Marvel Marathon: Infinity War!

Holy Cow

 

[Infinity War Spoilers Fanart] by vivalski (tissue warning; x-post from r/marvelfans)

I fully expected to have to take my time getting through Infinity War, as I’d essentially had to watch the past few MCU movies as a series, however the movie is just too damn good, I did have to break the film up across a weekend day but there was no way I could sleep not finishing it!

This is the 3rd time I’ve watched Infinity War and there is still stuff I’m picking up on, so prepare for a long winded post…

The crazy thing is I remember when Infinity War was first coming and I made big assumptions about what the movie would be like – essentially I thought that the ‘story’ would be basically collecting all the different good guys (in Wakanda according to the trailer) while Thanos approached and then there would be the big battle and whatever. So I found it quite cunning and mind-boggling how the writers managed to split the movie up the way they did.

Especially, and this still does my head in TONY AND STEVE HAVEN’T MADE UP YET, are they going make up – what if like one of them gets killed in the meantime, Tony almost did ARG.

One has to appreciate the torture that we’re being put through on this – it was really interesting that when Civil War happened, Steve wrote that letter and gave Tony the phone and they though everything was fine again. NOPE. Just some interesting thoughts along the way – in Spiderman Tony ships a prototype shield for Cap’n America, this was after the events of Civil War so he’s still working on Cap related things, also while people give Tony a lot of crap for hesitating to ring Steve at the beginning of Infinity War can we just acknowledge that, a. he was actually about to before the space-ship appeared AND he was walking around with the cellphone in his pocket the whole time he didn’t go collect it from the Avengers headquarters or anything, he’s been walking around with the cell to Captain America for two years.

The the otherside of the coin it’s not as clear how Steve feels about the situation, he obviously still respects Tony greatly, calling him Earth’s greatest defender. To be honest I almost care less about Thanos and the dusted people, just let us see Tony and Steve in the same room dammit!

Anyway back to everything else going on in this film, I’m not sure if my eyes are getting old (Actually pretty sure its this film) the action is absolutely frenetic, but actually pretty good. To draw another contrast I initially preferred the action sequences in Civil War to Infinity, in part I suspect because the Russo brothers indulged and drew out the action, whereas with tonnes of material to cram into Infinity War everything is all go, but once your brain has a chance to catch up Infinity War is pretty hard core, its kind of hard to put into words the extreme change in tone and darkness – I did note working through the films that Civil War was a step towards the more grim and serious, and Ragnarok despite the jokes was very deadly, but Infinity War – right from the first scene is downright fatalistic. It’s a pretty bold move from the studio, and one I personally applaud because its a hella intense film, but one I can understand kinda freaked many people out on the topic, especially given that Thanos essentially tortures his way through the plot and stabs one of the most beloved superheroes through the gut.

Speaking of tone one small bugbear is that I felt that Infinity War pushed relationships a little too hard, back in Age of Ultron the whole Hawkeye has a family thing felt very forced, and in Infinity War we have Tony talking about children with Pepper, Vision and Witch hooking up, and Gamorah and Starlord too, (personally I found Loki and Thor to be more heart-breaking) but at some point its like “we get it this isn’t going to go well” I hate to be a hater but my feeling was with such limited screen time for all characters they could have found some other emotional tags, for example isn’t the theme of this films about found families, shouldn’t Starlord have been gushing about all of the Guardians (Ok the Gamorah stuff is very vital for a later plot point). Anyway its a small rant.

Finally what is really cool about this moment in MCU history is that no-one, NO-ONE really knows what the heck is going to happen. We’ve had Empires striking back, and cliff-hanger films before, but I don’t think any series has had such an audacious conclusion to a film before. The internet and my friends are rife with theories and for once in recent trailer history, the teasers give almost nothing away.

I’m almost terrified of seeing Endgame because it seems like nothing can quite top the 2.5 hour build-up of Thanos winning!

For what its worth I still think the most likely solution is that the original avengers will hold an infinity stone each (to their ultimate demise) as per the mythology of Guardians of the Galaxy, however who knows whether that would be to reverse the ‘snap’ defeat Thanos or what! I sort of can’t believe Marvel released a trailer for the next Spiderman film but somehow managed to reveal nothing about the conclusion to Endgame, its not even clear if it could be a bit of a prequel or something…

Anyway I still have Ant-man and the Wasp to go, and then off to see Captain Marvel, I think I’m most interested to see how the momentum works with Cap’n Marvel. People will be so desperate to see Endgame, will Marvel be a frustration or a welcome balm until the next month?

Marvel Marathon: Black Panther

So I have a major problem with Black Panther…

Be_Biscoita / Pantera Negra

And that largely is I honestly cannot think of anything meaningful to say other than various gushing and fanboying about this film!

The funny thing is prior to Black Panther appearing in Civil War (in which he is awesome too) I didn’t really care much for the character, he seemed kind of blah in terms of powers and the whole he is a King and a Superhero just seemed kind of Over the Top,

Yet Marvel pull it off, not just suspending our disbelief in Wakanda and the Black Panther but actually creating a compelling storyline both personally and politically, while still being a ‘superhero’ film.

I don’t even want to get into the cultural phenomenon of the film, other than to say again I love every aspect of it, not just the celebration of cultures often not celebrated in film, but the full blown embrace of issues of race from a Wakandan perspective. I think its fair to say that some of the issues raised in Black Panther could have been risky especially for crisp and squeaky Disney owned Marvel Studios but they threw a story out that challenged, but did not confront, that prompted thought, not conflict.

Of all the Marvel films I feel like Black Panther has the most flawless story, a flawed hero, a sympathetic but scary villain and overall filled with heart.

 

 

Marvel Marathon: Thor Ragnarok

 

One thing to be said of Thor Ragnarok and of more recent MCU movies, like Spiderman Homecoming, is that Marvel is putting the effort in to keep things fresh

 

1,781 curtidas, 1 comentários - Marvel Cinematic Universe (@marveldaily270) no Instagram: “My spoiler free review of Thor Ragnarok Well... First of all the heart of the movie is the music…”

Taika Waititi certainly puts a unique spin on the Thor movies, as other reviewers have discussed changing the Thor character from an arrogant and aloof Asguardian, to well, mostly a doof. Taiki also turns the humour up to at least 11, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a Marvel movie, yet somehow manages to cram even more funnies into any already humour heavy series of movies.

Which is I guess where I’ll start my review. Thor Ragnarok has to be the only movie I’ve seen stretched out by humour. Most MCU movies have frenetic jokes crammed into the action and story, but Thor Ragnarok actually feels like joke sequences and moments are given such high priority it increases the screen-time. And I confess, as loyal as I feel to Taika as a kiwi I do feel the approach to humour is scattershot. There are some absolute gems in this film, Thor throwing a bottle(?) at Loki’s forehead to check he’s not an illusion, imagining what Hulk’s arrival must have looked like to the Asguardians:

Nonetheless there were many moments that I felt the energy of the scenes were sapped by endless jokes, or gags that got in the way. The movie does have heart, the scenes with Odin are poignant – and its super awesome to see Thor go full “Lord of Thunder”

Also once you peel away the jokes and the boss action (it’s kind of weird, the first time I watched this movie I didn’t really appreciate the action or the visuals but the fight scenes are really cool) the story of the film is a little flakey, the Asguard scenes with Hela feel sort of unreal, there is a failure to capture the sense of a whole realm being torn apart by Hela – I just had this weird thought about Galadrial taking the one ring and Hela being the outcome.

All in all, the best thing about this movie, like every other Thor movie, is the brother relationship between Loki and Thor, somehow with each movie the writers manage to deepen and move their relationship on to something different. I love the final moment where Loki catches the lid(?) Thor throws at him, proving he is planning to stay.

Next up Black Panther!

Marvel Marathon: Spiderman Homecoming

Back in Christmas I thought I was being a little overeager starting my Marvel rewatch so soon, however now that the year is in full throttle I think I was about right. Essentially I had to watch Spiderman as a short TV series in 20-30 minutes blocks!

Spiderman is an interesting one in the context of the whole MCU, of course we have the whole ‘rights’ debacle, but also, similar to Civil War I feel like this was a movie that Marvel put a lot of effort into – not saying that some of the others were low effort – just that between wanting to get Spidey right in yet another reboot, superhero fatigue creeping around, and some fairly heavy complaints about casting choices in Dr Strange I think that Spiderman Homecoming was a high priority for Marvel Movies.

And I think overall they succeeded, watching through all the films, Spiderman feels very fresh (quite an achievement as film number 16) Tom Holland and the character writing for Peter Parker is brilliant. I usually don’t like secret identity plotlines, or superheroes trying to balance their ‘real lives’ because it comes across as cheesy, yet I think Homecoming plays this game with just enough humour and fun that its not a drag. Not to mention the scene where Peter discovers the vulture is Liz’s father and we have a tense car ride to Homecoming where we see Vulture work out Peter is Spiderman – it’s a almost psychological thriller-esque style of moment which is unusual in an MCU but probably one of my favourite Marvel scenes ever.

So between the meme-y and awkward humour there isn’t too much to hate about Spiderman. I confess the action gets a little tired in the film, I sort of felt like once a few gags were made about Spidey having to run across a sports field, using the wrong webs etc, the action always devolved into Spidey clinging to walls (a difficult tension to sell as wall-climbing is a superpower so like we don’t know how powerful it is) and then webbing together the environment again, eventually engaging in some sort of muscle straining moment.

What is really cool though is Ragnarok is next, and I’ve been dying to rewatch that for ages!

On Writing: Populating a Novel with Characters part 1(ish)

I’ve been stewing on this topic for a while now, and like many writing subjects Characters could probably take up a whole book, let alone a blog post – nonetheless I’m going to try and explore a few insights that I picked up from Save the Cat! Writes a Novel which oddly wasn’t majorly focused on character outside the MC, but the few pointers were really insightful ones.

caricaturas en vectores

I suspect I’ll have to do another post about what makes an MC or not, but for now I’m going to assume a solid MC has been developed, and just going to talk about the rest of the merry gang that makes up a novel’s characters.

First of all I might address how I used to develop characters and how now I’ve realized that isn’t quite right, or probably more accurately didn’t lead to as stronger writing as it could. Ironically my characters tended to come from a logical place or essentially randomly generated. Which probably sounds oddly dialectical, however I bet many writers have done the same. By ‘a logical place’ I mean I generated characters based on who would normally or rationally be around the MC or the setting. For example if the MC was a teenager then I’d generate friends, family, teachers and so forth. Or if I was going random I’d already have a character that I wanted in a story somewhere so I would just insert them.

Now you might be thinking what is wrong with logically inventing characters, or using characters you’ve already invented? Well it’s not wrong per se, it’s more what is missing from such a process, i.e. I didn’t invent characters based on the MC’s story arc needs. And this is the crux of what I want to get at in this post. In my early (ha pretty much in most of my writing) I haven’t had a good sense or understanding of how other characters can deepen our main story.

In my defense I don’t think its that easy to get one’s head around. I’ve heard for years terms like ‘foil’ and ‘subplot’ but it hasn’t really been until reading Save the Cat! Writes a Novel that the interaction of Main Characters and Secondary, really sunk in.

One of the issues, which again probably warrants more page time, is the distinction between what some people call the A story and the B story, others might call is the context and the subtext – basically the difference between overt and external tensions and the ‘internal’ thematic and characterization tensions.

For example when one sits down and reads Lord of the Rings and we see the Fellowship get put together we don’t automatically realize that the eight other characters aren’t their to help Frodo dispose of the One Ring, they are really there to make Frodo’s journey to dispose of the one ring a much deeper journey by: providing guidance (Gandalf) antagonism (Boromir) contrasting form of heroism (Sam).

What I’m trying to say is it would be easy to try and generate your Epic Fantasy squad by wondering what sort of team would be needed to get to Mordor, when what you really should be reflecting on is how the squad will flesh out the MC’s journey as a character.

Even writing this is starting to sound like gobbledygook to me, so to continue with the same story LoTRs I’ll try to explain how characters can deepen the MC’s journey.

So Frodo in Lord of the Rings is basically a fairly ordinary, humble individual bar their deep love for The Shire and a strong motivation towards doing what is right. The nature of his journey is to continually make difficult moral decisions that ultimately mean the one ring can be destroyed, however the journey is so difficult and traumatic that The Shire is not saved for Frodo.

A lot of people say that Sam is the true hero of LoTR, and he is definitely a hero, but I’m, afraid his literary existence owes very much to emphasizing Frodo’s journey. Isn’t it that much more heartbreaking to see Frodo suffer in contrast to Sam who is able to return to an idyllic life after everything? It’s much more intense to see Frodo interact with Gollum and show mercy, when Sam is also present suggesting they do not.

Anyway to repeat the point, it’s easy to assume that two hobbits simply makes more sense for sneaking into Mordor than one, but ultimately the point is that Frodo’s journey has that much more depth and impact when compared and contrasted with Sam’s.

So there are many ways that secondary characters interact with an MC’s story:

Same but different: Often a secondary character will have a similar story arc to an MC, this is particularly common in romance stories where a friend of the MC is also unlucky in love, however will often secure or resolve their relationship before the MC – this often emphasizes the MC’s fatal flaw or problem – and hits home how if that problem isn’t resolved they won’t succeed.

Foil: This word gets thrown around a lot but often not explained too well. A foil provides contrast to the main character, often emphasizing the MC’s good points. For example a side-kick is often a super-hero’s ‘foil’ they’ll be on the same side but the side-kick will often not be quite as brave, moral, or strong as the hero. Villains and Antagonists can also be foils often having direct opposite traits of a MC, although clever writers will often make some points of similarity. A foil isn’t necessarily a ‘hype-man’ for the MC either a Foil can also highlight the MC’s flaws.

The point of a Foil is to bring more attention and exploration of the MC’s character – we will often see a Foil succeed or fail, again in contrast to an MC’s traits, for example a common superhero story is the side-kick who sick of living in the shadow of the hero tries to save the day on their own – only to result in the hero having to save them and the day after they fail.

Choices: Another function of secondary characters is they can represent or show the outcome or nature of different choices. In some respects Boromir from LoTR represents the choice to not take the difficult and sacrificial path of destroying the One Ring.

I’m actually going to keep studying this topic and possibly come back for round two – the main point of this post is to talk about how to generate characters, not based on the logic of the story context, but the subtext of the MC’s character development. And while I’ve only mentioned three, I think there are many many ways that other characters can deepen the story of the MC.

(which I will explore further next time)

Thoughts on Writing ‘Formulas’

I’ve recently finished Save the Cat! Writes a Novel which provides a pretty succinct but detailed formula for structuring your novel’s plot.

Image result for complicated formula

I’ve also in the past checked out the Snowflake Method which is an excellent way of brainstorming the premise, characters and main plot points of a novel.

And finally I’ve had recommended and appreciated K M Weilands Various Resources along with something called the ‘do-it-yourself-MFA’ Story Map

I’m not going to go into each into great depth for each, more just talk about some of the confusions and controversies of formulas and leave the links above for you to decide whether to not to use the tools.

First of all let’s dive into the term ‘formula’, the reason I keep putting the word into scare quotes is that I think the term is a bit of a misnomer. Or rather when I plug the word into Google the two following definitions arise:

  1. 1.
    a mathematical relationship or rule expressed in symbols.
    “the formula for the capacitance of a spherical capacitor”
  2. 2.
    a list of ingredients with which something is made

 

My problem  being that most writing formulas seem to try and cover both those definitions – not the mathematical relationship or the symbols obviously, but most formulas attempt to provide a list of ingredients and how to relate them to create a novel.

Actually none of that seems a problem, what bothers me however is it can be confused exactly where a writing formula fits in. For example the Save the Cat! beat-sheets provide an excellent way of structuring the Acts and major plot points of a story, however relatively little for individual scenes and what words to fill each section in. Likewise the DIY-MFA provides a really good way of balancing plots and subplots but is a little confusing on how to capture rising tensions.

In saying that I don’t think anyone expects a formula to cover all the bases per se, I think most writers have a maturity level where they can use a tool to the most benefit for themselves without seeing it as damaging their work because a true artiste doesn’t use a formula. However it does beg the question of where, when and why to use a writing formula.

And this is why I think the term formula is a little bit misleading, because even if you consider a formula an ingredient list I think there is a component of consideration missing and that is that writing formulas interact with the writer themselves. I’m not just meaning in terms of preference, but that different formulas are going to prompt different reactions from the writer, and different writers are going to have different needs from formulas.

I think far from risking a work becoming ‘formulaic’ the real challenge with formulas is possessing enough insight and wisdom to analyze the result of your interaction with any particular tool. For example the Save the Cat! formula for plotting is verges on a necessity for me, my writing suffers from saggy middles and I need a lot of guidance on sculpting exactly where the plot is going. I’m not too bad at generating characters and overarching plans so something like the Snowflake method is helpful but not a must.

It probably sounds a little trite – “find the writing formula that works for you” I guess what I’m trying to say is that its a little more complicated than that – find the writing formula that works for you because it helps shore up areas of weakness in your process, or gels with your style for a good result. I don’t think anyone really thinks there is a perfect formula out there for a brilliant novel, although I do think for every writer there is a perfect formula for their particular moment in their writing progress. Just like there isn’t ONE book on writing, their isn’t ONE writing formula, but a variety of resources to help us grow.

So I don’t know if that post made much sense – hey I only claimed to be expressing my ‘thoughts’ on formulas, I never said my thoughts made sense!

 

What formulas/tools do you use?

Are there any you’d recommend avoiding?

What are your thoughts on formulas?