Tag Archives: mcu

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Those Two Geeks Episode 110: Are We A Toy Podcast Now? All The Marvel Legends!

Alex and Joe spend an entire episode with a plan, and then only follow half of it. Does that make us consistent?

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Those Two Geeks Episode 109: We (don’t) have a cunning Plan

Alex and Joe spend an entire episode with no plan. So that probably means toys, comics and movies of some variety.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Those Two Geeks Episode 107: WandaVision

Alex and Joe finally talk about Wandavision’s finale. Expect spoilers for the first half hour before moving on to speculation about the recently released Snyder Cut Justice League and Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Plus toys.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Those Two Geeks Episode 105: Delayed Reactions

Recorded a couple weeks ago, Alex and Joe react to the recent (for them) Marvel Legends reveals and the seventh episode of Wandavision.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Those Two Geeks Episode 101: WandaVision

Alex and Joe attempt to keep to a half hour as they’re both facing time constraints. Seeing as how we always fail at this, and WandaVision is still fresh in our minds…. this could be fun. It’s worth noting we recorded this a couple weeks ago, so expect some relatively mild spoilers for the first two or three episodes only.

As always, Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jcb_smark if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter, or by email at ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

ant-man-and-the-wasp-posterThis is the palate cleanser we needed after the heaviness of Avengers: Infinity War, and like the first Ant-Man, guaranteed to leave you smiling ear to ear. However, as a film, and grading on the curve of what we expect from recent MCU movies, it falls a bit short of the recent genius of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok. 

But is that really fair? Do we judge the sorbet, pickled ginger, or simple fruit compared to the course before it? If you eat some apple slices after a particularly hearty main course, shouldn’t you just compare it to other apples? Ant-Man and the Wasp is a particularly good apple, even if it’s a lesser part of the feast of the MCU.

Our story centers back on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, finds himself in the last few days of a two-year house arrest, during which time he has had no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). They are reunited after he has a vision of Janet (Michelle Pfieffer) whom Hank and Hope have been trying to rescue from the quantum realm, avoiding detection by the authorities with a truly “mobile” lab they can shrink to a rolling suitcase.

Unfortunately, their activities have also attracted the attention of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) a former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, who needs their tech to fix her condition which allows her to phase through solid matter, but is also extremely painful. They’re also being pursued by billionaire Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and FBI Agent Woo (Randall Park) and aided by Scott’s friends from the previous movie, led by Michael Pena. And we get a glimpse into Hank Pym’s past with the introduction of Dr. Bill Foster (Lawrence Fishburne) who previously used Pym’s technology to grow larger and become “Goliath.”

It’s a lot of characters. And most of the movie ends up being a giant game of keep-away with the lab/suitcase while our stars tell jokes and superhero wackiness ensues. While the first Ant-Man played like a generic heist film, this is more reminiscent of the specific sub-genre of a 60’s caper film which was as much about the romantic chemistry of the two leads as its plot.

Full of sight gags and visuals of little things turning big and vice versa, the film plays with its main conceit of being able to shrink and grow at will, sometimes almost to a fault. It also uses its setting of San Francisco to great effect. The film also depends on the audience being willing to accept a lot of super convenient plot turns to keep everything moving, including the biggest deus ex machina of the entire MCU to resolve its central conflict.

One of the biggest impressions we’re left with from this film is “women do it better.” Hope Van Dyne’s Wasp is infinitely better at her job than Scott is at being Ant-Man, and Ghost as an antagonist is infinitely better than Corey Stoll’s super-weak Yellowjacket in the last Ant-Man film.

The other important thing here [possible spoiler alert?] is the idea that this film exists without a singular villain, continuing Marvel’s recent spate of complex villains with an actual beef and moral weight to their arguments. While Ghost is certainly the antagonist, she is a person acting out of severe pain from her “powers” and more akin to a terminal patient looking to do anything to get palliative medical care. And Goggins, while always fun to watch in a villain role, really doesn’t do enough to qualify as a “villain” in the true sense– other than just being a greedy capitalist.

So this movie has a lot of heart, spectacular visuals, great jokes and performances from its supporting cast, and some nice character moments, but falls short of some of the spectacle, fun, and other recent MCU films.  But as a palate cleanser? It works really well.

Until [again, possible spoiler alert, but this is predictable] in the post credit scenes we see what happens in this corner of the universe when Thanos snaps his fingers. Then it leaves that ashy, sad taste in our mouth again. If you want to preserve the fun and good feelings this movie gives us, you may want to leave at the credits, just this one time.

This is a fun movie which should keep you smiling for almost the entirety of its runtime. While not as good as, say, Incredibles 2, it’s worthwhile just as some fun escapism from the heat and the stresses of summer 2018.

3.5 out of 5

The Ultimate Guide to (Not) Watching the MCU Before Avengers: Infinity War

Over the past several weeks, so many friends have come to me and said, “So, which of the Marvel movies do I need to have seen before watching Avengers: Infinity War?” (which comes out April 24) My answer, invariably, has been “Uhm. . . all of them?”

I then realize most of my friends are nowhere near as obsessive as I am and haven’t been planning this for months. That’s completely fair. And, as was said quite well on Twitter by film writer Jason Bailey:

Well, the root word of “fan” is “fanatic,” right? So, forgive some of us our ridiculous indulgences. I’m the guy who, in preparation for The Last Jedi watched not only all of the Star Wars movies in chronological order, but also almost all of The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon shows. I started before Thanksgiving.

But this is for everyone else, written with what you should watch, in what order, and what you need to know in Cliff’s Notes form to get ready.  Speaking of, here’s what you need to know, even if you don’t watch any of the movies: The Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” are in shambles after a devastating difference of opinion split it into two factions led by Iron Man and Captain America. Meanwhile, an alien of phenomenal power named Thanos has been trying to collect six “Infinity Stones” to place into a gauntlet which would give him, basically, unlimited power. Each stone grants power over an element or concept: space, time, reality, power, mind, and soul. So far over the last decade and eighteen movies, five of the six have shown up.

So, first, figure out exactly how many movies you want to watch, and I’ll give you the right order to watch them in. I’ll start with the fewest movies, and end with two different ways to watch all of them.

NOTE: These are NOT judgments on the quality of the individual films. Indeed, the BEST film of the MCU (Captain America: The Winter Soldier — fight me) is only on the list of watching all or almost all of the films, while some of the lesser quality films (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World) are featured frequently only because they explain the background of the Infinity Stones.

If you only watch ONE movie

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Wha? But that movie has, like nothing to do with Thanos and the Infinity Stones? Right?

Yes, but the MCU’s saving grace is that it has always been more about characters and less about the other trappings. And in a movie like Infinity War that aims to balance the stories of two dozen protagonists, it’s best that we know where the majority of them ended up. And it’s worth knowing the personal stakes for everyone. It doesn’t hurt that this is one of the best films of the series (I rated it my #1 film of 2015)

So that’s all fine and good, but what else do I need to know?

Remember that Thanos is trying to collect all six of these stones, so we can assume that is central to the plot. At the end of the 18 films, here are the last known confirmed locations of the Infinity Stones (and their colors):
The Space Stone – Blue – “The Tesseract” was in Odin’s Treasure Room, but presumably Loki nicked it before Asgard was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok
The Reality Stone – Red – “The Aether” was last seen being delivered to Taneleer Tevan aka The Collector at the end of Thor: The Dark World
The Power Stone – Purple – “The Orb” was put in the Nova Corps’ vault on Xandar at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy
The Mind Stone – Yellow – Previously housed in Loki’s Scepter, the Mind Stone is now firmly set in the middle of Vision’s forehead, as last seen in Captain America: Civil War
The Time Stone – Green – Housed in “The Eye of Agamato,” this is presumably either in Stephen Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenich Village, New York City or around his neck, as seen in the end of Doctor Strange 
The Soul Stone 
– Orange – ???

Other characters? There are lots of people who weren’t involved in the Avengers Civil War. Where are they?
The Hulk, Thor, and Loki – Asgard got blowed up in Thor: Ragnarok. Last we saw the surviving Asgardian refugees, they were escaping in a spaceship, and in an after credits scene were confronted by Thanos’s ship. Eep.
The Guardians of the Galaxy – Gamora and Nebula were raised by Thanos. It was an abusive relationship, and they now oppose him. Starlord aka Peter Quill was raised on Earth but his father was an ancient celestial being that tried to murder all of them. This, however, gave him power to (briefly) wield the Power Stone. Drax the Destroyer’s main goal is now to kill Thanos, who ordered the death of his wife and daughter.

 

If you only watch THREE movies

It’s not unreasonable to watch a trilogy of movies. For people with limited time and attention, here are three to watch and why:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – This film gives the best explanation of the Infinity Stones, shows us Thanos actively trying to collect them, and introduced the Guardians.
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron – We see the power of the Mind Stone, and Thor explains more about them
  3. Captain America: Civil Warsee above

So what else do I need to know?
Three other Infinity Stones have shown up in various places: The Space Stone (in The Avengers and elsewhere), The Time Stone (in Doctor Strange), and The Reality Stone (in Thor: The Dark World). Also, Thor, Loki, and the Hulk were last seen in a spaceship that had just encountered Thanos’s ship. Eep. Also, in Guardians 2, Nebula and Gamora make up after bonding over the fact that Thanos would make them fight in mortal combat for his amusement and to make them better weapons.

 

If you only watch SIX movies

This is, in my opinion, the sweet spot. It gives you the locations of all of the Infinity Stones and sets up most of what’s going to happen next. Six movies may seem like a lot, but is it really any different than binge watching a favorite show? You may notice #6 is Black Panther rather than Thor: Ragnarok 

  1. The Avengers – The Space Stone, The Mind Stone, The Avengers first assemble, and a post credit teaser of Thanos
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy – The Power Stone, The Guardians. See above for more info
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – not the best movie, but the most about the Infinity Stones
  4. Captain America: Civil War – the best movie, but no Infinity Stones.
  5. Doctor Strange The Time Stone makes an appearance
  6. Black Panther – YES, go see Black Panther, again if you haven’t seen it yet. With a large portion of the action likely happening in Wakanda, you’d do yourself a big favor to check it out. Why see this instead of Thor: Ragnarok? For the same reason Cap: Civil War is on this list. Character over plot, and because Okoye, Shuri, and Wakanda’s fighting prowess isn’t in any other movie. We have several other movies with Thor and Hulk.

What are you missing? “The Aether” aka The Reality Stone was in Thor: The Dark World, and at the end of that movie, Odin decided it wasn’t smart to keep two Infinity Stones in the same place, so he gave it to Taneleer Tevan, The Collector, who you meet in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s still holding on the Reality Stone as far as we know. Also, Hulk, Thor and Loki (and presumably the Space Stone) and what’s left of Asgard encounter Thanos at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. 

If you only watch ELEVEN movies

This is the most essentially complete you can get without watching all of the movies. This gives us the final locations of all of the Infinity Stones, all of our major characters, all appearances of Thanos, plus adds back in the best movie of the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (fight me).

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. The Avengers
  3. Thor: The Dark World
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  7. Captain America: Civil War
  8. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
  9. Doctor Strange
  10. Thor: Ragnarok
  11. Black Panther

What am I missing? Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ant Man, Ed Norton as The Hulk. I recognize for a lot of people these are their favorite parts. If so, sprinkle in your favorite bits where they fit, as a commitment to watch 11 movies, welp, you may as well make it a baker’s dozen, amirite? But watching all of these you will know everything you (likely) need before watching Avengers: Infinity War.

If you watch ALL of the MCU

There’s two ways to do this: chronological order by release date, or chronological order by where the majority of the events of the film happen (majority, as in, not counting opening flashbacks like in Ant Man or Guardians of the Galaxy). I prefer release date, just because I think the way things play out is a little more even. Chronologically, you get both of your Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the first two Iron Man movies back to back. A little separation is not a bad thing.

Release date order:

  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – First appearance of “The Tesseract” aka The Space Stone
  5. Thor (2011)
  6. The Avengers (2012) – Second appearance of The Tesseract, First appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, First appearance of Thanos
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013) – First appearance of The Aether aka The Reality Stone, first appearance of Taneleer Tevan aka The Collector, who takes The Aether in an aftercredits scene and remarks “One down.”
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – First appearance of “The Orb” aka The Power Stone, explanation of the origin of The Infinity Stones by Taneleer Tevan, second appearance of Thanos
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Second appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, which provided the powers for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, spawns Ultron and then ends up in Vision’s head, and Thor takes a bath and sees a vision about the Infinity Stones and the destruction of Asgard. Third appearance of Thanos, who, in an after credits scene, announces, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
  12. Ant Man (2015)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  14. Doctor Strange (2016) – First appearance of The Eye of Agamato, which contains The Time Stone.
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 (2017)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Third appearance of The Tesseract, which it is implied Loki steals before Asgard is destroyed. Fourth appearance of Thanos, or at least his ship, as it encounters the refugee Asgardian ship in the after credits scene.
  18. Black Panther (2018)

Chronological order:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger  – First appearance of “The Tesseract” aka The Space Stone
  2. Iron Man
  3. Iron Man 2 
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Thor 
  6. The Avengers – Second appearance of The Tesseract, First appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, First appearance of Thanos
  7. Iron Man 3 
  8. Thor: The Dark World  – First appearance of The Aether aka The Reality Stone, first appearance of Taneleer Tevan aka The Collector, who takes The Aether in an aftercredits scene and remarks “One down.”
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy – First appearance of “The Orb” aka The Power Stone, explanation of the origin of The Infinity Stones by Taneleer Tevan, second appearance of Thanos
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Second appearance of The Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter, which provided the powers for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, spawns Ultron and then ends up in Vision’s head, and Thor takes a bath and sees a vision about the Infinity Stones and the destruction of Asgard. Third appearance of Thanos, who, in an after credits scene, announces, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
  13. Ant Man 
  14. Captain America: Civil War
  15. Doctor Strange – First appearance of The Eye of Agamato, which contains The Time Stone.
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  17. Thor: Ragnarok – Third appearance of The Tesseract, which it is implied Loki steals before Asgard is destroyed. Fourth appearance of Thanos, or at least his ship, as it encounters the refugee Asgardian ship in the after credits scene.
  18. Black Panther

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor_Ragnarok_SDCC_PosterThor’s outings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been. . . uneven at best, to put it kindly. Indeed, Thor: The Dark World remains the unequivocal nadir of the MCU’s otherwise good track record. But given that and Avengers: Age of Ultron also being less than stellar — the last two times we saw our Asgardian hero — you might come in to this film with zero expectations.

Prepare to be blown away by one of the best movies in the MCU and certainly Thor’s best film appearance to date. 

Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the Norse God of Thunder. Reunited with his presumed-dead brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), they track down their missing father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who reveals a deep family secret — an older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death who has her sights set on the Asgardian throne.

Various misadventures find Thor reunited with fellow Avenger The Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), against whom he is pitted in gladiatorial combat reminiscent of the storyline in Planet Hulk. They must escape back to Asgard to take on Hela with the help of a recalcitrant Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who is probably the best part of the movie and given some of the most fun action pieces and one of the best character arcs of any person in the film.

But don’t be fooled into thinking most of this is a Planet Hulk movie. Its roots go far deeper than the relatively recent storyline. But if you take one part Planet Hulk, plus equal amounts Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson classic Thor, that’s the comics cocktail from which this springs.

The ringmaster for this particular circus is director Taika Waititi, who delivers something truly unexpected: different kind of Marvel movie. One of the most common complaints against the MCU is how similar / unoriginal / mass produced they feel. Thor: Ragnarok defies that claim with its humor, characters, visuals, and soundtrack.

This movie is funny. Of course, that should be of no surprise to those who know Waititi for his time working on Flight of the Conchords or his previous films What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It’s a very specific humor which is undeniably Kiwi in its politeness, awkwardness, and wry sense of irony — and wholly different from Joss Whedon’s or James Gunn’s much broader humor in The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Waititi also brings along some familiar faces to those who know his other films, including Rachel House, who plays a lackey of Jeff Goldblum‘s The Grandmaster in Ragnarok, is very similar to the character she played in Wilderpeople. And Waititi himself shows up (as he is wont to do in his own films) as Korg, a rock-person gladiator who ends up with some of the funniest lines in the film.

Waititi’s work has always been good before, but he’s never been given this big of a canvas to paint on. Wilderpeople especially felt like they spent the majority of the movie’s budget on a climactic, over-the-top car chase full of explosions that would make Michael Bay blush. With the ability to really cut loose — and decades of Kirby and Simonson art to draw from — Waititi gives us some of the most astounding visuals of the MCU so far.

While not quite as mind-blowing as last year’s Doctor Strange, the visuals Waititi seems to be trying to give us a late 70’s/early 80’s psychedelic trip of a sci-fi movie, complete with a soundtrack by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh — heavy on the Devo and John Carpenter synth vibe. Oh, and a heaping helping of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in case you couldn’t get enough of it from the trailer. Waititi also borrows (steals?) visually from fellow Marvel director Sam Raimi in fun and unexpected ways and includes perhaps the most interesting nod to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ever.

But a film always comes down to its characters and its themes. And this is where Thor: Ragnarok perhaps shines above many of its other MCU peers. Every character in this film goes on a journey. Their stories, interactions, and dialogue are incredibly well-woven together. Everything has a purpose and eventual payoff. It sits alongside its peer Logan this year for being so well-crafted from a storytelling perspective. One tiny complaint is that it gets a little too bogged down in its own exposition in the middle. It could stand to lose five or seven minutes, but not much more.

And at the end you ask yourself, “So what?”

One of the great joys of being able to analyze movies is to ask these questions. Is this just a cashgrab to get butts in seats, buy popcorn, and sell merchandising? There’s something unique in here, which requires going into very minor spoiler territory. Skip the next 5 paragraphs if you don’t want to know any more.

[Begin Minor Spoilers]

The title Thor: Ragnarok is instructive. Ragnarok — the Norse apocalypse — is the destruction of the world, and in the case of the film and the comics, of Asgard. But it often signifies a form of creative destruction or nihilism necessary for a new chapter.

Hela comes to Thor and Loki replacing their ideas of what Asgard was — a beautiful civilization that loves peace — with the true history that she once rode with Odin making war on the 9 Realms to capture their treasure and slay millions of innocents. Odin cast her out when he decided to switch brands from bloodthirsty warmonger to benevolent father-king, but he kept the gold and trinkets that made him powerful. But after a lifetime, Odin passes onto Thor the wisdom that Asgard is not a place– it’s people. You could just as easily insert for “Asgard” there the names America, Britain, Spain . . . New Zealand.

And so here we are in 2017. Maybe we’re looking at the world with fresh eyes, that the advances of “the West” are built on a bloody history of colonialism, slavery, and other forms of oppression. Perhaps we’re now seeing the chickens of our nationalism, jingoism, sexism, and quest for economic hegemony coming home to roost in the the rise of forces and ideals we long thought dead or outmoded. Perhaps Ragnarok — some creative nihilism — is what we need to wipe the vestiges of former power away to be replaced by a more pure, benevolent rule of law.

Or maybe it’s just a story about two brothers, one of whom has a magic hammer, and it gets smashed by their mean old sister, so they have to recruit a giant green monster to help beat her up. Could be that, too.

ONE OTHER THING (Is it a spoiler to reveal what isn’t in a movie?) If you’ve got your hopes up to see the final infinity stone, just tamp those expectations down. You do get a couple glances at the Tesseract (aka the Space Stone), but we already knew about that one anyway, right? Right. Just enjoy the movie without worrying about it moving that particular storyline forward.

But, of course, make sure you stay through the credits, because. . . well, you know the drill.

[End Spoilers]

It’s likely unfair to castigate the MCU for having movies that feel like they came off an assembly line. While it may have been true previously (again, looking at you, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron), it’s worth noting how unique the Marvel Phase 3 films have been:

Captain America: Civil War is a philosophical political thriller and ethical Rorschach test with action set-pieces. (I still don’t trust anyone who is totally Team Iron Man)
Doctor Strange is a psychedelic mystic Hero’s Journey where the real enemy is ego.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a family drama where a reluctant patriarch has to lose the last vestiges of his mother and father to become the father he needs to be — and where a raccoon cries at the end as he wonders whether or not there is a god.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a John Hughes movie with superheroes.
Black Panther looks to be the most unique Marvel movie of all.

There is a theme running through all of these: the act of creative destruction. In all of these films, our characters have to give up something they love or thought defined them in order to take the next step in their hero’s journey.

Further, family looms large in Cap: Civil War, Guardians 2, and Spider-Man. Family is at the core of Thor: Ragnarok, as it’s essentially sibling rivalry writ large with intergalactic consequences. It’s almost like. . . they actually plan these things out and are trying to say something more broadly about the human condition.

Kudos, Marvel. And Kudos (or whatever the New Zealand equivalent) to Taika Waititi. You have created something unique that blends together some of the best parts of the history of the character of Thor, given us astounding visuals, great music, jokes to make us laugh, action to thrill us, and even some nuggets to ponder.

You’ve given us a film finally worthy of the God of Thunder. Go see this on the biggest, brightest screen you possibly can. And then hug your family and friends. Because even in an apocalypse, home is not just a place– it’s people.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie you have been waiting for

Greetings, True Believers! Rest assured– Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie you have been waiting for.

When we last left our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, he made a small, but memorable, appearance in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. He stole Cap’s shield, and basically the entire movie, in just a couple of scenes.

Our film opens with a video diary from his point of view of everything that happened in Germany. “a Film by Peter Parker” it says in courier script as he narrates, “Queens, New York. A rough borough, but it’s home.”

“Who are you talking to?” an irate Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) asks from the driver’s seat, as he puts up the privacy divider in the car to stop being pestered by the teen’s questions: “Why do they call you Happy?”

As Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) drops Peter Parker (Tom Holland) off at his Queens apartment, he tells him, “Can’t you be more of a. . .  friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? . . . Just don’t do anything I would do. And definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little gray area in there– and that’s where you operate.”

And there is no better summation of how this movie fits in with the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those movies span the globe– the universe, even– and this is a story that is mostly confined to Queens and a single school field trip to Washington, DC. Instead of this being about fighting a galactic menace, he’s focused on the people robbing the ATM in his neighborhood or a stolen bike. The Avengers handle the big stuff. Peter Parker handles the little stuff. Manhattan vs. Queens.

But, oh, he does not like that. At all. Every day he’s texting, asking when the next time they’ll need him is. He spends all of his time trying to prove himself, and when he bites off a little more than he can chew with Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture (Michael Keaton), we actually see what a screw-up he is. No, he isn’t ready for the big time, and that’s perhaps the hardest lesson of adolescence.

But one of the best things they did right in this movie is what they don’t do. There’s no origin story of being bitten by a radioactive spider. No Uncle Ben. And while I kind of wanted to see Spidey being motivated by his great power and great responsibility, this just isn’t that story. This is the teenager who wants to grow up too fast. It’s the MCU colliding with John Hughes. The simple fact that there are two very obvious homages to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (one right after the other in case you didn’t get the first one) tells you that’s exactly what they’re going for. And they nail it. I can’t decide if this is a reason I dislike the film or that I like it so much, but it’s that it’s so full of teen angst. And that’s a bold move for a superhero genre movie to stray so far from the formula of what we expect in a reboot.

I only briefly mentioned Keaton before, but he is the real breakout star of this movie. (Insert obligatory Birdman joke). Possibly other than Loki he’s the best MCU villain– because he’s not a bad guy. He starts off a normal guy who gets stepped on and decides to use stolen space technology to provide for his family. Even his name makes sense– the Vulture– because he’s picking the scraps off of whatever fight The Avengers and SHIELD just had. 

But he’s menacing. A scene near the end reminds you just how amazing an actor Keaton is. You can almost see the gears in his head turning as he figures things out. And he also has a sense of honor about what he’s doing. But despite his bluster about being against the 1%– let’s be super real, here. We find out he’s doing just fine financially. Yes, he’s worried about providing for his family, but he provides for them in a pretty upper-middle-class way. There’s something to be said here about the rise of the Trump voter and the fear of loss of privilege. . .  but I’ll save that diatribe until more people have had a chance to see the movie and can discuss this in more depth with spoilers.

This is not to say the film is flawless. Again, the emphasis on teen angst was certainly intended, but I would’ve liked to see the other side of the character. And as many comedic moments as there are in the film, none were quite as memorable as some of the Joss Whedon or James Gunn moments from The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy, or even the most recent Thor: Ragnarok trailer. And a final nighttime action sequence set against the black sky on top of a dark stealth aircraft made the action harder to see and follow. See this in the best theater with the best contrast you possibly can.

This is the Spider-Man movie we’ve all wanted to see. And it’s a great reminder that Marvel Studios understands their characters better than anyone else out there. This should be a wakeup call to Fox or anyone else who has a languishing piece of the Marvel intellectual property– please let Marvel Studios co-produce your next Fantastic Four movie. They might make it not suck. Because Spider-Man: Homecoming does anything but that.

4 out of 5 stars

 

What Could Be Expected in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

After its initial success with Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor, Marvel Studios quickly realized that it had a formula for success on its hands and seemed ready to take advantage of it.  To do so though required a plan, and studio head Kevin Feige soon had broken down the movies into various phases, with the most recent Ant-Man signaling the end of phase 2.  Aside from the developments inside the movies, there have been some developments outside the movies which have affected the universe as well, chief among those the partial reversion of the rights to Spider-Man back to Marvel, or at least the use of Spider-Man inside the shared universe in a collaboration with Sony.

At the moment, we kn ow the entire lineup for phase 3, starting with Captain America: Civil War and continuing through two new Avengers movies and the Inhumans.  What might be expected in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  The release of the newest Fantastic Four might signal some of the changes which we can anticipate ahead (there are some spoilers below).

Ant-Man and Wasp

waspMany expected Ant-Man to be one of the bigger disappointments thus far in the MCU, due to its ongoing problems with the direction, after it passed from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed.  It seemed as though the studio was not going to take any risks with the character as they could not even confirm his role in any future movies.  This presumably will all change now that the movie has been released.  Although it can’t compare to the financial success of the year’s other Marvel movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, it also is noteworthy as being a better critical success, with a better rating at Rotten Tomatoes than Avengers.  With both financial and critical success it seems as though there will be more to come from these characters.  As was hinted at the end of the movie, there is still a lot of story left to tell as well, as the end hinted that Janet van Dyne might not be truly lost.  Furthermore Hope van Dyne was presented with a Wasp suit by her father.  There could be a lot of places to take the story of the two heroes, though one in particular might make the most sense …

Micronauts

micronautsThe Micronauts are a bit of an oddity in comics.  They started out as a line of toys, who were written into comics after in the 1970s after Marvel writer Bill Mantlo saw his son open a box of the toys.  The series started as somewhat of a standalone, but slowly was incorporated into the Marvel Universe, with appearances by some other mainstream characters.  While the rights for the characters do not presently rest with Marvel, there is a long publication history with the characters and as the rights rest with other smaller comic companies, it would likely not be too difficult to reacquire the rights.  Furthermore for the film studio that might try to replicate the runaway success of Guardians of the Galaxy, they might look smaller instead of bigger and find their next surprise hit there.  There would be some hurdles, but also there might be a few benefits, as Janet van Dyne disappeared into the smallest dimension, the Microverse.  This small universe is not in itself small, but the pathways to enter it are, and could give an explanation as to where the character disappeared.  They might find Janet in the Microverse, but they might also be able to find some other heroes there as well…

Fantastic Four

fantastic fourThe Fantastic Four is one of the best known Marvel properties that does not lie within the company’s grasp at the moment, instead being controlled by Fox.  While Fox has managed to control the X-Men franchise strongly enough with some decent movies, the Fantastic Four has mostly been a sequence of failures.  The first of the series was good enough to warrant a sequel, but this was before the wake of Marvel movies changed how fans expected superhero movies to turn out.  Marvel Studios was looking to be innovative, not just rehash generic action/sci-fi plots with superheroes thrown in.  The most recent attempt by Fox to revamp the Fantastic Four might have been an attempt to do the same, to get some new excitement into the mix, but it evidently did not turn out that way.  Critical response (and probably financial) will mean that the characters will have to be shelved for a while before the public has forgotten enough about them.  Using the Sony/Spider-Man approach, lending the characters back to Marvel Studios might be a wiser choice, one that would probably make more money for both, and one which would keep the fans happy.  By this point though, with two origin movies behind them, it might make sense to jump straight into the Fantastic Four with them already established as heroes.  They could exist in a similar sense to Hank Pym in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unknown but still present.  More so, one of the places that is visited by the Fantastic Four is the Microverse, and if they were stuck there then it would be an easy bridge between Ant-Man and the return of Marvel’s first family.

Namor

namorIt is not entirely clear where the rights to Namor presently rest.  Kevin Feige has indicated that Marvel, if they desired, could make a Namor movie, but that there would be some “entanglements”.  Rights to the movie have rested with Universal, but seem to have at least partially lapsed.  What remains is speculated to be the same arrangement with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, that Marvel creates but Universal distributes.  While it was not a problem when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still nascent, it seems moving forward that Marvel likes to create and distribute, and to get rewarded financially at 100% for its efforts.  It might make exceptions for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four but maybe less so for Namor.  Another factor to consider is what DC Comics will manage to do with its own movies.  The other of the big two comic companies is playing catchup, but also has the benefit of controlling the movie rights to nearly all of its characters.  They have already greenlit an Aquaman movie, but it remains to be seen just how well it will do.  Aquaman is after all a hero that is taken not so seriously in pop culture, but if DC can make it work, maybe it will give Marvel second thoughts about its own underwater hero.

Thunderbolts

thunderboltsThe fact that DC Comics is playing catchup in the movie game can also be to the advantage of Marvel.  Marvel has already taken its gambles and seen those pay off, as with Guardians of the Galaxy.  DC Comics, who are eager to catch up, are also taking their own gambles, and chief among those is the Suicide Squad.  Featuring a group of villains forced into a heroic role, it might catch on, or it might flop.  Fans certainly will not be very familiar with the concept, and the concept in itself is strange enough that it might not work.  On the other hand, it might work, and if yes then it could serve as a gamble that Marvel gets to witness the results of without gambling anything itself.  If popular it could use its own villain-turned-heroes team the Thunderbolts and catch the wave of people wanting more Suicide Squad before a sequel to the DC movie comes out.  If played right as well it could help quieten those that think that the MCU’s villains are the weakest part of the movies.

Defenders

defendersMarvel is already a long way along in its development of the Doctor Strange movie, and holds the exclusive rights to the Hulk as long as he is not the featured character in a movie.  A Namor movie could be forthcoming depending on the success of Aquaman, and if Fox sees the benefits of doing so, a collaboration might be in the works to return the Fantastic Four and associated characters to the MCU, which would include the Silver Surfer.  Those four make up the original four members of the Defenders.  For those that are getting a bit tired of seeing the Avengers over and over again on the big screen, it might be an excuse to feature this other Marvel team (although Marvel is working on a street level Defenders television show as well.)  One interesting aspect about this team is that as opposed to the Avengers that the original team is made up of all non-street level characters, meaning that the stakes could be higher and that bigger things might happen as a result, such as …

World War Hulk

wwhThis has been a long rumored development in the MCU, but also not one that has not yet come to fruition.  Marvel has been careful to include in story arcs from the comics, and it has made for some great connections for fans of both mediums.  Although World War Hulk is not necessarily the best all time Hulk story, it is up there, and would be a better vehicle for putting a new spin on the Hulk stories, more so than what we are seeing at the movies, with both Hulk movies fitting the same general pattern of the Hulk being hunted by the government after smashing up a bunch of stuff.  It would also allow the character to move beyond the Avengers, which is a connection that is not as strong in the comics.  Also if all the pieces fell into place, it would mean that a lot of the major players from the crossover might be able to make it into the movie, save for the X-Men.

Hawkeye

kateRumors abound that another major character will die in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War (especially that there are pictures from the set of a funeral sequence), and without any other way to verify this other than by seeing a movie that will not be released until 2016, it still seems likely that one of the characters that might be easiest to kill off would be Hawkeye.  He is among the less popular of the main characters in the MCU, and has been almost a footnote to the movies series, appearing to provide fans with another superhero, but also one that doesn’t really do much.  Even if he does not die in the movie, it is also worth noting that the character is one which is on the verge of retirement, being somewhat older than the other heroes and with responsibilities to his family.  This could leave open the possibility for a Hawkeye movie except not as we might expect.  As the movies expand in popularity it makes sense to be closer to four quadrant movies, and one way to do this is to introduce more female characters.  If Clint Barton were to retire on screen, it could open the door for Kate Bishop to step up, providing the MCU with another superheroine, and one with a lot more of an edge than Clint.

She-Hulk and Spider-Woman

shehulkOn that same note, if Marvel is looking to keep its female fans happy it might look to develop these characters as well.  Most of the main Marvel superheroines would be tied up elsewhere, with most of the major heroines being members of the X-Men, and other such as Sue Storm or Medusa mostly only operating as parts of teams.  Others such as Elektra and even Hellcat are tied to the television series, which mean that only a few major female characters would be left to get the big screen treatment.  She-Hulk and Spider-Woman could both be strong contenders to hold down their own movie, especially if Marvel did something unexpected and went off the script with the Spider-Gwen version of Spider-Woman.  It would also help to fill the ranks of the Avengers, a team which needs to be mixed up a bit from time to time to keep the roster fresh and the fans intrigued.

Ka-Zar

tigraKa-Zar is one of the longest running Marvel characters, but also one that has not had a very solid fanbase in modern years, although unquestionably popular among many.  Although Marvel is keen on taking risks, could it make the Savage Land work the same as it made Guardians of the Galaxy work?  The Savage Land is the source of many stories within the Marvel Universe, though most of them with the X-Men.  Why might the MCU be interested in the Savage Land?  It is a fantasy setting, and while it does not match up with other heroes, could still serve as an explanation for the re-appearance of some characters who also happen to be Avengers – Hercules, Tigra or even the Black Knight.  It might be a stretch, but Marvel will be looking for new blood for its Avengers as it moves forward, as is evident from the new roster after Age of Ultron.  Tigra especially might be interesting, as she not only is her own character, but is also indirectly responsible for the development of Hellcat, whose non-superpowered version is already set to be introduced in the Marvel television show Jessica Jones.

Iron Man 4

iron manThis is perhaps the biggest question to solve in phase 4.  A big part of what made the MCU so popular is that it based its hopes on the initial movie, Iron Man.  If this movie had failed so too would the plans for the shared universe.  Success would probably have still come the way of the studio, but it would have been a longer road.  Part of the runaway success of the original Iron Man was that Robert Downey Jr. was perfectly cast as Tony Stark, what some might say is not even really acting as he seems to be mostly playing himself.  That having been said, superheroes never really age but actors and actresses do.  While the studio can get a few more years out of Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson (all in their early to mid 30s), and even a lot more out of Paul Bettany (whose character the Vision wears so much makeup as to be ageless) and Elizabeth Olsen (who is in her mid 20s), it can probably expect less out of Robert Downey Jr, who is now 50.  They might push him for a couple more movies, but eventually he will need to be replaced, and the biggest question would then be by who, as the character is one that is of highest importance to the MCU.  There might be no bigger question heading forward in the MCU than who will fill this role.

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