Tag: MCU

Avengers: Infinity War review

infinity-war-poster-new

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlet Johansson, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Christopher Mackie, etc.

Released: April 27, 2018

The expectations for Avengers: Infinity War were astronomical. What Marvel did in The Avengers back in 2012, they now had to do on an even grander scale with a decade’s worth of characters and plot threads that had been in the making. It should be an impossible task. Key phrase being “should be”, because they pulled it off. Holy crap did they pull it off. Mostly.

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of everything that has been built up since the first Avengers film. Thanos is finally getting his hands dirty and is making his move to obtain all the Infinity Stones. His goal: to wipe out half the universe. As he moves everywhere from space to earth, searching for the Infinity Stones and dealing with his own familial issues and inner conflict, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to unite to stop him. A whole decade’s worth of characters come together for one of the most explosive movies in the MCU’s history.

Thanos is absolutely magnificent in this film with Josh Brolin proving to be a perfect fit for the role. People have been joking about how all he does is sit on his chair and boss people around while he had yet to get one stone, here he realizes that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. He’s actually the main character of the movie, as the film places a majority of focus on his search for the stones and his motivation. Thanos is no cartoonish, muahahaha villain. He is a genuinely complex and nuanced character. He sincerely believes what he is doing is right, and has moments of guilt and remorse over what he is doing. His relationship with his “daughter” Gamora is fascinating and extremely tragic to watch play out, as Thanos clearly does care about her in a very twisted way but also will hurt her emotionally and physically for the sake of his ambition. He is intelligent, cruel, and merciful all at once. Marvel had a great villain with Killmonger back in Black Panther, and they managed to match or arguably top him with Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War is the first superhero movie since The Avengers to feel like an epic. The scope of its plot is massive, the stakes are on a universal scale, spanning across space itself and having a massive cast portraying larger than life characters. The plot is admittedly more of a vehicle for character interactions and gigantic action set pieces, but those two elements are so well handled that it hardly matters if at all. You care about these characters after watching them grow and learn from a decade’s worth of storylines and it is a blast to see characters that have never interacted before or haven’t interacted in years finally meet face to face.

A surprise is how dark the tone of Infinity War is. The very first scene is of Thanos and his followers in the aftermath of massacring the surviving Asgardians from Thor: Ragnarok, and it is horrific in its brutality. It’s not like the first two DCEU movies where the tone was so dark with no balance as to make the film actively unpleasant or boring, but the Russo Brothers wisely understand that it can’t be an action-comedy like Thor: Ragnarok was. People are going to die and there can’t be quips and jokes ever couple of minutes. The humor comes from the character interactions and the personalities working together. That way when the tragic moments happen (and believe me there is tragedy in this movie), they hit that much more to the viewer. A theme of the movie appears to be that when left unchecked, emotions and goals can have disastrous consequences on the people around you. Don’t mistake this sentence for trying to make Infinity War seem like a deep masterpiece, but I just happened to notice that and feel that lends the film some even more weight most of the MCU films lack.

There are a few things that hold this film back from reaching the levels of greatness in the first Avengers film. As mentioned before, the plot itself is nothing unique or special for a superhero movie for the most part, save for one aspect which I will save for the end. The sheer scale of the film also means no matter how balanced it is, and can feel a bit bloated at times, with some characters from past films that you would think be included being left out to keep the runtime at a bearable length. Which leads into the problem of certain sections of the film being better than others, due to the characters being so spread out across different story beats. None of the parts are bad, but some are absolutely outstanding while others just sit comfortably good. Anything with Thanos, the subplot of Thor journeying with Rocket and Groot, and lastly Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the other Guardians working to take down Thanos is the former. Finally while Alan Silvestri makes his triumphant return, along with his iconic theme song for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the music is mostly back to being just meh.

This is a shocking, gripping, and tragic movie that truly marks the beginning of the end for a certain number of Marvel characters, and perhaps is the beginning of a new chapter in the MCU’s life. It has its problems but they don’t get in the way of truly awe inspiring spectacle and beloved characters facing trials they have never before faced. You’ve either already seen it or had every intention of seeing it regardless of what the reviews said because you’ve been with the MCU since Iron Man back in 2008. Well I’m just here to tell you to stick around for the ride a little longer, because Avengers: Infinity War is one of the MCU’s best.

First I will give my score for the film, then my updated rankings of the MCU films, and then I will directly comment on the ending of Infinity War. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop at the score or rankings.

Score: 8/10

Rankings:
1. The Avengers

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

4. Avengers: Infinity War

5. Captain America: Civil War

6. Iron Man 3

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

8. Spider-Man: Homecoming

9. Thor: Ragnarok

10. Iron

11. Black Panther

12. Captain America: The First Avenger

13. Ant Man

14. Doctor Strange

15. Avengers: Age of Ultron

16. Thor

17. Iron Man 2

18. Thor: The Dark World

19. The Incredible Hulk

Spoiler Warning:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ending to Avengers: Infinity War is the best of any MCU movie. Thanos wins. Completely and utterly wins. Half of the universe is wiped out, and many of our favorite heroes do not survive. Black Panther dies, Groot dies, Bucky Barnes dies, even Spider-Man dies. Those are just four of the characters that Thanos doesn’t just kill, but erases from existence itself. He kills Vision to get the final Infinity Stone, in an extremely brutal and gut wrenching death scene. The last words of the film are from Captain America, just saying dumbstruck in horror “Oh God.” Cue credits. Bravo Russo Brothers, because that is how you leave an audience hooked for the next movie.

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Black Panther review

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Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis

Released: February 16, 2018

Here is the latest (and I do mean latest) review for the latest Marvel film Black Panther. It’s a movie that definitely has a lot of good qualities to it, but I don’t think it quite deserved the hyperbolic praise it received upon release. It’s still a good, fun film, but it is held back from the greatness many took it as by some rather glaring flaws I was surprised to see in such a high budget production.

Black Panther takes place just a little after the events of Captain America: Civil War. It concerns T’Challa ascending to the throne of Wakanda after his father’s death. T’Challa must struggle with the decision of whether or not to continue Wakanda’s traditional isolationism, or decide to reach out and aid the less fortunate countries of the world, but risk exposing Wakanda to enemies. While he’s grappling with these issues, a mysterious young man named Erik Killmonger and smuggler Ulysses Klaue team up to steal African artifacts for profit, but Killmonger has his own, more personal motives involving the very fate of Wakanda.

To put it bluntly, the technical aspects of Black Panther are extremely hit or miss. The practical costumes and fight scenes are all well done, and the aesthetics and style of Wakanda gives it a unique visual flavor that other superhero movies don’t have. However, the green screen and CGI, especially during the film’s climax can be just plain awful. Shockingly awful in fact, especially for such a Marvel movie. What just keeps it above water is Ryan Coogler’s stellar direction. He brings an energy and spirit to this film that other Marvel movies don’t have. He gives us a very well done and effective one shot take of an action scene when the film’s plot is happening in South Korea. Black Panther also boasts a genuinely unique and interesting soundtrack, which the MCU has been sorely needing.

Black Panther’s characters are all decent, but none really standing out except for its villain. My god is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger a fantastic villain. So fantastic I would argue he is the best Marvel villain so far. He’s a villain yes, but an anti-villain. You’ll loathe his methods and personality, but understand his motives and feel sympathy for him once you discover why he is the way he is. Killmonger only becomes more sympathetic from his character growth throughout the plot, and Jordan’s charismatic performance.

The plot of Black Panther takes some waiting to rise above normal superhero movie fare. At first it seems to be more focused on setting up the inner workings and culture of Wakanda, the movie’s main setting. Later, with the revelations of the main antagonist, Erik Killmonger’s true motives, Black Panther essentially becomes Marvel’s version of Shakespeare. There is tragedy, children suffering for their parents’ sins, redemption, politics, and internal conflict all at play. It sometimes feels a bit too much for the film’s runtime, which could’ve served to have been longer.

The single best aspect of the film is its worldbuilding. Wakanda is practically a character in its own right. It feels like a real, lived in place. There is an exceptional level of thought placed into the little details of the country. You want to visit this place and experience what it has to offer. The country’s own politics become central to the film’s plot, and the way it handles these weighty elements is admirable and nuanced.

Black Panther is definitely an enjoyable blockbuster, but that’s about it. It’s not a great film that does anything really new and groundbreaking, even for the genre. Although Erik Killmonger is an absolutely superb villain that steals the whole show. It needs to be taken as it is. I can at least say I’m interested in returning to Wakanda for another movie.

Score: 6/10

Marvel Cinematic Universe review part 3

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice except thousands of times better. This is based off of the comic storyline of the same name, but the movie does a much better of job of living up to the interesting premise of the heroes of the Marvel universe battling each other over ideological differences thanks to good writing and the characters all being sympathetic in their own ways. Both Iron Man’s and Captain America’s sides make valid arguments regarding their positions on the Accords and actually talk to each other, instead of just scowling at each other and brooding. Their positions also showcase their development, with Iron Man deciding he doesn’t have all the answers and Captain America not trusting his government so blindly anymore. Also, for a movie so stuffed with characters it utilizes them all well. Black Panther is introduced and has an interesting character arc, while Spider-Man makes his MCU debut and is awesome. All the action scenes are awesome with practical stunts, the airport scene where all the heroes fight each other is pure entertainment, and the climax is genuinely emotional featuring the falling out of the two heroes we know and love. The villain isn’t anything special, but his motivation is sympathetic and not convoluted or stupid. It’s not as good as The Winter Soldier, but it’s still a great superhero movie and a great conclusion to the Captain America trilogy.
Score: 8/10

Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is an interesting movie. The first act does an excellent job of building up the character of Stephen Strange, then tearing him because of his hubris. It plays out like a tragedy and is when the film is at its best. Unfortunately the rest of the movie’s plot is pretty forgettable, as it essentially retells the same story the first Iron Man did about a jerk needing to learn humility. Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange is perfect for the role at least. The main selling point of this movie is the trippy, Inception like visuals and effects. They are admittedly impressive, but they’re the only impressive thing in the movie and Inception did them first and better. Mads Mikkelsen’s villain had potential but is just a standard Marvel villain when all is said and done. Also the humor isn’t handled as well as other Marvel movies since this is going for a more serious tone. It’s not a bad movie, just not a memorable one with some entertaining moments sprinkled throughout.
Score: 5/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Against the odds it is even better than the first one. Vol. 2 smartly puts less emphasis on worldbuilding and more on character development. The pacing is slower, with the Guardians being separated at times and interacting with different characters. By far the best of these are Yondu and Rocket’s interactions, which give both of them more depth and nuance than the first one showed. The villain is not only miles better than the first one, but where Marvel has finally solved their villain problem. Ego played by Kurt Russell has charisma, you understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, and the sheer level of his atrocities is the worst of any Marvel villain. Even the soundtrack is better than first one, with the opening scene being equal parts hilarious and awesome with one long shot of Baby Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky” while the team fights a giant monster. Words don’t do it justice. Some might think the humor is too much, but I actually thought they did a great job mixing the humor in with the more dramatic moments. It’s easily one of the better Marvel movies and even one of the better comic books movies you can watch.
Score: 8/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Finally Spider-Man makes his triumphant debut into the MCU. This is smartly not another origin story, but a story about Peter trying to come into his own as a superhero. Tom Holland was great from what we saw as both the geeky Peter Parker and the wiseass Spider-Man in Civil War, and he proves that he can still pull both off in his own movie. The plot is refreshingly small scale and humble, being more of a slice of life high-school comedy than a typical superhero movie plot. This film, like GotG Vol. 2 shows Marvel has finally found a way to make great villains not named Loki, with Michael Keaton as the Vulture being genuinely sympathetic and likable to the extent I was actually kind of rooting for him to succeed at the end. It’s also refreshing to have a Spider-Man movie where the Green Goblin isn’t the main villain. The humor is also quite appropriate for the setting, instead of forced or out of place like Doctor Strange’s humor was. If there are some negatives I could point to, it would be that Aunt May is way too young to be believable, and Peter’s high-school friend Ned was really obnoxious in the beginning.
Score: 7/10

Thor: Ragnarok
At last, a Thor movie that’s actually good! When your movie’s opening scene involves Thor beating up monsters while Immigrant Song plays, you know you’re in for a wild ride. Ditching the faux Shakespearian drama from the last two Thor movies, Thor: Ragnarok has a level of self-awareness the other ones were lacking. This is the first movie with Thor in it since the first Avengers where I actually found him likable. Chris Hemsworth shows off a lot of comedic talent and wit in this, but can still handle the dramatic moments when needed. People may complain the humor detracts from the apocalyptic scenario, but that just makes the movie more unique in comparison to others like it. I’ll also add that there are some well delivered themes tackling the subject of colonialism on display amidst all the banter and jokes. Every cast member is having a blast in this, especially Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett. Golblum is just having the time of his life, and while Hela may not be the most compelling Marvel villain, Blanchett’s hammy performance ensures you’ll love her every second she’s on screen. New side characters such as Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director/actor Taika Waititi as Korg are awesome in their own right. This might very well have the best cast of characters in the MCU so far, with the highlight of the film being how they all play off of each other. Their interactions feel real and human, and if they were improvised I wouldn’t be surprised. One glaring fault is that the CGI and other effects aren’t very good a lot of the time, but this is balanced out by the artstyle and vivid colors of the worlds in the movie. If you’re expecting a grey, dark, miserable drama where everyone is unlikable and mopey, you’re out of luck. Thor: Ragnarok is vibrant, bright, and above all else: fun.
Score: 7/10

Overall
Finally, here is my ranking for the Marvel movies as of right now (an updated one will be posted after Infinity War)
1. The Avengers
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
4. Captain America: Civil War
5. Iron Man 3
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
8. Thor: Ragnarok
9. Iron Man
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
11. Ant Man
12. Doctor Strange
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
14. Thor
15. Iron Man 2
16. Thor: The Dark World
17. The Incredible Hulk

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had its low points, but their latest string of movies starting with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have been consistently entertaining and creative. The top six movies are ones I would recommend everyone watch, as they are standout movies in their own right. The bottom three should be skipped entirely, just read a summary online.

 

Marvel Cinematic Universe review part 2

 

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.
Score: 8/10

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.
Score: 4/10

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.
Score: 9/10

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.
Score: 7.5/10

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.
Score: 4.5/10

Ant Man
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.
Score: 6/10

Marvel Cinematic Universe review part 1

With Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War coming out this year, I figured I would get fully up to speed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve seen many of them before, but not all of them. This franchise is a truly exceptional creation by showing you can be entertaining to mass audiences and faithful to the source material at the same time. This could have been a disaster from day one, but ever since Iron Man in 2008, Marvel has been making some of the most entertaining superhero movies ever, all set in the same universe, with B list characters mainstream audiences had never even heard of.

I am splitting up this review into three parts, with each part covering one phase of the MCU. So this part will cover Phase One, the next whenever it comes out will be Phase Two, and finally the last one will be Phase Three ending with Thor: Ragnarok. Black Panther and Infinity War will have their own entries for review.

Iron Man
We start off on a pretty good foot with the first Iron Man movie. Iron Man was a B list character not well known to general audiences, and hiring an actor like Robert Downey Jr., whose career seemed to have come and gone just added more risks to it. Yet, the movie is really good. RDJ as Tony Stark is one of the best casting decisions in history, because he IS Iron Man. The movie begins on a surprisingly dark note, with Tony Stark being kidnapped after his escort of American soldier is murdered by terrorists in a shootout. He then works with another scientist to escape, and has a change of heart about the practices of his company. They actually take time to develop the relationship between Tony and this scientist, causing you to genuinely care for them and hope they succeed. The other relationships he has, like with his best friend James Rhodes played by Terrance Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow as his loyal, snarky, and highly intelligent personal assistant Pepper Potts are interesting and feel real as well thanks to good acting and dialogue.
Tony’s development from a selfish jerk who is blind to the consequences of his company’s weapons dealing, to a selfless, but still flawed man who wants to make amends is poignant and well done. And it still manages to keep things relatively bearable by having very funny dialogue and character moments in between all the serious scenes and action. It’s plot is overall simple but well told, with some political elements sprinkled throughout to give it a sense of realism. Compared to the other Marvel movies it is also shockingly small scale, with more personal stakes. It’s not the best of the bunch though, with the villain being just a greedy, envious businessman, the action scenes aren’t really that impressive save for the scene with Iron Man and the two jets, and the third act in general being a disappointment. Still, it’s really good and still holds up today overall.
Score: 7/10

The Incredible Hulk
This movie is boring. Personally I’ve always found Hulk not to be an interesting character but I’m sure you can make good movies out of him. This is not one of them. Edward Norton as Bruce Banner is good, but doesn’t distinguish himself in any way anyone else couldn’t have done. I am sure that’s the fault of the material he was working with, not him though. The romance between him and Betty Ross played by Liv Tyler is so bland I’m struggling to remember it, thanks to her unremarkable performance. The villain is boring too. Really boring is the best word to describe this movie, and apparently the MCU agrees because this movie and most of its characters are forgotten about in later MCU movies. The one interesting thing about it is the element of Bruce having a heart monitor to keep an eye on his stress level, and he can’t even have sexual intercourse because he gets too excited and risks the Hulk coming out. Skip it, you’ll miss nothing.
Score: 3/10

Iron Man 2
The first direct sequel in the MCU. It’s not as bad as Hulk was by virtue of having Robert Downey Jr. in it, but it’s still mostly forgettable. This time there are two main villains, Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko played by Mickey Rourke. Mickey Rourke is definitely a step up from the previous two main baddies, but he gets taken out in the most anticlimactic way possible, and Justin Hammer is just another smarmy businessman like the first Iron Man movie villain. The whole movie feels mostly concerned with setting up future movies than being its own, with hints of Captain America and the big Avengers movie to come. It’s a bit jarring at first to see Colonel James Rhodes played by Don Cheadle, replacing Terrance Howard, but he grows on you over the course of the movie. Black Widow gets introduced in this movie too, and all her scenes are pretty entertaining. It’s not an awful movie, just rather dull and doesn’t have that charm and sense of originality that the first one did.
Score: 5/10

Thor
Okay we’re getting a bit back on track here with Thor, Marvel’s resident Norse God. This movie is again, not bad, but a very mixed bag and average in the long term. Whenever the plot is on Asgard, it’s really entertaining and creative. With the visuals and design of Asgard evoking grand myths of old and all the characters speaking like they’re in a Shakespeare play, it’s really cheesy but they make it work. It even begins in media rias like old myths did. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is another casting jackpot and Tom Hiddleston as Loki is equally great, and cements himself as one of Marvel’s best villains ever, playing a tragic and complex character motivated for personal reasons beyond simple greed and revenge. Hell, every single cast member playing the Asgardians are perfect for the roles. Anthony Hopkins as Odin is both commanding and intimidating, and Idris Elba as Heimdall is awesome in his own right next to them all. Too bad the plot on Earth drags it down. When Thor gets banished to Earth for his arrogant and selfish actions leading to war, I mostly lost interest. The human characters are dull and exactly what you’d expect them to be, with Natalie Portman playing Thor’s boring love interest. That and everything on Earth just looks so bland compared to the majestic visuals of Asgard. I am sure that’s intentional, but you can still keep things engaging. What just keeps it above water is Thor’s character development. It’s kind of like Tony Stark’s in that it’s about a jerk learning the consequences of his actions and not being a jerk anymore, but it remains fresh by it about Thor learning how to grow from an overgrown boy into a wise man who is worthy of being a king. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, but it had the potential to be so much more.
Score: 5/10

Captain America: The First Avenger
At last an MCU movie that reaches the bar Iron Man did, mostly. Captain America is big step up from the previous three movies, thanks to some great action scenes, a perfect lead, and a tone that feels like it was ripped right out of a pulp magazine from the 40s. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is just as great casting, if not more so than RDJ. He comes across as a genuinely heroic man with no strings attached, something that is refreshing compared to the previous flawed heroes that the MCU had showcased. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull is so gloriously evil that he makes the perfect villain for Captain America to go up against, a Nazi obsessed with power and glory versus a kid from Brooklyn who just wants to do the right thing. The supporting cast all manage to do a good job as well, and even the romance between Rogers and Peggy Carter is a step up from the previous Marvel movies, and comic book movies in general. What also makes this movie stand above the crowd is how it embraces the ridiculous. The World War II setting features futuristic Nazi technology and occult research that you would expect to see in a Wolfenstein game. What hurts the movie the most is that it’s first half is considerably stronger than its second one. The first half is about Steve Rogers being recruited, proving himself to be stronger in heart than he is in body, getting the super serum injected into him, being used as a recruitment tool instead of the frontlines, and finally rescuing American troops from a Nazi prison camp in the movie’s best action scene. After that the movie doesn’t reach those levels of emotional engagement or excitement, with most of Captain America’s WW2 exploits being glossed over in a quick montage. The movie would have benefited from actually showing and exploring those scenes. Still with a genuinely great first half and having a quite tragic ending, Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty good, entertaining movie that shows Marvel wasn’t just a one trick pony with the first Iron Man movie.
Score: 7/10

The Avengers
After five movies of build up, some good, some bad, it’s finally arrived. This movie attempted something that had never been done before, to have multiple characters from different movies within the MCU crossover into one, mega blockbuster event. It had everything going against it, and could have been a miserable failure, but it wasn’t. The Avengers is a great movie, and one of the best comic book movies ever made. All your favorite heroes are here, fighting an alien invasion led by a returning Loki. It’s like seeing a great comic book crossover event play out on the big screen, with all the grand spectacle you would expect. Every single character plays off of each other perfectly, with neither overshadowing the other. Mark Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and he is about ten times better than Norton ever was, portraying him in a way that means that no one can replace Ruffalo as Hulk now. The only real negative is that the first act is kind of slow due to needing to build up the rest of the movie, but it ends on a high note, and it just gets better from there. The action scenes are all extremely creative and have the heroes use their talents individually or together in interesting ways, with everyone being useful and having a purpose to being there. Thor for example, might be the god of thunder, but he alone can’t stop the invasion, and Captain America can’t just do it all himself. They all genuinely work as a team, and they don’t just get along from the beginning either. Acts one and two have them mostly at each other’s necks, with no one really trusting the other’s intentions until a beloved side character gets killed, and they realize they need to set aside their differences to save the world. The movie also keeps things light and fun by having smart, clever dialogue, thanks to director/writer Joss Whedon. That, and having a pretty kickass main theme that is now instantly recognizable, The Avengers is excellent and is Joss Whedon’s finest hour. See Justice League and Warner Brothers?! THIS is how you do a superhero team up movie!
Score: 9/10

Spider-Man Homecoming review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Robert Downey Jr., Marissa Tomei

Released: July 7, 2017spiderman-homecoming-highwaysignposter

Spider-Man Homecoming is in most ways the Spider-Man movie fans have been waiting for since the first Sam Raimi film in 2002. It captures the comic book feel, the awkward nerd Peter Parker and the cocky hero Spider-Man and standing on its own for the most part while still feeling like a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the large scale blockbusters of Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this Marvel movie is refreshingly much more small scale, with the stakes being more personal than involving entire countries or even the whole galaxy. I’d even go as far to call it “blue collar”, and that’s not an insult in any way. Spider-Man is a working class hero with even a working class villain. It’s just about a high school student from Queens fighting basically a high tech bank robber.

Homecoming thankfully decides not to retell the origin of Spider-Man, since it’s already been told in the first Raimi film and The Amazing Spider-Man in 2013. It’s instead set just a little while after Captain America: Civil War, where Peter Parker is trying to impress Tony Stark so he can become part of The Avengers. The main antagonist is The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton who leads a group of robbers trying to earn a living. At the same time Peter has to juggle his school life and personal crush on Liz Allen. Homecoming has the tone of a lighthearted high school comedy, with homages to movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club. This also sort of works against it as at 2 hours and 13 minutes long, Homecoming’s pacing includes a couple of filler moments that don’t feel necessary. Now, filler moments in movies, books, anime etc. can be a chance to give characters some breathing time and show more of their humanity. And to Homecoming’s credit its slower scenes some of the time do just that. But, there are others that feel you can do without, and would’ve been better if they added more emotion to the film. For example, Uncle Ben isn’t mentioned a single time in Homecoming. Not once. Now as I said before skipping the origin story was a good idea, but not even mentioning him feels like a step too far. It would’ve been completely reasonable for a teen who just lost his father figure mere months ago like Peter to perhaps visit his grave, forlorn after making a mistake. Overall, it wasn’t necessary to just completely sidestep the “Uncle Ben issue” altogether, as it also makes Aunt May’s completely light hearted attitude a bit out of place.

For anyone wondering how he does, Tom Holland is great in the starring role. While Andrew Garfield will always be my favorite film Spider-Man, Holland manages to be the first to capture both the awkward nerd of Peter Parker, and the confident trash talking web-slinger Spider-Man. If Civil War was a great first impression, Homecoming manages to stick the landing and live up to that promise shown. Peter is always very sympathetic, flawed, and admirable throughout the film. His drive to prove himself as a hero leads him to making some irresponsible decisions and utterly screwing up, but he suffers the consequences of his decisions and strives to not make the same mistakes again. He’s already learned the lesson of being responsible, but the movie is about that lesson sticking and Peter interpreting it correctly.

But a hero is only as strong as their villain, and one of the MCU’s biggest flaws has been its weak villains. Homecoming manages not to fall prey to that trap, and in fact has probably the MCU’s strongest villain in Michael Keaton’s The Vulture. The film in fact begins with the origin of The Vulture, where we see what drove him into crime. He was once a normal working man who got screwed by forces beyond his control. He’s a criminal because he wants his family to be financially secure, can’t bear to let them find out his secret life, and even has a code of morals that make you almost forget he’s the bad guy. Key word being almost, as easily Homecoming’s most tense, nail biting scene comes from a confrontation between Vulture and Spider-Man in the movie’s third act. Seriously, it’s the kind of scene you go to movies to witness. Unfortunately, Homecoming’s side characters are not as strong. Marissa Tomei as Aunt May has very little going for her and I still think she’s too young to be Aunt May, and Peter’s best friend Ned really got on my nerves early in the movie, but looking back this might have been intentional on the movie’s part. He later becomes much better and actually proves to be a valuable partner to Peter regardless. Love interest Liz Allen is also rather unremarkable until around later in the movie, and it has less to do with her and more the people around her. Lastly on a more positive note, Tony Stark has a very small part in the movie despite the marketing suggesting otherwise. He’s in it for ten minutes at most and doesn’t outlast his welcome.

Homecoming as a smaller scale Marvel movie, doesn’t have the grand action sequences like the more epic Marvel movies do, but this only serves to further the movie’s down to earth feel. Everything is well shot, directed, with some nice special effects but it never gets too big or grandstanding. The only parts that really clash with this are some of Peter’s high tech gadgetry loaned to him by Tony Stark which he got during Civil War. When the movie’s action and heart really shined was when Peter can no longer rely on those tools, and must simply use his wits and pure determination to win. They all range from good to very good, but I don’t think they quite reach greatness.

Where does this Spider-Man movie rank for me on my personal list? It’s above the Raimi trilogy and The Amazing Spider Man 2, but I still rank the first The Amazing Spider-Man movie as higher for better pacing, more exciting action scenes, cast, side characters, romance between Peter and Gwen Stacy, and of course Andrew Garfield’s performance as the web slinger, even if his portrayal of Peter Parker had holes. I know some people reading that paragraph might be surprised or even disgusted that I like the reboot film from 2012 the most, and at some point in the future, I intend to do a retrospective series of reviews of every Spider-Man movie save for this one to fully give my thoughts on the movies.

On that note all end with saying Spider-Man Homecoming is good, in fact it’s one of the MCU’s better movies flaws and all. It’s not the best superhero or even Marvel movie released so far this year, in fact I think Logan, Wonder Woman, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have it beat in terms of humanity and risk taking, it’s still a movie worth your time.