Movies are the new ballet

This is my theory: superhero movies are filling that gap in our entertainment lives that would be filled with ballet, if we were wealthy and/or Russian. You go to the ballet to gasp in awe at the feats of physicality, to be emotionally manipulated by music, costume, movement, and spectacle, even if you don’t know what the fuck you are watching.

And let’s face it, Swan Lake makes a lot more sense than Captain America: Civil War.

That’s the only reason I can come up with to justify the giddy love for CA:CW, a movie that I and two 11-year-old boys found decidedly meh. The combination of beautiful women, muscular men, and choreography must just set the lizard brain awash in happy juice, decoupling it from all rational higher brain functions.

I love looking at Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans as much as the next person, and I love Sebastian Stan’s glower, Chadwick Boseman and Paul Bettany’s voices, and everything about RDJ’s Tony Stark (but mostly the cool tech). The costume design and manufacturing, the special effects, most of the fight choreography, the shot compositions: all great. But like so much ballet and opera, it’s sound and fury with no significance, no story that can survive even the barest consideration.

Spoilers follow.

From a big picture standpoint, MCU need Cap and Iron Man to fight in this one. They couldn’t do the Civil War storyline from the comics, because it’s no longer topical to talk about how awful the Patriot Act is (although it should be). Also, Tony was just an ass for no reason in the comics…but in giving Tony credible motivation for the movie, they put Cap in the position of being morally in the wrong. Which he should NEVER be.

There are two stories in CA:CW. One is about the Sokovia Accords, and the other is about vengeance, pretty much. It’s about the fact that the Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents, and Cap has somehow known this and not told Tony. The Sokovia Accords is Scarlet Witch’s story, but since female characters don’t get to have stories, it’s used here as a giant misdirection for the audience and the backdrop for the bad guy to pull off his amazingly convoluted plan to set two of the Avengers at each other’s throats.

Swan Lake asks the audience to believe that a human can shapechange into a swan. Everything else is pretty straightforward, following the excellent advice that a story can only have one fantastical element in it. If none of the other rules of physics applied in Swan Lake, it would be surrealist at best, rather than a classic.  CA:CW asks the audience to believe all the superhero stuff: a woman can do telekenesis and mind control; a couple guys were given serums that made them super-strong and durable, frozen for 50 years, and are OK now; a man is mind-blowingly rich and flies around in a magic metal suit; several characters have suits or accessories of the magic metal, which breaks every law of physics; a guy can become bug-sized or giant-sized, still be heard when he’s bug-size and not dent the ground when he’s giant-sized, etc.

With all that the rest of the story needs to be plausible. Instead, we’re somehow supposed to believe that there were at least three perfectly positioned and IR-equipped cameras exactly at the spot where Bucky ambushed the Starks. One caught the action from the front of the car, one from the back, and one was just right to get a close-up inside the car. “No witnesses,” say Hyrdra, but man they were great about ensuring the video record.

OK, but even if you give the movie that dumbass premise, we then have to believe that Zemo decrypted all of the Hydra files Black Widow made public, somehow found the video in them when no one else did, and then thought “I know! I will make Iron Man and Captain America fight each other! This will tear the Avengers apart! Somehow that will make up for my loss…and it’s so easy! All I have to do is make sure Iron Man sees this. I’m sure Captain America already knows it, and I’m sure he will act to protect this Hydra assassin, because I’ve seen the first two Captain America movies and I know that Cap’s love for Bucky is stronger than any other relationship he has!”

Having come up with this watertight plan, Zemo does the obvious: he emails, Subject: You need to see this and attaches the mp4 file.

Except no, he doesn’t.

He teaches himself Russian and German (let’s assume he already spoke English and Sokovian), decrypts all the rest of the Hydra and SHIELD stuff on Wikileaks, builds an EMP generator in a closet in a German hostel (or brings it, which might be even harder) during UN meetings he clearly planned for, develops Mission: Impossible-level disguise abilities, makes himself look like the psychologist that he somehow knew would interrogate Bucky after Bucky is apprehended due in part to the interference of Black Panther, which Zemo somehow also knew about. Oh yes, he had previously disguised himself as Bucky in Vienna in order to have the cops go after Bucky. All that under the noses of the JTTF and JSOC, so that’s comforting. In and around this he located former Soviet Hydra agents, out-smarted and out-fought them, located the secret Hydra base in Siberia, dragged Cap, Iron Man, and Bucky to it, killed the Hydra murder squad (because he knew that it wouldn’t be ALL the Avengers coming after his ass), and then played the video there.

Zemo is AMAZING.

He is like 5000 times more competent than any of the Avengers. He should be running Stark Industries. He clearly plans big, and then fucking executes like a boss. And he’s got no superpowers and no bank account.

But we still have the Sokovia Accords. It’s almost possible to believe that people would be so scared of superhumans that they wouldn’t be able to think through “If Scarlet Witch had left the bomb on the ground, many more people would have died,” but I still feel like that was all a giant waste of screen time. Not as much of a waste as the Spiderman stuff, which was a mini-movie, because the Spidey stuff was just clearly a trailer for the next set of Spiderman movies.

It’s possible CA:CW could be recut to actually be about something. Zemo’s right – an empire that falls because it comes apart from internal fighting never returns. Marvel had a chance to talk about the internal fighting in the US, fomented and fed by the media’s control of what people see and when. Zemo chose what the heroes saw and when and led them to conflict, but there was a core of truth that pushed Red Guy and Blue Guy to fight. This could really have worked, but I suspect RDJ didn’t want to be seen as a Trump proxy, and Marvel, a media giant, didn’t want to criticize the media.

Next time, I’ll spend the $100 it cost me to take two kids to this movie on ballet tickets instead.


Yup, gun control is OBE. New plan.

To the current Presidential Administration and the Congress of the United States of America:

Credit: Michael Thad Carter for Forbes

Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick!

A gun is a tool that is specifically and efficiently designed for killing another living creature, usually another human, while putting the killer at the least risk possible.  Mostly gun owners use their guns for killing their own children, spouses, and significant others, sometimes accidentally, and for fantasizing about killing people like me and you, who work for the federal government.  Some of the guns are used for killing innocent animals for “fun.”  This is completely creepy and disturbing, but it’s also normal primate behavior.  Some humans, like some chimps, enjoy killing.  These humans would probably throw their poo at me for writing this, but they can’t get to it through their Realtree camouflage waterproof hunting pants.  Also they are too drunk to find their own ass.

I know you are sort of thinking about gun control legislation, in a way that will be nonspecifically and inefficiently designed for appeasing some voters, while putting you at the least risk possible.   You’re not going to touch the people who use their guns for hunting, because they are poo-throwing drunks who demand their right to participate in their “sport” (although come on, it’s not a sport if the other side doesn’t know it’s playing).  We’ve already got murder and manslaughter laws to deal with the people who kill their spouses, significant others, enemies, random individuals who got too drunk hunting and walked into the wrong sprawl-home,  and children. I honestly don’t care about the people who kill their own kids accidentally.  I’d like to think that was punishment enough, but I have never seen any statistics on how many of those people continue to be gun owners and NRA members.  The way I look at it, the kids of idiots like that are better off dead, and that means fewer future NRA members.  Gun safes are not a particularly difficult concept.

What I’m concerned about, and what you claim to be concerned about, are the few individuals who haven’t adapted well to being human, and who would be the crazy (usually young male) chimps that the other chimps tear to shreds.  These are the people who can use all the freedoms the NRA has bought for them to bear more arms than they have arms.  These are the people who then go and kill lots of people who couldn’t kill them back, even if they too had guns.  These are the people who will never stop trying to kill our babies, our defenseless children, and they should be easily identifiable because they are crazy.

I think it says something that, as difficult as meaningful gun control is in America, you think it’s easier to try for THAT than to fund science that would help identify and treat crazy people.  I think it should be achievable to have a background check for crazy, even based off a very fast and non-intrusive test.  You guys believe in the polygraph, you should believe in guns that read physiological indices (such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity) and won’t let themselves be fired.  I would like to see you, our leaders, take a pro-active rather than reactive stance for once.  Use all that money the NRA gives you to pay some big brains to create guns that can’t be used by crazy people.  And yes, you’re going to have to define “crazy.”  And yes, that’s hard.  But if you ran for the job you have on the belief that you would never have to do anything hard, you should quit now.  And don’t pick up a gun, because you are crazy.

It’s hard, but it’s possible.  Because this is America, land of arm-bearers, elected leaders who serve the people, and really amazing innovators.

By the way, I know you guys don’t read the Internets, but your whole gun-control thing?  Made totally moot this week.  Some of those amazing innovators have made it possible for anyone to print their own gun using a 3-D printer.  Those are available in lots of public places, and the price is coming down.  They’ll cost less than $2000 in a couple years.  If this doesn’t scare the poo right through your hunting pants, you aren’t thinking.

So yes, as usual you guys are half-heartedly debating legislation that is already OBE.  But you, like the country you serve, can change quickly if you decide to.  You can’t keep guns from getting into anyone’s hands.  But you can help keep crazy people from going on shooting sprees in public places.  You may have to ask the American public to step up and help you with this, but you know what?  WE WILL.