Ghostbusters: Pick up the Phone and Call

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A lot of negative swirl surrounded the 2016 Ghostbusters film, starring four leading ladies instead of the original four leading men. Based on that negativity, I didn’t intend to go see it. But then I saw on Facebook two of my friends, two people who of course don’t have exactly my same tastes but whose opinions I listen to, said they’d seen it and really enjoyed it. Huh! So I reconsidered. I didn’t even know what the criticism of the movie actually was; I don’t pay much attention to pop culture (…that doesn’t involve Loki or Thor or Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth, and while Hemsworth was in this one my impression was that it was a bit part or cameo). I went, and I had so much fun and laughed so much. It was a surprising delight! I’m sure some of that was due to my low expectations, but I really truly enjoyed it, laughing all the way through to the silliness of Hemsworth’s character’s dancing through the credits.

Afterward, I went online and looked up what exactly what that negative swirl was about. Wow, it seems it came down to male fans of the original being up in arms that the new one stars four females. WHAT? Seriously? Yep, seriously. As far as I could tell, that was the sole source of it. I loved the original (pretty sure everyone my age does), but the fact that the new one would star women didn’t particularly mean anything to me one way or the other, whether “oh no how can you do this?!” or “fantastic, girl power!” This was just how they were making it different from the original. Putting a bit more thought into it, I think this is also a way of handling a common “remake” issue — who’s going to play Bill Murray’s character better than Bill Murray? Having them be women makes it tougher to try to draw those strict comparisons. Was any of those new characters meant to be “Bill Murray’s character”? Changing the gender helps make the characters more independent of their predecessors. (The same is true, by the way, of the ditzy secretary, now played by a man. I mean played by a MAN. Hemsworth, of course. Not a bit part.)

But here was the shockingly widespread reaction to Girl Ghostbusters, drawn from this New York Times article (recommended if you’re interested in this issue):

Online, YouTube users have given its trailers more than one million negative votes while clamoring in comments that women simply cannot be Ghostbusters.

Dear God, that sentence makes me feel like we have gone back to the 18th Century. Perhaps a lot of men felt threatened, in a sense? As emblematic of men being pushed out, pushed aside? There is some of that in some feminist corners. But I think men are safe both in holding onto more leading roles in films and certainly more leading roles in action films. Actress Melissa McCarthy summed that interpretation up well, I think (from the same NYT article linked above:

There’s a weird replacement phenomenon, a fear that if you put two women in, two men come out. I don’t know why that viscerally affects certain people. It’s not how I ever think. If I see four men, I’m not like, “Well, those are four jobs women didn’t get.” Great for them. There’s room for everybody.

Anyway, if the negative hubbub deterred you from watching this movie, I encourage you to give it a chance! It came out on DVD in October. It’s a feel-good movie. It was refreshing to see women just being friends and having fun and adventure and having something to talk about besides men. I didn’t parse it with a fine-tooth-comb but it seemed pretty child-friendly in terms of language and subject matter, but without veering into 10-year-old-boy humor as much as I thought it would (toilet humor, etc.). And Hemsworth…yeah. Such a departure for him but he does it really well. Yes, some of the lines are a bit over the top (as in, no one is that dumb), but he’s very funny and did I mention NOT a bit part. As an actor he’s very game! Plus, here’s your chance, wow, I was shocked to hear him actually using his Australian accent, and later came across this article confirming that in fact he’s not used his own accent onscreen since his Australian soap days, and his thoughts about it were interesting and make total sense.

It’s funny because (your voice) becomes like another prop. But when it’s you speaking, and having not done it in a time, you… you’re very much aware of it. It’s in your head a little bit more.

And finally, you know how you read some movie reviews and you squint your eyes thinking, did that guy/gal watch the same movie that I did? Well, this one, also from the New York Times, is pretty perfectly on the money. I don’t think there’s a word in it I would disagree with.

So check it out! My DVD should be at the post office, and I can’t wait to pick it up, watch it again, and check out the special features!

Black Widow & Age of Ultron

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I’m massively late to the party in commenting on Avengers: Age of Ultron. Oh, well. I am busy. I’m also tired of all the open tabs in my browser and the only way to get rid of some of them is to put them here, where I’ve been meaning to. So, I’m not sure anyone cares that much anymore, but, Topic Number One from this movie (obviously, SPOILERS if you haven’t seen it):

I don't think so.

Comics Black Widow: Do any of the male superheroes have giant V-plunges down the chest of their costumes? Picture them like that, please!

Black Widow and Gender Issues in A2 and Beyond

First off, for context, I wouldn’t particularly call myself a feminist, at least not in the stereotypical or militant sense. So that’s not the position I approach this from. I approach it simply as a fan who happens to be a woman, and who does admire strong women characters, but who doesn’t need (or want) them to prove their “strongness” by being anti-man (see the laughable head Valkyrie in the otherwise pretty good animated Thor: Tales of Asgard, for whom apparently the word “male” is the worst insult you can throw at someone) or by being so very strong that she lacks any weakness or forms of emotional vulnerability — that would make her inhuman. One of the moments with Natasha I particularly liked in Avengers (1) was her moment of fear, hiding and sort of gathering her wits when the Hulk was set loose. Yeah, she’s scared! But she pulls it together and does what needs doing.

So, I don’t need to say it, you already know what this post is about. The (unfortunately) famous line when Natasha seems to say “I can’t have babies and therefore I’m a monster.”

Yes, she was.

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow: Much smaller V-plunge (and wasn’t she awesome in this Iron Man 2 fight?)

Personally, I never interpreted it that way. Seriously. That did not occur to me, in my own (first..or second, in a row) viewing. I suppose in part because it’s such an absurd notion. But I soon realized lots of people did, and it’s certainly not an unreasonable takeaway. I think the whole sequence could have been edited better.

Let’s look at the actual dialogue:

They sterilize you. It’s efficient. One less thing to worry about, the one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier, even killing. You still think you’re the only monster on the team?

It comes down to what you think she’s saying makes her think Bruce should think she’s a monster. The fact that she was sterilized? Or the fact that she was meant to become — and did become — such an efficient killer, that killing became easy. I interpreted it as the latter. They removed her ability to (accidentally at least — she could still adopt, though, you know, not while being a Bad Guy assassin I suspect) have the greatest love and bond of all, that of mother and child, “the one thing that might matter more than a mission.” (I can imagine other loves that might also matter more, but they can’t prevent her from falling in love with a man via a “simple” surgery.) And to me, the flashbacks clearly indicated that there was a heavy symbolism attached to the sterilization as well — sterilization meant your training was complete. Part of completing your training was committing a straight-up cold-blooded murder. Sterilization cemented who you were —  a heartless murderer…a monster. However, and possibly due to trying to keep things kid-friendly (?) we get really just one image of Natasha shooting at not targets but a terrified and restrained human being…and we get lots of images of her being wheeled into the room for the surgery. There’s where, to me, the editing mistake came. Because it lends greater gravity to the sterilization itself than what the sterilization signified. The dialogue, I suppose, could have made that clearer, too.

I don’t think Natasha “meant” to make this whole scene, and her whole life, about her inability to have kids. (We never see her obsessing even a bit over kids, and she seems to have a healthy relationship with Clint and Laura and their kids.) And I don’t think Joss Whedon meant to make this about that either, certainly not tying it to her being a monster. In Avengers, we saw that Natasha feels guilt over the “red in [her] ledger.” Here she’s clearly motivated by trying to wipe out, or balance out, some of that red. (Not by any issues with her inability to reproduce.) This, in my opinion, makes for great material for writing (and portraying) a character. And, I guess it’s a good societal discussion to have and all…but honestly it really saddens me that so much talk about this movie comes down to gnashing of teeth over this scene, and a picking apart of Joss Whedon and his feminist “bone fides” (oh, sigh, really, do women have to kick butt to be strong, and for their creator to be “feminist”? the tone of most of those online articles just irks me). Personally, I thought it was a fairly beautiful scene, a moment of extreme emotional vulnerability on both of Natasha’s and Bruce’s parts. They kind of lay the cards on the table here, and it’s fairly realistic I think, in that there’s no quick fix, no brushing the problems under the rug. Natasha considers running away with Bruce; it’s rather shocking! Bruce doesn’t feel like he can give this kind of happiness, a romantic relationship, even a try. This is great grist for fan discussion.

Anyway, out of many annoying online discussions of this scene, I found this one to be pretty un-annoying: balanced and thoughtful and interesting — worth a read if the topic interests you.

The above article also looks back at Buffy the Vampire Slayer a bit, and the larger Marvel universe…where yes, there’s a “woman” problem. The simple fact that no one’s considering a Black Widow movie when Black Widow is such a popular character and her portrayer has proven that she can carry an action film (Lucy — a problematic movie but Scarlett Johansson wasn’t the problem; and the film grossed over $450 MILLION).

Did you somehow miss out on all the Black Widow hoopla? Here are a couple of other related issues, with recommended articles you should check out to bridge the gap.

(1) Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) called Natasha a “slut,” adding that she had slept with four out of six Avengers. Obviously he was just joking. Was a bigger deal made out of this than it should be? Maybe. I mean, here’s what he’s joking about: in Iron Man 2 she does a lot of flirting with Tony (flirting I never really understood the reason for, BTW), in Avengers there was an obvious closeness between her and Clint which many fans took for a probable romantic closeness, in Cap 2 she flirts with Steve and some fans wondered if there was something there, and then in A2 she’s romantically interested in Bruce. Yep, that’s four. Now, as far as we know, she hasn’t even come close to sleeping with any of them, so clearly this was a joke. And Jeremy Renner is a human being, not the Goodwill Ambassador to Women’s Issues. But I understand the other side. Who’s more of a “slut” in the Marvel universe? Pretty sure Tony wins that award. But he doesn’t get called that…because he’s a guy? On the other other hand, Tony actually has slept with a harem full of women, so maybe it’s just not as much of a “joke” in that case. what do you think? As for me, honestly, at the end of the day, I just say I’m grateful there’s no international press examining and parsing every single word that comes out of my mouth… Here’s an article that summarizes the incident and the aftermath.

(2) Of all the Black-Widow-broo-haha, this is the only one that truly bothers me — badly. #whereisblackwidow was the question on Twitter and elsewhere (minus the hashtag and plus proper writing) when Black Widow merchandise of all sorts seemed to be missing. Girls could find Disney princess gear galore (nothing wrong with that of course) but not Black Widow gear. You can read here about this issue and Mark Ruffalo even speaking out on it (politely); the article includes some of the author’s research into just how hard it is to find Black Widow merchandise.

Nov 2013 Hiddleston Interview: Commentary on the Commentary (and much more)

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One of the many tabs I’ve had open for AGES is the Empire Magazine podcast interview with Tom Hiddleston (and some others, but, you know…TOM HIDDLESTON), from I guess right after TDW was released in the UK. You can find the full podcast here. Hiddleston’s part is near the end. This is a spoiler-free interview; they did a separate one that includes spoilers and hopefully I’ll get up a post with that one, too.

In the meantime, I made my own transcription of the parts that interested me (which, yeah, was most of them), for myself and to be able to share with you.

Tom gave this interview the day before he recorded his commentary for TDW. He said he was going to watch the movie again that night to prepare for it. (I’ve often wondered whether folks giving commentaries prepared, and if so in what way, or if they just watch it and talk. The worst commentary I ever heard was one in which is was clear the director was reading. Awful.) In any event, Tom said he had so many stories from the making of that movie that he worried he’d be talking about boring things “like the shoulder pieces on Loki’s costume which nobody wants to listen to.” [Dear Tom, I cannot speak for anyone else, but I personally would want to hear such stories! The costuming affects the acting — and the actor — and the characterization. And those of us writing fanfiction would probably like to know what words to use for all those costume bits, ha.]

And on to the partial transcript:

On Loki & “evil”:

He didn’t start evil, he started as a prince…and it’s about tracking his descent into supervillainy in a way.

On Loki telling Odin he was just doing what Odin once did on Earth:

He has a point, he always has a point. He’s smart and intelligent, and he’s playing some eternal game of chess with Odin, I think. It’s not over yet…shall we just say. Somebody may be in check…but it’s not quite checkmate.

(He’s avoiding spoilers here.)

Psst. The job's already taken.

Loki fancies himself a god.

On whether we’ve seen the true Loki:

I don’t know. […] Chris wanted to know. He’s just like, what does he want? Does he want to be king? Does he want to be in the family? Does he want…what actually does he want? […] And I don’t know if I know the answer to it entirely — does he want to win the game, or is it the game itself that gives him a raison d’etre? […] There are moments across the three films where you do see the truth. You see some kind of authentic feeling from him — once in Ken Branagh’s film, where he finds out that his whole life has been a lie. The scene with Odin, which I really depend upon as a kind of cornerstone to my performance because I know that it’s there and I know that it worked and suddenly his whole life fell apart and the sky fell in and he was left reeling from that revelation. And then I think there’s a scene in this film where Thor calls him on it and says ‘Enough. No more tricks. No more illusions. Show me yourself.’ And he does. I don’t want to reveal when that is, but I’m really pleased with that scene.

Two of the favorite scenes of every Loki fan, I imagine. Certainly for me. I have always taken that prison scene to be a genuine moment, too, and it’s great to hear Tom confirm it.

And the sky falls.

Odin took something else from Jotunheim.

Tom says yes.

Is this the true Loki?

On how Loki Can’t Get No Satisfaction:

It’s a great line, that one. And I remember thinking about it as I was learning it, and maybe that’s the answer.

(I think he’s referring to the question of “does he want to win or is it the game itself?”)

On whether anything surprised him about Loki in TDW:

Tom first says something about expanding on the fun he had in Avengers; I didn’t write it down word-for-word, because I’d heard that bit elsewhere.

…and in a way reverse the arc of the character. Because he’s always defined himself in opposition. Thor has always been offering an olive branch. ‘Come back. We forgive you. Come back.’ And it’s Loki’s kind of arrogant privilege to say ‘No. I still hate you.’ And…in this film I think…nobody’s offering the olive branch. He’s in prison, condemned to be written out of history, forgotten, unseen, unheard, and haunted by his demons. You have to change at that point. So that surprised me. How far further down does he go before he hits rock bottom? Is there one for him? And…could he come back up?

"No, I still hate you."

“You come home.”

On music for playing Loki:

In rather an odd moment (to me), that made it feel more like a regular conversation than an interview, Tom played a song called “Mind Heist” from I guess his Mp3 that I guess he frequently listens to when trying to get into Loki’s head. In the beginning he says, “I always think that’s his mind ticking over.” (If you listen to it, turn up your volume for that first “Loki’s mind ticking” part, it’s quiet.) Then it was so funny and unexpected, the music picks up and he breaks into Loki-voice and says, “If you did you’d be the fool I always took you for” (a cut line from the great Thor/Loki confrontation scene, originally preceding…) and “Trust my rage.” I do love it when he quotes his lines. Years after the movie… Amazing.

On whether he missed the helmet:

My horns [laugh]. It’s funny the thing about the horns because I feel like there’s only one particular way of being when I’m wearing the horns. They’re so theatrical, they’re so statuesque. In a way the scenes have to be quite grand when he’s in them and…’cause it cuts off so much of my face, I have to so much acting from withinside* it because a lot of my face is covered…so I wouldn’t say I missed them [laugh]. But they’re there in spirit.

*This is a perfectly lovely phrase…said aloud. I have no idea how to write it. “Within side” is illiterate…so is “with inside.” But the word “withinside” does not technically exist. Clearly it should though. Neither “within” nor “inside” are quite the same thing…

I think I had watched TDW several times before I actually realized Loki never had the horns. I have to say, I really like the horns. “Iconicity” to the character aside, they are an incredibly powerful visual. I remember a mini on-set interview with Tom from Thor in which he talks about the way the helmet comes down and forces you to look out from underneath it…he says it better than me, in any event, it just really adds something to the character. BUT, I understand, though the actors never said so in so many words, they’re pretty miserable to wear, kind of like sticking your head in a sauna apparently. So I wonder how far backwards Tom is bending in the above to stay polite! If you think about it, though, too, from a characterization standpoint, I’m not sure when Loki would have worn his horns in this movie. The only time Loki’s being “grand” in the way I understand Tom to mean is when he offers up Thor to Malekith. BUT, here, for Malekith’s consumption, he’s 100% abandoning his former identity (“I am Loki of Jotunheim”), and I don’t think he would have “magicked” those horns on for the impression he was going for there.

Can you see him choosing to do the helmet here?

“I am Loki of Jotunheim.”

On what would have happened had Loki won in The Avengers (“because he essentially made the deal with the devil with Thanos to take over Earth”):

Yeah. Good question. You have to wonder how much do you trust Thanos to keep his end of the bargain. I guess the deal was, Loki could use the Tesseract to take over the Earth to become its king, then he’d hand the Tesseract back and the rest of the universe would be Thanos’s playground. I don’t know. You have to wonder what a Loki-led New York City would look like. A lot more ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ I think.

Not an entirely fair question in a sense — Tom didn’t write the script, and even the guy who wrote the script doesn’t have a “real” answer for this. We big-time fans can’t help filling in all the holes and the backstory, the futurestory, the counterfactuals…and sometimes writing fanfics about them. But, in reality of course, nothing beyond the script actually exists. Anything beyond the script is anybody’s guess. And I once heard William Shatner poke fun at fans (good-naturedly!) who ask him questions like that at conventions…and seem to expect he has a “real” answer. Tom of course thinks it over, seemingly seriously. I wonder if he’s ever thought about it before, if he (or any actors) consider counterfactuals for their characters.

The “Welcome to the Jungle” reference is because when he first tried to play “Mind Heist” (see above) he accidentally played “Welcome to the Jungle” instead. (And why did I link to a version with Spanish subtitles? Because I wanted one that doesn’t make you listen to an ad first. I detest YouTube these days, I refuse to watch ads on free user-uploaded content.)

On Loki not being “the greatest long-term planner”:

No! [Interviewer: He’s very capricious and in-the-moment.] Yeah, but that goes all the way back to Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby], you know, he’s just…he just wants to win, now…or if he doesn’t want to win he just wants everyone else to lose. [pause] But right now. [laugh] I do wonder, the thing is he almost wins…if it wasn’t for the sacrificial quality of Tony Stark and the Jolly Green Giant otherwise known as the Hulk.

On the Hulk-smash:

…after all this tyrannical fascism and megalomania, to have the rug pulled out so beautifully from his feet just to be Hulk-smashed was so funny…like a wet fish. And making that moment took about three days. Because it was just me. Mark Ruffalo had done all of his…what they call motion capture work in a different studio with Industrial Light & Magic, and it was just me and Joss on the set and I was jumping into these holes that had been dug out by the production design team [laugh]. It was absurd. And we made each other laugh. The real thrill was when I first saw it with a crowd and people stood up and applauded and threw their caps in the air and that was when I knew it really worked. [Tom demonstrates his wheezy breathing sound.] He just deserves it. Especially for calling him a dull creature.

He totally deserved it.

He kinda deserved it.

Great stuff, huh? Hope you enjoyed it!

Maleficent…and Loki

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OK, this is more Maleficent than Loki. But some Loki, okay? Also, total SPOILERS for Maleficent. So if you haven’t seen it and are a spoiler purist (I suspect many of you won’t mind Maleficent spoilers so much) then don’t read this until you have seen it.

She's...not from around here.

Loki…meet Maleficent.

(OK, she was born with hers.)

Look! She wears horns, too!

One more time, so you don’t miss it and for spatial padding: SPOILERS for Maleficent immediately below.

Caveats: I’m a regular person who watched this movie today. Not a film critic. Not a literary critic. Haven’t read interviews with Angelina Jolie or anyone else involved in this movie about the choices they made, or any points they were trying to make. This is just my thoughts…seen sort of through the lens of Loki. Because, you know, I tend to see storytelling things through that lens these days. (It’s called “obsession,” people.)

I would give this film somewhere between 3.0 and 3.5 out of 5 stars…and there may be no films out there I’d give 5 stars to, so this is not as bad as it maybe looks. I thought the movie was okay, and it made me think a bit (without leaving me depressed!) so that’s in its favor, too.

Maleficent is another film sort of vaguely in the line of Snow White and the Huntsman, which subverts the traditional Disney animated movie convention of the helpless beautiful damsel in distress saved by the handsome gallant prince, preferably with a magic kiss. It goes much farther though. (I think. Even though I saw Snow White and the Huntsman 1.5 times [I saw parts of it a second time…YES, mostly the parts with Chris Hemsworth], I don’t actually remember it all that well.)

It does this in a clearer way, I’d say. I came away from Snow White I think feeling a little…confused, perhaps? About what was whose role in the broad sense, specifically the Huntsman’s. Characters and their roles and their development are much clearer and more straightforward in Maleficent, at least for me.

The real spoilers, the plot: Maleficent is a kind fairy with lovely wings and a sunny disposition who smiles and says “good morning” (and “I love you”? wasn’t quite sure on that one) to everyone she passes by. This is a bit overdone for my taste, I mean, she’s sweetness and perfection incarnate, but, you know, they’re setting up a contrast. She meets Stefan, from the human world, a poor orphan who is taken with her (and who wouldn’t be?). Maleficent is also an orphan, and is touched that when she’s burned by his iron ring, he immediately tosses it off, though it’s the only thing of value he has. They’re supposed to be…maybe 14 or so, I don’t really know, and they form a friendship as he comes back to her land to visit, and the friendship slowly turns to love. (There are supposedly other fairies, by the way, but the only human(-ish) person we see in her land is her.) Stefan dreams of living in the palace, and as he reaches adulthood the relationship fizzles as his sights set on his ambition within his own land. We’re never shown Maleficent looking horribly heartbroken over it, so at this point you could take this as simply a young love that simply comes to an end as the couple grow up and apart.

Later, though, Maleficent has grown powerful, the most powerful creature in her land (and with cheekbones that frankly constantly distracted me, because I was wondering if they were digitally altered, holy moly, Angelina’s cheekbones! they reminded me of that protrusion running down the sides of newer car models now that’s designed to increase protection in a side impact) — and Stefan has obtained a position of some sort in the palace, tending the king. The king has foolishly tried to lead an army against the Moors, the magic land, for no real apparent reason other than “Conquer = Good” and failed miserably, and he wants his legacy saved. He will make his heir whomever can avenge him. (Uh-oh, unintentional Avengers reference!)

And then Stefan proves himself to be a hideous, awful, cruel, horrible man. He goes to see Maleficent after all these years and gets all snuggly with her like it’s the old days all over again, then gives her a magic drink that knocks her out really soundly apparently, falling asleep on his shoulder. He picks up a knife, lifts it up…tries really hard but can bring himself to kill her in her sleep. So instead, out of his mercy and kindness (!) he picks up I think an iron chain and (off-screen) hacks off her wings. He brings back his prize wings and dumps them at the foot of the dying king’s bed and is made heir.

Now…this was really kind of dumb on his part. Okay, so she can’t fly. So? She can still do all kinds of magic (like…turning other creatures into dragons with the flick of a hand). Annnnnnnd he’s really made her mad now. He got what he wanted, but he also brought about his own downfall with that move.

Stefan is king, and Maleficent sends her raven slave-slash-friend (whom she turns into a guy and occasionally other things — like a dragon) to look in on what’s up with Stefan. The raven very conveniently (me no like contrived coincidence! but…it moves the plot along) happens to flit in just as Stefan is crowned king, and later just as it’s announced a baby girl has been born to him and his queen (a cardboard character whose name we never even hear unless I’ve just forgotten it). Everyone shows up to wish the baby well at her christening. (The baby, by the way, deserves a Best Actress — or Actor, you know, who can tell at that age — Academy Award. Or at least a Most Delightful Baby Known To Man award.) And for some reason, though she has no invitation, the guards let Maleficent walk right in. In fact, no one tries to stop her at all from cursing the Most Delightful Baby Known To Man. I think Stefan says “stop” or something once or twice. And it takes her several minutes. No one even tries to distract her. They just stand there and watch her work her Evil Magic Mojo over the baby. (You know the curse: she’ll prick her finger on a spinning wheel before she’s passed her 16th birthday, fall into a sleep like death, and won’t awake until she receives “true love’s kiss.” Maleficent then leaves, and everyone apparently watches her go, peacefully.

Stefan is terrified and paranoid (though weirdly, we’re never shown him expressing any actual love for his daughter, and the queen is MIA) — he sends the baby, Aurora, away to the forest to be raised by three tiny flying fairy women. (They’re meant to be comic relief, but I found them hugely annoying. Maybe they were there for the kids.) Stefan earns Worst Father of the Year award right there, because these women don’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby. The baby’s hungry and they bring her freshly-picked carrots and radishes. They also forget her outdoors. Later they aren’t paying attention and she chases a butterfly or something over a cliff. Stefan, you idiot.

So who takes care of the baby? Why, Maleficent, of course! Sort of. Sometimes it’s the raven, sometimes it’s Maleficent. In the beginning we don’t really know why Maleficent bothers. It could be because she wants Aurora to live long enough for the curse to take hold, to make Stefan suffer. But ultimately, why is it?

Because Maleficent was never “evil.” She was a woman scorned, or to be a little less cliched, maybe, she was a woman deeply, deeply hurt and betrayed by someone she trusted and cared about, someone she’d known for a very long time, and she was furious and lashing out with all her power.

Oh, wait! Did you just picture Loki?

And there's a tear.

“So I’m the monster that parents tell their children about at night?”

There’s a telling scene where she meets Aurora at around age…maybe five or six-ish? And Aurora is just like Maleficent was at that age (something driven home more later), goodness and sweetness incarnate, very trusting, very loving, throws her arms around Maleficent to hug her when Maleficent tells her (though not harshly) to go away. Maleficent apparently doesn’t need to earn a living (must be nice), because she spends all her time watching over Aurora. She lets a teen Aurora (raised in a cottage in the woods by three clueless fairies) be introduced to the Moors, and Aurora delights in everything and everyone with her heart and soul of the purest of gold, and echoes the same behaviors we saw earlier there with Maleficent, an innocent little mudfight, for example. We aren’t explicitly told what Maleficent is thinking (which I kind of like), but it’s fairly clear. This girl is really awakening her heart. She’s as enchanted with her as anyone else who meets her. She sees herself — her innocent, young, happy self — in young Aurora. She comes to care for her so much (and it’s mutual, Aurora calls her “Fairy Godmother”) that she goes to Aurora at night and tries to remove the curse — but her original curse had included that no one could ever revoke it (which was a bit of foreshadowing that I missed).

Maleficent almost tells Aurora the truth — she’s almost 16 now — but is interrupted. Aurora says she’ll come and live in the Moors for the rest of her life with her fairy godmother, when she’s older. And Maleficent says, “Why not now?” She’d be happy to have her there, I think, but her main motivation at that point I think is that she wants to be able to protect her from the curse. On the way back to her cottage, where the fairy ladies apparently have no clue Aurora’s been wandering off to the Moors all this time, Aurora meets Philip. (I was wondering when the prince would show up!) Love at first sight, sealed when their hands touch. (Or just infatuation?) Philip is a fetching lad, meant to be about her age, very polite. He’s headed to the castle, and promises to come this way again. The raven sees it. At this point I suspected the storyline would be that Aurora turns her back on Maleficent after 30 seconds spent with Philip, and follow him to the castle where the curse would come to force. Yay, the movie surprised me.

Instead, she talks to the fairies to tell them she’s moving to the Moors, and they let slip that they were supposed to take her to her father the next day…and the truth (off-screen) all comes out. Aurora had been told her parents were dead, so, I guess she’s curious about dad and off she goes (we aren’t really told her motivation for her immediate ride to the castle — is she angry at him? does she have a romanticized notion of a loving father waiting for her with open arms? I suspect the latter).

Maleficent finds out about this too, and wants to stop her from getting there because of the curse. The Raven Guy (he has a name, I just couldn’t understand what it was) tells her that she needs to get the boy, Philip, because he’s her only hope if they can’t prevent the curse. I thought this was a bit lame (after a 30-second meeting? really?) but I had hopes they would subvert that bit somehow. (In fact I may have guessed what would happen by now, I can’t recall when that was.) Maleficent tells Raven Guy basically, “You don’t get it. I said true love’s kiss could break the curse because there’s no such thing as true love.” She has been utterly disillusioned about love by the pain inflicted by the one she loved. Still Raven Guy convinces her it’s the only chance Aurora has if they don’t get there in time.

Oh, am I feeling a Loki vibe again.

They race to the castle, where dear old Stefan, who’s basically gone mad with his fear and paranoia and hatred (and, hopefully, guilt, though we’re never really shown it), has ordered his beloved daughter locked up in her rooms. Now, mind you, that’s to protect her, but he never even hugs her or says “Hi, sweetie, how’s it going?” Aurora is magically drawn to the room with the locked-up broken spinning wheels and pricks her finger and collapses. It’s too late.

Maleficent delivers dear young Philip (made to sleep while she transported him) to Aurora’s doorstep, and the the three fairies are ecstatic when they hear he’s a prince. Which is weird, because it’s not like the curse said a prince had to kiss her. I mean, it was “true love’s kiss,” and she’s like in a permanent coma without it…who the heck cares about the dude’s genealogy?? Anyway, the fairies urge Philip to kiss her. Which is just freaky. And God bless Philip, he hesitates. He says, “I hardly know her.” (I would add, AND SHE’S ASLEEP. Sorry, this is creeper-land. And a love story convention I enjoyed undermining in one of my fanfics.) Still, Aurora is HOT when sleeping, and Philip gets over his reluctance and lays one on her. Yes, it’s a polite, gentlemanly, chaste kiss, but still.

Nothing happens. Woo-hoo! Because only in fairy-tale land is that “true love.” True lust, that I could buy, though here their attraction is presented as a very innocent infatuation.

Maleficent is saddened. She comes out from her hiding spot to Aurora’s side. (Many people will have guessed by now what will happen. Because somebody’s kiss has to break the curse, right?) Maleficent is crying a bit I think (the tears probably puddle atop her cheekbones), and she swears she’ll make sure nothing ever harms her (I think, anyway, she makes some declarations of her love for her “goddaughter,” this may have been the part where she says that Aurora has given her back her heart), and she leans forward and kisses her forehead.

And Aurora awakes.

Really nicely done, IMO.

Then there’s a big battle, and I don’t really care about that, so, the highlights are that apparently Maleficent’s wings can be reattached — Aurora finds them in their glass case and breaks the case and the wings fly back where they belong and BOOM Maleficent can fly. In the end she lashes out at Stefan in anger and could kill him but doesn’t and tries to walk away. But Stefan can’t let it go (he’s pretty much just cardboard-evil by this point, or you could say “crazy”) and rushes at her and winds up dying in a fall. And the audience burst into tears. Not.

The movie was over when Aurora woke up. Really the movie was over when Maleficent kissed her forehead. But then there’s the battle, then there’s the obligatory “everybody’s happy, good triumphed over evil” scene, where, in the Moors, Maleficent puts a crown on Aurora’s head (because I’m sure the fairies were teaching her all about being a queen…and reading and writing…in their little cottage) and she’s made queen of both lands (ha, I almost typed “realms”). Though weirdly there are no humans around at all…let’s hope they’re cool with this little coronation ceremony. Ah, and then there’s Philip sharing a little smile with Aurora, because maybe he’ll be her Prince Charming after all.

Some reaction: Or, maybe not. Because he’s still just a kid, and in this movie, the other men we’ve met, the old king and King Stefan, are pretty sorry excuses for human beings. Boys are sweet and kind and caring; men are power-hungry uncaring war-mongering jerks. Raven Guy doesn’t fit that mold, but even as he becomes something closer to a friend than a servant he’s always clearly subservient to her and has no choice or “agency” in what she turns him into, he basically does as told. He does express an occasional opinion though (actually I liked the character). He’s also not really a man — he’s a bird. Anyway, these thoughts about the movie’s depiction of men was my first analytical (I use the term lightly!) reaction to this movie. I really like strong female characters, for all of what I suppose are the usual reasons. But I dislike it when strong female characters come at the expense (or vilification) of men. I don’t know if this was something intentional in the movie. I’m sure many people have said this better than I can, but the basic idea is simple enough. Women can actually be strong characters even in the presence of strong male characters.

“True love” doesn’t have to mean romantic love. Ie, it’s not all about Prince Charming — or having the perfect man in your life. I like this subversion of the traditional story. There are many loves and relationships in our lives that we draw strength from — friends and family, in addition to romantic love. Of course, with this interpretation in mind, it makes me wonder if this is why they never showed us Stefan expressing any love toward Aurora. We never even see him touching her at all, as I recall. He’s scared for her safety, but he doesn’t pick her up and hold her. Perhaps this is also why the queen is just “the queen” and dies before the curse happens. The fairies also are shown sort of treating Aurora like she’s their duty…they are never cold or mean toward her, but it’s not clear that they really “love” her (though it’s kind of hard to imagine they don’t, having raised her from infancy) — and when the curse hits they say “well, she’s only sleeping” to placate Stefan…they don’t appear quite as devastated as one might expect. Thus, presumably, Maleficent is the only person in all the world who actually feels true love for Aurora, the only person whose kiss can wake her.

Irony and redemption. Nice irony that Maleficent sets the curse, believing the “out” of true love will be impossible because true love doesn’t exist, and in the end it is Maleficent’s own true love that breaks the curse. And this is enabled because of Maleficent’s redemption arc. There’s not a lot of meat to the redemption arc (no Loki losing his mother and feeling partly to blame, no Thor saving Loki from the gravity grenade thing, no Loki saving Thor from the Kursed and losing his life…ummmm…in the process). Loki’s redemption — if you believe that’s what happened in Thor: The Dark World (not everyone does) — followed really dramatic events in three movies. Tough to bring that much meat to an arc that takes place all within one movie. It’s sort of more like Aurora’s complete goodness melts Maleficent’s icy heart, and she learns to love again. (Maybe someone else has a better analysis!) Anyway, I really like this take on a villain who’s not fully a villain, she’s “a villain and a hero,” as narrator Aurora tells us. Like Loki, her “villainy” comes not out of “evil” but out of deep psychological wounds.

Interestingly, Maleficent’s redemption arc here is, at its heart, quite similar to a lot of Loki fanfictions! Except the love that melts Loki’s icy heart is usually a romantic love.

Though this is the only time we see him with green eyes. Marvel, WHY did you have to start this?

Look at the eyes…

I have no idea what color her eyes appeared in the movie. I don't want to know.

Annnd look at the eyes again. And the pale skin!

Angelina Jolie. Jokes about her cheekbones aside, I thought she did a great job. There wasn’t a ton of exposition-y dialogue where she confides in someone about her thoughts and emotions and reactions and decisions. You have to have a decent actor to pull that off. The scene where she wakes up and her wings have been removed she is so believable in the expression of both her physical and emotional pain. The parallel for Loki would be the scene in the Weapons Vault when he learns the truth of his origins. (Loki also doesn’t do any “confiding,” but the big difference in how their journeys are portrayed, to me, is that after that moment in the Vault Loki plays a lot of his psychological state close to the vest — because he’s cooking up plans the other characters, and the audience, don’t know about, while Maleficent doesn’t need to hide anything from anyone, except perhaps for the fact, when Aurora is little, that her heart isn’t quite so blackened as everyone, maybe even herself, thinks.) She does rage really well too, when she’s laying on curses, and going after Stefan’s soldiers. Yeah, I’d run screaming from the room. And she brings a nice complexity to Maleficent as Aurora nears 16, and we can see how much she cares for the girl, yet there’s still something in the way she holds herself or something, she doesn’t let herself show the love that she feels for her the way Aurora does without inhibition. Jolie carries this movie without a doubt, and I thought Sam Riley was great as Raven Guy, a standout in a supporting role. Aurora as a person isn’t developed very much (her main character trait is Good, yes, with a capital-G), but functionally speaking, I suppose she’s not meant to be — her main role is as a catalyst for Maleficent’s redemption story.

Did you watch this movie? Did it make you think of our beloved trickster at all?

(Also, why doesn’t my “alt text” for the images pop up when I hover my mouse over them, anyone know how to make that happen?)

Deleted Dark World Scene Not on Blu-Ray

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I just about died when I completely coincidentally came across this post on someone’s Tumblr account today (I was actually looking for good images of Einherjar from both Thor movies, you know, for the writing thing).

Thor fights the Einherjar while Loki is stuck standing there.

Watch. Watch again. Repeat.

It’s a good scene because…Thor and Loki are in it, duh, and because it gives us a little more characterization insight into them. I won’t say more in case you haven’t clicked on the link and watched yet.

WHYYYYYYYY wasn’t this on my disk? And why did I not somehow otherwise know about it? Does anyone know of any other deleted scenes available? Sadly I haven’t a clue how Tumblr operates to be able to ask the person who posted it. Maybe someone else can ask (and tell me????). So happy and stunned to have seen this tonight. So UNhappy it’s not on my disk. And suspecting Marvel has a plan to try to force us to buy 500 versions of these movies so we get all the extras. Like what they did with the massive box set of all the movies, half of which I already own, the other half of which I don’t want to own, but that have those couple of extra Loki deleted scenes from Avengers. I would desperately love to have those deleted scenes at my perusal on my big-screen TV…but not desperately enough to drop a hundred or couple hundred bucks or whatever it was, for bunches of disks of which I only want a couple of minutes’ worth of total. Besides the financially unwise aspect, what a consumerist waste.

UPDATE:

This site has the video, too, with some nice stills.

AND, search “Jane wakes up on Asgard” for another AWESOME deleted scene (here’s one link), this time showing something I know I wanted to see in the movie, a glimpse of Jane being amazed at Asgard. Has me very excited right now for Reasons. Ha. And it has a touch of the “fish out of water” thing of Jane not getting something, like Thor and his mug-smashing or trying to get something to ride at the pet store, and the fact that we entirely missed any “fish out of water” scenes for Jane in the movie is something I was just thinking about I think yesterday. So very cool. The scene is utterly delightful, in my opinion.

WHY ISN’T IT ON MY DVD???

Apparently this is some new “streaming content” thing Disney wants you to get. Argh. I actually set up a basically fake e-mail address to register on the Disney site to see it there. No way am I handing them my actual e-mail address to add to their marketing plan. (If you want to check out the Disney site, here it is.)

Marvel Movies: Violence, Ratings, Blu-Rays

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I was chatting with someone recently about differences in the UK and US versions of The Avengers (which of course extend even to the title, since the UK had some other movie called Avengers that a few people apparently liked, resulting in Avengers Assemble in the UK). I was curious, so I did a little online research, and came across a couple of interesting things I hadn’t heard about before.

To the misfortune of understandably disgruntled Avengers fans in the UK (and I guess wherever else they’re buying the UK disk), there are at least two problems with the UK Blu-Ray.

First, because the disk was released in the UK (and the rest of the entire planet and all the Nine Realms) before it was in the US, Joss Whedon’s commentary wasn’t ready in time and wasn’t included on the disk. A DVD without a commentary? I’d be very unhappy. Couldn’t they have just held the disk? I’m sure fans would have rather accepted a delay than be stuck with a DVD sans commentary. Personally, for me, the commentary is hugely important, and is often the make-or-break factor in whether I purchase a disk or not. This problem, at least, I understand. There’s pressure on the studios to get this stuff out quickly, while the consumer fire still burns, and they have a lot of stuff to put together to get on the disk, and here they basically missed a deadline. That doesn’t make it acceptable, of course. Simple problem, seemingly simple to fix. Maybe there were contractual obligations and they would have taken a huge financial hit if they didn’t deliver the disk according to the deadline.

Second — and this one’s really bizarre, to me — well, let me just let Disney UK’s spokeswoman explain (via an article on The Guardian‘s website, Sept. 2012):

“Thanks to those of you who have let us know about an issue on the Marvel Avengers Assemble UK Blu-Ray and DVD release, which has a less graphic depiction of Agent Coulson’s confrontation with Loki,” said Disney in a statement. “Each country has its own compliance issues relative to depictions of violence. Unfortunately, another region’s elements were inadvertently used to create the UK in-home release which minimally altered this scene in the film. We thank our fans for their vigilance in recognising this and apologise for the mix up.”

Disney has even taken the unusual step of suggesting that fans purchase the US Blu-Ray of the film, which should work on UK players. “We know that hardcore fans with Blu-ray players are probably going to end up buying the US release, which has the commentary,” Rodrigues told Home Cinema Choice. “The American Blu-Ray is region-free.”

Wow. That’s amazing. Disney UK is basically telling Marvel fans to buy the US Blu-Ray. Because someone screwed up and put some other country’s version of the movie onto the UK disk. Oh, and BTW, earlier statements from Disney UK assured fans that the disk contained the movie exactly as it was shown in UK theaters (the same as in the US, except for the final bonus scene, which was shot very late — ha, take that, Rest of the Nine Realms! We got it and you didn’t, ha!)

So in the scene in question, as we know, Loki appears behind Coulson and stabs him with the “glowstick of destiny,” and we see the tip of the spear protruding from Coulson’s chest, from a side angle, we don’t such much blood at all, and, always disappointingly to me, we don’t get a good look at Loki’s face (like a quarter of a second or something, and only in profile). I’d always kind of wondered about this (this could just be because I’m Loki-obsessed). Anyway, in some countries they showed a version where you didn’t see the spear tip sticking out of Coulson’s chest. You can see screenshots of the two versions, with and without the protruding spear, in this article, also linked to in the paragraph before, and here’s a YouTube video of the version without the spear tip — in my quick search I actually couldn’t find one with it!

Turns out this scene was a problem for Marvel all along, and not just with this embarrassing good on the UK disk. This article from Screencrush.com, citing Movies.com, tells us that when The Avengers was originally submitted to the US organization that gives movies their ratings, the MPAA, it was given an R rating! According to the article, Avengers “was actually submitted twice and received an R-rating both times, before [Joss] Whedon finally made the appropriate edits. Says [Kevin] Feige of the scene that got them into hot water: ‘Well, whenever you impale somebody from their back and the blade comes out their chest, there are issues.'” [What?! Loki created issues?!] This makes me so curious about the original cut. Just how graphic and bloody was it?? And how did they obtain the final version? Did they recut from existing material, or have to obtain anything new? Is this why we only get profile shots, which don’t show us the actors’ expressions as well as a front-shot would have?

The same article also notes that Cap 2 didn’t have any trouble getting its PG-13 rating, this despite the much more real-life violence of that movie. Real-life except…why did the bad guys keep shooting at Steve’s shield? Surely they figured out quickly the bullets wouldn’t go through. Now if they’d aimed lower, gone for the legs… Well, movies and TV shows do this all the time, rain bullets down on the heroes and they somehow emerge unscathed. Ha, slight tangent. Couldn’t help myself!

Says Feige of the scene that got them into hot water:

Well, whenever you impale somebody from their back and the blade comes out their chest, there are issues.

Read More: ‘The Avengers’ Was Originally Rated R | http://screencrush.com/avengers-rated-r/?utm_source=zergnet.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=zergnet_152097&trackback=tsmclip

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was actually submitted twice and received an R-rating both times, before Whedon finally made the appropriate edits.

Says Feige of the scene that got them into hot water:

Well, whenever you impale somebody from their back and the blade comes out their chest, there are issues.

Read More: ‘The Avengers’ Was Originally Rated R | http://screencrush.com/avengers-rated-r/?utm_source=zergnet.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=zergnet_152097&trackback=tsmclip

Follow Us: Facebook

Visit Us At: http://screencrush.com

was actually submitted twice and received an R-rating both times, before Whedon finally made the appropriate edits.

Says Feige of the scene that got them into hot water:

Well, whenever you impale somebody from their back and the blade comes out their chest, there are issues.

Read More: ‘The Avengers’ Was Originally Rated R | http://screencrush.com/avengers-rated-r/?utm_source=zergnet.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=zergnet_152097&trackback=tsmclip

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Visit Us At: http://screencrush.com

Loki, the genocidal guy you want to take home to mom

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I have so many tabs open with things I want to post here and never have time. This one’s been open for at least half a year!

Sydney Morning Herald interview with Tom Hiddleston from I think Oct. 8, 2013 (or whatever 8/10/13 means in Australia! I suspect it’s like the UK, not the US.). In this interview, Tom says Deep Things about his character. In other words…this is an interview with Tom Hiddleston.  😉

Here are the quotes that grabbed me most:

[Q from the interviewer] [It’s amazing that…] “you can be genocidal and still be like, yeah, I’d take him home to Mom.”

What a train wreck, if this were real life, but…it is true! (At least that we fans tend to feel that way, that hey, there’s a heart of gold underneath there!)

[All the following from Hiddleston:]

“I like him [Loki] so much.” (And you can hear it in his voice that he means it.)

“The history with him [Chris Hemworth/Thor] is really meaty and chewy. […] They are such perfect opposites, in a way. Thor is noble and clear-minded and heroic in a very old-school silhouette, and Loki is fickle and malleable and Machiavellian, so the two of us together, the dynamic is always really fun to play those scenes.” (It shows, doesn’t it?)

“I’ve spoken to older women who love the delicacy of his emotional palate, he’s actually quite vulnerable and heart-broken, and they find that interesting.”

Tom, I have one follow-up question for you here: WHO ARE YOU CALLING OLD??!!!!

“Loki is forced to do a lot of soul-searching. And he hits a particular…he hits rock bottom, and after that is forced to…reconsider his options…that are actually quite profound.”

Ah, sigh. I read things like this and I think…(1) Wow. (2) Yeah. (3) Tom, come over to my place and watch the movies with me and talk about Loki with me and answer all my questions for hours and hours and hours on end? (4) Gotta go write some fanfiction.

Ha.

More TDW Special Features: Deleted Scene, Bloopers

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Wow, Marvel is really giving up the goods! While it’s exciting, part of me’s beginning to think, guys, save something for the DVD! I still want some surprises and new things when I bring that thing home. A lot of what they’ve shown seems to not be the full special feature, so I’m hoping for example the bloopers…well, that there’s more of them! And I’ll wait to watch them many times when I do so with a pause button and frame-by-frame advance.

So first up is a deleted (extended) scene with Volstagg, and with a bit more of his kids, and with Thor and Fandral. They could afford to lose it when you’re battling for time, but it’s a really great scene, I really enjoyed it, for the greater insight into Volstagg and his family, for the clear sense of deep and old friendship between these men, and for the clear sense of Thor’s maturity as well as a sort of sadness that comes with that maturity and responsibility and the knowledge that he’s separated from the woman he loves (after a couple days of hanging out with her, but, you know, we won’t get into that here).

Next up is bloopers! They go by fast and involve some crazy wire work oopsies I’ll look forward to watching in the slo-mo. (I’m surprised Hiddleston wasn’t tossing his cookies after one of them.) But the funniest to me on first viewing was a Mjolnir-oopsie Thor has. Hemsworth looks like he’s having fun in this movie, at least from how he looks like he’s having fun in the bloopers!

Marvel Pre-Releases Blu-Ray Content, Plus Bonuses

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So this is me trying to catch up on posting some stuff on here I’ve meant to…all text here is TDW spoiler-free, however not all links are! I’ll note which ones are/aren’t, bearing in mind there are still pockets of the globe where TDW has not yet premiered.

Hiddleston as Thor: I don’t know why this one is titled “Go Inside Loki’s Mind” — this Loki-obsessed fanfic writer got uber-excited over that one. but no. It’s not what it seems. What it is is awesome though. See short clips of Tom Hiddleston auditioning to play Thor! And hear franchise personalities discuss Hiddleston and Loki. This is a snippet of a special feature on the Blu-Ray. This website has the same thing, but with gifs of the short clips of Hiddleston as Thor, if you’re into gifs. Really, it’s quite wacky to see, now that of course the actors are so entrenched in my mind in the roles they wound up with. Clips are spoiler-free.

Hiddleston Plays the Cameo Role: The wackiness continues with seeing Hiddleston-as-Loki playing the cameo role instead of the cameo actor. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Truly, truly bizarre. Watch here. Clip has spoilers.

Frigga and Thor talk: A nice deleted scene between Thor and Frigga, largely about Loki. This scene follows one in which Frigga talks with Loki. Watch here. Clip has no real spoilers, but if you’re a purist don’t watch it yet.

And here’s the bonuses! The following are not special feature content, but just other fun stuff I’ve come across recently.

Word association with Hiddleston: Well, this is rather silly, but still fun. My faves: “green and gold,” and “glorious purpose.” Watch here. Clip is spoiler-free.

Loki with the kids on Comedy Central: At the time I only saw the one where Loki pushes the little girl (hilarious). I didn’t know there were several of these! This YouTube clip captures what I presume to be all of them. Good stuff! The “picture association” and the whole “do any of you have a brother?” bit I found the funniest. Clip is spoiler-free.

Thor 3 in the Works!

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I did believe it would happen —

  • the end of TDW almost begs for it
  • I heard Tom Hiddleston say in an interview that he’d signed a 6-picture deal, and I think I’d heard the same about Chris Hemsworth, which would make sense. Hemsworth is at 4 and Hiddleston at 3, counting Avengers 2. (And by the way, this imbalance could possibly give us a shot at a Loki movie.)
  • Marvel made big bucks off TDW…they want to make more, of course.

And now we have it confirmed, that a Thor 3 is in the works.

Care to join me in a big cheer?