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Posts Tagged ‘MacGuffin’

“That’s not how quantum physics works” Tony Stark

Since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) the multiverse seems to be the latest trend in sci-fi/fantasy.  Despite Avengers: Endgame telling us there was no such thing as the multiverse, it has become an important part of the MCU first on TV in Loki and What If…? But now on the big screen Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, despite the fact the multiverse makes no sense, at least in the way depicted in this movie. 

As much a Sam Raimi movie as an MCU movie.  It has been suggested he was given more creative freedom than on the Spider-Man movies, and it shows.  While it fits within the franchise the tone is closer to Rami horror than his previous foray into superhero movies.  The idea of possession and reanimation are straight out of Evil Dead as is the Darkhold, that they may as well have called the Necronomicon.  To top it all off there is a great Bruce Campbell cameo.  The fulcrum on which Phase Four is placed, and probably the introduction to phase five as it opens the door for characters who weren’t previously available in the MCU due to complicated rights issues. 

The MCU is beginning to feel like a comic book, not just something based on a comic book.  It is common in comic books for larger stories to be told across multiple titles.  As well as Endgame and the previous Doctor Strange, this movie references Spider-Man: No Way Home, WandaVision and What If…?  The latter most significantly despite being the least seen.  At the centre of the film we have a new character America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) a character with the ability to travel the multiverse.  A fun character that works well playing off Strange.  If they don’t find a way of using her, she could be reduced to a human MacGuffin a little like Ava Starr / Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) in Ant-Man and the Wasp.  This would be a shame.  Just to make those of us who have been with the MCU from the start feel old, Gomez is younger than the franchise.  Born in April 2006, the same month Jon Favreau was hired to direct Iron Man some months after the franchise was conceived. 

Ultimately as you can probably gather from what I have said, that I enjoyed the movie.  However, there is an issue, it makes absolutely no sense.  I am not talking about the fantastical side of the story, you have to suspend disbelief to what any movie, I am saying the multiverse as seen here doesn’t make sense.  There are far too many theories on how a Multiverse works, but within the MCU the suggestion seems to be that they are Quantum.  A quantum multiverse creates a new universe every time a diversion in events occurs.  This is similar to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.  In these theories the alternate universes are endless as each decision, each flap of a butterfly’s wings will create a new branch.  Therefore, in theory, it is possible that in some universes a character could have a doppelganger.  However, this could only happen if the changes that made the new branch happened after the character was conceived.  Given that on average, each time men ejaculate they release nearly 100 million sperm, and each sperm would result in a different person, or no pregnancy at all!

 If we concentrate on what they call Earth-838, we know that there are certain characters that exist (or existed) in both this universe and the MCU Earth-616 (did I get those the right way around?): Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).  The first deviation we know happened is that Peggy Carter became The First Avenger, possibly in the way seen in What If…?.  This one would imagine would have a different outcome to the war and Hydra.  What we do know is that it appears that the creation of Shield didn’t happen.  The power in this world is The Illuminati. (Forget Dan Browns conspiracy fiction, there really was an Illuminati.  The Bavarian Illuminati, founded on 1 May 1776 in Bavaria.  An Enlightenment-era secret society, their goals were to oppose superstition, religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power) Given that this major diversion from the timeline happened somewhere around 1941it is likely that a lot of these characters would have been born.  That’s before we get to Wanda’s children.  How did a variant of Wanda have the same children as the ones created by Wanda in the fantasy in WandaVision? 

Shortly after Doctor Strange came another multiverse movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once.  Written and directed by Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert based on the Modal realism theory.  The title refers to the “villain” of the movie, who has the power to see and feel everything everywhere all at once.  This results in the belief that nothing really matters, in any universe and the plan to suck all of the multiverse into an infinite void of nothingness.  This is an interesting point, as it has often been a criticism of the use of time travel and multiverses within stories.  It reduces the stakes.  As is often said, No one stays dead except Uncle Ben. In this movie our hero (Michelle Yeoh) doesn’t exactly travel between universes, the way it is used is a little different to anything.  Receiving universal critical praise and doing exceptionally well at the box-office, it is a better and more fun movie than Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness

Around the same time as seeing these two movies I read a book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.  This gives a more believable multiverse within its own fantasy.  The protagonist, Nora chooses to take her own life.  She wakes up in the library of the title, where she is given the choice to live a different life, the life she would be living had she made a different decision in the past.  As she steps into the different lives it becomes clear that the decisions she makes effect not just her, but all the people around her.  The promise, when she finds the life in which she’s the most content, she will remain and live out that that life.  There is no great surprise, the message and the outcome are clear from very early on.  If we are not to multiversed out by then, there will be a movie adaptation, StudioCanal and Blueprint Pictures optioned the film rights a week before the book was published in 2020. 

The presence of Reed Richards/ Mister Fantastic (John Krasinski) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) suggest this is the door that will bring The Fantastic Four and The X-Men into the MCU.  But, it is a door they cannot close!  This is going to require some creative storytelling so we don’t end up with all MCU stories being multiverse movies, as much fun as they have been they could get very boring very quicky.  The more we explore it the less sense it will make, and lets not forget, we no longer have Tony Stark to tell us “That’s not how quantum physics works”. 

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Black Widow has a problem, a big problem, timing! The issue is twofold, firstly it has been hugely delayed due cinemas being largely closed throughout last year and the start of this year.  The second more serious problem is that it is set before the previous two movies removing any real jeopardy for the main character.  Whether it can overcome these hurdles depends on different factors, on a critical level, the film is good; financially, we may never know!  It has received the strongest opening numbers since the start of the pandemic, but this is still way down on other movies in the franchise.  It is also available as a premium offering on Disney+ that may help with the ultimate bottom line but not the published box-office.  I would normally advocate watching movies in the order they were made.  However, in this case, I would suggest if you are new to the MCU that you slot this one on in somewhere between Captain America: Civil War from and Avengers: Infinity War. 

Following a prologue set in 1995 the movie kicks off with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the authorities aka Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) for breaching The Sokovia Accords (see Captain America: Civil War).  A MacGuffin and an attempt on her life later she finds her way to the often mentioned Budapest and on the hunt for a ghost from her past in the shape of General Dreykov (Ray Winstone).

Before I star anything that resembles a review, I have to admit I was predisposed to like this movie.  I have always felt that Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are the heart of the MCU, the franchises most interesting character, but they have never been given the screen time they deserve.  I am also a huge fan of a couple of Cate Shortland’s earlier movies. To add to this, the film most resembles, even echoes a lot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film that is both one of my favourites in the franchise and also the film that prior to getting her own film gave Scarlett Johansson the most screen time in the MCU.  Interestingly the final act (the MCU’s Achilles heel) is similar to, and has the same issues as the winter soldier. 

There are three big and several small action set pieces. As you would expect for a Marvel movie the action is well shot, and well choreographed, but this isn’t the films greatest strength.  The titular Black Widow is surrounded by great characters in the shape of her “family”  Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh),  Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz).  Both the performances and the dialogue are excellent.  The bickering and piss-taking all feels very real and natural as you only see with family or close friends.  Weisz has a level of calm and superiority that perfectly bounces off Harbour’s comic relief, but Pugh is comfortably the MVP.  She plays the part with a perfect combination of childlike sincerity and amazement with a certain grit and cynicism.  There have been suggestions that if this truly is Johansson’s Marvel swansong that Pugh will take on the mantle of Black Window within the Avengers.  While it would be a shame to lose Johansson, Pugh would make an excellent addition, it appears she has already been confirmed to reprise her role in the Hawkeye TV series due to hit Disney+ later this year. 

Like the aforementioned Winter Solider the villains are more grounded than many in other MCU movies, this isn’t a bad thing.  When a story is well told, personal tragedy and  grounded adversaries are just as significant as those that threaten worlds or universes! The plot is slim taking a central idea from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (although a different Bond movie is reverenced and another invoked!).  The accents drift in and out of Russian, often for no real reason.  But these and any other issues spring to mind after the film has finished, because while you watch it, you just go with it! This is testament to the taught direction and  great performances.  What could have been a paper thin narrative used to string together the action set pieces actually comes across as a fun hang-out movie.  The characters are so strong that you may want the action to stop so they could spend more time hanging out and arguing with each other, fortunately this never happens, because the bickering continues  during the big action scenes. 

Marvel have made 24 movies in a decade and half, a similar number to what James Bond Managed in nearly fifty years and around double the Star Wars output in around forty-five years. when you get to this point, you cannot just judge an MCU movie on how good it is, you have to look at in relation to the rest of the franchise, the greater world of comic book movies, and its competitors from the DCEU.  It’s far from the best MCU movie as it doesn’t move the narrative forward, it actually has little to no impact on the franchise as a whole, and you would not miss anything by skipping it, but that would be a shame, and a mistake.  It does something that a lot of the other movies in it stable cannot, it stands on its own.  You could watch and enjoy the movie without having seen any other MCU movie.  And for the record, it’s better than most of the output of the DCEU. Go see it support your local cinema and have some fun!

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