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Marvel Phase 2 Thoughts
Posted: Posted April 5th by Laxan
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Hey, everyone. I'm back with my thoughts on the MCU's Phase 2 of films. I can safely say I enjoyed this phase more, so that's an improvement to me! I'll just list each one off and share my brief thoughts. Please no spoilers past Guardians 2!

Iron Man 3: This was easily my favorite Iron Man film. Actual character growth, a villain that had motive you could believe, and Tony dealing with PTSD was very interesting to me. I really liked this movie! But Gwyneth Paltrow is insane.

Thor The Dark World: This movie blew. Very forgettable and a major disappointment after the first Thor film. What a waste of Natalie Portman's character. The villain sucked. I couldn't remember if it was even that funny.

Captain America The Winter Soldier: This was pretty good! Not as good as I had heard, but it was better than the first Captain America film. I liked that it asked wurstipns about freedom and security. Kind of dissapointed there wasn't much explored about Peggy and Steve, so I guess Bucky will have to do.

Guardians of the Galaxy: This was a funny movie! I liked the characters and the humor quite a bit. I also enjoyed that it progressed the overall plot with Thanos and the Infinity Stones. The soundtrack was unique for a Marvel film. Just an overall good movie.

Avengers Age of Ultron: This movie was....

A lot better than the first Avengers! While I have some gripes with it, such as the pacing making the movie feel longer than it is, I still felt this sequel handled its story and characters a lot better. Ultron was funny and I enjoyed him as a villain overall. I didn't care for Quicksilver, though. Fox kind of knocked it out of the park in Days of Future Past.

Ant Man: I liked this movie. It was good but not great. I thought the drama between the daughter and father felt forced, though. I liked that Ant Man actually controlled ants! Here I thought he was only going to shrink and get big. Overall, decent flick.

And that's my thoughts so far. I think good but not great would describe Phase 2. Looking forward to Phase 3! (At this time, we've watched Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spiderman Homecoming. I'll tell you my thoughts on those later!)

There are 7 Replies

phase 3 is the best

Posted April 6th by poptart!
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Re: Iron Man 3
and Tony dealing with PTSD was very interesting to me.

It was an interesting idea that was so horribly mangled in the end that it's honestly more annoying than anything. No joke, they literally drop the entire "dealing with PTSD" thing by the end of the second act. It doesn't even come up once in the finale. Also, he literally just...magically gets over PTSD because a child told him to build something and he just remembered he's Iron Man, so POOF! There goes the PTSD. I'm honestly of the mind set that if you're going to introduce something like that into the film, at least pretend to give a shit about handling it well.

(I'm on the record of hating Iron Man 3, but I do think the first two acts are really, really good. But everything in the third is awful and ruins the entire thing. Almost every single element is just destroyed by the end that every time I watch it, I wonder what the point of watching the movie even is. Double so now that we also see that his "growth" literally isn't a thing. But I'm not as critical about that aspect since we're talking superhero movies. "Growth" doesn't really happen in the comics either.)

RE: Winter Soldier
I liked that it asked wurstipns about freedom and security.

Does it, though? Everyone's been saying that since the movie came out, but what questions does it really ask? Two characters with a difference of opinion on a topic within the movie doesn't mean the movie is itself asking questions about those themes. They literally have an argument that lasts not even five full minutes, and then the rest of the film turns into an action spy thriller in which it's revealed that it's not actually the government or even the invasion of privacy that's the problem; it's that mystical Nazis that infiltrated it that was the problem. Or more, we don't really ever get to see Cap sitting with the question. He and Fury argue about it, and then just a few scenes later, Fury is taken out and Cap is on his own. So they might "ask questions," but we don't actually get to see those questions matter to our central characters. And then by the end, we're ultimately meant to think that the problem is with the institutions, but not the individuals who run them, as if they are somehow separate.

I don't think the film is a bad superhero flick, but I think tales of its "depth" are dramatically over-stated. Mostly, my biggest issue with Winter Soldier is its structure. It's this big espionage thriller, which is super rad! Except...they *literally* reveal all the secrets halfway through the film. And not just to the audience. Literally, the entire middle of the film is just scene after scene of the movie revealing the twists to the audience, and then the characters.

Plus, if you're going to name the movie after the Winter Soldier, and the emotional beat of the film is supposed to be the connection to the titular characters in Winter Solider and Captain America, it kinda feels like the focus should have been on that, not some cheesy, hyper-simplistic conspiracy plot that doesn't matter to any of our characters besides Nick Fury. Every time I watch this one, I get a little more disappointed because of how safe they play it, and how paint-by-numbers it truly is. Yet there are hints of something truly great there on the surface! I don't hate it, and the action of Captain America movies remains among the best, in my opinion. This would have been the perfect film to break away from the source material. (The "Bucky was brainwashed by the Soviets" thing of the comics was never all that interesting to begin with. It was just a plot contrivance to bring the character back. Sometimes, you can update the character or give them more actual resonance because literally the source material didn't care to do it.)

I like the movie (I know it never sounds like I like Marvel movies), but this is easily the most over-rated one, in my opinion.

Re: Age of Ultron
A lot better than the first Avengers! While I have some gripes with it, such as the pacing making the movie feel longer than it is, I still felt this sequel handled its story and characters a lot better. Ultron was funny and I enjoyed him as a villain overall.

I agree! Well, mostly. The main problems with the film is in how much it interrupts itself to set up Infinity War. Sort of. But overall, I thought the film was more enjoyable, more meaningful, and developed the characters better than the first. Which is kind of impressive when you remember there are more characters in this one. And I definitely agree that Ultron is a better villain than Loki in Avengers (note the connotation: I'm specifically speaking about his time as villain in the Avengers).

I do think part of the problem, though, is there's a lot of re-hashing. Like, if Age of Ultron was the first Avengers movie, and then the second one involved Thanos trying to send Loki to steal an infinity stone or whatever, I think people would feel Age of Ultron was better. A lot of what it did, we already saw Joss Whedon do in the first film.

Guardians of the Galaxy: This was a funny movie!

Agreed. I'm admittedly more into the weird cosmic stuff in comics anyway (or the smaller, B or C list characters), so this was great to see! I definitely recommend Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's run on the comic if you enjoyed the movies. They pull a lot from that run here. But this was also the first time it really felt like Marvel might start letting filmmakers inject a little more style. Kinda going into the early days of Phase II, there are a number of projects that saw exciting directors and writers leaving projects over "creative differences." I think it's pretty safe to say that Guardians of the Galaxy never would have happened if they kept with the kinda stylistically sanitized and "grounded" feel of Phase I. (They're all "sanitized" narratively and thematically, so it's nice to get visual or audio style put in!) And obviously, it was successful! Who knew people wanted to see some weird shit and some colors in their superhero flicks, huh?

Re: Ant-Man:

Ant Man: I liked this movie. It was good but not great.

This is another disappointing movie to me even though it's among my favorites, primarily because it could have been an Edgar Wright film. (He was one of those directors that was working on the project for so long before "creative differences" forced him off it. You can definitely tell which sequences are leftovers from his script, though. It's kinda interesting to watch it through that lens.) What I really kinda appreciated was that the film felt smaller, and obviously for the reasons of being Ant-Man. It was just nice to see one of these things not centered around a larger-than-life character. And it was genuinely funny! I think it's structured more like a traditional action/comedy more than anything prior.

A lot of people say that it feels like a Phase I film and so it disrupts Phase II, or feels like a distraction. That kinda just makes me sad that we need to have these things "move the overarching plot" in order to care about them, which is just a sad way to make cinema, in my opinion. But also, it's a *lot* weirder than anything you'd find in Phase I. It's "grounded" in the sense that it's about a regular human. There's literally nothing all that special about Scott Lang. Even his one skill, burglary, isn't all that great since he can't even do it without being allowed to by Hank Pym! He's not a billionaire, or a genius, or a god, or the embodiment of courage and honor. He's literally just a guy. Plus, visually and stylistically, it's so different than Phase I films that it really does belong in the later films. This argument always confuses me because I think people just think "origin story" and say, "That's Phase I."

I can't remember what happened with Thor: The Dark Thor. What was so strange when I re-watched it last year was that I actually think it's one of the most interesting and beautifully shot films in the entire repertoire! It just...doesn't mean much because everything else is so thin. But if memory serves, this was the film that suffered the most from a strained production cycle. There were a few people that came in and left the project. And clearly, it wound up being forced. I still had a good time watching it, even if giving the comic relief sidekick a comic relief sidekick was sort of Marvel quippiness overkill. But it has its moments. (I still put it at the bottom, though.)

Posted April 6th by Jet Presto
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Re: Winter Soldier:

Regardless of how you feel about the film, it does lightly ask questions about freedom and security. Even if it is only surface level, the questions are still there and getting heated over a Disney super hero flick not having the balls to go deeper with those questions is kind of like expecting a corporation to actually care about its employees or customers. It's not going to happen.

Not that I ever wrote it was a great film. It probably is overrated. I just thought it was good, not great.

Edited April 7th by Laxan
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Ok. So, I'm not sure why being critical of a film that is trying to be a film constitutes "getting heated." You can't praise filmmakers for introducing an element to the film and then shrug off criticisms of how that element was actually handled, ya know? They're the same coin. If your take is that it's unreasonable to expect a Disney film to tackle a theme in a meaningful way, then why do people feel so fine with praising Disney for hinting at an interesting theme? Why do they get credit for vaguely putting it in the film, but not criticism for not actually bothering to explore it in a meaningful way?

As I said, I enjoyed The Winter Soldier, and I see why it often gets heralded as among the best. It's one of the more fun in the bunch from an action perspective. Just...what questions does it actually ask about freedom versus security? People have been saying that it does that since it released, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it even asks or vaguely tries to say about that theme. It "reflects" a real life issue in that there is a character who is worried about the increasing police state that tries to pre-emptively stop crime, and another who thinks that's the point of such an organization. But what is it asking? What is it saying? Is it suggesting that that kind of organization is innately dangerous? Is it critical of the individuals who built said organization? Or just the organization itself? Does the film itself have an opinion on the matter?

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that even a Disney film to be about something if they start to make it seem like they're going to be about something. They've made plenty of films that go deeper. They do that multiple times even within the Marvel franchise! It's just the Russo's that don't. It's the Russo brothers who introduce interesting themes, but don't bother to do the leg work. That's on the filmmakers, not Disney.

Posted April 7th by Jet Presto
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Also, I feel like it's worth stressing that my major criticisms of the Winter Soldier - the bigger stretch of my write-up on it - had to do with the lack of significance of the sub-titular character and in the film's structure, in which all of the mysteries are spelled out for both the viewer and the characters. That, to me, is always the weakness of the film overall. I don't really expect much from Marvel movies when it comes to their final acts, but this was especially bad because the film was at its best as this spy thriller flick. But it stops being that halfway through the film.

I don't even really criticize the film generally for its lack of handling "freedom versus security" themes, because it's so absent from the film generally that I only ever bring it up in response to other people saying it.

Posted April 7th by Jet Presto
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I think another part about AGE OF ULTRON that I kinda prefer is that most of the drama is of the Avengers' own doing. Like, they have agency in the conflict, not just the resolution. Was just thinking about that today, about the reason I sort of prefer AGE OF ULTRON (and CIVIL WAR) as Avengers films is that it's drama they had a hand in. They were the cause of Ultron, and their inter-personal dramas played a role in making things worse. In Civil War, those choices, including new ones in response, caused a rift and things to get worse, too. Meanwhile, with Avengers, and then Infinity War/End Game, they're just First Responders, basically. They have nothing to do with Thanos (and honestly, none of the Earth heroes have any connection to that thread anyway, which is why I'm never sure what people mean when they say Marvel Studios was "building" to that - only Guardians connects in any real way that constitutes story-telling and narrative-building.)

Posted April 8th by Jet Presto
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I don’t know what the various Phases of the Marvel universe films are.
I probably couldn’t even list the MCU films.

Posted April 19th by chiarizio
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