What blows me away is how Marvel Studios puts it all on the screen. They don't "hold anything back for the sequel" but instead treat every movie like the last movie they will ever make.
AND THAT'S WHY THEY ARE SO SUCCESSFUL!
After basking the the majesty that's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I am making my way through all the Chadwick Boseman Black Panther appearances. The first of which wasn't in a Black Panther film... or even an Avengers film. It was in a Captain America film!
What was also in Captain America: Civil War? The first MCU appearance of Spider-Man!
Plus we get Iron Man, Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Vision, Ant-Man, and Winter Soldier! It was basically an Avengers film. Inside a Captain America film. Which is crazy. How many studios would even do that?
Other studios would drag things out so they have something for future movies... then wonder why nobody gives a crap about the watered down film they release. Marvel isn't interested in that. They put everything into the film they are making right now... then force themselves to come up with something new and amazing for the next one.
And then get incredible actors for every single part. Alfre frickin' Woodard just randomly shows up in a tiny nothing of a bit part in Civil War. But it was a critical part that put the entire movie into motion, so they HAD to get Alfre Woodard. And her few minutes of screen time works. So well. In lesser, cheaper hands, it might not have.
The wild success of Marvel movies is not a fluke or a mistake. They are designed to be successful. I remember reading somewhere that Chadwick Boseman always thought that his appearance in Civil War would be a one-off cameo before signing his deal. Given how other studios would probably do exactly that, it's no wonder that he thought this. Obviously Marvel had other plans. They're more than that.
I live in constant fear of Kevin Feige retiring as the mastermind behind these movies. The guy gets it. His successor might not. And these movies have been too good in his hands.
I wrote about Avengers: Endgame after watching it at the theater.
But when it was released on digital earlier this week, I decided to give it another look... then another look... so I could comment on it in a bit more linear fashion.
I still feel it's an amazing movie.... and even more amazing accomplishment...
Obviously there's going to be an abumndance of spoilers, so you've been warned...
The opening of the movie acts as a good recap of where we left off in Infinity War but, thankfully, isn't repetitive. Then Captain Marvel shows up, you realize that the Avengers she met in the Captain Marvel mid-credits scene ("Where's Fury?") must have sent her to find any off-planet Avengers survivors, and we're off to the races. The idea that the Earth Avengers and Space Avengers have no idea which of their teammates survived "The Snap" is pretty gutting. Especially when you get to Rocket comforting Nebula. And watching Rocket in these opening scenes just boggles my mind. You simply do not question that he's an actual character on-par with everybody else in the film. And he's a raccoon! Talk about movie magic.
Right from the start of Endgame you can tell that the entire purpose of the film is to wrap up everything which came before it. There's never-ending echos to past movies, and true fans are constantly being rewarded. This is pretty wild when you consider that Captain Marvel, easily the most powerful character in the entire film and the lynchpin for dealing with Thanos, hadn't even shot her solo movie when Endgame was being made. How everybody collaborated to make her appearance here sync up power-wise, visual-wise, and tone-wise with the Captain Marvel movie is the true marvel of Marvel Studios. There are single films which lack this kind of consistency. But here's Marvel making it look (relatively) effortless across 22 films (23 if you count Spider-Man: Far From Home).
Nowhere is Marvel's cohesiveness more visible than when Nebula is on-screen. She is a bit-part villain from a D-List comic book which has now become a central figure in the biggest super-hero team-up in cinematic history. It's so jaw-dropping amazing that I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Yes, Marvel had a master plan to use Infinity Gems as MacGuffins in all their films from very early on with the intent of somehow tying them all together in the end, but the fact that they managed to pull it all of this well? Thank you Kevin Feige.
Back to Captain Marvel... it's fairly easy to see how her off-the-charts power level is going to be challenging going forward. The current solution seems to be to have her be "off-planet and unavailable" but that's going to get really tired really fast. I mean, come on... just look at her when they're off to attack Thanos! How many problems couldn't she solve in five minutes? Sure it's cool how totally confident she is, how kick-ass she is, how powerful she is... and her glowing aura is giddy-inducing wonderful... but I'm more than a little curious to see how she's going to play out in the future of the MCU.
Killing Thanos in the first twenty minutes is pretty ballsy, but it definitely leaves you wondering where they're going to go from here if the main villain of the movie is gone. And little did we suspect...
And lo did a rat activate the Quantum Tunnel which freed Ant-Man from being trapped in The Quantum Realm! It's funny to think about how Ant-Man ends up being the key to absolutely everything, but that's how Marvel rolls. They find surprising ways to make small characters have big impact in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, they've got the ample acting chops of Paul Rudd behind the character or these scenes of "life after The Snap" would have rang hollow (ditto for Scarlett Johansson, who has a handle on somebody being haunted like nobody's business).
At the 30-minute-mark, Scott Lang shows up at Avengers Compound and the movie starts for real.
It also shows its hand.
Because the minute that I saw how much time they were devoting to Tony Stark's happy post-Snap life, I knew... knew... he was a goner. Luckily, Robert Downey Jr. gives the performance of a lifetime and totally sells it. Watching him interact with his daughter... with Pepper... with his former teammates... it's all so... beautiful?... I guess is the word I'm looking for? Tony's character arc over the past decade has totally come full-circle, and it's everything you could hope for. And speaking of story arcs...
Here we are introduced to Smart Hulk... the merging of The Hulk and Bruce Banner. It's a wonderful coda to Bruce Banner's arc through all the Marvel Studios films. Finally, at long last, Banner and Hulk are at peace and living in harmony. It's also a terrific starting point for new Hulk stories (should we be lucky enough to get them). What's even more remarkable than Smart Hulk is the absolutely mind-blowing computer graphics which brought him to life. Flawless. His every facial expression is realized to such a degree that the whole "Uncanny Valley Effect" is minimized. At no point did he take me out of the story. It's just... all Mark Ruffalo all the time.
If there's a scene which illustrates just how deftly Marvel manages to work humor into their stories, it's the time travel experiments with Scott. It's funny, but it's not just being injected at random for the sake of being funny (like the horrific Joss Whedon "humor" that was shoe-horned into DC's Justice League after the fact). Marvel's humor feels like it has purpose and is there to advance and serve the story. And that's why it succeeds. Plus we get Smart Hulk handing out tacos!
If you didn't think that Tony Stark was going to die after watching his family scenes, you definitely knew it when he handed Cap his shield back.
The reunion between Hulk and Valkyrie, completely cementing Thor: Ragnarok even further into the MCU grand narrative, is one of the rare moments in the film that had me scrambling for an explanation. In Ragnarok, Bruce didn't remember anything about his 5 years as The Grandmaster's "beloved champion." But here he does. Which means that when Banner and Hulk merged, the result has memory experience of both? That's gotta be the stuff of nightmares.
I read more than a few comments about how Thor's weight gain was just a way to make fun of heavier people. I didn't see this at all. The result of Thor's PTSD actually seemed like it was handled with great thought and care... even if there were some comments made by other characters which were pretty mean and played for laughs. What did bother me was the whole "shake it off and move on" attitude that was leveled at poor Thor. That seems deliberately cruel and unjust. After what he's been through, you'd expect a bit more empathy from his friends. On the bright side, this is yet another remarkable performance by Chris Hemsworth which has me dying to see more Thor.
Clint Barton's descent into a murdering vengeance-seeking bastard seems a bit forced but, seeing as how the guy lost his entire family, perhaps it's not such a stretch. This "Ronin" persona is kinda-sorta from the comics, but it makes even less sense in this film. Why in the hell would Hawkeye give up the bow and arrow with which he reigns supreme? Obviously the ramifications of Endgame will be explored in the Hawkeye series on Disney+, so I guess they can afford to short-change his character here... but it still seems wild how his character could change so much with so little explanation.
And here's where we get to how time travel works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I'm saving my thoughts on how it works for further down the page, but suffice to say I really like what they've done here. It makes perfect sense. Regardless, we get current Avengers going back into earlier Marvel Studios movies, and how cool is that?
And here's where the fun begins...
ANT MAN, IRON MAN, & CAPTAIN AMERICA: The "behind the scenes" of what happened after the Battle of New York was kinda cool... but hands-down the best moment was how Cap managed to secure the scepter from Hydra. Right before Robert Redford makes a guest appearance! I was even more surprised by this than I was at seeing The Ancient One! And of course this is where Loki from the past becomes the new Loki, allowing him to appear in his Disney+ series while not negating his death in Avengers: Infinity War. Clever that. Almost as clever as "America's Ass."
SMART HULK: The amount I died when Smart Hulk was "smashing" to impersonate his more rage-fueled earlier self was pretty huge. Then he goes to retrieve the Time Stone and the first of many guest-appearance bombshells is dropped... The Ancient One is back! Mainly as a way to explain how time works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Again. Which, again, I will comment on further down the page.
THOR & ROCKET: Frigga coming back to help Thor in the way only a mother can was exceedingly sweet. Finally, here's somebody not making fun of Thor for being traumatized by what he's experienced and genuinely trying to help. At least until she told him to eat a salad. We also get the tiniest of appearances by Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, which was nice. And was probably due to her coming back for Thor: Love and Thunder.
NEBULA & RHODEY: They could have easily come up with a way to remove the Power Stone without stripping the shell off of Nebula's robotic arm, but it's actually a genius move because it will be an easy visual cue for distinguishing "good" Nebula from her "bad" past-self. Out of all the teams, this is the one that gets a lot complex in a little amount of time thanks to Thanos of the time finding out what The Avengers are up to.
IRON MAN, & CAPTAIN AMERICA: Well this was an added bonus. We get guest appearances not only by 1970's hippie Stan Lee and Farrah-hair Hank Pym... but Howard Stark and Peggy Carter as well! Seeing as how Tony dies and Steve ends up retired, I suppose it's only fitting that they get to reconcile the relationships which most haunt them.
BLACK WIDOW & HAWKEYE: I realize that the only way to make victory ring true would be for some sacrifices to be made along the way... but Black Widow? Like Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, she's the glue that holds all the movies together. Unlike Nick Fury, Natasha has been pretty much shafted over the years. She exists only to forward other characters' stories without getting much of story of her own. Sure they are remedying that by finally giving her her own film, but she's forever stuck in the past now, and that's lame. She deserved a future in the MCU after how she's been there for literally everybody else, and now she ain't got one. Still, given how The Soul Stone works, I guess somebody had to die. I don't know that Hawkeye would be a better choice, so maybe this was the right choice. I certainly feel it more than if it had been Clint. But I'm still bitter about it.
I'll try to ignore the question of how The Milano (ship to The Guardians of the Galaxy) has evaporated only to appear again at the end of the film... let's just assume that Clint shrunk it again before he went forward in time. And it seems weird it is that The Infinity Gauntlet conveniently courses with gamma radiation just like The Hulk, giving him the ability to wield it... whatever. What I'd like to focus on is how Ant-Man has the ability to shrink... then grow into Giant-Man... when it was made abundantly clear that he was out of Pym particles? This gaping plot hole is ridiculously easy to see, and yet it was totally ignored. And Janet VanDyne was absolutely not wearing The Wasp suit when she was dusted (I checked) so where did she get her Pym Particles?
The final battle was pretty phenomenal, all things considered.
Even when you give a pass to Captain America being able to lift Thor's hammer. There's plenty of comic book history precedent for Steve being able to wield Mjölnir. Heck, the MCU hinted that it was possible back in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a smart way to give Captain America the ability to take on Thanos which was believable. What I don't understand is how he got to control lightning with it. As explained by Odin in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor himself is where the lightning comes from, and Mjölnir merely allows him to focus it more easily. Perhaps Mjölnir has some kind of residual lightning charge which makes this possible, but it still seems an odd thing to have happen. How does Cap even know how to make the lightning work? How does he know how to summon Mjölnir in the first place?
No other point in the movie hit more of an emotional note with me than when Cap is facing horrific odds all alone against Thanos and his entire army... than when he hears Sam say "On your left" through his earpiece. That's yet another nod to a past MCU film (Winter Soldier). It's the turning point of the entire movie, and any fan of the past decade will be cheering.
Back in Civil War when Hawkeye is facing off against Black Panther, an opponent for which he's badly outmatched, he buys time by saying "We haven't been introduced. My name is Clint." Black Panter says "I don't care." and proceeds to start pummeling his ass. During the Endgame final battle, Black Panther wants the Infinity Gauntlet and says "Clint, give it to me," at which point I got the warm fuzzies. Awwwwwww. T'Challa remembered his name! He must care a little bit after all!
Poor Wanda. She has to deliver the same line to Thanos that she gave to Ultron. Lucky for her, she's definitely got the power to back up any threat she makes, and having her battle Thanos was pretty sweet.
Spider-Man bringing back "instant-kill" from Homecoming was an LOL moment for me.
Captain Marvel gets the entrance to beat all entrances, and watching her decimate Thanos's ship all by her lonesome was pretty epic. Though not quite as epic as it would have been had we not already seen her so that in Captain Marvel. Still, having her be the only one who can truly go toe-to-toe with Thanos via brute force was more than enough.
The "Ladies of the MCU" moment may have been artificial and manufactured, but I just don't care. We've come a long way from when Black Widow was the sole female super-hero in the MCU.
And then we reach the end of the battle when Doctor Strange tells Tony that this is the moment.
I really, really, wish somebody had laughed at Thanos as his shit faded away.
Rumor has it that Tony originally had dialogue as he lay dying. Robert Downey Jr. felt it would be more powerful if there was nothing left for him to say... his actions and sacrifice speaking more than words ever could... and he's absolutely right. Watching as the beginning of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe from the very first film has his life fade away was about as powerful way to close out The first decade as we could have hoped for.
The reactions from the characters at Tony's service are interesting... as is the order which they appear. His family is first, of course. Followed by his closest friends. Followed by Captain America, who has seen many, many soldiers die in battle, and you kind of get that perspective on his face... stoic, but showing loss. Since Peter Parker is just a kid, I'm glad they had Aunt May there for him. Thor has experienced loss that nobody else here could possibly fathom, so Hemsworth gave him an unease that is perfectly fitting. Smart Hulk's more emotional response was exactly what was needed to drive home that this Hulk is very different from the early days of the character. Doctor Strange is in the unique position of knowing that he essentially sent Tony to his death, but also knows there was literally no other possible way to win this. The Ant-Man "family" had little to do with Tony Stark, so they appear a bit more detached, as they should be. The Guardians of the Galaxy have the most interesting response. All but Quill are aliens, and their perspectives on death are undoubtedly far removed from ours, which is smartly reflected. Note that Gamora is gone, her character having reverted back to a more raw state (something confirmed in the deleted scenes). Also note that Nebula gets a longer shot than most, which is apt considering how she is closest to the entire Infinity Saga and crucial to how it played out. Black Panther, Okoye, and Shuri's presence representing Wakanda is appropriately stately and reserved. Clint and his family here are a bit more affected than you'd expect... until you realize that this goodbye is more about Natasha to them than Tony Stark. Sam and Bucky, who have done nothing but fight since they met, have common ground here, leading directly into their upcoming Disney+ series, I'm sure. Wanda, likewise, is probably thinking more about losing Vision than Tony, but that too is leading into a Disney+ series. The young guy standing alone confused some people, but I recognized him immediately as Harley, the kid from Iron Man 3, and I'm glad they thought to add him here. I completely missed Maria Hill and General Ross when I saw the film in theaters, but it makes sense they're here. Captain Marvel is the one character who feels a bit out of place, yet it would be strange if she weren't here given her impact on the final battle. And then there's Nick Fury, the glue that holds the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe together saved for last. Perfect.
It was nice at the end to acknowledge that Tony wasn't the only one who sacrificed his life. Black Widow and Vision are gone as well. Though Black Widow has a movie coming up, and Vision is assumably a part of the WandaVision Disney+ series.
Valkyrie becoming queen of New Asgard is absolutely fitting, and sure to be explored in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. Having Thor rejoin the "Asguardians of the Galaxy" should have interesting consequences going forward for both these franchises.
And... here's the end-end-end of the movie. Cap heads back with the Infinity Stones to prevent new realities from ever forming, Hulk acknowledges that he misses Natasha, and Falcon is given Old Cap's shield (from an alternate reality, see below) so he can become the new Captain America. Of course Bucky is there, which is a jumping off point for the new Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ series. Neat!
After the movie debuted, fanboys immediately got their panties in a bunch because of Steve Rogers' decision to go back in time and lives a life with Peggy Carter that he would have had if he hadn't been frozen in ice for decades. "THIS CONFLICTS WITH PEGGY SAYING THAT SHE MARRYING SOMEBODY STEVE RESCUED IN THE FIRST MOVIE!" and "STEVE ERASED PEGGY'S LIFE WITH HER HUSBAND AND KIDS! WHAT AN ASSHOLE!" Except... he didn't. As the movie went into meticulous detail explaining, that's not what happens with time travel disruptions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As explained by Hulk and Nebula to Ant-Man and Rhodey before they experiment on Clint... any change to the past creates an alternate reality...
This was such an important point for the story that they had The Ancient One re-explain it to The Hulk. The writers literally provided visuals to make it crystal clear...
Which is why I go crazy every time I hear a new diatribe on Captain America's time travel being a plot-hole. Let's break this down one more time, shall we? If you go to the past, the future becomes your past, so the future can't be changed. So when you change something in the past (like take an Infinity Stone), a new reality is created where that Infinity Stone has disappeared from existence. In order to fix this, Captain America went back in time and returned the stones to a point before any changes would create a new reality. Namely, he returned them to immediately after they were taken in the first place. This closed the loop and the new reality which was created then fades away because it never existed...
It's an incredibly simple concept.
And it applies to Steve Rogers' journey back in time as well.
At the end of Endgame, Steve returns the Infinity Stones and all the new realities created by their removal no longer exist. He then goes back in time to the late 40's or early 50's... before Peggy Carter got married and had kids... to live out his life with her. As clearly stated, this change creates a new reality where Steve is the one who marries Peggy. His original reality... the reality of all the Marvel Studios movies... where Peggy got married to some other guy, had kids, got dementia, then died... still exists because, to Steve, it's the past. And after Peggy died and Steve was ready to return to his original reality, he traveled back into the past BEFORE the new reality was created... then traveled into the future of the original reality as an old man (which is what we see at the end of the movie)...
So does this mean that other reality where he married Peggy was erased? NO! because now that is in Steve's past! That reality is still there too. An alternate reality which may or may not be revisited in future Marvel films.
It all makes perfect sense, and everything works exactly as it was spelled out in the movie. If there's a plot-hole here, it's that the objects which the stones were encased were forgotten...
I love that YouTube Channel. And, no, I have no clue as to what happened in the new reality which was created when Loki escaped with the Space Stone. Perhaps that will be addressed in his Disney+ series? Because unless he crosses back over into the primary reality, that's where he is now. Our Loki is still dead. I guess I'll just ignore it all until we actually get the series.
WHERE DID OLD CAP'S SHIELD COME FROM?!? If he brought it from the new reality he created when he went back to be with Peggy... if he found his other-dimensional-self in the ice there, then dug up the shield, but left himself frozen... does that Captain America not get a shield when he is rescued from the ice in the future? Or maybe Old Cap waits until New Reality Cap wakes up, then asks himself for the shield so he can take it back to his original reality, leaving New Reality Cap with nothing? Or did he go to New Reality Wakanda and convince them to make him a second shield so he had one to take back with him? That would have been interesting to see. Or... best theory... New Reality Captain America dies, and Old Cap retrieves the shield? Who the heck know? Regardless, it's incredibly lame that this gaping plot hole was left dangling. One can only hope that the New Reality Steve created will be revisited in future MCU films so we can have an answer... or ten.
Given the nature of comic books, there's nothing to say that Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff can't return in future movies, even though somebody new will undoubtedly be taking up their super-hero mantles (ala Sam becoming Captain America). They could come back in dream sequences... flashbacks... resurrections... alternate reality versions... whatever. Black Widow's movie takes place entirely in the past, so that's yet another way to have them come back. Though, to be honest, it's probably more powerful if their characters aren't brought back. That kinda cheapens their sacrifice and will diminish their legacies.
So... good flick. Impossible flick given the complexities of juggling so many Marvel Studios franchises, a decade of history, and dealing with the astronomically high expectations of Marvel fans. For the most part, it feels like they succeeded. I certainly had no complaints walking out of the movie theater... or turning off my AppleTV.
As for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, if Spider-Man: Far From Home is any indication, it's going to be just fine. Hopefully Kevin Feige will find a way to pull another rabbit out of the battered old hat with weak series like The Eternals and Shang-Chi in the pipeline. Hey, he sure managed it with Guardians of the Galaxy!
Here's hoping the next decade is even half as exciting as the first.
Today I headed over to Seattle to see Erasure with my long-time internet friends Matt and Scott. It was my third time seeing the band, and Andy and Vince were amazing as ever.
If I had a complaint, it was The Moore Theater Seattle has no air conditioning. I was in the front row and had (relatively) few people next to me and I was dying. Poor Andy Bell was dancing and singing his guts out and I thought he was literally going to die. But he was a total trooper...
The set list was as follows...
They skipped tracks from Erasure (their seventh album), Cowboy (their eighth, and probably my favorite, album), Loveboat (their ninth album), Other People's Songs (their tenth album), Union Street (their twelfth album), Light at the End of the World (their thirteenth album), Tomorrow's World (their fourteenth album), Snow Globe (their fifteenth... a Christmas album), and The Violet Flame (their sixteenth album).
Songs I would have liked to have heard? Heavenly Action, Weight of the World, just about anything from Cowboy plus Don't Say You Love Me, and I Broke It All in Two.
Not that I can really complain though... nineteen awesome songs was above and beyond!
If you ever have a chance to see them live, Erasure is worth the ticket of admission.
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 13: Captain America: Civil War
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
Holy crap... what if Robert Downey Jr. had said no? What would this movie have been then? Chris Evans has made no secret of the fact that he never really wanted to sign on for Captain America because he had his fill of super-hero movies with the two awful Fantastic Four flicks. But he was talked into it, and signed a contract for a set number of appearances as Cap. And that was smart. Get the big money while he could, then move on to the directing career he wanted which would pay a lot less. He later extended his contract to include Avengers 4 when Avengers: Infinity War was split, but it's assumed that's the end of it. What's so cool is that Evans is such a stand-up guy that he agreed to cameo appearances in Thor: The Dark World and Spider-Man: Homecoming outside of his contract. Marvel Studios, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make the most of the original Captain America while they had him, and essentially created another Avengers movie instead of a Cap solo film. Taking the general idea from the comic book event of the same name, Civil War was a way to tear everything apart before bringing it back together again. And they pulled out all the stops doing it. In addition to getting the first appearances of Spider-Man and Black Panther, we also get Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Black Widow, The Falcon, Agent 13, Ant-Man, War Machine, Hawkeye, The Vision, and Scarlet Witch. When you consider that this could have easily been a movie with Cap as its only hero battling some random villain, that's beyond incredible. It was, of course, just a warm-up. I don't know that this was a better film than Winter Soldier, but it was a comic book fan's ultimate dream movie at the time. It was certainly mine. Kinda still is.
SCENE TO BEAT: Wow does Marvel Studios have the whole de-aging thing down! Seeing young Robert Downey Jr. at the front-end of the film was so cool. And it wasn't just for kicks... it actually had real relevance to the story being told. But, of course, the scene to beat would have to be the airport battle. Finally. Finally! After spending most my life waiting for a live-action super-hero battle that wasn't a pile of shit (I'm looking at you, X-Men 3) we got it. It didn't hurt that Spider-Man and Black Panther were in the mix, and absolutely everybody was used to their full potential. Including... Giant Man!
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Wanda accidentally blew up part of a building when she levitated an exploding Crossbones who was in the middle of exploding. Sure some people got killed because of her inexperience. But the alternative was a lot more people on the ground getting wiped out? Including Captain America? I don't get how that pertinent fact was never raised in the entirety of the film. It bothers me because it's the whole turning point for The Accords being enacted, and it doesn't really make much sense.
SIDENOTE: Still hilarious to see Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in a movie together again (I'm a big fan of Only You). Red Wing, which was a real-live falcon pal to The Falcon in the comics was made a drone in the movies. Once again we have Marvel being faithful to the source material... just updating it in a way that makes perfect sense! The Incredible Hulk is a movie largely ignored from the Marvel Studios canon, even though it was firmly established to be a part of it. And every once in a while, they drag out General Thunderbolt Ross to remind people of that. This actually makes me happy, because though Mark Ruffalo is better-suited to the role, the hulk movie was not a bad film at all. I expected that there would be a good reason for Thor and The Hulk being left out of Civil War, I just didn't expect it to be as good a reason as we were handed in Thor: Ragnarok. Once again, Marvel Studios knows exactly what they are doing.
Oh look... it's International Cat Day! As well it should be. I love my cats more than just about anything, so they should have their own day.
My cats decided to celebrate their holiday by eating and sleeping. Though they also decided to walk all over my kitchen counters, which means I have to scrub everything down now. Fun...
Oh... and they also put a nice big scratch in my coffee table. Fun...
The fact that I didn't strangle them today should perfectly illustrate why every day is International Cat Day around my house.
Well, not my house, really. I just pay for everything... I'm pretty sure it's their house.
Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 7: Iron Man 3
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A
Being the one to helm the film which followed The Avengers must have been a daunting task. In their infinite wisdom Marvel decided to hire Shane Black to write and direct. This was an interesting move but not an altogether bad fit. As writer of the Lethal Weapon movies and the genius that was The Long Kiss Goodnight, he knows how to create an action beat. Many of Black's decisions were questionable. Retooling Iron Man's long-time villain, The Mandarin, as a Ben-Kingsley-enabled decoy for Aldrich Killian from AIM was a bit weak. The modular armor was fun, but was handled poorly (if the parts were 832 miles from Miami, how did they arrive in 10 minutes?)... not to mention that the suit, which has always been powered by the ARC reactor in Tony's chest, suddenly needs to be recharged with electricity? The whole Extremis angle was lifted from a famous reboot arc from the comics, but used entirely differently... not necessarily in a bad way, though it was certainly a step down. And yet... this was a highly entertaining film with fantastic special effects and an awesome finale (Iron Legion!) that makes for good repeat viewing. I love the movie almost as much as the original, though it kind of falls short in the grand scheme of things these five years later so it gets dropped a half-grade.
SCENE TO BEAT: I usually hate whiny child actors ruining films that aren't about children, but Ty Simpkins (who plays Harley Keener) is fantastic. IMDB says he's making a Marvel Cinematic Universe return with The Avengers 4 which is kinda cool. Anyway, despite some great action sequences, all the scenes between Tony and Harley are my favorite. With the possible exception of when Tony chops Killian's arm off and says "Yeah, you take a minute." I LOL every time.
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Other than the villain being able to magically take over television sets, a trope I absolutely loathe? And the Oracle product placement that's not at all subtle? There are times that seemed as though Tony's dialogue was too scattered and improvised. It didn't come off as natural, and it felt as if Shane Black wasn't sure how to handle it.
SIDENOTE: Probably the last Iron Man movie with Robert Downey Jr. which is a darn shame. Seeing hom pop up in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming (not to mention Avengers: Infinity War) is better than nothing, but boy would I like to see another solo Iron Man flick.
This morning I grabbed my phone and delayed Alexa's breakfast alarm because Jake was industriously cleaning his butt, and the last thing I wanted to do was interrupt that. Every once in a while he lets his butt-grooming go, so if he's paying that much attention to things I figure he must need it.
The Alexa alarms I have set for breakfast and dinner are always a great source of amusement. And a smart move on my part, because my cats have been trained to not bother me for food until they hear the alarm. When it gets close to 7:00am/6:00pm, Jake and Jenny will assemble and wait. Then they go nuts when the alarm goes off. I've recorded it these past couple mornings...
And now? My turn for breakfast.
Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 3: Iron Man 2
Original Grade: A- • Today's Grade: A-
I have never understood why this movie was so poorly received. Yeah, the story had some problems. Yeah, there were scenes that didn't hang together right. But it was still an enjoyable outing. The acting and visual effects were great. Sam Rockwell was perfect. And Mickey Rourke was not nearly the problem that critics made him to be. On top of all that? The debut of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow! I enjoyed the film then. I enjoyed watching it again now. And the credits scene with Thor's hammer in the dessert still gives me chills.
SCENE TO BEAT: The opening where Iron Man jumps out of a plane and lands on the Stark Expo stage only to be robotically disassembled to reveal Tony Stark... being Tony Stark, courtesy of Robert Downey Jr. firing on all cylinders. The Iron Man dancers are just a bonus. A close second? Black Widow mowing through a bunch of security guards at Hammer Tech. Amazing.
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Whiplash is just another guy in a suit, following Iron Monger in the last movie... a different guy in a suit. It's a missed opportunity trap that so many Marvel Studios movies would fall into.
SIDENOTE: One of the most famous Iron Man comic book arcs was the Demon in a Bottle storyline where Iron Man became an alcoholic. That they did a quick nod to it in this film at Tony's party was an interesting choice. I think it was a mistake, but... better a quick nod than an entire movie dedicated to alcoholic Iron Man.
When it comes to cats, I truly lucked out. Jake and Jenny are wonderful animals and rarely give me any trouble. They don't chew on my stuff. They don't scratch anything they're not supposed to. They rarely puke. They leave me alone when I sleep. They're affectionate but not too clingy. They don't meow constantly. They're just the greatest most perfect cats.
99.9% of the time.
Every once in a while though...
I've been bitten three times.
When I first got my cats, they came with hospital collars from having been fixed. My cats were absolutely terrified of me, so I couldn't get close enough to cut them off...
Calm Before the Storm.
After a few days, Jake would be distracted enough while eating that I was easily able to cut his off. Jenny though? Not on your life. And it was scaring me. They spent a lot of time hiding under stuff, and I was worried the collar would get caught and she'd hurt herself. Finally I managed to grab her and cut it... except she was not having it. She clawed my arm so badly I still have marks. And she bit my nose repeatedly, resulting in blood gushing down my face. Not fun for me... and Jenny hid under the couch for two days.
The second time I got bit was when Jake escaped from the catio. Eventually he made his way back to the door, but he wouldn't come inside. So I grabbed him...
Jake, who is usually a very mellow cat, went full-on psychotic. He was a Tasmanian devil of fury... biting my arm and clawing at my abdomen so deep that I thought my guts were going to spill out Hannibal Lecter style.
And the latest time I got bit? TODAY.
With the heat we've been having, my cats have been shedding their fur constantly. It's so bad that I've been brushing them with The Furminator every day. Jenny loves it. She rolls around while getting brushed and purrs like a diesel truck. Jake, however, merely tolerates it. Most times he doesn't mind so much, but there are other times you can tell he's annoyed. He'll "fake bite" me a couple times, but that's as far as it goes. Today was no different. He was irritated, he pretended to bite me a few times, I ignored him as I always do... and then he lashed out. With a real bite. It wasn't all that painful, but it was shocking.
Lesson learned. From now on when Jake acts perturbed while being brushed, I'll wait for one "fake bite" and then stop brushing.
Because I like having the greatest most perfect cats.
As I mentioned yesterday, watching the "Director's Roundtable" extra from the Avengers: Infinity War digital home video release made me want to watch all the Marvel Studios movies all over again. And so I am. Starting today...
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 1: Iron Man
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
At the time it was released, it was impossible to comprehend just how revolutionary Iron Man would be, nor what it would lead to. In retrospect, it should not be as surprising as it is. All the elements were there. Robert Downey Jr. inhabiting Tony Stark in a way that was beyond flawless... painstaking faithfulness to the source material... exceedingly good special effects... a story that was highly entertaining, laced with humor, and had no wasted moments... and... did I mention Robert Downey Jr. being beyond flawless? As impressed as I was with this film back in 2008, I am doubly impressed today because it holds up so damn well. It was the perfect beginning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I love it as much now as I did then. Of particular note is the raw mechanical nature of the suit, which literally had to be bolted around Tony. This was incredibly cool to see and, though the process was streamlined with each new appearance, it always maintained its awesome brute-force physically mechanical nature. Until Infinity War where the suit was "nanite enabled" which completely ruins what makes Iron Man be Iron Man. Bummer.
SCENE TO BEAT: So many. But when Tony first dons the finished Iron Man armor and takes out all the bad guys in Afghanistan... it's movie magic. And when he returns home and Pepper catches him doing "not the worst things she's caught him doing?"... it's LOL funny too.
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: While Jeff Bridges makes the perfect Obadiah Stane, I question why the villain always has to be a slightly more powerful duplicate of the hero in these films. Iron Man vs. Iron Monger? Sure. But it set a lame precident for too many Marvel Studios films which followed. So much so that they're only just now breaking free of of that trap.
SIDENOTE: Nick Fury showing up in the post-credits scene to discuss "The Avengers Initiative" is the icing on a very delicious cake. When I saw this movie in the theater, I was leaving during the credits when some guy started shouting to everybody "DON'T GO! THERE'S MORE AFTER THE CREDITS!" and so I stayed. I was already thrilled with the film. After that scene I was downright giddy leaving the theater.
You would think that when you pay for a movie in iTunes that the poster art would remain the same as when you bought it. But that's not the case. A while back Marvel started changing all the artwork in their store, which ended up changing the artwork on all the movies I bought.
And it all sucks.
Not that I'd be thrilled if it were better than the originals... I want the art that I recognize so I can recognize the movies I own. I want what I originally purchased.
Take for example the poster for Guardians of the Galaxy...
They hacked up pieces of the original poster, rearranged them, then slapped them on a boring-ass background. It looks worse than shitty, because there's no composition or context. Can you tell what in the hell Star-Lord is doing? Holding on to a handle? Who the hell knows?
The sequel poster is even worse. The cool and colorful art with all kinds of cool movie imagery in the background. It's been replaced with something so boring as to be sedate by comparison...
Thor: The Dark World is especially horrific in that he no longer looks like the god of thunder, but somebody in a red cape and bad hair...
Since most Marvel movies take place in New York City, Ant-Man was a breath of fresh air since it switched it up to the West Coast and San Francisco. To be sure there was no mistaking this, they put it right there on the poster...
When they remade it, they simply stripped away all the cool supporting elements and slapped some ugly-ass faux-metallic effect. Lame.
Group films like Avengers have posters that are carefully crafted to show the dynamic of the team. But now all we get is a grotesque cut-and-paste hack-job that has no interplay between characters and no dynamic. Somebody with a box of Colorforms could do the same damn thing... and probably better, since people wouldn't have their legs cut off and be suspended in air...
Another great example of this... Captain America: Civil War. What was the most incredible part of the film? The fact that there was a massive battle which pits hero against hero. But the new poster rips this away, completely confusing the story. For all we know from looking at the shitty art, this is a Captain America and Iron Man buddy picture. Or an Iron Man movie with a guest-spot by Cap, since the figures have been reversed and Stark is in the #1 spot...
Doctor Strange is a mind-bending film which introduces magic and other dimensional planes to the Marvel Universe. But now? Some guy in a red cape with a tall collar? Shitty. Utterly shitty...
I think my most hated poster remake is for Iron Man 3...
The original poster was SO cool. Foreboding atmosphere, Tony's house exploding, and The Iron Legion are all there... along with a ravaged but determined Iron Man. But the remake? You can barely even tell that's Iron Man. Looks like the cover to some kind of Harlequin Romance or a shitty, low-budget crapfest. And can somebody please explain why the characters are fading into a star-field?
I understand the thinking in redoing the posters. They are trying to create something that will be easily understood at the smaller thumbnail sizes that you'll find in iTunes or other movie streaming services. But when they come up with something this shitty, does it really matter if you more easily understand them? If anything, I'd argue that the original posters are more distinct and interesting... even if you can't fully tell what's going on when reduced to tiny sizes.
At the very least, they could leave it up to the buyer which poster to display in their iTunes library.
Because the new crop is more than just ugly and boring... they're offensively bad design.
And lo, Marvel Studios absolutely wasn't kidding when they taunted that Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of the past ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is not idle hype. Though Comic Book Reality being what it is, you have to wonder just how much of what happens in this truly epic film will have lasting effects on where we are going forward.
Something tells me not all of it is going to all be washed away. What ends up sticking is anybody's guess.
Except not really...
If you've ever read comics before... if you've ever been left hanging in the middle of a two-part comic book story before... then there's nothing much in Infinity War that could be all that shocking to you. Likewise, anticipating the thrust of the story in next year's still-untitled-conclusion-movie also doesn't take much effort.
Infinity War actually did redefine the word "epic" when it comes to super-hero movies... or movies in general, really.
Obviously, my thoughts on the film are going into a spoiler-laden extended entry, which you absolutely do not want to read if you haven't seen Avengers: Infinity War yet.
You've been warned.
And also... another warning? Skip any trailers you haven't watched yet. One pretty major spoiler was dropped in one of the trailers I saw, and I'm still pretty raw about it.
And now? This is your last chance. Do not proceed unless having a movie ruined is something you enjoy.
Spoilers await in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
As a huge, huge, massively huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, you would think that I'd have seen Captain America: Civil War on opening day. And heaven only knows I wanted to so as to avoid spoilers that plague the internet... but work got in the way. Today I had to run an errand for work, and decided to see the film on the way back home.
And it. Was. Spectacular...
I'm putting my full comment in an extended entry so people who haven't seen it yet can do so... but, suffice to say, it's absolutely everything you want in a comic book movie. Go see it immediately.
For everybody else? Continue at your own risk...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
My brain is melting.
Marvel continues to blow past my expectations with each new film.
Cannot wait for this.