Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 2 – Film

“Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 2”

Iron Man 3 (2013)

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I had reviewed this film when I first saw it.

Our favorite billionaire, genius, playboy, hero, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), a.k.a., Iron Man, returns and discovers, that sometimes, mistakes from the past can come back to haunt us.  In this case, in the form of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce),  leader of Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) and  The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an outspoken villain targeting the U.S. and Iron Man with his evilly twisted homage and lessons in history.

My opinions of this, the first entry of Phase 2, remain the same as my original viewing.  I liked that Stark is portrayed as very human with human flaws and weaknesses.  They addressed a quite serious topic, post traumatic stress associated with the events of Phase 1, specifically The Avengers.  Forcing Stark to question if he was a man with a great suit or if the man inside was what made the suit great.  Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) continues to  deal with the chaos and fallout of Stark’s obsession with improving the Iron Man suit(s) and how it affects their relationship.  Even Happy Hogan (now that Jon Favreau gets to focus on acting and the character, since he did not direct this film), once Stark’s bodyguard, a small but interesting role, as he moves from Stark’s bodyguard to head of security for Pepper.

If the entire franchise had a smashing success with an Iron Man movie it makes sense that the movie studio would want to try to repeat it.  While it wasn’t as solid as the first Iron Man film, it was still a worthy entry.   I gave it 4  glasses of scotch whiskey.




Thor: The Dark World (2013)

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With the coming of a cosmic event, known as The Convergence, Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves, wakens from an ancient slumber to search again for the Aether.  As the realms begin to overlap and doorways open between them, Jane Foster discovers the Aether.  In order to save her and all the realms, Thor must join forces with Loki to defeat Malekith and stop him from using the Aether, which is in fact the Reality Stone, one of the Infinity Stones, to plunge all the realms into darkness.

This is the Thor movie I wanted to see!  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have clearly become comfortable in their friendship and their roles as Thor and Loki respectively.  Set against a strong and interesting villain driven with single-minded purpose, the leader of the Dark Elves, Malekith, executed fantastically by Chris Eccleston.

Thor: The Dark World is a solid story which not only is able to stand alone as a film, it continues the greater story arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and adds further layers of development to some of the audience’s favorite characters.   It is a visual feast, with the richly textured worlds, beautifully designed costumes and make-up effects, and CGI details.

I gave this film 4 1/2 pints.  I completely enjoyed this film and am looking forward to what comes next.




Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Steve Rogers, Captain America, continues to adjust to the modern world and tries to determine his place in it.  As S.H.I.E.L.D. falls apart from the inside, revealing a terrible, hidden enemy, Rogers faces a new villain, the Winter Soldier, who looks disturbingly familiar.

This, as Captain America: The First Avenger did, focuses on the characters in the story.  Yes, there is the larger, global, impact of the overall story-arc, the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and exposure of Hydra.  However, the meat of the story is about how a single person is worth saving, because you can’t protect the world without believing that the people in it are worth saving.  The introduction of Falcon, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who works at the VA in Washington D.C. helping soldiers adjust to civilian life after their tour of duty, helps to remind the audience that fighting has lasting effects on soldiers and change the people they are.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the moral compass of the Avengers Initiative, wants to respect the leaders in the World Security Organization, including Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), and the other Avengers, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), but they see the world, and the approach to protecting it, more so, what freedom is and what it isn’t, very differently.  People in positions of power have agendas.

The Russo’s did a terrific job with the visual effects, using as much live action as possible.

I gave this 5 milk shakes.  Fans love Captain America for a good reason.  Through all the comic books and Marvel Cinematic Universe, Steve Rogers is simply good for the sake of being good.  That Chris Evans recognizes and believes in this goodness is evident in his fantastic portrayal of the character.




Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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I reviewed this film when I first saw it.

After “salvaging” a mysterious orb, Peter Quill finds himself being pursued by Ronan the Accuser, a member of the Kree Empire.  To save the universe, Quill joins forces with Rocket, the machine gun wielding cyber-enhanced, mechanical genius, raccoon; Groot, a Flora Colossus; Gamora, former ally of Ronan, adopted daughter of Thanos; and Drax, the overly muscled, overly literal, revenge seeking, Destroyer.

In this first fully “outer space” comic book film in which the audience shares in the adventures of the misfit group coming together to find an orb containing the power stone, one of the infinity stones. The film is a visual spectacle which is not only an entertaining story in its own right it, expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe away from Earth almost entirely, introducing rich new characters, races, and textures, pushing beyond the usual comfort zone for such a large budget movie.

Chris Pratt really brings Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, to life with a sense of oafish frivolity that is easy for the audience to connect with, and through him, it is easy to empathize with the more exotic characters.  Zoe Saldana, as Gamora, unable to bear the cruelty of Ronan or her adoptive father, Thanos, she betrays them and joins Quill and the others to save the universe.  Bradly Cooper, as the voice of Rocket, the feisty, angry-at-life, outlaw cyborg-Raccoon, with Sean Gunn as the motion-capture actor.  Vin Diesel as the incredibly dynamic voice of Groot, the, loyal, kind-hearted, resourceful, Flora Colossus, a tree creature, with Krystian Godlewski as the motion-capture actor.  And a surprisingly talented Dave Bautista, as the revenge driven Drax.

The film features a great soundtrack, which is essentially a character in itself, the character of Peter’s mother.  The music and the  frequent pop culture references keep the audience connected to the familiar.

I love this movie,  I feel it is the best movie of Phase 2.   I am excited to see Vol. 2 and further to see how this part of the MCU will eventually connect.   I gave it 5 iced teas.




Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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The Avengers continue to fight to dismantle Hydra cells.  In a bunker at an outpost in Sokovia, they find the Mind Stone scepter.  Also at that bunker are the enhanced twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, who had agreed to allow Hydra to experiment on them after losing their parents and nearly dying themselves because of Stark’s weapons.

I have quite mixed feelings about this movie.  I like to view this film as a sort of passing of the torch onto the next generation of Avengers moving into and setting up for Phase 3.  Starting out seeking revenge for the death of their parents, the Maximoff twins, Wanda, The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Pietro, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) they first work with Hydra, then with Ultron (James Spader); until they see where their vengeance seeking has lead, and like those they tried to punish, they find they have helped create their own worst fears by aiding Ultron.

So what happens when you take a man who has been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and force him to see his worst fears, then hand him an Infinity Stone?  Ultron.  As with Iron Man and Robert Downey, Jr., I cannot imagine anyone else doing this role as well as the amazing James Spader.  The mission: “Peace in Our Time,” but at an unimaginable cost, because it’s creator couldn’t imagine the cost.  As Ultron grows, he lays the groundwork for the birth of his Vision (Paul Bettany).  And what a vision!  Such an exciting character, an amalgamation of Jarvis, Ultron, Stark, and the Mind Stone, but not really.  Vision is so much more.

The movie is a good time, to be sure, but the story is a mess, there is simply too much going on.  An over abundance of characters given screen time and some semblance of back story, both familiar and new, too many random subplots – hinted at and half started, create plot holes and a lack of satisfaction in the final story.

Though I find it to be an enjoyable film, and introduces two characters I am very excited to see more of (Scarlett Witch and Vision), this is probably the weakest film of Phase 2.  It is a really good example of what happens when studios execs insist on making changes to films, rather than trusting the writers and directors who have a proven track record of creating fantastic movies that satisfy fans and make fistfuls of money.  I gave it 3 1/2 cocktails.



**Random note of interest, Joss Whedon announced that Age of Ultron would be his last Marvel film collaboration.


Ant Man (2015)

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Just released from prison, Scott Lang really wants to go straight.  In order to see his daughter, he needs to get a job, an apartment, and pay child support, but there isn’t much out there for an ex-con, even one who is a non-violent cat-burglar.  Realizing how long it will take for him to see his daughter using conventional means, Scott agrees to pull a seemingly easy heist, burgling an old man’s house, where, instead of money or jewels, he finds a suit.

I was pleasantly surprised with this film.  I went into it expecting another super hero movie and was given a fantastic heist movie. One of the most pleasing aspects of this film, like Guardians of the Galaxy, this has a great soundtrack with lots of energy.

Michael Douglas brings dignity and intensity to Hank Pym, the original Ant Man.  But this story is about Pym’s predecessor, Scott Lang.  Paul Rudd adds his signature snark and energy to Lang’s Ant Man.  Evangeline Lily does a screaming job of cold, aloof, dignity, with a generous helping of contempt.  Unfortunately, both Rudd and Lily do too good a job at what they’re … well, good at, making the chemistry between them onscreen less believable.  In contrast, Lily’s scenes with our highly emotional villain, Darren Cross (Darren Stoll), are ripe with tension.

This film has such a wonderfully colorful supporting cast.  Michael Pena, as Luis, Lang’s former cell mate, steals every scene he is in with his quick smile, rapid speaking style, meandering stories, and all around good nature.  Bobby Cannavale, as Paxton, Lang’s ex-girlfriend’s cop fiance; T.I. as Dave the wheel man; David Dastmalchian, as Vance the security expert;  Abby Ryder Forsten, as Lang’s daughter, Cassie; and so many more.

I thought this was a fun, refreshing film and a strong punch for the conclusion of Phase 2.  I gave the film 4 cups of tea.



Overall, Phase 2 was highly successful.  Continuing to build and improve on a solid base, the only stumble being when the creative control was taken out of the writer/directors hands, it recovered quickly and ended on a strong note.

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