26 Thoughts on Avengers Infinity War (MCU Spoilers)

  1. Thanos is really well constructed which is a major step up from many single dimensional MCU villains. Compare him to Malekith, Ultron, etc and he is clearly superior.
  2. Marvel still struggles to develop memorable musical  themes. We’ve watched ~20 Marvel movies and can only just about remember the Avengers theme tune. Star Wars it ain’t.
  3. It felt like the finale of a TV show. We’ve had the character development in previous films and other than perhaps, Thor, Quill, Wanda and Thanos who got some this time. That’s fine, characters don’t always need to grow and watching new interacts was satisfying and fun.
  4. Thanos is the film’s hero. He is a paragon of sacrificing things for the greater good. Shame he’s a utilitarian.
  5. Sometimes fantasy tires me out in that it can seemingly only ever discuss the opposing views of Utilitarianism (the ends justify the means) and Deontologism (that some things are ultimately right and wrong, no matter their effects). This was a good film, but it was still every much in these lines. Any chance of a film discussing single payer vs free market healthcare? (ed. It’s been pointed out to us that Black Panther discusses isolationism vs interventionism/ open borders, so yeah, Black Panther was really great)
  6. That said, I wasn’t upset by the film’s oversimplistic philosophical masterplan. It is a comic book film and a large but flawed premise is fine. Also maybe Thanos genuinely has more experience, is insane or just believes in small government and his own corruptibility. Did we honestly expect them to send Peter Singer to debate with Thanos? No (because they’d probably agree #Burn)
  7. Marvel has created a wide and varied set of characters who it can use to play of one another. The MCU is a genuinely stratospheric cinematic achievement. That almost all films are good and a number are great particularly the latest is not to be taken for granted.
  8. We enjoyed it. It was a fun.
  9. The clear theme of sacrifice in which characters are willing to give themselves/ what is important to them for the greater good.  Thanos’ mission, Vision’s death, the exchange of the Time Stone all pointed towards questioning what should be sacrificed to achieve our aims. Notable was the march of a father and a child up a mountain ending in a sacrifice. Unlike the Biblical story, the child gets sacrificed.
  10. There were a lot of callback to other films. The drop pods and 6 armed monsters are very similar to Warhammer (not that I know anything about that.. shifty eyes). Ebony Maw’s death is very Alien:Resurrection (warning: very gruesome). The henchman (Corvus Glaive) reminded me of someone from World of Warcraft.
  11. The henchmen were set up as being difficult to kill, but died fairly easily to provide the heroes with success.
  12. That the henchmen were more interesting, was another significant improvement over Age of Ultron where the two power levels (useless grunt/Ultron) give no room for Black Widow/ Hawkeye to hold there own.
  13. It’s clear they are saving emotional resolution for the second film, with obvious cadences in the meeting of Iron Man/Captain America and the arrival of Hulk.
  14. Was Ant Man smuggled into the infinity gauntlet? We just don’t know. (Props to John for this idea)
  15. Did Strange MD do some mirror universing? I’d be pretty dissatisfied if this were the case, since Thanos really ought to know when that happens.
  16. The 50% of all life dying will clearly be reversed, though I was moved by that finale so it will be hard not to just do away with a really meaningful moment. We are hoping that the there will be satisfying costs to this recovery, perhaps to the original Avengers. No not those ones.
  17. This film is ambitious in a way that surprises me from the most franchisey of franchise films. Star Wars VII and VIII took nowhere near this many risks. Henry VIII arguably took more.
  18. Wouldn’t it have been funny if one planet of people we don’t like are unaffected because Thanos doesn’t consider them to be intelligent life. My vote is on Naboo.
  19. What is the choice of secondary characters who survive? It seems likely that beyond the original avengers, only Rocket, Nebula, War Machine, Valkyrie, Korg and Okoye really have the clout to join the team.
  20. Were the characters from Black Panther sidelined because of a lack of certainty on whether they would be well received by the public? Now that Black Panther was a huge success, will that affect editing of the next film (since it has already been shot).
  21. We expect to see Captain Marvel.
  22. The film goes for the classic generic visual style, rather than the more distinctive styles of both Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. We think that’s a shame.
  23. As the key romantic subplot in Thor: Ragnarok will we see Valkyrie and Black Widow fight over Bruce/Hulk.
  24. Marvel struggles to make key emotional cadences stick after the end of a film. Asgard is not a place its a people, half of whom die and who Thor quickly deserts. He is the god of storms with one eye, who quickly gets another eye and axe hammer thing. Bucky seems perfectly healed with only a Black Panther cut scene as explanation. Iron Man stops building extra suits but not actually. War Machine is functionally fine despite supposedly not being able to walk. Time and again, Marvel ends films satisfyingly with big payoffs which it quickly ignores in later films. We hope the final is not treated likewise.
  25. Since it is Thanos not Gomorra who grows from her death, I’d be satisfied by a Guardian of the Galaxy film about venturing into death to exchange the soul stone for her. Mecha-Cerberus, black hole as river Styx, a better version of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I am open to being optioned for Dante’s Inferno meets Guardians.
  26. Preganancy did not work out for Paltrow in Se7en (I m34n r3411y?), will it work out for her this time?

By Tom Amos and Nathan Young

Young’s First Law of Worldbuidling: Rules and Form

Read this joke, or watch this video:

A distillation of the first minute of this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yelG1h5XYZI

Ha ha, very funny. Or not. Whatever it is, it neatly skewers an issue with discussing fantasy: You can’t critique slightly unlikely events when the impossible happens all the time. That’s the joke.

But that’s obviously incorrect. I’m allowed to be confused when Harry Potter is blithely sent to walk in forest inhabited by monsters, but requires a slip from his guardians to go to a nearby town, even though that world has wands and goblins. It’s good to talk about what appears to be a gaping plot hole in Lord of the Rings (why Gandalf doesn’t just jump on an eagle and fly to Mount Doom), even though LOTR has elves and magic rings. It is reasonable to criticise the constantly changing nature of Magneto’s powers in the X-men films even though that universe has superpowers and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Just because a work contains impossible elements doesn’t put it beyond the realm of reasoned discussion.

Magneto on bridge

If you watch closely you’ll see that magnetos powers work differently in practically every scene. Someone should write a blog about it.

The key question is consistency. And what a work should be consistent with. I don’t care whether a work is reasonable compared the our world, I care whether it is consistent with itself and its own rules. Rom-coms rarely mirror reality – the people are too beautiful, funny and pair up  with too few issues – but we still get upset when characters do things which don’t make sense, like get together for the sake of a happy ending or use terrible dialogue. There are a set of agreed conditions at the start of  such a film which allow us to quickly get into the world we are watching, but once we are in that rom com world, we can critique it. Fantasy should be no different. It is no different. So here we are:

1st law:

a) A story should be reasonable once its own rules and form are taken into account.

b) These rules should not be criticised on their own account, but rather when a work breaks them or doesn’t use them logically.

c) Applying rules to each other in logical ways makes your world seem more realistic and can be used to engage the reader.

Let’s use Game of Thrones. It’s rules are things like:

  • There is a medieval world
  • There are dragons & magic
  • Tyrion is relli relli hard to kill

It’s form is that of a gritty fantasy novel with grand plots and a global scope. If we are going to criticise it, we have to take these rules and form into account.

Or Harry Potter:

  • There is a modern world
  • There is a secret world of medieval witches and wizards
  • There is magic and mythical creatures
  • There is a spell that disrupts people
  • There is a spell that kills people
  • There are a bagillion other spells

It’s form is of a children’s book which becomes grittier and more adult over time. Now I like Harry Potter, but I think using these rules and form, we can make some reasonable criticism. Throughout all human warfare people have used the best options available to them. Few poeple nowadays fight with swords. So once you have a good disruption spell and a good killing/stunning spell, that’s about all you need. There is that one fight where one person summons a giant snake then the other one turns it into a swarm of bees which the first guy freezes (or whatever). This doesn’t really make sense, why not just kill them with a zap of avada kedavra? And if this was in Harry Potter 1 – 3 I’d probably not worry since a children’s story don’t require high levels of internal consistency. In my opinion, gritty, young adult fiction does, so I think we can ask why everyone is so flashily inefficient in killing/subduing one another.

Time Turner

I don’t even want to talk about it

As a final example, let’s look at Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. It’s a young adult fantasy novel with the following rules:

  • There is a medieval world (feels like I type that a lot)
  • There are dragons
  • Magic means things happen instantly, but require the same amount of exertion
  • A load of other rules

There is a great scene, where the main character is low on cash but knows some magicians. He gets them to make silk clothing (which is time consuming but doesn’t require much physical strength) so rather than painstaking hours of dextrous enterprise, they can do it immediately. Our buddy Chris Paolini has used his rules to solve a problem in a neat way. Good job Chris. (For a good essay relating problem solving and magic follow this link.)

The thing is that we the readers could have made that jump of logic ourselves – all the tools were there. So by the author doing it in front of us, we realise the characters in the story are independent actors, capable of insight and epiphany. They aren’t just making the decision they are presented with, they are cheating and breaking the game. Much like we do.

The key thing is that particularly when we talk about fantasy we seem to mistake three things, which I’ll call the suspension of reality, disbelief and criticism. The world in the story is not like our world (reality), but is that so different from the suspension of disbelief required when we watch James Bond? We think we can judge the narratives of Shakespeare, but because Game of Thrones has dragons? All stories ask us to suspend our disbelief, some ask us to suspend our notions of reality but I don’t think we are ever required to stop being able to critique a work, whether it is War and Peace or Spongebob Squarepants.

I’m not saying you need to be that person who sits in the corner of the room always picking holes in things – I like many worlds which I think contain issues. Probably it is bad to ask why Tarly is still fat, mainly cos it doesn’t mean much. Rather, I think there are good and bad ways to critique fiction and hopefully learning them will help you to produce better fiction, building on your rules to create a world of growth and change. The plaintive cry, “but none of it is real anyway” is nonsensical and boring, and always has been.

This format piece is inspired by Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. The content was something that’s been bugging me for ages.

 

I don’t love Clifford the Big Red Dog

Class, for today’s lesson in media criticism, we are going to look at a 90’s classic: “Clifford the Big Red Dog” an endearing yet fantastical tale of a girl and her oversize hound. They got into adventures, he solved problems, he could talk to his two dog friends – who am I kidding? I don’t care, I basically have some big issues with the intro and you’re gonna hear them.

Watch the following video, remember to make notes in your copybooks.

“Hi, my names Emily Elizabeth and this is Clifford, my big red dog.” Perhaps slightly unnecessary but hey, solid character development here. Our protagonists are introduced. Not a significant complaint.

Singing begins.

“Clifford needed Emily, so she chose him for her own…” Laying aside the fact that Emily, despite being a little girl, is perceptive enough to know that a particular dog needs her (as the word “so” implies), Jason Michael does a charming rendition of this theme tune. It’s no “Pinky and the Brain”, but few things are.

“and her love made Clifford grow so big.” Now you might assume that this is my issue. But it ain’t. Can I believe that there is a world where love makes dogs grow bigger? Yes. Absolutely. It’s a fundamental principle of the show that there is a big dog. No more unreasonable than if there were is a dog that could talk or if pterodactyls and humans coexisted. Perhaps I’m labouring the point. It’s like there’s a ring that makes people invisible, but actually it’s a girl whose love makes dogs bigger.

So that’s fine. Though you do have to wonder why all the other normal-sized dog’s owners hate them so much.

“that the Howards had to leave their home” PROBLEM 1: This just reeks of chronic mismanagement. In the video we see that Clifford sticks his head out of the window of their apartment block. Why did they not pre-empt this? Surely once you have issues taking the dog through the door you don’t leave him inside the house to grow even larger? He clearly fills the entire block at this stage which means he’s not only destroyed their flat but the flat beneath them. Do they not understand the lack of housing that plagues most large cities? And how did they get the dog out. They had to knock down the house, that’s how. (I’m going to assume we were watching a timelapse of dog growth otherwise Emily Elizabeth REALLY grew to love that dog in a REALLY short time frame, let’s hope she never loves a person).

“Clifford’s the best friend anyone could know” Debatable surely? Also why is Emily riding without a saddle. Lax parenting. Not that we should be surprised.

“He’s the greatest dog ever, I really think so!” Do you, well that’s great. Are you qualified? Have you seen all the other dogs. I mean yeah, he’s big, but he occasionally does destroy your house. And where are we getting these massive dog biscuits from? This isn’t the Great British Bake Off.

“Clifford’s so loyal, he’s there when you call.” PROBLEM 2: WELL CLEARLY. Watch the video; she shouts and then the shot changes but you can still see her arm moving down, so no time has passed and he’s right in front of her. She shouts for him, not seeing the 25ft dog right in front of her. Of course he’s there when you call.

Wait, were we outside the same house as before? Yes, it looks like it.

“So they packed up the family car and the Howards left the city.” Yeah whatever, this is probably the only reasonable decision this family makes. Why did it take them so long? Guess they had to rebuild their house first . Their insurance doesn’t cover for acts of dog.

“They moved to Birdwell Island that now many the friends” (that’s not a typo. I listened to the song a lot of times and have no idea what those words actually are.) PROBLEM 3: REALLY! REALLY? You have a massive dog and you choose to take him to Island where he can’t run around and then you take him there on this tiny boat? Seems dreadfully unstable. I’m starting to feel this isn’t a real story.

Oversized animals coming in from the sea almost never cause problems to island populations. Also biodiversity.

“There to greet Clifford and Emily.” That’s right. All the tiny dogs. And their owners. Who despise them.

“Clifford’s so much fun, he’s a friend to us all.” He’s not a friend to me.

Why is he red? How did he become red? I’m starting to think it might be a genetic thing. How big are his parents? Perhaps he was even smaller to start with, maybe Clifford’s actually a kind of mushroom.

“I love Clifford the big red dog.” Sure. Believable. Fair enough.

Clifford woofs. Nearby houses collapse. Episode begins.

Clifford definitely changes in size throughout the video. Perhaps sometimes she doesn’t love him. It’s like the Prestige,

This has been overly analytical children’s show intros with Nathan. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.