marvel cinematic universe

QUICKIE REVIEW: “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” Episodes 1-3

I didn’t think I’d like this show. At all. The trailers made it look indistinguishable from the rest of the MCU’s normal fare. But, honestly, I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying this show. It’s not as creative and risky as WandaVision, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is no less fun. If you told me to imagine a somewhat standard MCU story, I’d probably reply with something that sounded similar to this. To be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve seen other reviewers describe Falcon and the Winter Soldier as reminiscent of the second Captain America film, and they’re right. This show is a character-driven political thriller. Its plot is kind of weak, but the character moments are fairly strong. This is the most character development Sam and Bucky have ever seen, and fans of them should be pretty pleased by how the characters are handled—Bucky in therapy was something I didn’t know I needed to see until I saw it. The way the show explores Bucky and Sam—their backstories, their trauma, and who they want to be—is a pretty compelling reason to watch the show, and the show mostly gets their characterizations right (though it stumbles a bit in the third episode).

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Was the “WandaVision” finale disappointing?

On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised by WandaVision. Of all the Disney+ MCU shows, WandaVision was the one that seemed most interesting. But I never expected to like it as much as I did. Was it perfect? No, but it took a lot longer for it to devolve into the more typical MCU fare than I’d expected. And, underneath all of that guff, was a compelling and moving story about grief—the kind of character-driven narrative that the MCU films aren’t equipped to deliver. For me, the character work balances out any problems I had with the show’s overarching narrative, but others seem to disagree quite heartily. The question of the week appears to be: was the WandaVision finale disappointing? For me, the answer is both yes and no. Allow me to explain.

NOTE: Full spoilers for the entirety of WandaVision’s first season.

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REVIEW: “WandaVision” – Episodes 1 and 2

I’ve been jaded with the MCU for a long time now. For at least the last half-dozen films, the whole thing has felt a bit creatively stagnant. Visually, it’s hard to separate one film from another; they all have a sense of sameness to them. The same is true tonally, too, with almost every film in the franchise using comedy to undercut its emotional moments and relying too much on spectacle and humor at the expense of meaningful, consistent character development. Avengers: Endgame had pretty much killed my interest in the MCU as a whole, with its terrible plotting and incoherent character arcs, but maybe these movies just aren’t for me. Even when the MCU took risks, like with Infinity War and Endgame, it still felt safe. That is, however, until the first batch of Disney+ MCU shows were announced. Sure, some of them felt like the same old, same old from the MCU (looking at you, Falcon and the Winter Soldier), but some seemed cool, unique, and interesting. Chief among them was WandaVision—a show about two characters I’ve never cared much about that featured an audacious and risky premise. Sounds exactly like my cup of tea. And, honestly, having seen the first two episodes, I’m pretty into it. While being extremely light on any kind of an overarching plot, the first two episodes of WandaVision are a love-letter to classic TV sitcoms that hints at some kind of broader, menacing mystery. If it can stick the landing, it could be something great. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: There will be spoilers for the first two episodes of WandaVision. Read at your own risk.

WandaVision S01E01 (written by Jac Schaeffer, directed by Matt Shakman)
Wanda and Vision struggle to conceal their powers during dinner with Vision’s boss and his wife.

WandaVision S01E02 (written by Gretchen Enders, directed by Matt Shakman)
In an effort to fit in, Wanda and Vision perform a magic act in their community talent show.

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Disney and Morality, or: How The Idea That ‘Viewing a Film is a Kind of Moral Act’ is a Bad Take – An Editorial

disney and moralityAt San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, Disney/Marvel announced the slate of titles making up Phase Four of the MCU. Among the titles announced are five films – Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder – and five Disney+ shows – Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, What If?, and Hawkeye. Some of these movies/shows seem interesting, others I don’t know enough about yet; but, overall, I found it rather hard to get excited for any of them as it all just sort of feels like an endless onslaught of similar-looking and feeling blockbusters that slowly erode any innovation within the artform. I wasn’t the only person with a take like this and, as you’d expect, there were some MCU-fans pretty unhappy with those who were less-than-enthusiastic about the news. One such fan replied to a pretty popular (progressive) YouTuber’s tweet, suggesting that the mixed reaction was partially in response to the Phase Four lineup consisting of films that focused on women/people of color/LGBTQ+ characters more than previous MCU films have. This accusation leveled at this particular YouTuber was a bit ludicrous as this YouTuber has long championed diversity in films, but it did lead to a conversation about how viewing Disney films has turned into a bit of a moral stance, often pushed by Disney’s own PR team. The idea goes that by watching one of Disney’s films featuring progressive ideas (such as having a diverse cast), you’re taking a moral stance in support of an issue rather than just giving your money to a corporation that doesn’t really care about these issues you care about. It’s an interesting conversation, and a kind of funny one, especially in light of Disney’s long history of immorality. (A quick note – I am not trying to insult or criticize anyone who is excited about any of Disney’s upcoming films, nor am I trying to insult or criticize anyone who really enjoys these movies. What I am trying to criticize is Disney’s framing of the viewing of their films as a moral statement while they do very immoral things as a company.)

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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: “Spider-Man: Far From Home”

sman posterIt’s not exactly a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the MCU. It’s not that I have anything against the series as a whole, and I’ve quite liked a number of the movies, but a much larger number of them tend to be exceedingly mediocre movies. There’s nothing wrong with a movie that’s just “okay” – but when it’s film after film after film that all feel the same and don’t aspire to be much better than simply “fine”, it can get really exhausting very quickly. There’s really only one or two MCU movies that I thought were actually bad (Civil War and Endgame), but both of them were huge team-up movies. I tend to have nicer thoughts for the solo films. As for this iteration of Spider-Man, well… I didn’t love his appearance in Civil War and Homecoming‘s tone felt a bit too ’80s-teen-movie at times for my tastes, but he’s a solid character and Tom Holland is doing a very good job with his portrayal and the character has some of the best villains in the entire Marvel universe (and Homecoming’s usage of The Vulture was very good), so I have more positive thoughts about Spider-Man than I do for some other MCU movies. So, with the upcoming release of the newest Spider-Man movie, Far From Home, it’s time to see what’s next for Spider-Man in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. Is this movie better than Endgame was? Answer: Yes, but that’s not exactly a high hurdle to clear – and Far From Home barely clears it. (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible, but if you don’t want to know anything about the movie, this is your warning.)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, directed by Jon Watts) 
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the next chapter of the Spider-Man: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter’s plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!

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REVIEW: “Captain Marvel”

captain marvel_1I have had a lot of mixed feelings about the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. None of them are bad or anything, but I don’t feel like most of them are particularly great. With a few exceptions, most Marvel movies seem to live in this realm of utter mediocrity. They follow the same formula each and every time, with frequently underdeveloped villains, weak third-acts, and humor that tends to undercut the more serious moments. Recent Marvel films have continued to find themselves unable to buck this trend – even some films, like Black Panther, that have managed to have well-developed villains, still can’t quite get the other elements right. So, my expectations for Captain Marvel were pretty low. After all, it’s a film that takes place prior to all of the events in the MCU, existing only to introduce a hero who will, presumably, be important in Avengers: Endgame, but with a plot that takes place so far in the past that it can’t possibly connect to the overarching MCU storyline in any meaningful way. To be honest, the part of the film I was most looking forward to was the opportunity to see Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in a role that was larger than a glorified cameo. I wasn’t particularly interested in or excited by anything else about the movie. So, with all of that baggage, how is Captain Marvel? Well, it’s another bog-standard Marvel film that has some really nice moments, but ultimately falls victim to many of the problems most Marvel movies exhibit. (There will be spoilers for Captain Marvel in this review.)

Set in the 1990s, Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel (Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (with additional writing by Geneva Robertson-Dworet) is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that follows the journey of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. While a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of the maelstrom.

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REVIEW: Thor Ragnarok

mv5bmjmyndkzmzi1of5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcxodg5mji-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Better late than never, I suppose. At least Thor: Ragnarok ended up being the best Thor film that Marvel has produced thus far. Directed by Taika Waititi and written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost, Thor: Ragnarok follows our favorite God of Thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as he faces off against his sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), and the imminent threat of Ragnarok: the ultimate destruction of Asgard. Thor’s world is about to explode. His devious brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has taken over Asgard, the powerful Hela has emerged to steal the throne for herself and Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe. To escape captivity and save his home from imminent destruction, Thor must first win a deadly alien contest by defeating his former ally and fellow Avenger – The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). (As always, spoilers may follow)  (more…)

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

mv5bmtg2mzi1mtg3of5bml5banbnxkftztgwntu3nda2mti-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_How do you follow up a surprise hit like the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and do it justice? Certainly not like this. With the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel has continued their latest trend of cramming way too many ideas into one film and ultimately diluting the impact of the main story they were trying to tell. Written and directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. follows our team – Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Batista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand. (Summary courtesy of Marvel.)  Note: this review contains spoilers. (more…)