Hey looks I’m publishing my 100th post! (Finally.)
The first concrete memory I have of going to see a movie based on a comic book is the first X-Men. And needless to say, it had its moments of freaking me out. Nevertheless, this viewing stuck with me, and I have actually enjoyed it on subsequent rewatches (though I still refuse to watch the part where Senator Kelly melts, much in the same way that for the longest time I refused to watch the climax of the first Harry Potter movie with Voldemort’s face on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head). And even though the original X-Men is the only one I’ve seen (and the ending of Last Stand), I was excited for and incredibly moved by the film Logan that came out so many years later.
I was a little older when the first of the Tobey Maguire Spiderman movies came out, but I enjoyed getting my first taste of the traditional superhero origin story done in film (that I can remember clearly anyway–I might’ve seen ads in the 90s for that Steel movie starring Shaq, and I do remember ads for that blargh Spawn movie with John Leguizamo as The Violator but I never saw either of those movies). Of course I would learn much later that “the origin story” was the foundation of all superhero comics and stories, though in hindsight a necessarily obvious one (in most cases, anyway). Nevertheless, while I could enjoy the occasional comic book movie (without having actually read the comics, or read much about them), it never reached the level of fandom that things like Powerpuff Girls, Harry Potter, and anime and manga ever did.
Even when the Nolan Batman films were coming out, I was reluctant to sit down and watch, never mind that Christian Bale–who voiced the dashingly dark Howl in Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle–played Bruce Wayne. Even the fact that Sirius Black (that is, Gary Oldman) was in it couldn’t sway me! Then one day I just decided to watch The Dark Knight and I was like:
You know, like pretty much everyone else.
Regardless, when the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) became a thing, I wasn’t immediately on board. Then again, I don’t think they started to pick up real momentum until it became clear that the studios were totally going there, that that Nick Fury clip at the end of Iron Man wasn’t just another drop for a sequel that would never be, as had happened so many times in movies like these before. They were doing this. This was going to be a thing.
The way was paved for The Avengers, with Marvel Studios carefully building up to it with the solo films that came before it, and that all gradually pulled the characters toward each other from the beginning, with Black Widow in Iron Man and Hawkeye in Thor. And even without the benefit of having seen these films myself, the excitement that only a crossover event can bring being brought to the big screen was infectious.
So, at long last, I decided to check this thing out for myself. And thanks to how these films are written, you can virtually pick and choose which films you watch without missing a whole lot even in the gigantic crossovers. That said, over time, I’ve developed some very strong feels about the films I chose to watch (which is most of them, honestly), and have some considerations to check out ones that I haven’t already, now that Infinity War is out, and Marvel will continue to march onward from there.
Straight up, I’m the sort of person who takes a look at a bloated action flick like say the Michael Bay Transformers films, and I already feel my IQ dropping. That said, I’m well aware that even the worst of comic book movies have something more to offer than that (except maybe any Fantastic Four film after the Corman version). But yeah, as far as superhero and superheroine movies go, the idea of a guy in a metal suit kicking ass and taking names in the desert (going off the promo clips and trailers) wasn’t my first choice.
Then I got a better idea of what Robert Downey Jr. brought to the role of Tony Stark seeing him in the other films, and it was really his performance that warmed me to checking this out. That and his rep as being the unofficial “MCU godfather”. Plus I took some time to let the premise marinate, and thought it’d be interesting to see a quippy billionaire playboy go through a little gritty humility by getting imprisoned in a cave by a desert warlord and having to literally fight his way out of the situation with nothing more than how awesome he is at math, assembly, and mechanics–out of scrap metal and junk no less. The long and short it, he was that rare breed of incredibly smart, but also incredibly sexed up and minted, and I admit, I’m into that.
The scene that sticks out most to me is after Stark finds out about the warlords who held him prisoner at the beginning of the movie are bombing a small village (that just happens to be where the man who died helping him escape lived before he got captured) using Stark Industry weapons, and without making any grandiose Christopher Nolan speeches, he just perfects the firing power for his suit, and then rockets out there and takes care of the problem–in a badass way of course. No need to spell anything out, you can tell it pisses him off, and so he does something about it. (Nothing against you Nolan, I like long speeches about the nature of humanity and heroism as much as the next philosophy major, but there’s a time and place.)
And given how Stark’s character’s developed from that first movie to what happens in Infinity War, it’s pretty cool just to see where all of this started.
As far as the rest of the Iron Man movies go, I skipped 2, but I gave 3 a look in spite of other people’s complaints (particularly in terms of the character of The Mandarin). While I can see where people are coming from in terms of complaining about that, I nonetheless found the film entertaining, not to mention emotionally engaging. Part of the hook in the premise was that Stark was starting to suffer symptoms of PTSD after what he went through during the Battle of New York and going briefly through that wormhole to save the city from getting nuked, and I dunno what that says about me, but I love films that explore trauma and grief (probably because I can relate in a capacity).
Well, there’s that and having a thing for guys who need hugs because they’re licking emotional wounds. Like, the whole Tony x Pepper thing got an “Aw,” out of me, and for me, that’s a deal closer.
Then there’s the whole fascination that I’ve developed for those scenes when Iron Man puts on the Iron Man suit. Something about the way that all that metal clanks together. Yeah, that does it for me way more than anything in a Transformers movie ever would.
…it was good to see Stark handling his personal demons and how that lays a kind of foundation for things like Civil War and Spiderman: Homecoming.
Then we’ve got Thor.
It’s about a character drawn from Norse Mythology.
Given my love for mythologies of all sorts, that was enough said for me. That and Chris Hemsworth is both schmexy and adorable. And well, Tom Hiddleston being easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt either (plus it made Crimson Peak that much more enjoyable). And I admit those attractions with no shame whatsoever.
Now, like with Iron Man 2, I skipped Thor: The Dark World. I may come back to it for all that Thor x Loki and Loki doing another one of his death fake-outs because he’s such a drama king, ha ha, but for now I’m steering clear. Ragnarok however had me sold from the first trailer, using “Immigrant Song”, the definitive Viking rock song. And that was a blast. I think everyone was just waiting for Thor to finally “get the Led out”.
Then we got Captain America.
I wasn’t too sure about that one. But then you’ve got Nazis (sort of, they put the focus more on Hydra working within and more or less secretly insurrecting within the Nazis, which I think was smart, honestly) and the heroism of WII era America, which given the time period, I’m quite proud of–especially Steve Rogers’ line about not liking bullies. I mean, can you get a more honest basis for heroism?
And then you’ve got this whole Steve Rogers x Bucky Barnes thing that gained momentum in Winter Soldier getting built up (I’m a sucker for a good bromance, not to mention Bucky’s another good-looking guy in need of a hug) and then, well, Civil War, where we’ve got Stark x Rogers feels colliding, so, I fell for all that too.
Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron? Cross-over event? Ones that dip into what are more often than not things that actual comic book fans actually discuss on a literary level? (Like how the whole “picking up Thor’s hammer” thing works and who could actually do it apart from Thor himself.) Sold.
Ant-Man? Father-daughter relationship theme? Sold.
Spiderman: Homecoming? Spiderman finally getting pulled into the MCU, and in a coming-of-age sort of storyline, with Iron Man as a mentor? Sold.
Dr. Strange? Benedict Cumberbatch in the MCU, plus trippy visuals,and magic circles? Sold.
Black Panther? Epic afrofuturism, awesome musical score, with a hint of tragedy that’s downright Shakespearean? Sold.
And then we come to Guardians of the Galaxy, both Vol. 1 and 2. And, given my list above, obviously there are things about all those movies that pulled me in. But here, I have to give special attention, and I’ll explain why.
Not only does this movie put a sort of emphasis on themes of family bonds and the like, which like with the father-daughter stuff in Ant-Man, etcetera, is enough to get me onboard, it has something else going for it in particular that gives me this special warm feeling that my parents (who both passed when I was very young), would’ve enjoyed in particular just based on the soundtrack, if for no other reason (well, and who doesn’t love an alcoholic racoon who hangs out with a tree that can kick your ass?).
I can already imagine dad getting hooked by that first intro of Peter Quill a.k.a. Starlord, jamming to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone on his retro 80s, cassette-tape playing Walkman. And then of course there’s “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede, which I knew for a fact he was a fan of. I mean, I’ll never know 100% for sure, but I can guess, given that when I was younger and putting on movies like A Knight’s Tale, for example, opening with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” seemed to work as much as a hook.
And using “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac for a climactic battle song in Vol. 2? My parents’d be all over that (that and about Peter’s two rage triggers being his father killing his mother and squishing his Walkman). I also have little doubt that playing Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” at the end would’ve drawn a tear or two.
And then of course there are the old school tape deck and cassette tapes (ha, what are those?! – true story, I still have the entire cassette tape set of my own voice recorded performance of the entirety of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince–not sure why that’s the only book I did my own recording of, considering Azkaban is my favorite…maybe it had to do with that one Lupin x Tonks canon moment….).
Much like Peter’s mother, my parents passed on their musical tastes to me rather successfully, even with all that 90s talk about “kidz rule” and “parents just don’t understand” (right, Lil Bow Wow?). To be sure, it’s the reason I hesitated at first, but especially now, when I’m older, I love a lot of the stuff they loved more than ever (and all that J-pop they’d probably roll their eyes at).
Plus, the music in Guardians has become so much a part of their identity in particular that it gave them that epic entrance in Infinity War with “Rubberband Man” by The Spinners. It’s just so cool.
Then there’s the whole theme of family thing.
Obviously, this wouldn’t have been as effective without some of the build up to such feels in the first film. Nevertheless, it didn’t take much for this one to hook me in for a watch, once I was given to understand that much of the film took time examining the familial relationships amongst the cast–most, if not all of them, particularly damaging relationships once cast in a more serious light, beyond all the comedic antics.
Now, I have never sat and watched a single Fast and Furious movie, but apart from that, I’m a huge sucker for anything that pushes the value of familial bonds, and I can go for anything really (except for Fast and Furious, because cars, sorry), long as it’s good. It can be blood relative families, or it can be a bunch of misfits who’re more-than-friends-they’re-family families (which is why anime like Fullmetal Alchemist/Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Fairy Tail, the Fate anime, Fruits Basket, Blue Exorcist, etc. hold rather special places in my heart). So this was all hot fudge on a hot fudge sundae for me.
It’s unfortunate enough that I had to deal with the fact that I would never get to watch these films with my parents, who would’ve more than likely been not into just Guardians, but the rest of the MCU (with a few possible exceptions). But that was just the cake of sadness. The icing of that cake was the strong themes of family in Vol. 2. Along with the fact that we have a parental death (well foster parent, but the sentiment’s there) at the end that gets me choked up just thinking about it.
That said, it’s impressed upon me the importance of addressing the bonds shared between characters in anything I write. And I think, after everything, after all the imagination, the freedom to create worlds and put creative ideas and concepts into a narrative context on the page, it’s the character building and interactions that I love best.
I mean, I’m not unique in that as a writer, but the concept of nurturing family and other personal bonds has had a huge influence on my storytelling. It’s definitely where I put my foundation down for any novel that I plan out and write. When I’m musing on what I want to write about, that’s where I always start, it’s never so much, “I want to write a story about a world where blah blah blah,” or “where people have this such and such ability etc.”–it’s always, “I want to write a story about a father and daughter who blah blah blah,” or “where a mother and son etc.” or “where this girl and this boy fall in love and one of them’s a this and the other’s a that”, and then the world tends to follow.
And again, pretty sure I’m not unique in that regard as a writer, but just the same, I take pride in it for some reason. Or at the very least, it gives me a chance for myself to explore situations that I’ll never get to have with my own parents, or with guys apparently (come and find me, Mr. Right and sweep me off my feet!–ha, ha, jk I can get down from own tower, thank you).
But yeah, in the meantime, stuff like Guardians, and the other MCU movies I’ve enjoyed, also scratch that itch for me.
And then of course we come to the juggernaut within the juggernaut that is Avengers: Infinity War, which is either Avengers 3, or Avengers 3: Part 1, however you wanna look at it. And that hit me on several new levels, something I’ll cover in a separate post. Way too much to get into on this one.
Overall, I’m as glad that despite the backdrop of chaos and vitriol and dumpster fires that the world seems to be in many corners, that there is such a thing as the MCU, as I am that there was a Harry Potter, or a Hunger Games, or a Pushing Daisies, or a Lord of the Rings and then a Hobbit, or anime and manga (especially the ones that are happy sugar fun popsicles that chase my blues away–or hard and fast gunslingers full of badass sexy chain-smoking anime men, and everything in between), or even a Twilight. And while I know that it’s impossible for this whole thing to last forever, just like everything that came before it, also just like those things, it’s definitely something I’ll come back to when I need some laughs, some tears, and some warm fuzzies occasionally fueled by some awesome action that feeds my inner bloodlust. (Mmm.)
Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good place to end it.