The summer blockbuster season of 2017 has officially kicked off. The sequel to the surprise hit movie of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, has christened a sequel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The movie brings back James Gunn in the writer/director chair. The cast that includes; Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan reprise their roles from the first movie. The are joined by newcomers; Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff and Elizabeth Debicki. The movie takes place only a few month after the first and thus continues the main plot points set up in that.
The Guardians of the Galaxy have developed a reputation as basically mercenaries. Working for the golden species, the Sovereign to take out a threat, it should have been simple. After the job goes awry, they are rescued by Ego who just happens to be the father of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord. While this is happening, Gamora is reunited with her sister Nebula and Yondu and the Ravagers are hired by the Sovereign to hunt down the Guardians due to Yondu’s connection to Quill.
If that sounds like a lot, then you’re right. The whole motif around the two Guardians movies have been the mixtape soundtracks. While this works for the soundtrack, it does not really work well for the movie itself. There are a lot of balls in the air and the movie loses focus when doing this. It is easy to see why this was an option as it gave mostly everyone mostly something to do. This is for the most part true as every main character has their own arcs to follow before they all converge at the end.
This movie is frankly…trippy. Since it is so loosely connected to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the moment, the creative team is free to do what they want. If you have an issue with bright colors and psychedelic imagery, then this is not the movie for you. James Gunn has taken full advantage of having a movie set in outer space as no planet or sky or atmosphere is ever the same and definitely not like anything on Earth. A standout sequence is when some of the characters have to make multiple space jumps and the effects it has on a person’s body.
One of the big selling points of the first movie was the humor. Personally, I enjoyed it for what it was but I didn’t love it. This movie does the classic thing of “sequel-itis” in the case of amping up what people loved about the first movie and repeating. After awhile, it became a bit much. It bordered on if I was wondering if these characters could have a normal conversation with one another without any sort of zinger attached. It makes sense to want to capitalize on what worked in theory but when executed it becomes quite annoying after a while.
Since little time has passed since the events of the first movie, most of the characters are pretty much the same. The big difference being Drax. While he was fairly serious if something of a blowhard, here he is pure comic relief. In fact he does very little destroying despite it being in his name. Dave Bautista really nails his role. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are fine as the daughters of Thanos and they’re complex relationship. Chris Pratt on the other hand despite being the main character has the most cliche arc in the movie. Dramatic moments aren’t really his strong suit either as I rolled my eyes every time he got angry. The biggest highlight would have to be Michael Rooker as Yondu. A supporting character in the first movie, here he is a main character and has the biggest character arc.
The newcomers do well enough. Kurt Russell is well as Ego. The CG technology that Disney has been using to make actors look younger is nailed perfectly in this movie as Kurt Russell looks just like he did during this time. Ego as Peter’s dad always has an air of mystery around him and when the shoe finally drops about his character, it falls into cliche territory. Pom Klementieff as Mantis was my favorite of the newcomers with her empathetic abilities and naivety. She plays well off of Drax and plus it is nice to have someone who isn’t a killer on the team. Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha is not in the movie that much but you do get her character and her presence will continue to threaten the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Overall, the movie does succeed in what it set out to do. I cannot fault a filmmaker for making the film that they want to make. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has James Gunn’s stamp all over the movie. So on that level it succeeds. But when it comes to the humor and some of the character arcs, it does not succeed. This movie still does fall into some of the usual complaints that befall MCU movies such as the issue with the villains but a bit less so. Otherwise it’s another solid entry into the film franchise. James Gunn continues to expand the cosmic side of the Marvel and the future looks bright.
It’s well known that after the fourth Avengers movie, things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be different. Not just in universe but also in real life. Many of the stars of the movies will no longer be contractually obligated to appear in the franchise. Who knows what story will affect these characters we have come to know for almost a decade now. Just the one thing for certain is this: change. Change is coming whether we like it or not. President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige has said that he is not even sure if the Marvel Studios films will even be categorized in phases anymore.
Back to Basics
I love the MCU but even I’ll admit that things have become overblown. Almost every movie involves the world at stake. Now with the culmination of the Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet storyline, it would be the perfect time to scale things back. With the recent successes of Logan and Deadpool, it would be foolish for Marvel Studios not to take notice. Those films were done on relatively smaller budgets and told more intimate stories that yielded both critical and financial success. Showing that not all of these movies need to have climaxes with large explosions and full of computer graphics.
More Standalone Films
The nature of interconnected movies is the biggest draw of the MCU. But you can also see how it can be a double edged sword. This basically makes it that every film more or less to service the films that came before it and after. Just like the comic books that inspired them, not every story is connected with one another. Sometimes these heroes just get into their own adventures without it having to effect a future story and especially another hero’s films.
The biggest out of place moment in Ant-Man was the scene where he had to steal a certain object. Who did the object belong to? Howard Stark who is currently deceased so it now belongs to Tony Stark. Where did Tony happen to have it stored? In the Avengers’ headquarters. Who just happens to find him and fight him? The Falcon. The scene was fun but it really served no real purpose other than to set up Ant-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War. It has no real effect on the plot.
New Faces Take The Lead
Robert Downey Jr. has been the face of the MCU since the first Iron Man movie in 2008. His appearances in the franchise make him one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood. His cohorts such as Chris Evans are not that far behind him. They have effectively become too expensive especially Downey. Actors also want to do other things with their careers other than appear in these superhero movies. So now the with contracts running out after the fourth Avengers movie, it is time to phase out these older heroes in favor of new ones.
It’s no real shock that Marvel Studios started introducing new heroes such as Ant-Man at the end of Phase Two and new heroes such as Black Panther, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange at the beginning of Phase Three. There are still those upcoming such as Captain Marvel played by Brie Larson on the way. So as major and supporting heroes continually get introduced, you can see a cycle forming. Older heroes will be phased out in favor of the new ones who will eventually become the old heroes and so new ones will be introduced. This way giving the audiences something new and not exhausting them of the heroes who came before and building up anticipation.
One thing for certain about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is change. The change is coming in one way or another. Who knows what shape or form it will take? The MCU is much different now than when it sarted. Imagine how it will be in another five years. That may be scary for some but change is also necessary. I personally cannot wait to see how this film franchise/universe changes.
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.
12. Thor: The Dark World
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:
- Captain America: The Winter Solider
- The Avengers
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Iron Man
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2
- Iron Man 3
- Thor: The Dark World