Iron Man 3 A lot of people hate Iron Man 3, and to be quite honest I cannot for the life of me understand why. This movie is awesome! It continues not long after where The Avengers left off, and actually had the world and characters dealing with the aftermath of the events of that movie. Tony Stark is suffering from PTSD, and the world is uneasy after the whole alien wormhole in the sky appeared over New York City thing. What I especially love about this movie is that it feels both like an MCU movie, and a director’s own movie. It was directed by Shane Black, who gives the film an energy and wit that other Marvel movies don’t have. The action is amazing spectacle, RDJ does his best work as Tony Stark yet, and delivers an entertaining plot with a ton of awesome moments. There’s even a kid sidekick for a portion of the movie that was actually really endearing, most of the time they’re annoying. I know people complain about it having plot holes, but the movie is so damn entertaining that you barely notice them. Yes, Tony giving his address out on national television and not making necessary precautions was stupid of him, but that was the only moment that really stuck out to me. The other complaint I hear is that it changes Iron Man’s most famous villain from who he was in the comics. That in and of itself is not an issue, because the way they handle it is absolutely hilarious and makes for a good plot twist. Nonetheless, I understand how they feel, and the replacement for him is just under run of the mill Marvel villain instead of someone interesting. Despite those issues, it’s still one of the MCU’s best, and is easily the best Iron Man movie.
Thor: The Dark World
Another day, another boring Thor movie. It’s as if they never learned a single lesson from the failings of the first one. While it had issues, if they brought the focus back onto the cosmic and mythological elements in a sequel, this could have been really cool. Instead, it manages to take a step backwards from the first one. The boring human characters return, along with the villain being easily one of the worst in the MCU, and instead of exploring interesting and creative environments, we’re stuck with the most drab and unimpressive ones ever. The best elements of this movie are the interactions between Thor and Loki, but they come far too late into the film to make a difference. Thor: The Dark World is a mediocre bore that you should just read the plot on Wikipedia.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A movie that could have just been another mediocre, run of the mill MCU sequel film turned out to be a movie just as good as The Avengers, and easily one of the better comic book movies in history that nearly matches The Dark Knight. I find it hilarious how detractors will claim Marvel movies take no chances, because it ignores movies they make like these. It was directed by two directors who mainly had experience doing TV episodes, and features a morally grey spy-thriller plot involving political themes of security versus freedom, starring one of the most morally pure superheroes in history. That’s what I would call taking a risk, and boy did it pay off. The plot is extremely well paced and written, with intrigue and conspiracies straight out of a Jason Bourne film, the fight scenes have great choreography featuring practical stunt work and effects, with many action scenes being among the best in the entire MCU. The Winter Soldier is a pretty menacing and compelling rival for Steve Rogers, and seeing Captain America be forced to confront the darker side of the country he has given his life and soul to is compelling character development. Even the score is a step up from other Marvel movies, with The Winter Soldier’s theme being instantly memorable and chilling. The only main complaint I have is that there isn’t enough interaction between Captain America and the Winter Soldier, so the twist to his identity doesn’t have quite as much dramatic gravitas as it could have. Other than that though this is by far one of the best MCU movies, and is a top tier superhero movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Again, another risky movie that paid off. Marvel took some of their most obscure characters ever, gave it to the director of the R-rated black comedy Super, and dished out an awesome sci-fi adventure. You know you’re movie is going to be a wild ride when it begins with the main character getting abducted by aliens after his mom dies of cancer, and then flashes forward to him dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone. The movie never suffers from tonal whiplash though because James Gunn excels at balancing tones. Guardians of the Galaxy’s biggest strength is its characters and the chemistry they have with each other, which manages to carry its rather simplistic plot. Peter Quill is the Han Solo-esque rogue, Drax is a member of a literal minded species, Gamora is the serious one who was enslaved as a child, Rocket is a talking raccoon whose easily the most morally ambiguous of the group, and Groot is a giant, talking tree that can only say “I Am Groot.” They’re all quirky, but they are more than their quirks, being multi-layered and having their own baggage they have to deal with in their own ways. It keeps you invested in their fate as they travel to these creative and interesting worlds that make the universe they inhabit feel alive. What holds it back from reaching true greatness is the villain being a Saturday morning cartoon character, the plot being very simple, and the sense that the movie is concerned with being an introduction to this new world and characters rather than standing on its own. Still, with awesome characters, a creative universe to explore, and a soundtrack that absolutely kicks ass, this movie is very good.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
If the first Avengers movie was a massive step forward for comic book movies, the sequel unfortunately stagnates. It repeats many of the same plot elements from the first movie: big action scene in the beginning that sets up the rest of the plot, hero versus hero due to mind control, the villain wants to “save” humanity in their own twisted way, a cool down period in the middle of the second act, climax is in a big city, etc. The movie is the most obviously “filler episode” of the MCU since Iron Man 2, more concerned with setting up plot points for future movies rather than standing on its own. It also has one of the most bafflingly out of left field romances I’ve seen featuring Black Widow and Bruce Banner, with not even a little build up to it, and a deus ex machine at the climax because the movie wrote itself into a corner. The more I talk about this movie the more I realize just how disposable and a waste of time it is. It didn’t even have Alan Silvestri return to do the score. Just watch some scenes on YouTube or read about it online. James Spader as Ultron was pretty cool at least.
This was a refreshing, surprisingly entertaining movie. It is a small, humble heist film with superheroes in it. Scott Lang is an ex con who through a series of events gets recruited into becoming the new Ant Man by Hank Pym, the old one. This was originally going to be directed by Edgar Wright, but creative differences lead to him departing from the project and Peyton Reed stepping in to take over. He did a pretty good job and I’m glad he’s returning to direct the next Ant Man movie. Scott Lang is a very likable and sympathetic protagonist, trying to leave his old life behind and redeem himself for his mistakes so he can be a good father to his daughter. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym was also really good, and serves as a great mentor figure and mirror to Scott Lang. The plot is nothing special, it’s just another heist movie but with some added flavor by adding superheroes and cool moments from Ant Man’s ability to shrink and communicate with ants, and the villain is yet again another generic evil businessman with a personal vendetta, like the first Iron Man movie. The villain even fights the hero in a suit that also mirrors the hero’s, just like Obadiah Stane from Iron Man. Humor wise it’s a pretty funny movie and the humor doesn’t get in the way of the dramatic moments, and there were even a few scenes with their editing style and quick pace felt like Edgar Wright directed them, but they didn’t feel out of place or inconsistent with the movie’s overall direction. It could have been better, but it is still an entertaining movie that did try to add some new flavor to the market, and I’m interested in what a sequel can do.