Marvel-lous Endgame, but is the buzz gone?

I watched a YouTube video yesterday on John Campea’s channel where he discussed the potential that the excitement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe was drying up in a way. If you don’t know who he is, he is a movie & TV critic who used to run movie news shows and now does his own thing. His video is worth a watch if you’re interested in his take on it, but I won’t go into his video too much here. 

This will contain spoilers for all the MCU including Avengers Endgame & Spiderman Far from Home.

What I realised listening to the topic was that I agreed with the points being brought up about the future of the MCU. The recent announcements at D23 were interesting, but none of them really got me excited for the projects. Here is where the sporting analogies begin, it felt a lot like a fixture list being released for a football team. Each season fans eagerly wait for the fixtures to be announced before reading them and there is a universal acceptance that yep, we will all be watching them. That is what I felt watching the D23 Marvel panel. Yep, these are all films I will watch.

Contrast that with the Phase 3 announcements that unveiled all the films that led into Infinity War & Endgame. At the time it looked a little different to what we got, with Spiderman popping up and The Inhumans being bumped down to an Agents of Shield storyline, but the hype around it was incredible. I remember my jaw dropping when they revealed Civil War. I couldn’t believe that was happening so soon. In my mind back then, Civil War was the next big event to follow Infinity War. But there it was on screen, Captain America: Civil War.

That slate brought us to where we are right now, a Post-Endgame world. Endgame was an incredible experience, something never seen before and when we look back on the first 10 years of the MCU we will realise it is without doubt the greatest movie franchise ever. Sorry Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. If you combine all those movies, you have ten Star Wars films, three Lord of the Rings films, and eight Harry Potter films. That makes a total of twenty-one films which is still two less than the MCU has covered. Twenty-three connected films all combining in one epic finale which delivered on the years of set up.

Endgame was brilliant, but did it actually harm the future of the MCU? With the separation we now have from the film, I think it may well have. Endgame finished a few of our main characters stories, with Cap retiring as an old man and Tony Stark sacrificing himself. Those two were the pillars which the MCU stood upon. Civil War was a film about them two main pillars being divided, Endgame was them coming back together before leaving the MCU they had built to fend for itself.

In sports terms, Endgame for Marvel was like winning the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup in one season, or like winning the Superbowl. But in doing so they lost their best two players. What I think has been an unexpected and tough loss to take, is that their new star player they had to take over from the old guard has just left as well in contentious circumstances.

Regardless of what studio executives might say about “This was always a possibility” etcetera, I think it’s clear Spiderman was being positioned to be the new face of the MCU. They know exactly what they had with Tom Holland in the role, and they wanted to bring that front and centre with great supporting players like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Thor, Guardians and Doctor Strange. That stable of characters could carry the load while Spiderman becomes the leader of a new collection of characters. Now they are back where they were in 2008.

The current slate is full of characters I know very little about, but the MCU has proved prior knowledge means nothing and they can still make incredible films, for example let me present exhibit A, Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians came out at a time when we had the MCU stalwarts well in their stride, Cap and Iron Man were known around the world and any films connected to their MCU was a must see.  Shang-chi and Ms. Marvel aren’t doing that, they are coming out in the wake of what felt for a lot of people like the perfect end for the MCU. Spiderman Far from Home even felt like a perfect epilogue, showing the world in recovery and answering some of the questions.

Winning a Superbowl is hard. Losing your Key players before trying to do it again is even harder. Often, we see a team win a Superbowl and then struggle to reach the same level for a few years. In the Premier league, teams go in cycles, winning for a few years then rebuilding. But there are exceptions. The challenge for Marvel chief Kevin Feige is now to turn the MCU from a title winning team, into a dynasty. Think Tom Brady. Think Bill Belichick. Think Sir Alex Ferguson. They have built teams that win, and then keep winning.

I am not sure it’s even possible to do that in the entertainment industry, perhaps I didn’t sleep enough, and this makes no sense. But if it is possible to apply that analogy, I think the MCU may be the best position to do it. I wrote yesterday about DC, and how they are possibly able to take a shot at being the next big thing. I didn’t say that the reigning champion would give it up without a fight.

ChAzJS

 

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SpiderMan Far From Home Review

I’m Back and so is Marvel, just a few short months after they released the mammoth that was Avengers: Endgame we have the return of Spiderman. Fresh from his exploits there, he is back and desperate to go on a school trip and have a break from the superhero life for his summer vacation with his school friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it turns out that quite a lot could go awry for Tony Stark’s protege, and indeed it does. The events that we see are hard to go into without spoilers, but I found the movie compelling throughout the whole run time, although there is a clear point in the film where things kick up a gear. This film is half about Peter Parker, half about Spiderman, but instead of feeling disjointed, i felt it really worked well showing the two sides of Peters life that he struggles to balance in every incarnation of the character.

I will start with the obvious for a Marvel flick now, the action. They nail it again, and even though the earlier fights feel a bit odd and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is given a number of cooler moments than Spidey. I didn’t mind too much, as I enjoyed everything about Mysterio in this film (more on that in a sec), but I did feel Spiderman felt a little under-powered. It is explained through the film why he might seem that way, but I wanted more from the early scenes.

In the latter part of the film the action picks up and goes to another level. Peaking at the end of the second act. I have loved these two characters, Spiderman and Mysterio, for a long time, and seeing them playing out the scene they do genuinely had my jaw dropped in disbelief. The film sets everything up in such a way that everything that happens feels feasible, something I never thought I would say about Mysterio. He has always been the one Spiderman villain i couldn’t see how they would ever get him into a movie. But my god did they nail it.

The look and the skill set of Mysterio is one thing, but getting an actor as talented as Jake Gyllenhaal to portray Quentin Beck is a masterstroke. The character’s arc is surprising, and I loved the way the film played him. It was a departure from what I expected in many ways, whilst also being exactly what I wanted. I will say no more as I can only imagine how fun this film is if you have no idea what to expect from Mysterio.

Now that the action and spectacular stuff has been talked about, I can get into the real shining light in this film. Tom Holland is unequivocally the greatest Peter Parker we have ever had on the silver screen, but a big part of that is the chemistry he shares with his supporting cast. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Zendaya as MJ, Tony Revolori as Flash all return from Homecoming, with a few new members of the group, most notably Angourie Rice as Betty Brant. They all really sell the idea of them being a group of friends, and provide some amazing comedic moments alongside their teacher Mr.Harrington played by Martin Starr.

The stars though are Tom Holland and Zendaya, who share chemistry that neither of their characters know quite how to deal with. This leads to some really genuine feeling moments of awkwardness that we can all relate to when we think back on our teenage years. I really hope as the franchise continues we see these characters grow together and deliver on the potential they have to replace, and arguably outshine, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as the power couple of the MCU.

Those two are absent from the movie, but playing a key role is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. He was there, acting and directing at the start of the Marvel Universe in Phase 1, and here he is at the end of phase 3. How they managed to film his parts in this film whilst he is also busy directing the Lion King, which comes out in two weeks time is an absolute marvel in scheduling. He was a distant contact for Peter in Homecoming, but now he has stepped up to be much more of a caring Uncle to peter, perhaps too caring in some ways. He and Peter share a scene which should have felt like a cheesy, too obvious wink at the camera, but the pair act the hell out of the scene and it earns it place as one of my favourite quiet moments in the entire MCU.

So there we have it, every MCU film we know of has now been released, and for the first time ever, we don’t know what lies ahead. The 2 after credits scenes hint at some things, but nothing obvious. Spiderman Far From Home feels like Marvel showboating. Showing off their Cinematic Universe with a wink and a nod, whilst also giving us a really fun teen comedy and delivering some of the most memorable moments we have had so far. Marvel is a movie machine, and Far From Home is another great film to add to the list.

Good: Spiderman, Peter Parker, Chemistry with the entire cast, an astounding action sequence, and two great after credits scenes.

Bad: Well at this point if the MCU isn’t for you, steer well clear. Also you will need to do your homework and see Endgame and probably Captain Marvel to understand everything in this film. Although you don’t have to see Endgame 5 times over like I did.

9/10 – Mysterio is in this film. Go see it.

Avengers Endgame – SPOILER TALK

Avengers Endgame is an incredible achievement. Movies have never even attempted this, and this review will ruin the film for you. Do not read on if you have not seen the film, unless you just really don’t care about spoilers I guess. I am going to talk through my favourite moments from the film, basically recapping it and how I felt when it happened. I am sure this is going to descend into me just gushing about what happened, but here goes;

Starting out with Hawkeye is something I had actually read speculation on just a week before, and the way it plays out is a really gut-wrenching moment. Having been set up in Age of Ultron as a family man, he is spending time with his family, helping his daughter practice with a bow and arrow. Then he loses them all. His wife, daughter and two sons are dusted with him completely clueless as to what is happening. Answering any questions we had about what transformed Clint into the brutal ninja Ronin, who is carving up thugs in Tokyo when we catch up to him next.

There are easy questions you can ask throughout this film, but honestly you can make up your own answers in your head for the majority, like “How did Captain Marvel know where Tony Stark and Nebula were stranded?” They sent out a distress beacon, there. I don’t know, the film doesn’t attempt to explain it and it doesn’t need to because the point is to get Tony Stark and Cap back together, to try and figure out what they can do. There are shades of Iron Man 3 here, with Tony a withered, angry, defeated man who is all out of ideas. Robert Downey Jr really does deliver some of the best acting in the whole film in these scenes and you really feel his frustration and the weight of what they have lost.

This is when the movie decides to deliver its first real surprise blow, by straight up beheading Thanos in the opening 20 minutes of the film. It’s a bold choice, and executed brilliantly. It essentially means 99% of the trailers we saw are from this opening salvo, leaving us two and a half hours of movie with very little ideas about what is going to happen. Thanos’ destroying the stones is a great twist, something I hadn’t expected. Captain Marvel shows off her power, and Thor aiming for the head at last really got a pop of shock from the audience. It’s a brutally violent moment, but it’s justified when you think about the events that took place at the end of Infinity War.

The “How” of Antman’s return from the quantum realm is a little bit silly, but I think in a movie with a 3 hour run time its easy enough to forgive and forget that. Once he is back and learns of the dusting, after an emotional reuniting with his daughter that is the first sign of sniffles in most theatres, he goes straight to the avengers and this is the first time when you have to have done your homework and watched Antman and the Wasp. That film sets up, with a single line from Michelle Pfeiffer, that time works differently in the quantum realm and Scott confirming that to Steve Rogers and the rest of the avengers. The first reference to a Time Machine made me smile, because I was not convinced they would actually do it. But wow did they.

The first act is a lot of talking and set up, but after 21 other films we are so into these characters it all works. Imagine this being the first avengers film, it would feel way too slow, and the conversations wouldn’t hold any weight. The next huge pop in the cinema was for Hulk, who is now a combination of Hulk and Bruce banner. Huge and green, but with the intellect and voice of Bruce. It’s an awesome reference to the comics and the old animated show I used to love and the idea that he is now a kind of celebrity that poses for selfies is brilliant.

And then we go to New Asgard, and one of my favourite scenes in the whole film. Thor, despondent from what he perceives as his mistake that cost the lives of half a universe, has gotten fat. He hangs out with Ragnarok favourites Korg and Meek playing Fortnite. It’s hilarious and the fact they committed to him being Fat Thor (Fhor from this point on) for the entire film is just genius. I thought when he goes into battle and has both Mjolnir and Stormbreaker he would become Buff Hemsworth but no, I can finally say, after years of hard work, I have the same body as Thor.

The time-heist portion of the film is some of the most self-congratulatory victory lap stuff imaginable, and I lapped up every second with a huge grin on my face. Not only do the run us through the events of previous films, even Thor The Dark World, but they play with the scenes we know and love and deliver even more awesome moments. Everything in the 2012 New York is brilliant, from future Banners encounter with Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One from Dr Strange, to 2012 hulks anger at having to take the stairs. Iron Man and Antman fail after Scott defends Steve Rogers’ tight buns, Loki gets away with the Tesseract, setting up his new TV series, and Captain America gets the first of his numerous brilliant moments.

Stepping into a lift filled with hydra agents exactly like he did in The Winter Soldier. In that scene from a few years ago, he kicks everyone ass in a breathtakingly cool action scene. I fully expected them to repeat that, but no. He announces he is taking point on this one. Then when everyone is uncomfortably shifting and getting ready to throw down, he leans over to whisper “Hail Hydra”. This moment is an incredible pay off for the entire Winter Soldier film, and a brilliant reference to a very controversial comic line. To follow this up with him walking straight into 2012 Captain America is a stroke of absolute genius, and the fight ends with Steve confirming that it is indeed America’s ass.

Clint and Natasha’s trip to Volmir is a part of the movie I didn’t think I would really enjoy. If I’d have known it existed before viewing the film, I’d have picked this as prime toilet break territory. In actual fact, it’s a brilliant acted and choreographed scene that results in a shock, as Natasha sacrifices herself to save her best friend and let him see his family again. The fact that I and everyone in the cinema gave a crap about Hawkeye and Black Widow is testament to the brilliant world Marvel has built.

After a detour to the 1970’s for a few cameos from a young Howard Stark, Caps love Peggy Carter, a de-aged Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and of course the man who created these characters, Stan Lee, they have all the stones. Another bit of plot convenience when Tony’s iron man technology can handle the power of the stones has to be ignored again here, considering Thanos had to get dwarves to make the gauntlet from the heart of a dying star. That minor point aside, Hulk takes the gauntlet, being the only one close to Thanos’ power and therefore able to use the stones without dying, and snaps to try and bring back everyone who got dusted at the end of the last film.

Job Done. Let’s all go home.

Actually no, let’s have the most incredible hour of cinema I have ever witnessed.

Nebula, whose robotic parts meant Thanos in 2014 found out about the plan, has been replaced by the evil Nebula from that time period. She brings Thanos and his entire giant ship through time from 2014 to the future. Just after the avengers realise the Hulk snap worked as Clint is on the phone to his previously dead wife, Thanos’ absolutely fucks their day up with artillery fire all over the base. It is carpet bombed into a devastated mess. Conveniently again, nobody is fatally wounded, but everyone is in different levels of peril.

The avengers are scattered about, Rocket Rhodey and Hulk are pinned under a load of rubble with water rising. Hawkeye awakes with Gauntlet, stones and all, just feet away, and a load of enemies on his tail. Iron man, Cap and Fhor find each other, and all three of them confront Thanos, who has been sitting, thinking about the victory his future self achieved, and planning how to improve on that. He settles on the idea that the balancing of the universe can never work whilst there are still those who remember what there was before. He wants to snap everyone out of existence, and create a new universe that doesn’t know any different.

Of course, we can’t be having that, and the three heroes charge at Thanos. This fight is epic, and it just consistently builds. Thanos, without any stones backing him up, is comfortable fighting 3 very powerful avengers. He knocks out Iron Man, throws Cap aside, and goes toe to toe with Fhor, armed with both Stormbreaker and Mjolnir. Thanos manages to make him drop Mjolnir in the dirt, and gets hold of Stormbreaker, pushing it into Fhor’s chest.

Then the Hammer lifts off the dirt, and smacks Thanos onto his (Antman free) Anus. Mjolnir then returns to the right hand of none of than Captain fucking America. This moment for the loudest cheer I have ever witnessed in a UK cinema. This moment put a huge smile on my face, as it confirms to me my theory that Cap could have picked it up in Age of Ultron, but chose not to, because he didn’t want to take it away from Thor. Cap then proceeds to deliver an ass whooping to Thanos with his shield and Mjolnir, only to be disarmed of the hammer. He then battles Thanos, a man who beat the hulk in a one on one fight, and his shield gets smashed again and again, eventually being shattered down to just half of the shield we recognise before he is hit back 30 feet and he lies there.

Thanos starts monologuing, like any good villain, but of course a beaten down Cap just pulls himself back up to his feet, tightens the half a shield around his arm, and stands to face Thanos and his entire army. This is when I come the closest I ever have to crying tears of happiness. That crackle of a radio and Sam Wilson’s voice bursts through. “On Your Left”, right on cue we see the familiar fizzle of sparks from a certain sorcerer’s portal. Remember just before this fight, when Hulk snapped and brought back all our dusted heroes? Well here they are. More and more portals open up, more and more familiar characters; every one of them gets a cheer from the audience. Cap stands at the front, and for the final time in the MCU, he says “Avengers Assemble”.

It’s ridiculous, cheesy, and incredibly geeky. But this whole fight scene is just so perfect. We get characters we have never seen interact fighting side by side. Everyone gets a moment, and then as Scarlet Witch is about to pull Thanos into bite size chunks, he calls for another carpet bombing of the area, showing again his ruthlessness to achieve his goals as he kills half his own army by doing this.

The guns turning up to fire at something else threw me off I have to be honest. I was worried/excited for a second something like the Silver Surfer was going to turn up, but no, it’s the newest member of the MCU, and by far the most over powered, Captain Marvel. She takes out the giant ship with ease. After more fighting, Thanos eventually gets the gauntlet back on his hand, and as he is about to snap, Carol is there again to stop him. There is an awesome moment when he head butts her, a tried and tested technique for dealing with avengers, but she doesn’t move an inch.

There’s another moment here when I was worried they was going to have her beat Thanos with ease, and that would have been a bit of an cheap victory for me. As it is, he grabs the power stone and punches her miles away. It isn’t going to be her. He puts the stone back in the glove, but Tony Stark is right there to try and stop him, grabbing onto the gauntlet seemingly trying to take it off. He doesn’t do it. Thanos throws him aside, says “I am Inevitable”, before snapping his fingers.

Thanos snapped, but he didn’t have the infinity stones, ya boy Tony Stark has them. He looks Thanos dead in the eye, and the final line we see Tony say in the MCU whilst alive is “I. Am. Iron Man.”. This moment is stupid. It’s about as subtle as a brick in the face. Its fan service at its most obvious. And it works completely perfectly because Marvel earned it. Eleven years ago Iron Man launched this franchise, a series of films that all led to this moment. To Tony Stark sacrificing his life to save everyone.

That sacrifice would be a fitting end, but the film then goes onto give another MCU stalwart a fitting send of in another way. Chris Evans made Captain America an interesting character, and as I said he has some incredible moments in this film. The end of this whole 11 year saga isn’t the death of Tony Stark, as emotionally fulfilling as that is. It’s the passing of the torch, or should I say Shield. The character of Steve Rogers has always been a man out of time, a man who doesn’t fit in the world. So once he has returned the Infinity stones to the times they got them back from, he doesn’t come back to the modern day. He goes back and gets that dance with Peggy, a call back to the final line of his own debut film.

None of this film really works without the other 21 films before it. 11 years ago Marvel stopped treating comic book movies like kids films, and decided to play the long game. The Dark Knight might be the greatest individual Superhero based film, but even that masterpiece can’t compete with the MCU anymore. This saga has surpassed anything in cinematic history. Last year it delivered the Empire Strikes Back for a new generation, with Thanos Winning. This year, it went beyond “Return of the Jedi” or even “Return of the King” and delivered the most satisfying end to a franchise ever.

What is even more incredible is that while this is a definite end to one story, it leaves the door wide open for countless more. It shouldn’t have been possible, but Marvel did it.

And they could do this all day.

Think that last line is too much? Yeah it felt like too much to me too.

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 5 – 1

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. This is the final 5, the top dogs, the MCU films I love the most. And later tonight, at midnight (the 24th at the time of posting this) I will be seeing the culmination of all of these films. So without further delay, here goes:

5 – Spiderman Homecoming

Spiderman coming back to Marvel felt like a big moment for the franchise. Civil War showed us him for the first time, and this film cemented his place in the MCU. Considering we had seen multiple Spiderman movies just a few years before his MCU introduction it’s amazing that this film doesn’t suffer from Spiderman fatigue. A big part of that is down to the change in tone,  Spidey’s age and the introduction of Iron Man into the film makes things feel fresh compared to the previous attempts.

Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 is considered by many to be the best Spiderman film we have seen. In my opinion, Homecoming is better than any Spiderman film we have ever had. Tom Holland as Peter Parker is perfect as a teenage spiderman, and one of my favourite part of the film is the interactions between Peter and his classmates, particularly Ned. Ned and Peters moments remind me of being a teenager with my mate.

The best part of this film, and why it’s so high on the list, is Michael Keaton. From Batman, to Birdman, to  Vulture, Keaton is excellent in this film. He delivers the best villain in the Marvel franchise since Loki in The Avengers. The reveal of the film is one of the few truly shocking moments I have experienced, and I remember hearing people genuinely gasp when Keaton opens the door to Peter.

4 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If i had to show someone completely new to the MCU one film as an example of how great their films can be, it would be The Winter Soldier. In my opinion it is the best standalone film in the entire franchise, and one of the best spy movies ever. It’s the MCU debut of the Russo Brothers, who went on to do Civil War, then Infinity War, and then Endgame. All of that is off the back of what they did in this film.

The film challenges the ideals that Captain America has always stood for. Everything he trusts is shattered and the reveals in this have huge ramifications in the wider MCU. All the espionage and twists are punctuated by some of the best action scenes in the MCU, starting with the opening scene on the boat. The Russo’s gave Cap a real sense of power over normal people, and the only equal in the film is The Winter Soldier himself.

Winter Soldier is a perfect example of the MCU diversifying the genres within the Marvel franchise. It compares with films like Skyfall and Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, and that in itself is a huge compliment. If I was being purely critical of every film in the MCU this is No.1, but im not, and this is my favourite list, so here we go into the top 3.

3 – Captain America: Civil War

This film is brilliant. It’s an avengers film wrapped up in a captain america bow, and it proved that the Russo’s could handle a huge cast and make it work, paving the way for infinity war. It’s also an incredibly fun movie, like a child smashing all of their favourite figures together. That being said, it felt like there was real weight behind the action, especially that final Iron Man V Cap & Bucky fight that is one of the best moments of the MCU as a whole.

It also boasts my personal favourite action scene in any film ever, the now famous Airplane fight. All of our heroes, bar Hulk and Thor but more on that duo in a minute, battling it out in a giant playground. Somehow every character has their moment, from titular hero Cap to newbie Black Panther. Ant-Man goes Gi-Ant, Vision nearly kills War Machine, and worlds collide when Spiderman makes a Star Wars reference.

Civil War felt like the MCU taking a step onto another level, and it’s up there with the best experiences I have had in a cinema. It is also the first time i felt you really had to have done your homework to enjoy a MCU film, with a lot of the previous films playing a heavy part on the events, with the Sokovia accords being a key plot point making Age of Ultron required viewing before you see it.

2 – Thor Ragnarok

This might just be the most rewatchable film in the MCU bar from number one on this list. Taika Waititi took a character I had grown bored of, and made him one of my favourite in the whole series of MCU films. Thor was a pretty one note guy, only for this film to give him a whole new dimension and an awesome new look. Chris Hemsworth looked good as long haired Thor, but short-haired Thor could steal the love of my life and I’d drive them round as a chauffeur.

On top of the transformation of Thor, Ragnarok also delivers the best Hulk movie to date. Having seen this film it seems obvious to pair up Hulk and Thor, but it wasn’t really something I was too excited for before the trailers. Once I had a glimpse of Ragnarok with the first trailer I was sure it would be decent at the very least. What we got was much more than that.

Ragnarok is a hilarious, action packed, exciting movie that keeps a smile on my face the entire time every time I watch it. That makes this one of my favourite films of all time, a mad claim for a film about Thor, especially off the other two films in Thor’s solo movie catalogue.

1 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1

Guardians of the Galaxy should not have worked. It is a movie set in space about a kidnapped human, a green woman who isn’t She-hulk, a clumsy brutish grey man, a talking racoon and a sentient tree. That alone is a ridiculous premise, before you add in a few blue aliens, one is part robot, one wears too much guy-liner, and one whistles to control a golden flying arrow.

It’s all a bit ridiculous, and somehow it works absolutely brilliantly. Right from the off, we are given a taste of exactly what to expect with Peter Quill dancing around to Redbones “Come and Get Your Love”. That scene is the first of several iconic moments. I saw this film 5 times in the cinema, a record matched only by Episode 7, a film that had over a decade of hype behind it. I saw this film repeatedly because it is so, so, SO entertaining.

Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t have characters I have known and loved for years. It is a completely new story to me, brilliantly written and cast perfectly. It turned Chris Pratt into the household name he is today, and brought Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling to a whole new generation. Guardians is the most fun I have ever had watching a movie multiple times. It doesn’t have the ramifications of Civil War or Winter Soldier, and it’s not got the iconic hero moments of the first Avengers, but out of the 20 films we have to date aside from Infinity War, it’s the MCU film I am most likely to watch at any given time.

So there it is,  I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy most of the films on this list and ranking them was actually a lot of fun, and something I might do for Star Wars, Harry Potter and some other franchises in the future. Comment with your top 5 and see how we compare! Thanks for reading, Here is the full list.

20 – Thor: The Dark World

19 – Thor

18 – Iron Man 2

17 – Antman and the Wasp

16 – Captain America: First Avenger

15 – The Incredible Hulk

14 – Antman

13 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

12 – Iron Man 3

11 – Black Panther

10 – Captain Marvel

9 – Doctor Strange

8 – Iron Man

7 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

6 – Avengers

5 – Spiderman Homecoming

4 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

3 – Captain America: Civil War

2 – Thor Ragnarok

1 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 1

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 10-6

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. This week we enter the top 10, down to number 6 on my list. So here goes…

10 – Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is a film you could show someone as a great example of an MCU film. It hits every beat you would want from a new character origin film, it has some really cool visual flair, some kick ass action and a fun character. It also has some great comedic moments, a clever plot twist that subverted my expectations, and it’s the first time we see a woman lead one of these films. I won’t go into the societal impact of the film, as that doesn’t play into my enjoyment, but it has all of that to it as well.

It’s not a perfect film, as I mentioned in my review a month ago, but that’s me reviewing the film completely critically and trying to tone down the fanboy side of me a little bit. When I watched Captain Marvel, I really enjoyed it from start to finish. The Skrulls are some of the best characters we have had so far, and Carol Danvers’ skill set takes the MCU into a whole new world of cosmically powered heroes.

This is a film that begins to set up the future of the Marvel Universe, and Brie Larson is going to be a big part of it. This film is a the best of the origin stories in this list so far, and it feels like the lessons Marvel Studios have learnt over the last 10 years were taken into account when making this film. That is why it just scrapes into the top ten over Black Panther, but they are really quite close in quality to me.

9 – Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is the only MCU film to date that I have seen at the BFI IMAX screen in london, and that experience really showed off this film’s spectacular effects and the range of colours. That visual style, with the introduction of the mystic arts to the MCU, makes Doctor Strange one of the most unusual looking films and characters in the entire franchise. Even in Infinity War and Ragnarok, the character is clearly a little different from the rest of the characters we have seen.

A big part of what makes this film work is the committed performance of lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The world of Doctor Strange is ridiculous, more so than any of the other parts of the Marvel Comics world. The phrases he has to utter, the hand movements, the names, everything is crazy. Cumberbatch initially reacts in a similar way to the audience, that all of this is madness. But as he begins to uncover the abilities he can possess the character dives into the world. This commitment to being this character and embracing this world makes the character of Doctor Strange compelling. I found myself invested in the film because of this performance.

The film appears as if it is going for the standard Marvel origin story, but the twist at the end is a surprise and thoroughly entertaining to watch. The villain is as good as you’d expect for a MCU origin film, but the twist takes it up a level for me. Doctor Strange is an example of the MCU in its stride, producing a very entertaining film.

8 – Iron Man

Here it is. The original. The starting point of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. The introduction of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark is an important moment in cinema history, not just in super hero movies. This was the beginning of a series that has changed how we view franchise films now, and everyone is trying to build their own cinematic universe. Taking a B, arguably C list character in Iron Man and making him the first movie out of the gate is a very brave move, and one Marvel were forced into by the licensing issues with Xmen and Spiderman.

Honestly it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how they got right, and when you watch it now the villain is funny in ways he isn’t meant to be, and the combat is nothing on the current movies. But the current movies didn’t release in 2008, at the time this was mind-blowing. It was a believable, funny, good-hearted action movie with a charismatic, now iconic lead.

The decision to cast Downey Jr seems like a no brainer now, as we can’t imagine anyone else as Tony Stark. But at the time, he was not in Hollywood’s good books, and was slowly making his comeback. He absolutely nails the role, as he has continued to ever since, and the film that launched it all has a special place in every Marvel fans heart, including mine.

7 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

The first Guardians set up some excellent characters and a really cool world that everyone wanted to get back into that world. Guardians 2 gets us back in straight away, with a perfect opening action scene happening in the background of Baby Groot dancing to Mr Blue Sky. That sets the tone sets up the rest of the film. From there we just get more and more of the team together interacting and having fun on their adventures.

If it’s just more of the same then shouldn’t this be higher up on the list above its predecessor? Not for me, because it has a few more problems for me. There is a bit of a lull in the film when we get some very heavy exposition explained to us, and whilst all the talking in the guardians films is fun in its own way, this just puts it below the first one.

Guardians of the Galaxy are a special group in the MCU, as they are something completely different and are an example of how diverse the universe can be. We learn a lot about the origins of Star Lord and the emotional pay off at the end of the film is excellent and one of the few times in the MCU that we get a really emotional moment for the audience and the heroes.

6 –  Avengers

There was a long time when The Avengers was considered the gold standard in the MCU. It is the first time in history that four movies have crossed over in one epic event. Watching The Avengers blew my mind, I genuinely couldn’t believe they actually managed to make this work. We see six superhero characters team up, brought together by Nick Fury and we get more than our fair share of epic comic book moments, from the Hammer Vs Shield moment to the Hulk / Thor fight.

For many this still ranks as the top of the MCU, especially in a list without Infinity War. I have it at Number 6 but that is a reflection on the quality of the MCU, not the quality of Avengers.

This film took a bunch of B and C list characters, even the villain as Loki was an odd choice before we saw the film. Loki is of course excellent, and the interactions between the Avengers give us a glimpse of what is to come later in the MCU. Joss Whedon’s masterpiece is one of the most important films in history and has shown the world that the interlinked movie franchises can work very well.

Next week we have the top five, right in time for Avengers Endgame to hit cinemas next thursday.

20 – Thor: The Dark World

19 – Thor

18 – Iron Man 2

17 – Antman and the Wasp

16 – Captain America: First Avenger

15 – The Incredible Hulk

14 – Antman

13 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

12 – Iron Man 3

11 – Black Panther

10 – Captain Marvel

9 – Doctor Strange

8 – Iron Man

7 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

6 – Avengers

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.

Captain Marvel Review

By now we are used to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and this is the 21st movie in the enormous franchise. Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be led by a female character, and only the second superhero movie ever after DC’s Wonder Woman. Could Marvel produce something as good as DC’s best? 

First of all, I have to say I think Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. She’s a top-tier talent and kudos to Marvel for picking such a talent to play the new face of the MCU, and that is certainly what this movie is setting her up to be. She worked hard to do her own fight scenes and does everything she can with what she was given to do. I don’t like to delve into negatives too quickly, but Captain Marvel runs into an issue I was a little concerned by going in.

The issue is one I like to refer to as “The Superman Problem”. This film starts out with Carol Danvers as a powerful and skilled warrior, and ends with her being an even more powerful and skilled warrior. Superman is an indestructible, undeniable solution to almost every problem. In a similar vein, Captain Marvel felt a little too powerful at times in this film, and she is never really threatened by anything she comes up against (spoilers, she doesn’t die in this film).

The problem this movie has is that this new infallible hero isn’t even given a weakness like Superman’s Kryptonite, she is just a force of nature whose solution to all problems is to shoot beams at the problems. There are superb hero moments, but they don’t feel as earned as in some other films we have seen. Think Spiderman Homecoming, when he’s terrified under the crushed building calling for help, in that moment we saw the vulnerability of Spiderman. Captain Marvel has no vulnerability to speak of in this film.

That being said, the beams she is shooting to solve her problems do look cool, and as we have come to expect in an MCU film, all of the action scenes are well done. The stand out for me being ironically one where her beams of light aren’t there as weapons for her, and she has to show her fighting prowess. The other, more spectacularly shot scene is the one we catch a glimpse of in the trailer, with Carol Danvers flying through space blowing up ships.

Good action is expected by now in these movies, what has kept the MCU going for so long is its excellent character development. Nick Fury, played by a de-aged Samuel L Jackson, is brilliant in this film and this showcases everything we love about the character we have seen countless times to date. He has more screen time here than in any other film, and we learn a few things about him that we didn’t know before. Some of this film could spawn some considerable questions about other films in the MCU, and a few of them directly relate to thing Fury has said in movies we have seen.

The 90’s setting that allows for the creation of plot holes in movies we have already seen is an excellent excuse for a lot of references to 90s culture. We see Troll Dolls, hear Nirvana, and get to witness the inside of a Blockbuster for the first time in years. These references are all nice window dressing, but to be honest this could have been set a few days before infinity war and not much would have changed for this actual movie. That being said, they do bring some nostalgia with them, and that plays into some of the funnier moments. 

Aside from Nick Fury, we have Talos played by Ben Mendelsohn and Yonn-Rog played by Jude Law. Both are excellent actors in their own rights, and Law is really solid in his role. Mendelsohn nearly steals the movie for me though, playing an antagonist with a twist, and someone I really hope we see more of in the MCU going forward. I didn’t expect the turns this movie took, and therefore this film provided some of the most interesting world building to date in the MCU. It’s an odd thing but we seem to be reaching a point where Marvel is aware people know the comics, and are going out of their way to do things that will surprise us. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say I thought there were some really smart storytelling choices made in this film.

What I think is difficult to quantify with these films is why it’s any better than say Dr. Strange, or Black Panther, and honestly I am not sure it is. It’s certainly not down with the likes of Thor: The Dark World, but because of the nature of the MCU it’s almost impossible for this to rank in the top echelons of the MCU given how deep in we are and how many characters we have seen combine. Captain Marvel is a return to a true origin story in the MCU, and one that doesn’t fall into the trappings we have seen in previous first outings. The final fight isn’t against a villain with exactly the same powers (Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Black Panther all spring immediately to mind), and there is no really blatant sequel set up.

This film extends the lore of the MCU in a more natural way then we have witnessed before. It gives us insights into characters we have seen before, but from a time before we knew them, and I am not just talking about Fury. Captain Marvel is yet another good film in the Marvel universe, and it got me even more excited for Avengers Endgame. If that was possible. The first end credits scene made me realise just how desperate I am to see that film. I can’t wait. Only a month and a half away.

Good: Excellent Action, Solid acting all round, MCU continues to expand and some great 90s nostalgia. Goose the Cat is awesome, and the Marvel Logo at the start will make you cry.

Bad: Script felt a little empty in some ways, leading to a mildly underdeveloped hero. Superman Problem needs to be addressed in future movies and I didn’t like how Fury lost his eye (Spoilers I guess…)

7/10 – Carol Danvers joins the MCU, and immediately becomes Thanos’ biggest problem.