Tag Archives: MCU

Ant-Man and the Wasp

If I think about Ant-Man and the Wasp outside the context of the comics in general and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, it is an anodyne, albeit fun, heist movie sequel, which I have no idea if I would have bothered to watch. But there’s something to be said for a summer popcorn chase movie, and even if there weren’t, I do not think about these things outside their context very often. (Also, most heist / chase movies are not able to use a building[1] as the constantly stolen and restolen object, so that’s pretty cool. Thanks, Pym Particles!)

As a Marvel movie, it’s, yknow, also an anodyne heist movie. Better than Ant-Man, both in how it treated its heroes and its villains[2]. Solidly middle of the pack as a Marvel movie overall, and considering that I like these pretty well as a collective, middle of the pack is good news for me!

Also? Best blanket fort of all time. Including the one in Community.

[1] I’ve just realized that the internal physics of this pair of movies are irretrievably broken.
[2] While I’m not exactly classifying Hank Pym as a villain here, I do appreciate how his jerkish, just barely this side of bad guy, behavior actually ends up having consequences. (Though I could wish fewer of them were to his shrunk out of existence wife.)

Avengers: Infinity War

Man, I screwed the pooch. It’s been what, two weeks since I saw Infinity War? In the meantime, it has been discussed to death, both with and without spoilers. Which is sad because it means probably that I can say nothing new, and anyway the only novel thing I had to say in the first place is kind of a spoiler.

But, here we go nonetheless, since I pathologically can’t just not review the things, I can only feel guilty about not reviewing them.

They have been calling this new Avengers movie the most ambitious crossover in history, ten years and eighteen movies deep. That’s not entirely right, because the first few movies leading up to the first Avengers did not foretell this. Not really. But as far as ambition goes, I cannot disagree. For the number of characters involved, none of them was ignored or given short shrift. (Not wholly true, as some characters were literally ignored by not being in the movie, but if they were in the movie, I mean.)  And the pacing was great. In a world of modern action cinema where scenes cut every minute or two, this was divided into 10+ minute chapters focusing on the characters involved from start to resolution of a scenario (or at worst, start to nadir, with the next scene fully exploring resolution). It’s hard to remember that movies[1] used to work this way, instead of snippets of individual strands that only weave together at climax.

So, A++ for ambition and execution. I also liked the plot and most of the character beats, although I understand why some people did not. Basically, my point is: if you have invested in eighteen movies and a handful of optional TV series leading toward this movie, you should check it out. They stuck the landing.

Spoiler-esque observation as first comment.

[1] Again, action / genre movies. I understand that your snows falling on your cedars always kept to that path.

Black Panther

It took me until Monday night to see Black Panther, which was in a way annoying but in another way heartening. Tickets all Sunday afternoon and evening were sold out down to the front couple of rows, you see. This pleases me, both for the studio and the character. And not having seen it on Thursday night, it’s not like my review was going to factor into much of anything at all, so.

The thing is, T’Challa is a compelling character and Wakanda is a compelling nation. There is a book that I have not read called Guns, Germs, and Steel that lays out an (as I understand it) compelling case for the idea that European dominance of the colonial and modern world has a lot more to do with geography and resources than with any innate superiority of its peoples. Enter Wakanda, a small African nation whose technology is far ahead of any part of the world not personally owned by Tony Stark, because that happens to be where a huge chunk of vibranium[1] landed lo these thousands or millions of years ago, and the Wakandans happened to get there first. And you can say that this is so much wish fulfillment. Probably that’s true? But it’s awfully comfortable saying that if you happen to be the person whose wish was fulfilled by reality instead of the person whose wish was not.

And to a large extent, that’s where my review ends, because as cool as the Black Panther is, and as fun as it was to see him rushing around the world fighting some of his biggest name enemies from the comics, and as well realized as his fellow Wakandans each were, and as socially and historically relevant as Killmonger’s origin story is, the real star of this movie was Wakanda. And they did that country up right, every bit as well as Asgard or Ego have been presented in previous MCU flicks.

[1] It’s what Captain America’s shield is made out of. More to the point, it’s virtually indestructible and has a number of rather intriguing properties in addition to this that make it a boon to scientific and military advancements over time. It’s, y’know, handwavium.

Thor: Ragnarok

The problem with reviewing a new Marvel movie is the same as the problem with reviewing a new Dresden Files or Vlad Taltos book: too much accumulated past knowledge is required.That is, the only way to come close to getting a coherent thought out of me is if I assume you are aware of everything that has come before. Otherwise, I’m bound to spoil for previous movies.

For example, Thor: Ragnarok, which is not only the third Thor movie, it’s in the high teens for total Marvel Cinematic Universe movies overall. And okay, they don’t all of them interweave so tightly that you would need all the movies under your belt, but it’s still something like five or six, just to cover all the returning characters.

So, screw it, I’m doing that spoil for previous movies thing. See, the first Thor movie was about learning how to be worthy. Thor starts off as a bro, and needs to be a hero instead. Cool. The second one was about family (and also a little bit about the eventual Infinity War that we’re not quite to, yet, but that’s plot, and I’m talking theme here). Like, Loki is still a bad guy, or at least a mischief guy, but the brothers are brothers again and don’t have to spend so much energy on hating each other. It was nice!

This third movie is about becoming an adult. Training wheels are off, the end of the world Asgard is at hand, and Thor (and whoever else is willing to side with him; telling you in advance would be, well, telling) has to figure everything out for himself. Which, not bad for a dude who was a bro like six years ago. I mean, assuming he succeeds. But trying is also pretty cool. Bro Thor from 2011 would not have even tried to do anything except maybe tug on Odin’s arm, unless it was to charge forward blindly and get himself killed in the first thirty seconds.

So, that’s what the movie is. Remaining things to know are that it was almost more comedy  than action movie; that it has my personal favorite use of a Led Zeppelin song; that of course it was good, although at the same time it’s hard to know how to trust my opinion here anymore[1]; and that… no, I take it back, anything else I could possibly say would definitely be spoilers. Go see it!

[1] I mean, I didn’t like the Inhumans series, so at least I know there’s a bottom to this well of good faith.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I saw the MCU[1] version of Spider-Man nearly a week ago, which is becoming an uncomfortably common trend. I kind of have my job to blame, but maybe the ability to write and post from work (thanks, wifi hotspot!) will put a kibosh on all this. Then again, considering the degree to which my workload is about to increase, maybe it won’t.

Almost everything I want to say about it is along the lines of “How cool was it when…” or “Did you notice the easter egg about…”, which is problematic mainly because all of those things are spoilers. What’s not bad is that it means the movie was extremely cool and fun for me, and probably would be for you as well.

In any event, this borrowed as heavily and as obviously from Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man as most of the rest of the MCU has done from respective other branches of the Ultimate Marvel series, which as you will know from years of my reviews of Bendis’ work, I strongly approve of. Peter is a good kid who’s in over his head but who has the potential to be forged into the moral center of the superheroing world. Not yet, though; for now he really is a kid, and it will be fun letting him do that for a little while.

Also: Michael Keaton hit it out of the park.

Also also: the title is kind of… like, yes there was a Homecoming Dance, and I suppose it featured heavily in the high school life of one Peter Parker and his various friends, but seriously, they named a movie after the fact that they finally negotiated the rights to bring Spider-Man back under the Marvel umbrella instead of where it has languished in Sonyland for decades. And that’s just silly insider baseball stuff. Come on, guys, give me a real title for the next one.

Also also also: Spider-Man is straight up my favorite superhero, so it’s possible I’m biased on the praise I have provided today. Do with this knowledge what you will.

[1] Marvel Cinematic Universe, ie all the stuff under the Marvel Studios brand, ie Iron Man, The Avengers, Agents of SHIELD, etc.

The Avengers (2012)

It’s been I suppose weeks since I actually saw The Avengers, which is as personally frustrating as it is lame. But the larger problem (even though I’ve seen it twice) is that it makes it hard to remember any specific discussion I may have wanted to engage. So, obviously it was good. You already know that because I saw it twice. (Savvy viewers may also have known it because of what a good job has been done with the various properties leading up to this moment, or because they’ve watched Joss Whedon’s writing/direction in other formats.)

But let’s say you’ve done none of those things, and now you’re wondering if you want to go see a movie in which the Norse god of mischief acts as a catspaw for an invading alien army bent on conquering the earth and also stealing a head-sized white cube filled with limitless cosmic power, and then a bunch of Marvel superheroes attempt to quip aside their differences and prevent this clearly bad outcome? The answer is yes, and here’s the reason why: even though it may not be the best plot you’ve ever seen, it is very probably the most comic-booky plot you’ve ever seen, and not only is the dialogue consistently great, but practically every moment (and 100% of the moments in the third act) were among the most fun I’ve had at the movies.

Put another way: would definitely watch a third time.

Iron Man (2008)

mv5bmtcznti2oduwof5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtu0ntizmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Going to a sneak preview is a thing that… well, okay, I’ve done it pretty damn recently, but I haven’t been to an advance preview for a blockbuster that everyone in the world is going to see, at least not in a while. However, I have an awesome friend named Kara who has that skill where she knows every single person on the planet, and can therefore get into clubs or crowded restaurants sans reservation, that kind of thing. As a result, she received an astonishing number of passes to Iron Man last night. Enough to fill more than an entire middle row with people that she knows (many of them people I know as well, and not incidentally including me). And this is just not an unusual event around her. So, yay Kara!

And then, on top of being surrounded by awesome, there was the whole ‘crowd of people who all love this idea too’ that I’ve mentioned liking from time to time. The energy of a theater full of real fans, in a big event movie like this, is something I really dig. (Even though, sometimes, I felt a little like our row was appreciating everything on a more visceral level than the rest of the crowd. I don’t know if this is factual or just proximity to what I could hear best, and if it is true, I don’t how much to blame on the huge press section just below us in the middle.) The downside of crowds is that, even in shorts and a t-shirt, I was dying of heat by the final act. Too many people and lack of air-conditioning spells consequences, my friends. But they did sell me a milkshake, so that was pleasant.

The careful readers among you may be noticing that I haven’t said very much about the actual movie yet. There’s a good reason for this, which is that I don’t wish to set anyone’s expectations at an unfortunate level. Realize that my Iron Man experience essentially consists of the first couple of years of him in the comics, plus the first many years of his time with the Avengers, and whatever odds and ends I’ve heard about his doings in the Civil War thing that just happened, but my feeling is that the latter has no real bearing on anything for these purposes. But, with the amount of Iron Man experience I have, I’m prepared to say that this is the best Marvel movie that wasn’t Spider-Man.

Contributing factors to this claim include the awesomeness of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark, more special effects than you can shake a pointed stick at, the tastefully understated but always clear and heartfelt interactions[1] between Tony and his friends (which casts a wider net than you may initially think), the ease with which origin story and Iron Man versus a bad guy were shoehorned into the same two hours, and I’ll have to reiterate how great Robert Downey Jr. was. Even though I’m only familiar with the 1960s versions of the characters, it’s instantly apparent that at least Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were meant to grow into these two characters when adjusted for modernity. There’s no way to ask for more than pitch perfect characterization in a comic book adaptation; if you have that, the rest is guaranteed to work, says me. And this? Did.

[1] Later, you’re going to realize that this is hilarious.