Endgame: A 1/2 Spoiler Free, and 1/2 Spoiler Filled Review

Don’t worry I will warn yas before any spoilers (but consider yourself warned! No reading until we’ve gone to it together Disgruntled Luddite!!)

Streaming Movies Underground: Watch Avengers: Endgame FULL MOVIE HD1080p Sub English

I just got home after Endgame and am just putting my thoughts together.

Probably the first thing that is worth saying is that this movie feels a lot different from other MCU movies, including Infinity War, which to me was quite interesting. It’s hard to explain without spoilers, but given the ending of the previous movie its hopefully no surprise that Endgame is quite dark. Although tonally the movie is quite a ride, the Russo Brothers successfully managing to pull off quite a dynamic movie – almost bizarrely so.

Where Infinity War was long because the number of character’s included, Endgame felt long because of the depth of the character work, and oddly was quite light on action for the majority of the beginning arcs of the film.

Ultimately the film was a fitting “end” for this massive and ambitious project by Marvel Studios, and it felt like a suitable conclusion to Infinity War.

Now onto the Spoilers.

SPOILERS

Really, people are taking Endgame spoilers serious no peeking.

SPOILERS

Some thoughts on Infinity War (Beware Spoilers)

I’m not going to rehash all the events of the film but there are some major events that I want to respond to, starting with the nitpicks.

Firstly I found a couple of characters ‘development’ pretty unpredictable and weird. Thor becoming a fat depressed oaf was certainly surprising – Banner and Hulk actually becoming The Credible Hulk (google it) was again very unpredictable – kind of awkward and not really earned. After becoming shy in Infinity War, all of Banner’s and Hulk’s development happened purely off-screen. He didn’t even participate in any fights as said sensible Hulk could have been an interesting play.

Tony and Steve’s reunion was probably my biggest disappointment of the film – I wasn’t too sure exactly what I expected but an infirm and starved Tony ranting at Steve like a demented older relative just felt kind of odd choice (post rant they got along just fine).

My final odd issue with the film is that the way the story is constructed it sure led to some weird tensions, the big bad being a past Thanos who managed to hijack the Avengers attempts to right ‘present’ Thanos’ snap. The action and sequences all worked on paper – it just created a weird sense of dissatisfaction – for example when Scarlett Witch confronted Thanos he admitted he didn’t even know who she was.

Still the writers and directors managed to pull together an appropriate conclusion to a vastly ambitious precursor – and a massive and sad send-off to at least 2 of the main Avengers. The final scene(s) were incredibly intense and absolutely masterpieces of action directing. What probably served the film well was some incredible acting – and equally incredible passion for the project. I think in the future Endgame will sit aside from the other MCU films not just in being a conclusion 10 years in the making, but as something very different – an unusual and strange film, that could certainly not be argued to be formulaic, not by any stretch.

If anything, as Marvel have always been brilliant at doing is creating a sense of more adventures to come, which after 10 years of build-up is quite a feat, to the point of cultural phenomenon. I’d kind of love to see what future analysts will say about the MCU and Endgame!

Mourning the End of a Story

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Endgame approaches, and the final season of Game of Thrones is in progress, many fans are worried about the fate of their favourite characters. More on my mind though is the bittersweet sense of the end of the story as whole.

Granted, the MCU will continue, and Game of Thrones will have prequels, and the actual books still to be published. However I think ‘post-series-depression’ is a worthy topic.

Image result for a book crying

My rough internet search largely found mildly mocking or patronizing articles on the subject, and not too much of substance so mostly I’m just going to bank on my own experiences and theories.

Embarrassingly my own first experience of post series blues came after one Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m not actually embarrassed to be into Buffy, more that a. it wasn’t until I finished the series years after it actually aired, and b. as my first experience of this sense of mourning a series was in my early twenties! Essentially once the final episode of the final season had been binged, I fell asleep that night unsettled, and found myself heading down to University the next day unable to focus and strangely put-out. After realizing I was not going to get any work done, I returned home and watched the various ‘special features’ and Googled what I could about the season (a common coping mechanism I have heard).

Since then I’ve had many a similar experience, following ‘Logan’ (Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine) the end of Lost (of all things) and my favourite local show Outrageous Fortune. Usually along the lines of either a low-day or more often an unsettled night post viewing.

Broadly speaking this phenomenon tends to happen after longer running series (somewhat rationally) although as books can last for long periods I think the effect can occur for stand-alone books as well as series – possibly its felt all the stronger for a series as there is a sense of promise of more material.

But what is this all about? Why do stories have this effect?

You’d think that because stories are made-up and we know they are made up that there wouldn’t be too much of a problem with the full stop at the end of the story. Although there are some obvious potential causes – for example if we enjoy a story, then it stands to reason that the end will be a little upsetting – but my sense is that this isn’t that simple. Some articles have suggested its the sense of loss of never being able to experience that story again for the first time, as in it can always be reread (or watched) but never again as a novelty.

But I just feel like there is something deeper going on here – for example sometimes when I finish a good book I do lament not having something good to read during my usual hours, but its more a simple frustration, akin to having nothing yummy in the cupboard rather than post-series blues. And if the blues are indeed due to the loss of novelty, really why would that only occur at the end of a series? Maybe if the ending does bring us to that realization, but its not usually what I’m thinking about.

Some people believe or seem to genuinely feel connections to characters as if they were real people, and this certainly is a sign of brilliant fiction to make us feel that way. I suspect that part of mourning a story is mourning the characters, after all its almost like a true character death.

Here is my (perhaps over the top) deep theory though. I think that the post-series-blues is in fact the mourning that comes with personal change coupled with the pain of reality. Fiction really is blissful escapism, as much as we sometimes want to deny that we need an escape, or that our psyche’s are so fragile as to dive into fiction so completely, we obviously do (why else would stories be such a backbone of humanity?)

Truly powerful stories stick with us – not only in the moment, but the lessons and themes stick with us afterwards. Indeed any book ‘on writing’ will tell you that this is the point of the story. What we often don’t think about though is learning is change, and change means the loss of our former selves.

What I’m trying to get at is really good stories leave us different than before, and we need time to adjust to that. It’s only often once a tale ends that we fully realize this.

Or maybe I’m just indulging myself a little too much perhaps we just miss our favourite characters, or the hour or two of enjoyment we get from a long running story.

What are your thoughts on “post-series-depression”?

Is it a familiar feeling?

What series (book or screen) gave you “PSD”

 

An Attack on Stories

Hey folks – today I’m going to talk about something a little different.

Image result for bad book

First I better be clear, I freakin’ love stories, I’ve Posted about it Twice! I love reading stories, watching stories, hearing them – everything!

And as a writer and reader especially you often hear about how important stories are, how integral they are to the human condition, shaping minds, cultures and even history.

But today I’m going to take a different stance.

I’m going to talk about ways that I think stories are bad.

I don’t mean ranting about badly written stories, or errors or plot-holes or whatever, what I mean is ways that I think that fiction as it is, is just straight up BAD.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I’m not calling for change, or disagreeing with general fiction writing practice – all I’m doing is slightly tongue in cheek, throwing out some ideas for consideration and thought.

Ways in which stories are bad:

Ego-Centrism

We’ve all heard the saying ‘we are the main characters of our own story’ and its kind of true. We have the 1st person POV of our own lives, and others take up the roles of major, secondary and minor characters in our story.

In fact there is this weird kind of interplay of fiction where I think the more the presentation of a character replicates our own experience navigating life (in the sense of following one character, not head hopping, using the MC as a lens of perception) the more we are able to relate to and truly sink into a book.

Here’s my problem though. That isn’t how the world works. Yeah sure we are the MCs of our own lives, but there are 6 billion MCs on the planet. Other people don’t disappear off the page when we aren’t with them, and when we’re playing out a scene we aren’t necessarily the Main Character. Fiction continues to sell us the idea that we are the player and others are the NPCs that we talk to when a yellow ! appears above their head and they have a quest or reward for us.

[Ok that’s all a little extreme and truth is reading in particularly has been shown to increase empathy]

Resolution – it all works out in the end.

Now I’m hardly the first person to point out that fiction tends towards happy endings and we all know life doesn’t work out that way. But there is something more complex to say here.

Fiction mimics the moments in our lives when something unexpected (or unexpectedly tense) happens and we’re forced to make a tough decision and live with the consequences. The difference with fiction is that there are multiple elements added to make this sequence more compelling. In real life these scenes are messy, for example often conflict goes unresolved in real life, something happens and people just awkwardly carry on, OR choices are made but a situation doesn’t really resolve exactly. Sometimes whats tense for one person isn’t for another, and so on.

I think my point is to broaden the idea of ‘happy endings’ being a bit cheesy and unrealistic, and just point out that ‘endings’ don’t really happen in life. You still see an Ex from time to time, a relative passes away without magical last words or a forgiving speech.

Fiction largely deals in choices and consequences, which sort-of reflects real life, but in real life its more of a chaotic, unstructured, often more awkward or boring than fiction.

Character

Sort of combing the two issues above, fiction is typically focused on the concept of character, particularly traits, and change (ideally for the better). The typical heroes story is the concept of a naive or flawed hero, casting off the shackles of normality to develop their character through heroics and returning better.

The problem is that this relies strongly on the idea of ‘character traits’ and motivation and the two working together smoothly to guide behaviour and choices. As above, real life is messy and this includes ourselves. I’m getting a bit of a psychological soap-box here, but the truth is people aren’t lazy, driven, meticulous. What we are is continuously behaving individuals in the context of our environments, there may come moments where some single event or tidy series of moments organize to change our character for the better, but the truth is we’re a jumble of values, motivations, that may change and tweak over time.

Fiction tells us that we are ‘characters’ and have ‘traits’ that may or may not need to change through dramatic choices. This is the sort of thinking that can lead people to feel like ‘baddies’ or that they’ll never be heroes or whatever.

[what I’m trying to say is that fiction represents ideas about character but the actual way fictional characters present is w/e]

Escapism

We get it, the world is a cruel place. There isn’t much justice, and where there is, its often flawed or unkind so not really justice at all. Baddies win, goodies lose, in fact baddies, even history doesn’t decide who is who because history is also a perspective, an opinion and incomplete.

So its no surprise that stories provide a role in escaping the challenges of life by providing a different world, a place where your imagination can safely fly, while still getting the unusual pleasure of the unexpected as you read another’s story.

However at the end of the day it is nonsense, due to the above factors fiction really is just a drug of relief isn’t it?

We also tend to idealize, and idolize anyone fictional, e.g. superhot love interests, buff superheroes etc. I know this isn’t always the case but it does add to the silliness of the escapism at times.

[and sometimes fiction is weird when it tries too hard to be real like it creates an almost hyper-reality where its still not ‘real’ but trying really hard to be, but is the point to trick us into really believing the fiction which is worse than simplified stories]

Anyway just to recap, I don’t really want to hone in on these aspects of fiction, I love fiction. I just had these weird thoughts about how stories aren’t always amazing and it was kind of fun to take an axe to some ideas!

What ways do you think fiction is bad?

On Writing: Quick thought about stakes

I already did a post on stakes where I managed to cram a tonne of puns, so I thought I’d just keep this one brief.

 

One of the things that interest me about ‘stakes’ and raising the stakes is this is often assumed to simply make things more intense/dangerous, saving the bigger baddies for last that sort of thing.

However, I’ve come to realize that stakes are far more complicated than that.

Stakes are in fact a balancing act between the forces of protagonism and antagonism in your story. This seems pretty obvious when you consider a cheesy action flick, where the final climatic battle happens when the bad-guy(s) almost finish their dastardly plot, and the goodies save the day in the nick of time. But the funny thing about cheesy action plots is its underestimated how much craft it takes to drive a story to a place where both the goodies and baddies are on the verge of ‘winning’ or obtaining their goals.

It’s easy to see rising stakes as simply being about increasing the pressure on the MC, however its the interplay and balance between opposing goals that really ‘raises stakes.’

For example (in my all time favourite always go to example story) in Lord of the Rings, the main characters are in peril for their lives frequently – this isn’t exactly the source of ‘stakes’ – its only as Frodo approaches Mordor and Mount Doom that the effects of the ring really take hold, and the tension becomes all or nothing between Frodo being able to cast the ring away.

So the point is throughout the story ‘stakes’ doesn’t just refer to the potential negative outcomes for the MC(s) but the balance between goals met or not. And I theorize that how this balance is managed helps create tone.

For example Game of Thrones is renowned for being fairly dark. One could chalk this up to the extreme violence and other horrors of the show, however it is also evident in the structure and craft of the story. Typically in GoT good guys don’t get too close to their goals, the forces of antagonism are strong and most of the time we’re surprised just to see our characters survive let alone reach their own goals.

What I’m saying is the ‘stake scales’ are tipped towards antagonists, and most of the time the story is dealing with scenes where the baddies are close to reaching their goals – and the goodies far. This creates a sense of dread, and adds to the dark tone. You can have all the blood, guts and brooding you want but using stakes in this way creates a visceral sense of dark and gritty.

Flip that around and consider a super-hero like Superman himself. Often criticized for being too powerful, the issue isn’t necessarily the power itself as a wise story-crafter can always work with that, its how this power works in with the stakes. Due to his powers the sense of balance and stakes is in his court – it never feels like victory is too far away. Thus this creates a sense of optimism and an upbeat story.

When I combine these thoughts with my earlier post I’ve come to realize that stakes are much more important than I previously thought. Often for me its really an afterthought of a cool character and an interesting setting, but in many respects stakes are the backbone of tension – and tension is the substance matter of a story!

Anyway that was just a quick thought for the day – the funny thing was I couldn’t quite remember if I’d already done a post on stakes, but when I started Googling stake/steak puns I had a sense of deja vu…

On Writing: Thoughts about Trigger Warnings

Image result for warning boring

For those unlikely few that have not come across this concept before, Trigger Warnings (in general) are the idea of placing a suitable content warning (in the case of books) prior to the work beginning to adequately warn readers who do not want exposure to said content.

Just before I say anything else, I’d like to clarify that I’m not some ranty idiot who thinks the world has gone soft, or that people need to drink concrete or whatever, trauma is quite real, and fiction is one area that can easily spark pain and I think its a totally valid point to have some sort of content warning in books.

In saying that there are some interesting points to bring up… First of all books don’t follow rating systems in the same way that television, movies and indeed video games do. That is to say you don’t find R18 books (even though there are “R18” books) there is no penalty for libraries of bookstores for selling explicit novels to children, and there is no content regulation system for books.

There are a few reasons for this.

For one its actually a practical matter, significantly more books are published per year than even games and TV shows and content many more hours of content than visual mediums. It’s unlikely that any censor has the time or resources to scour all the worlds written work for disturbing content.

Second and interesting from my point of view, the nature of written content is much different than visual mediums. Typically for games and movies content is whatever is shown on screen, rarely in some cases what is talked about or implied. Some of the rules are so silly developers and SFX people can change the colour of blood to avoid rating censorship. In written works everything is written down and left to the imagination of the reader. A fade to black before something terrible happening to a MC can be more harrowing than a full account, the fact of something happening to a MC can be worse than an innocent bystander. The tone or prose of a work can make a tonne of difference too.

Thusly how on earth is a censorship panel supposed to assess fairly what is restricted content and was it not?

In saying the above, I couldn’t find actual numbers but I have a sense that books have been and are more frequently outright banned than other mediums. This could be an offshoot of no rating system (although I don’t think so) but if more about how we orientate to books as a society, something like American Psycho is horribly violent and explicit with it, but it was also culturally positioned to be opposed. People aren’t consistently looking to ban similar content, when the book was pegged for release they took exception to that book.

There is an element of self-modulation within traditionally publishing too. Obviously agents, editors and publishers will select and guide their representative works towards the right audience including managing content. So of course you’d be generally confident that children’s books won’t contain graphic content, however more broadly there is nothing stopping anyone accessing adult grade stories and of course what is an appropriate level of content for YA is hugely controversial.

All of this is to come around to the point that books are in fact fairly free of censorship or content regulation. When you pick up a tome there really isn’t any indication of what sort of material might be present other than reviews that may or may not be focused on that.

And I just want to plug two psychological points. First for those who have experience of trauma or a negative reaction to some content, one doesn’t want to be completely avoidant, or at least not in a state of avoiding reading wholus bolus due to risk of triggering. A Trigger Warning could empower a person to brave content they want to build some resiliency to, OR choose to skip at that time.

And then it’s also important to point out that the written word can be very powerful, we tend to assume that being exposed to a visual depiction of something graphic is the worst possible thing, however prose not only goes inside character’s heads, because writing prompts our own imaginations it can make material even more intense – e.g. rather than seeing something you’d rather not, its like actually thinking an believing something you’d rather not.

What about detractors?

Well I think a reality check is somewhat needed. I doubt that trigger warnings will ever be a legislative requirement – as above its too hard to consistently regulate, judge and cover the breath of material that may be problematic.

On the other hand I do think that publishers will increasingly include forewords and messages to that effect, as the industry becomes more diverse and interested in supporting communities.

Some are concerned about spoilers or softening readers. To the latter I always find such attitudes pathetically paternal, people have a right to manage their own hardship as they see fit, life is horrible and surprising enough without idiots demanding we don’t look after each other in case we get too ‘soft.’

As for spoilers there are plenty of practical solutions – I have no doubt that there are already such sites, but making use of reviewers or online resources for trigger warnings makes sense. Secondly warnings can be easily placed on a book cover to not dominate front and center – it may depend on intent, if you want Trigger Warnings to catch a naive reader who hadn’t thought twice about reading a book  its going to need to be obvious, although my gut sense on the topic is that people are empowered enough to consider whether they want a content warning or not (although as above it tend to rebel against anything paternalistic or assuming people’s frailty).

What are your thoughts on Trigger Warnings?