed by Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World was, in my opinion, a very spotty film, especially given its title. Whereas in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is an underlying tension that is maintained throughout the film regarding the Winter Soldier himself, despite his minimal screentime, Thor: The Dark World doesn’t pull it off, with the titular Dark Elves neglected and underdeveloped to create a weak and cliched overarching storyline. While there are certainly moments of well-placed levity, including a brilliant cameo with Chris Evans as Captain America, the film is carried by Tom Hiddleston as Loki, whose fascinating mixture of acerbic vulnerability and smooth menace lifts the film into decent territory and creates the contrast required to make Chris Hemsworth’s Thor a more interesting character.
While I have made my feelings on the subject abundantly clear, let’s reiterate in short: the dark elves were incomprehensible, because of both motive (turn the world Dark. Then what?) and voice distortion, and had been pushed to the side until that final climactic scene so that everyone can save the day again. The plot of the film wasn’t spectacular; in fact, it was rather predictable, to the degree that I guessed that Loki wasn’t really dead long before it was announced in that dramatic reveal. However, there were some good scenes, especially those where Thor is back on Earth or with Loki, as well as the earlier scenes with Kat Dennings as Darcy. I enjoyed being able to clearly see the relationship between Loki and Thor change (as Thor grasps a concept that had apparently been evading him for centuries). Having Loki to counteract his booming brawn always makes for a more interesting scene, but in Thor: The Dark World, this was enhanced by the new freedom to pull away from that cliché a bit since Thor was on his home turf and showed more of an appreciation for strategy and cleverness than he had previously displayed in the first Thor film. I felt that previously, Thor was too direct and arrogantly self righteous to be regarded with a deeper gaze (through no fault of Hemsworth’s superb acting; it was the character himself), and that the balance had to be created by giving Loki such a contrasting, painful past to agonise over. The juxtaposition is certainly effective, but also it just makes me a bit bored of Thor when he’s not interacting with a character profoundly different to his own.

Thor has been developed into a much more interesting character in Thor: The Dark World, thankfully!

On the other hand, with a character like Loki, it doesn’t matter who you play him against, because he’s interesting at the most fundamental level. The myriad of complexities that Loki is made up of, and the large screen time afforded to him and his arc is what sold the movie, for me. However, it brings up a debate which a lot of people have mentioned; that of the protagonist role. Named after Thor, the films so far have nominally focused on his story, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is Loki who holds the audiences captive. Marvel has acknowledged it by giving the character solid expansion and time on screen, and while this seems to be a popular move, it rather undermines the story of Thor as the hero in some ways (although it makes for a better film). I wonder if there’s a chance of seeing an offshoot film with the anti-hero playing protagonist? I, for one, would definitely watch that!
Character-wise, Loki makes sense, and so does the theory behind his actions. Why is Odin so stupid? This is the crux of my problem in the Loki-Odin relationship – I find it very hard not to sympathise with Loki, because he seems, for the most part, to be surrounded by slightly boorish morons or Aesir who actively dislike him and cannot see past their furred cloaks. The Allfather gave up an eye for wisdom; would it hurt Marvel to portray him as someone who can make a good decision, or at least listen to reason every once in a while? Loki masquerading as Odin made better decisions than the Allfather himself.
It was therefore absolutely brilliant to have some Frigga-Loki interactions, and especially nice to see a woman whose strength lay just as much in her words and mind, as in the muscles of her arms. I think that the role of the mother was quite cleverly used as a device to bind Thor and Loki together, although I deeply regret that it resulted in the death of Frigga (who is played by Rene Russo). I do understand why it was necessary plotwise – for the two brothers to even think about teaming up, it couldn’t have been anyone else’s demise. Yet, there are so few female characters in Marvel, and the few that are mostly seem to be relatively younger women who are in a new relationship, or single; it would’ve made a good change, in my opinion, to also have a wiser matriarch, with a long marriage behind her and centuries of experiences to have shaped her. Somehow, even though I’d had this point spoiled a few months before I saw the movie, I managed to forget and thus be extremely surprised and somewhat angered all over again. The Fridging of Frigga was not to my taste. At all. Especially since we learn at the beginning of the film that she can cast illusions and send them quite a distance away – to Loki’s cage. As she had sufficient time to take Jane Foster and leave the room in the scene, I fail to see why the director didn’t simply make her appear to be dead.
Well, I guess you can’t use the same trope twice in one film, right?
My reaction at Loki’s death was surprised: but not for the right reasons. Hang on, I thought, Loki’s dead? That can’t be, no way would Marvel kill Loki off, it would be bad for business. Also, Ragnarok! Thus, after appreciating the very well acted scene, I concluded that Loki was Not Dead. And then I went ahead with my winning streak, and correctly guessed that Loki was the guard, and surprised my friend, who somehow hadn’t seen it coming :) I couldn’t properly suspend my disbelief at his death, and it saddens me a little, because it mean that I was watching the scene with jaded eyes. Although, they did get me at the Odin part, that was good. Overall, the second half of the film improved upon the first, and the ending was a great cliffhanger.
I really loved Darcy, her snark was great, but I didn’t like the intern of intern drama, especially when she seems to get together with him at the end of the film. One kiss, I can understand, I guess – a the world did NOT end, yay, we live! kiss – but Darcy was a minority as a woman in a film who is single and happy about it (or seemed to be), and I liked that, and appreciated it a heck of a lot. So that annoyed me. Also, the slap is being overused in movies. But Jane is still better in this film than in the previous one (you can find my opinions on her over here, I wrote a thing). On that note, I would also be keen to seen more racial variety, because as it stood, we had Heimdall, who was very well played once more by Idris Elba, and Kurse, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who is very briefly seen and then turns into a CGI berserker-elf. Who promptly dies. And that’s about it for diversity.
I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but the other thing that piqued me was the lack of acknowledgement of why no help is coming from outside quarters. To drop in a line is easy – the audience understands that due to budget constraints it’s hard to get other Avengers to lend a hand, so pragmatic viewers wouldn’t have been expecting anything, but really, a simple, “oh, Stark’s dealing with an emergency in Oceania, Banner’s off-radar and Cap’s on a mission with Black Widow and Hawkeye, sorry they can’t help” would have helped so much!

The last thing I wanted to mention is the slightly disturbing trend to the Phase 2 films so far: the metaphorical hanging up of the cape. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark blows up his suits and operates his reactor out of his chest. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha Romanov’s cover is blown and she goes to ‘discover herself’, while Steve Rogers distances himself from the role of hero as he goes on a personal on a mission to find the Winter Soldier with Sam Wilson. Now, in Thor: The Dark World, Thor decides to return to Earth and forego his princely duties on Asgard for the time being. I have no idea what’s happened to Clint Barton and Bruce Banner, but I assume that one is in psychiatrists’ hands, and the other has gone back to a third world country to lie low and help the locals.

The question is; how do they reforge the Avengers in Age of Ultron?What do you think?-Let’s call me Lily