the psychological side of avengers: endgame.

the psychological side of avengers: endgame.

I’ve seen Avengers: Endgame twice now. It’s a wonderful conclusion to twenty-two films and eleven years worth of storytelling. But there is something about this film that struck me beyond the ‘our heroes save the world’ narrative that exists. It’s more complex, more subtle, and I think it’s done so beautifully. What I’m talking about is the way this film deals with failure and depression.

And in case you haven’t already guessed it, this is full of Avengers: Endgame spoilers. So you’re warned.

They failed. Our heroes failed in Infinity War and then they had to live with that failure for five years. Each of them took different paths after dealing with this failure too. Cap’s still helping people in a support group because he has to help other people not feel the way he does. Natasha is trying to be on top of absolutely everything because she feels so helpless. Clint is out there dealing with loss more than failure, but he’s killing people that he doesn’t think are worthy of having survived in droves. Tony seems a little more stabilized than the rest of them because he has his life with his daughter and Pepper, but even Pepper knows that he can’t rest with the weight of everything that happened on his shoulders. Bruce is the one who has come out of all of this the best because he’s finally happy with himself and the Hulk and how he’s both of them. I loved the Bruce stuff because a lot of it is about accepting yourself for who you are instead of fighting against it. So, so relatable.

I also love how when we first revisit them after the five years later jump, they all seem stuck. Cap even says it when he tells Natasha that he’s always telling people to move on, some do, but not them. They want to fix things, they need to fix things, and they see no way to fix things. Also so relatable. I feel stuck all the time. When Scott shows up and gives them a little bit of hope, it’s almost like a breakthrough in therapy when you realize that not all is lost. It’s important, it’s needed, and it begins to drag them out of the state that they’re in.

Their visit to Tony’s house shows that Tony has clearly thought about time travel to fix things but that he hasn’t been able to crack it. I don’t believe that he just completely solved time travel that night. He knows enough to know that what they are talking about doesn’t seem possible, but it also gives him new thoughts and ideas on what to try. Then when he does solve it, he’s so taken aback by the thought that he might be able to fix things that he has to collapse down into a chair. The bit with his daughter after that is great, but it’s the part with Pepper that drives home my point about how Tony was carrying the weight of everything despite what I imagine were a lot of attempts to tell her otherwise. When he says that he could drop the research into the lake, she has to give him permission to go on and save the universe because he wouldn’t be able to rest otherwise. And that’s important too, because when you’re mired in a state that you can’t see a way out of, sometimes the permission of someone close to you to do something that you didn’t think you’d be able to do can do wonders.

But my favorite depiction in all of this is Thor. People are laughing about fat, drunk, Lebowski Thor, but it was so relatable. He is the one who could have stopped all this from happening if he’d just gone for the head in Infinity War, and the weight of not having done that is crushing him. When they go at the beginning of the film and find Thanos, the only thing he can do to try to alleviate the guilt that he is feeling is to chop his head off even though he knows that it won’t fix anything. But as time has passed and we rejoin him five years later, you can see how that didn’t help. And how many times in life do people do something to correct a so-called failure and then find it only makes things worse? A lot. So his failure and guilt lead to depression, and depression is all-consuming. Him putting on weight makes sense. Him constantly needing beer makes sense. He’s trying to self-medicate something that he thinks he can’t fix. His conversation with his mother is so necessary because he needs that intervention to tell him that it’s okay that he failed. Everyone fails. And no one in this film could have delivered that message but his mother. It makes perfect sense to have brought Rene Russo back for just that scene. I was so happy to see that because we all need a little motherly love now and then, no matter where we get it from. Him taking Mjolnir is important too because it shows him that despite everything he’s still worthy. It’s a metaphor for self-worth and I thought it was done perfectly. And towards the end, when they’ve got the stones and they’re assembled in the new gauntlet, he wants to do it even though it might kill him just to prove that he’s useful again. And that’s also so relatable. Trying to prove that you’re useful to people you think you’ve failed is another part of depression. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to prove myself useful to my parents or my friends because of some thought in my head that didn’t actually exist outside of it. Thor also wants to do it because he feels like he should be the one to fix things since he believes everything is his fault. Everything is his fault and he has to fix it because the only way things are going to be right is if he is the one who makes up for his mistake.

Thor is just a perfect depiction of how someone can be consumed by failure and guilt and depression. And while lots of people are making fun of it or are angry that the Russos “ruined” his character, I think it’s perfect for the situation they’re in. I’m really happy that they didn’t make him all lean and buff as soon as he really takes up the mantle of Thor again. He’s got the hammer and the ax, and he has a purpose again. He can actually fix what he did before, but he has realized he needs the help of his friends to do it. He needs help, just like we all need help when we’re in a place like Thor is and can’t get out of it. He’s not thinking like he can fix things alone anymore like he was only a few minutes earlier when he wanted to do the snap himself. He’s finding another path to redemption. How many times in life do we end up finding another path than the one we thought we were on? It’s so relatable.

In the end, Tony has to sacrifice himself and the life he has with his family to win the war, and he does it. But before he lets go, before he can stop clinging to life and be at peace, he needs reassurance and permission from Pepper again. They’re going to be okay. He can rest now. And while I’ve never been in that position before or will be ever, the reassurance and permission aspect is again so relatable. Things are going to be okay. Rest your mind. Don’t worry. It’s all going to be okay. Find some peace. Personally, I don’t strive for happiness because I think that’s completely and totally unattainable. Because if all you have is happiness, you don’t have any sadness to balance it out, and you’re not whole because of it. Happiness and sadness in your life make you whole, and for me being whole means being at peace. I’m not overjoyed about absolutely everything and I’m not sad about absolutely everything. I’m at peace. And it’s not easy to obtain peace, and it’s not easy to keep the peace once I get it, but reassurance and permission to think things and feel things help me obtain it so much. So while that moment is incredibly sad because one of my favorite characters is going to die, it’s also absolutely beautiful because it’s a wonderful depiction of finding peace. And peace for Tony means something completely different than it does for me, but it’s something he’s been striving for since the first Iron Man movie. He’s seen what war can do, he’s seen what his part of it is, and ever since he’s been striving to end wars and save the world. And with his final act, he does it. He achieves his goal. I just think his character arc from the first moment we see him in Iron Man to the last moment we see him in Endgame is so wonderful and complex and flawed. And it’s beautiful because of it.

I could write so much more, like how Natasha’s death is also a perfect depiction of finding a purpose again and achieving peace, but I feel like I’d just be repeating myself so I’m not going to. But all of these things make for more fascinating characters than just your typical superheroes, and that’s one thing that makes this film great. They really took the time to put real character moments into a film about the aftermath of basically the apocalypse, and I find each one of them more beautiful the more I see it. I look forward to watching this film hundreds of times to pick up more of the themes that I know I’ve already missed. There is so much to take in with this film, and it’s not all about time travel and the end battle. It’s about overcoming failure, dealing with guilt and depression, finding a purpose again, and achieving peace.

a midnight poem

a midnight poem

sometimes by adelia chamberlain

Sometimes I watch the sunrise,
and think of all that will happen.

Sometimes I watch the sunset,
and think of all that happened.

Sometimes I watch the rain,
and think of how it cleanses a soul.

Sometimes I watch the lightning,
and think of how it represents anger.

Sometimes I watch the stars,
and think of all that is unknown.

Sometimes I watch the clouds,
and think of all that could be.

Sometimes I watch the snow,
and think of all it covers.

Sometimes I watch the waves,
and think of how far they’ve traveled.

Sometimes I watch the trees,
and think of all that can be missed.

Sometimes I watch the sun,
and think of all I want from life.

Sometimes I watch the moon,
and wonder if I’ll ever succeed

© 2018

a four p.m. poem.

a four p.m. poem.

barricade by adelia chamberlain

A block of wall barricading the heart
Built on white slips of truth
And tiny black slips of lies
Mixed together in solid stone
Pristine white with ugly black scars

Armies push against the wall
Hoping it will break
They fire their cannons and their guns
Aiming for the black spots
Because of their perceived weakness

But what the armies will never understand
Is that the black slips of lies are the wall’s strongest points
For it is the lies that are told which bond together the truths
They make the truths stronger
The lies help the heart survive the day

When the armies bombard the wall guarding it
The truths help the heart survive the night
When the armies rest and all that remains
Is a block of wall barricading the heart
Mostly white with truth that glows through the night
And so the heart lives to fight another day

© 2018

a two a.m. poem.

a two a.m. poem.

the darkened skies by adelia chamberlain

with bars of light from a moon so bright
or stars from millions of miles away
it brings with it a peaceful air
the kind that calms with a gentle breeze
and guides us to the land of dreams
while we all catch some zzzzz’s

the beauty of the darkened sky is something to behold
it does not heat or blind with sunrays
but it can help to make you whole
for if you let yourself experience it
you will come to see that
the middle of this thing called night
is as tranquil as a waveless sea

you can find peace here if you seek it
from these early hours of the day
and when you see the dawn on the horizon
everything might just be a little more okay
for the night arrives to heal the world
and it can, if you give it a chance

© 2018

book review: aftermath: empire’s end by chuck wendig

book review: aftermath: empire’s end by chuck wendig

Aftermath: Empire’s End is a canon novel written by Chuck Wendig and the final volume in The Aftermath Trilogy. It was first published by Del Rey on February 21, 2017. The novel features the Battle of Jakku, the final engagement of the Galactic Civil War. The paperback edition includes the short story “Blade Squadron: Jakku”.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

As the final showdown between the New Republic and the Empire draws near, all eyes turn to a once-isolated planet: Jakku.

The Battle of Endor shattered the Empire, scattering its remaining forces across the galaxy. But the months following the Rebellion’s victory have not been easy. The fledgling New Republic has suffered a devastating attack from the Imperial remnant, forcing the new democracy to escalate their hunt for the hidden enemy.

For her role in the deadly ambush, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is the most wanted Imperial war criminal—and one-time rebel pilot Norra Wexley, back in service at Leia’s urgent request, is leading the hunt. But more than just loyalty to the New Republic drives Norra forward: Her husband was turned into a murderous pawn in Sloane’s assassination plot, and now she wants vengeance as much as justice.

But Sloane, too, is on a furious quest: pursuing the treacherous Gallius Rax to the barren planet Jakku. As the true mastermind behind the Empire’s devastating attack, Rax has led the Empire to its defining moment. The cunning strategist has gathered the powerful remnants of the Empire’s war machine, preparing to execute the late Emperor Palpatine’s final plan. As the Imperial fleet orbits Jakku, an armada of Republic fighters closes in to finish what began at Endor. Norra and her crew soar into the heart of an apocalyptic clash that will leave land and sky alike scorched. And the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.

Read On/Between:  8-31 October 2017

Review:  Norra Wexley’s singular need to find her husband Brentin and Grand Admiral Rae Sloane leads her and her crew to the planet of Jakku, where they discover the majority of the remnants of the Imperial fleet orbiting the planet.  Ordering her son Temmin to return to Chandrila to raise the alarm, Norra and Jas Emari use an escape pod to reach the planet’s surface.  Temmin orders his battle droid Mister Bones to take care of his mom and sends him in a second escape pod before he and Sinjir Rath Velus escape enemy fire and return to Chandrila.  And we’re off.

I’ll be honest.  There was hardly a page of this book that I didn’t enjoy.  It’s by far the best of the Aftermath trilogy and it’s portrayal and description of the battle of Jakku was fantastic.

The relationship between Rae Sloane and Brentin Wexley as they attempt to help each other achieve the same goal of capturing Gallius Rax while on opposite sides of the conflict was interesting.  Their interactions with Niima the Hutt, who I realized a couple of chapters after she first appeared has to be the namesake of the Niima Outpost Rey mentions in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens, were very funny and action-packed, and when Norra and Jas ended up tangled up with Niima as well, the levels of comedy and action rose more.  Niima was a very different kind of Hutt to Jabba personality-wise, and it was a contrast that I really enjoyed.  Mister Bones reuniting with Norra was an emotional scene for many reasons, and even though I started out being really annoyed by that droid, I’ve grown to really love Mister Bones.

Political conspiracies were circling back with the New Republic as elections drew near, and this is an example of Star Wars politics done right.  I didn’t find any of these plotlines boring and tedious the way that thinking about the prequels from the opening words of the Phantom Menace‘s crawl does.  While the New Republic come to terms with how to deal with what’s happening at Jakku and how to proceed, our characters there face different points of decision when it comes to their future, and I thought that each decision was made in a way that I understood and that didn’t seem forced.

When the battle finally commences, the action is well-written and the various storylines that are occurring throughout it are weaved together seamlessly.  You get the points of view of people in orbit above the planet, and in the air and on the ground on the planet, and Wendig switches between them in a way that doesn’t seem like he’s trying to squeeze in too much for the scenes to handle.  There were moments that surprised me, character deaths and sacrifices that I didn’t see coming, and I really enjoyed Wendig’s writing.

That’s not to say that everything was perfect.  It doesn’t exactly explain why Jakku was so important to Palpatine that he would have Gallius Rax cause the final battle to occur in the planet’s atmosphere.  It becomes very clear throughout flashbacks that Palpatine knew that the battle he would have Rax stage there would be the final destruction of the Empire because Palpatine believed that the Empire should not outlive its Emperor, but as to why that battle needed to happen at Jakku, we’re still in the dark.  The interludes again mostly fell flat for me.  The ones with the Acolytes of the Beyond are the only memorable ones, and they have me questioning whether or not the Acolytes are the beginnings of the Knights of Ren.

Recommendation:  This book is fantastic.  It’s a great finish to a trilogy that didn’t start out the greatest but built momentum and turned into one of my favorite trilogies I’ve read in awhile.  I think that if you’re at all interested in how the final battle between the Empire and the New Republic played out you need to read this book.  I would suggest reading the entire trilogy to get a better grasp on the characters and where they are at the beginning of this one.  But definitely, read this.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

book review: aftermath: life debt by chuck wendig

book review: aftermath: life debt by chuck wendig

Aftermath: Life Debt is a canon novel written by Chuck Wendig and published by Del Rey, that is set between Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Star WarsEpisode VII: The Force Awakens. It is the second book in The Aftermath Trilogy, which started with Aftermath, and was released on July 12, 2016.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  The galaxy is changing, and with peace now a possibility, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiees’ homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of rebels pursue Admiral Rae Sloane and the remaining Imperial leadership across the galaxy. Sloane, increasingly wary of the mysterious fleet admiral, desperately searches for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. Even as Imperial forces fight to regain lost ground, Princess Leia and the New Republic seek to broker a lasting peace.

But the rebel’s hunt for Admiral Sloane is cut short after the disappearance of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Desperate to save them, Leia conscripts Norra, Sinjir, Jas, and the rest of their team to find the missing smugglers and help them in their fight for freedom.

Read On/Between:  1-5 October 2017

Review:  If you read my review of the first book in this trilogy, you know that I didn’t find Aftermath to be very exciting.  It didn’t feel like much of a Star Wars book, and that’s sort of the whole point of these books.  So going into this one, I was a little apprehensive about what I might find.  I didn’t want another book like the first one.

I didn’t get another book like the first one.

Aftermath: Life Debt is wonderful.  There is so much at work in this book, from the origins of why the planet of Jakku is important to an assassination attempt that I did not see coming at all to discovering just how far Han Solo will go to find Chewbacca.  There are more characters from the Original Trilogy in this book, chief among them being Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo.  The team from Aftermath is still here, and they’ve been joined by a relatively minor character from the first book, Jom Barell.  Their mission is to hunt down and capture Imperial fugitives, and their first attempted capture is very exciting.  When they return to Chandrila, Princess Leia gives them an undercover mission strictly for her: find her husband, Han Solo, who is missing after a failed attempt to liberate the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk.  And just like that, we’re off on our adventure.

A lot of time is also spent with Rae Sloane, now Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy and de facto leader of the Empire, but she is being controlled by the Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax, a man with a mysterious past that Sloane is desperate to uncover.  Rax puts together a Shadow Council to rule the Empire while allowing Sloane to remain its public face, and among the members of this council is Brendol Hux, father of General Hux, who is portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  This is the first time we learn of General Hux’s first name, Armitage, and that he is Brendol Hux’s bastard son.  Brendol doesn’t think very much of Armitage, but is determined that he’s going to make something of his weak-willed son.  Given what we saw in The Force Awakens, I’d say he succeeded.

One of my absolute favorite things about this book was the evolvement of the character of Sinjir Rath Velus, my favorite of the new characters introduced in the first book.  Wendig established in a rather nonchalant manner in the first book that Sinjir was homosexual, but in this book, he expands upon that, giving Sinjir a love story with a slicer named Conder Kyl.  I adored this relationship.   It’s not straightforward and it’s not simple, but it made Sinjir feel like a real person instead of just words on a page and I thoroughly appreciated that.

Princess Leia is pregnant in this book, and I really enjoyed all of the parts where she tuned into the Force and connected with her unborn son.  I always enjoy seeing Leia use the Force in any capacity, and reading about her using exercises that Luke had taught her on how to tap into the Force just made me smile.  There’s one scene in particular where Leia tries to reach out to a tree and ends up connected to her unborn son instead, and it’s just beautifully written.

The interludes that I thought were unnecessary in the first book are continued in this one, and I’m starting to see how they progress and connect, giving little pieces of life throughout the galaxy as this struggle between what’s left of the Empire and the fledgling New Republic goes on.  There is an ongoing one about a group called the Acolytes of the Beyond that is becoming interesting.  And the one about Jabba the Hutt’s beastmaster and his life after the death of both Jabba and his beloved rancor Pateesa was entertaining.

Recommendation:  This is a great improvement over the first book in the trilogy, and while it’s not up at the top of the list of all of the books I’ve read in the new Star Wars canon, it’s definitely a good book.  The mission of our main team is more interesting, the Imperial side of things is more intriguing, and the interludes begin to make sense.  Wendig’s writing style seems to have changed a bit from the first book, but it’s in a good way, because this book seemed like an easier read than the first book did.  Perhaps that’s just because I’m used to the new characters and I’m glad to see the characters we know from the Original Trilogy, but it was something I noticed.  I recommend this book to any Star Wars fans, but I am going to say that I think you should read Aftermath first.  Aftermath is not an easy read, but it will introduce you to our new characters, and I think that introduction is necessary for you to get the full emotional impact of Life Debt.