As the third “phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ended and there’s no clear sign of when any of the movies of “Phase Four” are coming out, I thought I’d watch all the movies that have come out so far that, despite being divided into “phases,” have all been pretty much one giant saga of the Infinity Stones and so fit together pretty well. I started this about a month ago and my wife and I have watched one a night for most of the nights – I play tennis two nights a week, so we only watched one, I think, on one of those nights, and we took one or two nights off, but basically, it’s been all Marvel, all the time for about a month! These have been reviewed to death, so I have some rapid-fire thoughts about all of them and some accounting, as well. Accounting – so much fun!
Iron Man (2 May 2008).
- It’s been said before, but Downey Jr. really does embody Tony Stark perfectly. His onscreen persona has always been a bit Tony Stark-ish, so casting him in the role was brilliant. It’s also been said before, but he really was a risk. He had worked steadily prior to this and was very good in some movies (I haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but I want to, and he was very good in Zodiac), but it seemed like he was destined to be a guy who shows up for a little while in movies and gives them a nice kick in the pants, but not be the star. I mean, before this, was the last time he headlined a big movie Restoration in 1995? Looking at his IMDb page, it seems so. As good as he is in the role, it was a big risk.
- I’m glad they replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle, as I’ve always liked Cheadle more than Howard, and he seems to fit into the “Marvel movie” aesthetic more than Howard. Howard is fine in this movie, but Cheadle is better in subsequent movies.
- It’s hilarious how low-key this movie is. All Jeff Bridges wants to do is run the company, so he builds the clanky armor to kill Tony. No threat to the world or a major city, no real crime – I mean, maybe what Bridges is doing is illegal, but it doesn’t seem like it is – and not too much gets destroyed. Sure, Tony gets revenge on the dudes who kidnapped and tortured him, but even they weren’t about to destroy the world or anything.
- Peter Billingsley from A Christmas Story is in this movie. He’s the scientist who Bridges yells at when they can’t get the power source to work right. He was also in Real People, which I mention only because Real People was awesome.
- As far as I can tell, here are the Academy Award stats for the movie: Nominations – 12 (7 for Bridges, 2 for Downey Jr., 1 for Howard, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Paltrow); Wins – 2 (Bridges for Best Actor in Crazy Heart, which was after this movie, Paltrow for Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love in 1998). So when this movie was made, Gwyneth Paltrow was the only Oscar winner on set. Amazing. (I love Paltrow as an actor, but her win is a bit surprising, although that year was a weak one for women.)
- Stan Lee cameo: At Tony’s party, where Tony mistakes him for Hugh Hefner (he’s hanging out with at least one Playboy model, so perhaps that’s not surprising).
- Post-credits scene: Nick Fury is in Tony’s house (where the security is surprisingly terrible, as Jeff Bridges strolled in there earlier to accost Tony – what the hell, Stark?) and he tells him about the Avengers Initiative.
The Incredible Hulk (13 June 2008).
- The “Marvel Cinematic Universe” technically begins with Iron Man, but this is technically a sequel to 2003’s Hulk, which isn’t considered part of the MCU. That … makes sense. I actually like Hulk quite a bit, but it didn’t do very well at the box office, so Marvel “rebooted” it with this but decided not to do another origin story (thank the stars!). Anyway, Norton is fine, but Ruffalo is better as the Hulk. In every role, Norton has kind of a weird immature aspect, as if he’s going to start whining at any moment (even when he doesn’t, because he really doesn’t whine at all, but my point is that it’s there). This works in some movies but not in others, and it doesn’t work here, because he’s never really convincing as a scientist with … problems. Ruffalo is much better at that.
- Norton’s performance is, as I noted, fine, but it’s one of the reasons this is a weaker entry into the MCU. Liv Tyler is another reason. I’ve never liked Tyler, and she’s hopelessly miscast here. Her breathy, girlish voice does nothing for me, and it makes her seem like a teenager playing “science dress-up.” I know why she’s a thing, given her father, but why is Liv Tyler a thing?
- Hurt and Roth are fine, basically phoning it in for a paycheck, although both of those guys phoning it in for a paycheck are still pretty good. Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns is delightful; I’m a bit bummed that they never made a sequel with him as the Leader, because that would have been neat.
- Martin Starr, who’s the lab tech that Banner bribes with pizza while he’s searching for data, is supposed to be the same character who later shows up in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Because everything needs to be connected in this damned universe!
- The CGI isn’t great in this movie, which is too bad. I imagine of all the Marvel heroes, doing the Hulk is the hardest because he’s all CGI and you need a face. Iron Man and Spider-Man are just fake dudes without faces, while you can use actors and stunt men for a lot of the others (not the hardest shots, but for most of them). But Hulk needs to be all CGI, and it’s not great. They got better, but this wasn’t the best.
- So Ty Burrell is supposed to be Leonard Samson? I don’t think they ever say his name on screen, so I didn’t make the connection, but on IMDb, he’s listed as “Leonard.”
- I guess they never made a sequel because Universal still holds the rights to distribute any Hulk standalone movie, and Marvel didn’t want to play ball with them. The movie didn’t do great at the box office, but it did pretty well, but I guess Marvel was too pissy about it to move on. I should point out that this movie is NOT on Disney + and we actually had to “rent” it to watch it. Sheesh.
- Here are the Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations – 10 (4 for Hurt, 3 for Norton, 2 for Downey Jr., 1 for Roth); Wins – 1 (Hurt won Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider-Woman. I’ve never seen the movie, but the book is superb.)
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the dude who drinks the Brazilian soda with Banner’s blood in it and gets gamma poisoning. Sucks to be him.
- Post-credits scene: The post-credits scene was actually moved to pre-credits, as Downey Jr. tells a drunk General Ross about the Avengers. I wonder if this scene was filmed way after the fact when Marvel decided to make all the movies one big narrative. It kind of feels that way.
Iron Man 2 (7 May 2010).
- 2009 has been, so far, the last year that Marvel didn’t release a movie. We’ll see in the coming months whether 2020 joins it (New Mutants doesn’t count).
- This isn’t a better movie than Iron Man, but it’s more fun, mainly because Downey Jr. is more confident (and douchier, but that’s part of the fun) and it feels like everyone relaxed because they knew they had a winner on their hands. Downey Jr. and Paltrow also have more chemistry, although it’s still not great.
- As I noted above, I like Cheadle in the role of Rhodes more than Howard. I don’t know why, I just like Cheadle as an actor more than I like Howard. He also has better chemistry with Downey Jr., so their friendship feels more real.
- I go back and forth on Rockwell, because he’s having a blast playing Hammer, but it also feels like he’s too much of a doofus to build this business empire. I wish they had put in one line about him inheriting it or something, because he seems like an idiot playing with toys. He and Leslie Bibb, who plays the reporter interviewing him (and the one who banged Tony in the first movie) are in a relationship, so watching her ignore him when Tony starts driving in the Grand Prix is pretty funny.
- Rourke is always weird, and he’s fine as Whiplash. They didn’t do too much with him, because ultimately, on his own he’s not that big a threat to Iron Man, but he’s pretty good. His love for his cockatoo will always be awesome.
- They recast Howard Stark for some reason (maybe they knew he would have a slightly bigger role and wanted more of a “name” actor?), and Slattery is a good choice, as he has that sleazy charm that Downey Jr. has, so you can believe they’re father and son.
- Apparently Jon Favreau was a bit grumpy that Marvel was pushing the “shared universe” thing on him, so he didn’t direct the third movie. The Frankenstein-esque nature of the movie shows a bit, but not too much.
- Speaking of which, at the donut shop, Tony tells Fury he’s not interested in the Avengers. So why was he talking to General Ross about Hulk joining the team?
- Kate Mara is in this movie for 30 seconds, and Kate Mara is super-hot. That is all.
- The kid wearing the Iron Man mask at the expo whom Tony saves late in the movie is Peter Parker, by the way. Yeah, sure he is. I’m sure they meant that at the time and didn’t retcon it in once fans started talking it up.
- Academy Award stats for the movie: Nominations – 10 (2 for Downey Jr., 2 for Johansson, 2 for Rockwell, 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Paltrow, 1 for Rourke); Wins – 2 (1 for Paltrow and 1 for Rockwell, who won in 2017 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). So yes, when this movie was made, Paltrow was still the only Oscar-winner in the cast.
- Stan Lee cameo: When Tony leaves the expo early on, Favreau tells him that Lee is Larry King.
- Post-credits scene: Agent Coulson drives through the New Mexico desert to a big crater, in the middle of which is Mjolnir. So it’s a set-up for Thor, which is the next movie in the “series.” Kenneth Branagh actually directed the post-credits scene, which is so self-indulgent I love it.
Thor (6 May 2011).
- I don’t think we can stress this enough: Kenneth Branagh directed this. That is weird on so many levels. He’s still the only Oscar-nominated director to direct a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Apparently he’s loved Thor since he was a wee lad, so good for him!
- Much like Downey Jr., Marvel really struck gold with Hemsworth. Unlike Downey Jr., Hemsworth was relatively unknown – he had played Kirk’s dad in the Star Trek reboot, but he was killed quickly in that. Hemsworth is such a perfect Thor that it seems like he was created for the role, and he hasn’t been great in many other roles (he’s the best thing about the Ghostbusters reboot, but that’s because he’s deliberately playing against type). It’s not that he’s a bad actor in other things, but man, he’s perfect for Thor.
- Despite the fact that she gets lost in the second movie and is absent from the third, Natalie Portman is pretty good in this movie. It doesn’t hurt that she looks like Natalie Portman, but she does a good job balancing the skepticism of a scientist with what she’s actually seeing. She and Hemsworth are the best couple in the MCU so far, but that’s not saying too much.
- Of course, Kat Dennings is amazing. She immediately got sucked into the CBS maw with that sitcom she did, which probably got her paid but did nothing for her career, and I guess she’s in the new Scarlet Witch/Vision series (for which Tom King better be making a mint), so that’s cool
- Hiddleston is a better actor than Hemsworth, so his post-Thor career has been a bit better, but he’s also perfect as Loki. Marvel really did a superb job with those two dudes.
- The problem with these early Marvel movies is that their villains aren’t great. Yes, Loki is the villain of this one, and he’s terrific, but Laufey is kind of weak as the “real” villain, and the Destroyer is also kind of lame. The movie is about Thor learning to grow up and Loki learning that he’s not Asgardian, but unfortunately, it’s a Marvel superhero movie, so things needs must be punched. It might have been a much better movie without all the bells and whistles, but then it would have been an indie movie and not made any money.
- This is kind of the beginning of the overstuffed Marvel movie. Iron Man 2 had veered toward it with two villains, but now we have two villains, one villain’s main weapon, the Warriors Three, Sif, Heimdall … it’s a lot. The movie kind of wastes Idris Elba, who was kind of a big deal as a “get,” and while the others weren’t as big as he was, they’re still wasted.
- Anthony Hopkins was 73 or so when he made this movie. Man, he could still blast Hemsworth and Hiddleston off the screen, couldn’t he?
- Rene Russo was in Freejack. You should all see Freejack. It’s wild. Hopkins is in it, too!
- Academy Awards stats for the movie: Nominations – 17 (5 for Branagh, 5 for Hopkins, 3 for Portman, 2 for Renner, 1 for Barraza, 1 for Jackson); Wins – 2 (1 for Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs, 1 for Portman for Black Swan). Adriana Barraza is a stealth nominee – she owns the diner where Thor smashes crockery and declares that coffee is good (see below). And how has Jeremy Renner been nominated for two Oscars? I’m not saying he’s bad, but it’s hard to get nominated, and he has two of them!
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s driving the pick-up truck that the dudes attach the chain to when they’re trying to move Thor’s hammer. J. Michael Straczynski is the first dude to try to move it. Walt Simonson is in the banquet scene at the end.
- Post-credits scene: Nick Fury shows Selvig the “tesseract” (come on, it’s the Cosmic Cube!) and Loki reveals that he’s still alive and able to control Selvig. The question becomes: Has he been controlling him the entire movie, or is this new?
Captain America: The First Avenger (22 July 2011).
- Evans is pretty good as Cap, but he’s also a brilliant choice because Steve Rogers is kind of bland, and so is Evans. Maybe it’s good acting – Evans was more fun in The Losers, for instance – but it’s still true. It works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because everyone else is preening all the time (maybe not Ruffalo, but everyone else), so Evans comes off as mature and grounded as a result.
- Tiny Chris Evans is just weird, man.
- Hey, doesn’t Sebastian Stan look nice with that short haircut instead of that greasy long-haired look he’s sporting in later movies? Come on, Sebastian Stan – you’re a good-looking guy! Why do you want to look like a meth addict?
- Jenna Coleman, future Queen Victoria, is in this movie for a hot minute as one of the dates at the Science Fair Steve and Bucky attend.
- Speaking of hot ladies, Natalie Dormer is also in this movie, and while she hadn’t been in Game of Thrones or Elementary yet, it seemed like she was a bigger actor than her tiny role presumed. I always think she’s somehow an agent of HYDRA when she’s mackin’ on Steve. But no, she’s literally just there to make Hayley Atwell jealous. Weird.
- Speaking of Atwell, she’s terrific in this movie, and I always wondered why she hasn’t become a bigger star since this movie came out. She was having a decent career until then and has had one since, but it seems like she should have gone incandescent after this given how she looks and how good she is. Steve doesn’t deserve Agent Carter!
- For someone who just isn’t that attractive, Hugo Weaving ends up in some of the biggest movies around, doesn’t he? He was in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Matrix trilogy, and now here he is Red Skulling it up. Weaving hated being the Red Skull, though, so when he turns up in Infinity War, it’s a different actor. Still, Weaving is always good, and he’s a good villain, which is a rarity in the MCU.
- Marvel really downplayed the Nazism, didn’t they? They mention the Nazis all the time, but there are no swastikas to be seen, and of course no mention of the Holocaust. Stanley Tucci could have brought it up, couldn’t he? He’s supposed to be Jewish, right?
- Dominic Cooper was 33 when this movie came out. If he’s a comparable age to Howard Stark, then Stark should have been in his late 70s at the beginning of Ant-Man, right? Yet John Slattery is not yet 60 years old. I don’t mind, I just find it funny that Howard Stark seems to have found some kind of aging retarding serum but didn’t tell anyone.
- I always think that they cast the Howling Commandos based on Hogan’s Heroes. Brash American guy who’s kind of the leader (McDonough), black dude (Derek Luke), obnoxious French dude (Bruno Ricci), laconic British dude (JJ Feild), and they threw in Kenneth Choi because this movie was made in 2011 and not the 1960s (and of course, it’s implied that his grandson – also played by Kenneth Choi – is the principal of Peter Parker’s high school). The guys are good, certainly, but Richard Dawson couldn’t have dropped in for a cameo, or would that have been too obvious?
- When Steve wakes up in 2011 (he wakes up to Amanda Righetti, which is not a bad way to wake up at all), they’re playing a baseball game on the radio from 1941. Um, S.H.I.E.L.D.? You couldn’t pick a game from AFTER he was frozen? I’m not surprised HYDRA infiltrated you if you’re that stupid.
- This is a solid movie and probably the best MCU movie so far (slightly ahead of Iron Man). The stakes are high but not ridiculous, the action is good, and the effects are less intrusive so they’re a bit better. Steve’s sacrifice at the end of the movie makes not a lick of sense, because there were plenty of ways he could have ditched the plane and still gotten out. But that’s fine. We get good actors in pretty much all the roles (Toby Jones is particularly fun), and just the way the movie unfolds works well.
- This is only MCU movie directed by an Oscar winner. “But Greg,” you say, incredulous, “Didn’t you say that Thor was the only one with an Oscar-nominated director?” Why yes, I did, and it’s still true. Joe Johnston has never been nominated as a director, but he won an Oscar as part of the effects team on Raiders of the Lost Ark. TRIVIA!
- Academy Awards stats for this movie (and no, I’m not counting Johnston’s): Nominations – 6 (4 for Jones, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Tucci); Wins – 1 (Jones won for The Fugitive).
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the general at the award ceremony for Cap, which Cap does not show up for.
- Post-credits scene: Cap is punching a bag and Fury tells him he has something for him, which quickly transitions into a commercial for The Avengers. It’s not a very good post-credits scene, and we’ll see it again in The Avengers, so what’s the point?
The Avengers (4 May 2012).
- You can see why DC wanted to emulate this, because it made a fuckton of money, but it’s hilarious that they thought they could essentially begin with the Justice League. So much of this movie works because of the 4+ years Marvel put into the characters. Who cares about Stellan Skarsgård if this is the first time you’re seeing him? Granted, it’s tough to care too much about Eric Selvig, but at least we knew he was and why it was important that Loki was using him. DC didn’t care about that, so we got the Justice League clusterfuck.
- All the Marvel movies have had humor, but they really start leaning into it here. It makes them more fun than the DC ones, but it also seems to lessen them just a bit, as it’s clear they don’t take things completely seriously. It’s kind of a testament to Downey Jr., Ruffalo, Evans, Hemsworth, and even Johansson (when they let her be funny, which isn’t often) that the serious parts work as well as they do, because the actors are really the only reason they do.
- “I’m always angry” didn’t make sense to me then, and it still doesn’t. What the hell does that even mean? If he’s always angry, why isn’t he the Hulk all the time? And if he’s always angry but can control the transformation, why is he living off the grid in India? It’s one of those lines that sounds cool but makes no sense. Screenwriters and comic book writers love shit like that.
- The best scene might be when Johansson is tied to the chair. That’s fun stuff.
- Downey Jr. made a joke about someone playing Galaga, so they put it in the movie. It’s funny, sure, but Fury would have drop-kicked that guy right out of the helicarrier. You’re helping keep a gigantic aircraft carrier in the air and you’re playing video games on company time? You’re so fired, dude.
- I so hate the “villain gets captured intentionally” trope. More than one character even points out that that’s what Loki wants! Sheesh, you people are dumb.
- The minute the engine blew up, why didn’t they drop Loki? They knew what was happening, yet they didn’t drop him. I thought you were ruthless, Fury. But you got poor Clark Gregg killed.
- Why does the old German dude originally kneel and then stand up? If he was such a tough guy, he shouldn’t have knelt in the first place, right?
- Jenny Agutter is in this movie. She’s the female member of the Council who talks a lot. Good for Jenny Agutter!
- I like how they all these extras running around in New York during the attack, but if they want someone to talk, they have to hire a “real” actor, in this case Ashley Johnson. You know she’s going to talk later in the movie when she shows up the first time, because she’s the only actor you recognize in the crowd scenes!
- As dumb as all the in-fighting is, the Chitauri invasion makes up for it. That is hella cool.
- Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations: 11 (3 for Ruffalo, 2 for Downey Jr., 2 for Johansson, 2 for Renner, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Paltrow); Wins: 1 (Paltrow). Gwyneth is back to being the sole Oscar winner in the cast!
- Stan Lee cameo: He scoffs at the notion of superheroes in New York in the media montage at the end.
- Post-credits scene: The first time we get two. The “Other” tells Thanos that Earth is really hard to invade, which makes Not-Josh-Brolin turn and smile, because these stupid villains always want to invade the planet with hundreds of superheroes instead of one with, you know, none. Then we get the Avengers eating shawarma, not too happily, it appears. Thor is putting it away heartily, but everyone else looks done in (I guess it’s understandable). Evans is wearing a fake jaw because he refused to shave his Snowpiercer beard, but he covers it because apparently it looked dumb. That’s why he doesn’t eat or talk.
Iron Man 3 (3 May 2013).
- This is better than IM2 but not quite as good as the first one. I have spoken!
- Shane Black really loves Christmas, doesn’t he?
- Marvel began to figure out that the bells and whistles don’t really matter with Thor, and they do a bit more with this one, as Iron Man isn’t all that important, but Tony’s journey is. It’s much more interesting seeing Tony have anxiety attacks than watching the big fight at the end. The media manipulation and appeal to blind patriotism that the Mandarin (good ol’ Trevor!) represents and inspires is much more interesting than James Badge Dale kidnapping the president.
- That being said, it’s too bad they wasted the Mandarin, because he’s a pretty cool villain.
- Tony and Pepper don’t know about Pop Culture Rule #1. THE FOOLS!!!!
- Jon Favreau isn’t in the movie much, but he enjoys the hell out of his time in it, from his amazing 1999 haircut to his insistence that everyone wear badges.
- I really wanted them to make a “Death” joke around President Ellis, but they never did.
- Ben Kingsley rules in this movie. His brief scenes as “Trevor” are just hilarious.
- In Iron Man 2, it’s established that no one can use the armor without authorization. Yet James Badge Dale does it easily in this movie.
- Why were all those people hanging out in a blind alley in Tennessee to get blowed up by that soldier dude?
- The kid was surprisingly not annoying. Well done, Ty Simpkins and Shane Black!
- Miguel Ferrer wasn’t yet 60 when he made this, but he looked old. He died when he was 61, so maybe he’d had a rough life. Too much coke-snorting off of hookers’ breasts!
- This felt about 15 minutes too long. Marvel’s movies keep getting longer, and they don’t always need to be. The movies with only one hero definitely don’t need to be longer than 2 hours.
- How do the Extremis people get killed? They are able to regenerate, but what are the limits? Guy Pearce gets blowed the fuck up, so he’s dead, but James Badge Dale just gets a hole in his chest and Stephanie Szostak gets caught in an explosion and thrown onto electrical wires. So why can’t those two regenerate when Gwyneth falls 200 feet into an inferno and comes out looking grand?
- Academy Award stats for the movie: Nominations -11 (4 for Kingsley, 3 for Ruffalo, 2 for Downey Jr., 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Paltrow ); Wins – 2 (Paltrow again, and Kingsley won Best Actor for Gandhi).
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s a judge at the Miss Elk Ridge pageant.
- Post-credits scene: This is the only Marvel movie told entirely in flashback, and at the end we find out Tony has been telling the story to Ruffalo, who fell asleep early on in the telling. It’s funny, and he makes the point that he’s not a psychiatrist, but, I mean, the story was pretty interesting. Come on, Banner!
Thor: The Dark World (8 November 2013).
- This is widely regarded as the worst MCU movie, but it’s not that bad. It’s far too gloomy, and Malekith is not a great villain, but it’s, you know, fine. Certainly not great, but fine.
- This is due to Hemsworth and Hiddleston, of course, because Portman doesn’t have a lot to do, unfortunately. I’m looking forward to seeing her as Chick Thor, but they really didn’t know what to do with her in these two movies.
- How is Loki still alive? I know how he replaced Odin, but didn’t we see him die? Was he not really dead when the Asgardians showed up on Svartalfheim? I know it was supposed to be a surprise, but, I mean, he died in Thor’s arms, and we all saw it.
- Zachary Levi = #NotMyFandral.
- I would watch a movie about the four humans – Jane Foster, Erik Selvig, Darcy, and Ian – having adventures.
- Re: that last point – as usual with these movies, the non-punching parts are the best. We know what’s going to happen with the punching parts, and it gets boring. But Thor and Loki continuing to hash out their relationship? Good stuff, and Hemsworth and Hiddleston do well with it (as I noted above). Even Hemsworth interacting with the humans is nicely done. There always has to be another fight, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best parts of the movies.
- Christopher Eccleston is cashing a paycheck, as he has admitted, and he apparently did not like the role, and it really does show. Eccleston can be a great villain – he amps up the evil wonderfully in Gone in Sixty Seconds – but he seems bored here, and it’s a big reason why the movie doesn’t work as well as other MCU ones. Too bad.
- Malekith also gets defeated awfully easily, doesn’t he?
- Chris Evans’s cameo is brilliant (see below).
- Academy Awards stats for this movie: Nominations – 10 (5 for Hopkins, 3 for Portman, 2 for Del Toro); Wins – 3 (Portman and Hopkins, as I’ve noted, and Del Toro won Best Supporting Actor for Traffic).
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s in the mental hospital, asking Selvig for his shoe back.
- Post-credits scenes: Sif and Volstagg take the Aether to the Collector, who seems to have nefarious plans for it. Then, Thor comes back to London just to lay a kiss on Portman, but apparently it wasn’t Portman he kisses, because Portman wasn’t available? So they filmed one scene with Portman in the apartment (we see her very clearly), but when they’re out on the balcony it’s Elsa Pataky? Weird. Finally, we see the giant monster thing from Jotunheim still running through London. Yeah, Thor, you might want to clean that up.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4 April 2014).
- Dang, this is a terrific movie. It’s a tad long, but otherwise, it’s a really good movie. Evans is excellent, Johansson – now that we’ve moved on from the stupid “red in my ledger” thing she kept repeating in The Avengers – is excellent, and Mackie is really good, too. Even the actors in the smaller roles (VanCamp, Grillo) are good. Stan doesn’t have much to do, but he broods really well!
- As I’ve been noting with these movies, the non-punchy parts are usually better than the punchy parts, but the fights in this, perhaps because they’re a bit more man-to-man, are really excellent. They keep getting better, too, until the assault on the freeway. The final fight isn’t quite as good as that one, but because Steve is trying NOT to fight Bucky, it hits just as hard.
- I didn’t want them to make Batroc like he is in the comics, but sometimes I miss the ridiculousness of comics in these movies.
- What happened to Cap’s shield at the end? It went into the Potomac, but how did he get it back? For that matter, Sam Wilson is using the “last” wing machine thing, and it gets ripped up. How’d he get another one?
- Evans and Johansson have really good chemistry in this movie. It’s not romantic, either, which is keen.
- Stupid Tommy Lee Jones, offering a deal to Toby Jones like that! Who would EVER have guessed it would bite him in the ass like that? I mean, that’s just crazy.
- How did Zola have anything to do with the Winter Soldier? He was captured almost immediately after Bucky’s “death.” Cap says he experimented on him BEFORE Bucky’s “death,” which fine, but in the flashback scenes, Bucky is clearly getting his metal arm thingy and Zola is there.
- Cap is really a douchebag in the opening scene, isn’t he? Anyone who yells “On your left” to people they’re approaching is a douchebag. It’s true, you know it!
- The early scene on the ship is still a bit murky, isn’t it? The ship was being used to launch the satellites, right? Fury hired Batroc to take hostages so S.H.I.E.L.D. would be forced to send a team, and he could send Natasha to steal the data about what the helicarriers were really going to be used for? Is that right? But then why did Zola “come to life” when Natasha put the drive into the computer in the bunker? I get that Toby Jones is just Basil Exposition at this point, but why would he reveal the entire plan at that time? Yes, he thought they were going to die, but don’t count your chickens and all that.
- According to Zola, Natasha is 29 years old. She says something about being on a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission five years earlier. So she was in the “KGB” (which was dissolved when she was 7, but let’s just assume whatever Russian spy service you want to name) before that, and she built up enough of a reputation that she was a desirable “defector” and she has a ton o’ debts to pay? Did she become a spy when she was, like 10 years old?
- Academy Awards stats for this movie: Nominations – 8 (4 for Redford, 2 for Johansson, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Sinise); Wins – 1 (Redford won for directing Ordinary People, so I’ll count it). This has a stealth nomination in it, as Sinise is the narrator of the Cap exhibit at the Smithsonian. He’s not the last stealth nom!
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the Smithsonian security guard who’s “so fired” because the Captain America costume has been stolen.
- Post-credits scenes: Baron von Strucker talks of diverting attention away from his work and the twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. In the other scene, Bucky just stares at his memorial in the Smithsonian. EMOTIONS!!!!!
Guardians of the Galaxy (1 August 2014).
- So far, this is the funniest MCU movie, and while that does clash a little with the tone at times, generally it’s a good idea for characters like this. I mean, yes, they have tragic back stories, as more than one character notes in the movie, but there’s also a sentient raccoon and a sentient tree.
- I always think that the Collector’s assistant is A.J. Langer, because she looks like A.J. Langer. But she’s Ophelia Lovibond, who might be best known in the States as Kitty, Sherlock Holmes’s new assistant on Elementary.
- Man, that hospital in the beginning is in the middle of nowhere, isn’t it? Boy Peter runs like ten feet and it’s like he’s in the middle of a vast field.
- This was nominated for two Oscars, one for Makeup and Hairstyling and the other for Visual Effects, and man, both are well deserved. This is an amazing movie to look at. It was beaten in the first category by The Grand Budapest Hotel, and in the second by Interstellar. I haven’t seen either, so I have no idea if GotG should have beaten them.
- Apparently Nova wasn’t in this movie because James Gunn doesn’t like the character. That’s some shade.
- Pratt does a nice job, but Saldana is much better than he is. She really captures Gamora’s pain without saying too much about it, and she’s a ballerina, so her fighting looks much more fluid than Pratt’s does. Still, he’s pretty good as a douchebag.
- If Drax is so literal, does he really believe Gamora is a whore? That was one of the things that actually really bugged me about his lines.
- They tried to make Nebula unattractive by shaving her head and painting her blue, but damn if Karen Gillan doesn’t make it work.
- I always think of Lee Pace as the piemaker from Pushing Daisies, so seeing him as a mean ol’ Marvel villain is very incongruous, and I chuckle every time.
- How has Peter’s cassette not broken in 26 years? If he plays it as much as it’s implied, than it would have snapped a long time ago. I demand verisimilitude in my space movies with talking raccoons!!!!!!
- Academy Awards stats for this movie: Nominations – 21 (8 for Cooper, 7 for Close, 2 for Del Toro, 2 for Hounsou, 1 for Brolin, 1 for Reilly); Wins – 1 (Del Toro’s again). Bradley Cooper has figured out that if you want to get nominated for Academy Awards, become a producer, as he’s been the producer on three Oscar-nominated movies (Joker, A Star Is Born, and American Sniper). Nice work if you can get it. He’s been nominated for 4 “real” awards, meaning for acting, which is still pretty impressive. So yeah, a lot of stealth nominations among these – the only actor in the cast that we might think of being an “Academy-Award caliber” actor is Close, but the others have their chops, too!
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the lothario chatting up a woman far younger than he on Xandar while Rocket and Groot are looking for Quill.
- Post-credits scene: The Collector is drinking a fancy drink and nursing his head wound after his assistant blew herself up by grabbing the Infinity Stone, which wrecked his entire museum. Howard the Duck is there, and it seems the only reason for the scene is so Gunn could get Howard into this movie.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (1 May 2015).
- If you take this as part of the whole, it’s not bad. As an individual movie, it is a bit of a slog, clocking in at 140 minutes or so, which is about 25 minutes too long. The fight in Africa could have been shortened considerably, for instance. Thor’s stuff is fine as part of the whole, but it seems out of place in the entire movie. This was when the straining to fit everything into a longer narrative really began to show.
- Ultron just isn’t all that compelling a villain, especially because he comes to be so stupidly, with Tony once again not learning from his past (or, like DC and Marvel countless times, learning the wrong lessons), arrogantly striking out on his own and almost bringing ruin to everything. Well done, Tony! Then, of course, he learns the wrong lessons from this and does a complete 180 when it comes to the Sokovia Accords. But those are thoughts for another movie. It’s just that Ultron is kind of boring, and the fact that Tony is the villain of this movie never really gets addressed.
- James Spader is wonderful, though. He’s so good at sounding confused even when he’s speaking authoritatively, and that makes Ultron fascinating to listen to, even if he’s not a very good bad guy.
- The best scene(s) in this movie, and close to the best scenes in any Marvel movie, are the ones at the party. Banner and Natasha flirting, Cap having a heart-to-heart with Banner, Rhodes not impressing Tony and Thor with his War Machine story, Tony and Thor having a pissing contest over which of their ladies is better (hey, idiots, if either one were so great, why aren’t you with them?), Stan Lee getting drunk on Thor’s mead, and, of course, the attempts by the men on the team to pick up Mjolnir (“Mew-Mew” if Kat Dennings had been there), with Cap actually moving it (much to Thor’s chagrin) are all amazing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – these would be pretty great movies if it weren’t for all the fighting.
- Linda Cardellini is one of those actors who needs to be a bigger star because she brings so much to a role, no matter how thankless. She’s just supposed to look adoringly at Renner and maybe be a bit sassy, but she gives Laura such humanity and longing and silent pain and hope – it’s extremely impressive. Cardellini rules.
- Baron von Strucker went out like a bitch, didn’t he? His line about surrendering is hilarious, though. I guess this means we’ll never get Fenris in the MCU, which is too bad because FENRIS IS (ARE) AWESOME!!!!!
- I’m always puzzled when people blame the wrong person for their problems. Yes, the Maximoffs’ parents were killed by a Stark weapon, but maybe they want to address the endemic violence that characterizes people in general and the Balkans in particular? Don’t they think whoever fired the rocket that killed their parents would have found some way to do it if Stark’s technology hadn’t been available?
- I am a bit bummed that they changed Wanda’s powers to “Weird red energy that does whatever the plot needs.” I would have loved seeing her have more simple “bad luck” powers (I know that’s not actually her power, but let’s go with it), because it could have added some humor to the fight scenes.
- Why can’t Pietro save Clint and the boy and still avoid the bullets?
- The effects in the first fight aren’t great, as several of the humans look fake. But man, the city rising from the Earth is pretty keen.
- The scenes of the “ship graveyard” are in Bangladesh. The city the Hulk destroys is Johannesburg (fun fact: No one knows exactly whom Johannesburg is named after!). Bangladesh, needless to say, is not in Africa. Johannesburg is about 300 miles from the nearest large body of water.
- The fight scene in South Korea is quite good. The fight in “Sokovia City” is also good. So that’s nice.
- I had forgotten that Tony actually went to Oslo. Yeah, that scene didn’t need to be in the movie.
- Flying a helicarrier has to be super expensive. How did Fury manage it now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been basically wiped out and he’s just some dude?
- Man, that “Black Widow is sterile” thing was awful then, and it’s still awful. Come on, Joss Whedon, do better!
- Renner is the stealth MVP of the movie, along with Cardellini. When he rambles about “accidentally” killing Quicksilver, apparently he ad-libbed it all. Of course, if he told them Ultron killed Pietro, how would explain the arrow sticking out of the body?
- The part in the beginning about Sokovians not loving American intervention in their affairs, with the graffiti of Iron Man with the dollar sign over his face, was fairly subtle but brilliant. You’d think the world would be on the Avengers’ side after the events of the first movie, but the canny people of the Balkans know it’s only a matter of time before the Americans fuck everything up again.
- Dominique Provost-Chalkley is in this movie for a hot minute as the mother whose kid Clint saves. I mention this only because Provost-Chalkley is on Wynonna Earp, and she and Katherine Barrell are probably the hottest couple on television right now.
- Academy Awards stats for the movie: Nominations: 14 (3 for Ruffalo, 2 for Delpy, 2 for Downey Jr., 2 for Johansson, 2 for Renner, 1 for Brolin, 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Jackson); Wins – 0, unfortunately. This is the first MCU movie not to have an Oscar winner in the cast!
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the vet at the party who wants to drink Thor’s ancient mead because he’s so tough. It doesn’t go well for him.
- Post-credits scene. Thanos puts on a big gold glove and decides to actually take part in the proceedings. Good for you, Thanos!
Ant-Man (17 July 2015).
- Rudd is good in everything, and he’s a good choice for Scott Lang, because he has that kind of “everyman” appeal that makes his troubles in this movie relatable and his attempts to master the technology funnier and better. He’s not Chris Evans suddenly becoming a super-soldier or even Downey Jr. building armor out of scrap metal.
- He doesn’t have a ton of chemistry with Lilly, which is too bad. She’s fine – she’s never going to be mistaken for Meryl Streep, but she’s all right – and the best parts of her role is when she’s training Rudd, which might be because it just feels like a looser, ad-libbed kind of thing (it might not be, but it feels that way). And her hair is not working for her.
- Yes, Michael Peña is hilarious, and his two rapid-fire monologues are highlights of the movie. But Dave and Kurt are good parts of the comedy team, as well.
- Probably the best parts of the Peña monologues are how highbrow he is. But man, I’ve never liked Rothko.
- Corey Stoll is pretty good, but he’s at his best when he’s actually sad about Michael Douglas rejecting him. They could have made him a great villain if they had played that up a little, because it’s clear he’s in pain because his father figure didn’t accept him. Stoll is good enough to sell it without overdoing it, which makes me believe they could have done a bit more with it.
- As usual, the best parts of the movie are the non-punchy parts. Scott’s training is good, both heists are fun, and Rudd and Bobby Cannavale having kind of a stand-off without being super-macho and without dragging Judy Greer into it is nicely done. That being said, Stoll and Rudd fighting around Thomas the Train is inspired, especially when they show how a normal-sized human might view it.
- Anthony Mackie’s extended cameo really felt shoe-horned in, though, didn’t it? It was the only place where the overall narrative felt like it was elbowing its way in. Edgar Wright apparently didn’t want to have the extended MCU intrude on his movie, which is at least a reason why he left. Probably not the only one, though.
- Garrett Morris was in a skit on Saturday Night Live in 1979 where he played “Ant Man,” presumably not the Marvel one. But that’s why he’s in the movie.
- The effects are really terrific. Probably the best so far in the MCU?
- Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations – 2 (2 for Douglas); Wins – 2 (Douglas, who’s won Oscars both times he’s been nominated, once as a producer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and once for Best Actor for Wall Street).
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the bartender who agrees with Ignacio that the reporter he’s with is “crazy stupid fine.” And dang, she really is.
- Post-credits scene: Hank unveils the new Wasp outfit to Hope, which makes her happy. The second one is when Cap and Falcon have Bucky under wraps, and Falcon tells Cap he knows a guy who can help. This sets the scene for the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War, which is the next movie! (This scene is also in Civil War, so it’s kind of pointless. Oh well!)
Captain America: Civil War (6 May 2016).
- In my quest to shorten these movies, there’s almost no need for the opening in Lagos. It’s fun and it introduces the Wakandan element, but man, it’s far too long. This movie is almost 150 minutes, so any shaving is good, and that’s the best place.
- They killed Crossbones, too, which was dumb. What the hell, man? You go through all this effort to survive the helicopter landing on you in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and then your heist fails and you blow yourself up? What a punk.
- Overall, the Captain America movies in the MCU have been consistently the best. That’s kind of surprising, even if this is Avengers 2.5 and not necessarily a solo Captain America movie.
- I get that Tony was at fault for Ultron and that’s why he’s so guilty about Sokovia, but no one thought to say to William Hurt that the next time aliens invade, maybe he should lose their number? Or the next time Crossbones steals a biological weapon, maybe he can send in the Coast Guard? This argument for and against oversight is always dicey, but no one thought to bring that up? Cap should have said maybe Ross could have stopped HYDRA from killing everyone in Winter Soldier by sending them a stern letter. And Vision bringing up that once Iron Man showed up, the threats got worse ignores that the Red Skull was going to wipe out a bunch of cities in World War II and it didn’t matter whether Captain America existed or not, and Hank Pym was running around as Ant-Man in the 1970s/1980s, and Captain Marvel was apparently around in 1995? Man, this “oversight” argument is so stupid, but comics people keep having it.
- I like how they got Alfre Woodard for, basically, a cameo. They have so much money they can hire a very good actor like Woodard to speak for less than a minute. Way to print money, Marvel!
- After the clusterfuck with Loki on the helicarrier, didn’t they think to have guards all around Bucky while the “doctor” was interviewing him? And why wouldn’t they flood the chamber with knockout gas the instant anything hinky went on? “Hey, let’s leave this super-soldier dude alone while someone we don’t actually know talks to him!” Yeah, that will work.
- And so the Chadwick Boseman bore-a-thon begins. He’s not quite as boring in this as he is in Black Panther, but he still lacks any charisma whatsoever.
- Is the Raft anchored to the ocean floor? Why is it underwater in the first place? How far underwater is it? These are questions that bother me about Marvel movies.
- Speaking of which, why do German Special Forces try to capture Bucky? He’s in Romania, and the terrorist attack took place in Vienna. Shouldn’t the dudes be Austrian or Romanian?
- Marisa Tomei and Downey Jr. were an item in the early Nineties. I like to think that’s what they were talking about right before we first meet her when Holland enters the room.
- After leaving the airport, Cap and Bucky fly directly to Siberia. Tony goes to the States, watches Rhodes get an MRI, talks to Natasha, goes to the Raft where the other Avengers are already imprisoned, and arrives in Siberia almost at the same time as Cap and Bucky. Cap and Bucky must have done some nice vacationing on their way!
- The airport fight is terrific, isn’t it? It’s stupid, but still great. Hawkeye and Widow in particular, but Ant-Man and Spider-Man are great, too.
- So … Tony knows that Bucky is being mind-controlled and it’s been 25 years since his parents’ death (time enough to, you know, process it) AND he knows that Zemo is trying to make them fight, so … he fights? Good job, Tony. Really well done.
- Academy Awards stats for this movie: Nominations – 16 (4 for Hurt, 3 for Tomei, 2 for Downey Jr., 2 for Johansson, 2 for Renner, 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Rash, 1 for Woodard); Wins – 3 (Hurt’s, and joining him are Tomei, who won Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny, of course, and Jim Rash, which was for his Adapted Screenplay of The Descendants, but we’ll allow it!).
- Stan Lee cameo: He delivers Cap’s letter and the phone to Tony at the end, and calls him “Tony Stank.”
- Post-credit scene: Bucky is in Wakanda, and they freeze him until they can cure him. Works for him. And then we get Peter Parker telling May how he got in a fight with a dude from Brooklyn named Steve, and when she leaves the room he shines a spider-signal on the ceiling. It’s not the next movie, but we’re getting Spider-Man soon enough!
Doctor Strange (4 November 2016).
- Cumberbatch is yet another really good casting choice by Marvel. They really do well with this.
- It’s interesting how Strange isn’t really a dick at the beginning, because it makes him far more complex and his redemption far more realistic and fascinating.
- Right before he gets in the accident, it seems that Strange tells his assistant he doesn’t want to work on Don Cheadle. I guess this isn’t really Rhodes, but it sure sounds like it is.
- That being said, dude really should be more careful while driving. (At the end of the credits, there is actually a disclaimer telling people to be careful while driving.)
- Man, the effects are so cool in this movie. The building-bending, the astral plane fight, Dormammu – good stuff!
- Way to be a bummer, Mordo. Dude needs to get laid or something.
- The non-punchy way Strange solved everything is pretty awesome, and I’m glad Marvel went that way. You don’t always have to punch things!
- I like Rachel McAdams, but she’s kind of wasted in this movie, isn’t she?
- I’m sure a lot of people do this (I hope it’s not just my wife and me), but no matter what things certain actors are in, we always associate them with one role, even if it’s not their best or most high-profile. Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays the doctor who Strange is a dick to and who’s kind of a dick himself, will always be Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire to me.
- There are some contenders for most humorous exchanges in a Marvel movie. One: “How long have you been at Kamar-Taj, Mister …” “Doctor!” “Mister Doctor?” “It’s Strange.” “Maybe, but who am I to judge?” Two: “People used to laugh at my jokes.” “Did they work for you?” There are other funny lines, too, but those exchanges are gold, Jerry!
- Academy Awards stats for this movie: Nominations – 4 (1 for Cumberbatch, 1 for Ejiofor, 1 for McAdams, 1 for Swinton); Wins – 1 (Swinton won Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton).
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s on the bus reading The Doors of Perception during Strange’s and Mordo’s fight with Kaecilius and his bunch.
- Post-credits scene: Strange meets with Thor, gives him a never-ending giant mug of beer, and says he can help him find Odin because then Thor and, more specifically, Loki, will leave Earth. This is setting up Thor: Ragnarok, which is not the next or even the next movie after this one. Then Mordo steals poor Benjamin Bratt’s power. That’s just mean, Mordo.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (5 May 2017).
- This isn’t as good as the first one, mainly because the “gathering the team” aspect of the first movie was actually pretty good. Here, they split the team up, and it’s not quite as successful.
- The opening credits are pretty great, though, as Groot dances around to ELO while the rest of the group fights the giant monster in the background.
- Part of the reason this isn’t as great is because Yondu is featured so heavily. I mean, it’s not bad, and Rooker is a good actor, but it feels odd, as if James Gunn thought the other characters were too weak to carry the movie.
- He’s not completely wrong, as Quill’s infantile quest to find approval from his father is kind of lame. You were on the right track for so long, Star-Lord, and then the dude plays catch with you and you’re ready to destroy the universe? Come on, man!
- The theme of family is waaaaaay too heavy-handed in this one, and the only one I really enjoyed was Gamora and Nebula coming to an accord, mainly because Saldana and Gillan are good, but also because their story is just more interesting.
- It was pretty impressive that they managed to make Ego, the Living Planet menacing, though. I mean, they had to turn him into Kurt Russell, but still.
- I mean, “Taserface” is pretty stupid.
- I don’t have the issues with Gunn trying for the family vibe, but he treats his audience like idiots. Of course we know that Yondu is more of a father than Kurt Russell! Of course we know why Rocket steals the batteries! Of course we know why Gamora and Nebula act that way! We’re not children! Okay, never underestimate the idiocy of the American public, but man!
- The weird effects when Kurt Russell tells his life story are superb. So is Rocket, Yondu, and Kraglin’s trip through the many, many gates.
- David Hasselhoff kind of rules.
- Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations – 11 (Cooper’s 8 again, 3 for Stallone,); Wins – 0. So sad! Kurt Motherfucking Russell has never, I should point out, been nominated for an Oscar. It’s a traveshamockery! Jeff Goldblum appears in the end credits, but I’m not counting him.
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s telling the Watchers about all his other cameo appearances, and later, he wants them to give him a ride home, but they just walk away. Poor Stan!
- Post credit scenes: Phew! Kraglin tries to learn to use Yondu’s arrow, and he accidentally stabs Drax. Stallone gets some of the other Ravagers, including Ving Rhames (ZERO Oscar noms!), Michelle Yeoh (ZERO Oscar noms!), and … Miley Cyrus? back together to “steal some shit.” Ayesha is bummed that the Guardians escaped, but she has a weird new chamber in which is something she calls “Adam.” Teenage Groot is disgusting, and Quill is acting like an uncool father, even though he insists he’s not boring. Finally, Lee gets left on the asteroid by the Watchers.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (7 July 2017).
- This is one of the weaker entries in the MCU, and it’s mainly because of the fact that they’re trying to fit it into the MCU. TOO MUCH STARK, in other words. I get the idea of giving Tony a son figure so he can work out his daddy issues and giving Peter a father so he can work out his daddy issues, but Downey Jr. sucks up all the oxygen in the room whenever he’s around, and it becomes annoying.
- Part of the problem for comic book readers, I would think, is that Spider-Man is by far one of the most accomplished heroes in comics, and seeing him as a Johnny-Come-Lately is, for me, a bit off. Peter was doing this before Iron Man, and he worked out his own damned problems. I don’t want to say he’s too stupid in this movie, but he’s awfully raw, and while that’s true in the comics, too, at least he figured it out on his own. Stark swooping in and saving the day doesn’t feel right.
- The high school stuff is fine, but they also really try too hard to make Peter dumb. I get it, he’s a 15-year-old boy, but he’s also a genius. He can’t come up with better excuses to get out of stuff?
- It’s also another movie that’s too long; the entire beginning with the video could have been cut, and of course a lot of the Stark stuff.
- One reason the Stark stuff is so annoying is because they’re really leaning into the “working-class hero” bits of Spider-Man, and the idea of him being not terribly well off and fighting a dude who’s just trying to provide for his family is nice. The idea of making Keaton a dude who just wants to clean shit up but gets underbid by the rich people is clever (as is the idea of “They made the mess, and now they’re getting paid to clean it up”), and that part of the movie, that he’s a bad dude, sure, but he still loves his family, is interesting. They don’t do quite enough with it, perhaps because they didn’t want to spoil the BIG! SURPRISE! about Keaton. Which is dumb.
- I don’t mind that they made Zendaya kind of drab, but they did a weird job of it. She’s a beautiful woman, so making her drab is following in the footsteps of so many movies in the past, but it’s still strange that they did it because it’s not like she’s central to the plot and it’s not like her transformation in the second movie is treated as revelatory. I get that she’s supposed to not have any friends, but that’s not the best reason to do it. Plus, we get the second “fake-out” of the movie at the end when she tells people to call her “MJ,” and we’re all supposed to go “AAAA-HAAAAA!” even though she’s called “Michelle” at least twice. It’s a bad fake-out, in other words.
- I’ve always liked the Shocker; I’m glad he’s fairly competent in this movie.
- They probably won’t get far enough into this iteration of the character for Ned to become evil, will they?
- “Guy in the chair” always cracks me up.
- I do like that Peter didn’t exactly defeat the Vulture; it was an electrical problem. Sure, Spidey did well in the fight, but he still has to get a bit lucky. That little bit makes it much clearer than Tony’s lecturing that Spider-Man might be still a bit out of his depth. A small thing, but pretty keen.
- For someone who wants to keep his identity secret and gets mad at Ned when he starts talking about how he knows Spider-Man, Peter pretty cavalierly calls people in his high school by their names. Maybe they miss it, but it wouldn’t be too hard to put things together.
- I can’t remember if Donald Glover simply didn’t want to play Spider-Man (since that was a thing fans wanted), but I assume he was cool with not playing the role, or why would he show up in this?
- Captain America’s PSAs rule.
- Academy Award stats for the movie: Nominations – 8 (3 for Tomei, 2 for Downey Jr., 1 for Connelly, 1 for Keaton, 1 for Paltrow); Wins – 3 (Tomei’s and Paltrow’s, and Connelly’s win as Best Actress for A Beautiful Mind). It’s interesting that two of the most controversial Oscar-winning actors ever – Tomei and Paltrow – are in this movie, although they share no scenes and Paltrow has stated that she forgot she was even in this movie. Connelly gets a stealth nomination and win for voicing Peter’s suit’s AI.
- Stan Lee cameo: When Peter is trying to stop crime, he’s one of the neighbors who yells at him for beating on a dude who was just trying to get into his own car.
- Post-credit scene: Mac Gargan confronts Keaton in prison and says he heard a rumor that Toomes knows who Spider-Man is. Toomes neither confirms nor denies. This, of course, becomes a moot point in the second movie. Then, Captain America talks about patience, which is a fun joke for people who waited in the theater (hey, remember theaters?) for the next post-credit scene and got … this. Well played, Marvel!
Thor: Ragnarok (3 November 2017).
- Once they found out that Chris Hemsworth is actually pretty funny, it was inevitable we’d get something like this. The Marvel movies had been leaning into humor for a while, so they just went for it here. And it works really well, especially after Thor: The Dark World. The sad stuff still works well, making this an upper-tier MCU movie.
- Here’s another movie that could easily be shorter. Everything before they get to Sakaar is a bit of a slog; it could have been shorter. Obviously we still need a lot of it, but it could probably have been half as long.
- I get that they wanted to get “Planet Hulk” and Skurge on the bridge into the movie, but the comics did both better. The way Simonson fades Skurge and the great narration: “And when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head … the answer is always the same … He stood alone at Gjallerbru … and that answer is enough.” Skurge’s death in this movie is nice, but does it give you chills like reading and seeing that? Indeed it does not!
- Man, the Warriors Three went out like bitches, didn’t they? And conveniently, Sif isn’t around in this movie. Was she in league with Hela?!?!?!?
- It’s far too hard to mention all the funny shit in this movie. Korg calling Thor “New Doug” is pretty high on the list, because it’s so understated.
- I thought the zappy thing on Thor’s neck had to be in contact with skin. But Loki is zapped by it through what looks like pretty hardy leather. What’s the deal, moviemakers?!?!?
- Is it me, or does Tessa Thompson’s accent come and go? She’s American, so I’m not sure why she would be doing an accent, but it seems to waver a lot.
- This really is a Frankensteinian plot, but again, the actors make it work, so it’s not too big a deal.
- What happened to Miek’s blade hands at the end? They seem to have disappeared.
- Hemsworth and Hiddleston, who have always been good together, are great together in this movie.
- I still don’t get the “always angry” thing with regard to Hulk. He’s calm for a lot of this movie, and while Banner implies that Hulk doesn’t want to let go, it seems like the transformation still isn’t completely voluntary. So why does Hulk remain, say, at the end after all the fighting is done? How did he stay Hulk during his two years on Sakaar, when it’s implied he got a lot of sex and presumably was fairly relaxed afterward?
- Good to see Surtur actually doing something!
- Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations – 25 (7 for Blanchett, 5 for Damon, 5 for Hopkins, 3 for Ruffalo, 3 for Waititi, 1 for Cumberbatch, 1 for Goldblum, ); Wins – 5 (Hopkins has his, Blanchett has won twice, for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine, and Waititi and Damon won theirs for screenplays). This is cheating just a bit, as Damon is in the movie for a hot minute (an extremely funny hot minute, but still) and Waititi, the director, is the voice of Korg, but I don’t care! The others in the “Loki” play are Luke Hemsworth as Thor (I first thought it was Brad Pitt, which would have been hilarious) and Sam Neill as Odin, whose voice and mannerisms are so distinctive it’s pretty easy to see that it’s he.
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the barber who cuts Thor’s hair.
- Post-credit scene: Thor and Loki are chillin’ on the bridge, heading back to Earth and thinking everything is groovy. Then a giant spaceship rises in front of them. Oh dear. We don’t know what that is, but we can assume it’s Thanos, given his presence in the movies. Then Goldblum exits a chamber on the surface of Sakaar and finds that he’s surrounded by rebels, but he tries to talk his way out of it, claiming that the revolution is a “tie.” This is funny, but it makes no sense. Korg said he was going to start the revolution, but then left on the spaceship. So who finished the revolution? It appears that Goldblum was having some kind of sex thing, as the two women in the container with him seem like sex partners. So why is he having a threesome in the middle of a revolution? It also looks like they’re disoriented, implying that the container might have tumbled or fallen from somewhere. But where? So was Goldblum not taking the revolution seriously, having some good-time sex, and the room he was in was somehow hurled away from his palace? Is that it? So many questions for a 30-second scene!!!!!!
Black Panther (16 February 2018).
- I’m sorry, but I still don’t get why this was nominated for Best Picture. It’s fine, but very much nothing special. My wife, who had never seen it, thought so too. She did mention that it’s probably due to the sad state of representation over the years that something like this comes along and everyone goes ga-ga over it. Had there been more recognition for, say, Spike Lee movies dating back to the freakin’ 1980s, perhaps this wouldn’t have stormed in so much.
- Still, it’s fine. The ending is far too CGI-heavy, but still fun. I mean, Daniel Kaluuya riding a giant rhino will never not be awesome.
- Part of the problem is Boseman, who’s just kind of inert for most of the movie. He has no chemistry with Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan is a far more interesting character. Too bad.
- I know I’m not unearthing anything too shocking, but dang, these Marvel movies are just rife with dudes with daddy issues, aren’t they? Stark, T’Challa, Peter Parker, Thor, Loki, Ultron, Peter Quill, Cross and Hank Pym, even Cap in the first movie – all of them have issues in some way with either their fathers, their father figures, or their sons and son figures. Only Strange and Banner don’t seem to have any, and Cap moves on pretty quickly from his. Jeez, we get it, you could never get close to your dads and then they died – buck up, buttercups!
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This movie would have been a LOT more interesting and maybe deserving of its Oscar nod if T’Challa had to grapple with the fact that Wakanda sold natives of other areas to the white people who wanted slaves. They were more powerful than the others, and they could have done it to keep their secrets about their country. Michael B. Jordan isn’t wrong when he says Wakanda should do more, but just think how much more devastating his critiques would have been if Wakanda had actively made the world worse and T’Challa didn’t know about it until now.
- Forest Whitaker in 1992 looks a lot like Forest Whitaker in 2018, so the fact that they cast a dude who looks NOTHING like Forest Whitaker to play him in 1992 cracked me up.
- Michael B. Jordan really looks like he’s wearing MC Hammer parachute pants when he first sits on the throne.
- I was kind of impressed/disappointed that they killed Klaue. He’s a pretty good villain, so it was disappointing, but it was also a pretty ballsy move.
- Why didn’t they take l’il Michael B. Jordan back to Wakanda with them? T’Chaka never really gives a good answer.
- They also never really explain how vibranium can do all this. I mean, I get that it’s the strongest metal on Earth, but all Klaue says is that it’s so much more than that and leaves it at that. I was surprised they don’t eat it, too!
- I don’t know if it deserved its Oscar for music, but while I don’t think it should have been nominated for Best Picture, it absolutely deserved them for Costume Design and Production Design. If we ignore the not-great CGI in the final fight, the movie looks amazing.
- Wakanda is supposed to be a small country, yet they have vast, temperate plains AND what seems to be a gigantic, Alpine-height mountain range? Wow. Especially as the coordinates in Sterling K. Brown’s journal put it about where South Sudan is. The highest point in South Sudan doesn’t have any snow on it. (Yes, yes, I’m nit-picking, but the mountain range in Wakanda is kind of silly.)
- Why didn’t Nakia take more than one herb? They seemed to have used it all to revive T’Challa, but you’d think they’d want to replenish their stock. For that matter, why did Michael B. Jordan burn it all? The woman told him it was for the next king, and he thought that meant someone to challenge him, but is he going to live forever?
- For all its enlightenment, Wakanda still seems to be a traditional monarchy, with absolute power vested in the ruler. Where’s the representative democracy, T’Challa? And man, that’s kind of a dumb way to choose a king, isn’t it?
- Martin Freeman is fine, but I like bozo Everett Ross from the comics more.
- Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations – 4 (1 each for Bassett, Kaluuya, Nyong’o, and Whitaker); Wins – 2 (Nyong’o won for 12 Years a Slave, and Whitaker won for The Last King of Scotland).
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the dude who takes T’Challa’s winnings at the Korean casino. Not cool, dude!
- Post-credit scene: T’Challa announces to the UN that Wakanda is going to open up to the world. Some snotty ambassador asks how a pissant country like Wakanda can help, and Boseman begins to smile before the scene cuts. Then, Shuri visits Bucky at his hut and tells him they have things to do. As this movie takes place very soon after Captain America: Civil War, this scene must be some time after that, because Bucky is no longer frozen and is, presumably, not a programmable killer anymore.
Avengers: Infinity War (27 April 2018).
- Man, what a sprawling mess of a movie. It kind of has to be, and they kind of pull it off, but it’s still a mess.
- The different dynamic with characters who haven’t met is great, though. Stark and Strange, Stark and Quill, Peter and the Guardians, Thor and Rocket (and Groot) – they’re all pretty keen.
- I call bullshit on Thanos actually loving Gamora. I know a lot of people have, but I’m just joining in!
- Hugo Weaving didn’t want to return as the Red Skull, which seems dumb. He didn’t like the makeup, but they could have easily CGI-ed him and he could have done the voice and collected a shit-ton of money. HE WOULDN’T COMPROMISE HIS ART!!!!!!
- Poor Xandar. We don’t even get to see how it got smashed.
- Supposedly, Hulk isn’t scared to come out, but annoyed that Banner always wants him. It would be a lot cooler if he were afraid.
- Johansson looks weird, doesn’t she? Not the blonde hair, but her face looks a bit off. I wonder why.
- How did they determine who would disappear and who wouldn’t, I wonder? Did they throw darts at a board? I imagine there is reasoning behind every choice (some are obvious, like Stark not being able to save Peter and Quill getting punished because he’s just such a dumb-ass), but I wonder what they were.
- Someone pointed this out somewhere, but once Thanos shifts from “balance” (which is dumb, but whatever) to “the universe is overpopulated and using all the resources” (which he tries to tie into “balance”), why doesn’t he just create more resources instead of wiping out half the universe? And as someone else pointed out, it really wouldn’t take that long to get back to the population levels that freaks Thanos out. Maybe he’s just a crazy person? His motivation in the comics – appeasing Death because he’s in love with her – are better, but I guess too comic-booky for serious moviemakers like those in the MCU.
- God, Quill, you had one job. TWICE you had one job! And you blew it both times.
- Not that Peter is going to run away from a fight, but what makes him think he can take on aliens?
- I get the entire “We don’t sacrifice one person for the good of the many” that superhero comics make over and over and this movie hammers into the ground, but it’s pretty funny how many times this comes up in the movie, as if they just couldn’t trust us to get it the first dozen times they mention it.
- I hate snotty characters in movies, so it’s always nice to see Stark get his comeuppance, and now I’m just waiting for someone to be smarter than Shuri and put her in her place. Don’t pick on Banner like that, Shuri!
- Did Lupita Nyong’o and Daniel Kaluuya have no time in their schedules to be in this movie?
- After Thor gets his axe, he spends a lot of time futzing around wiping out foot soldiers instead of killing Thanos. And why didn’t he go for the hand, not the chest or even the head, as Thanos suggests?
- One reason I don’t like the interconnectedness of these movies is that it sometimes renders entire other movies moot. Thor spends all that time saving Asgardians and then they all get killed? According to the filmmakers, Valkyrie and a bunch of Asgardians survived, but how?
- Drax describes Thor as if a pirate and an angel had a baby. Drax is awesome.
- I haven’t seen the second one yet, but I would love it if a year or two has passed and everyone has adjusted and everything is great, just like Thanos told Gamora her home planet is like. “Sure, my wife disappeared, but so did Trump, McConnell, and Graham! Fair trade-off!” But the heroes still change things back because they miss Peter and T’Challa and Bucky.
- People got choked up over the disappearances? Really? They knew this was Part One of Two, right?
- Academy Award stats for this movie: Nominations – 31 (8 for Cooper, 5 for Branagh, 4 for Hurt, 3 for Ruffalo, 2 for Del Toro, 2 for Downey Jr., 2 for Johansson, 1 for Brolin, 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Cumberbatch, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Paltrow, ); Wins – 3 (Del Toro’s, Hurt’s, and Paltrow’s). Obviously, with such a big cast, the numbers are going to be higher, and added to that are Branagh’s, as he gets a stealth mention for doing the voice of the distress transmission at the beginning. Yes, it counts!
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s the bus driver for Peter’s school who’s blasé about the alien invasion.
- Post-credit scene: Only one this time, as both Maria Hill and Nick Fury disintegrate, but not before Fury beeps Captain Marvel!
Ant-Man and the Wasp (6 July 2018).
- This is by far the most inessential of the MCU movies (as much as any of them could be deemed “essential”). It basically exists to show why Scott and the gang weren’t involved in Avengers: Infinity War. You needed two hours to do that?
- I mean, it’s perfectly fine. It’s funny, and Rudd and Lilly are better as a “couple” than they were in the first one, and Lilly has more to do, and I’m never going to say no to Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, more Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer, but it’s still completely inessential.
- There’s not really a threat, is there? I mean, Goggins is basically a thief, and he’s delightful, but he doesn’t pose too much of a threat, and Ghost isn’t really a villain, and if she had calmed down for one hot minute and if Hank Pym weren’t such a douche, he and Bill Foster probably could have fixed her problem even before Magic White Lady Pfeiffer came along. The stakes in this movie don’t feel real at all, so they basically ramp up the speed to make it seem like there’s something at stake.
- The effects are still terrific. The pigeons early on are a nice surprise, and Ghost’s ghostliness is pretty cool. It’s a fun movie to look at.
- They tried hard to get Michael Peña to riff like he did in the first movie, and while it felt shoe-horned in, it was still fun.
- The tardigrades were fun, weren’t they? I know I shouldn’t demand too much verisimilitude in my Marvel movies, but they live in water. Where was the water in the quantum tunnel?
- The hand-waving about how the stuff in the lab doesn’t slide all over the place and get smashed is pretty clever.
- Why couldn’t Scott get out of the quantum realm at the end? He could in the first movie.
- I like competent Jimmy Woo from the comics a lot more, but Randall Park did have fun with it.
- I like how Bobby Cannavale loves Scott now.
- Academy Award stats for the movie: Nominations – 6 (3 for Pfeiffer, 2 for Douglas, 1 for Fishburne); Wins – 2 (Douglas’s again). How has Michelle Pfeiffer been nominated thrice for Academy Awards? Don’t get me wrong, I dig Pfeiffer, but that seems odd, given that she has never seemed like the kind of actor who “chases” Oscars and it seems like she’s regarded a bit as a lightweight (she was in Grease 2, after all). But there she is, nominated as Best Actress for The Fabulous Baker Boys and Love Field (which does seem like an “Oscar chase” kind of role) and Best Supporting Actress for Dangerous Liaisons. Good for her!
- Stan Lee cameo: During the big chase near the end, his car gets shrunk as he’s about to get in it, and he bemoans all the drugs he did in the Sixties.
- Post-credit scene: Scott goes to the quantum realm and, of course, all three people monitoring him – Hope, Hank, and Janet – get zapped by Thanos. The timing is wrong (it should be the middle of the night), but whatever. Then, after the credits, the giant ant plays the drums, just chillin’. Good for him!
Captain Marvel (8 March 2019).
- I recall some consternation from mouth-breathing fanboys over this movie. I don’t feel like looking up what the kerfuffle was all about, and I don’t remember exactly, but it seems silly now, and this is a perfectly good movie. It’s better than Black Panther, for instance.
- Marvel didn’t cast the character as perfectly as they did with some of their roles, but Larson is good. I’ve always liked Larson, but I’ve never thought she was a powerhouse actor. I’ve yet to see Room, so I don’t know if she deserved an Oscar or not.
- Almost from the minute I saw him, I thought Jude Law was a bad guy. I hoped it wasn’t so, but alas. I don’t know why I didn’t trust that guy. He’s too pretty!
- Gemma Chan has been around for a while, but I first saw her as a completely docile android in Humans, where she almost never even moved her face, so it’s nice that she got do sink her teeth into a small but evil role.
- Yes, Fury, put the tentacle monster near your face. Aren’t you supposed to be super-smart?
- The revelation of how Fury lost the eye is really dumb, unfortunately. I mean, it’s funny, because it’s not a dramatic story, but it’s still dumb.
- I wanted so much for them to give Jackson his hair from Pulp Fiction. That would have been awesome.
- Lots of people call him Nick, though. And now I want them to do a Nick Fury movie where we meet his mother, “Fury.”
- People explain that Carol got her powers from the Tesseract, as another Stone gave Wanda and Pietro their powers. But the actual Stone was up in space, and Carol just destroyed the engine. How did the power of the Stone reach her?
- The final “fight” with Jude Law was pretty excellent, though, as it’s something I’ve been angry about for years with regard to fights.
- How does Carol know about the internet? Doesn’t she find it odd that she can read English without, she thinks, ever having seen it? She has a universal translator, sure, but that doesn’t extend to knowledge about the planet, does it?
- Look at Ronan, all young and ready to slaughter innocent civilians! If only he knew his fate …
- So Howard Stark salvaged the Tesseract, and Fury has access to S.H.I.E.L.D. files and Hayley Atwell, yet he doesn’t think to mount a large-scale effort to find Captain America? I mean, sure, he doesn’t know Cap’s alive, but after this movie, he didn’t think to start looking?
- One of the problems with this movie is that when Marvel made the earlier ones, they didn’t know they were going to make this and set it in 1995. So yes, there are a lot of continuity problems in the movie. My advice is the same as when comics don’t actually agree with each other: Don’t worry about it. It’s fun to nit-pick, but none of the things about the Tesseract or Fury’s eye really bothered me all that much.
- Academy Awards stats for this movie: Nominations – 16 (4 for Benning, 3 for Ruffalo, 2 for Hounsou, 2 for Johansson, 2 for Law, 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Larson); Wins – 1 (Larson’s). All those nominations, and only Larson has won one. That’s a tad askew. But good for her!
- Stan Lee cameo: He’s on the train, practicing his lines for Mallrats, which is pretty awesome. Apparently they used the audio from the actual movie because he was too sick to say his lines with any verve. I mean, the dude was 95 when he appeared in the movie, so that’s understandable.
- Post-credit scene: Fury’s beeper goes dark, and the Avengers don’t know what to do about it. Cap says they should start it up again, but then Larson is right there behind them, asking where Fury is. Larson apparently got a script with only her line un-redacted (why she needed a script when it’s one line, I don’t know) and she performed the scene alone and was digitally inserted into the scene later. This movie was filmed AFTER Avengers: Endgame, so I guess they wanted to keep everything under wraps as they knew this movie would be released before Endgame. Then, at the very end, Goose pukes up the Tesseract on Fury’s desk, which is why S.H.I.E.L.D. is studying it at the end of Thor.
Avengers: Endgame (26 April 2019).
- Ugh, time travel. I know it had to be done, but it makes this movie a lot less compelling, because so many things don’t make sense that I’m not even going to pick at them. Alternate timelines, yes, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
- Boy, of all the “original” characters in these movies (the ones in movies leading up to the first Avengers movie), Black Widow really gets the short end of the stick, doesn’t she? I mean, Hawkeye didn’t get his own movie either, but he gets to be a brain-washed bad guy who then looks for revenge, he gets to be married, he gets to bond with Wanda, and Widow gets … much less than that. Johansson gets a bit here as the leader of the truncated Avengers, but she really didn’t get used well throughout the entire stretch of movies, and that’s too bad.
- Smart Hulk is pretty awesome, though. I suppose this is the last time we’ll see Banner, but I wonder why. It’s not like he really had an ending, unless he just decides to retire. Maybe he’ll make cameos in some movies going forward?
- So Hulk’s snap worked, and almost instantly, Linda Cardellini calls Hawkeye? She wasn’t disoriented at all by everything? She had cell service? Somehow I think Renner would have canceled their plans when he went on his killing spree.
- I was thinking that Tokyo looked a lot like it did in Black Rain, the 1989 Michael Douglas movie, and then I read that it was supposed to look that way. I am so smart! S-M-R-T!
- Fat Thor is amazing. Hemsworth, I think, really had the best arc throughout these movies. Downey’s was more showy, but he’s still kind of a douche at the end, even though he adds a layer of heroism over it. But Hemsworth really does a nice job showing how Thor grows up over the course of several movies.
- I know they would never do this, but it would have made things much more interesting if somehow Tony’s kid was wiped from existence.
- Speaking of kids, the kid at Tony’s funeral is the dude who helped him out in Iron Man 3.
- Apparently, everyone at the funeral was actually there. No digital inserts!
- Brie Larson’s short hair is fierce.
- Cap is kind of a dick at the very end, isn’t he?
- The drop-ins to various, earlier movies was kind of fun, but it gets me started thinking about time travel, and I really don’t want to do that.
- I like how Rhodey and Scott reference movies as authoritative guides to time travel. Good job, guys.
- Speaking of giving short shrift to female characters, they really did nicely with Karen Gillan, didn’t they? She was another character who really grew during these movies, and it makes me wonder what the hell they were doing with Johansson.
- Really, Tony, you’re going to “I told you so” everyone? Do you really think your Ultron-shielded world would have stopped Thanos?
- Academy Awards stats for this movie, which are going to be really bloated because of the nature of it: Nominations – 47 (8 for Cooper, 4 for Hurt, 4 for Redford, 3 for Pfeiffer, 3 for Portman, 3 for Ruffalo, 3 for Tomei, 3 for Waititi, 2 for Douglas, 2 for Downey Jr., 2 for Johansson, 2 for Renner, 1 for Bassett, 1 for Brolin, 1 for Cheadle, 1 for Cumberbatch, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Larson, 1 for Paltrow, 1 for Swinton); Wins – 10 (Douglas twice, Hurt, Larson, Paltrow, Portman, Redford, Swinton, Tomei, and Waititi once). Yes, this is cheating. Hurt, Pfeiffer, and Tomei show up only at the funeral and have no lines, while Bassett shows up only at the end looking at Wakanda with her kids and also has no lines. Douglas has a few lines in 1970, and Portman only does voice-over work, as her scenes were leftovers from Thor: The Dark World. So yes, it’s cheating, and no, I don’t care.
- Stan Lee cameo: The Final One! is of Stan driving past the military base telling us to make love, not war. They used that de-aging shit on him to make him look like his 1970 self.
- Post-credit scene: None. Well, that’s new.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2 July 2019).
- Despite the presence of Tony Stark hanging over it, this is a better movie than the first Spider-Man, perhaps because Robert Downey Jr. isn’t there physically, just psychically.
- It’s kind of too bad they used Mysterio (even though Mysterio is awesome), as any drive-by comics fan knows he’s a bad guy, and even my wife, who doesn’t read comics, said she sensed that he had a “Syndrome-in-The-Incredibles” thing going on. It made the big reveal, which was pretty cool, less impactful.
- Gyllenhaal is terrific, though. A top-tier MCU villain.
- They didn’t really do anything with the “blip,” which would affect teenagers far more than adults, it seems. Betty and the other dude talk about it a bit in the opening, but even making Brad a high schooler with designs on MJ didn’t really address it. It would have been far more interesting if Ned hadn’t blipped and he and Peter didn’t know how to be friends anymore.
- It’s not surprising MJ figured out that Peter is Spidey. What’s surprising is that more people haven’t. He’s awfully cavalier with his secret identity (as I mentioned above with the first movie, and he’s just as bad here).
- Ned and Betty’s romance is superb. It’s almost a perfect teen romance, down to the carefree attitude when they break up.
- They decided not to make Zendaya unattractive, because then she will have value (as she says in the movie, because she’s hilarious). Despite her obvious physical charms, she does a good job showing why teenagers might not want to hang out with her. Teenagers are weird, yo.
- I mean, Mysterio isn’t wrong about Stark.
- Why doesn’t Nu-S.H.I.E.L.D. release something about Mysterio being a villain and being a big fat liar? The ending does give us J.K. Simmons, which is great, but it also could have been easily avoided or at least mitigated (because Jameson would have run with that footage anyway, but at least not everyone would believe it). I know that Fury isn’t exactly himself in the movie (Skrull pun!), but still.
- Maybe Mysterio would betray everyone eventually, but he really does seem to care about his crew in this movie. That’s nice.
- Come on, Peter, let Marisa Tomei and Jon Favreau have a fling! Don’t get all judgey!
- Academy Award stats for the movie: Nominations – 6 (3 for Tomei, 1 for Jackson, 1 for Gyllenhaal, 1 for Simmons); Wins – 2 (Tomei’s, and Simmons won for Whiplash; why was he nominated for Best Supporting Actor for that, as I thought he and Teller were kind of co-leads?).
- Stan Lee cameo: None. Lee, you might have heard, is dead, and although he didn’t die until after this movie finished filming, he was too sick to do a cameo. Oh well.
- Post-credit scene: Peter is swinging around with MJ, who does not enjoy it, and then the news shows both that Spider-Man was the bad guy in London and that he’s really Peter Parker. Sucks to be you, dude. In the second one, we learn that Talos and Soren the Skrulls have been portraying Nick Fury and Maria Hill for the entire movie, and Talos calls Fury, who’s on a spaceship taking a vacation, to tell him about Mysterio and ask him to come back. This is weird, because it retroactively makes us wonder when Fury was really Talos throughout these movies. In Age of Ultron, for instance, he apparently eats something cut diagonally, which would make him a Skrull because Fury doesn’t eat stuff cut diagonally. That tidbit was obviosly added to Captain Marvel so that we would think the Fury in Age of Ultron is Talos, but I doubt that was on their minds when they made Age of Ultron. Similarly, the fact that no one calls him anything but “Fury” is ridiculous, because people call him “Nick” all the time. Are those people Skrulls, or is Fury a Skrull and he doesn’t know that people don’t call him anything but “Fury” so he doesn’t find it strange? It’s really annoying. As is, I’m sure, this speculation about it!
So there you have it – 23 movies over 11 years, and I’ve watched them all in the past month or so. Phew! It’s fun watching them all in close proximity to each other, because you do notice some things you might have forgotten if you watched them over the course of years. I’m not sure how to rank them, but let’s group them together into tiers, shall we?
Tier One is the really good movies. Captain America: Winter Soldier is probably my favorite, and it’s also probably one of the best. My second favorite is Thor: Ragnarok. Also in this tier is The Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I think these are the best ones. If you want to put Iron Man here based on Downey’s excellent performance, I wouldn’t mind.
Tier Two are good movies, but they’re either simply slighter – either the story is weaker, the direction isn’t quite as good, the acting isn’t quite as good, the effects aren’t quite as good – you know the drill! Ant-Man goes here, as does Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: The First Avenger, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, Iron Man, Iron Man 3, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and Thor.
Tier Three are still watchable movies (none of the MCU movies are really bad), but they have some annoying problems that keep us from really loving them. Those are the rest: Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: The Dark World. They’re either too long, the acting isn’t top-notch, the story is convoluted or dull, the stakes aren’t very high, the effects aren’t as good, or something more intangible. I think we can all agree that the race to the bottom begins with The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World, although Iron Man 2 might be the dark horse!
Let’s rank these by Oscar nominations and wins, because that’s fun:
Avengers: Endgame: 47 noms, 10 wins.
Avengers: Infinity War: 31 noms, 3 wins.
Thor: Ragnarok: 25 noms, 5 wins.
Guardians of the Galaxy: 21 noms, 1 win.
Thor: 17 noms, 2 wins.
Captain America: Civil War: 16 noms, 3 wins.
Captain Marvel: 16 noms, 1 win.
Avengers: Age of Ultron: 14 noms, 0 wins.
Iron Man: 12 noms, 1 win.
Iron Man 3: 11 noms, 2 wins.
Avengers: 11 noms, 1 win.
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2: 11 noms, 0 wins.
Thor: The Dark World: 10 noms, 3 wins.
Iron Man 2: 10 noms, 2 wins.
The Incredible Hulk: 10 noms, 1 win.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: 8 noms, 3 wins.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: 8 noms, 1 win.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: 6 noms, 2 wins.
Spider-Man: Far from Home: 6 noms, 2 wins.
Captain America: The First Avenger: 6 noms, 1 win.
Black Panther: 4 noms, 2 wins.
Doctor Strange: 4 noms, 1 win.
Ant-Man: 2 noms, 2 wins.
Here are the Oscar-nominated and -winning actors in the MCU:
Bradley Cooper: 8 (Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, A Star Is Born, Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle, Best Producer for American Sniper, A Star Is Born, Joker)
Cate Blanchett: 7 (Best Actress for Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Blue Jasmine, Carol, Best Supporting Actress for The Aviator, Notes on a Scandal, I’m Not There)
Jeff Bridges: 7 (Best Actor for Starman, Crazy Heart, True Grit, Best Supporting Actor for The Last Picture Show, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Contender, Hell or High Water)
Glenn Close: 7 (Best Actress for Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs, The Wife, Best Supporting Actress for The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural)
Kenneth Branagh: 5 (Best Actor for Henry V, Best Supporting Actor for My Week With Marilyn, Best Director for Henry V, Best Adapted Screenplay for Hamlet, Best Live Action Short Film for Swan Song)
Matt Damon: 5 (Best Actor for Good Will Hunting, The Martian, Best Supporting Actor for Invictus, Best Producer for Manchester by the Sea, Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting)
Anthony Hopkins: 5 (Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs, The Remains of the Day, Nixon, Best Supporting Actor for Amistad, The Two Popes)
Annette Benning: 4 (Best Actress for American Beauty, Being Julia, The Kids Are All Right, Best Supporting Actress for The Grifters)
William Hurt: 4 (Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God, Broadcast News, Best Supporting Actor for A History of Violence)
Tommy Lee Jones: 4 (Best Actor for In the Valley of Elah, Best Supporting Actor for JFK, The Fugitive, Lincoln)
Ben Kingsley: 4 (Best Actor for Gandhi, House of Fog and Sand, Best Supporting Actor for Bugsy, Sexy Beast)
Robert Redford: 4 (Best Actor for The Sting, Best Director for Ordinary People, Quiz Show, Best Producer for Quiz Show)
Edward Norton: 3 (Best Actor for American History X, Best Supporting Actor for Primal Fear, Birdman)
Michelle Pfeiffer: 3 (Best Actress for The Fabulous Baker Boys, Love Field, Best Supporting Actress for Dangerous Liaisons)
Natalie Portman: 3 (Best Actress for Black Swan, Jackie, Best Supporting Actress for Closer)
Mark Ruffalo: 3 (Best Supporting Actor for The Kids Are All Right, Foxchaser, Spotlight)
Sylvester Stallone: 3 (Best Actor for Rocky, Best Supporting Actor for Creed, Best Original Screenplay for Rocky)
Marisa Tomei: 3 (Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny, In the Bedroom, The Wrestler)
Taika Waititi: 3 (Best Producer for Jojo Rabbit, Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit, Best Live Action Short Film for Two Cars, One Night)
Benicio Del Toro: 2 (Best Supporting Actor, Traffic, 21 Grams)
Julie Delpy: 2 (Best Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset, Before Midnight)
Michael Douglas: 2 (Best Actor for Wall Street, Best Producer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
Robert Downey Jr.: 2 (Best Actor for Chaplin, Best Supporting Actor for Tropic Thunder)
Djimon Hounsou: 2 (Best Supporting Actor for In America, Blood Diamond)
Scarlet Johansson: 2 (Best Actress for A Marriage Story, Best Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit)
Jude Law: 2 (Best Actor for Cold Mountain, Best Supporting Actor for The Talented Mr. Ripley)
Jeremy Renner: 2 (Best Actor for The Hurt Locker, Best Supporting Actor for The Town)
Sam Rockwell: 2 (Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Vice)
Adriana Barraza: 1 (Best Supporting Actress for Babel)
Angela Bassett: 1 (Best Actress for What’s Love Got to Do With It)
Josh Brolin: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Milk)
Don Cheadle: 1 (Best Actor for Hotel Rwanda)
Jennifer Connelly: 1 (Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind)
Benedict Cumberbatch: 1 (Best Actor for The Imitation Game)
Chiwetel Ejiofor: 1 (Best Actor for 12 Years a Slave)
Laurence Fishburne: 1 (Best Actor for What’s Love Got to Do With It)
Jeff Goldblum: 1 (Best Live Action Short Film for Little Surprises)
Jake Gyllenhaal: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Brokeback Mountain)
Terrence Howard: 1 (Best Actor for Hustle & Flow)
Samuel L. Jackson: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Pulp Fiction)
Daniel Kaluuya: 1 (Best Actor for Get Out)
Michael Keaton: 1 (Best Actor for Birdman)
Brie Larson: 1 (Best Actress for Room)
Rachel McAdams: 1 (Best Supporting Actress for Spotlight)
Lupita Nyong’o: 1 (Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave)
Gwyneth Paltrow: 1 (Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love)
Jim Rash: 1 (Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants)
John C. Reilly: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Chicago)
Tim Roth: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Rob Roy)
Mickey Rourke: 1 (Best Actor for The Wrestler)
J.K. Simmons: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash)
Gary Sinise: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for Forrest Gump)
Tilda Swinton: 1 (Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton)
Stanley Tucci: 1 (Best Supporting Actor for The Lovely Bones)
Forest Whitaker: 1 (Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland)
Alfre Woodard: 1 (Best Supporting Actress for Cross Creek)
Cate Blanchett: 2 (Blue Jasmine, 2013, The Aviator, 2004)
Michael Douglas: 2 (Wall Street, 1987, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975)
Jeff Bridges: 1 (Crazy Heart, 2009)
Jennifer Connelly: 1 (A Beautiful Mind, 2001)
Matt Damon: 1 (Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, 1997)
Benicio Del Toro: 1 (Traffic, 2000)
Anthony Hopkins: 1 (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
William Hurt: 1 (Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1985)
Tommy Lee Jones: 1 (The Fugitive, 1993)
Ben Kingsley: 1 (Gandhi, 1982)
Brie Larson: 1 (Room, 2015)
Lupita Nyong’o: 1 (12 Years a Slave, 2013)
Gwyneth Paltrow: 1 (Shakespeare in Love, 1997)
Natalie Portman: 1 (Black Swan, 2010)
Jim Rash: 1 (The Descendants, 2011)
Robert Redford: 1 (Ordinary People, 1980)
Sam Rockwell: 1 (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017)
J.K. Simmons: 1 (Whiplash, 2014)
Tilda Swinton: 1 (Michael Clayton, 2007)
Marisa Tomei: 1 (My Cousin Vinny, 1992)
Taika Waititi: 1 (Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit, 2019)
Forest Whitaker: 1 (The Last King of Scotland, 2006)
That’s not too bad for Marvel! And yes, this means a talking raccoon has the most Oscar nominations of any actor to appear in a Marvel movie.
Now that I’ve watched them all, some things stand out. Of course, the big narratives were about Stark and Cap, how one needed to grow up and the other needed to get a life. Downey Jr. did a good job turning Stark into a more humanistic character, but I’m not sure that Stark ever actually grew up. He was always kind of heroic after his very early introduction, so sacrificing himself at the end wasn’t the amazing moment that the movies had been leading to, and you could argue it was the final, egotistic move of a narcissist who was able to hide his narcissism for long stretches but couldn’t at the end. Consider: Everyone was already back, because Hulk brought them back. Yes, Thanos was still powerful, but not invincible without the glove, and they could have taken him down. Tony’s snap just made him the Big Hero without really changing too, too much (technically, Thanos could return, because he’s not dead, just disappeared). They could have killed Thanos instead of disappearing him, but Tony had to be the Big Hero, and he left his partner and kid alone because of that urge. Then, we get Cap’s desire to actually have a life. Evans is fine as Steve, but because he’s generally the adult in the room, he doesn’t need to grow up. He does need to move on, though, but instead, he goes back in time and spends his life with Hayley Atwell. Good for him and all, and there’s nothing wrong with spending your life with Hayley Atwell, but is it really getting a life? Steve knows very little about Peggy, and who knows if it would even work out. Instead of, I don’t know, exploring a relationship with Sharon or, you know, dating someone, Steve futzes with time itself just so he can get some Atwell action. It’s fine, but it doesn’t feel like an arc that is all that admirable.
Meanwhile, ancillary characters are far more interesting. Hemsworth certainly isn’t an ancillary character, but his journey is far more interesting than either Downey Jr.’s or Evans’s, but it’s not treated as importantly. Hemsworth goes from a dude who is certainly charming but doesn’t understand his place in the world to someone who is willing to give up the crown to someone who reluctantly is willing to become a king to someone who recognizes when someone is a better leader than he is. He goes from someone who panics at the thought of Cap lifting his hammer to someone who is joyful when Cap can wield it. He goes from someone who thinks they can do anything to someone who is crushed when they discover they can’t to someone who can move past that and still be a hero. And while I’m sure Fat Thor will be a thing of the past by the time the next Thor movie shows up, it would be nice if maybe they showed how hard Thor had to work to lose the gut, because Hemsworth just showing up all ripped again would make Fat Thor just a prop, and the fact that Thor stayed fat after he decided to fight was really cool.
Nebula is also one of the more fascinating characters, as Gillan does really nice work with her. She begins as a villain and evolves into a hero, and we see her indecision every step of the way. Hawkeye is another excellent character, as Renner does marvelous work with him. He’s just a sniper in Thor, then a brainwashed bad guy in Avengers, and from that we get Renner showing that not every hero wants to be one, as Clint would rather hang out with his wife and kids (I mean, who doesn’t want to hang out with Linda Cardellini?). He gives great advice to Wanda, then drops into despair when his family vanishes, but drags himself out of it until his final scene with Natasha brings it all back. Renner is a very good actor, and he does a lot with what seems like a little.
There’s so much cool stuff in the movies, and so much of it isn’t the fighting or the superheroing. Because Marvel paid good actors, even some of the clunky writing can become good when spoken by good actors, and so much of the good stuff in these movies comes from actors interacting with each other. Hemsworth and Hiddleston spring to mind, of course, but also Evans and Johansson, Hemsworth and Russo in Endgame, Tomei and Favreau being cute with each other, Hemsworth and Cooper, Downey Jr. and Holland, Holland and Zendaya, Keaton and Chernus, Bautista and Klementieff, Gillan and Saldana, Strange in Wong’s library, Larson and Jackson, all the Guardians together, Rooker and Gunn, Hemsworth and Ruffalo, Ruffalo and Downey Jr., Downey Jr. and Evans, Ruffalo and Thompson, Jordan and Boseman, Freeman and Wright, Rudd and Douglas, Rudd and Peña, Rudd and Fortson, Renner and Olson, Renner and Cardellini, Renner and Johansson … so many fun little scenes that make the fighting tolerable (I mean, of course the fighting is fun, but it’s a lot of the same stuff). One reason I don’t read too many superhero comics anymore is because they’ve all turned into giant plot engines getting to, engaging in, and getting ready for the next fight. Yawn. The hinting at fighting is almost better than seeing the fight, because we can imagine it, and the interactions between the characters is usually much more interesting. Marvel had a lot of money to get good actors, and that’s where these movies really shine. At least according to me.
Anyway, even though I won’t rank the movies, I will rank the villains, by effectiveness at being evil (some of them, of course, don’t think they’re evil and some actually aren’t that evil, so we have to gauge them by how good they are at doing evil and even some by their evil plans, because of course they mostly fail):
1. Thanos, of course.
2. Alexander Pearce: Destroys S.H.I.E.L.D. from within and looks like Robert Redford while doing it.
3. Hela: Tears out Thor’s eye, gets Asgard destroyed, kills the Warriors Three.
4. Loki: Very dashing.
5. Zemo: Rips the Avengers apart by exposing secrets. Diabolical!
6. Red Skull: Kills a lot of Allied soldiers and almost blows up a bunch of cities.
7. Arnim Zola: Helps destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. from within but unfortunately looks like Toby Jones, not Robert Redford. Fools Tommy Lee Jones, which is probably difficult to do because Jones is so curmudgeonly.
8. Mysterio: Gains access to all of Stark’s tech momentarily, exposes Spider-Man’s identity, looks like Jake Gyllenhaal.
9. Kaecilius: Kills the Ancient One and almost brings Dormammu to Earth.
10. Killmonger: Seizes the throne from T’Challa completely legally, yet all these people rise up against him.
11. Aldrich Killian: Creates weird fiery super-soldiers, undergoes a makeover so he looks more like Guy Pearce than he does originally.
12. Adrian Toomes: Just wants to provide for his family and becomes rich, so he’s really good at being evil, plus he doesn’t even really lose to Spider-Man.
13. Ego: Kills Peter Quill’s mother and wants to rewrite existence with himself in charge, plus he looks like Kurt Russell.
14. Ronan the Accuser: Likes destroying planets, almost destroys Xandar, gets distracted by Dancing Chris Pratt.
15. Ultron: Causes the Avengers to be hated and mistrusted, setting the stage for Zemo.
16. Justin Hammer: Steals Stark tech and has fun doing it.
17. Savin/Brandt/generic Extremis people: They’re really good at blowing shit up.
18. Obadiah Stane: Just wants Stark’s company, but couldn’t he have done it in a less flashy way?
19. Darren Cross: Just wants Hank Pym’s approval, but too crazy to do it in a less flashy way.
20. The Abomination: Just wants Thunderbolt Ross’s approval, but too angry to do it in a less flashy way.
21. Ulysses Klaue: Went out like a bitch, but he did steal of shitload of vibranium from Wakanda.
22. Yon-Rogg: Not really a true villain, as he’s fighting a war, but still a turd, plus he killed Annette Bening while looking like Jude Law.
23. Crossbones: Solid second stringer who decided to … blow himself up? What the fuck, dude?
24. Baron von Strucker: “No surrender!” “NO SURRENDER!” “I am … going to surrender.”
25. T’Chaka: Not really a villain, but leaving l’il Killmonger behind was really stupid.
26. Vice President Rodriguez: Selling out your president like that, Miguel Ferrer?
27. Laufey: You forgot he was even in Thor, didn’t you?
28. Thunderbolt Ross: Not too evil, but blinded by his hatred of Banner getting some action with his daughter.
29. Whiplash: Goofy but kind of justified in his anger, owns a cockatoo so he can’t be all bad.
30. Dormammu: Super-evil, sure, but doesn’t really get to show it off.
31. Malekith: Christopher Eccleston, you’re better than that, man.
32. Batroc: Much more realistic but definitely not as much fun as in the comics.
33. The Shocker: Neither of the Shockers were really bad dudes, just dudes who liked being hoodlums.
34. Taserface: Stupid name, but he did lead a successful mutiny.
35. The Destroyer: Not really evil, just a tool, but it looks cool.
36. Jasper Sitwell: Totally went out like a bitch.
37. Sonny Burch: Not really evil, just a thief.
38. Mandarin: Not really evil, just an actor.
39. Senator Stern: Slimy, sure, but he doesn’t do much evil.
40. Ghost: Not really evil at all, and really doesn’t do too much that’s evil except talk about killing Janet van Dyne, which she doesn’t do.
All right, this has gone on long enough. The title of this post includes the word “quick,” but I think we can all agree that I don’t break anything down quickly. I’m sure most of you have seen all the MCU movies, but if you haven’t or haven’t in a while, it really is fun to watch them in short order like I did. You don’t have anything to do, right?