“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Episode 1 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER AHEAD!

If you had told me even as recently as yesterday that the first episode of Marvel’s The Falcon And The Winter Soldier would consist mostly of characters struggling to obtain bank loans or get back into the dating scene, I’d have told you that sounded more like a prompt for a fluffy domestic AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic, and that we’d be lucky to have something like that adapted to the small screen. But that’s…almost exactly what this episode is, from start to finish. It feels like soft, wholesome, fanfiction in the best way possible.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Sam Wilson | theverge.com

Although there are a few sequences of high-stakes, high-speed action throughout the episode, and it ends on a rather epic cliffhanger that’s got Twitter in an uproar, the forty-minute long pilot episode doesn’t advance the plot much further forward than what was already covered in the The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s synopsis, teasing only a little bit of upcoming drama while diving deep into the personal lives of our protagonists, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), whose plotlines don’t even intersect by the end. But like some of the best fanfics, the narrative is mostly just characters going about their daily lives and interacting with everyday scenarios and problems, but layered over with complex social commentary and the kind of attention to detail that we’ve almost always had to turn to fanfiction for, at least when it comes to the MCU proper (this was never a problem with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., part of the reason why it remains peak Marvel TV).

It’s a bold choice, particularly when most audiences were expecting nonstop action, but it’s a choice that’s already paying off. To name just one example, Bucky, who’s probably had more fanfic written about him than just about any other Marvel character ever, is finally utilizing the relative peace and quiet of the post-Blip MCU to conquer his inner demons and find healing with the help of a military therapist (a small but standout role brilliantly played by Amy Aquino). The refusal of Marvel superheroes to go to therapy has become a long-running joke in the fandom, making this whole subplot look and feel a lot like the intricate canon “fixes” that fanfic writers create every time a Marvel movies leaves them disappointed…particularly when you sprinkle in world-building details; like Bucky’s little list of people with whom he has to make amends, from a HYDRA agent he helped install in Congress to the elderly father of one of his victims; his adorable grin when he helps bring down the aforementioned HYDRA agent without even having to maim or kill anyone; or simply the fact that he sleeps on the floor of his apartment because he’s not used to beds, and still suffers from nightmares about his past.

Therapy and healing is the most natural progression for such a traumatized and battle-torn character, whose only just now getting the chance to actually explore the world again, and is…doing a pretty awful job of it, to be honest. He’s completely alone in the civilian world, and, given how badly he messes up a halfhearted attempt at a date (as the MCU once again tries to push the obviously false narrative that Bucky is straight, the only part of the episode that threatens to shatter the fanfic façade), he’s likely to remain alone for some time.

Meanwhile in Louisiana, the Falcon is taking a break from active duty to be with his extended family, who are already some of the loveliest, most genuine civilian characters in the MCU. The exploration of Sam Wilson’s backstory, across all his movie appearances thus far, has amounted to only a few lines about his military service, so it’s nice to finally learn something about the man behind the titanium wings, and for it to be a Black screenwriter (Malcolm Spellman) who gets to establish these new aspects of the character. Sam spends most of the episode trying to help out his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye), whose small business is going down along with the rusty old fishing-trawler she inherited from their parents, but they’re approaching the same goal from very different perspectives – Sam, who spent five years as cosmic dust and has only been alive again for about six months, is still optimistic, convinced he can swoop in and save the day like he’s always done. Sarah, who survived the Snap, has no such delusions: she’s barely getting by raising two children on her own, and she can’t afford to entertain Sam’s overconfidence.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Falcon | winteriscoming.net

Their attempt to take out a bank loan is one of the strongest sequences in the episode: a fascinating look at how inadequately prepared superheroes are to return to civilian life, and a microcosm of how MCU society views its heroes in general, as symbols and props to be worshipped, names and logos to be slapped on merchandise, faces to be captured in selfies…but no humanity. There’s something deeply exploitative about it all, and it’s what inspires the Wilsons’ banker to think he can simultaneously reject their request for a loan while pleading with Falcon for a photo of him with his arms out, doing the wing-motions.

That it’s a white man getting away with this behavior makes it clear what Spellman’s script is trying to say about the exploitation of Black lives in every aspect of society, particularly in media and politics. How many times have Black women voters in a state like Georgia been called upon, even expected, to “save” America from our nation’s never-ending cycle of moral failings, only for white elected officials to, at best, ignore their needs completely? On my first viewing of this episode, I missed the point of the banker’s question to Sam, about who paid him to work as a superhero, and Sam’s loaded response that no one ever did.

It’s particularly interesting to see how that same concept plays into Sam’s decision earlier in the episode to give up Captain America’s legendary shield, handing it over to the Smithsonian so the symbol can officially be retired and a new one take its place…only for the US Government to promptly ignore that decision and hand-pick a “new Captain America”, a square-jawed patriotic puppet named John Walker (Wyatt Russell), who exists to be exploited as  propaganda, to stamp his seal of approval on all the nation’s most controversial decisions, from war-crimes to nuclear weaponry. He is a tool of his government, without free will or an identity of his own, and he represents everything that Falcon was fighting against in Captain America: Civil War.

The core conflict of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier seems to be this one of the exploitation and commodification of superheroes, which makes the series’ apparent antagonists all the more intriguing – the terrorist group known as the Flag-Smashers are certainly violent, but their agenda to unite the world in anarchy with neither heroes nor symbols opens an opportunity for more commentary on similar topics, such as the dangers of celebrity worship. As of yet, we still don’t know how Bucky’s arch-nemesis Baron Zemo will play into things, though his name appears on the Winter Soldier’s list – and I can’t imagine Bucky will have a cute grin in store for the man who brainwashed him into attacking his best friend.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
John Walker | newsweek.com

If you’re just here for the action sequences, I’m afraid this pilot might be a bit of a letdown. Bucky doesn’t get to do much fighting at all, while Falcon’s mid-air hostage rescue in Tunisia is definitely a lot of fun (and marks the return of Winter Soldier villain Georges Batroc, a role reprised by Georges St-Pierre) but drags a little. What I’m looking for from Falcon’s action sequences is unique usage of his signature wings, and I think there’s still work to be done in that area.

But if you’ve managed to move on from feelings of post-WandaVision depression and are ready for a new series, then The Falcon And The Winter Soldier offers something that feels familiar and enjoyable, but hides just as many dark and mature themes below its surface as WandaVision. The difference is that, whereas WandaVision was about torturing Wanda to the brink of despair, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is soft and fluffy, and features unforgettable moments like Bucky shaking hands with a Maneki-neko “waving cat” statue. Good stuff.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

Marvel Developing “Ironheart” For Disney+!

Avengers: Endgame brought about an end to the storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s founding father Tony Stark, but new rumors suggest that the super-genius inventor’s legacy will carry on in the new character of Ironheart, soon to make her MCU debut on the Disney+ streaming service. While the move is almost certain to anger many people, there are also a number of reasons to be very excited for Ironheart taking on the mantle of her predecessor Iron Man.

Ironheart
tvovermind.com

If true, the Ironheart series will join seven other Marvel series’ currently in development for Disney+ – and two others rumored to be in pre-production, a Secret Invasion series and a Ghost Rider project which I will also cover. An argument could be made that Marvel is over-expanding themselves, but so far we have yet to see the studio make a mistake: and many of their upcoming series’ are already attracting very positive buzz, as fans clamor to see the stories of characters like Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Wanda Maximoff, Loki and Hawkeye (is anyone actually clamoring for that last one?) continued on the small screen and with more screentime than they would receive in the movies. But the streaming service is also a place where Marvel is looking to introduce several new heroes, including Ironheart, also known as Riri Williams.

Williams is a recent addition to the roster of Marvel heroes in the comics, having made her solo debut in 2018. She’s an intelligent and capable young black woman who builds her own iron suit while still an M.I.T. student, and later receives Tony Stark’s own blessing. Her story is largely wound up with that of Stark and his wife Pepper Potts, who give the young heroine advice, refuge and assistance during her Ironheart missions. That obviously poses a little bit of a problem for the MCU version of the character, since Tony Stark is already dead and Pepper seems to have been retired.

Ironheart Tony Stark
inverse.com

The comics do provide a solution for this problem, as Riri Williams’ Ironheart is often accompanied by the Tony Stark A.I., a sentient hologram of the hero. In the MCU, it wouldn’t be hard to explain the existence of something like that – Tony Stark was constantly inventing things, and he prepared for his death far in advance: in Endgame, it was revealed that he had even prepared one last holographic message for his daughter to comfort her during his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to have Riri discover that he had also built himself a second body and brain with a fully-functioning consciousness – again, there’s precedent in the way Stark (albeit unintentionally) designed and created his own sentient A.I. personal assistants, most notably Jarvis.

There’s just one more obstacle. Robert Downey Jr. would have to return – he would likely only be willing to do that if his role was substantial enough to warrant it, but to do justice to Ironheart, any role Tony Stark plays would have to be small enough that he doesn’t overshadow her character. It definitely wouldn’t benefit either character, or the show in general, if Tony Stark’s return to the MCU drew criticisms for a white savior narrative. If the screenwriters for the series could find a delicate balance, they might just be able to convince Downey Jr. to make a return to the MCU – but in my opinion, it would have to be a one-off: the A.I. tech might be broken or only half-finished, meaning that Stark only gets to stick around for the duration of the series.

Without Downey Jr.’s involvement, there’s still ways for Riri to be a compelling character. If having her encounter Tony Stark himself is impossible, she could still be inspired by his enduring legacy in the MCU – a fun alternative might be to have one of her role models be someone like Tony Stark’s best friend and sidekick War Machine, who is one of the saga’s most underrated characters, or Princess Shuri of Wakanda, another young, black super-genius. Riri’s main villain in the comics has an origin story that could be tinkered with to tie into either the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series or Shang-Chi, or both: Tomoe, or “Techno Golem” as she is more commonly referred to, is an Inhuman who uses her power as the head of the Southeast Asia Crime Syndicate to control an army of ninjas from her hideout in the criminal underworld of Osaka, Japan. And Riri herself, apart from all outside influences, isn’t just a tokenized legacy character, as some are quick to claim – quiet and introverted, but driven by her ingenuity, resourcefulness and passion for science to pursue her dreams, she also suffers from the trauma of witnessing the death of her best friend and her step-father in a shooting. With a talented actress in the role, she could easily be on par with Tony Stark, or his own hand-picked successor, Peter Parker.

Ironheart Marsai Martin
latimes.com

And who better to play this pioneering character than an actress like Marsai Martin? Martin is currently fifteen –  the exact same age as Riri Williams in the comics – and has the distinction of being Hollywood’s youngest producer, as well as a winner of several NAACP Image Awards. She is best known for her roles in ABC comedy Black-ish, and as the star of Universal’s Little, but she should have no problems transitioning over to Disney+.

So what do you think of the idea of an Ironheart series? Have I helped to convince you that it’s actually a pretty good idea, or are you still on the fence about it? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Avengers: Endgame” Spoiler Free Review!

"Avengers: Endgame" Spoiler Free Review! 1
themarysue.com

Visionary directors Joe and Anthony Russo have done it again, but this time, they’ve really done it.

In my opinion, it would not be an overstatement to say that Avengers: Endgame raises the bar for what can be done with superhero movies – something that has become nearly impossible as films utilize more and more revolutionary storytelling techniques. But Endgame shows what can be done when ten years of story carried over twenty-two movies crash together in a brave, brilliant and fitting fashion – and unfortunately, so much of it is spoilery, this review is going to have some pretty major holes in it, which will only be filled in when you see this film.

And trust me, you should.

If you thought last year’s Avengers: Infinity War took every story strand of the MCU and tied them all neatly together, you’d be wrong. Avengers: Endgame does that, and, unlike Infinity War, gives us a very final, very conclusive way to end this phase of the Marvel Universe – an ending that will make you gasp out loud, it’s that good. Where Infinity War snubbed characters such as Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Endgame gives all of the original Avengers enough time to shine in the spotlight. And as for the fate of the universe, well…you’ll just have to watch the movie and find out about that!

There’s a certain urgency about watching this film: spoilers are already drifting out there on the internet, waiting to ensnare the unwary traveler. Go as soon as possible, before you have any of the massive surprises spoiled for you – these are things that truly deserve to be seen for the first time on the big screen. Certain scenes, certain reveals, are mind-boggling only because I was able to go into this movie completely unspoiled, knowing nothing of what to expect.

Now a lot of people have been worried about the length of Endgame, which clocks in at three hours and two minutes. In my opinion, the movie positively flew by, and didn’t feel like it dragged or slowed down at any time. The pacing is fast and crisp. There are also conflicting reports about whether you should stay through the (very long) credits to see what’s at the end. I think that the credits themselves are quite beautifully done, and should not be missed, at least the first few minutes of them. As for the little surprise at the end – well, it’s possibly worth it, but it might not be as it seems, and it might not be what you’re expecting, either. So I won’t say too much.

What can I talk about, then? The plot premise, obviously, is a big spoiler, as the trailers and marketing have (rightly) kept it all pretty vague – don’t trust everything in those trailers, by the way. But let’s see: the music, of course, is quite good, composed by Alan Silvestri once again, and the cinematography is excellent and beautiful. The CGI is incredible, especially on certain characters who I’m not entirely allowed to talk about here.

Characters I am allowed to talk about here include Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who has an interesting new angle to his personality that you’ll either love or hate: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), whose return is quite refreshing at first but, at least for me, quickly wears off: and the newest addition to the team, Captain Marvel, played by Academy-Award winner Brie Larson, who brings a lot of spunk and energy to the movie even in dark times, and has some very cool scenes. Everybody has something to do in this movie, and no one feels sidelined or thrown-in for the sake of it. Even War Machine (Don Cheadle) finally gets a decent showing. Endgame has great purpose, and knows it. Everything is leading up to one thing, and that thing is-

A spoiler. Sorry!

Do yourself a favor, though, and watch this movie. The surprises are real, the shocks are extraordinary, the gasp-out-loud moments are frequent. You will not be disappointed, whether you’re looking for a drama or a fun action-movie, tragedy or comedy. This movie literally has everything, and I don’t say that lightly. Avengers: Endgame has forever changed the game with superhero movies. In my opinion, this is the peak of Marvel’s success: if, someday, the MCU can replicate this awesome achievement with another movie, they will be the luckiest studio ever. Because this is not an easy movie to forget, and it’s also a movie that demands to be talked about in depth, with no boundaries. Which is why I hope you’ll join me for my Spoiler Discussion, which will hold nothing back! But before you do, go see the movie!

"Avengers: Endgame" Spoiler Free Review! 2
forbes.com

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I’m adding Avengers: Endgame to my list of favorite movies today, and for good reason. This is the end of an era, the end of a beautiful story, but it manages to be even more than that – it’s just a fantastic movie overall!

Movie Rating: 10/10

“Avengers: Endgame” Predictions!

My most-anticipated movie of 2019 is just around the corner – literally, it comes out next week. I feel, therefore, that now is the time to make some predictions before we enter the endgame. Specifically about the very type of prediction that no one wants to talk discuss: namely – who’s gonna bite the dust?

Cheerful! Let’s get into it, shall we?

Tony Stark (Iron Man): High Chance of Death. Tony started this entire ten-year journey, and it would be fitting if Tony ended it by going out in an act of sacrifice, to prevent the horrible premonition he had in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the one where he saw all his friends lying dead around him, victims to some horrific massacre. Since The Avengers, Tony has known that it will be his fate to go up against an enemy of cosmic proportions, and that enemy has been revealed to be Thanos. Their first fight, in Avengers: Infinity Wars, didn’t go so well for Tony, and it kind of resulted in him being lost in space with no food, slowly running out of oxygen. Assuming he survives that, we’ll see him return in Endgame with new purpose and determination. However, it’s also worth noting that if Tony didn’t die, he could get married to Pepper (something that’s also been foreshadowed), and retire from the spotlight, passing on the torch to a new generation of Marvel heroes without having to die.

Steve Rogers (Captain America): High Chance of Death. The thing about Steve is that he’s basically been warning us since Captain America: The First Avenger that he is prepared to give his own life to save those he loves. And he’s made no secret of the fact that he wishes he could be with Peggy Carter, who died in Captain America: Civil War. Another possibility is that he might go back in time to the 1940s and live out the rest of his life then, though that would massively damage the existing timeline. It’s more likely he dies to bring back all those who were dusted in Infinity Wars, and there are already hints of that: his sidekicks, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson, will be getting their own Disney Plus streaming show soon, and actor Chris Evans has said multiple times now that he wants to move on from the MCU.

Nebula: Dead. No doubt about it, the murderous blue android will not make it out of the endgame alive. She will also, I believe, be the one to kill Thanos. Her entire character arc has been leading up to this confrontation (though, as with Tony, the first time around didn’t go so well), and she desperately wants to murder her genocide-obsessed father: you know, after he pitted her in cage-fights against her own sister, and replaced her body-parts with metal every time she lost. There has to be a reason she’s still here, and more notable Guardians of the Galaxy like Star-Lord or Drax are not. She’s going to kill Thanos, and she will die in so doing.

James Rhodes (War Machine): Dead. I don’t see Rhodey having much of a purpose in Phase 4 of the MCU, and I assume there’s a good reason they left him alive in Infinity Wars, so he could die in Endgame, valiantly. Hopefully he goes down in an appropriately epic way.

Bruce Banner (Hulk): Moderate Chance of Death. I think this one is a definite possibility. Bruce is a sweet, innocent guy who really doesn’t stand a chance against the Mad Titan if he can’t transform into Hulk. I’m expecting Endgame to deliver quite a few surprises, but I don’t think all of them will necessarily be good: if Thanos kills Bruce before the mild-mannered scientist can turn into Hulk, that will enrage us all – we’ll want Thanos to die. And the thing is: Bruce doesn’t have to be fully dead. We know Professor Hulk could be happening in Endgame: that being the combination of Bruce Banner and Hulk into one creature, a hybrid of Bruce’s intellect and personality with the Hulk’s body. What better way to make this happen then to have Bruce’s body be killed, but his mind is transferred into the Hulk as he dies? I’m sure they could find some pseudo-scientific cause for that. Besides, Professor Hulk will allow Mark Ruffalo to stay in the role as a voice-actor, so it’s not like we’d be losing him entirely.

Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow): Moderate Chance of Death. We know already that a Black Widow solo movie is in the works, so it shouldn’t seem likely that the rogue KGB agent will be meeting an untimely fate in Endgame, but it is worth noting that the Black Widow solo movie is rumored to be a prequel. What if Black Widow explores Nat’s past after she’s dead, as some sort of nostalgia trip for the audience? That would be weird. I’m not discounting the possibility that Black Widow will use Nat’s death in Endgame as some sort of framing device, but I’m gonna bet that she survives.

Clint Barton (Hawkeye): Low Chance of Death. I really should put him higher up on the list, but I don’t honestly think he will die, despite all the hints in the trailers that he’s some sort of bitter vigilante going up against Thanos to avenge his family (who, let’s face it, are almost definitely dusted). And the very reason I don’t think he’ll die is just that: his family. It would be way too cruel if his family were to come back to life only to find that Clint had died. Besides, the rumor is that he’s also getting a Disney Plus show, where he’ll be training the next Hawkeye, Kate Bishop – I think he’s safe.

Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel): Alive. She’s not gonna die. She just got her first solo film and it turned out to be a billion-dollar success…hmm, wait, why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, that’s what we said about Black Panther before Infinity Wars, and look what happened to him. But, frankly, I don’t see the same fate awaiting Captain Marvel: she will have to come out of Endgame looking like the face of the MCU moving forward. Carol, in my opinion, will also stick around on earth for a while after Endgame, so we have a chance to get more accustomed to her.

Rocket Raccoon: Alive. Somebody’s got to stick around for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, am I right? At the moment, Rocket doesn’t even seem to have much of a purpose for still being alive, so I can’t really see a purpose for killing him.

Scott Lang (Ant-Man): Alive. He’ll live. He may not be getting a third solo film (or, at least, one hasn’t been announced), but he’ll live. He appears to be crucial to the Avengers’ entire plan, since the Quantum Realm, where he’s been trapped since Ant-Man and The Wasp, looks to be a major part of the story. I actually just rewatched that very film, and I must admit that I would be down for another Ant-Man film, if only for the incredibly fun action-sequences. So I hope he lives.

There are my predictions for who will die in Avengers: Endgame. Write your own thoughts in the comments: do you agree with my ratings?