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SPOILERS: "A Soul for a Soul" - "Avengers: Endgame" Misses Incredible Opportunity with the Hulk

//SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVEN’T SEEN “AVENGERS: ENDGAME”!//

Anger: The Canonical Source of Banner’s Strength

Anger: The Canonical Source of Banner’s Strength

So Friday marked the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” the most anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe film since we first caught a glimpse of Thanos during the end-credits of “The Avengers” in 2012.

Many great things came from Endgame. (Some not so great, but that’s largely forgivable because of the overall quality of the film.)

Going into this film, I was anticipating a major moment for the Incredible Hulk; but before I begin, let’s have a recap of what Bruce Banner experienced in “Infinity War.”

At the beginning of IW, we find Thanos’s ship, Sanctuary 2, reigning fire upon the Statesman — just blowing it into oblivion! Thanos and his forces have successfully surrounded the Asgardians. Their defeat was imminent.

When we enter the ship only to find Thanos towering over a defeated Thor. Emerging to curry a favor — really to distract Thanos and his thugs — Loki steps forward ready to offer the one thing that has led Thanos to the Statesman: the Tesseract.

Thanos, who acknowledges the offer, can’t help but scoff at Loki’s optimism…

“Your optimism is misplaced, Asgardian.”

To which Loki replies with, “Well, for one thing, I'm not Asgardian. And for another... We have a Hulk.”

“We have a Hulk!”

The Incredible Hulk — the champion of Sakaar — leaps towards Thanos with the rage that can only be matched by the surrounding destruction on the ship! Thanos is caught off guard, but for a moment before he quickly regains control of the situation and beats the Hulk into submission…

The Hulk is successfully defeated — and we would never see this same Hulk again because Thanos beat the Hulk so badly that he refused to appear to save anyone ever again, including Banner. As far as we can tell, the brutish Hulk is gone for good.

Fast-Forward to Endgame

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Professor Hulk. I think what’s great about Professor Hulk is that he is — like several of the other characters in Endgame — the hyperbolic form of both Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk; which is exactly what you want at the conclusion of this eleven-year saga.

But here’s what I thought was missing (— and there was a convenient moment for this in Endgame, which I’ll get to shortly): we missed what could have been enjoyable/appreciative moments that led to the transformation of Professor Hulk.

Here’s what I would have done based on the outcome of IW: you keep Banner as he was at the beginning of Endgame — “wounded.” The Hulk’s unwillingness to emerge from his subconscious is a measurable obstacle of his character. You keep him that way even after the five year jump when Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff and Scott Lang seek him out to create the time machine. (Don’t get me wrong - Professor Hulk had a lot of great moments when they first find him in the diner; however, the first half of the film is pretty solemn and you could probably still create some humorous moments with “Regular Sized-Man” Banner.)

We even keep Banner as his normal self during the the time traveling sequence, but here’s where it could get interesting—

Romanoff’s Death: A Soul for a Soul

Again, this film had a lot of great moments, including the obstacle ahead with Romanoff and Barton on Vormir. Seeing the two of them fight for the ultimate sacrifice was truly touching, albeit for completely different reasons.

Barton wanted to be the one to sacrifice himself, but that wouldn’t have been as fulfilling as Romanoff’s death. He was emotionally fraught after losing his entire family (as was evident when he assumed the identify of Ronin and waged war against malevolent individuals across Earth) — so any form of Barton suicide would be construed more along the lines of selfishness rather than selflessness. Romanoff, on the other hand, was mentally prepared to fulfill the sacrifice. While Barton lost his family, Romanoff still had Banner to lose; especially since Banner was perceived as her beau ever since “Age of Ultron.”

So Romanoff goes to Vormir to complete the mission. You could even have Banner there helplessly witnessing her fall; which would torment his already-tortured soul.

And here’s how you make it interesting: Banner himself is in the midst of his own soul searching (so is Hawkeye, but hear me out—) he can’t even come to terms with the Hulk, who still refuses to come out to the service of Banner (or anyone for that matter) ever since he was on the receiving end of an ass-whooping compliments of Thanos. It’s truly a crisis for a superhero like Bruce.

You could even maybe offer the idea that the Hulk is perhaps — I don’t know — gone. For good. Maybe it’s even a horrific insecurity of his.

But Romanoff’s death could change that, especially with her influence over the strongest Avenger—

The calming affect of Natasha Romanoff — a Soul for a Soul

The absence of Romanoff offers a different type of soul searching for Banner (— something that was ultimately hand-waived, in my opinion. I would err on the side of budgetary or running time constraints more so than creative.) With this soul searching comes with a need Banner has to fill the void, a void which must be eventually be filled by some of his emotions.

The typical expectation is that Banner would fill this void with rage or anger.

But this is Endgame, which means we need something different. Something more spectacular.

Here’s how I would have brought it over the top: as I said previously, we keep Banner human throughout almost the entire film. The Avengers successfully retrieve all the Infinity Stones, and apply the stones to the new glove (—compliments of Tony Stark.)

Who is going to wield Infinity Gauntlet 2.0? Banner, of course, but here’s my spin on it—

To the surprise of everyone, now is when you introduce Professor Hulk. You could even have some moments to show the struggle Banner experiences after Romanoff’s death — a death which makes him even stronger than before, hence the merging of the two of them in order to coexist as one.

And thus Banner would have completed his character arc: a Soul for a Soul. The Hulk would re-emerge this time not through anger, but with love—

And then we would also have a scene of Banner pommeling Thanos for a moment. Maybe he says more eloquently, “Remember me?” (Obviously, he wouldn’t because it’s Thanos from the past; but that could be a comical moment.)

(Oh, by the way— I believe Professor Hulk’s hyperbolic form goes back to 2012 when Tony reminds Banner that he needs to strut…)

“You’re tip-toeing, big man. You need to strut!”

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Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet (Microsoft PowerPoint)

(My fellow Military Veterans are going to make fun of me for this...)

So rather than having to re-write on 40 Index Cards every time I write a story, I consolidated Blake Snyder's Index Card method to one single Microsoft PowerPoint slide.
(Microsoft PowerPoint is used for just about everything, so... go figure I would use it to put this together! Hah)

Click here to access the PowerPoint Slide.

Feel free to contact me for questions.

andy@andythefilmmaker.com

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#4: Creative "Muscular System" - Screenplays and Comic Books

Probably an odd title for a posting, but bear with me just this once.

One of my favorite film composers is Michael Giacchino (Up, Star Trek, The Incredibles.) I was really happy for him when he won an Oscar for his music in Up (--he knows how to make truly moving music.) I'll also never forget his acceptance speech. He spoke about how he used to play with his father's 8MM wind-up camera for fun, but no one in his family ever discouraged him by saying it was a "waste of time;" especially since he'd go on to be such a great music composer.

When it comes to creative projects, everything is connected.

I liken this to what I know about the human muscular system when it comes to being physically fit. If you want to be the best you physically can be, you don't just do push-ups in the gym -- you do a variety of work outs! You do pull-ups, bench press, squats, etc. All your muscles are interconnected and if you pay attention to even the smallest muscle groups, you can see dividends in growth.

I want to share something with you for your patience: here's a link to a comic book that I originally wrote when I returned from Iraq that I have since re-written. One of my ultimate goals is to eventually bring a comic book to life on the big screen, so -- kinda like Michael Giacchino's speech -- it's a creative project that's supplemental to my creative being as a whole.

I've finally decided to publish it online for everyone to see, and I really hope you can connect with what I wrote.

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#3: Multiple Rods in the Fire (*Don't Snicker!*)

One of the biggest pieces of advice someone gave me a while back before going into the film industry as a writer is to try to have as many writing products readily available as possible.

Here's a likely scenario...

*(Executive, agent, producer, etc.) reads through your well-crafted screenplay, and nods in approval.* "Okay, so what else you got?"

...

*(Executive, agent, producer, etc.) gives you a funny look, waiting for you to respond...*

"That's all I have," is not even close to the ideal response! Are you dead in the water? No. Absolutely not; but you're only falling behind.

(DISCLAIMER: This is advice given to me based on experiences that aren't my own.)

I meant to write this posting months ago after I met up with a mentor/friend of mine. His name is Max Adams. Great guy. 2001 West Point Graduate. Iraq Veteran. He's on his way to making it in the film industry. He's definitely someone I aspire to be like.

One day in July, I sat down with Max for lunch in Santa Monica. I hadn't seen him for a while, so I was looking forward to seeing what he'd been up to lately. At the time he was in the middle of post-production for his film Precious Cargo, based on his thesis film he made back at Florida State University in 2008. I've known Max for years at this point (since 2006), and throughout that duration Max had sent me several of his screenplays; all of which were fun reads. As we were sitting there for lunch, Max and I were talking about what was the latest for each of these projects. To sum it up, they all varied from "awaiting pre-production to begin" to "sitting on his shelf collecting dust, even after being optioned." I followed up by asking what his expectations were of those screenplays and he likened his overall experience to being like a blacksmith with multiple rods in the fire. "Just put all the rods in the fire and check on them periodically." Not all of them will develop at the same time, so when one is complete, signed, etc. move on to the next one. Keep going.

Great piece of advice. Something I think about as I develop my own projects.

Because Max spent so much time writing on multiple projects (not all at once, mind you), he has so much working for him. As one person is looking at one screenplay, someone else entirely is committing to another screenplay, and so forth.

It just goes to show you how much effort it takes to be successful as a writer. Even if you have one screenplay optioned, it's not necessarily going to work out. Play it safe! Keep writing (or re-writing!)
 

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#2: "Hey Boss"

Not very many people can say that they've worked with Robin Williams on a professional level.

Unfortunately -- as ironic as this might sound at first -- I had the privilege of working with Robin Williams in his first and only season of "The Crazy Ones."

In December 2013, I received an email from a great guy named Cody Gallo who had been working as a Directors Guild of America trainee in the DGA's Assistant Directors program. The production team needed an additional Production Assistant (PA) to help out with the episode "Simon Roberts Was Here." (Sidenote: If you're ever looking for work in the film industry and if you ever get lucky enough to be a production assistant for a show for one of the major networks, I recommend going for it. It can be a lot of fun and a great learning experience.)

But back to my story...

I showed up that day in December to assist with production where I helped with set control. If you've ever been on a production team, sound teams are very careful about any unnecessary noise that takes place during filming - so the PA will tell people standing around to "hold" any work or noise so that the directors can successfully film takes. It can make you nervous sometimes, especially when you're new on a set: there's always that fear of sneezing excessively and then getting booted off the set. Although highly unlikely, that would be disgraceful.

Cody told me to go stand by the craft food services area in order to help control what was going on over there, and I did. Low and behold, a man appears from behind one of the set pieces - it's none other than Robin Williams.

"Hey boss," he said.

"Hey sir."

He walked away.

... you're probably thinking this is not much of a story, but there's a lot that took place in that one exchange. Two big things, actually: respect and acknowledgement.

  1. Although I had very little responsibility on set, I still had an important role and many people still depended on me to do the right thing. One of the bigger lessons learned from this experience is to remember that everyone on set is important. A production crew is a team of individuals that have a common goal of completing a single project and the moment you start disrespecting people on set is the moment you lose sight of this objective.
  2. Acknowledgement goes hand in hand with respect, but it goes a step further. Going out of your way to simply say, "Hello" or "Great job" can go a long way. Robin Williams did just that when he called me "boss." Really - I wasn't his boss; but he still acknowledged my responsibility and his gratitude for coming to set that day to help out. And it left a huge mark on me. Even though it was such a small gesture, it became very meaningful. "You were just doing your job." I was, but sometimes -- especially when you're new to something -- you need that additional recognition to keep you pointed in the right direction. Anyone can work hard. An energetic kid can pound a square peg into a round hole: unless he's given a round peg he's going to keep hitting away. Motivation is great, but knowledge along with motivation is even better.

The larger lesson from this experience is that being very friendly and professional can go a long ways no matter what you do in life. You're going to work harder when you know people around you make you feel valuable and that's what Robin Williams did. Some of the best leaders I ever worked with always reminded me of the significant contributions I made for whatever organization I served and it made me more motivated to show up for work.

Although I am sad that this was the only interaction I ever had with Robin Williams, I am more than satisfied that it took place as it did - and I will always remember for how he treated me in person.

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#1: Being Helpful Is Invaluable

You cannot make it in the film industry all on your own -- no matter what you do!

Something I realized as I developed as an adult, especially while in the Army, is that helping others is invaluable. Unless you have unlimited resources or Steven Spielberg happens to love you (not like you -- LOVE you), your best resource is your network of relationships with others.

Here are the expectations you need to have in order to be successful:

  1. No one will ever help you. The only thing that will ever come to you on a silver platter is if your name is George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. Or if you do what they did by working your ass off. Star Wars and Indiana Jones didn't just happen - they made it happen. They sat down and worked hard to develop a story on their own. Sure, people probably helped them write the story, but they had to do the work on their own for the most part. Help yourself first!
  2. Help everyone. Okay, maybe not everyone. But if you have an opportunity to give someone even a few moments, there's no telling what the return will be. If you can contribute your strengths for others, then you can become a valuable asset -- and your strengths coupled with experience will make you even more valuable down the road!
  3. The one person who will make the biggest impact will do so when it's convenient for him or her. You will meet countless numbers of individuals, all with varying amounts of passion and ambition to be successful; but not everyone is able or willing to help. And when that one person is willing to help you, they have to know you first. This means trust and respect for you and everything that you represent. So make yourself trustworthy and understood. Socialize! Get to know people on a personal level! Make friends!

Feel free to contribute to this blog entry as well as other entries I post on my website. I will continue to add to this as time goes on especially as I continue this long path to become a professional filmmaker.

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