Rewatching the MCU Phase 2

The marathon continues! Here are my hot takes on Phase 2 of the MCU. Of course, there are spoilers everywhere, not only for the movie mentioned but also for other MCU movies. Beware.

Iron Man 3 (2013) – 5/5

I like this movie more than consensus, though I’m not sure why. I liked the twists in this movie. I like Tony having to go MacGyver and the glorification of the engineer. I like Ben Kingsley‘s role. I like seeing Tony have to work through things after the Battle of New York. And it is still funny and appropriately over-the-top to be fun.

Despite having a nice finale for Iron Man, RDJ has shown up for another three MCU already. And he got a lot of character development in two of them. I don’t think this is a controversial opinion, but Iron Man/Tony Stark/RDJ is the heart of the MCU for me. For both contractual and story-driven reasons, I think that he will be stepping back very soon, but we’ll see what happens.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – 2/5

Ah, the goat of the MCU. I think it’s roughly in the same league The Incredible Hulk but feel obligated to knock the rating a bit more.

This movie has a lot in it. It introduces the Aether, which is another Infinity Stone in the build-up. It features Loki, who apparently got a bigger role because Tom Hiddleston was too popular, and of course has to introduce that dynamic. It has a lot of Natalie Portman to balance out her role. It tries to bring a lot of emotion around Asgard and Thor’s family. And I actually forgot that those movie too has a lot of jokes.

And with all of that rattling around, it just didn’t really work. It tries to do too much and subsequently doesn’t fulfill its primary purpose of being a good movie.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – 5/5

When the movie started, I remembered lots of bits and pieces but didn’t quite have the plot stitched together. My friend Evan even pointed out a few weeks ago that the villain in this movie was quite forgettable like most MCU villains other than Loki and Michael B. Jordan.

However, as soon as the movie started, it all came back to me almost instantly. This movie is awesome because so much stuff happens. Unlike The Dark World, I think they nailed the interplay from personal to world-changing interactions.

This movie is extra-meaningful to me as a big Agents of SHIELD fan because the fall of SHIELD naturally changed everything. I liked the show before, but it went nuts (in a good way) afterwards. This movie has tons of effects and SHIELD technology that I more strongly associate with the TV show now.

I think the one part I will knock is that I’m just not onboard with Bucky Barnes.

I think you’re supposed to be rooting for him because of his close bond to Captain America as shown through numerous flashbacks and additional scenes in this and other movies. However, I mostly think he makes a lot of mean faces and spends a lot of time beating up people that I like more.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – 5/5

If I remember correctly, this movie felt like another turning point for the MCU. The previous movies were funny, but putting Chris Pratt in a lead role as a irreverent 80s kid leaned way more into the humor. And I of course tremendously enjoyed this movie as well.

Great soundtrack. Most of the music fits squarely into our “Julie’s Beatz” playlist appropriate for cooking, dancing, and singing in the car.

I was amused by the blatant inclusion of a shirtless Chris Pratt scene to show off his superhero physique. That was a quick switch from his Parks & Recreation days.

For Firefly fans, Nathan Fillion has a voice cameo in the movie as a scary inmate. I’m sure many people would geek out if he could get a big role in the MCU as well, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – 4/5

I am honestly surprised that this movie came out in 2017. It feel like it came out a long time ago, and measured in MCU movies, it did. However, it does chronologically come sooner, so here it is.

Good movie. They managed to hit a lot of the same beats as the first Guardians movie without getting too tired, so I appreciated that. I remember not being too surprised by Kurt Russell being evil. In theaters, I think we were a good bit into the movie and I thought, “Hmm, we haven’t seen the bad guy yet. I guess that means that Kurt Russell is the bad guy.” That was a good hunch.

I did have issue with a few things, though.

First, I was pretty uncomfortable in the scene where Yondu takes back his ship with his whistle-arrow killing his entire crew. I know it sounds ridiculous to be concerned with violence this far into the series, but the scene is filmed to be light-hearted and fun. And he’s actually murdering his (admittedly traitorous) crew. It didn’t sit right with me the first time or second time.

Second, I thought the Rocket/Yondu connection was a stretch. I think it was necessary to give Rocket some character development, but it seemed like a stretch to me. Maybe the third movie will redeem the effort by context, but I didn’t like it.

Overall, though, I thought it was still a good movie. If you’re looking for how to do sci-fi that honors the 80s, this is the right way to do it: you can appreciate the references if you get them, or you can just laugh along because it’s so absurd anyways.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – 4/5

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I remembered, and Julie liked it more than she remembered. However, as my rating shows, I still liked it a lot.

I liked Iron Man 3 because it was driven by Tony’s vulnerability, and that’s the inciting incident for this entire movie as well. My main criticism to withhold that final star is that I felt like the pacing wasn’t quite right. The Avengers stuffed so much into a movie that just flew by, but I felt jerked around on the ride here.

Amongst the ensemble cast, James Spader really stood out as Ultron. It helps that he’s in the title of the movie, but from his very first scene, Spader manages to pull off both a terrifying villain and curious newborn in one.

Hawkeye also gets a lot of attention in this movie. In typical MCU fashion, they openly joke about him with Hawkeye saying in a pep-talk,

“The city is flying and we’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.”

Also nice to see that one of the Avengers has a family and real relationships. The movie aggressively foreshadows that Hawkeye is going to die, and the twist as the very end works out brilliantly.

Ant-Man (2015) – 5/5

I don’t think I quite like Ant-Man as much as the other 5/5  movies, but I definitely like it more than all of the 4/5 movies. And I can’t convince myself to cheat my rating system with halves now.

This movie has a couple things going for it.

I like that it is set in the San Francisco Bay Area. They don’t really harp on the details, but as they’re driving around, everything fits in a mental map that makes sense. It’s comforting. I’m a sucker for movies and TV that I can identify with like Full HouseBig Hero 6 or Big Trouble in Little China.

I also just learned that movies set in the Bay Area tend to reference size in the title.

Michael Pena is also delightful in this movie. His over-the-top optimism and enthusiasm makes all of his scenes very fun.

 

Ant-Man is unlike most of the MCU movies in that the heart of it isn’t about superhero problems. The heart of this movie is Paul Rudd trying to be better father, which is easily the plot of a drama without explosions.

I have barely finished writing this post in time to see Avengers: Infinity War today. I had hoped to get through all released Phase 3 movies as well, but perhaps it’s best if I save that post for when it’s all over. I hope you enjoyed these movies as much as I did!

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