NerdgasmRants

MCU Rewatch : Phase 3

After phase one and phase two, I am very interested in how exactly Marvel is planning to bring the story to a close in Endgame because, in the current state of the MCU, it is practically impossible to have a truly standalone movie without the other heroes butting in.  Movies like Civil War and Homecoming fully embraced it,  CW became pretty much an Avengers 2.5 while every aspect of Homecoming from the villain’s origin to the hero’s journey directly stems from events in the MCU’s past. Then there are movies like Dr.Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel which found workarounds like time lags or secret kingdoms to justify being standalone, origin stories. It almost feels like the MCU’s bubble is close to its bursting point and Endgame absolutely must end some of the existing arcs and sort of “reset” the MCU so that future characters have enough space to grow on their own terms.

Mommy issues. 

 

Civil War, as previously said, wholly embraces the idea that Captain America is just too big of a deal to have his own solo arc without having any repercussions on the other characters. Steve Rogers is defined by his patriotism and has always been a soldier. But in this movie, he doesn’t even consider becoming one again. Tony, on the other hand, who’s always been strict about operating on his own terms is perfectly willing to hand over the wheel to the United Nations. Being a superhero sure takes its toll I guess. The other characters very quickly fall in line each picking a side. It appears quick on screen, but the Russos have gone on record to state just how much thought has been put into these characters’ past to evaluate what their decision-making process would be like when confronted with the two options at that moment.  The movie is another testament to the Russos’ ability to surprise the audience. Almost every fan theory before the movie came predicted that the Avengers will split up around the end of act two but it wouldn’t have any real consequences as they will ultimately get back to fight a common villain by end of act three. It almost appeared to be so, when Tony talks to Sam in the raft and goes over to call a truce but then, well, shit goes down hard and there are very real consequences. Infinity war could’ve gone very differently had the Avengers been together. 

While Age of Ultron led us to Civil War, Civil War leads us to everywhere else. The movie introduced us to Spiderman, (I will never forget the moment I first saw Spiderman swing in at the end of that second Civil War trailer) and Black Panther, two heroes whose origin movies we haven’t really seen before. However, this leads to their following solo movies to be more different and experimental. They aren’t necessarily “origin” stories, we just see their lives go forward from when Civil war ends, yet they have the responsibility of introducing us to their life and relationships without being overburdened by exposition. These are the movies where you can really appreciate the novelty and ingenuity of the MCU. You can’t keep putting characters from one movie into another for 30 seconds and call it a shared universe. The stories themselves lead from one to another, very much intertwined. While the movies are plotted as trilogies for individual heroes and must carry forward their arcs which originated from a time when they were very much independent, the arcs themselves are shaped up by the big picture that will now conclude with Endgame, quite aptly titled the Infinity saga. This is why the storytelling in the MCU is genius and new and deserves acclaim and is worthy of being a believable shared universe, not because the heroes team up and stand in circles looking cool once a year. Like the CW’s flarrowverse does. The heroes have their independent stories in their own cities but drop it all and team up once a year for 4 episodes in a very disconnected sense. That is not a universe, it’s a glorified gimmick. 

Oh yeah, so civil war was awesome. How good was that scene with Captain America holding down a helicopter? That was it. My entire worldview now revolves around a variation of physics that allows Captain to pull down a chopper. Captain can pull down a chopper. That is the ultimate truth.  Much like Winter Soldier, this one too seems to have a very elaborate evil plan from the villain’s side which could’ve fallen apart very easily had circumstances been slightly different. Way too much was left to chance on Zemo’s part but of course, it all works because it has to. Even though he appears for very few scenes in the movie, Zemo did manage to have us sympathise with him towards the end, which, considering MCU’s villain standards, wasn’t that bad actually. 

I am also aware that the movie did not have Arctic monkeys in its soundtrack. Left hand free is by alt J, my bad. But no one on Instagram seemed to notice though. 

What if a magic shroom decided to drop acid? 

Doctor Strange falls on the other end of the line wherein it jumps back in time to phase one and tells its own story alongside the happenings of the MCU we’ve seen in the other movies finally catching up to the present in its post-credits scene. There is talk of a veteran injured in “some sort of advanced body armour” at the start of the movie which is around the time of Iron man 2 and then the Avengers tower from phase two appears just before the Ancient One’s death signifying that by then Strange has been training in the mystic arts for about 3-4 years. We can’t really complain about no Avengers coming to Hong Kong’s rescue because that was fixed with a time loop, so it is as if that never happened. Nice save.

Dr.Strange is in a sense another Iron man clone, but with magic instead of technology. Killing Strange’s arrogance is the real deal and not killing Kaecilius. Rachel McAdams is a personal favourite and I’m glad that she is in the MCU now. Just as Guardians took the MCU cosmic, Strange has now taken the MCU in a magical direction. It’s still multiple dimensions and parallel universes well within the realms of science and The Ancient One also insists that doctors and scientists and acupuncturists are all people who are viewing the world through a keyhole, visualizing only a part of it and not the whole. So at one point, magic and science in the MCU do feed off of one another and meet so it’s not exactly Harry Potter or Narnia territory here. The MCU is still very much the MCU and can, within reasonable limits, claim to be happening in the real world, our world

Dr.Strange also pays excellent homage to its source material. To explore “magic” on screen gives the creator endless possibilities because it hasn’t been established yet for the viewers, however, since all these movies are comic book adaptations and a lot of viewers are faithful comic readers eagerly seeing how their beloved panels have translated into live action, it becomes imperative to fulfil their wishes as well. Dr.Strange does that magnificently. The visuals are all kinds of trippy and kaleidoscopic and I guess the manner in which everything seems to arise out of, fold unto and disappear inside of itself makes poetic sense to even the ardent of skeptics. As far as climactic battles go, I was worried when a wormhole devouring the Earth ripped open in the sky because that is pretty much the standard stakes for world annihilation now. But how Strange resolved the conflict was at the very least, intelligent and very Stange-like while simultaneously showing his journey, from egomaniac to limitless self-sacrifice for the sake of the greater good. Doctor Strange is now worthy. 

Planet Daddy.

Guardians Vol. 2 is one of those rare movies which perfectly builds up over its predecessor and does an even better job. The Winter Soldier was awesome but it was so much different than The First Avenger. Iron man 2 and Thor 2 didn’t really live up to expectations. Guardians vol. 2 just works. You could watch the first and second movie back to back and you’ll hardly be able to tell where one ends and the other begins. The most change that this movie has is perhaps the more comedic approach to Drax and Groot just becoming oodles of adorable as opposed to the smiling giant. But we are reminded of the never-ending grief within Drax as Mantis breaks into tears upon touching him. Rocket and Yondu also get their moments as Yondu grapples with being rejected by the other Ravagers and exploding out on Rocket for being just like him – an asshole who constantly pushes everyone away before they do to eventually end up alone. 

Somehow when they tried to give a similar moment to Quill, when he plays ball with his father or realises that his father killed his mom, it just doesn’t work out. I can’t quite “feel” for him the same way. Maybe it’s ’cause he turns into a Pacman mid-battle. Both the movies leave Gamora largely out of the picture but worry not, Infinity war fleshes out Gamora’s past and motivations thoroughly. 

I was also quite sure that they wouldn’t bring Ego the planet literally on to the screen and it would be some form of a “making him suitable for the real world audience” treatment. But no. They did it. You can see his whole planet with the red angry face and everything. Also, the movie has five post-credits scenes setting up Adam Warlock, teen Groot and connects all the Stan Lee cameos. Gotta love James Gunn. 

Prodigal son returns. 

Perhaps in order to differentiate this iteration of Spiderman from his past many, many reboots, Homecoming’s Spiderman takes advantage of the existing MCU lore in a way that no other movie quite has. The villain’s motivation? He lost his job after the Avengers fallout. The hero’s motivation? He had a one-off, crazy experience with the big league superheroes and feels a constant need to win Tony Stark’s approval. Bruce Banner and Howard Stark adorn the walls of his science lab, Sokovia Accords finds place in their history class, Captain America oversees P.E and detention and the hero’s mission is set off as he chases dangerous weapons that are directly lifted from previous movies – Chitauri explosive device, Blackhole grenades, Sub-Ultron arms and so on. You can also hear major MCU events in the background chatter as people talk on about the “mess at Lagos” or the “Triskelion disaster”. We get it. Marvel now has Spiderman. We really really get it. 

Homecoming gave us the first flub in timeline continuity with the infamous “8 years later” card but Allfather Feige dismissed it with an easy “Oops, our bad.” and all was right with the world again. Phase 3 also seems to carry the common theme of family and loss, starting with Tony’s parents in Civil War and Quill’s parents in Guardians and even Thor’s sister and father dying in Ragnarok. Homecoming too falls within it as Tony automatically assumes a father figure for Peter. He directly implies it a couple of times. He calls Peter to appreciate him for his work in Washington and recalls how his father never really acknowledged him and I’m pretty sure there has been a moment in all of our lives when our dads said “Zip it. The adult is talking.” during an argument. He even takes away his suit as punishment which is basically the superhero version of grounding and taking our video game privileges away. The conversation that follows that line on that rooftop after the ferry scene where Tony explains how he feels responsible for any harm coming to Peter makes the end of Infinity War so much more sadder. 

Also commendable about the ferry sequence was the way Iron man saves them. While it does show Spiderman’s strength and general self-sacrifice/stupid lack of self-preservation as he attempts to hold two halves of a goddamn ferry together, Iron man soon flies to the rescue and pushes the pieces together using tiny repulsors at different points along the length of the boat. Which is how physics works and yet every superhero movie ever somehow never acknowledges it. Heroes always catch/push/pull/stop these huge planes and trains and whatnot using their hands at one point of contact. That’s not going to work, that will just puncture that one point! Even worse was when Supergirl saved a plane in the pilot episode by pulling its wing. C’mon.

Homecoming shows us a very young Peter Parker still working out the rough edges and desperate to be taken seriously. He fought with the Avengers, yet the public does not know it. He is visibly disappointed when people call him “that spider guy from YouTube.” The only person who knows, Tony Stark, seems to have ghosted him to. And for good reason, this kid will get himself killed. He wants to win Tony’s approval so badly, perhaps due to a lack of a father figure all his life. Or his remorse towards letting Uncle Ben get killed but we don’t know if that happened in the MCU exactly that way,yet. He is more of a low-key amateur Spiderman. Even the “city montage” sequence is no way close to the epic scenes we’ve seen in Raimi or Webb’s movies from past reboots. He is still scared of heights, just swings around the city finding crimes to solve and old ladies to help, there is no police radar he listens to like the previous iterations. He has the spiderbanter on point, but his swinging is still quite jerky. You can see it very well developed in the Far From Home trailers though. Marvel always gets this part right, even Tony’s suits used to make so many noises in the first movie with each movement, Jarvis used to sound way more robotic. But these effects were subtly phased out with each movie showing Tony’s tech get better and better. By now, his suits are super-fluidic, Friday and even Peter’s Karen sound perfectly human. My two favorite AI-acting-human lines are Friday responding with an annoyed, “What do I look like?” when Tony asked her if she has access to some news records in Civil War (to which he responds, “I don’t know. I’m picturing a redhead”. Oh, Tony.) and Karen listening to Peter talk about Liz and later nudging him with a “Kiss her now, Peter”. I used to think Jarvis’ “Sir, I have prepared a manual for you to completely ignore”. was sassy. Ah, so naive.

The movie also has a whole lot of fan service because Spiderman is such a popular and familiar character. He has his own local universe within the Marvel universe. A lot of spidey villains like the Shocker, Scorpion and Prowler (Donald Glover is now in the MCU, yasssssss) are already introduced as street-level thugs, Miles Morales is shown to exist, it even takes slight digs at previous movies like when he catches Liz in the elevator and the frame exactly like when Andrew Garfield’s Spiderman let Gwen fall and die and immediately afterwards the “upside-down” kiss almost happens. 

Michael Keaton chills your bones as Adrian Toomes, the Vulture. He is a very grounded villain who was inadvertently created by Tony Stark as well much like Aldrich Killian. If only Damage Control had reimbursed him for the money he spent to clear the fallout, which they clearly could’ve, he would’ve been on his way happily. But they pulled out their guns instead of wallets, so…

Vulture is appropriately mechanised for the MCU but he still retains some of the feathery details from the comics. He’s just looking out for his family, there is no need for world domination here. He is angry at the government and tries to make a living by stealing from Damage control, who stole from him. Any one of us could be Adrian Toomes. But then, he is pretty unfazed when he unintentionally kills the first Shocker, which hints at a more sinister psyche inside him.  And he is again shown to protect Parker’s identity later in the prison. A lot of mixed signals there. It was a nice twist though, him being Liz’s dad. It wasn’t abrupt either, there are little hints and foreshadowing too. You can hear a light breaking at Liz’s party and she rushes to see what it is and a few scenes later Toomes complains that his wife has been nagging him to fix the lights in their house. MCU rarely gets to pull off twists, either the reveal is in the comics, or the trailers or get fan-theorized or get leaked but this one was legit. Toomes slowly working it out that Peter is the Spiderman as the traffic lights switch from red to green on his face is so damn tense and the tone follows suit as he gives Peter the “dad” talk in the car. We see how scared and intimidated Peter is as he is made to thank Toomes for sparing his life. 

This particular moment, seeing just how terrified Peter is, exemplifies his decision to go after Toomes in the very next scene. That shot of Peter pushing a whole building off his back after screaming for help will always remain one of the most underrated moments in the MCU.

Thor fights yet another evil sibling.

Thor Ragnarok was the “reinvention” of Thor. Chris Hemsworth found it boring to be Thor (and the audience as well to an extent), so they decided to make Thor be Chris Hemsworth. That is pretty much it. Maybe its because of him spending way too much time of Earth, maybe its because of him finally getting out of his teen angst phase (Asgardians live for more than 5000 years as stated by Loki, Thor is 1500 years old as stated by him in Infinity war. This puts him close to the human equivalent of early twenties. I know math.) , either ways he is no longer brooding and talking in Broadway musical-English. He is fun now. He says “awesome” and “wanna” instead of “It does call for revels.” It is the classic attempt of strip-everything-away-from-the-hero tropes as he loses his father, hammer and throne in the first twenty minutes of the movie and eventually realises that all his power truly comes from within him. The movie is just plain fun through and through. We barely get a glimpse of Thor mourning for any of the loss he is incurring endlessly. Not until a single tear rolls off his one good eye as he talks to Rocket in Infinity war do we know that he is indeed grieving on the inside. 

On the other hand, Ragnarok also appears to have various layers of political commentary imbued in it as well. Hela’s monologue to Thor about how the great Asgard was built by looting and waging wars before Odin suddenly decided to turn peaceful and oversee the nine realms could hint at the colonizing age of the British or America’s own denial of how most of the country’s monuments were built by slaves. The slavery metaphor is even more exemplified by the Grandmaster’s disapproval with calling them “slaves” and choosing “working prisoners” instead. There are countless more examples throughout the movie which does make one think if Ragnarok is way more than what meets the eye.

I could watch this movie just for Thor and Loki recounting little stories from their childhood and Thor’s face as he sees Hulk climb out of the hot tub. Much of this movie gets undone in Infinity war, though. Thor saves all his people only to lose half to Thanos. Heimdall and Loki are dead. Banner said he would never come back if he turned green again but he does and now he refuses to turn green. Thor gets his eye back and after learning he doesn’t need his hammer to be powerful, he spends half the movie searching for a bigger hammer. Um, okay. Thor Ragnarok can be considered as soft reboot to MCU’s Thor and the beginning of his new trilogy that would continue in IW and Endgame.  

What are thooooosee?

I have already gushed about Black Panther in detail when it came out, so you find that by clicking here.
It also successfully manages to avoid the past events of the MCU by being set in a secret city in another continent. Zemo and Toomes were definitely better than MCU’s past villains and showed great promise but it was with Killmonger that they fully shined. He wins. He makes the hero acknowledge his mistake and change his ways. It’ll be a shame if he’s really dead and I do look forward to seeing him return for the sequel. 

Just how thankful were we for Wakanda and their tech in Infinity war though? It just goes to show just how much the MCU is dictated by its own cause-and-effect. There would’ve been way more casualties for the Avengers if not for Wakanda. Wakanda would’nt have survived if not for Civil War. Civil War would’ve never happened if not for Age of Ultron and Hydra messing with Loki’s sceptre on Wanda. Loki sceptre wouldn’t have come to Earth if not for the battle of New York. That brings us back to Thanos who sent Loki. He’s been at the centre of it all, all along. Thor does say that so many infinity stones propping up back to back is no coincidence and they are mere pawns in someone else’s much bigger game.  

What did it cost? 

Before the release of the first Avengers movie, there was doubt amongst the media and the general audience if it would be an overstuffed/overwhelming experience because “it simply has way too many characters.” Well, think again.

Infinity war has every single Avenger we’ve met so far except for Antman and Hawkeye. The movie feels like a mosaic of multiple films in the first half as it shifts from character to character. Scenes with individual characters follow the same language of their solo movies and it gels together as they all meet one by one. Guardians are introduced with music and punchy colours that would put any Samsung’s oversaturated colour palette to shame, Wakanda opens with its theme music and accent intact and so on. It was a smart and respectable move on the Russos collaborating with the directors of the individual movies to get the characters right so that they don’t deviate much from their established personas. The movie does set up meetings between characters who’ve never met before and past friends who are meeting after a long time but doesn’t spend too much time in introductions, Cap and Bucky have one hug,  Thor barely asks the Guardians their names, Banner and Nat barely exchange nods keeping the pace tight and the tensions high. Only scenes with Thanos are slowed down, his motives and capabilities fleshed out. It truly is Thanos’ movie and in that sense, I guess it had a very bittersweet ending. 

It had to be done because out of all these characters, Thanos is the one we’ve never met. We don’t know what’s his game and what he can do. Well, he can clearly K.O Hulk in hand to hand combat. That was established pretty quickly. He feels pain and loss as well. He mourns and weeps as well. He goes ahead anyway. We don’t know if our heroes even have such conviction. Had it been Tony at Vormir and was asked to sacrifice Pepper, he would’ve called Red Skull “Darth Maul” or “Freaky Dementor” and walked away. Even Quill shows better conviction when he shot Gamora in the face, turned into bubbles by Thanos. Seriously what is with that guy and bubbles. The Black Order comes with its own distinct personalities as well. It isn’t explicitly shown but isn’t too subtle that it goes unnoticed.

Infinity war is a bumpy ride. From the first scene till the last, it constantly oscillates between high and low points, with the intervals between jumps shortening as we get closer to the end. Starts with the death of Loki and Heimdall, then there’s a light moment with Tony and Strange. Next low point comes as Vision is almost taken, but Captain comes to the rescue in the most epic fashion. There is some banter with the Guardians, but then Nebula is tortured and Gamora killed. The battle on Titan starts with humour as they work out a plan but gets grim as Strange states they have a one in fourteen million six hundred and five chances of winning. They almost succeed but Star-Lord lets his emotions get the better of him, no problem, been there. There seems to be more hope as the bigwigs Strange and Iron man are given their own mini-battles one-on-one with Thanos. Just as my jaw dropped in awe that Tony Stark has managed to deflect the force of an infinity stone with tech, it closed shut as Thanos sent a blade into his guts. I could precisely point out where the blade penetrated Tony because let’s face it, we all felt it. I was alarmed that maybe Captain’s dead when Thanos knocked him out, I saw Loki’s life being choked away and Vision’s get crunched in but nothing had the effect of that blade plunging into Tony Stark. But soon enough, he is shown to have not died. Phew.  The battle on Wakanda is a whole roller coaster too as with each side getting an upper hand, the other side pulls out a better trick out of its sleeve. Thor’s landing in Wakanda does tilt the battle in the Avengers’ favour. Thanos’ comes to town pretty soon. He very cooly walks through shrugging aside anyone who dares gets close and pulls the mind stone out of Vision and just as all hope was drained away, Stormbreaker comes shearing against the lights and rips through his heart. We all knew Infinity war was supposed to be a two-parter. So why does it look like the Avengers have won? Whoops, too soon, he should’ve gone for the head. 

And, snap. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Quantum-words.

Firstly, Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie Lang is so precious and needs to be protected at all costs. She is frickin’ adorable and she acts more with just her eyebrows and head nods than most established actresses do with pages of dialogues. When he laughs at her suggestion of being his partner and she says, “Don’t laugh”, my heart leaps out of my mouth. You’re awesome Abby.

The movie simultaneously follows through from where Civil war ended on Scott’s side and where Ant man ended on Hank and Hope’s part. Smort. This movie probably has the most made-up science in the MCU ever. The writers probably googled Quantum mechanics and went to town with any recognisable terms they found. While some jargon involving entanglement and probability fields are permissible, to say the least, you cannot have a literal tunnel just because “quantum tunnelling” is a thing. All across the world, physicists weep. But much like how the first movie laughs at itself for how absurd the idea of an Ant-man is, this movie pokes fun at just how casually they make things sound “science-ey” by prefixing “quantum” with them. At parts, the writing feels a bit lazy and Michael Douglas seems to be very aware of it and is acting ironically out of it. It is worth mentioning that Paul Rudd actually has a writing credit in this movie. The action sequences, especially whenever Evangeline Lilly is on screen, are much more fluid when it comes to taking advantage of their shrinking capabilities. Christophe Beck’s revamped soundtrack has so much more pump to it and complements the movie perfectly. Much like how they nailed the shrinking and growing of Antman visually, honest to the comics, Ghost’s ‘quantum phasing’ effects too look excellent. She is supposed to have molecules “out of phase” and you can clearly see that they are phasing out of time and space both, just as a quantum system should. Her actions from a couple of seconds into the future and the past can be seen phasing in and out of her constantly. Since every hero basically gets a new suit in every movie, so does Antman and his new suit being a ‘work in progress’ is very reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman losing his powers or Mark 42 not working as needed in Iron man 3 during key moments. It’s always fun when the hero gets into trouble in fun little unexpected ways. 

Antman and perhaps Guardians, are the two Marvel franchises where the comedy flows very naturally, out of circumstances rather than just dialogue and banter. Antman and the Wasp, much like its predecessor does not disappoint. The whole sequence with the truth serum and Baba Yaga is comedy gold. Paul Rudd acting as Janet is another completely unexpected and wholesome moment of comedy. I was wondering if the ants have been turned to mere labourers in this but out of nowhere came the “Ant-GPS” and I couldn’t help but chuckle. How do they come up with this stuff?! 

Ghost is yet another one of those villain/victim type character that is gladly not killed off in the end. Maybe the next movie could be Ant-man and The Wasp and Ghost and Goliath and Stature. I’d pay good money to watch that. 

Captain Loopholes.

 This movie was set back in time in the 90s and she disappears off to space, keeping the plot independent from the MCUs events. But then again, Fury and Coulson and the Tesseract are right there in their younger days. But being set back in time means some of its events could set up or retcon some of the flashbacks we’ve been shown so far. And it does just that. We are shown that they come up with the SHIELD acronym only in Iron man 1 but here we have Fury already prancing around waving his Shield ID. We are also shown a photograph of Fury with both his eyes in The Winter Soldier in his full bald, leather coat wearing looks but he dresses and looks very different in this one as he loses his eye. Who can forget, “The last time I trusted somebody, I lost an eye”, again from The Winter Soldier, and here we have his eyes scratched to oblivion by a flerken. You can tell this was an improvisation that wasn’t really planned. The directors just thought it’d be funny. While the movie did set up “The Avengers Initiative” perfectly, it also retcons every moment in Avengers where Fury and Coulson repeatedly state that they began developing weapons with the Tesseract technology after learning that Earth wasn’t alone in space when Thor came down the previous year. 

I also previously wrote about Captain Marvel right here. 

This is it. We are at the endgame now. Phase three was the longest and the most slowly paced as well. While it is scheduled to end with Far from Home, which supposedly begins minutes after Endgame, we all know Endgame is the real deal. It is about time too, for I can’t think of any more ways they can keep introducing new characters while still juggling existing plotlines. They need to end. Now we wait for Endgame

Fight me.