The true power of Captain America

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

In the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU as it is otherwise known I was never really a Captain America fan. I didn’t dislike the character but I boxed him off into all American boy, patriot, soldier who was no big deal and could just throw a shield at people.

Previously I had been a Spider-Man guy. The wise cracking wall crawler with his quick wit and web swinging abilities was my favourite. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ was the mantra and the cavalcade of colourful, interesting villains also kept me on the hook even when the films were fairly ordinary fare.

As the MCU grew though something in me began to move towards Steve Rodgers and over time Cap has grown on me. He has got under my skin.

He was different to other heroes. He didn’t have an accident like Peter Parker to gain his powers. He wasn’t a multi billionaire philanthropist with a great eye for design like Tony Stark.

Steve Rogers was chosen. He was picked by the government to be injected with a super soldier serum that gave him his power.

He wasn’t picked because of his size, strength or intelligence.

He was picked because of his heart.

The verse from 1 Samuel  is taken from the story of David being selected as king of Israel. Samuel has walked down a line up of Jesse’s sons. The big, the strong, the potential warrior kings that could lead Israel to dominate their neighbours for years.

As Samuel walks the line and each is rejected by God to the point where there are no sons left. The story tells us they have to go and get David he wasn’t even considered worthy enough for the line up!

When David arrives God informs Samuel that this is the chosen one, the future king. The son who was rejected by his own family for the line up is selected.

Why David? The verse tells us it was because of his heart.

Steve Rogers couldn’t get drafted into the army, slipped in through the back door after countless rejections and ended up Captain America.

At one point in the First Avenger a grenade is thrown into a crowd of soldiers and Steve flings himself on top to protect those around him. While others run he puts other lives ahead of his own.

At this point the officers around him see the potential for a  true hero. In this moment Rogers is chosen. Not because of physical prowess, intelligence or size but because of his character.

He is chosen because of his heart and consequentially becomes the moral compass of the MCU.

In the Winter Soldier when actions are taken in the name of security and patriotism Cap stands against it because it invokes not protection but in his mind fear.

Captain America is not driven by a super serum but rather principle, ethics and the desire to do what is right.

In today’s world perhaps we need to re examine not what makes up popular, powerful or gains us status among peers. Perhaps we should instead check our hearts to see what condition it is in.

2016: Plenty to look forward to

2016 is almost here and I’ve picked out several films that have already got me excited for the New Year.

Thanks to all who have read, shared and interacted with posts from the blog over 2015 I really do appreciate it.

Happy New Year!

Ant- Man, Fantastic Four and the onset of fatigue

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Ant-Man. If ever there was a hero that I didn’t deem necessary, from the Marvel canon, to see on-screen it was Ant-Man. Never a big fan of the comics and finding the entire premise a bit dull I wasn’t overly excited going in.

I shouldn’t have worried though Marvel have again pulled a fairly decent movie out of the hat and they should be applauded. The cinematic juggernaut that is Marvel continues to roll out decent viewing from its massive universe of characters. Paul Rudd gives a decent performance in the lead role and brings his on-screen likeability and humour to it. It suffers from the normal Marvel problems (lack of decent villain primarily) but is a decent and enjoyable watch.

The setups for the next films are there to be spotted,  a great cameo sequence and the obligatory post credit sequence are all there.

These films are the cinematic equivalent of a bingo card, redemption of character <tick> , underused villain <tick> , set piece battle at end <tick>.  Let me be very clear however, they are not bad films, they are highly enjoyable with lots of great sequences that as a comic book reader you would only dream to be possible. My frustration is at myself for my lack of excitement before the film starts.

I really enjoyed Ant-Man. I really enjoy Marvel movies. I’m a comic reading  cinema attending regular these, more than any other genre, should be my cinema going highlight. Why then the lack of enthusiasm?

I have a theory.

I suffer from hype fatigue.

You see I’ve known about Ant-Man for a couple of years. I’ve read the possible casting stories. I’ve read the articles telling us the problems with the shoot. The loss of the original director (Edgar Wright), the exclusive screen shots, the teaser trailer, the official trailer teaser trailer, the ACTUAL trailer, the article breaking down all the things we my have missed in the trailer and the list goes on.

The Fantastic Four is released this weekend (6th Aug to be precise) and in the last couple of days the final trailer has been released. This time however the trailer for an (as yet) unreleased film has a teaser at the end (I’ll not spoil that if you haven’t seen it). We are now at the stage of trailers with post trailer teasers!

I therefore understand now my lack of enthusiasm.

Even the trailers are beginning to link to the next coming attraction.

When the Marvel juggernaut started its journey all those years ago the films felt more like events. You didn’t know what was coming you didn’t know what to expect. Now we seem to know most of what we need to know before the first crunch of popcorn.

To avoid this information in 2015 is difficult. The social media frenzy when trailers are released can be unavoidable.

I can however make choices. I can choose not to engage with the links to click bait journalism.

I could decrease my use of social media to avoid these things.

I suffer from hype fatigue.

I must do whatever I can to ensure that my cinematic excitement returns.

Avengers: Age of Ultron and our need for heroes.

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Marvel films are standard fare at the cinema now. We are no longer surprised by their release, we know what is coming years in advance the internet is  alive with plot theories, trailer dissections and reviews on release. Age of Ultron is no different to any of those that have gone before, enjoyable despite its faults and required to add little nods and winks to what will come. My main thought coming out of my enjoyable viewing was why do these films continue to thrive?

Yes, comic book fandom plays a role. Yes, there is our endless need as human beings to be entertained and Age of Ultron services those needs successfully but is there something else at play? Something that we are unconsciously seeking by continually entering these comic book worlds?

Dare I suggest that rather than being on the search for a cinematic classic we may be on the search for heroes?

This blog post will land on your social media feed somewhere in-between posts requesting help for the earthquake in Nepal, stories around #blacklivesmatter in Baltimore and election posts from both those crowing in triumph and the wailing despair of those who feel they have lost.

The demand for heroes has never been stronger, our world is crying out for them. The Avengers certainly match those desires a group that come together, taking direct action (often involving the destruction of a city, think of the costs folks!) wielding powers that we can only fantasise about. The Avengers work together (most of the time) to make the world a better place, the stuff of comic book legend. We go to the cinema to lose ourselves in wonder, awe and return blinking into the daylight to the familiar brokenness of reality.

Look again though. Look more closely.

Look at the aid agencies and charities rallying within hours of disaster to feed, clothe and rebuild cities for those in need.

See the clergy parading in unity to the front lines of protest in Baltimore to stand face to face with the oppressors of their communities to boldly declare that their lives matter.

Scroll through Twitter and read the tweets of those energised in electoral defeat. Not prepared to settle for the new regime but determined that the new regime will hear their voice.

We do have a desperate need for heroes. It has probably never been greater.

The truth is though that they walk among us on a daily basis using their powers of compassion, mercy and a desire for justice. These are the true heroes and none of them need an iron suit or magic hammer to get the job done.

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Let’s be clear before I get into this. I’m a comic book guy. I love them they help me escape the mundane of day to day living into worlds you can only dream of. When converted to film they consistently entertain, can at time amaze and also get me thinking.

That said I know I’m not the only person who feels a little tired of sitting down in their local cinema and seeing the Marvel branding in front of them. This is not to say that the recent spate of Marvel films have been bad they haven’t. Thor 2 not overly memorable but no bad, Iron Man 3: Sir Ben Kingsley scene stealer and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which I have yet to see). Not to mention in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the preceding Wolverine. None of these are bad but the regularity of Marvel films makes them feel less of a movie event and more of  a conveyor belt  experience.

This is not to say this is Marvel’s fault. These films are consistent hits at box office and studios want hits. At a time where it feels like the world is searching for heroes more than ever, where better to look than the Marvel catalogue.

So as I sat down to watch Guardians I wasn’t as excited as I had been in the past. In combination with I had no Guardians background knowledge to influence me going in which in many ways is a good thing compared to some comic book purists who watch these films looking for inconsistencies.

I enjoyed Guardians it romps along well, is action packed, is consistently funny has characters you care for even if they are giant walking trees with limited vocab. Chris Pratt is funny and charming, Zoe Saldana is a good strong female character (which is a rarity) and Dave Bautista for me steals the show with some great lines over and above the CGI racoon and tree combo of Rocket and Groot.

I had a good time and I was pleased to see at the climax a message letting us know that the Guardians will return because ultimately so will I when it comes out.

What Marvel and Disney have done here is create a family friendly inoffensive offering that will no doubt generate cash by the bucket load and accompanying merchandise to boot. What isn’t overly clear is what Guardians is for. It didn’t (to me at least) appear to fit in with any ‘on-going’ Marvel story line, although Thanos does make an appearance as he did in the Avengers post credit sequence, (my tolerance for these post credit sequences is becoming less and less) but it seemed to be more of a stand alone film.

So while Guardians is entertaining fair I did however find it difficult to see its role in the wider Marvel universe / storyline other than cash cow which takes me back to my earlier point

Marvel have a plan for films going forward into 2019 and while this vision should be applauded in some regards if it continues to produce films that introduce characters from its universe with great style but not much substance it should maybe be approached with caution.

While I have no real problem with Guardians and again would reiterate my enjoyment of the film my over riding thought was maybe the conveyor belt needs to stop and the cinematic events that these films used to be return instead.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 & Easter Saturday: Hope is a comma not a full stop

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Yesterday was Good Friday a day of reflection, a day of sadness. I spent last night watching a Passion play depicting the last days of Jesus put on brilliantly by members of our congregation.

Afterwards I did something that some amy think rather odd. I didn’t quietly contemplate. I didn’t go home and pray for hours.

I took myself to the Dolby surround sound scaped, CGI laden, action packed Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Not the norm perhaps. Not for Good Friday. Possibly. It may however be a film for Easter Saturday.

Easter Saturday is an odd day, a supposedly dark day, a hopeless day.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is laden with hope. Speeches on hope, reflections on hope, the hope of discovering who you are, the hope of finding who you are meant to be, the hope of finding out facts of those you have lost.

Easter Saturday sees a broken, wounded, bloodied body resting in a tomb.

Those at the time thought hope was lost, hope was dead.

Those of us who have Easter Saturday today realise that hope was not lost. Hope lay broken wounded, and bloodied but hope was a comma and not a full stop.

The trouble with trailers.

I love trailers. For me they are big part of the cinema going experience. However, recently I have noticed a problem. In our internet age trailers are now not so much a cinematic experience as a YouTube experience and the rate at which they come out is astounding. Big films provide ad campaigns counting down the days and then the real problem comes…….release day.

With the Amazing Spider-Man 2 I was as excited as anyone (i’m a big comic nerd so why wouldn’t I) the trailer came out and looks great I was excited. I then found myself getting annoyed. No sooner was the trailer released than bloggers and online publications were dissecting the detail of the trailer and pondering what certain 3 sec clips could mean.

We are no longer a patient society. The new X-men film (Days of Future Past) will be released next year but already the director has voiced what the next project will be (X-Men:Apocalypse).

I’m not saying don’t watch trailers online that would be absurd. All I’m asking for is a little patience.

Let’s not jump to dissect trailers and what they may or may not show. Let’s not worry about the next project. Maybe an idea could be to wait until the actual film release go and enjoy it (or not) and then make a decision.