Friday, February 25, 2022

Avengers: Endgame (a movie review post)


MCU #22

My original Endgame review, in which I mostly don't talk about the movie but still manage to get in a dig at Edward Norton.

I'm just going to say it: Endgame is the greatest achievement in cinematic history. This is not an opinion on the quality of the movie. Even if it had been a terrible movie, it would still be the greatest achievement ever in movies: the culmination of one storyline carried through more than 20 movies over the span of more than a decade. It's rather mind-blowing when you think about it like that. It also happens to be a great movie.

Here is what I'm going to say about that: It is not a movie you can legitimately watch or appreciate unless you've seen, minimally, all of the Avengers movies, but you really need to have seen everything MCU to... feel the full gravity of it. Not all pieces of entertainment are designed to stand on their own, and that's okay. In fact, it's good. It allows for more complex and interesting stories. You can all thank Tolkien for this. Prior to the release of The Lord of the Rings, it was thought by publishers that "the audience" wouldn't be interested by anything long and complex. Even once the concept that some people really enjoyed long, complex stories was introduced into books, it took a long time for movies and television to catch up. And you can probably thank Lucas for that because, without Star Wars, who knows when that idea would have worked its way into movies.

I am not one to cry at movies, not much or often, but I had tears during Endgame. The scene where Happy is sitting with Morgan before Tony's funeral is so touching. Not to mention the moment Peter has with Tony as he dies. It's hard stuff to watch. And it's part of what has made the MCU great. Real moments that can't be taken back or undone. Actions with consequences that the heroes have to live and deal with. We've learned over the years that you can't depend on that in comic books; comic books revert, always, to status quo, no matter who dies or what happens. The MCU is not like that and, I think, it elevates the MCU above the comics. Tony Stark died. Deal with it.

Not that he was the only one; he's just the example.

Endgame hits hard from the opening scene. It's also terribly difficult to watch Clint lose his entire family. This movie is, more than anything, about loss and how we deal with it. How to deal with it. Steve Rogers runs a support group. Barton murders survivors whom he has decided didn't deserve to survive. Both extremes are understandable. Everyone is dealing with their loss in the best way they can.

But you know that the heroes somehow have to win...
I do like that when they "fixed" "the snap" that they didn't just put everything back to the way it was. This, again, is living and dealing with the consequences, stuff we're getting to see play out in the various Disney+ series. It's a much different way than in The Infinity Gauntlet, which returned things exactly to how they were.

Favorite moment, and this is my favorite moment from the entire MCU:
When Captain America, after having his shield broken to pieces by Thanos, picks up Mjolnir. It's powerful.
And Thor's reaction is pretty priceless as well.

Endgame may not be the MCU movie I would pull out to watch for fun on any given night -- it's not that kind of movie -- but I do think it's the best of the MCU. Every character has a moment. The heroes win but not without cost. It's powerful and heartbreaking. It's great.

[One thing to point out: It's great in a way that, say, Return of the Jedi is not but possibly could have been. Lucas originally planned for Calrissian to die in the Falcon in the destruction of the Death Star but, in the end, Lucas couldn't go through with it. He didn't want the movie to end on a bummer. Endgame doesn't shy away from it.]

The new rankings:

1. Avengers: Endgame
2. Captain America: Civil War
3. The Avengers
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
8. Iron Man
9. Captain Marvel
10. Black Panther
11. Doctor Strange
12. Ant-Man
13. Thor: Ragnarok
14. Thor: The Dark World
15. Thor
16. Guardians of the Galaxy
17. Ant-Man and the Wasp
18. Avengers: Age of Ultron
19. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
20. Iron Man 3
21. Iron Man 2
22. Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton's ego is so strong that it actually survived the snap despite being part of the 50% chosen.)

Friday, February 18, 2022

Captain Marvel (a movie review post)


MCU #21

You can see my original review of this movie here

For reasons I can't really fathom, Captain Marvel is one of the most disliked of the MCU movies. It has only a 45% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and not much better anywhere else. It's not that I don't understand that there are supposed reasons, but I don't get it. Captain Marvel is a wonderful movie, and Larson is excellent in the role.

That said, Captain Marvel is not a character I have much experience with in the comics. My experience of her was her in a coma because Rogue absorbed her powers and memories, and that's the way it was for much of my active comic reading experience. Monica Rambeau, on the other hand, a later Captain Marvel in the comics, I have much more experience with and that character just so happens to be introduced in this movie. Rambeau also appears in WandaVision, and we should be seeing more of her soon. I think it's pretty cool the way she is introduced in this movie.

I have no idea of the origin story for Captain Marvel in the comics, the past or the current origin, and I don't care one way or the other about the relation of this origin to what might or might not be in the comics. I got over clinging to the comic origin a long time ago. As I've said before, the MCU is its own beast and should be judged on its own merits.

And the merits of this movie are good. I love the 90s setting. The crash through the roof of the Blockbuster is classic. I love that the Skrull posing as Colson gets found out because Colson calls Fury while he's with the imposter and that you don't know ahead of time that that has happened. Okay, well, now you do, if you haven't seen it, but that's on you. You've had time. I love the flerken. And the Tesseract, what a little cube of mischief! Always getting around and powering people's weapons and engines and... superpowers. That things gets around! Of course, it is the space gem, so I guess it's appropriate.

There is one argument that could be made against the movie that is valid: It is a touch of retconning to toss Captain Marvel into the mix right in the middle of the whole Infinity saga. BUT! They wanted the cause to seem hopeless. Because it was hopeless. Thanos won. He beat the heroes. Hands down. There were two opportunities to have beaten him, the first ruined by Quill and the second because Thor didn't go for the head. If we had known going into all of that that Captain Marvel was still out there, the situation wouldn't have seemed quite hopeless. I'm reminded of the scene in Empire when ghostBen says, "That boy is our last hope." And we don't have a Yoda to say, "No, there is another." (Okay, there is the post-credit scene with Fury using the call device, but we don't know what that means, yet, right?) So putting us in the situation where there is no hope left and then introducing the character works well, I think. But I can see the argument there; I just don't agree with it.

Marvel is a really solid movie with powerful characters and performances. And, as I said in the previous review, I do think Larson and Law have great chemistry together, which makes their final confrontation very... satisfying. To say the least.
What a condescending ass.
Of course, that is the character that Jude Law plays best.

So let's get this one ranked. I say that knowing that people will disagree with my placement on this one, but, hey, this is my ranking and this how I feel about it.

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Avengers: Infinity War
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7. Iron Man
8. Captain Marvel
9. Black Panther
10. Doctor Strange
11. Ant-Man
12. Thor: Ragnarok
13. Thor: The Dark World
14. Thor
15. Guardians of the Galaxy
16. Ant-Man and the Wasp
17. Avengers: Age of Ultron
18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
19. Iron Man 3
20. Iron Man 2
21. Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton's ego could never be a shape-shifting Skrull. He's incapable of disguising that thing.)

Friday, February 11, 2022

Ant-Man and the Wasp (a movie review post)


MCU #20

You can see my original review here. It's still completely valid, though I am going to say some other things in this one, things that may seem counter to my original review, though they really are not.

This movie is a lot of fun, whatever else may be said about it.

That said...

I think this movie is a little... sloppy. As I've said before (including my previous review of this), I love Walton Goggins, but his character, Sonny Burch, feels superfluous at best. That whole plotline seems to be there just to provide a reason for the car chase. Which is a lot of fun, but...
And there's the whole truth serum bit...
    "If it walk like duck and talk like duck... it's truth serum."
Or something to that effect.
And that scene is hilarious and I love it, but...
The whole Sonny Burch thread could have been eliminated and nothing that matters would have been lost from the movie. Unless the "boss" he referred to is going to be important, but that hardly seems to be significant enough for what feels more like filler, at this point.

Of course, they may have been going for a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World vibe with everyone after the shrunken office building, but they really needed more people after the building if that's what they were trying to do.

Things I love in the movie:
-- The truth serum joke.
-- The Hot Wheels car carrying case.
--Michael Pena

The thing is, there isn't anything I don't like about the movie. It's a lot of fun, and I enjoy it. I enjoyed it no less this time than the last time I saw it. But, looking at it from a storytelling viewpoint, the plot could have used some tightening.
Or maybe not. I mean, if it's fun and people enjoy it, what's the problem?
Yes, you could say that I have internal conflict over this stuff. 
It's a good movie, but I think it could have been better. I guess that's what I'm saying.
I guess not all of the sequels can be better than their predecessors.

Let's get it ranked.

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. The Avengers
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
4. Avengers: Infinity War
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7. Iron Man
8. Black Panther
9. Doctor Strange
10. Ant-Man
11. Thor: Ragnarok
12. Thor: The Dark World
13. Thor
14. Guardians of the Galaxy
15. Ant-Man and the Wasp
16. Avengers: Age of Ultron
17. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
18. Iron Man 3
19. Iron Man 2
20. Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton can't use Pym particles. It would cause a singularity and destroy the Earth.)

Friday, February 4, 2022

Avengers: Infinity War (a movie review post)

 MCU #19

I think it's fair to say that Avengers has been the most ambitious movie franchise of all time. The Avengers, itself, was possibly the most ambitious movie ever made but, then, Infinity War goes way beyond that. The culmination of 18 other movies, with clues about it going back to... what? the first Captain America movie? I don't remember if there was any hint about the infinity stones before that or not. That's a lot of movies to build one story on, and Marvel pulled it off. Magnificently.

And, then, killed half their characters.
That's a bold move.
Seriously bold.
I was reading back through my previous reviews for this movie (yes, reviews; it was so big, I had to do two) and was reminded at the furor it caused and how upset people were. It's amazing to me in retrospect. Actually, it was amazing to me in "spect." I mean, the first time.

Not even to get to how the movie ends, but it opens with Thanos slaughtering refugees. How much more harsh can you get? These people just had their homeland destroyed and in walks Thanos killing them wholesale. Along with Loki! Possibly the most popular of all of the MCU characters, and Thanos mostly casually snaps his neck and tosses his body aside.

The only drawback to Infinity War is that it is really the first of the Marvel movies that you really can't watch unless you've seen a good number of the other MCU movies. Probably not all of them, but I can't see Infinity War as making much sense to anyone who hasn't been following the story at least somewhat. However, it's also unfair to call that "requirement" a "drawback" since that, really, is the point of the film. No one would expect that you should be able to sit down and watch (or read) Return of the King without consuming the first two parts of Lord of the Rings.

Here's the thing: I've been immersed in Marvel since I was... four? three? Since I first discovered Spider-Man. I read Infinity Gauntlet when it first came out. I know how comics work, and I knew, generally, how this pair of movies was going to end. Knowing all of that, when it got to the part where Peter is "dusted," it still brought me to the brink of tears. And that was watching it this time. I don't remember crying when I saw this the first time, but I know I teared up. That scene was heartbreaking.

And that is saying a lot.

I don't know... Thinking about all this... This movie has a lot of characters in it. A lot. And, yet, Marvel manages to pull that off. It did take them 18 movies to form the foundation for it, but they did it. And, then, I think about -- look, it's not that I want to think about DC, but I can't help making the comparison -- DC and how they seem to think that throwing in more and more characters is how you make a great movie. Or, maybe, they're just using their characters like spaghetti and throwing them at the audience to see what sticks. The characters and the actors. How many different Batmans and Supermans have we had? What I'm saying is that the movie could have gotten bogged down with so many characters, but it didn't. It's a long movie, but you don't feel it. It moves along without having to deal with a bunch of exposition to keep people from getting confused. It's... masterful.

Look, as a writer, I'm telling you this is some good storytelling. That's my expert opinion.

Oh, also, Doctor Strange works out the plan by using the the Time Stone totally knowing he's going to get dusted and goes through with it anyway. That takes some real... I don't know... Courage doesn't cover it. Look at Quill. He knew the stakes and, yet, when they have almost gotten the glove from Thanos, Quill gives into his rage and hands Thanos the victory. Strange stared it all down and hands Thanos the Time Stone, anyway. Man...

And, if you want (almost) all of your favorite MCU characters in one movie, this is the place to see it.

The real test? I just watched this but would not protest watching it again right now. It's that good. Which is true of most of the MCU. Not all, but most. There are a few I feel like I don't need to ever see again, one in  particular (you hear that Norton? (yeah, this is my Norton dig for this post)) but, for most of them, even after just watching them, I would happily watch them again.
So let's get this one ranked!

The infinite ranking:

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

(I discussed with my family what they thought about the placement of A:IW on the list, and I have gone against popular opinion. Well, their popular opinion, anyway, although it seems that a lot of popular opinion has A:IW in the top two of MCU movies. I have my reasons, though, for the placement, most of which have to do with tightness of story. But, man, it was difficult for me for it to fall between Cap and Spidey after the two of those were tied for a while.)