By Sam Cha
II. Some Evidence
OK, but so: evidence. You want me to give you evidence. Well, first consider The Avengers. What happens in The Avengers?
Thor jumps into a plane, jumps out of a plane. Iron Man jumps out of the plane in hot pursuit. Then Captain America jumps out of the plane. Iron Man smacks Thor off a mountain. Thor falls out of the sky, plows into the ground. Thor pushes himself and Iron Man off another mountain and they both fall out of the sky and plow into the ground. Captain America nearly falls off the Helicarrier. Thor gets flushed out of the Helicarrier in a giant Mason jar and falls out of the sky. The Hulk jumps onto a jet, smashes the jet, and falls out of the sky. Loki throws Tony Stark out of his own penthouse, and Stark has to summon his Iron Man armor to keep him from becoming street pizza. Then Hawkeye jumps off a building and manages to avoid becoming street pizza by becoming a visual quote from The Matrix (by way of Spider-Man). Then Iron Man gets nuked and falls out of a hole in the sky.
Look, Loki’s not the main force the heroes are contending with, here. This movie’s about gravity: about falling and avoiding falls and surrendering yourself to the fall. How you stop worrying and learn to love the splat. Did I mention that, in The Avengers, Tony Stark inverts the riding-the-nuke-all-the-way-down trope from Doctor Strangelove? In capitalist America, see, the bomb rides you. The Avengers, by the way, made 1.5 billion dollars world-wide. 1.5 gigabucks is slightly more than the 2012 GDP of Liberia and slightly less than the 2012 GDP of Belize, and is equal to the money the US spent on the RQ-4/MQ-4 Global Hawk aerial recon drone program in 2011.
Shall we consider the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
In the Incredible Hulk (135 megabucks, slightly more than the GDP of Nauru), Edward Norton’s main mode of locomotion involves jumping a mile into the air and then falling out of the sky. In Iron Man (585 megabucks, roughly the GDP of Comoros), the second thing Tony Stark does in the original Iron Man armor (the first thing he does is kill some brown people for entertainment value) is fall out of the sky. The first thing he does in the second Iron Man armor is freeze at high altitude and fall out of the sky. In Captain America: The First Avenger (370 megabucks, slightly more than the GDP of the Federated States of Micronesia), Cap’s partner/best friend Bucky falls off a train into a near-bottomless snowy ravine. Cap himself jumps across broken scaffolding over a hundred-foot drop filled with fire, ziplines off a mountain down to a slightly smaller mountain, and falls out of the sky in a stealth bomber. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (710 megabucks, the GDP of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Bucky throws the Falcon out of a Helicarrier. In Thor (449 megabucks, roughly the GDP of Tonga), Thor comes to Earth by falling out of the sky and crash-landing on it. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward jumps out of the Bus when Simmons falls out of the Bus. (The Bus is a plane.) Somehow he manages to fall faster than she does—he catches up to her, even though she’s had a thirty second headstart. Galileo, obviously, can suck it. Then Ward deploys a parachute without Gwen Stacy-/Isadora Duncan-ing Simmons. Newton can suck it, too. Action-movie physics is strictly Aristotelian.
I didn’t want to re-watch Iron Man 2 (624 megabucks, slightly less than the GDP of Samoa) and 3 (1.2 gigabucks, roughly the GDP of Djibouti), so I’m not going to point out specific scenes there. Same thing with Thor: The Dark World. (644 megabucks—again, slightly less than the GDP of Samoa.) But the jumping and falling and contending with gravity thing happens in those movies, too.
Well, but let’s look further afield. In Frozen (1.25 gigabucks, the GDP of Antigua and Barbuda), Anna cuts a rope and falls off a cliff in order to escape a surly snow golem. Elsa bridges an abyss and runs across it. In The Lego Movie (462 megabucks, roughly Tonga) Emmet (which means “life” in Hebrew and was the word that supposedly animated the Golem of Prague) falls out of his universe into the “real” world. In The Dark Knight (1 gigabuck), Batman jumps off a building and into another building. Then he harpoons a Learjet and flies out of the building, with a sub-John Woo (—so, Johnnie To, I guess) Hong Kong gangster strapped to his chest. In Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (695 megabucks, roughly Saint Vincent), Tom Cruise runs down the outside of the highest building in the world and then cuts the rope and jumps into an open window. Then, as a finishing move in the boss battle, he straps himself into a shiny white BMW and falls ten stories to crash land on Michael Nyquist’s head.
Or in the general vicinity of Michael Nyquist’s head. Who cares?
I’m only going to namecheck Gravity (716 megabucks, Saint Vincent again), because once you know the title is there anything more to say?
I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’m maybe seeing a pattern here.
I’ll bet you 6.4 gigabucks, which is the amount of revenue that Marvel’s pulled in from the MCU, and is equal to the GDP of Kyrgystan in 2012, and is actually 1.5 times the operating budget of the United States Marine Corps in 2010, and is twice as much as the US military spent on military family housing in 2010, and is almost three times as much as the US military’s requested budget for all of its drone programs for 2015, and is in fact slightly more than the total military expenditure of Iran in 2013, that somebody somewhere in Guardians of the Galaxy, is going to make a Heroic Leap off a gigantic goddamn space-cliff. My money (all two dollars of it) is on Groot. He’ll be a leaf on the wind. (Groot, if you don’t know, is best described as a kind of space-Ent. “I am a leaf on the wind” is what the pilot Wash says in Serenity, as the eponymous spaceship starts to fall out of the sky.)
But probably also Rocket Raccoon, because come on.
And also Starlord is going to jump out of a spaceship somewhere to save Gamorra. Or vice versa. Either way, the rescuee will fall ragdolling like a character model from Goat Simulator and the rescuer will fall with their legs straight, their feet pointed, and their arms held flat to their sides, the way Kirk and Sherlock Khan do in Star Trek: Into Darkness (467 megabucks). Because you need to worry about aerodynamics when you’re jumping into the airless void of space, obviously.
And Drax will jump on something with his knives out and his arms held over his head with the elbows slightly bent and his back arched to accentuate his CGI and/or prosthetic abs, and his thighs will form a 30-40 degree angle, and his knees will be slightly bent and his silhouette will be framed so that it runs diagonally from the bottom left to the top right of the screen. (My theory about that: the left-right orientation makes him look fast, see, because in the English-speaking world we read from top to bottom and left to right, and we “read” images in the same way. So at the top of the screen he’s almost already off the page and onto the next, it feels like.) He will look like Oberyn Martell jump-spearing Gregor Clegane in an episode this season of Game of Thrones, which looks like Brad Pitt jump-stabbing Nathan Jones in Troy (2004; 497 megabucks) and Matthew McConaughey jumping into a dragon’s face in Reign of Fire (2002; a paltry 82 megabucks, which is more like the endowment of a small liberal arts college than the GDP of an island nation), and like more or less every character from 300 (2007; 456 megabucks) hurling themselves at Exotic Evil Persians (and can I remind you again that the MCU pulled in more revenue than Iran spent on its army in 2013?), and like Ray Winstone’s uncanny-valley digital avatar/golem jumping off a burning bridge onto a dragon’s back in Beowulf (2007; 196 megabucks) and like Tony Jaa jump-elbowing Nathan Jones in Tom Yum Goong (2005; only 25 megabucks, hardly worth mentioning; just your average asshole’s trust-fund), and like Neo and Agent Smith doing a mid-air classic John Woo Mexican Standoff in The Matrix (1998; 463 megabucks) and like Wolverine in every single one of the X-Men movies (2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013; a total of about 2.56 gigabucks), except for X-Men: First Class (2011; 353 megabucks).
The total worldwide gross for X-movies so far is about 2.9 gigabucks, roughly the US military’s 2010 spending on the Boeing P-8 Poseidon series of anti-submarine/SIGINT aircraft.
And somebody will jump from a great height and land with their left knee touching the ground and their right foot planted and their right knee just barely touching their chest. Their hands will either be touching the ground, so that they look like a sprinter getting ready to run a 100m dash, or they will be held straight out to either side, arms fully extended, so that they a) look like wings, and b) are pointing weapons at the gaggle of dumbstruck henchman surrounding the person who has jumped from a great height to land looking like an anime ninja circa 1989. In looking like an anime ninja circa 1989, they will also, simultaneously, look like Arnold Schwartzenegger travelling through time in 1984 and 1992, and Wesley Snipes in Blade (1998), and Trinity and Agent Smith in The Matrix (1999), and Neo about to jump into the air and fly like Superman in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix: Revolutions (2003), and Superman about to jump into the air and fly like Neo in Man of Steel (2013), and Wolverine in every single one of the X-Men movies except for X-Men: First Class, and Tony Stark on promo stills for Iron Man 3.
And we the people, we the audience, will gasp and sigh in approval and write Youtube comments and Tweets and Facebook statuses and blog posts and Reddit comments that all say, in so many words and in 27-140 characters: shut up and fucking take my money.
And they will.