Catching up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Since I’ve last posted about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve seen the latest four movies. They just keep pumping them out as fast as they can, don’t they? Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) was an average superhero movie targeted towards teenagers, but I liked several things about it: it gave us a sympathetic villain, they didn’t bother giving us Spiderman’s origin story (we’ve had enough of those), the bully wasn’t stereotypical, and the high school students appeared to be – well – high-school-aged (in so many Hollywood movies, they have adults play fifteen-year-olds and it just doesn’t work). It’s also funny in parts.

If you haven’t seen it, I don’t think you’re missing out on much, though. I know it was supposed to be cute when MJ went to detention even though she wasn’t supposed to be there because she wanted to be near Peter, but wouldn’t this be called stalking if he did it to her? In many ways, this movie didn’t feel like a Spiderman movie. Since Iron Man (who’s Peter’s father figure in the film) gives him a high tech suit with nifty gadgets, it felt more like Peter was Iron Man Junior than Spiderman.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) felt more like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie than a Thor movie, which is a good thing. Unlike the first two Thor movies, this one was actually funny, the action was more interesting, they used oldies music to great effect, and they didn’t bother tacking on an unconvincing romantic subplot. We also finally learn what happened to Hulk after Avengers 2.

I wanted to like Black Panther (2018) more than I did. It was great that after 17 movies, the MCU finally got around to doing one with a person of color in the title role. (It’s a bit unbelievable that the MCU won’t do a solo superhero movie starring a woman until next year’s Captain Marvel.) However, it follows the same template of most superhero movies with Black Panther needing to defeat someone with the same powers as him in order to save the world. I did like that we get a sympathetic villain whose motives actually make sense. The humor largely didn’t work for me, the romantic interest felt tacked on, but it did deliver action, there were several great performances and great lines, and I liked that it was filled with strong female characters. I did enjoy this one overall.

The Avengers: Infinity War (2018) does a good job with both action and comedy. It personally didn’t work as a tear-jerker for me, although your personal mileage may vary. (I’ve read reviews by multiple people who were moved to tears, so there is that.) The love story between Scarlet Witch and Vision just didn’t work. In fact, I don’t think there’s been an MCU movie yet with a convincing love story. Something for them to work on in the future.

What really impressed me with Infinity War was how they were able to pull off a movie packed with so many characters. No individual character really got a chance to shine because of this, but that’s not what they were going for. There were some notable absences, though. Valkyrie was missing for no good reason. Hawkeye wasn’t there, although I don’t think anybody really missed him. Also Ant-man was AWOL. (Or was he? Maybe he was there all along, but he was just too small to see.)

In a way, the real star of Infinity War was Thanos (the closing credits even state “Thanos will return”), which is appropriate since he was the real star of the comic. Unfortunately, he isn’t a sympathetic villain. His plan is to destroy half of all life in the universe in order to prevent the suffering that comes with limited resources. It apparently never occurs to him that he can use the god-like power of the infinity gauntlet to make more resources and end suffering that way. It’s hard to take a movie seriously when the villain’s plan doesn’t make any sense. Honestly, they just should have made him be insane like he is in the comics. It would have been equally unsatisfying, but it at least would have made a bit more sense.

In a closing credits scene, we get a repeat of the joke from Spiderman in which a character gets cut off right when they’re about to say the f-word. Even if the joke was a repeat, it was still funny anyway. The MCU has always been good at action and special effects. It took them a while to get comedy down. Now that they have, the movies are a lot more fun to watch.

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