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Rewatching the MCU Phase 3

Before watching Avengers: Infinity War last year, Julie and I rewatched the previous movies to get ready for the ultimate team-up. Along the way, I wrote short reviews on the MCU Phase 1 and Phase 2. With Phase 3 coming to an end in Avengers: End Game, we decided to finish our rewatch, and I have a whole new set of review.

Of course, there are spoilers abound. Let’s go!

Captain America: Civil War (2016) – 4/5

We rewatched this movie before Infinity War, so it has been awhile. Although I love ensemble cast, I hate that the plot was written backwards and doesn’t make sense. Let me explain.

Zemo’s says he wants the Avengers tear themselves apart. He does that by putting Iron Man and Captain America in the same room at the same time to show Tony’s parents being killed by Bucky. However, Tony was only there through precise timing and sleuthing. Had he, say, shown up an hour later because he wanted to grab a currywurst in Berlin on the way to Siberia, then it wouldn’t have worked.

Basically, Zemo’s brilliant “plan” only works given a series of chance events that happen to fit the narrative. Plenty of movies have detectives or villains who are oddly prescient. In fact, if you are susceptible to Wiki rabbit holes, check out TV Tropes’s page on the Gambit Roulette. Someone wrote an even better takedown of Civil War in the examples, and the related links are great.

Also, the premise of a heroes fighting heroes is just silly. The airport fight has great action, but it’s hard to believe they can bat each other around without really hurting anyone, and War Machine’s paralysis seems like a contrived “consequence.” Maybe they were better off just staring at each other for awhile.


Doctor Strange (2016) – 5/5

Disclaimer: I was and am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan. I really enjoyed Sherlock, and after appearing in both The Hobbit trilogy and Star Trek: Into Darkness, he has covered his sci-fi/fantasy franchises. I’m just waiting for him to show up in Fantastic Beasts.

The movie looks awesome between falling through dimensions, the Mirror Dimension, and time travel through the Eye. The plot and characters are the classic MCU combination of formulaic but well-executed. We already had an arrogant genius in Tony, but Strange works, too (and it is great fun to see together in Infinity War). We already had the bumbling apprentice in slapstick training montages with Scott Lang in Ant-Man. We had the betrayal of an authority figure with Nick Fury building weapons in The Avengers. Nothing new, but it was a heck of a ride.

And who doesn’t love the cloak? It definitely should have gotten billed as a supporting actor.

via Gfycat

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – 5/5

We actually only watched this movie once, and it was well after it was released in theaters. Somehow, we got really busy that summer and didn’t see it until we rented it on iTunes.

How can you not love Tom Holland? He’s a good Spider-Man, and I’m glad that it isn’t an origin story because we have seen that too many times already. Holland has a great public persona of being a fun, goofy kid who happens to accidentally spoil movie details all the time.

Or is it?

My conspiracy theory is that Holland isn’t accidentally leaking details: I think they’re planned leaks. Apple does it for their products. Given the interest, Marvel might also want planned leaks to generate hype and get even more attention and scrutiny on publicity tours. Who better to “accidentally” leak spoilers than an young, innocent, fun-loving actor? His day job is literally pretending.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – 5/5

This is the first movie that we rewatched, and it is so good. Many say that it’s a major departure from the tone of the first two Thor movies, but they’re actually all really goofy. The difference is that Ragnarok has Taika Waititi’s overly casual goofiness rather than overly regal, Asgardian goofiness.

Also if you didn’t catch it, Matt Damon has a cameo in this movie as an actor. I have to admit that I didn’t catch it the first time: he just looked really familiar without being able to pin it down.

Black Panther (2018) – 5/5

This movie is very popular, and I agree: it’s great. I love the Afrofuturism, and I love having a sympathetic villain in Killmonger. Many superhero movies struggle to present an interesting philosophical question because in the end, the question is usually resolved by punching, and it’s not a strong affirmation of principles. Black Panther manages to do this well by presenting Wakandan isolation and foreign aid as the philosophical question, and in the end, the hero and villain agree on the ends. They just disagree on the means, so it feels like a tidy victory for the good guys while still giving legitimacy to both sides.

Since I have been nitpicking movie details, I do have one major knock: it’s hard for Wakanda to say that they should lead as an example of modernity and progress when they still have a hereditary monarchy with ritual combat as the only means to change the order of succession. Again, it’s hard to have strict principles when the movie is about punching.

I have two fun facts about the movie. First, when Shuri sees T’Challa’s sandals, she says, “What are those?” in a very dramatic fashion. This is a reference to a meme involving BART police and is presumably Ryan Coogler’s callback to his Oakland roots.

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Second, Sterling K Brown shared a funny anecdote. He plays N’Jobu, T’Chaka’s brother (and Killmonger’s dad), who dies half way through the movie. Brown watched the movie with his son, who apparently was very stoic as he watched his (fictionalized) father die. When Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) dies at the end, Brown’s son was crying. Yikes.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – 4/5

I already wrote another post about this movie. To summarize, I again love the ensemble cast and a team effort, but there’s maybe too much going on.

And that’s something I am somewhat concerned about for the next movie. Right now, everyone is very excited about both Endgame and Game of Thrones, and they share an extensive sci-fi/fantasy world and plot build-up with way too many characters that somehow needs to get wrapped up quickly. I never watched it, but I can confidently say I don’t want to get Lost.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – 5/5

I previously said that Ant-Man is better than my 4/5s but not as good as the other 5/5s. This movie is more of the same, and I’m pleased with that.

It is again set in San Francisco, so I am happy to see them drop by Fisherman’s Wharf and Muir Woods. However, I do have one major complaint. The most unrealistic thing in this movie–even more than the superpowers and speculative science–is how little traffic they encounter around SF. They go down Lombard Street and don’t have to deal with the line of tourists in cars trying to go down one at a time. They barrel down Fremont Street and don’t have to dodge Uber drivers who think they are okay just because they put their hazards while they block 2 lanes of traffic. Absurd.

This is a good day.

I appreciate the continued focus on family, which adds a lot of heart to a mostly goofy and action-packed movie. There’s a nice parallel between Scott and Cassie’s relationship and Hope and Janet’s relationship.

I still find it somewhat odd that the movie had such a nice ending. Perhaps I’m just used to bittersweet or mixed endings, but when I watched this movie in theaters, I really thought that either Hank or Janet were going to die. However, it’s just not that kind of movie, and I actually really like that.

Captain Marvel (2019) – 4/5

I want to give this movie a 3/5, but I think it’s better than Captain America, which I gave a 4/5. However, I also remembered Captain America being worse than I thought, so my movie perceptions are perhaps just all misaligned.

Overall, this movie is another fine addition to the MCU. It uses the same formula as other movies, and it works. I will boast about my plot prediction ability since I’m usually wrong: as soon as I saw Jude Law, I instantly pegged him as the bad guy. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew that he was going to be the real villain in this movie.

I was actually surprised to see the Skulls appear since I figured that they would have used them in a previous movie if Marvel Studios had rights to them. Clearly, I don’t understand world building and intellectual property agreements.

One major plus for this movie: the 90s. This movie was a great nostalgia trip, and since I saw it, I have been listening to 90s alternative continuously, and it is fantastic.

One major knock for this movie: we could have skipped most of this movie if the Skrulls had explained their situation to Captain Marvel in their first scene. It works in the plot as a twist to reveal them to be the victim half-way through, but it really didn’t have to be that way. It almost feels like a sitcom where all conflict is caused by two people not picking up the phone.

And that’s it! The reviews for Endgame have been phenomenal so far. In fact, I’m now worried that the expectations are too high.

Who am I kidding? I will love the movie. I hope to have a review out soon!

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