Updated Marvel Universe Movies

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This is a super short post to let you know that I’ve updated my Ranking of Marvel Movies post with the addition of Thor Ragnarok. 

Sidney




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Thor Ragnarok: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Nope, no writing done over the 3 day weekend.  Tragic.  This is what I’ve got to get better at as a writer who wants to be “professional.”  Yes, I had another real-world “project” that I was working on (changing rooms in my house), but it doesn’t take that long to do 250 words.  I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up the computer for just 20-30 mins of writing–but the cost to that was, no writing done at all.  250 * 6 days = 1,500 words.  I one week, I could, if I could get my act together, essentially finish a “section” of a short story, or the basic “outline” of a chapter.  So the word I used above is actually something I need to tell myself when I don’t get my 250 words in–tragic.

Finally Saw Thor Ragnarok

Okay, so over the Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S., my family and I gathered together after the holiday dinner to watch Thor Ragnarok.  I have to say upfront that it was a fun experience–it isn’t the best Marvel movie that I ever seen, but it also isn’t the worst.  I guess that’s what, after having a night to sleep on it, I would say–it was a solidly fun experience.  Unlike Star Wars, which at the moment that I write this, is having a “moment” (and not in a good way as Kathleen Kennedy seems determined to remake the brand into something that she wants and not something that the fans want), Marvel movies know what they’re audiences want: quite a bit of action, some humor (quips and some physical comedy), characters having to some (light) soul-searching, an inventive and eventful ending, and (a bit) of moral relevance (theme) and they’re golden.  This is what Thor Ragnarok delivers to its audience.  Is it flashy, like say Civil War or Winter Soldier? No.  But is it good?  Yes, yes it is.

God of Humor

So, the comedic elements in this one are super strong.  Whether they be visual gags, banter and quips, or downright physical humors, a lot (but not all) of Thor Ragnarok is played for laughs.  I happened to have liked that, but if you’re looking for (or liked) the grim seriousness of Thor The Dark World, then you’ll need to look elsewhere because they play this strictly as an action-comedy.  When there’s action, there’s a lot of it, but when there’s no action on the screen, they’re either setting up a joke or actually paying off a joke.  There’s very little else here, although to be fair, there is quite a bit of light character development of ThorLokiHulk/Banner, and the new character, the Valkyrie, whose name wasn’t really used all that often in the movie, but who both Thor & Loki recognized as a Valkyrie, so that’s (at the moment) how I remembered her character.

Not the Worst, but Not the Best

Again, I have to say that I really liked this movie quite a bit, but based on the high praise that it was given by some of the reviews when it released, I’m a little surprised that it wasn’t a stronger movie.  I suppose when you get right down to it, this may have to do more with me and my expectations than the movie itself.  While I like comedies and like to laugh (who doesn’t), my favorite genre is action.  While there’s no denying that Thor Ragnarok does have action set-pieces, for the most part, this one lent itself to comedy (think the comedy sketch of Thor sitting out Civil War that made the rounds on YouTube last summer, and you’ll have an idea of what the creators of Thor Ragnarok were going for).

Having just re-watched this vignette, I just realized that they referenced the “email” joke in this vignette in Thor Ragnarok, so this is very much a “tone-piece” for the movie.  If you like this vignette, then you’ll probably like Thor Ragnarok very much.  I was mildly amused by this, so while I really liked the movie, it probably won’t make it into my Top 5 Marvel movies.  Not to say it isn’t good, but I feel there are other Marvel movies that are stronger.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average)

My take: Hey, it’s a Marvel movie.  They’d have to really misfire (Thor Dark World) to get much less (Marvel gets me as a fan in a way that Kathleen Kennedy and the “new” Star Wars doesn’t seem to anymore).  I love what they are doing right now.  Even the movies that I feel are perhaps “weaker” entries in the Universe are still above the quality of many other movies of competing franchises.  My mother said the movie was better than she expected it be based on the other Thor movies and my step-father laughed all the way through, and myself was at least amused through most of it, but sat up and took notice through the extended action sequences.  This was, while not my favorite Marvel movie, still one that I would gladly re-watch anytime.

Missing in Action: Why I’m Probably Not Going to See Avengers Infinity War in the Theaters

Stop Signs

So, remember a couple weeks back when I posted that sometimes life gives you “stop signs” and you just have to be cognizant of them and learn when to listen to them in order to stay sane.  I discussing it in the vein of writing, but it looks like it applies to other areas of life as well as it turns out that Avengers: Infinity War is one of those “stop signs” for me, at least when it comes to seeing it in the theaters.  Without going into a long essay on the matter, simply put, car problems is the ultimate reason why I’m not going–my car, which had always been so reliable, now has decided to gift me with an intermittent starting problem which happens to me, but not the mechanics.  Yeah, I know, right.  I get stuck and it won’t start and have to get it towed (twice now) and then they start it up with no problem and charge me for diagnosing it.

If there was a digital equivalent of a “scream” emoji, I would be using it right now.

Thor Ragnarok

Actually, I’m not really all that concerned about missing Avengers: Infinity War in the theaters.  My mother and I have already had some of the movie spoiled for us and I’ve even encountered a couple of more spoilers in the two weeks since it has been released (despite my care of limiting my social media use).  My local theater wasn’t showing it in 3D Imax anyway, just regular 2D Imax, and (most importantly, to me, anyway), we haven’t yet seen Thor Ragnarok.  I’m sure that it isn’t essential to TR before AIW, but we’ve pretty seen every mainline Marvel entry in order and their are some character changes to Thor (obviously) that occur in TR which seem to carry over to AIW.

While I have seen movies out of order, I much prefer to see them in order, if that is an option.

Memorial Day & Labor Day

If you are wondering, we’re planning on seeing Thor Ragnarok on Memorial Day.  For those outside of the US, that’s a big holiday that happens on the last Monday in May (this month, as I write this) that is the unofficial kickoff of the Summer Season here as most schools are either out for summer break at this time (or will be out in a week or two afterwards).  We’ll probably purchase it (as opposed to renting it) as a movie to watch after the holiday dinner).

I’m hopeful that AIW will be out on Bluray/Itunes by Labor Day–our complementary holiday that ends the summer.  If so, then we can bookend the summer with Marvel movies and catch-up.

I’m not going to stress over things I simply cannot control.  I’d like to see AIW, but since it doesn’t look like its going to happen for a while, and since I have no control of the situation at the moment, I might as well just wait patiently until circumstances work out and allow me to see the movie.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

Comic-Con Week: Thor Ragnarok

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So, just like DC, Marvel also released a trailer for Comic-Con.  Their big focus this year, now that Spider-Man: Homecoming has been released, is Thor.  Thor Ragnarok seems like it is going for fun over a dark gritty storyline (which was the mistake that Thor: Dark World made).

As you can see in the trailer–Thor Ragnarok Trailermuch of the action is peppered with quips and fun set-pieces.  This trailer seems to bring back the fun characterization that made the first Thor movie such a surprise.

The only problem (if you can call it a problem) is that it releases in November (the same month that Justice League releases) so both of these movies are going to be fighting for much of the same audience.  Assuming that school and classes go well, I’m most certainly going to try to see both movies.

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Ranking Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Movies–My Take (2018 Edition–now updated with Thor Ragnarok & Black Panther)

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Writer’s Note: Rather than creating a new blog post, I’m going to continually update this one.  You can always tell the latest Marvel movie I’ve seen based on the last movie in the title.  So if X Movie in the title isn’t the latest Marvel movie, I probably haven’t seen it yet. However, the last movie that I’ve seen will be in the title, so hopefully I won’t be too far behind.

Writer’s Note 2: Missing Marvel Movies–So far, I haven’t seen 

  • Avengers: Infinity War.

A while back, IGN did a feature on ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in light of the fact that Marvel has finished its “Phase II” movie slate.  Mine differs from theirs however, so I thought I’d do my own take on the list.  Now I’m fully committed to seeing the new Fantastic Four reboot, so I will probably assign a new number to it and then “push” all the other movies under it down by 1 number. (EDIT: Still haven’t seen the FF reboot based on reviews–I probably won’t include it here when I do see it as it isn’t technically in the MCU. I’m thinking of doing another list for the non-MCU Marvel movies    (X-Men, FF reboot, etc.), but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it at the moment).

A Note on Spoilers: Now, I tried to be as “Spoiler Free” as possible and not get into too many specifics and just give a general impression of why I felt it belonged where I placed it on the list.  I tried not to go into any plot discussion whatsoever (just in case), but I can’t guarantee that if you haven’t seen the movie, that these listings will be completely spoiler free.

17. Iron Man 2:  On this one, both IGN and I agree.  This one was the weakest of the Marvel Universe films.  IGN says that it is because they were trying to set up other movies in the Universe, but for me, they lost the through line of Tony Stark’s character.  Tony finding out that his life’s work was causing misery in the world in Iron Man 1 was one of the revelations of the character.  Not having that type of character introspection was a missed opportunity.  It was like the filmmakers wanted to do the whole “Demon in a Bottle” storyline here, but decided that it was too dark and then stripped it out while leaving Tony’s erratic behaviors in place.

16. Thor: The Dark World:  Missed this one in the theaters and saw it on Blu-Ray.  For some reason, this one missed with me.  I loved the 1st Thor, but the storyline on this one just seemed to not make a lot of sense.  I pride myself on being able to follow plot, but many of the scenes seemed to lurch from one “element” to another without the tight narrative flow throughout the movie.

15. The Incredible Hulk: I liked this one more than the critics and if not for the strong showing of other Marvel Universe movies, this one would be much higher.  I liked the “Hulk on the run” motif as it mimicked the TV show from the late 70s-early 80s (which I watched religiously as a child).  I also liked the Hulk vs. Abomination fight.  What really sold the deal for me with this movie was the awesome cameo by Lou Ferrigno and the fight choreography that called back to the Playstation 2 era Hulk video game.

14. Iron Man 3: Actually, liked this one quite a bit when I saw it in IMAX 3D.  Several scenes lose their punch when viewed 2D via Blu-Ray, but it is still a great movie.  This one worked better because (unlike IM2) they actually did use elements from the storyline “A Demon in a Bottle” (albeit they substituted PTSD for alcoholism) and that worked to explain Tony’s increasingly erratic behavior.   I didn’t like the Mandarin’s portrayal all that much, but if you are not going to allow Mandarin to have his rings then a significant change to the Mandarin character is necessary.

13. Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron: Okay, I was expecting to like this one a whole lot more than I did.  I think that the final climax and set-piece was fine.  For me, the interactions did not ring as true as they did in the 1st movie.  This one was more set piece to set piece, but the interactions seemed forced for some reason.  Take the hinted Widow/Banner romance for instance.  Widow seemed to have much more of a rapport with Captain America based on the chemistry and camaraderie displayed in The Winter Soldier than she had with her interactions with Banner in both of the Avengers movies.  I think, though, what ultimately I didn’t like is that Ultron was “creepy,” almost horrific like a good classic horror villain.  Just like Winter Soldier was a mix of superhero and political thriller, I think Age of Ultron should have mixed superhero movie with horror movie elements, with Ultron “picking off” the Avengers one-by-one.

12. Spider-man Homecoming: I liked SPH, but I felt that it drifted into just the place that I didn’t want a new Spider-man movie to go: high school.  The high school elements were the worst elements of the previous Spider-man movies and this one was no exception.  I know Peter Parker was portrayed as a high school student for much of his “early” run, but really, Peter Parker is much better as a character when he graduated high school and was working at the Daily Bugle under J. Jonah Jameson.  There are elements of that (without J.J.J.), but it is still a high school narrative and those are probably one of the least interesting tropes for me.  The action was good, the story was pretty good, and the humor was very much in keeping with Spider-man, but at least half of the movie (perhaps more) is about Peter Parker’s high school life rather than Spidey and/or his life outside of high school.  That’s the only reason I’m rating this so low–I actually liked it quite a bit, but not as much as the movies above it (& that’s mainly because of the high school segments).

11. Thor Ragnarok:  I really liked the 3rd Thor movie, but not quite as much as many of the stand-alone movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I found the action of the movie to be really well done–there are three set-pieces in the film that are standouts (beginning, middle and end), while the humor really made the movie fun.  If there was a downside, it was perhaps that Marvel already has done this with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and this is perhaps a little too close to the same “schtick” that Marvel has already done in that movie.  Still, on the whole, I liked this one much better than I did with the 2nd Thor movie Thor The Dark World, so Marvel is doing something right.

10. Ant-Man: Now we’re starting to get into territory where ALL of the following movies are good, but it just depends on individual preference.  Even in this grouping, I’m making fine distinctions between the movies.  Let’s just say that if any of the movies from here above are playing on TV and I have the time, chances are good I’d just sit and watch to the conclusion.  I liked this story–it was a fun movie.  It was also a “heist” movie and I’m not personally a big fan of those.  Luckily, the heist was part of the movie’s climax and it was pretty interesting.

9. Thor: So the first Thor movie doesn’t get a lot of love, but it set’s up the first Marvel Avengers movie, it features great performances from the leads (Tom Hiddleston owns the role of Loki), and has some great comedic moments.  I really like the earnest approach to the story–both in terms of acting and the story itself.  It is the “Fall from Grace” story, but because it isn’t a Tragedy (aka GrimDark), the hero is given the chance to redeem himself and learns what it means to be a hero.  The cynic in me says that this why the movie isn’t universally loved–it is hard to be a hero because a true hero isn’t a jerk or an anti-hero.  A true hero has to be willing to sacrifice.  And in America (and the world at large), that just isn’t a very popular idea (Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you).

8. Captain America: First Avenger: I really like this movie.  This is mostly a period piece movie, but I like it more for its message than its out-and-out action sequences.  This the quintessential American movie–the little guy with a heart of gold who becomes not so little and stands up to those who would oppress others.  Again, not a popular sentiment these days.  I didn’t grow up in the time period the movie describes, but as someone who minored in History, I love the period piece behind the movie.

7. Doctor Strange: Okay, I liked this one just slightly more than I did the first Captain America movie, but less than I did the first Iron Man movie.  I think that Benedict Cumberbatch was an awesome choice to play this role because of his time with Sherlock and that gave him the right “timbre” for playing the narcissistic Stephen Strange.  I also thought that the change from selfish to selfless was well earned, and unlike the critics and masses, I liked the conclusion and final fight.  I thought that it was well earned and concluded the story well, but was also darkly humorous.  I loved the special effects and Doctor’s Strange’s cloak was a great character all by itself!

6. Iron Man: This one’s special to me as it is the first time that I realized that Marvel was really serious about “Universe-building.”  I’ve always been a Spider-Man and X-Men reader (on the Marvel side), but it was impossible ignore the other heroes.  I would see references in other comics about Iron Man and had a comic that was the precursor to the Marvel Handbooks that described the tech of Marvel’s heroes.  It diagramed how Spider-Man’s web-shooters worked, how Falcon’s wings and flight apparatus worked, how Mandarin’s rings did their thing, and so on.  As I recall, the comic showed several variants of Tony Stark’s armor, including the “gray Iron Man” suit.  Seeing that suit on-screen and then seeing Tony reworking it into the “contemporary” suit blew my mind!  If nothing else, I realized that this batch of Marvel movies (unlike the 1st batch in the mid/late 80s) intended to get it right and treat the source material with respect.  I was hooked on Marvel’s movies with this one.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy: So this one was one of those movies that I decided that I really loved the Trailer and that I was going to see no matter what.  To understand my reasoning, you have to understand that I had been talked out of seeing World War Z at the theaters by the lukewarm reviews.  When I saw WWZ on Blu-Ray, I loved it and wished that I’d seen it via Imax (as I’d intended before watching/reading reviews).  I made up my mind that if I ever saw a trailer that I liked, I was going to see the movie no matter what.  I saw the trailer for GG in March/Apr. and liked it.  I expected the critics to hate this one or at least be lukewarm with it like WWZ, but to my surprise they liked it and so did I.  WWZ taught me that if I’m already predisposed to like the movie, to go see it, otherwise I might miss out.  I was doggedly determined to see GG no matter its critical reaction–and I’m glad I did.  It was both a good Marvel movie and a good Sci-Fi movie as well.

4. Captain America: Civil War: I thought this would go to number one based on the fact that even though this is a Captain America movie, it is essentially an Avengers movie because the plot line revolves around the fracturing of the Avengers based on ideologies. When I saw this in the theaters (IMAX 3D), it was by far my number one movie.  However, after purchasing it and rematching it multiple times, I’ve found that after the first major scene, the pace really slows until spectacular sequences in the middle.  I think, however, what keeps this one lower than CA:WS and Avengers is the fact that while I liked the ending, the reason why both Cap and Tony fracture, while set up earlier in the movie, seems forced.  It was almost as if I could see the screenwriters pulling the strings in order to put Cap and Tony at each other’s throats at the end.  Neither CA:WS or Avengers gave me that feeling.  I love this movie, don’t get me wrong.  The “airport” scene alone is one of the best scenes in movies, but I just can’t help feeling that the two heroes were “manipulated” into their final fight, not by the villain of the story, but by the screenwriters reaching too hard to wring pathos out of the audience.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier:  If not for the 1st Avengers film, this one would definitely be my favorite.  It had everything that I look for in a movie.  Spectacular fight sequences and choreography, tight plotting, reversals, betrayals, secrets, spy vs spy, secret organizations, two leads who work well together, cats and dogs living together in harmony (okay, so I threw that last one in there from Ghostbusters, but I wanted to see if you were paying attention).  For me, this one paid off the promise made in the first Captain America film.  A man of a different era now has to come to grips with the modern world and all its perceived faults.

2. Marvel’s Avengers: Off all the Marvel Universe movies released so far, this one is my favorite.  It has all of the elements that I enjoy (strong characterization, tension between teammates, heroism, and teammates banding together against a common foe).  The fight sequences were astounding and more importantly, seemed real and engaging, and the character interactions were spot-on.  The final sequence was jaw-dropping in its scale and intensity.  I almost ALWAYS stop and watch this one out to the end whenever I run across it playing on TV.  They got this one perfect for me.

1. Black Panther: So, I’m not sure if this is going to stay here, but for now, this is my personal #1 Marvel movie so far.  Political? Not really.  I’m an Action Movie junkie who secretly wants to marry the action of an Avengers movie, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, with the same heart and skill of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers like Robert JordanTad WilliamsElizabeth Moon, and (my personal favorites) David Eddings.  The number and quality of characters and characterizations really push this one up for me.  If you’ll look at Avengers or CA: Winter Soldier, you’ll see that these stories have a characters who feel real and grounded.  Now take this and multiply it by (pretty much) the entire cast.  Now add in the Marvel trademark humor and action scenes and you have a stellar movie.  I’m also putting it at the top in that it is also “aspirational” for me.  I would like to get to this level of writing for myself (& I would like to see more of a market for this type of story).  I also, from a Sci-Fi point of view, love the Afrofuturism aspect where Africans/African-Americans find a balance through technology and futurism and I really like this and wish there were more stories in this mode.  Characters, characters, characters–then great setting, then great plot, then great action–then characters, characters, characters.  And that’s why Black Panther is my new #1.

There you have it–my top Marvel movies, so far.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.