Marvel Watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning...

Mel O'Drama

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Captain Marvel (2019)







As previously mentioned, Carol’s a character whose journey on 616 I followed a little some years ago. At the time I read, “present day” Carol was regularly mentioned in the X-Men through her connection to Rogue and her affiliation with the Starjammers. Despite having had a volume of solo adventures and a stint with the Avengers she became best known to me for having had her powers and memories permanently stolen by Rogue.

While I think of Carol as Ms. Marvel, it’s plain to see objectively that as Marvel’s face of feminism, Carol’s success was iffy to say the least: from the original navel-revealing costume to the amnesia and the whole rape and unwanted pregnancy business. Her original series was also pretty patchy. Moreover, she came with the burden of being one of those bronze-age “derivative female version of existing male superhero” characters. Worse she was also possibly the least interesting of even this sub-section to me (She-Hulk was fun as an Avenger and really came into her own during her tenure in the FF. Spider-Woman, despite her own patchy series, was a character I loved which put me firmly in a minority at the time).

While Carol wasn’t the first female Marvel character to carry her own title (Greer Nelson was certainly before her, and I don’t doubt there may be others earlier still), the whole thing of her being a woman going toe-to-toe with men in a man’s world was probably pushed more than most in Ms. Marvel. It’s oddly fitting, then, that more than four decades later she carries the added burden of carrying the first female solo MCU film. I seem to remember this aspect getting more attention than it probably needed when it launched since it comes with potential can detract from the product itself rather than letting it stand on its own merits. It is also a little ironic that the 1980s Monica Rambeau iteration of Captain Marvel (a favourite of mine dating back to her very first appearance) was in almost every regard far more progressive than Carol’s version... but without any such fanfare.

Many twenty-first century modifications in the comics don’t particularly appeal to me. Spider-Woman’s recent black costume with its patches of Spider-Man webbing, for example, is horrible. Carol’s makeover is an exception. Everything about it looks and feels right. I think the costume looks great - true to her history but more practical and less cheesy. Carol’s history is deeply entrenched in Mar-Vell’s universe so it feels like she’s a logical choice to take on the mantle. None of her previous code-name changes have worked for me, but once I saw she was Captain Marvel something just clicked with me. It all translates very well to film (almost as though it had been designed with the MCU in mind. Hmmm).

The Kree stuff never particularly interested me, mainly because I generally favour my superheroics rooted in a less alien backdrop (there are exceptions, but Carol isn’t one). This was always going to be a challenge with me in watching the film, because it was inevitable we’d visit different planets and alien races and whatever. However, the Kree-Skrull war worked for me. I know it from references as part of the history of Marvel, but I also know little enough about it not to be too precious about how it’s portrayed. And it did pleasantly surprise me with the “who can you trust” element being particularly enjoyable (it’s essentially an espionage thriller on a grander scale).

With much of my enjoyment often resting on action sequences, this film is good news/bad news for me. Some of the more spacey stuff got a little dull for me, particularly CGI Carol flying through space chasing spaceships., however I thought most of the CGI space environments were well-done, and the action scenes engaged me more than in many MCU films. I’ve never watched Top Gun, and it’s not near the top of a viewing bucket list, but I did find the sequences with Maria flying the plane quite exhilarating at times (if I’m not mistaken, some of this also resembled a similar pursuit in Star Wars) and when she evaded and destroyed the enemy ship I found myself giving a little inward cheer . This was a very pleasant surprise.






continued...
 

Mel O'Drama

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Captain Marvel

continued



Brie Larson made an excellent Carol. I found her likeable and engaging and she really seemed to fit and understand the role. There was a nice little moment where Carol was escaping from the Skrull and while being attacked by a group, one of them roared at her and she did this sarcastic little roar back at him before taking him down effortlessly. This was when she really clicked with me. Brie did come with my mortal enemy, the dreaded vocal fry, but it seemed to fit the California setting of the era. After all, Jane was doing it on Melrose Place at around the same time.

The supporting cast was overall great. The ones that worked for me really worked. I had no idea that Nick Fury and Phil Coulson would feature so heavily in this film and their presence was a huge plus for me. Again, the de-ageing is a nice example of technology being used well to create a realistic, relatable world that no longer exists. The little details, such as the "Avengers" name coming from wording on Carol's plane, were great, and I thought the film did a great job of weaving the character carefully into the MCU while still standing on its own.

I knew young Monica Rambeau would feature and was looking forward to seeing her. Maria Rambeau, though, was the biggest surprise for me. She’s proved to be one of my favourite supporting characters in the space of just this one film. Her little "OK" after seeing the Flerken feed its appetite gave the most perfectly delivered two syllables in the entire film.

Having seen pictures of Jude Law in the Kree outfit, I’d assumed he would play Mar-Vell, which would have been great for me. As a mentor/antagonist he was serviceable, and the same goes for Annette Benning’s Mar-Vell. I really don’t understand why such an iconic character as the original Captain Marvel would be gender-switched, and in this particular film it reeks of affirmative action.

I liked that the film took itself fairly seriously, with lighter moments coming organically from wisecracks and the fish out of water stuff. Even really broad stuff involving the Flerken made me laugh so much I can forgive it.

The origin itself worked for me. Prior to beginning the MCU journey I'd have assumed there would be huge parts of the film set in space that I'd find a chore but, as usual, it was all done in a way that felt entertaining and accessible.

I greatly enjoyed the Nineties setting, complete with huge mobile phones, videos and cars without airbags. I thought it quite clever that the audience was on the same page as Carol with her reactions to archaic technology such as pagers to dial-up broadband (though viewed through a veil of nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember such things).

On the subject of pagers, the tie-in to the end of Infinity War was really appreciated. Seeing the Captain Marvel logo on the pager had really fed my anticipation about watching this film and seeing how the pager fitted in, and it really delivered. Better yet, the mid-credits sequence with Carol responding to the pager has me even more excited about Endgame. I love how it all flows, even with films primarily set in a different era, and I'm looking forward to seeing how she interacts with the Avengers in that film.

Speaking of which, I also really appreciate how the gap between Infinity War and Endgame has been bridged by two “meanwhile, back at the ranch” films that go back to before the Snap and explore other characters who have yet to be affected by the events of Infinity War, supplying fun, fairly simple superhero action while subtly allowing the main MCU cliffhanger to resonate for an entire year.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Here’s the Captain’s rank:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger
  4. Iron Man
  5. Black Panther
  6. The Incredible Hulk
  7. Thor
  8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  9. Captain Marvel
  10. Ant-Man
  11. Avengers: Infinity War
  12. The Avengers
  13. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  14. Doctor Strange
  15. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
  16. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  17. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
  18. Thor: The Dark World
  19. Iron Man 2
  20. Thor: Ragnarok
  21. Iron Man 3
 

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Captain Marvel (2019)

You liked this one a lot more than I did. When I first saw it, I thought it was serviceable; I would have put it on par with most of the other origin stories which, overall, I find to be a bit samey. Over time, the movie has dropped like a rock in my ranking. There are three things that kill this movie for me.

Carol Danvers herself. Although I was fond of her in comics, I think she's the least interesting hero introduced to the MCU to date. There was a weird trend in the late 2010s of writing female heroes with only one personality trait: "strong". Although perhaps explained by the character having amnesia for much of the film, she has no real personality or development in the movie. (Fortunately there are much better female-led MCU projects down the line!)

Compounding that problem for me is Brie Larson's performance. I have no opinion of her as an actress in general, having only seen her in one other movie outside the MCU; so I will just say I think her performance is ill conceived. She plays Carol in a taciturn manner that I found boring. In another action franchise, this stone-faced performance may not have been an issue; there's a long history of stolid male action heroes. If this were a distaff remake of DIRTY HARRY or something, maybe her approach would have been fine. No male Marvel hero has been played this drably, so its weird to foist it on the first female to get her own film. Shame, to me, that Brie and Gal Gadot didn't swap universes. Brie's dour performance may have suited the darker DCEU, and Gal's sparkle would have fit into the MCU perfectly.

I also found the movie to be tonally inconsistent. Now the tone of Marvel films varies widely -- from the flinty CA:TWS to the frivolous ANT-MAN -- but they have always been consistent within individual movies. I felt like this movie couldn't land on a tone; some of it is played very seriously, and others kind of jokey. I'm not sure anyone really knew what kind of film they were making.

Outside the film itself, this is the movie where the "culture wars" really smacked the MCU; and there was a lot of nonsense on both sides. There were angry review-bombing of the movie on RT before it was even released but, conversely, a weird defensiveness from some that any movie starring a woman is somehow immune to criticism.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. The Avengers: Infinity War
  6. The Avengers
  7. Iron Man
  8. Captain America: The First Avenger
  9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  10. Black Panther
  11. Doctor Strange
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2
  14. Thor
  15. The Incredible Hulk
  16. Ant-Man
  17. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  18. Captain Marvel
  19. Iron Man 3
  20. Iron Man 2
  21. Thor: The Dark World

Updated: MCU Ratings on Google Sheets
 

Mel O'Drama

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You liked this one a lot more than I did.

Oh yes. It looks like it. Well, vive la différence, I say.



I would have put it on par with most of the other origin stories which, overall, I find to be a bit samey.

There's something about origin stories that never gets old for me. I'm a complete sucker for them, and that's helped a lot with a number of these films.



Although I was fond of her in comics, I think she's the least interesting hero introduced to the MCU to date. There was a weird trend in the late 2010s of writing female heroes with only one personality trait: "strong". Although perhaps explained by the character having amnesia for much of the film, she has no real personality or development in the movie.

I get what you mean about the development. She wasn't as interestingly flawed as your Tony Starks, and the whole "who am I?" thing along with the Kree background meant that we didn't explore her a great deal as a human being which was stifling for her. That said, I often found Carol quite a difficult character to get a handle on in the comics, so it's fair to say that my hopes for her character were fairly low.

You're more familiar with the film than I am, and who's to say I won't feel the same way as you with more viewings, but I came away from it last night finding Brie's performance really engaging.




Now the tone of Marvel films varies widely -- from the flinty CA:TWS to the frivolous ANT-MAN -- but they have always been consistent within individual movies. I felt like this movie couldn't land on a tone; some of it is played very seriously, and others kind of jokey.

This duality felt more bothersome to me in Infinity War (probably because it's a film that had much darker tones at times and some of the jokey stuff undermined that for me).



Outside the film itself, this is the movie where the "culture wars" really smacked the MCU; and there was a lot of nonsense on both sides. There were angry review-bombing of the movie on RT before it was even released but, conversely, a weird defensiveness from some that any movie starring a woman is somehow immune to criticism.

Oh my. That 45% gives quite a gap between this film and next lowest rated which has 70%.
 

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This duality felt more bothersome to me in Infinity War (probably because it's a film that had much darker tones at times and some of the jokey stuff undermined that for me).

For me, it's the difference between a character displaying humor and the movie being played for laughs. You've seen INFINITY WAR more recently than me, but I don't recall anything in the movie that felt like a gag. Sure, the characters all had quips and pithy comments but that's intrinsic to Marvel in both film and comic book. More importantly, I think it's inherent to people. What self-serious dramas -- both of the superhero variety and more broadly -- miss when they avoid having characters display levity is that most people have a sense of humor. It's weird to watch something where no one has any wit.

What struck me as odd about CAPTAIN MARVEL is the weird tonal shifts in the film itself, perhaps best exemplified in two of the lead performances. I'll be generous and say Brie gave an earnest performance; on the other hand, Ben Mendelsohn felt like a sitcom character that might have worked in an ANT-MAN movie, but felt weirdly incongruous against Brie. They felt like they were performing in two different movies.

And don't even get me started on the awful, awful gag of how Nick Fury lost his eye.


Oh my. That 45% gives quite a gap between this film and next lowest rated which has 70%.

Individually, I put no stock in these metrics and rankings; they're all deeply flawed as any kind of gauge. Looked at collectively, I think some general observations can at least be made. Certainly it's interesting -- and perhaps curious -- that the first real split between critical and audience reactions are BLACK PANTHER and CAPTAIN MARVEL. There are some who like to claim that only when movies starred a black man or a woman did the fanbase get critical -- of course, that completely ignores the pummeling that the IRON MAN sequels, the first two THORs and TIH all got from the fans.
 

Mel O'Drama

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You've seen INFINITY WAR more recently than me, but I don't recall anything in the movie that felt like a gag. Sure, the characters all had quips and pithy comments but that's intrinsic to Marvel in both film and comic book.

Some early scenes between Thor and the Guardians spring to mind. There's a whole sequence with Peter Quill imitating Thor's deeper voice and more serious tones in an attempt to be taken more seriously that felt a bit cringeworthy. It could be argued that it's of a similar tone to the more outrageous Guardians films (and even that of Thor after Ragnarok), but some of that kind of stuff felt like it belonged in a different film. I suppose it's to be expected when you've got different franchises overlapping.



And don't even get me started on the awful, awful gag of how Nick Fury lost his eye.

Yes. I think from the moment Nick appeared with two good eyes it felt inevitable that we were going to make that discovery. But it's definitely a case where I'd have preferred not to know.
 

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As you are now only two projects away from the first Disney + series, have you given thought to how you'll watch them? Planning to binge them in one sitting, split them up a bit, or pace each episode apart?

If you have the patience and the self-control to watch, perhaps, one episode per day and comment individually, there's significant value to a slower pace for WANDAVISION. That's much less relevant to the other series.
 

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As you are now only two projects away from the first Disney + series, have you given thought to how you'll watch them? Planning to binge them in one sitting, split them up a bit, or pace each episode apart?

If you have the patience and the self-control to watch, perhaps, one episode per day and comment individually, there's significant value to a slower pace for WANDAVISION. That's much less relevant to the other series.

Thanks for the input around this.

I'm not even sure how long the episodes are for most of the series. I had a bit of a peek and saw that Episode One of WandaVision is 30 minutes, but I don't know if there are commercials to factor in or out of that time.

While I hadn't consciously made any decisions about how much time to devote per day, I have got used to watching a 2+ hour film most evenings this year so I could see myself watching one to two hours per evening.

I must confess that when it comes to the TV series my mindset up to now has been of the "get through it quickly in order to reach the next film" school, but given your intriguing comments I'll endeavour to cap WandaVision off at two episodes tops per day*.





* But I should also add the disclaimer that when starting the MCU, I'd planned to watch just one or two films per week in order to maximise their impact and resonance. And look how that turned out.
 

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Avengers: Endgame (2019)






Here we go then. This feels like one of the most - if not the - most important of the MCU films simply by virtue of the fact that all roads have led here. Every film in its own way has been a step towards this grand finale. There are a lot of fans with a lot of different tastes to please. It’s an unenviable task.

I was pleased to be able to watch this in one sitting, with just a short pause or two to feed the cat and spend a penny. I had considered watching it in two parts, but managed to start watching very early in the evening so I was still awake enough to keep watching past the two hour mark.

There were many pleasant surprises about this film, one of the most pleasant being the room allowed for dialogue and character moments. Infinity War felt kinetic almost right from the beginning. For much of its first third, Endgame felt far more static. Slow, even, at times. I really welcomed this.

Infinity War - by necessity - felt quite discombobulated on this front, with characters scattered hither and yon. Endgame had the initial excitement of the new lineup coming together, but quickly showed them united as one team. Even when they separated and visited other times and places, there was a sense of cohesion with all aiming to meet one key objective.

The choice of characters used for the main team worked far better than any hopes I had. We know I’m no fan of anthropomorphic creatures, but Rocket didn’t bother me as much as I’d have expected. Likewise, this is the most enjoyable I’ve found Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce, and I thought the new CGI look for the character worked really well. I’d never have chosen to include Nebula in the lineup, but found her fascinating.

This film benefits from a leaner cast for much of the film. The exclusions are to be applauded. It was a good move to keep gabby characters like Spider-Man and Quill out of the picture (I didn’t fully realise how wise this was until they returned. Even with such a small role, Holland’s Spider-Man was annoying as hell within minutes of reappearing). Less is also more for me with Doctor Strange and Valkyrie. And this version of Captain Marvel seems too overpowered for the team to be balanced, so it was right that she was mostly absent until the big finale.

Of the main cast, the Avenger I enjoyed least this time was Thor. This was primarily down to speech patterns again: Chris Hemsworth peppering his lines with “OK” and calling Frigga “Mom”, as though he’s still on Home And Away. His grief-based storyline - which had great potential - felt as though it was treated too lightly with gags about his beer belly and drunken ramblings. When it comes to the overall direction for the character, it’s telling that Thor ended up joining the Guardians. Probably the popular choice, but I don't care for this rebooted version of the character and favour the Thor we met in his first few films.

One of my gripes regarding Infinity War was the lack screen time for Captain America. This film made up for that in no short order. The relationship between Steve and Tony was the most electric thing about this film, and that’s the way it fully deserves to be.







continued…
 

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Avengers: Endgame

continued



With action films, something that can often get lost in the mix is the acting talent of its actors. This film showcases that in abundance. Robert Downey Jr. gave a terrific performance, from getting across Tony’s frailty, his vulnerability, his anger and his determination.

Likewise Chris Evans really got across Steve’s weary sadness, exacerbated by the friction with Tony (that detente felt hard-won on both their parts). With Steve being a more stoical character Chris’s performance was more subtle, but we were never in doubt about he was feeling thanks to reading his eyes. The look on his face on seeing Peggy going about her business in 1970 spoke volumes.

The “new world”, five years on from the Snap was really exciting. This vision of a different word reminded me of the Days Of Future Past storyline from X-Men. There was also a real-world relatability. The memorials to those lost, for example, evoked similar imagery associated with 9/11 or Lockerbie. Scott suddenly emerging into this world where the unthinkable has happened allowed us to acclimatise to this new reality.

I especially liked the balance: it was in large part a dystopic future because of the massive losses and the impact it’s had on the entire world both practically and emotionally. But there’s also been progress made in some areas, with Tony now a father and husband and afraid of losing the stability he’s found. This added real depth to the decisions about attempting to change, because it wasn’t a no-brainer. For some there was the real risk of losing more than is gained.

While I’m no scientist, I did love that the science behind the whole scheme to undo the Snap was rooted in what seemed a plausible science, such as Bruce busting the myth that changing the past can change the future, or convincing The Ancient One that returning the stone to exactly the same time and place after loaning it would mitigate the risk of a chain reaction that opens up different pathways.

This is another reason why the choice of characters involved was perfect. It needed Bruce’s scientific brain. It needed Tony’s technical expertise. It needed Steve’s logistical brain and leadership to strategise and keep the team working even when apart (a big reason why Infinity War wasn’t a bigger hit with me).

And it needed the Pym Particles and the crucial information about the Quantum Realm supplied by Scott. This last aspect especially pleasantly surprised me because Scott’s a character who had up to this point seemed only a very peripheral part of the Avengers’ world. The fun-but-cartoony world of the Ant-Man films had seemed very self-contained, which I was fine with, but the Chekov’s gun element here has suddenly changed and enhanced the way I look back at the events of the solo Ant-Man films.

This is something this film has done incredibly well. It tells us that everything that’s happened in the MCU up to now matters. No matter how unique or off the wall or different in tone one MCU project seems from another they’re all connected. Endgame weaves all the threads together and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On this level it’s arguably even more successful than Civil War.



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Mel O'Drama

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Avengers: Endgame

continued



As soon as I could see where the story was going, the idea of revisiting key moments in previous MCU films excited me. I anticipated a fun, affectionate look back. As it began to unfold it seemed to me this was going to be an MCU Greatest Hits package. Something between Back To The Future Part II and an upmarket sitcom clip show. And because the linking story was so strong this was perfectly fine with me,

Even better, Endgame never dropped the ball with its main story. It did tick the box of nostalgically looking back, but all along the way it highlighted again and again that this is one big shared universe, and the story never stopped evolving. As with Scott’s world, this film has allowed me to see each of the films revised from a different angle.

There are natural drawbacks to this film’s raison d’être. It’s part of a greater whole, and so it must be accepted that it’s only going to be fully appreciated by those familiar with the MCU. There are an awful lot of different references, mentions and cameos. It has to please fans of some diverse series while delivering a flavour of their respective tones. And it has to strike a balance between story and action. It does what it does incredibly well, but it’s not a film that gets its stripes entirely on its own. Viewing it as a standalone film (which we’ve agreed isn’t meant to happen, but no doubt has and will), it’s far from satisfying. Endgame probably wouldn’t have worked had Infinity War not brought lots of the worlds together already, but it’s this final film that reaps the benefits.

The price to pay for the rich, slow-burning character moments was the inevitable CGI battle at the end with practically every remaining MCU character. It was visually impressive and there was a joy to be found in so many characters cutting loose at the same time, but it went on long enough for me to start to glaze over.

However, the good completely overwhelmed the not so good. The history of the MCU was very present throughout this whole film. I was very moved by the original Arc Reactor floating away on top of the wreath, complete with its inscription. With it being such an important part of the very first MCU film it was absolutely perfect. Several times during dialogue early in the film I was reminded of the emotional intelligence of Knots Landing, and this really took off when we had the MCU’s own Noises Everywhere at the film’s end, with character-driven reflections at the funeral of a character who’d been there from the beginning.

Old Steve’s re-emergence surprised me in the best possible way. I really didn’t see it coming. In fact, when Sam and Bucky spotted him on the bench, I really thought he’d gone the other way and reverted to his slim pre-super serum self. I can’t begin to say how much I loved that he’d found a way to live the life he missed out on at the end of The First Avenger. And this is someone who is usually resistant to any kind of retcon. And the makeup/effects for Steve’s ageing were great.

It feels very much like the end of a story, with enough consequences and repercussions to significantly change the MCU for good. Vision. Natasha. Tony. Steve. They’ve all reached a natural ending to their journey that feels appropriate. I know I’ll be seeing at least two of these characters along the way, and I’m sure it will be done in a creative way. With such definitive endings, though, I’m hoping the Black Widow film will be a prequel. But I’ll have to wait and see.
 

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Civil War excepted, Endgame is as perfect as Avengers films have got for me:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger
  4. Iron Man
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. Black Panther
  7. The Incredible Hulk
  8. Thor
  9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  10. Captain Marvel
  11. Ant-Man
  12. Avengers: Infinity War
  13. The Avengers
  14. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  15. Doctor Strange
  16. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
  17. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  18. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
  19. Thor: The Dark World
  20. Iron Man 2
  21. Thor: Ragnarok
  22. Iron Man 3

I was a little torn on my ranking and could very easily have talked myself into placing Endgame at #3. I enjoyed it that much.
 

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Avengers: Endgame (2019)

I like INFINITY WAR more than ENDGAME, although not by much. I have no specific complaints about ENDGAME, other than a vague feeling that its parts are better than its whole. Even though it follows the basic structure of IW -- separate storylines that converge in the finale -- it feels less cohesive to me. A few times when I've rewatched it, I skipped right to the big battle at the end.

This is the scene that I almost talked about in my INFINITY WAR review. I saw this film in the theater a handful of times, and each instance the crowd went berserk. A rousing scene and I like how it was alluded to all the way back in AGE OF ULTRON. There is, however, a pretty big continuity blunder. The entire lesson of RAGNAROK was that Thor's powers were inherent to him, not the hammer. Well so much for that.

1642181603351.png



  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. Avengers: Infinity War
  6. The Avengers
  7. Avengers: Endgame
  8. Iron Man
  9. Captain America: The First Avenger
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Black Panther
  12. Doctor Strange
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  14. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2
  15. Thor
  16. The Incredible Hulk
  17. Ant-Man
  18. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  19. Captain Marvel
  20. Iron Man 3
  21. Iron Man 2
  22. Thor: The Dark World

Updated: MCU Ratings on Google Sheets
 

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Even though it follows the basic structure of IW -- separate storylines that converge in the finale -- it feels less cohesive to me.

It's interesting that we've had pretty much opposite experiences there. For me I couldn't quite get Infinity War to pull together but watching Endgame I felt the cohesiveness I'd missed in IW. I think the pacing helped. Endgame seemed to have more leisurely, prosaic scenes which are more my cup of tea (but then it also had the luxury of an additional 30 minutes in which to do that).


This is the scene that I almost talked about in my INFINITY WAR review. I saw this film in the theater a handful of times, and each instance the crowd went berserk.

It's certainly a moment.


I like how it was alluded to all the way back in AGE OF ULTRON.

Yes - that scene with the machismo of them all trying to lift Mjølnir sprang into my head even as I watched, so it was a very well-planted seed to give this payoff.



There is, however, a pretty big continuity blunder. The entire lesson of RAGNAROK was that Thor's powers were inherent to him, not the hammer. Well so much for that.

Oh yes. Weirdly that didn't even occur to me - I went straight to what Odin had said (also alluded to in that Age Of Ultron scene) about only someone worthy being able to lift it - but you're absolutely right.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)






As with the previous Spider-Man film, I’ve watched this one before. In the case of Homecoming, watching in context of its place within the MCU made it even more enjoyable. This isn’t the case with Far From Home. I enjoyed it less this time round, though the fact that I first watched it just three and a half weeks ago is no doubt a significant factor.

I said a lot about this last time I watched:


The interconnectedness of the film is frustrating when watching casually as there are so many little references that seem completely superfluous when watching independently.

As with the first film, I hated that characters like MJ, Betty, Flash, Ned and Aunt May look and act nothing like they're supposed to. They're all nice and endearing and all, but I really wish they'd just renamed all the supporting characters.

A big appeal with Spider-Man has always been that he struggles with life. He has to wash his costume and find storerooms to change. He has to use his skills and his scientific knowledge for his gadgets. Because of this, I'm not a huge fan all the hi-tech Bondian stuff - especially the costume changes. I found some of it (the EDITH specs) enjoyably entertaining, but it doesn't feel like what Spider-Man does best, which is superherodom on a student's budget.

I think of Spider-Man as a loner, so the Avengers connection and Happy being on hand to support him makes it feel more impersonal. And while it was nice to see some different scenery, I did also feel the absence of the New York scenery I so associate with Spider-Man. I wasn't impressed with a lot of the CGI stuff which looked too computer game like. But given the meta aspect of some of it being CG even within the film I'll buy it.

My favourite plot within the film itself was the Peter/MJ Black Dahlia necklace business. I was invested in that and willing him to get through his battles without it being lost or damaged. If anything, I wish they'd played that plot up a bit as it really echoed a lot of what the comics character was about in my comics reading era of the Sixties to Eighties (I hasten to add that the Sixties and Seventies comics I read were all reprints or back-issues. I'm not quite that old).

One little running thing I noticed was Nick Fury's car number plate which seemed to be different in each scene. I didn't notice the numbers, but the letters in one read "ASM" (Amazing Spider-Man) while another was "MTU" (Marvel Team-Up), so they seemed to be the well-known initialisms for Spidey's various comic titles (presumably the numbers referenced issues or publication years).

The film's most unforgivable moment was referencing the world of the MCU as Earth-616. The only thing that's allowed me to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy these films has been to recognise that they exist in a different part of the multiverse to the Earth-616 which is the main Marvel Universe of the comics. I appreciate that the designation was used by someone who was being deceptive and so isn't necessarily true, but I really feel the MCU should keep well away from such a sacred cow as I don't consider any of the films to be canon.

As for Spider-Man himself, I found Tom Holland acceptable. I struggled to keep up with how quickly he spoke, and he feels more childish than Peter Parker was in even the earliest comics, but I can understand that this isn't the Eighties anymore and he has to be representative of American teenagers in the Twenties. However, he was just too whiny at times to be enjoyable.

He looks the part, but I did find myself thinking - even as I watched - that Andrew Garfield was better fit.

Film Ned is a really enjoyable character but his personality is nothing like the Ned I remember reading who was very sombre and competitive. His being at school with Peter and co. is also anachronistic since he was generally part of the Bugle stuff. I struggle to envisage this Ned having anything like the arc of his comic book counterpart. But I did think getting him together with Betty in the second film was a cute touch considering their relationship in the comics.


In MCU context find this to be an odd choice for the final film in the Infinity Saga. To me it’s Endgame that brings the 22 film saga to a perfectly fitting close, with Far From Home beginning a new “season”.

Last time I watched this one I said about there being a lot of in-references that I didn’t get. Even with the references to the kids coming back after “the blip”, I’d assumed that all the Avengers had simply vanished (possibly dead) after the Snap, which was why they were mourned. I knew the Skrulls from the comics, so I got the cameo, but didn’t get how they fitted in.

This film worked better for me when I watched it first time round. It’s difficult to say how much of that is due to it being my first time and how much is down to me watching it independently. However, it does feel that this isn’t a film that stands up to repeated watches. Yes, much of the Mysterio stuff looks appropriately CGI fake considering the plot, but it’s still not the best looking film during its action sequences. On the plus side, the water Elemental at the beginning looked great and was a taste of how Hydro Man might look if they ever get round to including him.

This time round, I found some of the film a drag, not helped by the fact that I watched it so recently and knew beat for beat what was coming, right down to remembering memorable lines before they were spoken.

The more I watch Tom Holland the less enjoyable I find his performance. It’s still too whiny and childish for me to be able to tolerate him, but I think I’ve put my finger on something else: I find his performance to be a little self-conscious. The first time round, his reaction when MJ told him Peter looks pretty or when she kissed him seemed endearing. This time, now that I wasn’t lost in the writing I was more aware of the performance, and the embarrassed awkwardness seemed rather mannered and rehearsed. It’s difficult to explain why, other than it felt as though Holland had spent time in front of the mirror working out the cutest way to deliver it. Even if true, this is fair enough since that’s his job. But I’ve realised when Peter does or said something awkward or geeky or “cute”, I can’t shake the feeling it’s pitched with some deliberation at the swooning teen groupies who’ll “awww” and make gifs and memes.


I can’t cope with the Happy/May thing at all, but that’s because I’m still nowhere near there with Marisa Tomei’s May.

In better news, the more I see of this MJ, the more endearing I find Zendaya’s MJ. It helps that she’s kind of an avatar of Mary Jane Watson while still being her own character. I enjoy her little quips and wisecracks. And despite my protests at his characterisation being the polar opposite of the comics version*, I enjoy every Ned scene.

I’m loving the end credits sequences which as the films have progressed have become incredibly creative. The visuals of this one reminded me of the opening credits to the Adrian Mole TV series, and I love the Nineties vibe (the song made me think of Clueless). The youthful vibe feels fitting for a series that seems aimed at a younger demographic.

The European scenery is very photogenic and it all looks very attractive, but Spider-Man needs to be close to New York to be firing on all cylinders for me. At least we stayed on Earth, though.

The underarm glider-webs upset me a little because I think of them as a Spider-Woman thing. If Spider-Man can do this, it seems to invalidate one of Jessica Drew's USPs and reduce the need for her to appear in the MCU.

Mysterio’s a villain I always liked visually but never really saw as a serious threat to Spidey. This film mitigates the character’s weakness with the initial deception and the “twist” that he’s the real villain. The attempt to weave him (and his team) into the history of the MCU is appreciated, but doesn’t really work for me. Jake Gyllenhaal is decent enough in the role, but lacked the gravitas Michael Keaton brought to the previous film as the Vulture.

The best part of the entire film for me was the cliffhanger at the end. As well as being exciting in its own right (though how ironic that Mysterio only became a serious threat to Spider after dying), it’s also a thrill to see J. Jonah Jameson.





*Brad Davis is more how I would envisage an MCU Ned that echoes the actual character.
 

Mel O'Drama

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The complete Infinity Saga - ranked:


  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger
  4. Iron Man
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. Black Panther
  7. The Incredible Hulk
  8. Thor
  9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  10. Captain Marvel
  11. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  12. Ant-Man
  13. Avengers: Infinity War
  14. The Avengers
  15. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  16. Doctor Strange
  17. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
  18. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  19. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
  20. Thor: The Dark World
  21. Iron Man 2
  22. Thor: Ragnarok
  23. Iron Man 3
 

Crimson

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Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Although I like the thematic connection of "home" in each of the SPIDER-MAN titles, boy do I get the names mixed up all the time.


In MCU context find this to be an odd choice for the final film in the Infinity Saga. To me it’s Endgame that brings the 22 film saga to a perfectly fitting close, with Far From Home beginning a new “season”.

I'm not sure what the official reason was for considering FFH the end of Phase Three rather than the start of Phase Four, but there was one unintended justification: the pandemic. There was a big gap in releases between FFH and the first official project of Phase Four, due to pandemic-related delays.

In better news, the more I see of this MJ, the more endearing I find Zendaya’s MJ. It helps that she’s kind of an avatar of Mary Jane Watson while still being her own character. I enjoy her little quips and wisecracks. And despite my protests at his characterisation being the polar opposite of the comics version*, I enjoy every Ned scene.

I have now seen NO WAY HOME three times and I can talk about this devoid of spoilers. I find myself genuinely impressed with Zendaya’s MJ, which is a curious takeaway from a superhero movie. The "superhero girlfriend" is generally a thankless role. She's usually portrayed as a shrieking damsel-in-distress, or in a misguided affirmative action kind of way given more direct bearing in the action but still feeling like a drag to the plot; worse, sometimes even portrayed as a scold who regards her petty emotional needs as more important than the hero literally saving the world. I don't think any actress since Margot Kidder has really made something of this limited function. The MCU alone has misused or sidelined Gwyneth Paltrow (who has fared better than most), Natalie Portman, Liv Tyler and Rachel McAdams. The best I can say is I hope they all got nice paychecks.

Which is all the more incredible that the writing and Zendaya’s performance have turned MJ into a vital character, without being intrusive. Oh, how I expected a plot twist of her getting superpowers and becoming Spider-Girl/Woman. But the writing has been too smart with the character to head down such paths. All the more impressive because MJ is written with characterizations -- a sullen, chip-on-her-shoulders demeanor -- that could so easily render her unlikeable, but is instead very endearing.

but given your intriguing comments I'll endeavour to cap WandaVision off at two episodes tops per day*.

Circling back to this, now that you are upon WANDAVISION -- Should you have the patience and even interest in pausing after the first two episodes, I can (non-spoilery) explain why I think a slower pace will be beneficial. Or -- rip through them! I won't judge you.


  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. Avengers: Infinity War
  6. The Avengers
  7. Avengers: Endgame
  8. Iron Man
  9. Captain America: The First Avenger
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Black Panther
  12. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  13. Doctor Strange
  14. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2
  16. Thor
  17. The Incredible Hulk
  18. Ant-Man
  19. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  20. Captain Marvel
  21. Iron Man 3
  22. Iron Man 2
  23. Thor: The Dark World

Updated: MCU Ratings on Google Sheets
 
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Mel O'Drama

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Although I like the thematic connection of "home" in each of the SPIDER-MAN titles, boy do I get the names mixed up all the time.

Same here. I find I have to stop and think twice. A video discussing No Way Home popped up in my YouTube suggestions a day or so ago and I almost clicked into it, thinking for a second it was one of the films I've watched.

I'm guessing the films may be collectively known as The Home Trilogy, or something along those lines.



there was one unintended justification: the pandemic. There was a big gap in releases between FFH and the first official project of Phase Four, due to pandemic-related delays.

Yes, I noticed there's nothing dated 2020 in the MCU. It jumps from 2019 to 2021. There must have been some serious cold turkey going on among MCU fans.


All the more impressive because MJ is written with characterizations -- a sullen, chip-on-her-shoulders demeanor -- that could so easily render her unlikeable, but is instead very endearing.

Absolutely. And it's mostly the performance that endears.



Should you have the patience and even interest in pausing after the first two episodes, I can (non-spoilery) explain why I think a slower pace will be beneficial.

Oh - that would be great. Thanks.


Or -- rip through them! I won't judge you.

Ha ha. I'm going to at least try and start out with good intentions.
 
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