Friday, December 24, 2021

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (a movie review post)


MCU #15

Interesting... It appears that I didn't review this movie when it first came out. If I did, I can't find it. I find that kind of weird. Not reviewing it, I mean.

Guardians 2 is... Let's just say it's an interesting movie. As far as being fun, it's nearly as fun as the first one. Not quite, but close. It has some great moments, most of which involve Groot in some way. That's probably not quite true, but the best moments I can think of right now all involve Groot. Or Rocket, I suppose. The quantum asteroid field is a pretty great moment. Why are the asteroids quantum? I don't know, but it's funny because they are.

But the movie does have some flaws. Or, rather, one main flaw which is bothering me as I think about it: the deus ex machina entrance of Ego and saving the Guardians. Actually, the whole Ego thing causes some problems, because, if Peter really is immortal, as Ego tells him, being out in space in the first Guardians shouldn't really have bothered him. I mean, being half Celestial made him nearly impervious to an infinity stone, so a little bit of deep cold should have been... not much.

However, maybe Ego isn't a Celestial? All we know is that's what he told Quill. He's certainly not remotely like any of the other Celestials we've seen so far in the MCU and, for a little bit of knowledge from outside the MCU, he's not a Celestial in the comics. He's just a planet... that's alive.

Maybe we'll get some more info about all of this in the next Guardians movie, though I'm thinking that one is going to go in a more Gamorra direction.

Mostly, here, I'm just rambling thoughts. Ego was destroyed, so no matter what he was, the power source that should have made Quill immortal is gone, so, theoretically, he's "back" to be merely human.

I liked Mantis. I thought she was a good addition.

The relationship between Gamorra and Nova developed. That was good to see, even considering what's coming up.

Gunn took the opening fight with the... the... tentacle thing... and made it into a whole movie for that other universe. A much much lesser movie. The tentacle monster fight in Guardians is better than the whole of that other movie.

Groot is still a hoot.

It's a good movie. Not as good as the first, but a good movie.
So let's rank it!

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. Iron Man
6. Doctor Strange
7. Ant-Man
8. Thor: The Dark World
9. Thor
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
13. Iron Man 3
14. Iron Man 2
15. Incredible Hulk (Ego is what you get when you let Norton's ego loose.)

Monday, December 20, 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home (a movie review post)

I'm not going to say that this is the best Spider-Man movie ever, but I can understand why people are saying it. If you're Spider-Man fan, No Way Home has it all. And it does it extremely well, pulling all these threads together and making a cohesive movie out of it. Well, that's a bit of an understatement. It was more than cohesive. It's a very excellent movie, and I would love to go see it again.

However, as an aside, I will probably not go back and see it again the theater. I'm still not really comfortable with movie theaters, especially with omicron out there doing its thing, and probably wouldn't actually have gone to see this except for my daughter is in town for Christmas and she really wanted to go to opening night. Spider-Man was actually pretty packed, much more so than Eternals.

It's really amazing to me that Marvel/Sony were able to get all of these actors back to reprise their roles from the earlier movies. And they seem to have stepped back into them so seamlessly. Even so, Alfred Molina really stood out to me in this one. He was perfectly sympathetic while still being completely villainous. And Willem Dafoe still crazy creepy/scary as the Green Goblin. And I'm not going to say more than that, at this point, because I don't want to be spoilery. I'll be spoilery when I get back to this movie on my MCU re-watch project.

More generally, it's even more clear that Doctor Strange and the multiverse are going to be big parts of what's coming up in the next big build up to... what? The next Avengers movie? The Avengers must be coming back as a team, but I haven't been hearing or seeing anything about a new Avengers movie. Maybe there won't be one this go around. What I have seen coming up (though very secretly) is Fantastic Four movie, and the multiverse has always been much more the playground of Reed Richards than it has been for the Avengers. I don't know... none of this has anything specifically to do with No Way Home other than the shenanigans of Doctor Strange. Speaking of whom, Cumberbatch was excellent. I become more and more impressed with him as an actor as time goes on. He's much more versatile than he seems that he would be, especially after his turn as Sherlock Holmes.

Okay, still trying to avoid being spoilery, but one of the things about Spider-Man in the comic books is that he has always been, pretty much, a solo act. Sure, he's participated in team things and done team-ups, but he's really a one-spider show. In the MCU, he was really brought in as part of the Avengers. I feel like the goal of this movie was extricate Spidey from his Avengers ties and return him to being just Spider-Man. There is a melancholy about the ending that also seems very appropriate for the character.

I suppose the thing that I can say most clearly about the movie is that there are no bad moments. There are no bumps. No "but why?s" Even for newcomers who may have little to no background in the MCU, I think this movie sets everything up well enough to be understandable. Sure, having a broader background is nice, but it's really unnecessary. Actually, almost no knowledge of the MCU is necessary other than that it might feel more comfortable to know who Doctor Strange is, but they cover that part pretty well in the movie, too.

Having said that, if you're Spider-Man fan and are familiar with all of the other Spider-Man movies (the non-MCU ones), the movie is so much richer. It was really a lot of fun. A lot. So, then, is it the best Spider-Man movie ever? I'm still going to go with Spider-Man. That's still one of the best origin stories for a super hero ever done, and it has a certain quality to it that I don't know can be replicated. Maybe one day. I mean, the Captain America movies did get better as they went despite having one of the other top origin stories ever. And maybe I'll change my mind. I haven't seen the original Raimi Spider-Man in ages; maybe I should go back and watch that again and see what I think of it now. But, for the moment, I'm going to say that No Way Home is... you got it, amazing but not the best. It is right up there, though.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Doctor Strange (a movie review post)

 MCU #14

As a point of interest, it was Doctor Strange that inspired this whole MCU re-watch thing. After Shang-chi came out, I decided it would probably be a good idea to refresh Strange in my memory since he seems to be central to what is coming up in the next phase of the MCU. Upon re-watching it, I realized how much, exactly, I'd forgotten, so it was that the decision was made to re-watch everything. I'm really glad, too, because they are so worth it, and I needed the memory freshener. (Which is nothing like one of those air fresheners for your car. Those are gross.)

Also, there's Spider-Man (the new one and which I should be watching when this post goes live), which is going to be a lot of Strange.

It's not that I haven't said this before, but Marvel's casting is uncanny (shut up! I know that's X-Men. It's my blog I can do what I want). Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice for Strange. There's a moment (I don't remember which one) where there is this fairly close up view of Cumberbatch's face and, I swear, it was like they took a panel from the comic book and turned it into a living person. He really captures Strange in a way that I think no other actor could have. Not one that I've seen, at any rate.

I think I've come to like MCU Dr. Strange better than the comic book version. I mentioned this in my previous review (which I'm not linking), but Strange is played off too much as a super hero in the comic book. Oh, yes, but he is a super hero, I hear you saying. Sure, that's true. Sort of. But, in the comic, it was always that he had this limited selection of "moves" which made it feel like special mutant powers or something. There was rarely any actual sorcery. That is, pulling out the books and casting some big spell. Not much "magic," in other words.
Which, you know, is fine. I get it. That kind of thing is much more difficult to do. What is magic, anyway?

I feel like Marvel dealt with that more upfront in the MCU. The Ancient One, basically, explains the MCU concept of magic to Strange right at the beginning. I should probably pull that quote but, hey, I'm about to leave for Spider-Man and trying to wrap this up. Magic has been addresses again in WandaVision and in Eternals. It's more of the science you don't yet understand kind of thing. And I like that. Plus there are lots and lots of books, and we've even seem them in use. To some extent, at least.

They also did a good job with their use of the Astral Plane. The fight in the hospital was really excellent in the way it disrupted the physical world.

And I would be lying if I said that the Cloak of Levitation isn't one of my favorite characters.

The character arc of Mordo is extremely well done. Somewhat parallel to Kaecilius in that it is a perceived deception on the part of The Ancient One that causes their breaks, but each stems from a separate place. Kaecilius, one of envy: I want that, too; Mordo, one of... injustice? I don't know the word I want to use. Mordo responds from a misplaced feeling of injustice, and his journey is and will be more interesting than Kaecilius. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a great actor and able to pull it off more than believably. Not that we haven't seen him do this kind of character before (in Serenity, in case you've forgotten).

So, yeah, I think I've come to like appreciate Dr. Strange more in the years since its release. Not that I didn't like it when it came out; I did. But I like it more now. Which takes us to the rankings...

Let's get ranked!

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. Iron Man
6. Doctor Strange
7. Ant-Man
8. Thor: The Dark World
9. Thor
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
12. Iron Man 3
13. Iron Man 2
14. Incredible Hulk (Sorry, Norton, not even the Eye of Agamotto can save you from your place at the bottom. Maybe don't suck so much.)

Monday, December 13, 2021

Captain America: Civil War (a movie review post)


MCU #13

Civil War may be the best of the MCU movies. Philosophically, it certainly deals with the toughest questions. What do you do when personal freedom clashes with societal security? How important is loyalty in relation to your ideals? What is the cost of friendship?
It's a tough movie.

The one drawback to Civil War is that you can't really come into this one as your first MCU movie. They do a decent job of filling in enough gaps for the audience to understand what's going on but, minimally, you need to have seen Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron to really understand the context of what's happening. Of course, if you have seen the earlier material, it makes this movie all the richer, but I can see it being a barrier for someone coming in.

There's so much in this movie, in fact, that it can't be covered in a simple review. So much so that in my original review (which I am not going to link for this very reason), I glossed over the plot and focused on the acting introductions in the film. I'm not going to apologize. The acting in this one is stellar, and the newcomers deserved some notice. This time, I'm going to focus only on the central question: Should we abandon personal freedom in favor of safety and security?

Tony Stark says yes. He says keeping people safe is the highest good, and giving up your autonomy is a worthy sacrifice for that goal. It makes sense that he would say that. He suffered a severe trauma in the first MCU movie when he had his own personal safety violated. Everything he has done since then has been in the service of keeping people safe. Including the creation of Ultron.

And the creation of Ultron and the disaster which followed is one of the motivators for what happens in Civil War. Tony realizes he needs some oversight, while putting it in the context of the team having oversight. As if that would have prevented Ultron. Because we all know that, oversight or not, Ultron would have happened anyway, because Tony is going to do what Tony is going to do no matter what kind of oversight is in place. To say that it's ironic is an understatement.

Steve Rogers says personal liberty is more important. Which also makes sense considering he fought in a world war against fascism. He has also served under other people's agendas and knows what that's like and that, frequently, those agendas don't uphold the common good and/or are more concerned with the exploitation of others. Most importantly, having to wait for other people to debate a situation can take so long as to make the situation something which cannot be responded to. And, this, I found more than a little amusing because Stark uses this same basic argument with Banner as to why they should not consult the team before pursuing Ultron.

Here's the thing: They are both right. To some extent, at any rate. People should be allowed to make their own decisions and live their own lives but, yes, we also need laws and rules to act as safeguards. But where do you draw that line?

I don't have that answer for you.

And neither does the movie.

Steve, because he is inherently a good guy, always looking out for the well-being of others, willing to sacrifice himself for his fellow man, doesn't need the Accords and, so, he is against being tied up by them. He's going to do the right thing, even if the whole world says he's wrong. I get that. I've been that person standing up against hundreds of people saying "what you're doing is wrong" while the people in charge tell you that you just don't understand the whole situation. Basically, Steve doesn't need the Accords because he's already doing his best to live up to the spirit of them.

And he believes that people should be allowed the freedom to make the same choice that he has, not have it enforced on them. Will people actually make that choice? Probably not, but they should be given the chance.

In many respects, it's a movie without a bad guy. Unless you want to count General Ross, who is definitely not a good guy, and Zemo, who is a bad guy but an understandable bad guy and not actually the cause of the central conflict. Throw in Black Panther and Spider-Man and you have one helluva movie. I'm tempted to leave Avengers at #1 because of all the backstory that Civil War requires, but... if I were going to sit down and watch any MCU movie right now, it would be Civil War, even though I just watched it.

So, then, the new rankings:

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. Iron Man
6. Ant-Man
7. Thor: The Dark World
8. Thor
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron
11. Iron Man 3
12. Iron Man 2
13. Incredible Hulk (Thanks, Norton, because of you, they kicked Hulk off the whole planet.)

Friday, December 3, 2021

Ant-Man (a movie review post)


MCU #12

You can go back and see my original review here.

My original review of Ant-Man covered most of the points I would make here, so let me do a slight re-cap and see what else I can dig into.

Corey Stoll. Still not a fan. When it comes down to it, I think it's because he comes off as nothing more than a petulant child, and it's really difficult to take that seriously. He's like the angry five-year-old who has found a gun but doesn't really know what he's doing with it when he starts shooting rather than stomping his feet. Of course, now I'm thinking of Republicans and their constant foot stomping and waving around of guns. Well, from that perspective, maybe Stoll wasn't too far off in his presentation. It's difficult to take those people seriously, but they're causing real harm.

Still love Michael Pena. He's so great.
Still love the scene with the Falcon. If I'm choosing specific scenes from Marvel movies, this is probably one of my top three (along with the elevator scene from Winter Soldier and the Mjolnir scene from Ultron).

I remember being very annoyed with the character of Paxton when the movie came out, but I've softened on that and think the character works. Bobby Cannavale is really great.

From my current standpoint, that Hank Pym arranged for Scott Lang to break into his house has got to be one of the best plot ideas in any of the Marvel movies. Pym and his sitting in front of his bank of monitors is very spider-like, and the whole thing demonstrates how brilliant Pym is supposed to be. Not even daddy-Stark could replicate his formula, after all.

At the moment, the Ant-Man movies are a little on the outer rim of the MCU, kind of like Spider-Man. He's a character moving in and out of what's going on but, mostly, doing his own thing. So far. I think we're going to see some changes to that with the next movie, but that's just speculation on my part.

Oh, the usage of the ants is quite extraordinary. 
Also, for those who don't know, Ant-Man (and Wasp) were part of the original Avengers in the comics (Captain America was NOT). My understanding is that Ant-Man was being worked on as part of phase one of the MCU originally, but they decided to shelve him because they didn't think audiences were quite ready for it. They decided to focus on Cap, Thor, and Iron Man. I think this was a good call. I suppose it's also how we end up with Lang as Ant-Man rather than Pym. It's a good change. I like what they've done. Ant-Man is a strong movie. So let's look at the rankings.

The rankings!

1. The Avengers
2. Captain America: The First Avenger
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
4. Iron Man
5. Ant-Man
6. Thor: The Dark World
7. Thor
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron
10. Iron Man 3
11. Iron Man 2
12. Incredible Hulk (Norton caused Hulk to be beat by an ant.)