A "DC guy" & his trip through the Marvel Cinematic Universe
I've finally taken the trip to the light side (isn't DC the "dark" side, really?). My desire to see my favorite Marvel villain, Thanos, in action compelled me to do it the right way and watch them in chronological order according to the story progression. Here's my breakdown of each film:
**NOTE: I was unable to see Black Panther before going to see Infinity War as it is still in theaters and the time crunch didn't favor me. I will review it separately after seeing it next week.
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): The best of the standalone character introduction films. It's the only film in the MCU that is a real "period piece", & it is WW2 done to perfection. The supporting cast is great (Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci). I loved Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull...he was always one of my favorite villains. Chris Evans is perfectly cast, & that skinny Steve Rogers special effect is trippy as hell. Who doesn't love Nazi killing? (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Iron Man (2008): The one that started it all. All of these guys embody their characters, but none more so than Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. He's smugness and intrapersonal conflict personified. He's also given the best story arc, in my opinion. This is the blueprint for the modern superhero movie, & it ages beautifully. (SEEN MULTIPLE TIMES BEFORE)
- Iron Man 2 (2010): I was pleasantly surprised by this, as I had heard negative things when it came out. Mickey Rourke makes a striking (if not a bit bland) villain with dope ass weaponry. This one set the theme of "paying for your arrogance/choices" firmly for the man in the can. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008): I'm going to be a bit rough here, but it must be said: this one sucks. Ed Norton is not a good Hulk (thank God for Mark Ruffalo!). This one doesn't feel like a real MCU film to me. It wasn't fun at all. It took itself too seriously. It's almost like DC made this one. The only character to come out of this as an established returning character is the slimy General Ross, played by William Hurt. I can happily never see this again; they didn't even bother to polish this turd. (SEEN ONCE BEFORE)
- Thor (2011): While it is the most bland of the Thor movies in terms of fun & excitement, it does a great job of highlighting the gorgeous setting of Asgard (Marvel's best locale) and laying out the relationship between Thor & Loki (my favorite relationship). King Laufey is just a White Walker with red eyes. Can I say how much I love Sir Anthony Hopkins in everything? I'm pretty sure I've said that before. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- The Avengers (2012): A groundbreaking film that changed the way movies are made. Period. There's no wasted scenes in a movie that's NOT short; constant action, humor, peril, & visual spectacle. This is a textbook example of when formulaic works to perfection. (SEEN MULTIPLE TIMES BEFORE)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013): A bit of a snoozer, in my humble opinion. It was certainly as dark (visually) as the name implies, but it edged toward that dreaded Incredible Hulk too-seriousness for me. Also, I generally detest Natalie Portman. She just does nothing for me. Call it a bias from a guy who tries not to be biased. (SEEN ONCE BEFORE)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): I don't think I can understate how much I love this one. It's so different from what Marvel had done up until that point & is unique, even, from virtually everything else. I called it the Star Wars of the 21st century in terms of the fun of the experience, & I stand behind that. Dave Bautista gets all of the best lines. (SEEN MULTIPLE TIMES BEFORE)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): A sequel that lives up to the original by developing the characters in meaningful ways, hitting the callbacks to previous jokes in a timely way, & providing a sweet villain. Kurt Russell is a god. (SEEN ONCE BEFORE...SEE PREVIOUS REVIEW)
- Iron Man 3 (2013): I have a soft spot for this one. It beats Stark over the head with his past choices even more than Part 2 does. It's a tonal departure from the first 2 Iron Man films. The weaponized soldiers who become human bombs look killer as a design. The kid who aids Stark is a bit on the nose, but he carries it well. Mainly though, it's all about Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. What a bold move! He fucking kills it. I distinctly remember the reaction in the theater at THAT reveal. Priceless. (SEEN ONCE BEFORE)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): The first one to surprise me and give me that "Oh, shit!" moment. The reveal of the identity of The Winter Soldier kind of flattened me emotionally (even if it was a bit predictable). It's the sequel that doesn't feel like a sequel since it's Captain America in the modern day for the first time in his standalone series. Definitely one of my favorites & the most fluidly consistent in terms of continuity. I flat-out loved it. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): This one is the most interesting to watch for my money. This is a moral tale, plain & simple. It's 100 times deeper than the first Avengers film. The question of "how far do we go to protect everyone?" is answered in painful & ambiguous fashion. Ultron himself is a very vanilla villain (ooh, a crazy robot!) but the morality behind it takes the whole thing and elevates it (pun intended). Those poor Sokovians..... (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Ant-Man (2015): I actively dismissed this when I first saw the trailer. Here's my bias popping up again: I detest Paul Rudd. I don't even know why; I just do. However, I took a few moments to center myself and watch it with an open mind. It's a very fun movie. It's almost too comical, though. I feel like there was a visible lack of chemistry between Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, & Michael Douglas, so they made up for it with obvious jokes (most of which worked). It is a visually striking film, though. No complaints there. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016): I'll go ahead and call this (at least) in the running for Best of the MCU. It's that good. It's a master class in raising the stakes and building tension for action films. Downey and Evans fucking murder it in the best fight in any MCU film. The introduction of new characters Black Panther and Spider-Man keep it fresh, & they upped my opinion of Ant-Man. The most appropriately titled film tore at my American core. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Black Panther (2018): I kind of can't wait to see this one. What I saw of the Kingdom of Wakanda and its citizens in Infinity War is so enticing. (INDIVIDUAL REVIEW FORTHCOMING)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): Am I the only one who thinks that they finally hit the mark with Spidey? I think not. The villain is throwaway in terms of memorability (& I love Michael Keaton), but this is a movie about Spider-Man finding out who he is & his relationship with father-figure Tony Stark. It does a great job of further humanizing Stark. I actually purchased this movie. Home run! (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Doctor Strange (2016): The by-God weirdest of the MCU films won me over in a big way. It's different in every respect and oh-so refreshing. Benedict Cumberbatch is equal parts mystical, prissy, sophisticated, & noble as Doctor Stephen Strange. Also, if you haven't figured out just how important Doctor Strange is in the big picture then you weren't paying any attention. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017): I'm resisting the urge to give it the old "one sentence review" treatment & say THE MOST FUN I'VE HAD AT ANY MARVEL FILM! Goddammit, this was a hell of a good time. I laughed hard. I cheered. It's the day-glo, jokes galore, balls-out movie that defines blockbuster. Almost lost in all that is the establishment of Thor as the most powerful of all the Avengers, living up to the God of Thunder title. And holy shit is Cate Blanchett hot in this one! I couldn't concentrate. (NEVER BEFORE SEEN)
So, I'm finally ready to go and see Infinity War now. What's the verdict on the MCU for a dyed-in-the-wool Batman freak and DC lover?
DC, plain and simple, has a lot of work to do to catch up. I don't know if they can. It's crazy to me that they have INARGUABLY the two biggest superheroes ever in Superman and Batman and they are this far behind. A lot of it has to do with the darkness of the DC Universe. It's also subpar writing to some degree. Mainly, though, I think it comes down to fun.
The MCU is fun. Every movie (except for that polished, premature Hulk turd) is a blast. It doesn't forcibly take itself too seriously at any stage; the MCU lets the levity counterbalance the dire circumstances. It doesn't hurt to have a ten year head start, either. Let's face it: the blueprint for all of these new "cinematic universes" (new Star Wars, Kaiju, etc.) was created by Marvel. It's literally their ballgame to lose.
I don't think they will. It pains me to say that about my beloved DC, because I feel like they are finally headed in the right direction. However, if they follow Marvel's blueprint then they will have a loud contingency calling them copycats....and those people won't be wrong. Still, they better get out their tracing paper and remember that they have Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. And they have The Joker. Marvel will always be jealous of that.
Dammit.......I loved my ride through the MCU. I'm geeked as fuck for Infinity War ow. Let's do this!