Marvel Marathon: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I find Guardians Vol. 2 quite a strange film. On the one hand its filled with humour, gags and general silliness, yet some of the happenings, themes and character development is actually pretty dark.

Also its one of those odd stories where the apparent ‘main’ plot, being the attempted colonization of the galaxy from Ego the living planet, takes an emotional back-seat to the familial drama, being Quills realization that Youndu really was his ‘daddy’ Gamorrah and Nebula becoming sisters and Rocket generally accepting himself and his friends.



Like the first Guardians film it really feels like despite being colourful space films these are some the films of the MCU with the most heart.

However with Guardians 2 I feel there has been a bit of a split in the MCU fanbase, those that like the constant, almost unrelenting humour and those that don’t mind a few breaths between gags. Personally on rewatch I found the jokes a bit much. There are some absolutely brilliant gems in the movie, however they are buried under Drax generally being OTT – for example it would be that much more entertaining when he laughs outrageously at Peter Q being exposed at loving Gamorrah if he didn’t laugh outrageously at almost everything that happens.

Probably the humour and Ego’s character practically being a non-existant exposition machine could have sunk this film, but there is no denying the brilliant but strangely emotional character arcs. Some reviews felt that the character Yondu had been retconned somewhat to be an father figure for Quill, but having watched Vol. 1 recently I felt like the character was consistent, in Vol 1. we saw Yondu going surprisingly easy on Quill and even at the end when he’s conned out of the infinity stone he grins with pride.

Given James Gunn’s firing from Disney, it’s not clear where to for the Guardians but they do appear in Infinity War which I will (eventually) get up to!

Marvel Marathon: Doctor Strange

I think that Doc Strange was a very difficult movie to land.

Marvel had just done an intro movie for Ant-man, a tricky concept to sell AND introduced both Black Panther and Spiderman in Civil War, not to mention the general epic upheaval Civil War was to the characters.


And then along comes Doctor Strange.

There were a lot of things great about this movie, the casting is (mostly) amazing. I’m not really going to get too much into the controversy of Tilda Swinton other than to say the character felt a little flat and unconvincing, IMHO. However Benedict insertmeme is 100% perfect for Doctor Strange and other than his American accent occasionally faltering, embodied the hero fantastically.

Also the visuals really were spectacular, obviously a lot of the focus is going to be on the magical dimension shifting hoo-ha, but actually most the film is slick and good looking.

Ultimately however Doctor Strange falls flat for me.

Oddly, despite being a huge nerd, I’m not actually that familiar with the source material for most comics. Nor do I mind too much when films take a different path – after all the whole point of adaptations is to ‘adapt.’ However I do remember the origin story of Doctor Strange, and I feel like the movie writers missed out hugely by making the story both dumbed down and trying to ‘epic’ it up too much.

What I’m getting at is in the original comic Doctor Strange very much goes in search of magical ways to heal his hands, much as the movie plot goes. However rather an evil rebel already having lest the sorcerers, Doctor Strange stumbles upon The Ancient One’s heir-apparent getting into some evil rituals. The Apprentice (I’m not sure if its Kaecillius or another character) upon discovering Strange casts a spell that prevents him speaking of what he has seen.

This cues a tense interaction where Doctor Strange decides to learn the mystic arts to attempt to stop the evil apprentice and winds up getting drawn into a complicated scenario, where The Ancient One knows their apprentice is evil but finds it safer to keep them close and suppliant them with Strange.

Anywho the point is that plot would have been way more exciting than – there is a bad man who wants to feed the world to an ancient evil. They do their best to make it sensical but I think the real problem is without the intrigue mentioned above the storyline absolutely just has to force Doctor Strange to get involved and it doesn’t quite work – I won’t break down all the movie beats but I think if I examine the mid-point to the end you can see what I mean.

Basically about the midpoint of the movie we’ve seen Doc pick up the mystical arts and that he has a natural talent for it, he becomes curious about more and more magic and also about Kaecillius. He takes the (time-stone) and practices some time magic.

The others scold him for playing with dangerous forbidden magic.

Suddenly the sanctuaries are attacked, literally knocking Strange into one of them despite the fact he doesn’t want to fight.

A hilarious Dad-joke occurs:

They fight and Kaecillius reveals that The Ancient One draws on power from the dark dimension.

Now the problem with this plot strand is that this really isn’t that bigger deal in terms of what the movie has already setup. Really what we’ve been shown is Dr Strange wanting to get healed, becoming magic and getting drawn into a fight he doesn’t want to fight. The relevance of The Ancient One drawing power doesn’t really strike a chord because it shouldn’t mean that much to Strange who has been shown to be a smart guy who is willing to explore forbidden stuff anyway.

And before you think I’m nitpicking this plot point then becomes the sole focus, Strange confronts The Ancient One, and in the next battle a large deal is made of The Ancient One drawing power being confirmed. Again it doesn’t really matter though, its important for Mordo but doesn’t change the fact that they need to stop Kaecillius and it doesn’t change Strange’s character other than he continues to be standoffish just for more reasons.

Can I add that all this is crammed into a series of scenes that occur in close temporary proximity leading straight into the final battle? Seriously it feels like the last hour of this film is quirky magic stuff (again looks cool, storywise a little flat). There is a major pacing problem in this segment, and I suspect its largely caused because they needed Strange to continue to hold onto the time-stone so it could be used in the final battle because if there were any moments to breath someone would have taken it off him.

The other problem with the film, which plagues many magic systems is the issue of rules. There are previous few rules presented in Doctor Strange, we don’t really know the limits of magic or how it works we just get presented with cool visuals and wild outcomes. Which works for a while but its boring when a lot of the action sequences are guys running and floating around doing stuff that makes no sense, they did cram some fancy kung-fu in which kinda makes sense if they are going for that vibe, but it kinda looks silly among the magic. There were a couple of ‘rules’ put in around the Dark Dimension being timeless which makes the finale quite good, but most of the time the action sequences feel incoherent.

Finally just a wee rant about the humour. Bar the joke above, and a few good lines (“I call it the Strange policy”) the humour feels off in Doctor Strange, a little too silly and not leveraging Strange’s potential snark.

Ultimately while a good looking film I think Doctor Strange suffers from trying to do too much. They manage to pull of his original origin and aptitude for magic quite well, but I think it was a stretch to try and get Strange preventing such a major world-ender etc. I suspect in the greater scheme of things they wanted Doctor Strange to be at the height of his competence to he could be a believable ally for the Avengers but I wish they’d spent more time on the plot for this movie.


Marvel Marathon: Civil War

Phew – this is one chonky length film – it took me no less than three sittings to get through it. Luckily it’s well divided into Acts so it actually worked well and didn’t diminish whatsoever (in fact it might have been better)

Ehehehhheh... I'm seeing a lot of these going around lately in preparation for the third Cap Murica movie. Rather enjoying it, actually. ;-D

Civil War is one of my favourite MCU movies, and possibly the only movie so far that I’ve only enjoyed more to watch again. And to be fair Civil War really is a great movie.

On reflection I suspect whoever is in charge about the MCU realized how much was riding on this film and made sure they really did put their all into it. There were quite a few reasons Civil War was a risky venture. Firstly we had the lackluster Age of Ultron, and something I didn’t mention in my review/rant is Age of Ultron ends awkwardly with Thor leaving, Iron man “tapping out” and us being presented with the ‘new’ avengers being Scarlett Witch, Vision, War Machine and Falcon. Absolutely nothing wrong with those characters, but they are not only minor, they also weren’t so much iconic or build-up and introduced as our core heroes. I may be showing my age but it reminded me of when X-files tried to replace Mulder and Scully and continue the series – just plain wrong. Then we had Ant-Man, which was again all good, but not quite as epic as what we had been used to from the MCU.

So to some extent at the point of Civil War I think fans were all wondering whether the MCU would survive a bunch of new characters and the familiar faces stepping back a little. When it came out that Civil War was mixing up the usual intro pattern and introducing TWO new characters (Spidey and Black Panther) it probably didn’t take too much genius observation to realize this story was going to be a risk.

And that’s just considering our characters, Civil War is of course about the Avengers splitting and fighting each other. From a storyline point of view the risk is incredible. A lot of people complained after that Civil War didn’t have enough ‘consequences’ yet I don’t think people realize just how tenuous this movie made the MCU, if they had been any softer people would not have found any tension to the story, but to be honest any harsher I think people would have had trouble watching their favourite characters again.

And Civil War is dark. Especially after watching the previous movies in close proximity, Civil War contains a lot more death in general, Tony Stark goes pretty haywire in distress and frustration and let’s not forget that final epic part of the fight between Cap and Iron Man where for a brief moment we actually thought Captain American was about to cave Tony’s skull in.

So what I’m trying to say is the Russo brothers do awesome, Civil War has some of the best action sequences (perhaps sometimes dragging out a little) most tense action, without losing some of the humour that is a must in a Marvel movie.

I do have a few gripes which I’ll share here. First of all the intro of Tony is a little forced and confusing. We see Tony’s backstory when he last saw his parents, which seems like its just shunted in to make the final fight happen. But the way its presented as some sort of memory hologram as part of some sort of therapy (that Tony just happens to be showing an entire lecture hall) its never quite clear whether he is trying to show some technology or his own past or what – it also sits awkwardly because the main plot tension throughout is the character’s position on ‘the accords’ then right at the end it suddenly becomes about Tony’s parents being killed by Winter Soldier. Far-be-it for me to suggest fixes, but the movies probably needed a little more tweaking, something like finding out that Zemo (the villain who masterminds the Avengers Civil War) has been harassing Tony with reminders of his parents death or suggestions that they were murdered not killed in an accident.

Then there are just a couple of weird complaints. The intro (maybe I just don’t like intros) of Cap’n and the current avengers is kinda irrelevant to the overall plot – an expended fight sequence chasing down some bio-weapon which really just exists to have Cap reminded of Bucky, and Scarlett Witch accidently kill some innocents (although can I point out she barely is responsible, Rummalo detonates a bomb and she simply fails to completely save everyone from it, if she had done nothing then Cap and probably many more people would be dead) It’s kinda annoying to sit through a decent chunk of action where we see a returning baddie iced in moments then the plot movies on to something completely different.

Second (and this really is a nitpick) Hawkeye has a lengthy monologue and conversation with Tony after most of Cap’s team are captures and imprisoned. It’s cynical and sarcastic and feels out of place for both Hawkeye’s character – he also appears to make a joke about Rhodey breaking his back? I dunno the scene seemed like it would make more sense for Hawkeye to perhaps guilt-trip Tony not snark about the situation.

And finally there are just a couple of odd moments where the ‘reaction shots’ of this film aren’t quite right (I’m not sure if I’m using this term correctly when the focus of a shot is given to a characters face amidst the action to see how they are feeling sort of thing). There is moment where Tony takes on Winter Soldier with nothing but an Iron Man glove on, almost gets shot and gets thumped to bits by Bucky, but half the time Tony is grinning through the scene?

Then there is the iconic helicopter scene, where Cap’n literally biceps a helicopter out of the sky, its pretty OTT, but what really kills it is a reaction shot of Bucky, who is supposed to be in Terminator mode, looking like well – watch the scene yourself and see what you make of it!

Also, Bilbo Baggins’ role in the film seems pointless and falls somewhat flat. He’s good in the upcoming Black Panther but not needed in this one.

Anywho, those are pretty minor gripes, this is a really good film and in my opinion marked a turning point in the MCU where the franchise went from being the seminal comic book movie franchise to the biggest franchise at all. Both the airport battle and the final fight between Cap’n and Iron Man are completely epic scenes that gives me the feels everytime I see them.

Marvel Marathon (Ant-Man)

At this point in the MCU, one of the credits of Marvel Studios was the ability to put together some pretty esoteric source material and make a charming funny and above all accessible movie. Thor was generally considered a big achievement, and Guardians of the Galaxy managed to perform despite being relatively unknown even to many comic fans.

I thought this movie wasn't going to be very good but it ended up being one of my favorite Marvel movies!!

Enter Ant Man.

I feel like if anything Marvel are good at pitching their movies at a useful level. Rather than trying to cram infinity stones, or big Avengers plot points. Ant Man is a character driven story, with a heist-trope twist, where no-one has tried too hard to match the heights of the other MCU movies.

Which is a good thing. Ant-man feels like a breath of clear air after the over-stuffed and action packed Age of Ultron (and I note falls between Ultron and Civil War) and kind of proves that Marvel doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although it must be said that no matter how good your story, and the charm of your characters, context is important for audiences and a shrinking guy who can control ants is a hard sell! Ant-man doesn’t sit too high in success compared to other Marvel properties, but I think the fact the movie works at all is a huge success given the premise.

I don’t have much to say about the movie itself – its very well written to with compelling characters, although the villain is a little cheesy and the necessary final battle drags out a little. Especially after the exciting and welcome change of tone and a different style of action, to go back to the hero and the villain with similar power duking it out.

Something I have to confess to that this stage of the MCU is taking their humour writing for granted. I’m 12 movies in and bar perhaps two maybe three of the films (I’m looking at you Incredible Hulk, Ultron and parts of Iron Man 3) the humour is not only good, but variable enough to remain fresh. Humour isn’t that easy to write and the fact the gags don’t become (too) formulaic is a big achievement.

Edit: whups didn’t even put Ant-Man in the title! Maybe I did it was just too small to see…

Marvel Marathon: Age of Ultron

Ok so let’s get this out of the way upfront: I didn’t like age of Ultron when it came, out I haven’t softened on it in the meantime and I still don’t like it now. Most of this review will largely be a negative rant from whoa to go – I will make some attempt to find the positive however just to start.


Age of Ultron is the second Avengers movie, and its probably an understatement to say that there was a fair amount of pressure and expectation on this movie, not only at the time was 1st Avengers the highest grossing MCU film it was also one of the top 5 grossing films of all time. Also as other reviewers pointed out there was considerable ‘universe building’ needed in this film to setup Civil and Infinity Wars and Thor: Ragnarok.

Counter to many critics I actually think the setup elements were handled just fine (ish I’ll get onto that) I also think there were many strengths to the film, it really is visually stunning, the CGI is well integrated and many of the action sequences are great. And finally I will admit there are some amazing moments, and a few great jokes.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way let’s rant.

I’m a huge fan of Joss Whedon. When I first saw Avengers 1 I didn’t even know Whedon directed it, but loved it to bits and looked forward to Age of Ultron. Honestly though I’m not sure what happened, Whedon complained about studio interference around the Hawkeye and Thor plotlines, yet those aren’t really the problem – I think the issue is that Whedon wrote AND directed age of Ultron and perhaps high off the success of Avengers 1 simply had too much input for his own good.

Let’s just go through somewhat in order.

The first problem is that both Iron Man 3, and Winter Soldier had significant endings especially in the case of Iron Man – and Ultron just starts with no addressing this whatsoever. Apparently Agents of Shield provides some context but the problem isn’t so much a plot hole nitpick as a neglect of material, having the Avengers leap into battle immediately makes the characters feel flat and undeveloped. Unlike in the first film which allowed time to build character, Ultron feels like Characters behave to serve the plot no visa versa.

And much about the plot is just so contrived. The whole Ultron thing happens purely because Stark is in a rush to use the scepter before it ends up back in Asgard and can’t be bothered discussing with the other Avengers either, or in fact explaining to us the audience how AI is the important factor in defending the Earth from whatever the next attack is. From a writing point of view the problem is the movie starts with the Avengers desperately attacking HYDRA and seeking the scepter – Stark’s desperation to create Ultron largely comes out of nowhere or his recklessness to meddle doesn’t feel natural. Then the movie is just reactive to Ultron, The Scooby-Do nature of the Avengers discussions trying to solve the ‘case’ again feels flat and clunky. Big deals are made about Ultron being in the internet yet this doesn’t really make any difference to the story really, they have to go and hide out at Hawkeye’s family home but its not really clear why. Black Widow is kidnapped and poorly imprisoned because Ultron has decided he wants a witness or something? (more like they needed a little more tension and a way for the Avengers to find Ultron.)

The first Avengers had a very very simple plot that flowed well and important to the characters, the second feels like its dictated by the “cool scenes” that needed to happen rather than coherent character choices.

Then of course there is Ultron himself. I know that the source material has Ultron as a ‘mad robot’ but seriously I hate this character. A lot of fuss was made about James Spader’s performance but it doesn’t save it. I don’t know whether Whedon was trying to cover up the fact that “AI that decides to destroy humanity” is pretty far down the cliche well – or was just so desperate to make more quips – all of Ultron’s “lines” fall worse than flat and he never actually feels scary as a villain.

Finally the humour is just so off in this movie. Sexual innuendo about the Hulk and Black Widow, boob slap-stick, tractor puns, stilted one-liners that the cast couldn’t even charisma their way through. There were a couple of great gags, but they were far outnumbered by cringey jokes.

Ironically I said I could go on and on, but actually I can’t. The problems I have with this movie are as complex and interconnected as a movie script itself, it’s like a puzzle where someone has forced all the pieces together rather than where they should be. To be fair, Age of Ultron its an overall terrible movie say compared to some of the other superhero movies outside of the MCU, but compared to its predecessor, and even just the other solo MCU films its frustrating and below-expectations.


Marvel Marathon: Guardians of the Galaxy

Not going to lie, when Guardians first came out I fully enjoyed it but didn’t quite see the fuss. Peter Quill just seemed like a space Iron Man, and the plot somewhat convoluted/confusing in that sci-fi way where you can’t keep up with which planet or race or space-pirate is who

However on rewatch, and in closer comparison to the other MCU movies I can definitely now see the fuss. Something about the Guardians feels more seamless than the other movies, the gags aren’t at the expense of the drama, the fantastic elements don’t clash with the realistic, and finally something about Guardians contains a tonne of heart. Both this the sequel are probably the only MCU movies that actually bring a tear to my eye (well other than the jokes from Age of Ultron)

Epic Guardians of the Galaxy Poster

One last thing

I’m not usually into movie theories.



I think that Guardians of the Galaxy tells us what is going to happen in Avengers Endgame. The collector tells the history of the infinity stones, and describes a group that wields a stone each but die as a result. Of course in the context of the movie it seems like they are talking about the Guardians but they actually only handle one (and obviously don’t perish straight after) so one asks why that mythology was included in the film?

MCU: Thoughts on sequels and shared universes

Since I’ve largely been blogging about Marvel movies, but not much about writing per se, I thought I better do something writing related to break up the topic a little.

Something which I think is of great interest to writers is long running series, and while perhaps the shared universe thing is less common (but not unheard of and perhaps a likely new thing) the techniques and nature of creating them could be of help.

Just a reminder, as always, I’m no guru or expert on writing, these are just my observations – and a few insights gleaned from other smart brains about the place!

Who is the most powerful hero in MCU..



So what makes a shared universe work? (or not work in some cases I relatively recently saw Justice League, just saying.)

Just before I begin making points – or rather halfway through making points I realized I had to jump back and talk about this – it may be wise to actually define what a shared universe actually is. Because I didn’t actually realize until researching for this post that shared universe actually refers to the sharing of the ‘setting’ between creators. That is to say the “shared” part which I confess thought meant shared between stories actually refers to writers/directors/whoever.

So what counts as a shared universe is actually pretty strange, e.g. according to Wikipedia Freddy Vs Jason, and Alien Vs Predator count as shared Universes, whereas Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings do not (as they are overseen by canon creators)

All of that is probably a distraction because I’m not really getting at how different creators work together per se, but how the ultimate stories work together well, so for the purpose of this post I’m more focused on the idea of multiple stories being told from the same fictional universe whether with multiple creators or not.

So that confusion out of the way – let’s move on…

Standalone Strength

One of the most confusing and controversial conversations is about how best to handle the level of ‘sequel’ in a long running series – and when the plan is a shared universe the conversation gets even more confusing.

Something I noticed in the Phase 1, and majority of Phase 2 MCU movies is a lot of effort put into making the individual films digestible without viewing earlier installments. Even Avengers, the first team-up movie spent a fair chunk of screen-time getting characters introduced. This almost seems contrarian, in the sense of whats the point of having individual movies if the team-up one introduces them again anyway? But the odd thing is there is a lot of merit to ensuring any given story is complete on its own, this isn’t just a mercantile technique to maximize enjoyment, it actually cuts to the heart of what stories are.

If I use a music metaphor, an artist can create several interconnected pieces of music of their album that work best to listen to in sequence, however if a track doesn’t sound right on its own, its not really an individual song/tune its just more of the first track. Stories are the same, the Avengers film is enhanced by watching the Phase 1 movies but by no means is a requirement.

Note: this is an element that gets progressively more tricky as the MCU evolved which I will mention as my marathon through it continues.

Of course this idea of standalone movies creates a catch-22 problem. What threads then do connect the movies? They can’t be completely standalone or people would feel cheated on the opportunity for long term development that the universe offers! What the MCU movies do that other creative attempts seem to have struggled with is understanding how to build off previous material to make a fresh story without creating reliance on that material.

For example: In Iron Man 3 Tony Stark experiences PTSD from his near-death in Avengers. If you’d seen Avengers this would definitely enhance your experience of this plot point. However, the way this is presented does not require you to have seen that. It sounds like a minor point but its actually crucially important, in Iron Man 3 they ensure its explained the why and where from Tony’s anxiety comes from. If the writers didn’t bother fully explaining because they assumed people would draw the connection from Avengers I think this wouldn’t have worked.

To back this up I will contrast with a DCEU example (and apologies to big fans I’m assumed the DCEU is generally accepted as a poor example of universe building)

In Justice League in a tense moment between the heroes Batman accuses Wonder Woman of hiding away due to the loss of Captain Kirk, an event that is shown in the Wonder Woman movie. It’s supposed to be an important character moment, however there are multiple problems with it. First of all Wonder Woman isn’t really shown to be hiding away, quite the opposite really. But more importantly other than a couple of hints the movie Justice League doesn’t setup this character issue as a key tension to be resolved until that point. The writers are heavily relying on audiences having seen Wonder Woman and experiencing tension from her loss from that film and translating it over into Justice League.

This point is getting nit-picky and confusing so I’ll try and summarize a little clearer. In a shared universe of course you want long-running and ongoing plot threads that stretch across different films, because that’s part of the point. However these need to be skillfully managed.

Now just to be clear this isn’t just a technical complaint – its not that its too demanding on audiences to remember plot points from previous movies (although that is an issue) it’s about how stories work, from a perspective of raised tensions and resolutions. When someone watches a movie or reads a story its not just the technical content but the dramatic presentation that creates emotion – you can’t rely on a story told previously to create immediate drama but you can build from it.

Wow that point went on longer than expected, I guess I should look at some other things:

What exactly is shared

It might seem obvious, but shared universes do actually need to be shared. People usually focus on characters, places, history which again is clearly important, but there are elements that perhaps get overlooked.

For example, and not to continually pan DC, but their EU has been criticized for being tonally all over the show,  Man of Steel and Batman V Superman were considered ‘gritty reboots’ Wonder Woman was a great film but its hopeful and adventurous presentation felt like a separate world, and Justice League was so haphazard within itself it didn’t feel connected to any other movie. Whereas MCU movies while in wildly different settings, always has similar themes of presentation and tone. The humour, the fairly traditional story structures and the nature of the people that populate the world(s) is consistent. That’s not to say there isn’t variation within MCU movies, but there is a sense of consistency, it would be weird if Spiderman appeared in a movie where everyone was cynical and dark.

People often focus on timelines or universe history when discussing a share universe, but personally I think its the finer structures that make the real difference. People are more comfortable accepting the weird co-incidences like why didn’t SHIELD help Thor or Iron Man in Phase 2 rather than marked changes in tone or story structure.

This brings me to my final point:

Keeping things fresh

Given the above points it raises the question – if you’re going to create a bunch of stories that have similar tone, structure, joint history but standalone power, how do you keep things fresh and interesting alongside this?

I haven’t reached these movies yet, but I believe some MCU movies are stumbling blocks, of struggling to create new material without losing the old attraction. What I’ve noticed is important is always pushing the characters. In a comic book universe there are only so many ways you can threaten the Earth/galaxy/reality (but by gosh they really have tried) but there are always new ways to push characters . The important thing is that the MCU writers don’t just continually up-the-ante so to speak, it’s not just worse and worse situations, its new and complex scenarios like Iron Man mentoring Spider-man, or his falling out with Cap’n.

To bring this back to writing specifically, many of these thoughts apply to books as well as movies. While I think books lend themselves more to long running series than universes per se, the principles are still present. You want your books to be standalone, but if they are connected to be connected in the subtle and unobvious ways that leverage the other books in the serious to enhance, but not necessarily rely on them.

What are your thoughts on shared universes, are there any aspects you think Marvel haven’t done so well?

What about any points I’ve missed?


Marvel Marathon: Cap’n Winter Soldier

Story about this film.

When I first went to the movies, I had the extreme misfortune of sitting near to a “movie talker” now not just a person gossiping about their lives, or playing on their phone – I can block that stuff out – no this person was basically providing an old-lady (no offense to old-ladies just that stereotype) commentary on the film “Oh no what’s he going to do? Ouch, WOW its his friend”

Holy Moly did it ruin the film, at the time I genuinely thought the movie was crap, but luckily I went again and was blown away, despite technically having seen the movie already and with the bad taste of the movie talker in my mouth


The Winter Soldier by on @deviantART

Suffice to say Winter Soldier is a great film, easily my favourite phase 3 movie (although I still need to rewatch Guardians of the Galaxy) and probably still one of my favourite MCU movies overall.

I think the first thing that makes Winter Soldier great is Captain Americas character is well-handled from a story-telling point of view. The writers take the key aspects of his nature and throw opposition his way. The movie tension begins with Steve’s honest and noble values being challenged by Nick Fury’s more modern espionage and secrets approach, and this theme continues as Cap’n actually becomes a fugitive from a corrupt SHIELD and of course eventually finding out his best friend is working for the other side (albeit brain washed). I don’t even generally like movie plots where a friend or in any way potentially convinced otherwise character is the villain – but the way this movie handles the situation, e.g. that Cap’n does everything in his power to talk Bucky back but does not jeopardize anyone else’s safety in doing so and almost sacrifices himself to to so.

Winter Soldier is also the film where the Russo brothers first jumped into the directors seats and the action is turned up a notch. Obviously the other MCU films had a large amount of action in them, but Winter Soldier is that much more polished, and fine-tuned for decent action sequences. One actually feels genuinely terrified by the Winter Soldier because he is portrayed as actually trying to kill the heroes and being quite capable of it. I also have to add that the music use for the villain is superb and unfortunately absent from other films – the use of dissonant quirky killer music around Winter Soldier and moments of silence in the sound track create very intense moments.

Another major strength of the film is the writers managed to capture some pretty topical and not completely out-there themes and real-world issues. Where Iron Man dealt with the idea of fire-breathing terrorist, and Thor dealt with Dark Elves using some sort of equinox thing to destroy reality – Winter Soldier presents us with the idea of subversive terrorists nudging the world towards chaos, not to overtly scare people, but to gradually encourage the population to trade freedom for security – coupled with the use of social media and big data to predict the future and pre-emptively murder enemies (well the pre-emptive murder isn’t quite planned in real-life but governments have been looking into making major decisions based on big-data).

There is a lot going good in Winter Soldier, and as mentioned in an earlier post, Captain America isn’t a particular favourite of mine from comics or generally, but I think his movies are some of the best in the MCU. My only gripes with Winter Soldier on rewatch is that there were some scenes drawn out – it’s a long film and there seem to be a lot of minutes spent with ‘hencmen’ firing machine guns at people before the read fights start. Also on rewatch I found Black-Widow’s character to be a little annoying. Johanssons performance is solid and the interaction between her and Steve is well written, e.g. he comes to trust her, and she comes to see that his values aren’t totally naive. But overall it feels like the writers couldn’t quite settle on what her generally character is like, the attempt is to portray her as an aloof smartass (who secretly cares a lot) but it kinda comes across as an aloof smart-ass who sometimes isn’t when the plot requires it.

I have to confess I thought this Marathon would take a little longer – although I guess the first couple of phases of MCU movies were around 2 hours, whereas later additions start to get pretty long.

Next up is Guardians of the Galaxy, which I have not rewatched since release which should be a treat!


Marvel Marathon: Thor The Dark World

Small confession to make:

I didn’t rewatch Thor 2 (I understand why it isn’t called Thor Two, that phrase looks and sounds weird as)

It’s not because I hate it, or its terrible or anything, no its something much more mundane. For some reason Thor the Dark World always seems to be playing, I don’t have broadcast TV but it seems like when visiting family or friends Thor The Dark World is on in the background.

Thor Dark World .... A little less funny and charming than the last installment, but still enjoyable thanks to Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and the invaluable Kat Dennings. Certainly worth seeing if you're already on board the Marvel train and a good bridge to future movies.

So I haven’t diligently watched the movie from start to finish again but I feel like I have seen it multiple times since its release.

The thing about Dark World is it seems like its one of the most panned of the MCU movies, (perhaps since Incredible Hulk isn’t talked about), but I actually quite liked the film both initially and the multiple times I’ve watched it. However I can see the point of critics.

Most problematic about Dark World is the plot is essentially the same as the first Thor Movie, bar some technically higher stakes (e.g. the entire nine realms) and a different presentation from Loki, now a known villain. However the film lacks the same development from Thor, in movie 1 he started as the brash child who got banished and worked his way to becoming a true hero, in Dark World he pretty much is just relatively noble Thor, the only real ‘development’ his decision in the end of the film to forgo kingship to pursue Jane Foster on earth (and people don’t like Jane Foster so not a well received move)

Despite all that there was plenty of romping action, and people say the movie wasn’t funny but I thought there was a good balance of humour. I suspect, and this is stretch that Iron Man 3 which earned a tonne of money but actually annoyed people with its bait and switch tactics about the villain and Iron Man ‘quitting’ left a sour taste for Thor the next movie to come out. That’s not to say Thor Two is secretly a good film, just that people had less tolerance for an average film in that context.

Of the three ‘earth’ phase 3 movies Dark World is probably the most noticeable for not having the Avengers show up. Not that people expected them to, it’s just that no-one had done a MCU universe thing before and it creates an effect where after an Avengers movie there is a sense that any major conflict shouldn’t be handled by one hero alone – especially if the whole universe is at threat.

Right – straight onto Winter Soldier!


Marvel Marathon: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 is so far is this marathon been the only MCU film I’ve remained relatively static on between my only two viewings. I wasn’t a huge fan when it came out, and upon rewatch nothing too much changed.

The film starts with a lot of promise. There is a touch of real-world consequences, where Tony is suffering from PTSD following the events of The Avengers – he also it sitting awkwardly with his role, Rhodes or ‘Iron Patriot’ is taking part in protecting the U.S. against a new threat a terrorist called the Mandarin but Tony as sitting outside the government, is not included.

This is where the plot of the film (or me at least) very quickly gets derailed. I suppose I should add A SPOILER ALERT as there are many quirks to the plot of Iron Man 3.

The way the story evolves around Tony is shoe-horned and unlikely, even for a comic book movie. It has the feeling that the story is written to get to the moments that the writers/director had planned rather than an organic or coherent story that creates good moments.

FOR EXAMPLE. I’m sure others have criticizes this many a time but a major action from Tony is to present his address to a bunch of reporters and threaten The Mandarin. Now its not so much that such a move is reckless, as we expect that from Stark, and it did fit with him being mad, as his good friend jon faveau Happy Hogan had been seriously injured in an attack from The Mandarin. It just doesn’t make any sense for anyone to have done it – wouldn’t an angry Tony threaten to find Mandarin where-ever he lives? Wouldn’t Tony’s home address actually be pretty easy to stalk being the hugely famous Iron Man (I guarantee people would already be looking) but perhaps most illogically wouldn’t someone between Iron Man, the authorities or even the media notice the trio of attack helicopters approaching before a missile hits him?

Like I said the setup was all to create moments, they wanted to have the house attacked, so that they could show Pepper getting suited, and Tony struggling to fight the attack off. Again with multiple contrivances to create that moment, but not actually coherent, the suit doesn’t have flight (until the fight ends and the story needs Tony to disappear) and so on.

Also one notes at this point Tony’s anxiety doesn’t seem triggered at all by actual violent attacks which isn’t completely unrealistic, as sometimes its the between times that people struggle with trauma, but it makes the issue feel like a movie contrivance that only appears during “character development” not “Action sequences”

Anyway I could go on and on but I’ll try and keep my complaints bulleted

  • after the house is blown up Tony zooms away, which is somehow missed by everybody, as if the house wasn’t swarming with media choppers, the bad-guys, the authorities, everybody. Then we have a sequence where Tony uses his apparent death to claim he can’t come back until Mandarin is dealt with as Pepper will be unsafe, failing to note many points such as the Mandarin could still target her after his death (which does happen) that Iron Man being dead would probably make the world overall less safe – and overall his death should create a pretty intense search effort.
  • Tony’s PTSD flares up at first but then disappears with the suggestion from a kid that he “builds something” weirdly it largely seems triggered by children talking to him not actual danger – is something Freudian being suggested?
  • It turns out Tony actually has something like 42 remote controlled suits ready for deployment, its just that they are under some rubble from his houses destruction and it takes just enough time to clear for the final conflict
  • Let’s not talk about “The Mandarin” twist. Twists are good when they turn our expectations in a way that strengthens the plot, revealing that a character eye-balls deep in the evil plan anyway is actually the mastermind is less interesting than “THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE”

Basically the whole story feels like it could have been avoided by more sensible decisions from Tony, and not in a Faustian character tension type thing, just in a “but why tho?” kind of way.

Finally Plotwise let me rant about the ending. Iron Man 3 was portrayed as the end of the solo Iron Man movies, and at the time it was pretty unclear what his role would be in upcoming MCU movies. Thusly with an ending where he blows his suits up, throws the Arc Reactor in the water, and gets his heart fixed (not in that order) its kind of a silly and annoying red-herring, given that Iron Man appears in the next Avengers as Iron Man with no explanation whatsoever. When you listen to his dialogue at the end he does technically say that the suits were a ‘cocoon’ suggesting he was moving on to bigger better things, not necessarily ditching Iron Man – but the ways its presented seem pretty clear he’s quitting.

One last gripe: when watching the movies in quick succession its interesting to see the slight changes in humour across films (oh no Age of Ultron is coming) Iron Man 3’s humour is really weird. Tony sass talks a child, has an encounter with a super-fan and Killian, uh, just seems to have lines which make it unclear whether his character is creepy or the writers are.

At lot of my opinion(s) might seem at odds with the numbers, Iron Man 3 is the most successful solo Iron Man film and indeed one of the biggest earners of the MCU movies. But I suspect a huge portion of this was hype, as Iron Man 3 was the first movie out after the ultra-successful Avengers. While the critical reception of the movie is relatively good, it pales in comparison to the more successful MCU films.