Thanos, The Mad Titan, is the current big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We know that he is gathering the Infinity Stones. Their comics counterpart can be placed into ths Infinity Gauntlet and be used for complete domination of reality. It can be assumed that this is the goal of the movie version of Thanos as well. But that’s the thing…we know next to nothing about Thanos. I have already made my statements clear that I think Marvel Studios has tripped with their handling of the character. He has only made three appearances so far, his introduction in The Avengers, a small role in Guardians of the Galaxy where he was disrespected by an underling and the last in Avengers: Age of Ultron where he made a lackluster after credits appearance.
Avengers: Infinity War is due to drop in 2018 so in 2017 Marvel Studios should really build up his threat. James Gunn, the writer/director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel has said that Thanos will not be appearing in Vol. 2. He also made the same statements about its predecessor but weeks before the movie was released, it was announced Josh Brolin would be appearing in the movie as Thanos. It’s an open secret that the Guardians will be in Infinity War so something has to bring them to the conflict. Gamora and Nebula are both the daughters (kidnapped children) of Thanos and Drax has a personal vendetta against him. The Guardians also know where one of the Infinity Stones is stored at.
Thor: Ragnarok is probably the most important movie linking to Infinity War. At the end of Age of Ultron, Thor set out to figure out who was behind the gathering of the Infinity Stones. It is also widely believed that the final Stone, the Soul Stone, will play a role in the movie. Loki, currently masquerading as Odin, also has access to the Tesseract aka the Space Stone. Loki was also loaned the Mind Stone (it is still up in the air if he knew that info) in The Avengers to find the Tesseract but failed. So he might have to return a favor to be back in Thanos’ good graces.
Thanos has not been announced for any of these movies. But as with his other appearances, they can be uncredited. Since Thanos is a motion capture character, it would not require a lot to get Josh Brolin in for a day or two to do the role. But it is time to see Thanos actually do something. The most action we have deen is him sitting in his chair and putting on a gauntlet. We have seen characters refer to him as the most powerful character in the universe but that has not been conveyed. Most of his underlings including both of his daughters have outright betrayed him. Ronan the Accuser outright dissed him and yet no retaliation.
One of the biggest criticisms towards the MCU is how the villains are one note. Marvel Studios can really build up the threat of Thanos before his big opening in Avengers: Infinity War. They don’t really have to be much. Just small cameos in Guardians Vol. 2 and Ragnarok to show he is coming for what he covets and is not messing around anymore. There would be something really unfortunate if the big bad for the MCU turned out to be a dud.
The release of Doctor Strange has drawn many comparisons to the very first Iron Man film that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008. Both are about brilliant yet arrogant men who after surviving a tragic event, eventually become superheroes. It’s a bit hard to judge where the Doctor Strange is going to go as he has only had one appearance so far. Tony Stark has had many appearances and frankly I think he is probably one of the least likable characters in the MCU. So while there are many parallels between the two, I can already say that I prefer Strange over Stark.
When we first met Tony Stark, he was arrogant and a philanderer and something of a war monger. But after the events that led him being injured, captured, and losing his mentor, he seemed to mellow out by the end of the first film. The second film ultimately changed my view on the guy as he arguably became worse. He became much more of a motor mouth and would cause many of the incidents that he would have to save. This is pointed out in The Avengers by Captain America where his more negative traits from Iron Man 2 carried over. Iron Man 3 we do see a younger Stark who once again eventually caused the problems that he had in the film. Age of Ultron was really the straw the broke the camel’s back for me as he once again caused the incident that the heroes had to clean up and was frankly more condescending about it. Captain America: Civil War more or less rectified the two extremes of Stark as he was more mellow and less of a know it all but still had his huge ego.
The ego and arrogance are two of the biggest drawbacks for me to the character. How he is regarded as such a great hero in universe has always been something I’ve wondered about. Other than The Avengers, all of his conflicts have been ones that he either caused or aggravated. His treatment of Scarlet Witch in Civil War was a real point of contention for me. Telling Cap that “Wanda didn’t want to leave” her forced house arrest yet when Wanda calls him out on it he only responds, “It’s not what it seems”. There is also his general hypocrisy about registering yet he willingly drags an unregistered teenager into his pissing contest with Captain America. I think his attitude being all over the place is something intentional on the creative teams behind the films but doesn’t mean I have to like the character.
Doctor Strange from the get go we do see that he can be nice. Sure he only takes cases that interest him or won’t risk his perfect record but when called for help, he doesn’t hesitate. By the end of the film, he willingly put himself into a time loop to endlessly be killed by a more powerful enemy. It’s left unclear as to how many times that this loop happened but it was surely enough. This was a far contrast from the man we saw at the beginning of the film where everything was about him. Halfway through the film, it was implied that he had all forgotten as to why he even sought mystical training (to fix his hands) and just enjoyed his new life. But when faced with the responsibility of being a Master, he shirked at first but by the end he somberly accepted the new role in his life.
Then there is the post credits scene with Thor. Clearly taking place during Thor: Ragnarok, which will presumably be set about a year after Doctor Strange, we see the meeting between the two. It’s cordial but there is seemingly some tension there and presumably has to do with Loki being on Earth. Strange has accepted his role as a protector of the realm and thus wants Loki gone and also Thor and Odin. So we do see the snark of Strange in the scene, he is much more focused on his role. It’s not hard to see why he wants the Asgardians gone as they have caused plenty of problems for Earth.
It’s easier for me to buy a hero who takes his job seriously. I never really got that with Stark with the constant quips and snark. Though Strange does not seemingly lose his sense of humor by his next appearance, we do see he has eased more into the role. It will be interesting to see Strange and Stark meet when Thanos comes knocking on Earth’s door. You can imagine that Strange will not be in the mood for any of Stark’s shenanigans. He jokes when he needs to but during all combat situations, he is utterly focused on what he needs to do to survive and win. So that’s why I prefer Strange over Stark.
To say that Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes didn’t start off on the best foot is an understatement. The two first met when the latter was trying to kill the former in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. By the end of that movie, Bucky had gone into hiding. Sam decided to stand by his new friend, Steve Rogers/Captain America’s side and track down his best friend. After two years, the three were finally reunited and the two best friends of Steve Rogers were now in his life.
We saw in Captain America: The First Avenger, that Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes were best friends and more like brothers. Both growing up poor in Brooklyn and Bucky being there for Steve whenever he got into it with bullies. Eventually World War 2 tore them apart from one another with Steve unable to go due to his physical limitations. The war brought them back together with Steve being transformed into Captain America and their bond continued with some power shifts but still strong. Eventually Bucky fell to his “death” and Steve was frozen only to awaken decades later.
After the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers was a man out of time and without a purpose. He was willing to die for his mission in World War 2 and immediately being thrust into being a superhero and also a government enforcer. Needless to say, other than combat he had nothing else going for him. Enter: Sam Wilson. A counselor at the local VA who helped soldiers with PTSD and other psychological ailments. is clear that Steve suffers from issues. This is outright said in Avengers: Age of Ultron by Ultron and Steve’s “nightmare” where he struggles with being a soldier without something to fight.So when Steve Rogers has no one to turn to in The Winter Soldier, he turns to a complete stranger and their bond is immediate. How often can you say that you would jump from a flying aircraft with no parachute with only a slight chance that your new friend will catch you.
The big issue here is when the two encounter Bucky Barnes who is the eponymous Winter Soldier. Bucky was captured by HYDRA and experimented on. Now with a bionic arm and mind wiped, Bucky is no longer the same man. Just an efficient killing machine who is frozen when he is not needed. That all changes when he meets Steve again and his memories slowly start to come back to him. Culminating in him saving his old friend’s life before disappearing once again to sort of his memories.
Sam Wilson briefly appears in Avengers: Age of Ultron where it’s established that they have been looking for Bucky for over a year. Also that he is aware how Steve continues to duck and doge having a normal life. By the end of that movie, the two are part of the new Avengers team and that continues in Ant-Man. Finally culminating in Captain America: Civil War where the three lives are connected once again.
It’s never given too much attention to but it’s clear that Sam Wilson as The Falcon is Cap’s guy. They have their own set of team up moves together. When Peggy Carter finally dies, Sam is there with Steve at the funeral. When Steve is about to go on the run, Sam wants to know why because he is going to go on the run with him. The bond between the two is established and one of the most natural feeling of the MCU. So when they finally do corner Bucky, it is Sam and Steve. Steve always there to be more cautious around Bucky because he knows what he can do and Steve has a certain blindspot for his old friend.
They aren’t given much screen time together but the two best friends of Steve Rogers quickly have their own bond. Bucky is mostly quiet and aloof with the members of “Team Cap” but not with Sam. They bicker in the car with one another about the seating arrangement. They both silently tease/cheer Sam on after he kisses Sharon Carter. In the airport battle, they are the two paired up with one another. In fact they are the first heroes to encounter new superhero Spider-Man and while both would probably lose against the web slinger one on one, they are able to hold their own against him for longer than you would think. In fact, Bucky takes a hit from Spider-Man to protect Sam.
By the end of that movie, both men are fugitives. Bucky is in fact frozen once again until he can get the last traces of the Winter Soldier programming out of his system. Smart guess would say that there next appearance will be Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 (working title). Since both those movies will be directed by The Russo Brothers, it’s fiar to say we have not seen the last of Cap’s two best friends working together. Hopefully their bond will continue and they will lose the “vitriolic” part of “vitriolic best buds”.
Avenger: Infinity War is the title. You may be thinking how that was always the title. Well it was originally going to be a two part movie with this one coming out in 2018 and the second part coming out in 2019. While the fourth film will still be a continuation they are still being treated as two separate movies. So the second title is still a mystery at this point.
My biggest issue with this movie is a lack of clear direction. The tones of this movie are all over the place as there will be a very serious moment and then a sudden burst of comedy that mostly falls flat. Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman are certainly phoning in their performances. The villain is forgettable. The only saving grace is the relationship between Thor and Loki.
11. Iron Man 2
The sequel to the unexpected hit that was Iron Man but instead of hitting the ground running with this one, it hits the ground stumbling. The movie was rushed into production as returning director Jon Favreau wanted more time and one can tell. The film has to serve too many masters and it is the films undoing. On one hand it has to be a sequel to Iron Man which it fails with but also has to set up the concept of the Avengers which it also fails at. Tony Stark is also very unlikable in the film as he has gotten worse from his first appearance and there is little character development.
10. Iron Man 3
There is definitely nothing wrong with this film. It is certainly an improvement over Iron Man 2. However that is faint praise. It is the first film to happen post Avengers and supposedly throughout the film Tony Stark is suffering from some sort of PTSD. However, besides a few panic attacks, it is treated mostly as an afterthought and it is seemingly cured from a few words from a child. Once again the villain is lackluster as there are twists to the villain that think it’s more clever than it actually is. What is probably a bigger problem is that the film could have been wrapped up within the first 40 minutes.
This film is good but not great. It is a solid film. The film is basically a retread of the first Iron Man film which is a detriment. The main thing that elevates it though is its main character played by Paul Rudd. Rudd’s excitement of being in the movie carries over which helps cover its basic plot and once again another lackluster villain. There are interesting action scenes which come with the fact that the main character has the ability to shrink. The best thing about the movie is the potential for more as you can see where they can go with a sequel.
The first Thor film had the biggest challenge of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film at that point. It had to introduce the Asgardians who are some sort of alien gods and link them to the rest of the MCU. It is backed by a likable lead of Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor as a somewhat spoiled and ego driven prince who has to learn humility. He is backed by the Tom Hiddleston as his conniving brother Loki who has very understandable but twisted reasons for his actions. The rest of the supporting cast is all likable and there is a sense of wonder that comes with Asgard and exploring other worlds.
7. The Incredible Hulk
The redheaded stepchild of the MCU. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in this film which was the second MCU film. It has a unique tone as it is very much a ‘Fugitive’ type of film. Banner is on the run as he thinks of himself as a monster and with good reason but he is being pursued by people who are bigger monsters than he will ever be. This film would certainly rank higher as it does leave something to be desired. There are many deleted scenes which if weren’t cut would have fleshed out the movie more. It is unfortunate Norton did not continue to play the character but the show must go on.
6. Iron Man
The first film in the MCU that set the tone for the films to come. Robert Downey Jr. shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The director Jon Favreau does an impressive job with a character that was obscure and launched the character and the universes into the stratosphere. The supporting cast is also excellent. The biggest issue with the film is the sudden shift in the third act where the villain goes from subtle to complete insane with no clear plan and an underwhelming final action scene. However, the strong first two acts more than make up for the faults.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Arguably the biggest risk of the MCU. This film took a property that was even unfamiliar to most comic book fans. That is probably where the film prospers the most as it works from a blank slate, more or less. A common reoccurring issue is the villain are lackluster and Ronan the Accuser is no exception. However the stellar cast and chemistry help smooth over some of the rougher edges in the movie. It is also very subtly a very important factor in setting up the MCU mythology.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
The film that introduces Captain America to the MCU takes a step back into the past of World War 2. The main thing with this film is introducing the future leader of the Avengers and explaining as to why he will be. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers shines as he goes from a sickly underdeveloped man to the peak of human perfection but that is not what makes him special. How small beginnings helped shape a hero and though he may come from a “simpler”time, there is nothing simple about him. Special mention goes to Hugh Weaving as The Red Skull who is probably one of the only standout villains that is not named Loki.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The sequel to the first Avengers film is a solid film. The biggest thing that keeps it from being up to par with the first film is that it is more of the same. The action is better than the first but there are certain things that hamper the film. The humor in the film is very off as so many characters are filled with quips as no character really has a distinct voice. The main villain Ultron is filled with potential but comes off as all over the place and never really scary or intimidating. One of the highlights is The Vision played by Paul Bettany. There is an interesting conversation between the character and Ultron towards the end of the film that is very poignant and unexpected in a summer blockbuster.
2. The Avengers
The conclusion to the unprecedented buildup in the MCU. After five solo films; Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow come together under Nick Fury to form The Avengers. It also features the return of Loki who is the main villain but there is a bigger bad in the background with huge implications for the films following this one. What makes this film work is putting all of the characters who have never met one another and seeing how they mix and don’t mix together. The plot is thin but one thing that keeps the film going is how fun it is. Nothing will ever top the feeling of seeing all of these heroes together for the first time.
Captain America: The Winter Solider
Arguably the best movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film firmly solidifies Captain America as the focal point within the universe. Showing that a character who many consider to be a “goody two shoes” and “out of time” still has plenty to say and do within the modern era. This film has had the biggest repercussions within the MCU but even though it is an action film, it is still all about the characters. Chris Evans shines and carries the film and finds his footing as Steve Rogers. It is worthy to note that the legendary Robert Redford plays the a major role in the film which only helps to solidify that this is not just some superhero film. This is one of the true triumphs within the superhero genre.
One of the biggest issues within the Marvel Cinematic Universe are the villains. Most of the villains come across as pretty flat characters such as Malekith and Yellowjacket or inconsistent and confusing such as Ultron. At the end of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the universe will face a threat that has been there since the end of Phase 1: Thanos. Thanos is considered one of the most dangerous villains in Marvel Comics but will he be that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
At the tail end of 2016, Marvel Studios will start filming Avengers: Infinity War, which will be a two part movie with the first installment released in 2018 and the second part in 2019. These movies will officially mark the arrival of Thanos, who made his first appearance during the mid credits scene of The Avengers in 2012 and he was only glimpsed and never actually named. Sine that appearance, he has only made one small appearance in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and another cameo in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In Guardians of the Galaxy, we learn a little about his character. He is someone who cares nothing for his “daughters”who are implied to be child warriors he abducted and learn that he is after the Infinity Stones but not actually willing to do the job himself despite being referred to as one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy. In the mid credits scene of Age of Ultron, Thanos makes another cameo and donning the infamous Infinity Gauntlet and proclaiming that, “He’ll do it himself” and grinning.
The screenwriters of Infinity War mentioned how they might not have to do any work to make Thanos a credible threat. However, the opposite is true. There needs to be a lot of work done for that to come across. Loki, Ronan, Gamora and Nebula are all of the characters who have interacted with Thanos within the movies have betrayed or failed him yet he only raises his voice. His plan in The Avengers in retrospect makes no sense. Thanos is on a quest to retrieve the Infinity Stones yet he sends Loki with a staff that has the Mind Stone within it to retrieve the Tessaract, which has the Space Stone within. Why would he risk the only Stone in his possession?
It is presumed that Thanos is someone of immense power and resources. We see that he commands a vast army in the Chitauri. Ronan The Accuser, who is stated to be one of the most powerful beings in the universe visibly trembles when confronting Thanos. The only problem is that we never actually see Thanos do anything. In two of his three appearances, he’s mainly sitting in his floating chair and grinning. When he finally states that he’ll do it himself in Ultron, it is supposed to resonate but instead rings a bit hollow. At that point there had been eleven films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and he’s probably had only about two minutes worth of screen time.
Even though it is stated that he will only appear in the Infinity War two parter, it wouldn’t be unfair to presume he will appear in some movies before those. Within the Thor series, those characters are in possession of the Space Stone. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume he might make an appearance or have some sort of presence. It is stated that he also won’t appear in the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy but he was stated to not be making an appearance in the first movie for the longest time before being revealed to be in the movie months before it was released. There are also other movies that will be exploring the cosmic side and mystic of the MCU such as Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange and seeing as Thanos is a cosmic level threat, his presence can be felt.
Josh Brolin, an acclaimed actor, has been portraying the character since Guardians. He portrays the character through motion capture but there are little hints and touches that show that it is definitely Josh Brolin. He is known for playing characters that have a certain intensity to them and one can sense that in his short scene in Guardians. But there is going to have to be more to the character than just menace. In the comics, Thanos is in love with the personification of Death and thus wants to end all creation. Will this carry over into the movies? More than likely but who knows as to what extent. An actor like Brolin can certainly show a character who is one of the most feared in the galaxy and probably back it up but is doing it all for love. Only the future will tell if Thanos rises to the top of the ranks of the best villains in the MCU or the sinks to the bottom.
As of today, there is only a few more weeks to go until “Captain America: Civil War” is released into theaters. It is also the official kick off to “Phase 3”. So before the movie drops, I figured it would be best to rank my favorite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall the MCU is a solid one. I only feel that there is only one film that is so-so and two that are bad. So here is the ranking:
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” is the follow up to the smash sensation “The Avengers” from 2012. Writer/Director Joss Whedon returns to helm the feature and the six principle cast members from the first movie return as well. The biggest question going into the movie was, “Can the sequel top the first movie?” and the answer is, sort of.
The biggest step up in the sequel from its predecessor is the action. The action is miles ahead from the first movie. While the first movie took a while to really get going, this movie starts with its foot firmly on the gas. There are about four major action set pieces in the movie but in between that, there are some mild skirmishes as well. This movie never stops running which is to it credit and detriment as well. By the final set piece while exhilarating, there can be some action fatigue settling in. Not to say that it is uninteresting but it can be too much.
In the two hours and twenty minutes, the character moments can be lost in the shuffle. Captain America, Thor and Iron Man are characters who don’t really need that much time developed to them as they are the ones who have their own movies outside of The Avengers. That is not to say Captain America and Iron Man do have subtle moments hinting at future movies more specifically “Captain America: Civil War” as the foundation is laid for that movie. Thor gets the short stick here as he does get his own side plot, it is obvious that it has been chopped and thus leaves the viewer somewhat confused as to what they just witnessed. The only thing one can take away is that it is there to set up “Thor: Ragnarok”. Hawkeye, Black Widow and The Hulk are the three without their own movies and their interactions provide much of the emotional beats within the film especially Hawkeye as he provides much of the human element. Nick Fury returns but he is basically an exposition tool and appears just enough to not be considered a cameo. His role probably could have been cut entirely and given to the characters to figure out themselves.
In terms of new characters, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, are characters with an arc but barely at that. We do learn their origins and motivations but it is given the bare minimum. If one says that they could not connect with them, it would be hard to disagree. However a character with even less screentime but makes the most is The Vision. A late minute addition, The Vision is a character who makes the most out of his limited time and certainly leaves an impression. This may be due to the fact that since he was such a late addition, he was given a lot more moments to stand out in order to compensate.
When it comes to Ultron himself, he is a completely different character from his comic book version. While the comic version is emotionless, the movie version is emotional. This is definitely an interesting choice to take the character. While he certainly leaves an impression, it is really hard to get a grip on what his motivations are. Upon second viewing they make a bit more sense but they could have devoted some more screentime into this aspect.
Joss Whedon had an incredible task here. The cast of the movie is huge and there are many set pieces to juggle. This all should ultimately be a victory for him. However one can tell that there was certainly room for more. It seems that more time was used to set up future movies instead of focusing on the movie at hand. There is also his trademark humor while at times works, sometimes it can be a detriment. It can turn drift into the territory of the “Avengers Comedy Hour” as everyone always has a wisecrack to make even when it feels that either the character wouldn’t say it, during that situation or sometimes a mix of the two. However other than a new quibbles here and there, this sequel stands on par with the first one. Truly an excellent film that deserves to be watched multiple times.