Friday, March 25, 2022

MCU Phase Four

I suppose this is where it all gets interesting. Not that it hasn't been interesting. I'm using the word a bit more loosely. Up to the end of Phase Three, all of the MCU was contained within the movies and could be followed linearly, pretty much. This is no longer true. Following Phase Four is going to be a more convoluted experience.

For instance, Black Widow takes place both before Infinity War and after Endgame, but it is essentially a Phase Four story. Well, sort of a prelude to Phase Four with the introduction of Yelena as a character. The new Black Widow? I suppose we'll see.

Then there is the fact that WandaVision actually takes place, in the timeline, before Spider-Man: Far From Home, possibly The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, too.

Then there's Loki... I suppose that one starts within the action of Endgame, but it's outside of time, so it... doesn't count? I don't know. I do know, though, that I love the introduction of the TVA. [I have their first appearance.]

So... like I said, interesting. And possibly challenging to keep up with? I don't know. I'm sure it will not make that big a difference overall, not if you're taking each story as its own story.

I'm looking at reviewing Phase Four as its own separate thing and leaving my other MCU ranking list as it is. Or, maybe, I'll work only the movies onto the ranking list. I don't know. We'll have to see how it goes. I am, right now, working my way back through WandaVision and should have a review of that up soon.

One personal note about Phase Four: I have no idea what Marvel is doing in regards to the overall plot arc. This is interesting to me because I knew almost right away what the first big arc was leading to. I loved being able to pick up the clues as they went along. There's some speculation that the new arc is going to have to do with the Beyonder and Secret Wars and, I suppose, that makes some sense, but I haven't seen what I would take as actual evidence of that yet. At any rate, I'm not out scouring the interwebs trying to figure it out. I'm okay just going along for the ride and finding out as I go.

Also on a personal note: I love that they're bringing in Black Knight and Moon Knight. Those were two of my favorite characters back in the 80s. I can't wait to see what they're going to do with them.

All of this to say to be on the lookout for reviews of the various Disney+ series. But not the Netflix shows, which I suppose are being incorporated as canon now that Disney+ is airing them. Of course, we've already seen Matt Murdock and Kingpin in canon shows, so that all makes sense, too.

I'm excited to see where Phase Four is going.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Singer from the Sea (a book review post)


Usually, when I finish a book, I write the review right away. That's how I always do it, really... until this book. This book...
This book was so bad I didn't know what to say.
I still don't, really.
And it makes me sad because Tepper has some really great books (The Gate to Women's Country for one). But I have been mentioning as I've gone along reading her books that they were less and less good.

The real issue is that her books are mostly all the same. They are all made of the same ingredients. And there are a lot of things you can do with, say, potatoes but, after awhile, you're tired of potatoes, no matter how they're prepared. This book is no different and has all of the usual ingredients:
1. Female protagonist
2. with some sort of secret mental ability
3. that she has no knowledge of before the story starts.
4. The fate of the world is in the hands of the protagonist.
5. There either has been or about to be some sort of global catastrophe.
6. Aliens are involved in some way and often have some sort of connection the "spirit of the world"
7. which is somehow connected to the protagonist.
8. There is some mystery to be solved, usually dealing with why and how the protagonist has these special powers.
optional ingredient: There is a prophecy involved.

Thinking about all of that, now, as I wrote it down, The Gate to Women's Country is the only book of hers that I have read that doesn't have all of this stuff in it. Some of it but not all.

To make matters worse with Singer, it's like Tepper couldn't decide what story she actually wanted to tell. There is one story being told at the beginning of the novel, and I was enjoying that one well enough, though I hadn't really been "grabbed" by it, but about 1/3 of the way in, the story completely changes. Abruptly. The protagonist is told almost out of the blue "you need to run for your life," and she takes off and the whole tone and structure of the story changes. It was like the main character stepped into a different book. And it happened again later, when there is an alien invasion. It's not that this kind of thing doesn't happen in books sometimes but, when it does, the author usually has some kind of reason and ties it back in later. I think Tepper tried to tie it all together at the end, but it really felt forced and like she started one story, realized she wanted to tell a different story, and just switched mid-book, leaving the opening story attached.

The mystery in this book is solved less by the characters trying to solve than by them stumbling upon things randomly and/or accidentally, accompanied by huge leaps of logic that the character had no legitimate reason to make. But, then, Tepper acted in this book as if when one character discovered something, then all of the characters magically knew that piece of information. Authors do this sometimes, but it's lazy storytelling. "I don't feel like getting this piece of information from character A to character B, so everyone will just know everything."

Oh, and at the end of the book, the protagonist suddenly has gills and can breathe under water. That's when I really wanted to throw the book across the room. Seriously, what the fuck? She already has special powers and, now, you're going to just toss in gills because it's convenient to what you want to do in the story? ugh

I could never in good conscious suggest that anyone should read this book. I've read a lot of bad books in my time, and this is right down there with the worst of them. Go get yourself a copy of The Gate to Women's Country and read that -- it really is a great book -- but don't go farther than that with Tepper, no matter how much you're tempted. It's all downhill from there.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Spider-Man: Far From Home (a movie review post)


MCU #23

Looking back now, I think Marvel carrying Mysterio into the MCU is one of the bravest things they've done. Of Marvel characters, Mysterio is probably the most made fun of, at least among... I don't know how to differentiate this exactly. There are some legitimately ridiculous characters in the Marvel Universe, but you haven't heard of them. They don't get made fun of because they were so "what the fuck were you thinking" that they haven't been around enough to be made fun of. Mysterio is kind of "main stream," though. He goes back to 1964 and was one of the original Sinister Six. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief to take him as a legitimate threat. The comic book version, I mean. It's really rather impressive that they took this character and made him viable in the MCU.
Really impressive.
Why do it? I have no idea, but they did, and it really worked.

Total aside: As my family and I have been re-watching the MCU movies, we have been vaguely keeping track of how many of the villains in the MCU are a direct result of Tony Stark. Mysterio and his crew blew our count totally out of the water. Though I do have to say that at least a couple of these are not really Tony's fault but Stane's. Still, Tony is responsible for more than his fair share of super villain origins.

From a story perspective, the only real problem I have with Far From Home is the European school science trip. Sure, yeah, I suppose it's supposed to be a bunch of kids from rich families or something and Peter must be there on scholarship, but they never explicitly state that so the whole thing just feels kind of weird to me. When I was in middle school, we took an overnight trip to south Louisiana and that was a big deal, and that was in the same state. I can't imagine getting to go out of the country on a field trip. I suppose they wanted to destroy some other places other than New York. And DC. I get it. That's my personal point of disbelief suspension for this movie, though.

As I stated in my previous review, the real conflict in Far From Home is not man vs. man but man vs. himself as Peter struggles with the death of Tony and his new role as some kind of replacement. Which is not to take away from the threat that Mysterio poses, but Mysterio wouldn't quite have been the threat he was if Peter wasn't struggling with his perception that he was supposed to become the next Iron Man. All he really wants to do is pretend to be a normal teenager and woo the girl.

Speaking of, I really appreciated the brief romance between Ned and Betty. It was a nice acknowledgement to the fact that they were married in the comics.
I also appreciated everything to do with "Nick Fury" in this movie. After Captain Marvel, it's so good.
I love Martin Starr.

Spider-Man: Far From Home serves as the epilogue to phase 3 of the MCU and begins the shift to phase 4, in that it directly leads into the next Spider-Man movie which is part of what kicks off phase 4, at least as far as the movies go. I find it interesting that Marvel chose Spider-Man as their transition character. No, I can't tell you why; I just  do.
That said, this will be the last of my MCU reviews for a while. My family isn't ready to re-watch the latest few of the MCU movies since they feel that we just watched them. I suppose we did, but I haven't seen any of those more than once, at this point, and I'm really wanting to see No Way Home again. Oh, well...
However, it's quite possible that I will be reviewing some of the Disney+ phase 4 TV series. We're going to begin re-exploring those, especially since the first one, WandaVision, leads directly into the new Dr. Strange movie.
Which I suppose brings us to the last ranking, at least for a while. Yeah, I know, but you'll have to find another way to hate on Edward Norton for a little while, though I am looking forward to She-Hulk; there should be plenty of opportunity with that one!

The 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. Spider-Man: Far From Home
13. Ant-Man
14. Thor: Ragnarok
15. Thor: The Dark World
16. Thor
17. Guardians of the Galaxy
18. Ant-Man and the Wasp
19. Avengers: Age of Ultron
20. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
21. Iron Man 3
22. Iron Man 2
23. Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton believes EDITH was meant for him, not because he's the next Iron Man but because he's always the hero.)