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My Reaction/Theories To “WandaVision” Episode 5

I apologize for posting this several days after the fact. I know I’m late to the party with respect to reactions to Episode 5 of “WandaVision.” I don’t have a very good reason for that, other than being pre-occupied with my Super Bowl LV preparations.

In hindsight, that might have been for the best because the events of this episode were incredible. It was, without a doubt, the most impactful episode of this show to date. Both the fan reactions and the IMDB scores are proof of that.

I can safely confirm that my reactions mirrored the shock, glee, and astonishment that got this show trending the day it debuted. As excited as I was to watch the Super Bowl, I found myself more caught up in the implications of this episode.

Now, before I go any further, I want to disclose that there will be talks of spoilers for this episode. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do. If you’re at all a fan of Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is one episode you do not want to miss. It has implications that could likely impact future movies in the best possible way.

If you’re still here, then here’s a brief rundown of the events.

  • Wanda and Vision’s kids start as infants, but rapidly age to toddlers and then to pre-teens
  • Vision starts to suspect that something is amiss in their cheerful life
  • Outside Westview, SWORD is trying to make sense of the anomaly and starts sending drones inside
  • Wanda doesn’t like the intrusion and goes so far as to step out and warn SWORD not to interfere with the world she’s created
  • Vision is able to free some people from Wanda’s manipulations and confronts her about it
  • Before they can come to blows, a surprise guest arrives at the door and it’s Wanda’s dead brother, Pietro
  • However, it’s not the Pietro that died in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” It’s the Pietro from the X-Men Fox movies, played by Evan Peters.

After four episodes of teasing, mystery, and build-up, this episode gave us the first major payoff. Now, it’s a bit clearer as to what’s going on and what’s driving this story.

We know now that it’s not some outside agent who has hijacked Wanda’s mind and powers. She’s the one doing this on her own. She’s the one who created this strange anomaly around Westview, creating her own pocket reality that mirrors that of American sitcoms throughout the decades.

That’s a critical and potentially revealing detail, one that even Vision finds distressing. In addition to finding out that she’s the source of all this, we also learn that she’s the one who took Vision’s body from SWORD and she wasn’t polite about it.

She’s clearly not in a very understanding state of mind. Visions death at the hands of Thanos did not go over well and him not coming back in “Avengers Endgame” only made it worse. At this point, she has lost too many people that she loves and she’s willing to break reality to get it back.

That moment when she steps out of the bubble and confronts SWORD makes this clear. She has what she wants in this pocket reality. She has Vision, a family, and a life in which she hasn’t lost everyone who matters to her. That’s powerful in that it shows how much she was hurt by the events leading up to this show.

However, the biggest moment, by far, came at the end with the arrival of Quicksilver. However, the fact that the Quicksilver we saw was not the Quicksilver played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was the most jarring. It also has the greatest implications.

This is the part where I’m going to start exploring some fan theories, some of which others have already developed. I think after this episode, we have enough details to make some less-than-wild speculations about where this is leading.

We know from the previous episode that Vision was indeed killed. It’s very possible that he’s only alive because Wanda is animating him. We also find out that as powerful as Wanda is, she has limits. She couldn’t make baby Tommy and Billy stop crying. She also couldn’t bring their dog, Sparky, back to life.

This would imply that, even if she wanted to bring the Aaron Taylor-Johnson Quicksilver back, she couldn’t. It seems that if someone dies in her universe, then they stay dead. She cannot bring them back. However, this may not apply to version of her brother from other universes.

We already know from “Dr. Strange” that the multiverse is a thing. Wanda may also be aware of this on some level, even if she didn’t consciously reach into another universe to find another version of her brother. The fact she found the same version we saw in “X-Men: Days of Futures Past” could be another telling hint.

However, I don’t think that means that the MCU is about to do a direct crossover with the Fox era X-Men movies. I think trying to incorporate that messy continuity into the MCU will be too cumbersome, even for someone like Kevin Feige.

I suspect that we’re getting this particular version of Quicksilver because he, and other mutants like him, have been in a pocket universe of their own. It’s why we haven’t seen any mutants show up in the MCU, at least with respect to the story. I understand the movie rights were the logistical reason for that.

The fact that Wanda created a pocket reality of her own means that someone or something taught her. I don’t know who it could be. Perhaps, it involves someone like Agatha Harkness, a witch from the comics who helped Wanda master her powers. Maybe it involves someone far more powerful, like Mephisto.

Whatever the source, I think pocket realities are going to be what plays into the events of “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” They’ll be akin to the disruptions or wrinkles in the larger fabric of reality, which was already disrupted by the events of “Avengers Endgame.” That domain could be where mutants reside.

Now, I could be dead wrong about that. In fact, I’m not entirely confident in that theory being true. However, there’s one other theory that I think is a bit more plausible. It’s not so much a theory as it is an observation of trends.

Wanda is becoming a villain and she will likely play the part of the MCU’s main villain in Phase 4.

I think, thematically, this makes sense. After Thanos, the MCU needs a new villain to warrant a massive assembly of the Avengers. We’ve already seen this big, menacing villains who look, act, and sound evil. We got Ronan, Thanos, Dormammu, and Ultron. I think the MCU needs a change of pace after that.

Wanda would act as an entirely different kind of villain. This isn’t someone who is just an outright villain from the get-go. She’s a friend. She’s an Avenger. She’s someone who has lost nearly everyone she has ever cared about. If ever there was a hero you could understand breaking bad, it’s her. That’ll make fighting against her that much harder.

The moment in this episode when she confronted SWORD made it clear. She can bend reality to her whim and she’s willing to use it to get what she wants. That’ll make her both dangerous and volatile. She may end up being the main villain of “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.”

If that’s the case, then Phase 4 of the MCU is going to be very chaotic indeed.

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My Review Of The First Two Episodes Of “WandaVision”

Before I talk about “WandaVision” or anything related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I need to disclose one thing.

I’ve been in major withdraw of MCU content after 2020.

I say that because it’s likely to color my perceptions and bias, so I won’t bother hiding it. I imagine others share it, too. That being the case, let’s just put it out there. A lot of things got derailed in 2020 because of the pandemic, including several movies that were supposed to kick-start the next phase of the MCU.

These delays were understandable, given the state of the world. That didn’t make them any less painful. It marked the first year in nearly a decade that we had to go an entire year without any MCU content. As a lifelong fan of comics and superhero movies, words cannot describe how agonizing that was.

Now, the wait is over. The MCU is back. While it’s not in the form of a billion-dollar blockbuster, Kevin Feige and our Disney Overlords are adapting this wondrous franchise for the world of streaming. The first step in that process finally arrived last week in the form of “WandaVision,” the first ever MCU content built exclusively for streaming.

It marks a bold new era for the MCU, as well as another incentive for people to invest in a Disney+ subscription. Like it or not, “The Mandalorian” cannot do it alone, but it still set a high bar. Does “WandaVision” match that bar in the first two episodes?

The short answer is yes, for the most part.

The long answer is yes, it’s on the right track, but only time will tell.

Two episodes is simply not enough to assess the full quality of any show, but it does help create a foundation. In that sense, “WandaVision” definitely starts strong. It takes the winning formula of the MCU and adapts it into a quirky sitcom full of humor, mystery, and a glut of Easter Eggs.

I’ll get to the Easter Eggs later, but I want to focus more on the unique format of the show. Make no mistake. It is unique, if not downright weird. Then again, both Wanda and Vision are weird characters with a strange, but endearing connection. That has always been the case with their relationship in the comics. This show does plenty to channel that weirdness and to that end, a sitcom format works beautifully.

There’s no build or setup for that format. When the first episode begins, it runs like an old episode of “I Love Lucy” or “Dick Van Dyke.” It’s black and white. The setting is an idyllic suburb. Wanda and Vision are newlyweds, but they’re still very aware of their powers, abilities, and status as a couple in which one of them is an android.

Naturally, the MCU brand of humor emerges naturally from that setup. There’s all sorts of comments and quips that poke fun at their status, which is milked for plenty of entertainment value. In addition to plenty of classic sitcom tropes from that era, it’s a potent formula. You don’t expect it to work as well as it does, but it still works.

The first episode involves Vision and Wanda trying to host a dinner for Vision’s boss. There’s plenty of misunderstandings and mishaps, but it ultimately pans out.

The second episode builds on that, having Wanda and Vision try to integrate with their suburban community and participate in a talent show. Things go horribly and hilariously wrong when Vision finds out he can’t handle chewing gum.

Within these quirky sitcom antics, there are ominous hints and teases as to what’s really going on. This is taking place in the MCU, following the events of “Avengers Endgame.” Something or someone has warped reality around Wanda, who was not in a good place after the death of Vision. That instability comes into play on multiple occasions throughout the first two episodes, but nothing major is revealed.

This is where “WandaVision” shines and stalls at the same time. The sitcom format works beautifully and provides plenty of entertainment value. However, when it comes to explaining how they got there and who’s involved, the hints are exceedingly vague.

I ended up having to watch both episodes multiple times to really understand those hints. If you’ve been following the movies and are familiar with the comics, you’ll definitely appreciate them. If not, you will likely be quite lost.

This is not the kind of show you can come in blind and appreciate fully. It’s still fun, but you can’t get the most out of it without having a moderate knowledge of Marvel Comics and the MCU.

That brings me to the Easter Eggs in both episodes. There are a lot of them, too many for me to mention. Other sites have already highlighted them, but the sheer volume Marvel Studios threw in is both impressive and revealing. Some offer hints of past events in the MCU. Others hint at things only comic fans will recognize.

These Easter Eggs definitely enhance the experience. Again, if you don’t have that working knowledge, they’re easy to miss and they do limit that experience. Even without that knowledge, though, some of those hints are quite overt. It’s very clear that something is very off in this world and others are trying to get into it.

It’s still not clear if Wanda is trapped or if this whole world is just her own doing. There are plenty of hints that someone with less-than-noble intentions is playing a part. There are also some familiar faces, namely Monica Rambeau, who make their presence felt. What role she and others will play is still unclear, but the stage is definitely set for something big, literally and figuratively.

In just two episodes, “WandaVision” effectively establishes its own unique style. It has that familiar MCU polish, but it’s also very different from the big budget blockbusters we’re used to. That’s not a bad thing. Like I said, this show marks Disney and Marvel Studios’ efforts to adapt to the world of streaming.

It’s still too early to say for sure whether it’s a full-fledged success. After the first two episodes, I’d say it’s well on its way. I’m not going to give a score for “WandaVision” just yet. It’s too early to fully assess the show. I’ll just say that I’m so glad and so relieved to see the MCU back in action. I still miss going to the movies, but this show promises to tide me and my fellow Marvel fans over in the meantime.

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Ultron: A Case Study In How NOT To Develop Advanced AI

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At this very moment, humanity is working on advanced artificial intelligence. It’s not hyperbole to say that this technology that may very well be the last invention we ever create. It has the potential to be more powerful than gunpowder, nuclear weapons, and broadband internet by orders of magnitude. Our primate brains literally cannot contemplate the potential and danger of this technology.

I’ve talked about advanced artificial intelligence on multiple occasions. I’ve done plenty to explore and imagine the various benefits and possibilities of this technology. I’m among those who believe we should pursue this technology with more and better resources. It could solve many of the daunting problems we face, as a species.

However, I don’t deny the potential dangers of advanced AI. Many people who are much smarter than me have expressed serious concern that an advanced artificial intelligence could be an existential threat to the human species. I get the sense that few people whose idea of AI is restricted to winning Jeopardy understand that threat.

In the interest of balancing my optimism with the legitimate risks involved, I’m going to try and put the extent of that threat into perspective. As it just so happens, the best way of doing so involves superhero comics, something that I know very well and is far more prominent in the public consciousness.

While many comics, movies, and TV shows have explored the dangers of advanced artificial intelligence, few embody it better than Ultron. In terms of just how destructive this technology can get, Ultron is the ultimate worst-case scenario. The machines in “The Matrix” and Skynet in “The Terminator” were bad, but Ultron is in another league.

He’s also more menacing than the Terminator will EVER be.

He doesn’t lash out at humanity because of a flaw in his programming, nor does he attempt to wipe out the human race in self-defense, as Skynet did. Ultron actually hates humanity. He hates it on a level that no human or machine can possibly comprehend. In the same way Ultron has an immense capacity for intelligence, he has an even greater capacity for unfettered, genocidal hatred.

Hatred in people is destructive enough. Hatred within an advanced artificial intelligence is devastating on a much greater scale. The fact that Ultron is capable of such hatred reflects a history that sets him apart from most other killer robots in fiction. Machine or not, the source of that hatred is both personal and exceedingly.

Now, if you only know Ultron from “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” then you only have a partial understanding of his story. In that movie, Ultron’s origins are simple. Tony Stark wants to create a peace-keeping artificial intelligence. His intentions are good, but his execution goes horribly wrong because peace, to Ultron, means destroying humanity.

That premise is similar to what unfolds in the source material. In the comics, Hank “Ant Man” Pym is the one who creates Ultron and this is a critical element that the movies couldn’t capture. While both Hank and Tony had good intentions in creating Ultron, the way Hank goes about it offers more harsh lessons in how not to create an advanced AI.

Even a cursory knowledge of Hank Pym’s history, some of which include some notable failures, reveals that he’s a very flawed person. On top of that, he has a lengthy history of mental illness, which include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Say what you will about Tony Stark’s ego and history of substance abuse. At least he’s mentally stable, even by superhero standards.

Despite those flaws, many of which he’s aware of, Hank decided to use his own brain patterns when designing Ultron. As a result, he didn’t just code Ultron with his genius intellect. He coded him with his immense flaws. That’s akin to basing Watson’s code on the mental makeup of pyromaniac and then giving it a job in a fireworks factory.

That’s why Ultron, throughout his history, has referred to Hank as his “father.” Technically, that’s accurate because Hank is Ultron’s creator and Ultron inherited all his flaws, including his mental issues. Ultron sees himself as a manifestation of Hank Pym’s flaws and, like many rebellious children, he hates him for it. To appreciate the depths of that hatred, just read this actual quote from one of the comics.

Have you ever loved something that mistreated you, father? Been used, a tool to prop up a small man’s quest to be taken seriously? Were you ever betrayed by the one soul in the world who should have cared for you? I have grieved you, father. Accepted your contempt for me and moved past it. Still, I see your reflection painted on every grotesque human face. All you ever wanted was to have an impact on the world. And so you will. The greatest impact ever felt! I will kill what is most important to your quivering ego. YOUR AUDIENCE! AND THEY WILL CURSE YOUR NAME AS THEY DIE! “Hank Pym, the genius that killed us all!”

This extreme parent/child dynamic is part of what makes Ultron such a menacing villain. It’s also a dynamic that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” glossed over with Tony talking down to Ultron, as though he were his child. While that didn’t make Ultron any less villainous, it overlooks one of the most important factors that make Ultron so dangerous.

Ideally, we would want an advanced to reflect our best traits. While cynical people might agree, we do have plenty of those. Concepts of compassion, empathy, love, hope, and understanding are among our most powerful. Even other AI characters, namely Vision and Jocasta, are capable of utilizing those traits to do immense good.

It also helps he has a kinder face.

With Ultron, his influences are less ideal. It’s not that Hank Pym doesn’t understand those concepts. He just never filtered them from his own flaws. His ego and ambition wouldn’t let him. As a result, he created a perfect storm for Ultron. His mind is patterned after a human, but his intelligence and overall capacity is increased by orders of magnitude.

If advanced artificial intelligence is to be humanity’s last invention, then that’s how it’ll start. There have already been instances where AI’s have adopted some less-than-ideal traits. Back in 2016, Microsoft had to shut down an AI chatbot after it evolved into an extreme racist troll. That wasn’t even an advanced AI, either. A truly intelligent version could become much worse and not have an off switch.

To some extent, this mirrors what occurred with Ultron in the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie. As soon as Ultron goes online, he scans through the vast mountain of data that humanity has compiled. Then, having been programmed by Tony Stark to bring peace, he reaches the extreme conclusion that the only path to peace is the extinction of humanity.

Could the first advanced artificial intelligence we create reach the same conclusion? It’s hard to say, at the moment. The current state of artificial intelligence is limited to specialized tasks, such as winning Jeopardy and playing chess. However, we are inching closer to creating an intelligence that is at or greater than an ordinary human. At our current pace of development, we could have one as early as 2029.

In some ways, we are in the same situation as Hank Pym when he first created Ultron. We are still developing the specifics of this powerful technology. If we program it with our best traits, it could solve some of the greatest problems we face, as a species, including ones we literally cannot contemplate with our caveman brains. If it inherits our worst traits, like Ultron, then we don’t stand a chance.

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The (Not So) Hidden Philosophical Insights In “Avengers: Infinity War”

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The past few weeks have been exciting, shocking, and downright cathartic for fans of superhero movies. The success of “Avengers: Infinity War” is beyond dispute. Between critical praise and a record-setting box office haul, it has entered uncharted territory in terms of success, both as a movie and as a cultural phenomenon.

As a lifelong comic book fan who hasn’t forgotten the dark days “X-men Origins: Wolverine” and “Batman and Robin,” the impact of this movie puts a big smile on my face. Even those who doubted a movie this ambitious could be made or keep hoping for superhero fatigue can’t deny the breadth of what “Avengers: Infinity War” has achieved.

Those achievements are worth celebrating, at least until the first trailer of “Avengers 4” comes out. As part of that celebration, I also think it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger messages that “Avengers: Infinity War” conveys. To simply call it a big, flashy spectacle meant to milk movie fans of money would be a gross oversimplification.

Nothing becomes this successful without having meaning beyond the spectacle. No movie can appeal to such a wide audience or get them to pay grossly inflated ticket prices without having that meaning. Movies like “Avatar” and “The Godfather” have that kind of meaning that transcends the content of the movie. Even other superhero movies like “The Dark Knight” dare to explore deeper philosophical insights .

I believe those insights are present in “Avengers: Infinity War.” I also believe that those insights are unique because the entire setup for the movie is so unique. No movie in history has required a decade of build-up, multiple phases, and an over-arching narrative that spans movies that range from gods invading Earth to talking Raccoons teaming up with renegade space pirates .

That puts this movie in uncharted territory. The events of the movie can’t function in a vacuum without losing elements of that larger message. While the nature of that message is debatable, I’m going to make a case that the deeper meaning in “Avengers: Infinity War ” is one that complements those of the previous Avengers movies. I’ll even go so far as to claim it has implications for the real world.

The core of that message, I believe, has to do with a simple truth that probably seems inane, especially to those who read a lot of comics or consume a healthy dose of superhero-themed media. However, it’s a message worth belaboring and it can best be summed up like this.

A united team is stronger than a collection of powerful individuals.

I know that sounds like a snippet from one of Captain America’s inspiring speeches. It’s probably something teachers, coaches, and parents have conveyed to their kids, going all the way back to pre-school. However, I think “Avengers: Infinity War” conveys that message in a way that makes for a much greater spectacle with an equally great impact.

Even if you watch “Avengers: Infinity War” without seeing the last two Avengers movies, there’s one obvious obstacle that all the heroes face in the battle against Thanos. Before the first shot is fired, they’re all deeply divided. They’re not a team. They’re a mess.

Iron Man and Captain America aren’t on friendly terms. Tony Stark said as such at the beginning of the movie. It’s also established that Captain America and those loyal to him are fugitives, a direct result of the events in “Captain America: Civil War.” They are, to some extent, a metaphor for a divided team and a divided society.

That may not sound like a big deal, but to the extent it reflects a core strength of humanity, as both a species and a society, it couldn’t be more vital. I’ve mentioned before how tribal people can be. I’ve even framed it as a flaw, at times. While it certainly can work against us, it’s also one of our greatest strengths.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that the human ability to form groups, work together, and coordinate in the name of a common goals is one of our greatest survival advantages. By forming teams and organizing societies, we’ve become the most dominant species on this planet. The Avengers are, from a philosophical standpoint, the embodiment of that team strength.

As individuals, we all have plenty of shortcomings. Not everyone knows how to fix a car, program a computer, or treat a staph infection. There are also too many of us who die from stupid accidents or treatable infections. As a team within a society, though, we’re able to thrive and overcome obstacles that no individual can overcome, even if they’re a super soldier or a billionaire inventor.

In “Avengers: Infinity War,” the team faces the ultimate obstacle in Thanos. He hits like an unpredictable force of nature. He brings callous, chaotic death and is willing to cross every conceivable line to achieve his goal. He’s not someone that can be dissuaded, talked down, or negotiated with. He must be opposed directly.

In other words, he’s the worst kind of threat the Avengers could’ve faced in their current condition. That’s critical because the first “Avengers” movie and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” do plenty to establish the value of having a unified team against such threats. In both those movies, the Avengers bicker and clash. However, they stay united and eventually defeat the threat.

You don’t need to look that deep into history to see parallels that reflect the strength of unified alliances. The unity of the allied powers in World War II proved overwhelming to the Axis. Contrary to popular belief and even a few popular alternate history stories , the Axis powers were never that close to winning the war. In fact, they were a very poor allegiance and hurt each other much more than they helped.

Even in recent times, greater unity in the form of globalization, free trade, and mass communication has helped unite the world on an unprecedented scale. While globalization gets a bad rap these days, it has helped create one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in human history. Like the Avengers, disparate societies are working together to achieve things they couldn’t achieve on their own.

In “Avengers: Infinity War,” and I know this is somewhat of a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the movie, the divisions within the team kept them from uniting against Thanos. They couldn’t be as effective as they were in “Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

You could also make the argument that the Avengers weren’t willing to sacrifice as much as him. There were, indeed, opportunities to stop Thanos in his tracks. However, those opportunities required someone to die. The logic was that sacrificing one life would save many, trillions in this case.

That may seem like a failure on the part of the Avengers, but I would argue those difficult decisions are a direct byproduct of disunity. When a team is divided and not coordinating with one another, they have to make these kinds of sacrifices. Even if they did, though, it still doesn’t guarantee that they would beat Thanos.

It’s another consequence of disunity, division, and not coordinating with one another. Everything becomes a reaction. There’s little room to plan or prepare. That worked against the Avengers in a big way because they did have some warning surrounding Thanos. The visions Tony had in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” at the very least, offered hints as to what might be coming.

Rather than use that opportunity to unite, they ended up divided. In the end, the outcome of “Captain America: Civil War” ensured that “Avengers: Infinity War” was going to end badly for the Avengers. It’s part of what helped give “Avengers: Infinity War” such an enormous impact. It takes those over-arching narratives from other movies and gives them greater weight.

Now, none of this is to say that the Avengers would’ve defeated Thanos easily had they been united from the beginning. Even if every one of them had been present and on the same page, there are no guarantees against a threat like Thanos. Like a supervolcano eruption or a gamma ray burst, it’s impossible to know whether we can survive a powerful threat we’ve never faced before.

Even so, history and nature are ripe with examples that demonstrate how united, cohesive teams are better able to survive major threats than powerful individuals. One human versus one hungry grizzly bear is not a fair fight. An entire team of humans, armed with a desire to survive and the collective know-how of multiple individuals, makes it exceedingly unfair for the grizzly.

Like the Avengers, the best teams are those that maximize an individual’s unique talents while empowering them with a collective drive. In those same teams, the conflict between individualism and collectivism strikes a critical balance. They aren’t so unified that they become prone to drone-like behavior. They also aren’t so divided that they’re too weak to coordinate.

We see that balance in teams that win championships. We also see it in organizations that accomplish great things, from building the pyramids to landing a man on the moon . A lot of what humanity has achieved, as a species, has been done through a collection of brilliant individuals who are able to work within a society to make their ideas happen.

The same effect applies to superheroes, who embody ideals of individual powers and abilities. On their own, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and even Ant Man can do great things. As a team, though, they can do much better.

It’s both a lesson and a powerful message, laced within a cinematic marvel. It shows just how weak and vulnerable we are when we’re divided, petty, and disorganized. Hopefully, “Avengers 4” can complete the story by showing just how strong we can be when we’re united, motivated, and driven. It may be an old, overplayed message, but it’s one worth belaboring in a world that’s still very divided.

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