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The Road to Endgame
April 23, 2019
Over this Spring Break I took the time to prepare for Endgame by watching all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, looking back on each phase and seeing how they stack up today. I will be giving quick reviews of the movies and posting the ranks and the end of each chapter. Each phase will be reviewed this week with the Endgame review being next Monday. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Fair warning: There will be spoilers!
MCU Phase One Movies
I have to preface this by saying the Iron Man movies are some of my favorites. It is not only because of the clever writing, the character building, or the set pieces, but for what Robert Downey Jr. did for himself and for Marvel as a whole. Downey was at a low point in his career when Marvel took the risk of casting him in a major role in a universe-building movie, and he killed it. He commanded the role, fitting Tony Stark’s smart, impulsive, and arrogant attitude perfectly. I believe without Robert Downey Jr.’s role, there is no MCU.
He is not the only good actor, though: Gwyneth Paltrow plays off Downey well as Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane is an underrated villain in the MCU.
The plot grips you with the capture of Stark and the butting of heads we see as Tony Stark tries to fill his father’s role in the company he inherited. The comedy is not just cheap laughs or side gags; there is an inherent wit to them, and I love it.
Finally, it had exposition and universe building that wove so seamlessly into the main plot that it felt natural. The initial surprise introduction of Nick Fury was a great addition as well.
The Incredible Hulk
I feel bad about this movie, as it had the pieces and parts to be much better, but it just never came to fruition. The Incredible Hulk feels like it is not a part of the universe. The trademark humor in Marvel movies is almost absent in this, and when jokes do come up, they feel forced. Everything in this movie is just okay. The actors do well, but they don’t excel in their roles as much as others; the plot is well structured, but not as gripping.
This movie is good, but it is so average that it ends up being forgettable.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 gives us the chemistry between characters and everything we liked in the first movie, just more so. There are great action sequences, such as Black Widow clearing the hallway, adding humor with sharp kicks. Whiplash’s design is amazing.
But there is a caveat with this movie: it’s all about more Iron Man, and impressive visuals. The villain felt underwritten, and everything ends up being suffocating, with too many plot lines to process, making you feel disconnected. I feel this is due to the rushed movie schedule, so growing pains are evident as Marvel tries to manage this fast-growing universe.
The most boring out of the Phase 1 movies, Thor lead with a bland script, leaving every character feel one dimensional. As Chris Hemsworth stated more recently, he always felt that Thor may have been taken too seriously as a stoic god. The plot was uninteresting as well, and when you compare it to the other Phase 1 movies, it just falls short on too many aspects.
Hiddleston and Hemsworth were great casting choices, but they’re never handled as well in this movie as they are later on. Hopkins is great as Odin.
Though I do not consider it the worst of the MCU movies, it is definitely an example of Marvel not being exactly sure of what to do with its characters.
Captain America: The First Avenger
A great portion of the movie illustrates that Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, ultimately becomes a superhero not just because of his abilities, but also his morals. We see him first being used as a poster boy for the war, but he quickly finds ways to help others when no one else will.
The movie being a period piece makes it feel distinct and timeless, crafting its own tone and flavor that is refreshing. The movie is shot differently and dealt with differently to make the movie feel unique.
Chris Evans is another one of those actors in the MCU that feels like the only one who could have played his role, displaying an innocence and purity in Rogers’ heart.
On the downside, the middle of the plot feels rushed, with heavy exposition and then a climatic ending, leaving something missing.
This movie is a joy to watch. It is great seeing all these characters come together to defeat Loki. Characters you would not expect to work well together end up having great chemistry. This movie just makes you feel like a kid on Christmas getting everything you wanted.
The plot is not too complex to allow all those great action scenes. The scene with Loki and the Hulk is one of my favorite scenes of all time. The jokes in this movie are when we see the comedy expected out of Marvel movies, with back-and-forth dialogue after a fight.
The Avengers nails its tone, and has stakes that feel important and weighty. It elevates Loki to new heights, making him more than just a side villain.
My only issue is the costume design feels cheap, especially Captain America’s, but this does not detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the movie.
The post credit scene is jaw dropping with the introduction of Thanos, setting the stage for so much of what would come later.
- Iron Man 9/10
- The Avengers 8.5/10
- Captain America: The First Avenger 7.5/10
- Iron Man 2 7/10
- Incredible Hulk 6/10
- Thor 4/10
MCU Phase Two Movies
I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s review of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 1 movies. We now move onto Phase 2, with the MCU in full swing. Phase 2 has some amazing movies, but leaves a mixed feelings with how terrible the bad ones are.
Iron Man 3
Compared to its predecessor, Iron Man 3 is well structured, clearly establishing the villain and raising questions that are answered by the end of the movie. I also feel it is a return to the original movie’s wit, which sets it apart from Marvel’s typical comedy.
This movie tends to break the typical Marvel template as well, discussing Tony Stark’s personal turmoils in a way that pays off. His inability to process all the events that have occurred breaks down this egotistical man, and it’s believable.
There are a few elements of the film, including the Mandarin, that could have been done better. The plot tends to lose momentum as we reach the climax. All in all however, I enjoyed what they did with the movie, even if it wasn’t done as well as it could have been.
Thor: The Dark World
As I said about the first Thor, this movie’s highlight is its casting. We have Tom Hiddleston’s conniving, slimy portrayal of Loki, whose morals are questionable; Chris Hemsworth looks exactly how you would imagine the Norse god of thunder; Anthony Hopkins as the wise Odin–everyone feels as if they are the best fit for their role.
The bad, however, is the tone, which is all over the place. It tries to be a serious endeavor, a sci-fi adventure, then a romcom, and the continual switching ends up being jarring. When Loki shows up, the film becomes chock full of jokes and one-liners, but as soon as he ‘dies’ it becomes almost devoid of comedy.
The biggest issue is how forgettable the main villain is. Malekith is just a bad man who does bad things, with no stand out scenes that come to mind.
Overall, The Dark World falls flat on another Thor movie.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The second Captain America film marks the Russo brothers’ debut in the MCU. What I love about this movie is the genre bending that still feels tied to the universe. It is this 70’s political drama with espionage, but still engaging with action. Another plus is they are able to make the movie feel more grounded, with guys punching each other and using machine guns, which is refreshing after whatever The Dark World was trying to do.
The movie is so layered, where Rogers is conflicted in who he should actually trust, finding his best friend apparently against him. This movie completely turns the MCU on its head with the twist of Hydra. Black Widow gets to shine with more run time and we get to know her much more. Winter Soldier hits things that I didn’t even know I wanted. It has everything I could want in a good movie.
My one issue is just how Bucky was dealt with: I don’t find his survival believable, which ends up making it feel like a retcon of sorts.
Guardians of the Galaxy
This is one of the pleasant surprises of the MCU that I did not expect to be good. The crew is a oddball mix of characters that have such spectacular chemistry. This could not be done without the extraordinary casting. Chris Pratt was an unexpected choice, just like the movie is surprising, but he took the role in stride. Dave Bautista ended up being a better fit for Drax than Jason Mamoa would have been in my eyes, and on top of all that it is full of legacy actors that have been in the business.
The soundtrack is even better than the casting, and one of the best movie soundtracks in a long time. Each song was clearly chosen carefully to serve the scene.
Parts of this movie that should be cheesy end up playing so well because it feels so natural: the jokes hit their mark, with Drax’s naivety being one of the best parts.
James Gunn makes this movie his own as the director, and still fitting the MCU. The story is a bit on the flat side, as all these fun moments with the characters make the story feel like an afterthought, but honestly it does not detract from my enjoyment.
As with the story, the main villain Ronan feels one-dimensional, and I believe that is just because he was not given enough time. Overall it is a unique movie that was one of the top movies in the MCU.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
This movie gives a mixed bag of emotions, as it has really high highs, but the lows are absolutely abysmal. The film delves into Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s conflicting world views, which I would add sets up Civil War perfectly.
Ultron gives us some of the best dialogue in the whole MCU. One specific quote: when Wanda says of Ultron that “he does not know the difference between saving the world and ending it; where do you think he gets that from?” The foreshadowing present and the absolute gravity of the quote in retrospect makes it so great. This movie introduces the theme of the different ways of saving the world as even Ultron wants to in his own way, making the characters question why they are doing what they are doing.
On the negative side: The death of Quicksilver felt pointless in the grand scheme of things, like they killed a new character just to get an emotional moment. Overall, the film suffers from information overload as it tries to set up all the movies in the future, leaving me unsure whether I really enjoyed this movie.
The movie is mainly a comedy and it goes hard into that aspect, and it looks great in has scenes that mold the idea of Ant-Man. The use of his shrinking ability was clever, never feeling forced and always making my jaw drop. The plot feels straightforward, but it that works with a smaller scale film. With the smallest budget out of the MCU, they scaled everything down. One constant of Phase 2 is that the villains are not amazing, and this is true in Ant-Man. Yellowjacket is so generic, leaving the plot also feeling stale and derivative. But I applaud it for what it tried to do, and think it is an okay addition for Marvel.
- Guardians of the Galaxy 9/10
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier 9/10
- Iron Man 3 8/10
- Avengers:Age of Ultron 7/10
- Ant-Man 6/10
- Thor: The Dark World 4/10
MCU Phase Three Movies
We have reached the final phase and the final chapter of this article before Endgame! Phase 3 has the largest amount of movies, and they are all pretty good, with a few exceptions. I will admit that the movies tended to dip in quality toward the end; my only hope is Endgame does not follow this trend.
Captain America:Civil War
This movie’s primary conflict was the conflict of ideas. We saw this between Captain America and Iron Man in Age of Ultron, but it comes to fruition here with various Avengers picking a side. Tony Stark is impulsive, makes bad decisions, and is the prime reason for Ultron, so he realizes he can’t be trusted and needs oversight, so he supports the government crackdown on superheroes. Contrast this with Steve Rogers, whose experiences in WWII, the first Avengers film, and Winter Soldier have convinced him to trust himself more than the government.
Everything in the previous movies led up to this tension boiling over, and you can’t look away. They are able to elevate all the characters above past conventions, and it truly makes the movie shine. I honestly have no bad things to say about it.
The best thing about this movie is the visuals and the world of magic they created within the MCU. The kaleidoscope cities, the CGI; all of it makes the movie pop. They incorporate new elements excellently. The humor is hit or miss, however, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s delivery sometimes falling flat. Besides that, I do not feel there was much to say about Doctor Strange: it is a good movie through and through, but nothing particularly stands out.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
This movie is very character driven, with previous antagonist Yondu as one of the stars. The relationship between Yondu and Star-Lord, as well as the scene in which we learn that he sees Rocket as a younger version of himself, all lead up to his sacrifice having a genuine emotional impact.
As we would expect from another Guardians movie, the soundtrack is another hit.
The problems with this movie are the plot and tone. This movie feels like a jumble of ingredients with different tones and flavors: we have different main villains in each act, and the twist of Ego’s true intentions leads to a rush to conclude the movie with a boss fight. We don’t have a main plot, but rather multiple tiny ones, like a bunch of short stories in one. In a movie however it is not as compelling. A plot-driven movie would have worked way better. Tonally, we have a lack of awareness for its seriousness, putting too much emphasis on its comedy. Baby Groot is tortured, Yondu’s crew is released into space, and it is just treated as a joke while others are in agony. Seeing the corpses of Ego’s murdered children right after the face-morphing scene makes it so uneven. But the scene that makes this movie so distasteful is when Star-Lord finally realizes his purpose: to see this orphan finally reconnecting with his father, gaining all these new powers, and then discovering this man he has been searching for is a sociopath and he has to kill him just feels wrong.
This is the movie that should not have happened; with Sony holding the film rights of Spider-Man, it was thought Marvel would never be able to use Spider-Man in the MCU.
The thing I enjoy about this movie is that the new version of Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, feels very local: your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. Homecoming is the most high-school Peter Parker yet, and even the villain is very close to Peter. There are crushes, hiding info from Aunt May, and homecoming dances, making this movie work on a much smaller scale than all the others.
Tom Holland is filling big shoes, but adds his own element of naivety. For the first time, you buy that he is a high school student.
The casting of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is weird, as all movies make her younger and younger, but her acting is quite good. The use of Iron Man as a father figure is spectacular, and fits the narrative of how Tony Stark wants to get out of the suit and play a sideline role. Michael Keaton adds multiple dimensions to the Vulture, as he is not just this evil dude who wants to destroy everything; he is a family man who is cynical of what the world has done to him.
This is a very re-watchable movie because of how fun it is. The movie drags in the middle, with little sense of urgency. Vulture and Spider-Man are both off doing their own things until key scenes. I also did not like the Tony Stark-ified Spider-Man suit, as it detracted from the simplicity of Spider-Man. I would have preferred if Peter Parker tried on the suit with all of its features, Tony Stark asked how he likes it, and Parker responded that he just wants his simple suit.
Ragnarok redeemed Thor as a character. This movie is so much fun to watch. They went all out trying to squeeze out as much enjoyment as possible: jokes; letting Chris Hemsworth be funny; vibrant colors reminiscent of the 80’s; and Led Zeppelin thrown into the mix, making it very campy and awesome. I get a similar vibe as I did from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but they did it better.
Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum is perfect as it fits the quirky world. Karl Urban as Skurge is so great, as he has this distinct goal that is so obviously selfish that it makes him interesting.
This the most stylized movie of them all, with unique worlds and characters. The biggest problem, as with Guardians of the Galaxy, is that the drama is undercut by the overflow of comedy. The plot is well structured, but it bombs on specific scenes. Thor’s personality shift may be jarring for some, but I feel it was definitely needed.
Come back for part two of Phase Three on Friday!
MCU Phase Three Movies, Part 2
As much I feel bad for Chadwick Boseman, with the repeated interviews where he has had to yell “Wakanda Forever,” the movie he starred in was great. All the characters are multidimensional, so you can understand Killmonger’s world view as much as T’Challa’s.
Additionally, it is relatable to today, making the conflict hit closer to home than typical movies. An idea of isolationism vs fighting oppression goes throughout each scene, which makes this movie so powerful. The five act structure fully fleshes out the plot, and sprinkles connections to the MCU in a really smart way so that it still feels self-contained.
One point I would add is that T’Challa feels a bit bland compared to broken-down characters such as Tony Stark and shining heroes such as Captain America; T’Challa is just a respectful, dignified heir to the throne. You put him next to these lively characters, such as his sister or Killmonger, and T’ Challa just does not have the same energy.
The CGI-heavy action made me lose immersion in the film, especially the final fight.
Finally, a superficial issue was the post credits scene, where we get questions over what Wakanda plans to do. I believe it is essential to the story and should not have been delegated to a post-credits scene, and would have worked much better as the ending.
Avengers: Infinity War
All the MCU characters join up for this big fight again Thanos. I was surprised to how deep they went into his character, bringing out this inner sadness from someone who is trying to murder half of all the living creatures in the universe. Straight from the start, they show how merciless and cruel he can be, making you believe he will do whatever it takes to complete his mission. It gives the movie a strong sense of urgency and emotional resonance unseen before.
Also, the scope and scale of this movie is phenomenal. This movie is a Lord of the Rings-size adventure to try and save the galaxy. Every action sequence feels huge even when it is only two characters fighting, and filled with iconic shots such as “the snap,” or Thor’s return. There are so many wow moments that made me smile or brought a tear to my eye.
Comedy is not absent either: one of my favorite scenes is where the Guardians of the Galaxy meet Thor, and Drax comments on how he looks like an angel. Drax, as always, was hilarious with his deadpan delivery.
Next, the character design and set pieces are stunning, leaving my jaw hanging every time. The followers of Thanos all looked so unique.
The acting is nothing less than amazing, with the lead definitely being Thor; he sees Loki die, and when he is with Rocket he puts up this strongman persona trying to be the mighty Thor. However, his eyes look so sad and broken while still being filled with rage, with all his is focus on getting a new weapon to kill Thanos. It hit hard, and I applaud Chris Hemsworth for his performance.
Every scene with Thanos was amazing. They turned what I expected to be a one-note killer into someone with a deeply conflicted belief system, who doesn’t want to kill everyone he sees, which in some ways makes him even worse of a villain.
A key moment: where Starlord has to make the decision to kill Gamora and he builds up all this willpower and emotional strength to shoot, just for bubbles to come out. It makes you truly feel how underpowered everyone is against Thanos.
Finally, for some the ending felt cheap and only a buildup to Endgame, but I could not think of a better way to end it. Seeing some of our favorite characters just die right before our eyes will be ingrained into my memory forever.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
The definition of a filler movie, full of “quantum” in every other sentence and just stuffed with exposition. This is nothing more than a trash bag to get everything set up before Endgame. I will admit it was nice to have such a lighthearted movie after what Endgame was, but I can not get past this lingering feeling that this movie should not exist.
It took twenty-one movies, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally has a female-led superhero film. However, it settles for a formulaic movie with weak action. They rely on looking at the past rather than forward for an origin story, but I feel it doesn’t really accomplish its goal. The 90’s aesthetic is nice, but feels like they’re beating a dead horse once we get farther in the movie.
Another issue is that I feel Captain Marvel’s emotions are always at an arm’s length, never allowing true knowledge of who she is as a person, and for a origin story that’s pretty rough.
Some of the CGI felt off, but the de-aging effect with characters like Nick Fury was amazing, like they just grabbed them from back in the day.
Captain Marvel wasn’t a bad movie, it was just was a letdown, the same as Ant-Man and the Wasp was.
- Avengers:Infinity War 9/10
- Thor Ragnarok 9/10
- Captain America: Civil War 8.5/10
- Black Panther 8/10
- Spider-Man Homecoming 8/10
- Doctor Strange 7.5/10
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 7/10
- Captain Marvel 7/10
- Ant-Man and the Wasp 2/10
Next week: The Review of Endgame
The Finale: Endgame
We’ve reached the finale in my road to Avengers: Endgame! I am first going to give a no-spoiler review for anyone who’s curious, but after that I WILL SPOIL IT. If you read past the warning below, that’s on you.
Without further ado: Endgame was a great movie, I will not lie, but I believe it was underwhelming in comparison to Infinity War. The first half went by slow compared to the breakneck pace of the second, and the first half had many inconsistencies, which I will get into in the spoiler review.
Next, the acting was amazing as expected, with every emotion feeling authentic. I definitely empathized in specific scenes, and even felt a lump in my throat.
The actual action was fantastic. The final battle is spectacular, and an amalgamation of all that is good in Marvel movies.
In the end, I still felt like something was missing, and after repeated viewings I still could not shake this. I would still rate it an 8/10 for being a fitting conclusion for the universe and I am excited to where they plan to go from here.
OK, SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING!
Alright, to explain what I meant by inconsistencies: The 5 year gap was smart, but the characters acted as if it was only a few months. Tony Stark was the only one who displayed some trepidation over whether to try time travel, with everyone else just wanting to do something new after years of stagnation. Even if I knew Tony Stark would eventually fold, the hesitation was welcome at least.
Also I knew the Quantum Realm would play a big role in the movie and I honestly enjoyed it, with Marvel creating their own dive into the time travel genre. I would have liked if they gave just a short scene of what Scott Lang has been doing, but that is just a technicality.
In addition, Hawkeye and Black Widow being surprised that one of them had to die felt utterly stupid, and an oversight. They talk about how Gamora was killed by Thanos after he retrieved the Soul Stone, and Nebula herself knew that she was sacrificed. So how two and two were not put together is beyond me.
My other issues in the movie were how Thanos was turned into a ‘kill everything’ villain, which cheapened his impact in the previous movie.
The pacing of the first half felt slow, as the survivors of the snap just moped around, and then suddenly went into work mode with no stopping in between.
Finally, I just was weirded out by Professor Hulk as he felt just a bit too tame, as if Bruce Banner was this monk when he was just a normal guy. The Brains and brawn together was nice, but the calmness just was an exaggeration.
On to the things I liked: Thor, hands down. He is still the best part of the movie, and I enjoyed the portrayal of depression and his alcoholism. His is revealed as a shell of his former self, still gripped by former trauma. He is the most human out of all the characters, even being a god.
Tony Stark’s arc felt complete, with him redeeming his past guilt. I thought Captain Marvel would play a bigger role, but I am not complaining.
I just wish they made the movie more complete. I am not the one to tell you how, but that is just the overall feeling I got.
I really liked the credits with all the signatures of each main Avengers cast rounding it out.
Out of all the Marvel movies, I would rank it as #3 after Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War.