Spoilers for more or less the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe
Welp, it’s 2018. Ten years (give or take a couple months) since the very first Iron Man movie came out and redefined how Hollywood works. Ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), pumping out at least two movies every year. And so, as Ant-Man and the Wasp wraps up the tenth anniversary year, I felt it only appropriate to go through all twenty movies of this franchise.
Obviously, I am quite the fan of the MCU, but I’ll try to keep my biases out of this to the best of my ability. This will be a subjective list, but I won’t be ranking the movies, not really. We’re going in chronological order, not in any sort of order of quality here. I won’t really be recapping the plots of these movies either, at least not for every one. Mostly I’ll just be talking about one or two things that still stand out about these films, particularly in the current context. So less a review and more brief analysis. With that said, enough stalling. We’ve got twenty films to talk about!
Ah the one that started it all. The film without which Hollywood would be very, very different than it is currently. A film about a selfish, egotistical rich jerk becoming…well, less selfish I suppose. At the very least he gets out of the weapons business…kind of sort of. Huh…
Watching this movie now is very different than watching it when it first came out. Though in my defense, I was thirteen when it did so. The plot is a little on the meandering side and frankly of questionable quality. The side characters aren’t very deep or interesting either. This movie lives solely based on the charisma and likability of Robert Downey Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Jeff Bridges. If you don’t like Robert Downey Jr’s interpretation of Tony Stark, this movie is not for you. If you do, then good news, this movie is for you.
This is the film that comes the closest to giving Tony an arc in the entire franchise. That’s not to say that he’s the same person in Infinity War as he is in Iron Man, he does change over time, but it’s more from film to film. After this first film, Tony’s arc comes in reactions to the previous movie rather than the events of the previous act. He is noticeably a better person by the end of this film than he was at the beginning of it, though not necessarily a great person. Captain America is right when it comes to Tony’s motives being primarily selfish, particularly in the first two films. Oh, he certainly saves people, but his involvement in the plots largely stems from threats to his property, company, or occasionally his friends.
This movie also begins the MCU’s issues with villains. Jeff Bridges is a fantastic actor, and does a very good job with what he’s given. Sadly, he’s not given much, and once he gets his own suit he loses most of what he had. And while I acknowledge that fights can go on too long, the final fight here is far too short.
Ultimately I think this film is like Jurassic World. Not great a structural or social standpoint, but kind of fun in a popcorn movie sort of way if you can set aside your reservations for two hours. I totally see why people don’t like this movie, and I don’t remotely think it’s a flawless film, but I don’t hate it either.
The Incredible Hulk
AKA, “Oh yeah, that’s canon isn’t it” the movie. Ten years is a long time, and quite a bit can change. And no movie better demonstrates the effects of time and unprecedented success quite like the other Marvel movie to come out in 2008, The Incredible Hulk. For one thing, it’s the only Hulk movie of the MCU, a status quo that is sadly unlikely to change due to rights issues (Universal has the rights to stand alone Hulk stuff).
For another, Bruce Banner is the only main character of the MCU to change actor. As far as I’m aware, the only other recurring character to change is Rhodey (Terrence Howard in Iron Man and Don Cheadle in all subsequent films). In this movie, Bruce Banner is played by Edward Norton and…well he’s better than Eric Bana I suppose. The change to Mark Ruffalo was a wise one, at least in my opinion. Norton is a bit…rough and combative for Bruce Banner, a man who wants to avoid conflict at all costs.
I don’t really have much else to say about this movie. It just kind of…exists. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either, and there’s really no need to see it from a continuity standpoint. See it if you have time and nothing better to watch, but don’t feel too bad if you missed it.
Iron Man 2
Huh…this film really feels misplaced here. I could have sworn it came out right before The Avengers, but apparently not, looking at the timeline of releases. I don’t know, this film just feels more like setup for The Avengers than a continuation of the first Iron Man, especially with how foregrounded SHIELD gets.
Character wise Tony appears to have at best stayed the same and at worst regressed since the end of the previous film.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that he’s dying through most of it (not thinks he’s dying, legitimately and flat out dying). He has no arc in this film, not really. Any changes in behavior are thanks to him no longer being on the brink of death by the end. Addressing that his father was, let’s be real here, a terrible dad (there’s a weirdly large number of terrible dads in this franchise-Howard, Ross, Odin, Ego, Thanos, Yondu) who was deeply neglectful to the point of never telling Tony that he loved him, was an interesting place to take the character.
As you have probably noticed from how I keep talking about it, I have some strong thoughts on how abusive parents are portrayed in media. But how Iron Man 2 handles Howard’s failings as a father gives me pause. There’s a moment towards the end of the film’s second act where Tony finds a message his father made for him. It’s a sincere, heartfelt message, but also one that makes no apologies for his behavior. And so I’m left wondering how exactly we’re supposed to feel about Howard and his treatment of Tony. His behavior and words choices in Captain America: Civil War certainly lead me to believe that Tony hasn’t forgiven Howard, but in this film, Iron Man 2, I’m not certain where I’m expected to stand. And if there’s one place I feel you shouldn’t have moral ambiguity, it’s with regards to abusive parenting.
In terms of side characters, Don Cheadle makes for a good Rhodey from the start. I can’t really say if he’s better than Terrence Howard, but he’s certainly not worse. Mickey Rourke is horribly wasted by this film. I know that he’s not in the best shape but c’mon you could have done better than this. Expendables came out the same year and proved that the man still has some serious skill, even if he can’t get physical so much anymore. Scarlett Johansson isn’t any better or worse than usual here, though the camerawork is a bit more gross than normal. On the bright side, her hair is the best of the franchise in this film.
Iron Man 2 is a meh film all in all. I’d argue it’s more entertaining than The Incredible Hulk, and certainly more important in terms of continuity since it introduces several characters, but that’s about all I can say for it. It’s not quite at the bottom of the franchise in terms of quality, but it’s down there.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Well, this is an interesting beast. The first period piece of the MCU, being set not in ‘present day’ but back in the forties. Directed by Joe Johnston, who was a good choice given his experience with The Rocketeer. Casting wise, this film probably has my third biggest regret, in that we will likely never get to see Tommy Lee Jones in a MCU thing again, which is a shame (my second biggest regret is not getting more Jeff Bridges, my first is not getting Oded Fehr to play Doctor Strange). On the bright side though, we got Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and she’s awesome.
Speaking of casting, we get our first superhero Chris in the form of Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. He is a charming, kind character, brave and selfless in a deeply sincere way. When it’s stated (more than once if you count Agents of SHIELD) that the super soldier serum worked as well as it did on him because of his strong and moral character, I believe it. Also, he’s remarkably, ludicrously stubborn. So, so stubborn. And that’s actually interesting because the Captain America trilogy portrays both the positive and negative ways that this trait impacts Steve’s life. Sometimes his stubbornness helps him to get through things, like the pain of being made a super soldier. Other times it hurts him and makes things more difficult than they need to be. It’s nice to see both sides of how a character trait can affect a person. Too often a trait is just positive or just negative.
The plot is basic. Nothing groundbreaking or special in the story, but nothing awful either. HYDRA is interesting in a few ways. If nothing else, it lets them make a World War 2 movie where they never have to discuss the concentration camps. Which isn’t the best thing socially, but makes a certain amount of sense given this is a family film. In my opinion, better to avoid the issue entirely than to half ass it, it’s too serious and important a topic to only do half measures.
Of the early MCU films, ‘Phase One’ as it’s officially called, Captain America: The First Avenger is objectively the best. The heroes aren’t obnoxious or grating at any point, the morals aren’t bad ever, the writing is always good, even if not revolutionary, and the villains feel present and threatening.
That being said, subjectively my favorite ‘Phase One’ film is actually…
The MCU has a fondness for trilogies. Pretty much every character(s) that get a standalone film is promised a trilogy (excepting Doctor Strange, who was only recently confirmed a second film and as far as I know has not had a third confirmed). That being said, they also have an odd tendency to switch directors during said trilogies. So far, James Gunn is the only director who’s had the potential to helm an entire MCU trilogu, and that looks like it’s not happening now.
And while every trilogy has had hiccups from shifting directors, none is more impacted than the Thor trilogy. Of the three trilogies Marvel has finished (Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor) this is by far the loosest trio. The nature of the MCU means that none of these trilogies are really in the form of ‘beginning film, middle film, end film’ chronologically, since there’s at least one Avengers film in between movies and the characters keep going after their third film. But while the Iron Man trilogy actually has a very strong unity thematically (more on that in the Iron Man 3 section) as does the Captain America trilogy to a lesser extent, the Thor trilogy, taken as three pieces of a whole, is an incoherent mess.
All that being said, Thor is my favorite film of both the Thor trilogy and ‘Phase One’. I’m sorry! I know that’s an unpopular opinion. I know that prevailing fan wisdom has declared Ragnarok the best film of the bunch (we’ll discuss my feelings in that section) while others prefer The Dark World for being such a ludicrous mess (again, we’ll get to it), but my heart belongs to the first one. I truly believe that had Kenneth Branagh carried out the trilogy, we would have a very, very good set of films on our hands.
I just…I like it so much! It has the best characterizations of the trilogy! The relationships actually feel like relationships! Sif and the Warriors Three actually feel like full characters here, not just talking props! Erik isn’t just comic relief! And I fully understand why Darcy was the most beloved side character in the early stages of MCU fandom here (I think her spot’s been taken by Shuri now…alright, I gotta go find a fic on AO3 where those two meet, why haven’t I thought of that before?). Admittedly, Loki isn’t at his best here, but aside from that, the side cast is all quite good, which is more than I can say for future installments.
And Thor himself is just so good! Okay, it’s the clichéd fish out of water story but he learns! When he does something, and then Jane or someone else tells him that what he just did is not okay on Earth/Midgard, he takes it to heart and doesn’t do it again. Yes he’s arrogant at the start but that arrogance is portrayed as a bad thing as opposed to Tony’s, even if he does learn humility unrealistically quickly. Chris Hemsworth is allowed to unleash his full charm here and it works so well. When he finally proves himself worthy, it feels earned and sincere.
Objectively, this film is probably worse than The First Avenger. But when asked to pick between the two on which to watch, my choice will always be Thor. I watch it and just about cry at the wasted potential in switching directors. Sorry!
Oh boy, does this film feel big. This was the culmination of five movies worth of buildup, one of the most ambitious cinematic projects ever, and it feels like it. Every ounce of this film oozes pomp and bombast, even in the quiet moments.
I’ve heard this film referred to as a plot showcase, a film focused entirely on plot. I disagree. The plot is basic and simple. Aliens are invading, and they put a giant portal in the sky. To be fair, I suppose this film did start the ‘giant portal/beam’ trend, but still. The plot is simplistic and really just there to serve the characters. Because ultimately that’s what The Avengers is, a character showcase.
I know, because of the nature of the MCU, there’s almost no character development in this film. But in my mind, a plot showcase is a piece of media where the focus is on the plot. The characters are ancillary, tools to further the plot. In contrast, I think a character showcase is a film where the characters rule above all else. And The Avengers exists solely to showcase these characters and let you watch them bounce off of each other.
Now, sometimes we don’t get that, I admit. Thor and Natasha don’t interact with the others much at all. One could argue that Natasha is a reserved and reclusive person, and so wouldn’t interact much, but Thor is basically the definition of gregarious, even if he is worried about Loki. Clint spends most of the movie under mind control, and so only ends up actually having a conversation with Natasha.
So yeah, if you don’t like these characters, and aren’t happy just to watch Tony and Bruce bounce off of each other or Steve and Tony clash, there’s not much here for you. And that’s a flaw I concede, but one I’m happy to overlook, because I do like these characters and am happy to just see them around each other. So yeah, I’m in favor of this movie. On the other hand however…
Iron Man 3
…I hate this movie. I truly, and utterly cannot stand it. There are plenty of films that I’m not enamored with, and won’t go out of my way to watch. But Iron Man 3 is on the short list of films I actively avoid watching, that I will get up and leave the room if one of my siblings is watching, that I honestly regret having ever watched in the first place.
For example, there is the issue of Tony’s arrogance. Tony is a profoundly arrogant man, and every Iron Man film has found different ways of dealing with that. Iron Man makes him even more arrogant at the beginning, so that he seems better at the end of the film without having to change too much. Iron Man 2 has him be preparing to die for most of the movie, giving an excuse for his more reckless and obnoxious behavior. Iron Man 3…just sort of revels in his behavior. No attempt to excuse him, soften him, or change him. He just is.
Speaking of Tony, having the film end with Tony Stark having his arc reactor removed feels wrong. The interesting thing about Iron Man, at least to me, is the weakness inherent in him. Yes, his suit is incredibly powerful, but it’s also his life support. To me one of Tony’s saving graces in the previous films is that every fight, every attack he makes runs the risk of killing him. He could very easily just stay at home and not do anything strenuous, but instead chooses to fight and protect people. Taking out the arc reactor removes that layer, and instead of being a subversion of a power fantasy he just is a power fantasy.
Credit to Iron Man 3, there is a definitive attempt here to make a grand arc, to fit all three movies in thematically. The trilogy starts with Tony being seriously wounded, and ends with him healing that wound. There is a distinct a very strong connection between Iron Man and Iron Man 3. Given the utter lack of one in the Thor trilogy, I appreciate that. I believe that that’s what the point of removing the arc reactor was, especially given that they didn’t know if Robert Downey Jr would extend his contract or not. And if this had been the last hurrah of Tony Stark, I would probably feel better about the bookend, but since he’s still doing stuff, it’s severely weakened.
The decision to introduce a new/past love interest for Tony, kill her, and then pretend to kill Pepper was pretty frustrating as well (though I concede Gwyneth Paltrow fighting with an Iron Man gauntlet was awesome and I wish we’d get to see her as Rescue at some point in a movie). The Iron Patriot change is…curious, and given that the next time we see Rhodey he’s gone back to being War Machine without any mention it makes it feel very strange. Guy Pierce’s villain, Killian, is remarkably boring, just another jerk in a suit, same as Hammer and Stane.
And then there’s the villains. Not Guy Pierce and Ben Kingsley, their henchmen. Okay, I admit that I’m a fairly liberal person. I don’t agree with much of the United States’ military action in my life time. But making a story where your villain’s army is made up of wounded veterans, those who lost limbs and have PTSD? Having one of the plot threads being that they sometimes explode? That’s disgusting.
So yeah, I don’t like or recommend this film. Some of that is just my own personal hang ups I concede, but I feel that objectively, there’s a lot wrong with this film. And since very little of what happened here is referenced in future films, there’s not really a strong need to see it either. I will, however, concede that from an objective standpoint, it’s not the worst MCU film. Structurally speaking, it is far better than the next film in the franchise.
Thor: The Dark World
This film currently has the lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes of any MCU movie. And yeah, it deserves it. The Incredible Hulk may be the most forgettable film in the line, but this is by far the worst made. From absolutely wasting Christopher Eccleston, to killing whatever chemistry Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth had, to fridging Thor’s mother Frigga, bad decision after bad decision fills this film. It’s honestly kind of amazing.
I think that’s why I like it better than Iron Man 3. The Dark World is a bad story, but it’s done so incompetently I can’t help but marvel (heh). I move straight past anger and frustration to amusement and confusion. With Iron Man 3, I can tell that quite a bit of thought and effort went into making it. I think most of their decisions were ill conceived, but there was obviously a lot of work put into making it.
With The Dark World, I’m not convinced that a script was ever written. I’m sure they’ll say that there was but frankly if you told me that each day on set everyone from the director to the actors completely improvised the scenes, and that said scenes were all filmed out of order, I’d believe you. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it incoherent, I can tell you exactly what happened and frankly it’s more tonally consistent than Ragnarok, but certainly incompetent.
Except in one area. Loki. I don’t know why this happened, but after a ‘meh’ performance in Thor and only a slightly better one in The Avengers, Tom Hiddleston nails it here. He’s entertaining, he’s cunning, he’s pitiable (I’m reluctant to go so far as to call him sympathetic), he’s everything I’d want from this character. So maybe just find a supercut on YouTube of Loki’s moments and just read the Wikipedia synopsis for the rest of the film.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Oh, I cannot tell you what a relief this film was. When it came out, the MCU was 0 for 3 in the sequel category. If this movie had turned out to be as bad as Iron Man 3 or The Dark World, I don’t know what shape the MCU would be in. Fortunately, the Brothers Russo were called in and we got a film that’s usually ranked as being one of the best of the MCU. Heck, it was usually considered the best until Black Panther came out (full disclosure, I put it at number three now).
This film is wonderful, doing the absolute most possible with the conceit of Captain America-the hero out of time. Steve has to deal with the realities of his situation, of being a modern Rip Van Winkle. The sole survivor from his era is Peggy Carter, who is now old and suffering from severe mental degradation. The ostensible good guys, SHIELD, have decided to start preemptively taking out threats. His old enemies, HYDRA, are revealed to still be going strong. And worst of all, his best friend has been twisted into a deadly enemy.
If I had to find something bad to say about The Winter Soldier, I’d say it has two drawbacks. One, it literally blew up Agents of SHIELD’s premise at the end of their first season, leaving the show floundering. And secondly, this is Scarlett Johansson’s worst hair style of the franchise. Long, straight red hair is not her look.
Look, just watch it. I can promise you won’t be disappointed.
Guardians of the Galaxy
This film was also a delightful relief, though in different ways. This came out after Man of Steel and The Winter Soldier, a time when it looked like grimdark was going to be the prevailing trend for superhero films. Then came Guardians of the Galaxy, with a neon color scheme, goofy tone, and a 70’s pop soundtrack. A hero film dedicated to giving us something fun above all else. And it delivers that. This is the film that I feel the Iron Man films were trying to be, even if it came out after all of them.
Yes, this film is silly and popcorny. But it has an interesting conceit, one that I compare most to Suicide Squad. Not just the film of said Squad mind you (eventually I’ll probably do a DCEU equivalent to this piece, but not right now) but the comics as well. Both are about terrible people being put into a group by forces outside their control and having to save the day. The difference however, is that the point of the Suicide Squad is that these are bad people who, for the most part, like being bad and resent what they’re forced to do. The Guardians however, are bad people who became bad due to abuse and are slowly healing from their wounds by building a support group.
The Avengers are work colleagues, the Guardians are a family. I like this. I like this movie. It’s fine. Not great, but fine.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
So, you know how I said that The Avengers felt like a big movie? Every scene dripping with bombast and excitement that they’d somehow managed to pull this off? Yeah, none of that’s here. Age of Ultron feels like an obligation, something they made because they needed something between the first and Infinity War.
In all honesty, this is a meh movie. Actually, it’s probably a pretty bad movie. The lack of excitement or pleasure that went into making it is almost palpable. You can feel Joss Whedon crumbling under the pressure of ludicrously high fan expectations and studio demands. The much derided romance between Natasha and Bruce could not be more wedged in if they tried. Thor goes off at one point to sit in a hot tub and watch a teaser trailer for Infinity War. Way too many new characters are introduced to do all of them justice. It’s a bit of a mess.
But I can’t call it a bad movie, because it has three tremendous saving graces. First and foremost we have James Spader as Ultron. Oh holy crap, behold-the most entertaining villain the MCU has ever produced. One of the performances tied for first in terms of best performance from a MCU villain’s actor. Not the best written or most sympathetic mind you. I am not trying to say that he’s the best villain, just the most entertaining and most enjoyable to watch. Seriously, if you don’t want to sit through all of Age of Ultron, get on YouTube and track down a compilation of Ultron scenes.
Second we have Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. I was not predisposed to feel…anything towards this character. I’ve never had strong feelings with regards to Wanda. I liked her in X-Men: Evolution I guess, but that’s mostly because I’m shallow and have a thing for angry goth girls. I don’t have any history with Elizabeth Olsen’s older sisters either, so no nostalgia tinge. But somehow Wanda has managed to become one of my absolute favorite MCU heroes. Plus, the accent she’s trying to have in this movie is just freaking adorable.
Third and finally, is the farm scenes. I absolutely love this set. I love that Clint has a family, I love watching these characters attempt to unwind, I love that we get to see them talk and prepare to eventually do battle but also deal with their recent mental trauma. And yeah it’s not perfect and yeah I could use more of it and I wish Thor was there, and I hate that whole scene where Bruce and Natasha talk about how they can’t have kids and Natasha implies (probably unintentionally) that her inability to have kids makes her a monster but…everything else is so good!
Watch this movie. It’s not great, but of the MCU’s mediocre films, this is probably the best.
Wow, this was a weird one. I admit, this is the only MCU film (so far) that I have not seen in theaters. And not by accident either. I was furious when this film came out, full of fan girl range, and refused to see it. I did, however, eventually come around after Captain America: Civil War, so pleased with Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang that I had to see his movie.
Okay, so, obviously all of the MCU films are adaptations, and most are pretty bad adaptations. Not bad films necessarily, but from the standpoint of adaptations of existing stories, they’re pretty bad. But perhaps none come off quite so much as blatant fanfiction the way that Ant-Man does. So if you don’t care about this corner of the Marvel universe, you won’t have any problems. But if you’re like me, and you were looking forward to this story for very specific reasons *cough*Janet Van Dyne*cough* you will have some issues. (Side note. If you’re wondering why the lack of Janet upset me so much, go binge The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Seriously, it’s a great show.)
But I concede, my complaints were on par with people who get mad at Disney’s Hercules for not being accurate enough. My bad. This is a good, funny film. To quote How It Should Have Ended, ‘it’s Mission Impossible. With ants!’ It is perhaps one of the least consequential films in the franchise, only The Incredible Hulk has left less impact on the MCU, but all in all it’s not a bad way to spend two hours.
Here’s another film that I had very mixed feelings about. On the one hand, this was a very good looking film. I like magic and fantasy, and getting to see it in the context of the MCU was an exciting prospect. On the other hand, we had Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. I mean, he certainly looked the part, but I was very, very nervous. I am not a Benedict Cumberbatch fan. I cannot stand Sherlock, I found him an okay but not great Khan, and while I did enjoy him as Smaug that’s mostly because I firmly believe he was doing a Tim Curry impersonation the whole time. The point is, I think Benedict Cumberbatch can do a good villain (he’d actually make a good Brainiac) I had doubts on his ability to play a hero.
He wasn’t bad though. I mean, he’s kind of falling into a similar area as Tony, snarky white guy, but I find him less frustrating. Largely because of how hard he works the whole time. We see him studying, him working, trying to figure things out. The man is nonstop, and frankly I appreciate him more than I do Tony, even if he’s not one of my favorites. If nothing else, at least he defeats the big threat by thinking rather than blasting.
But the best thing about this film is the visuals. I mean, holy crap, the imagination that went into making this film is remarkable. Do yourself a favor, and see this film. It’s not really super important to the timeline of the other films, but it is just a visual feast on the highest level that you need to watch.
Captain America: Civil War
Objectively speaking, this is probably the least of the Captain America movies. It’s a bit cluttered, and the fact that it does double duty as Iron Man 4 detracts from giving Steve the focus he deserves. There’s a lot going on in this movie, though at least all the things tie into the basic plot.
That being said, this movie does have two things going for it. On the shallow ‘summer blockbuster’ side of things, the fight in the airport is excellent. It’s got lots of moments for every character to showcase what makes them special and interesting. Just enough time is given to let you know why these are ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’, without dragging on so long as to make it feel excessive.
The second, and more important, aspect is just how much better than the comic this movie is. The questions it raises are legitimate, even if the impetus is stupid. There are no easy answers in this film, acknowledging that life can get messy and frustrating and difficult beyond belief. Instead we’re left with a mess of problems, ones that Infinity War shows haven’t been solved two years later. I adore the speech Clint gives Tony when trapped in prison, the frustration and resentment that fills it, and I’m curious to see if it colors the two’s interactions in Avengers 4.
Ultimately Civil War is fine. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining and interesting. A notch or two above mediocre at least. Watch it, you probably won’t regret it.
…I miss Andrew Garfield.
That’s not to say that Tom Holland is bad. From a purely accuracy of adaptation standpoint, he is probably the best Peter Parker. And Tom Holland is a very skilled young actor. But…I still miss Andrew Garfield, even if Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a bit iffy.
Look, Homecoming is fine. It’s a perfectly fine young Spider-Man movie. I appreciate that it’s not another origin story at least. Michael Keaton delivers an excellent performance as the Vulture, easily getting into the top three best villain performances in the MCU. And he doesn’t die, which is nice. Tony Stark is fine here too, at least acknowledging that he has flaws and that he wants Peter to be better than him. Zendaya is a better Mary Jane than Kristen Dunst, but she’s hardly a main character in this film so I will refrain from comparisons to Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy.
If you like Spider-Man or love Michael Keaton, go ahead and watch this film. If you don’t, don’t, you’re not missing much. Moving on.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Watch this movie. Oh good goddess, watch this movie! I don’t care if you liked the first Guardians film or not, you need to see this one! It’s just…it’s the best of the MCU. Yes, really. I like it better than Black Panther. I’m sorry, this one just resonated with me and my experiences more. It is, I think, the best depiction of the various ways abuse impacts people I’ve ever seen in a fictional movie.
Look, just go watch Lindsay Ellis’s video, The Complex Feels of Guardians of the Galaxy v.2. She articulates it better than I can. And then go watch this movie.
This movie on the other hand…I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it has some very good performances throughout. Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, and Karl Urban deliver excellent ones, and Mark Ruffalo and Jeff Goldblum do well too. Chris Hemsworth’s performance in this film isn’t what I was looking for, but I acknowledge that he does fine, same with Tom Hiddleston.
But on the other hand, this is the most tonally inconsistent film I think I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. It jumps from thoughtful and dark to wacky and light hearted so fast I have emotional whiplash. I honestly don’t know what happened here. It feels like they wrote two scripts, one for a dark film fitting of the subtitle Ragnarok and a second for a light and goofy comedy, and then a producer ordered them to just splice the two scripts together and not change any of the actual writing.
The result is a moderately funny comedy with moments of startling and confusing (in comparison) drama. It’s like eating ice cream with mustard on it. The flavors fight for your attention and no one wins.
Actually, now that I think about it the drama stuff is all just Black Panther IN SPACE. A young prince who wants to be a good king loses his father, and then an angry and previously unknown relative shows up and tries to wreck everything in an attempt to deal with the pain caused by the actions of the now deceased father. Huh. Maybe that’s why there’s all the comedy and Planet Hulk shenanigans? Trying to avoid making Black Panther look like a rehash?
Regardless of the reasoning, I just can’t recommend watching Thor Ragnarok all the way through unless you’re a die-hard fan of Chris Hemsworth. It’s on Netflix right now, so just fast forward through the scenes that don’t have Cate Blanchett or Tessa Thompson in them. It won’t fix everything, but it helps.
So…yeah, this is a really good movie. I like it a lot. I’d call it the second best MCU film period. It’s beautiful, well acted, has one of the best written and best performed villains in the franchise, and has an excellent story. There is nothing bad in this movie, it’s all really good. So ultimately how much you like it is just going to come down to personal taste and what resonates with you.
Sorry, there’s just not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said by people who are smarter than me and who have earned the right to talk about this film. As a white middle class girl from the United States, I’m reluctant to get into the social significance of this film. I just don’t feel like it’s my place. And it’s pretty new still, so I don’t want to toss out too many spoilers.
So just watch Black Panther, and come to your own conclusions okay? It’s a very good movie and it deserves the hype around it.
Avengers: Infinity War
Somewhat similar problem here. I’ve already talked about Infinity War, in was my first article not about Krypton. It’s a fine movie. I like it. It’s not as good as Black Panther obviously, and it has some problematic aspects, but it’s big and bold and ambitious. A welcome change from Age of Ultron.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Again, hard to find things to say about this movie. This time because it just barely came to theaters and I want to avoid too many spoilers. I like this movie, I’d say it’s better than the first Ant-Man movie. The villain is one of the most sympathetic yet, tied for that position with Killmonger. Evangeline Lilly is wonderful, even if her hair was better in Ant-Man.
Also, this movie is the exact opposite of grimdark. It could even be argued it’s a repudiation of grimdark honestly. Which leads to my one complaint. The mid-credits scene. I have never had a problem with the mid and after credits scenes. It’s not that long of a wait, and they’re usually entertaining. And I’m a big proponent of the cinematic universe model. But I will admit, the nature of the MCU hurts this movie. I won’t spoil the scene, but it’s a downer, and a poor way to end a film that’s the opposite of depressing.
…Which takes us to present day. What do you guys think of the MCU films? Which do you disagree with me on? Let me know in the comments!