Greetings True Believers.
I’m about to see Avengers: Endgame after work. I’ve somehow managed to make it thus far without any spoilers, which I consider a marvel unto itself. Geddit, Marvel? Anyway, since I had no other ideas today, I’m gonna look back on the entirety of the MCU (not to be confused with the ABCU (Air Bud Cinematic Universe) and give a few quick thoughts on each film. I’ve got 30 minutes to cover 22 films, let’s see how I go:
1 “The Infinity Saga”
1.1 Phase One
1.1.1 Iron Man (2008) – 8/10
Back when I worked in radio, I remember hounding a friend at a rival radio station to get me sneak peek tickets. The dude delivered, and so did this film. The post credits scene was at the time, a total revelation. As a lifelong Marvel comics fan (though mostly X-Men and Spider Man) I was chuffed. RDJ’s charisma made this whole filmic franchise seem less of a pipe dream and more reality made manifest. A punchy script, it looked incredible and in that cinema, I felt like a giddy kid again.
I won’t write this much for each, trust me.
1.1.2 The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 5/10
I seem to recall this being pretty forgettable. I didn’t even bother watching it in the cinema, but a co-worker told me it was worth torrenting. I’m not sure she was right. At the time I remember thinking Ed Norton was a good Bruce Banner, but maybe it was just in comparison to Eric Bana’s lacklustre job on the half hour of 2003’s HULK that I watched.
1.1.3 Iron Man 2 (2010) – 6/10
I had all the goodwill for this one. Mickey Rourke was in it and I thought he was the bees knees after The Wrestler. We got Black Widow/Jim Rhodes entering the MCU. But even Sam Rockwell couldn’t save the absurdity of an upper tier superhero getting shitcanned by some dude with whips. Sure, there were quips aplenty and RDJ was still great, but this movie lost some goodwill from the first. I saw this one at home. Did I even like these films anymore?
1.1.4 Thor (2011) – 5/10
I went into this film thinking Thor was dorky and boring. I came out thinking the same thing. I think a friend dragged me along. So disliking the film was probably more on me. I thought the fish out of water idea had been better explored elsewhere. Love Natalie Portman, but there didn’t seem to be chemistry with Hemsworth. I do remember thinking that the scene in which he infiltrated that weird clear plastic laboratory by stealth was pretty cool, and showcased a side of Thor I didn’t realise he had. Most of the characters felt one dimensional and uninspiring. Maybe I was off the MCU after all.
1.1.5 Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 6/10
I’ve also never liked Captain America that much. Patriotism discoloured my opinion even as a kid. I didn’t even see this film until perhaps 2016 or so. I heard it was a scathing indictment of the US military propaganda machine, but in practice it still felt very U S A! U S A! I didn’t get why Rogers became a tactical genius instantly after taking the serum. That wasn’t alluded to in earlier scenes. It all felt very convenient, and overall I wish they’d just given the serum to Agent Carter. Also, watching it after the next phase (where I think Marvel cemented the formula and the films got better) was a total disservice to it.
1.1.6 Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) – 9/10
How the script managed to flesh out, revitalise and grow all these characters without lagging was remarkable. Sweet, funny, with great action scenes. Somehow it all made sense bringing everyone together. One of my pet peeves is when films shit themselves in the third act and become senseless CGI slugfests with a blue pillar of light shining into the sky. In the third act Avengers became a CGI slugfest with a blue pillar of light shining into the sky, but the teamwork was fun and dynamic. It wasn’t senseless, it entirely justified the team aspect, while being lively and non-repetitive.
1.2 Phase Two
1.2.1 Iron Man 3 (2013) – 7/10
I’m far fairer to this film than I think most are. I thought the whole Mandarin thing was great. It was kinda progressive to show a superhero suffering from PTSD. Some of the fight scenes had great choreography (I’ve talked about it before, but the scene where he’s summoning one piece of armour at a time is stunning). It also did become a CGI slugfest with forgettable villains, but at least none of them were whip based.
1.2.2 Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Did not see
Thor for me was always a hard sell. The idea of paying money for this was unconscionable, so I told myself I’d watch it online at some point. I haven’t reached that level of desperation yet, and I doubt I will.
1.2.3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – 10/10
I skipped this one in cinemas and I think that was my mistake.
I don’t even know if it’s a controversial opinion, but I think Winter Soldier might be the finest MCU film to date. Or at least very close. The fight scenes did a phenomenal job of showcasing Cap’s understanding of vectors and efficiency of movement. There was a flow that was totally mesmerising. Was this the one with the elevator scene? ‘Cause that was a goddamn thrill. Johansson and Evans made for excellent road trip buddies, and they had fantastic chemistry. The idea of Cap going against his own institution for the sake of his own values nailed the character dead on. And like, one of the big villains was surveillance. Very very timely.
1.2.4 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – 9/10
I was sucked in by this one. Funny and often irreverant, it was a huge change of pace from the more self-serious films to come beforehand. The cosmic colour scheme was vibrant and exciting. I was also chuffed to see Prattprattpratt in pre-super-churchy days becoming all buff and stuff. This was so much fun I saw it twice. IN THEATRES. I never do that. The soundtrack kicked ass. Plus now Peter Serafinowicz is part of the MCU. I’d write more, but I’m running out of time.
1.2.5 Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – 6/10
This movie sucked balls. They didn’t know how to write “the twins” (who weren’t allowed to be called mutants even though they’re Magneto’s kids, since Marvel didn’t own the rights to the X-Men universe). It lost whatever spark made the original Avengers so engrossing. Ultron was a shitty villain, and the conflict turned once again into CGI slugfest territory. Sure, it set up important worldbuilding for the next phase, but egads it was tiresome.
1.2.6 Ant-Man (2015) – 7/10
A fun, self-contained heist film. Scott Lang’s best friend (I never remember names) was the star of the show, with his lengthy tangential monologues. I mourn the film this could’ve been if Edgar Wright stayed involved (and imagine further Marvel films by Wright, right?). It’s a good popcorn flick, not super important but watchable, with fine performances.
1.3 Phase Three
1.3.1 Captain America: Civil War (2016) – 7/10
Look, Civil War is fine. If you expect anything more from this film than a lead up to the airport fight scene, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The introduction of Tom Holland’s Spidey stole the show, and it was awesome to see Black Panther onscreen (and whet the appetite for what they could accomplish in Wakanda), but otherwise this huge ensemble was strangely dull. I dunno, I found it pretty hard to care about the fallout, knowing that this was franchise driven and they had to all come back together eventually.
1.3.2 Doctor Strange (2016)- Did not see
I honestly don’t care much for blockbusters, the cinema experience or special effects. So a big IMAX CGI spectacle didn’t seem worth the price of admission.
1.3.3 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – 7/10
I was quite excited for this one and came out thinking it was just okay. Maybe it’s worth a re-watch? Some people really like it. The opening scene was a blast, I think I came out liking Star Lord a lot less than I did after the first. I’m really running out of time here.
1.3.4 Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – 9/10
This might be a very high rating, but I’ve written previously how much I adore this film. Just go there.
1.3.5 Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – 8/10
Ragnarok was super fun. Great cast, I’m a huge Taika Waititi fan. I thought this did phenomenal things to shape Thor’s character into one that I genuinely like now. A big ol’ enjoyable blockbuster for someone who doesn’t think much of blockbusters. It was very silly, with an astoundingly good (possibly Kung Fury inspired) climactic fight scene set to “Immigrant Song”. Oddly enough, it’s even better set to Holding Out for a Hero.
1.3.6 Black Panther (2018) – 10/10
I’m not even holding the dumb third act against this film. It was SUCH a spectacle. I watched this and felt flabbergasted by how they’d brought afrofuturism to the big screen. It was a kind of cinematic magic. Killmonger is hands down one of the best MCU villains, because his motivations mostly make sense (but like Thanos, there’s maybe one or two logical missteps that don’t have me fully on their side). The start of the film plays out like a goddamn Bond film. It’s exciting, the technology is awesome, the colours are fabulous, the distinct ritual and culture they imbued Wakanda with is captivating. T’Challa’s character is a stunning depiction of soft but confident masculinity, an archetype that isn’t explored nearly enough in action films.
1.3.7 Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – 7/10
TOO MANY CHARACTERS. I liked Thanos a bunch, but this film was just too goddamn long with so little payoff. Yes, the ending was great, even if we once again knew that this was franchise building and everyone would end up okay at the end. Characters were given maybe 2.5 minutes of screen time each, which was long enough for a couple of one liners and some action shots. Very little character development, and the ending sort of undid any stakes the film had in the first place. That’s not to say there was nothing good about the film. Like Game of Thrones, it was fun to see characters with storied histories interacting for the first time. That said, the new villains were once again totally forgettable. Characters acted in ways that were convenient for the plot, but didn’t necessarily make sense with how that character would usually act.
1.3.8 Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – Did not see
I planned to treat this as a popcorn movie some night, but never got around to it. Honestly, I disliked Infinity War enough that the idea of paying for another Marvel film made me feel bad.
1.3.9 Captain Marvel (2019) – Did not see
I was super psyched for this one, then most of the reviews said it was mediocre and skippable. At this stage, I’m not sure I want to watch another origin story. I’ve read enough comics well enough that I can watch Endgame without feeling like I’ve missed much on Carol Danvers’ backstory.
And after all of that, it’s almost time to see the film. People have said it has a very satisfying conclusion to this whole saga. You know what? At this stage that’s all I’m looking for. Maybe Groot will say “Groot” once more if I’m lucky. Fingers crossed.