A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part Two

We’re continuing our look at the superhero film event, Avengers: Endgame. This time we’ll speculate on a major plot device, what lies ahead for the team and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even who will be in the team later in the future. As before, major spoilers will follow, so turn back now if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame yet.

 

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The Smallest Hero with the Biggest Impact

Avengers: Endgame didn’t just feature story arcs about the OG Avengers but on allies that joined the team and their mission to undo Thanos’ snap. Nebula and Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy, along with everyone else were at the end of their rope, feeling defeated after Thanos’ victory in the previous film. There was significant time spent on them and they had their special character moments. While they made important contributions to the team’s quest to reverse Thanos’ snap, one of other ally became the most unlikely Avenger of them all: Ant-Man. He is not only the smallest MVP in Endgame but the most important one because the Avengers’ ultimate victory would not have been possible without Ant-Man.

Lang shows up

When Scott Lang aka Ant-Man re-emerged from the quantum realm after the film’s five-year time jump, he quickly realizes that time travel is possible due to the way he experienced time differently in the micro-dimension. He goes out of his way to locate the Avengers and presents them with this idea. Lang, fresh and eager from his experience in the quantum realm becomes a beacon of hope and new-found resolve for a defeated team. He inspires everyone into believing that the devasting effects of the Decimation could be undone.

ant-man in Avengers Endgame

To think this was all possible because of a rat. This anonymous rodent just happened to step on the controls of the quantum tunnel machine in a storage unit that brought Lang back into the world. Coincidence? Sure. Blind luck? You bet! But sometimes all it takes is the right circumstance to change everything. Even if some rat didn’t accidently save the universe, Lang would have been released some other time, what is important is that his re-emergence happened at the right time. Given his contribution, including his actions which later saved the Hulk, Rocket Raccoon and War Machine, Ant-Man is a shoe-in not only for another solo film, but as an Avenger in the team’s next film.

A Soldier’s Final Mission

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Steve Rogers traveled back to different time periods to return the Infinity Stones and nip the creation of alternate timelines.

His final journey raised many questions given how his mission ended. As mentioned in part one of this post, Rogers decided to spend his days in the past with Peggy Carter and grew old with her. We know this because moments after he disappeared into the quantum tunnel, he turns up nearby as an elderly man.

This started rampant speculation about how he returned since he didn’t use the same quantum tunnel machine he left in. Some theorized he was in the Prime MCU all along and never created a new timeline. The writers for the film agree with this, but it’s hard to believe because given his heroic nature, there isn’t any way that Rogers, whether or not as Captain America, would not interfere with history. He would have prevented Bucky from becoming the Winter Soldier, stopped the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones, let alone real-world tragedies like the JFK assassination or 9/11. The Avengers: Endgame directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, contradict this notion and believe that Rogers lived out his years in an alternate timeline. Good evidence for this is the fact that he comes back with an intact shield. Remember that his shield was broken during his battle with Thanos. Rogers must’ve obtained the new shield in the alternate timeline. Perhaps that timeline’s Captain America died or the shield was no longer needed in the brave new world Rogers created.

The question is how did he return? The temporal/quantum technology in the new timeline must have advanced more significantly than in the Prime MCU. Or that timeline’s Doctor Strange could have used magic to transport Rogers back to his native timeline. This and how did Rogers return the Stones are intriguing material for a potential film or series on Disney+, though we’ll probably never know.

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Take A Timeless Journey With The Latest Time Travel TV Show

timeless-poster

It seems like time travel TV shows are the rage lately. The latest one, Timeless, airs on NBC and it actually stands out from the pack. When looking at its premise, Timeless seems fairly formulaic in its premise: a trio travel through time to protect history from a villain out to change it. It’s what goes on each week on Legends of Tomorrow and many Doctor Who episodes. Yet, somehow Timeless manages to be refreshingly engaging, inventive and fun to watch.

Lincoln killed by FlynnThe credit for this largely goes to the scripts. The screenwriters took a tired premise and just ran with it. They actually address some of the challenges of time traveling and the preparation needed for it. For instance, before heading out on a mission the time traveling trio have to go to be properly attired and carry the right kind of currency. Then surprisingly, the show actually allows history to be changed and left altered at the episode’s end! In one episode, John Wilkes Booth never assassinated President Lincoln, instead that deed was done by the show’s antagonist Garcia Flynn (Gorin Visnjic) and it’s part of history now. In another episode the Hindenburg landed safely in New Jersey only to be destroyed later on.

timeless

Then there is the fact that two of the time travelers, Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) and Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), are disadvantaged in their temporal journeys by who they are. Rufus is African-American and winds up in less enlightened periods where he is liable to be treated as property, while Lucy, being a woman, is also looked down upon in the past despite her depth of knowledge. These characters are also imperfect with their own faults. While being a brilliant scientist and engineer, Rufus doesn’t have practical know-how in surviving, first aid and has to rely on the third member of the group, Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) a Delta Force soldier. The three don’t quite get along with each other let alone have a shared trust. And that is for good reason. Each of them have their own agenda.

Wyatt more than anything wants to find a way to use time travel to save his wife but is prevented from doing this. Adding to his bitterness is that Lucy’s sister was erased from existence after they came back from a time mission and now Lucy openly is operating to undo this damage. As for Rufus, he doesn’t find any joy in time traveling and would rather be behind a keyboard. But he is forced into the missions to spy on the other two by a mysterious and secretive group with their own agenda, which includes stopping Flynn.

This running conspiracy is a major flaw in Timeless. As imaginative and exciting as Timeless is, team timelessthe conspiracy arc is often trite and gets in the way. But lately it is adding to the show’s mythology and character motives. But the best development about this conspiracy is that it is making us viewers question whether or not Garcia Flynn is truly evil. He is on a quest to change American history in order to erase the existence of the group’s unseen, but nefarious leader, Rittenhouse. Flynn is doing this to avenge the death of his family at Rittenhouse’s hands. Adding to this unease is that Flynn carries a journal written in the future by Lucy and hints that she will ally with him down the road. So we can all hope that this Rittenhouse conspiracy will lead to something worthwhile.

timeless-travelers

Now adding to the enjoyment of Timeless is that the show isn’t afraid to do some real time traveling. In each episode the travelers go to distinctly different eras. From 1940s Germany to 1750s North America, the episodes reveal interesting tidbits about those time periods, and thankfully the production values are up to par when it comes to presenting these time periods. But most of all, Timeless is always entertaining and often leaves you hanging during the commercial breaks. It has room to grow, but hopefully as its title hints, Timeless will have time to fully live up to its potential.

José Soto

Back to the Future: Celebrating 30 Years Of The Timeless Classic

BTTF 30

“Doc, I’m from the future. I came here in a time machine that you invented. Now I need your help to get back to the year 1985.” – Marty McFly

It’s been thirty years since the world was introduced to Back to the Future, the greatest time travel film ever made. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, the film is about Marty McFly, your typical modern teenager who accidently time travels to 1955 and meets his then-teenage parents. This created a temporal paradox where Marty was threatened with non-existence so not only must Marty find a way back to his time period, but has to correct his parents’ timeline to ensure he’s eventually born. The instant classic wowed many audiences when it was released and was the biggest box office hit of 1985. Through the years since its initial release Back to the Future has generated many fans who look fondly at the film and for good reason.

marty and docBack to the Future, the brainchild of director Robert Zemeckis and writer/producer Bob Gale, is a humorous, smart take on time travel that starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as his best friend Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown. Both actors made tremendous contributions to the film’s success thanks to their comedic performances and a genuine chemistry between them. Both actors were so well suited for their roles, which made them so endearing to audiences.

Perfectly Timed Casting

It’s amazing this happened because it almost didn’t. As fans know, Michael J. Fox wasn’t the first person original martycast as Marty. It was Eric Stoltz, but as filming commenced Zemeckis realized that Stoltz wasn’t right for the role. To his credit, the director made the right decision to replace him with Fox, who was actually the first choice for the role but was initially unavailable. It all worked out in the end, Fox turned out to be perfect as the distressed but likeable teenagerwho finds himself in an extraordinary situation.

Thanks to his popularity at the time (his sitcom Family Ties was a hit TV show in 1985), Fox helped draw in ticket buyers who normally couldn’t be bothered with a sci-fi comedy about time travel. But Fox had a certain charm that made Marty so appealing to audiences. Through Marty’s eyes, we saw the trepidations of being a teenager and later in the film Marty was able to see that his teenage parents had similar gripes and issues. He witnessed teenagers in the 1950s with timeless problems such as peer pressure, bullying, social awkwardness and self doubt. Marty learned some profound lessons about his parents and himself. Underlying that are simple, yet poignant messages about self confidence and accomplishments. “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

einstein first time travelerFox isn’t the only reason that Back to the Future is so memorable. A large measure of that has to do with the supporting cast as well. Aside from Lloyd (who perfected the daffy, wild-eyed scientist), Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines, and Thomas F. Wilson as the comical bully Biff Tannen, Crispin Glover nearly steals the film as George McFly, Marty’s nerdy father. While Glover has funny playing the goofy, out-of-touch older father in the 1980s scenes, he really shines in the 1950s scenes where he exemplifies the shy and nervous sci-fi geek. tannen and georgeWhat sci-fi fan can’t identify with his dilemma where he has to choose between going out to a dance or staying home to watch Science Fiction Theater? It’s just unfortunate that Glover didn’t return for the sequels, thus diminishing his character in those films. But we did get to see more of Biff and his relatives later on, who were perfect villains throughout the three Back to the Future films.

Temporal Shock

Underlining the film’s appeal is the accurate representation of the 1950s and the culture shock that followed when Marty first experiences the time period. The film is littered funny and amusing nods to the past and present like Marty ordering a Pepsi Free at a diner and being told he has to pay for it, or Marty being mistaken for an alien creature by farm folks, and Marty disguising himself as Darth Vader. Other nifty touches sprinkled throughout the film include the well-groomed nature of that time period, the archaic but catchy music and how undeveloped but pristine Marty’s hometown of Hill Valley appeared.

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Overall, Marty’s experiences and culture clash were some of the best and funniest fish-out-of-water scenarios done on film. Looking at the film now, a modern-day viewer can also experience a measure of culture shock at the then-contemporary 1980s scenes. The contrast between the clean, bright middle-class lifestyle of the 1950s and the rundown, but modern vista of the 1980s is startling. Instead of making the film dated, the fact that Back to the Future is bookended with the 1980s adds to the rewatchability factor.

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12 Monkeys Is A Worthwhile TV Adaptation

12 monkeys

12 Monkeys is the latest sci-fi TV show from Syfy and an adaptation of the classic Terry Gilliam time travel classic film from 1995 (which itself was a remake of an obscure French short film called La jetée).

The TV show follows the same premise as the original film. Mankind has been driven nearly to extinction by a deadly virus that begins in the near future and a few decades from now, scientists send back in time a lone man to learn how the calamity started so that it can be undone. But there are many differences, many of which were done to fit a serialized TV format.

pallid man torturesThe time traveler, James Cole (Aaron Stanford), isn’t a prisoner forced to volunteer, but a drifter willingly recruited by a scientific group to undergo the temporal jumps. In the original film, when he voyaged to contemporary times the film had us guessing if he was insane. Not so here. In fact, he is quickly able to convince his present-day comrade, virologist Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) that he is a time traveler. In the course of the series, Cole and Cassandra track a doomsday cult called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, who are responsible for unleashing the virus. That differs significantly from the film and as with these TV shows finding the cause of the virus and stopping it isn’t accomplished within two hours like in a film.

time traveler

In each episode, Cole uncovers an important facet of the virus or the army and goes back to 2043 to report his findings. Of course, this hampers the TV show because if he is successful then the virus is stopped, humanity is saved, his timeline is erased and the show ends. However, to its credit 12 Monkeys has explored the headaches of time travel and it impacts on future timeline for better or for worse. For this reason, scenes that take place in the present aren’t nearly as interesting as those set in the future. It’s a well realized post-apocalyptic future with barren and broken buildings and roving armies of scavengers. One of the best episodes to date called “Atari” largely took place in the future and explored Cole’s tortured past.

2043

The piecemeal revelation that Cole wasn’t exactly a good person in the past is a good twist and makes him a more interesting character. It’s fascinating to see some of his morally questionable acts and why he decided to help change the future in the episodes. A lot of that has to do with his close friend in 2043, Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), who acts as Cole’s conscious. Ramse is so well played by Acevedo that we have to wonder why he wasn’t chosen to play Cole. After all, with his bald head he looks more like Cole as portrayed by Bruce Willis in the original film and is a better actor to boot.

going backThe other characters are hit or miss. Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), an insane math whiz whose father is believed responsible for the virus, is overdone with her Hollywood crazy method acting. Meanwhile, Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), the enigmatic creator of the time machine, is a mysterious, though sympathetic character that is quietly desperate to change time.

On the whole, 12 Monkeys seems at times to be your standard time travel show, but it is still generally entertaining despite its faults. It’s not in any way up to the level of the original film, but it’s a worthwhile adaptation.

Lewis T. Grove

John F. Kennedy: Time Travelers & Alternate Historians’ Favorite Subject

kennedyThe myth and aura of President John F. Kennedy has permeated many aspects of our culture, including the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. This is due to the circumstances of his tenure as U.S. president and his assassination. Even though the Space Age began before he took office, JFK helped invigorate the nation’s space efforts with his pledge to land a man on the moon by the end of the ’60s. His short time in office also saw the closest moment to date of a full-scale nuclear war with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then there is the tragedy of his assassination that even today is fraught with controversy.

Needless to say, almost all of these stories have to do with either time travel scenarios or alternate history. Often, the time travel yarns lead to alternate timelines where the slain president is never killed in 1963. Ironically, it turn out that JFK living past that fateful day usually leads to a disastrous timeline. It’s interesting to note this considering the admiration that many have for the slain leader. Of course, the reason is because these stories need some drama.

Literary Speculations

alt kennedys.jpgThere are too many sci-fi and fantasy books to list here that explore JFK and altered history. Some notable entries include Alternate Kennedys, a collection of short stories that featured alternate history accounts, as well as decidedly fantasy and comedic tales of JFK and his family. Some of the better stories in that collection are “The Winterberry”, “The Kennedy Enterprise” (in this tale, the Kennedy brothers are the big stars of a famous sci-fi TV franchise), “A Fleeting Wisp Of Glory”, and “Prince Pat”.

Stanley Shapiro penned a time travel book called A Time To Remember, which was made into a TV film Running Against Time that starred Robert Hays as a professor who wants to save his brother from dying in the Vietnam War. So he goes back in time to save JFK and thus prevent that war from happening.

Another novel about JFK living past 1963 being detrimental to history is Prologue by Greg Ahlgren. In this book, JFK never died and wound up pulling out of Vietnam. This decision led to the communistic takeover of the world, causing the book’s protagonists to travel in time back to JFK’s era and rewrite history.

One recent, high-profile work is Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 where the story’s main character time travels to the past and stops Oswald. The resulting timeline leads to George Wallace, and later Hillary Clinton, into becoming presidents and the Vietnam War escalating into nuclear war.

jfk king

Putting aside the fantastic novels and stories, recently many historians have written essays and books seriously exploring alternate timelines about JFK. Many of them are well worth reading for history buffs and fans of alternate history. The most recent example is If Kennedy Lived: The First And Second Terms Of John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History by Jeff Greenfield, a followup to his essay collection Then Everything Changed. In that latter collection of essays, Greenfield explored a timeline where Kennedy was killed before he was inaugurated. This terrible event led to the Cuban Missile Crisis becoming a nuclear war.

Getting back to fiction, there are novels about  alternate versions of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In these accounts the crisis turned into full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, leading to terrifying results. They include Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois and When Angels Wept: A What-If History Of The Cuban Missile Crisis by Eric G. Swedin. Continue reading