HNG Podcast #14 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Agents of SHIELD

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Almost as buff as Steve Rogers. Almost.

Howdy nerds and nerdettes, in this week’s podcast, Darcy and I discuss the spy drama that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Agents of SHIELD. Be warned, thar be spoilers ahead!

I’ll also be posting a written review of Cap 2 in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for that!

Thanks for listening!

Side note: the first run of HNG calendars sold out (yay!) and I need to order some more for an upcoming event. If anyone would like to get one, now’s the time to order! The calendar features all of the nerdy holidays (and the regular ones too) and a convention calendar. Order one today!

Avengers Assemble!

Thor is my favoritest Hero ever in case you didn’t know that by now

OMFG.

I don’t know how else to adequately describe how much I loved this movie.

I saw The Avengers twice in 2 days.  The first time after an epic all-day Marvel Movie Marathon with my NBFF Geek Outlaw.

And the second time on Sunday morning with my Mom and SO. Afterwards we went to Smash Burger which I thought was really funny. I’m not gonna lie, I’m probably going to go back a third time and see it in 3D. I don’t normally watch 3D movies that were converted in post-production but I’ve heard the 3D is pretty good so I’m willing to give it a shot. It was also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard since Bridesmaids.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! So don’t read past this if you don’t want to be, umm, spoiled.

When Thor came out I predicted that Loki would be the main villain in The Avengers (that much was obvious from the teaser after the end credits) and that the plot would center on preventing Ragnarök, a major plot point in the Thor comics. And while it wasn’t exactly an apocalypse (unless you were on the island of Manhattan), the end of the world as we know it was a real possibility so I’m going to consider myself 12% right, with an argument being made for 15%.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOrNdBpGMv8]

The basic plot line is as follows: After letting himself fall (not being pushed…but nice word twisting there Loki) Loki explores the tree of life for a bit before forming a partnership with The Other (frequent Whedon collaborator Alexis Denisof) and the Chitauri. Loki agrees to give The Other the Tesseract (aka Cosmic Cube) seen in Captain America in return for an army to conquer Earth. We humans aren’t too big on that and we fight back as usual, this time relying on The Avengers, a hodge podge team of superheroes led by Nick Fury and SHIELD, a super secret agency. Loki uses that brilliantly deceptive tongue of his to divide our heroes before they see the big picture and come together to save mankind and Manahattan (with the help of some real life Army Reservists by the by).

Now, I’m going to be nitpicky for just a second and point out a few things that differ from the comics. Nick Fury/SHIELD did not assemble The Avengers. We don’t get to see Avengers founding members Ant-Man (Henry Pym) and Wasp (Janet van Dyne). Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye are later additions to the team. The Chitauri are a race of history-meddling shapeshifters and we never really see their true form. This shapeshifting ability was apparently tossed for the movie.

And I am completely OK with all of those changes.

Avengers assemble!

Iron Man (Tony Stark):

Tony (Robert Downey Jr) got most of the best lines in the film.  His nicknames for the other heroes were HI-larious.  The ones that immediately come to mind are Legolas (Hawkeye) and Point Break (Thor) but there were so many others that I can’t think of off the top of my head. He had a great bromance going on with Bruce Banner and I was happy to see the two wunderkinds drive off together at the end of the film. I thought it was interesting that they chose to completely ignore Rhodey (War Machine) since he would probably only skip this fight if he were trapped in an underground bunker somewhere, but I can’t say that I’m surprised.  There was already so much going on and you can only say “we sent them halfway around the world for their own safety” so many times. They did feature Pepper Potts quite prominently though. I’m not a big Gwyneth Paltrow fan but I do enjoy her as Pepper so that was fine. Anyone else notice that Tony wore a Black Sabbath t-shirt for a large chunk of the film? A nice little reference to their song “Iron Man” that I found amusing.

Hulk (Bruce Banner):

Mark Ruffalo is officially my favorite Bruce Banner. He was positively adorkable. His shy, soft-spoken good naturedness (is that even a word?) was so appealing that I never want to see anyone else play him ever again.  It was a very good call to model Hulk after Ruffalo using the same technology used for Avatar as opposed to having him be pure CGI. I read  that Hulk was a combination of Ruffalo and a male stripper from Long Island which is awesome. At the end of The Incredible Hulk it seemed like Bruce was working on controlling his alter ego. It appears that he succeeded. Much like his evolution in the comics, we see Hulk being uncontrollable when he’s caught off guard and in control when it’s his choice to change. I’m not surprised that we didn’t see Betty Ross but I was expecting some kind of reference to General Ross, especially after watching the Agent Coulson one-shot “The Consultant.” Hulk had so many great moments in this film but my favorite is probably when he picked up Loki and started smashing him back and forth before calling him a “puny god.” Harry Dean Stanton had a funny little cameo as a security guard that witnesses Hulk’s plummet to Earth and solemnly informs Bruce that he has “a condition.”

Thor (Thor):

How they planned on getting Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to Earth after the destruction of the Bifröst was something I was very interested to see. Loki comments that it must have taken a lot of dark magic on Odin’s part to make it happen. I’m looking forward to seeing the repercussions of that in Thor 2. Now that the cosmic cube resides in Asgard, Thor should be able to return to Earth and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) at will until the Bifröst can be remade. Jane was one of those “we sent her far, far away” quickies and that’s too bad. I would have liked to have seen her go up against flying monkey Erik and her (sure to be hilarious) reaction to Loki in all his Asgardian finery. This ordeal was so much more personal for Thor.  Within a very short time he lost his kingship, was betrayed by his brother, changed his whole mentality, fell in love, lost his brother, and had to save Midgard. The fact that he has an “only I can be mad at and deal with my brother” attitude in the beginning is certainly understandable. And his comment about Loki being adopted made me LOL. It was fun to see Thor duke it out with Hulk. It’s made clear in the movie that he’s one of the few individuals who CAN be a match for Hulk. Go figure that it would take a god. The best part; however, was the conclusion of that fight. Having been interrupted by a fighter jet distraction the first time around, Hulk took the opportunity of punching Thor across Grand Central after they worked together to bring down a Chitauri mega monster. Brilliant.

Captain America (Steve Rogers):

Poor Cap. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is such a smart and instinctive guy but the fact that he’s a fish out of water and placed next to two of the world’s foremost geniuses, makes him seem a bit dense (his excitement at understanding the flying monkey reference was endearingly adorable). But his leadership skills and strategic ability are never questioned by his fellow heroes once the fighting begins. This is a guy whose entire world has been flipped upside down and yet he doesn’t even flinch. People need saving and by God, he’s going to save them. This includes a cute blonde waitress (Ashley Johnson). Anyone else find it interesting that her nametag said “Beth” which is a nickname for Elizabeth? You know what else is a nickname for Elizabeth? Betsy. As in Betsy Ross aka Golden Girl, Cap’s onetime partner and girlfriend. I can’t help but wonder if that is a coincidence. Considering it’s Joss Whedon, I’m thinking it had to be intentional.

Black Widow (Natsha Romanoff) / Hawkeye (Clint Barton):

I seriously want to see more of the Hawkeye/Black Widow relationship.  I think they should give the two of them their own Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. There is plenty of history (and sexual tension) between the two of them to make it interesting and entertaining. I don’t know what it is about Jeremy Renner, but there is something very appealing about him. He’s not your stereotypically handsome action star but I kinda wanna jump his bones anyways. I think I’ll add him to the runners up list. I’ve always been told that Scarlett Johansson is a bit of a bee-yatch but I’ve seen her perform on Broadway (in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge) and she is a fantastic actress. I also think she’s one of the sexiest actresses working today (Geek Outlaw thinks so too). She certainly holds her own with the boys in this movie. Considering Black Widow and Hawkeye are ordinary humans (albeit with extraordinary skill sets), you have to suspend belief a bit when watching them survive falls and body slams that would normally kill a person instantly but barely leave a scratch on them. And yet, I didn’t care about the improbability of it all. The awesomeness outweighed the practicality for me.

SHIELD:

Samuel L. Jackson is having way too much fun playing Nick Fury, creator and director of SHIELD (sorry, I don’t like putting periods between the letters, I think it looks weird) and I’m having way too much fun watching him. It’s nice to see him have more to do than scold Tony or show up in the end credits. Nick Fury started SHIELD after WWII (he mentions his friend Howard Stark as a fellow founding member during Iron Man 2) so if you’re not a reader of the comics you might be wondering why he looks 45 years old. They don’t explain it in any of the movies but his aging has been slowed by the Infinity Formula. Just so you know.

I started getting nervous when they got personal with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) at the beginning of the movie. That never bodes well for someone as cryptic as him. My psychic movie skills kicked in and I figured out what was going to happen to him pretty quickly. I’m in mourning. Even though his character was manufactured purely for the screen and doesn’t appear in the comics, I’m going to miss not seeing him weave in and out of the various individual films. If you haven’t seen it, watch “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer.” It’s Agent Coulson showing off more than his wit for once. RIP Phil.

Had Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman flick taken off, Cobie Smulders would most likely have been cast as Diana. But that project was shelved and instead she won the role of Agent Maria Hill (beating out Firefly alum Morena Baccarin). Boy, is she a looker. Wow. She also stars on How I Met Your Mother with Alexis Denisof’s wife and Whedon regular, Alyson Hannigan. Cobie wasn’t given a trainer for the movie so she hired one herself to teach her how to act like an agent. I like a girl who does her homework.

The 12-person SHIELD Council should be more in shadow, we shouldn’t be able to see their faces. No one knows who they are, not Nick Fury, not even each other. If we can see their faces, we can use facial recognition software to find out who they are. But that’s me being nitpicky.

The guy on the bridge playing Galaga? Classic.

The Helicarrier is a character in its own right and plays a huge part in the film. It exists because a mobile headquarters is much more difficult for an evil organization *coughHYDRAcough* to find and destroy and protects any potential host nations from being a target. They took it one step further in the movie and gave it cloaking technology which was totally badass and a nice little treat for this Trekkie.

Loki:

I’m very quickly becoming a huge fan of Tom Hiddleston. I had never seen him before Thor but he’s perfection as Loki. And this is coming from someone whose way into anything related to Norse mythology. In the comics Loki is the first villain The Avengers go up against so I was happy to see that they kept that. It would have been much easier to pick a different villain and avoid the whole magic vs. science conundrum. The various directors, producers, writers, Marvel Execs, etc. did an excellent job of making the magic scientific and the science magical so it didn’t feel forced and it made sense to the laymen. They get an A+ for teamwork.

Anyone who leaves the movie theatre before a Marvel movie’s end credits are over is an idiot. There’s always some little nugget of awesomesauce just waiting to delight our senses. In this case we got two of them.  The first one shows The Other talking to a mysterious master about the fact that humans are not to be trifled with.  They don’t say who this master is but I’m thinking its Thanos. If anyone has another theory I’d like to hear it but I’d bet money that I’m right. The second one has our heroes sitting around eating shawarma just after the battle while the employees clean up debris in the background. No one speaks (although Bruce does start chuckling) and it’s hilarious.

I’m a massive Whedonite so I’m probably totally biased but I have to give Joss Whedon mad props for this movie. It’ll probably go down as one of my top 5 favorite movies ever and a lot of that is due to him.  He rewrote the script and had a vision that wove together four different franchises into one seamless and elegant package.  The combination of action, drama and humor is classic Joss. I think that one of the other directors would have made an excellent film as well but Joss made it magical and I hope they are smart enough to keep him as the director of all future Avenger films.

I hope so, Joss. I hope so.

“These people shouldn’t be in the same room let alone on the same team—and that is the definition of family” – Joss Whedon

5 out of 5 Sci-Fives!

Five out of Five Sci-Five