This post is a bit delayed, but writing this the day before I left for England just felt right. Also, with Age of Ultron just having been released overseas (making $44.8 million in two days) and its release date in North America less than a week away, what better time is there? So here are my thoughts on each of the Marvel Phase 2 movies … so far. I’ll also touch on my thoughts for the live action TV shows and the Daredevil Netflix series.
Iron Man 3. This is probably the most controversial of the Marvel movies, mostly because of what they did with the Mandarin. As a whole, I like this more than Iron Man 2, but not as much as Iron Man 1. The action is big, the music is in some ways reminiscent of Avengers (similar instruments and mood) and the storyline of Iron Man dealing with panic attacks and making dumb decisions as a result hits on a personal level for me. Without going into detail, let’s just say that I didn’t bother finishing the first program I started studying in college after losing interest, thus I spiralled into the emotionally darkest time of my life and wasted a couple years figuring myself out. After Tony Stark’s house was destroyed, he had to build himself back up in more ways than one. In some ways the plot is similar to The Dark Knight Rises, just that there are fewer plot holes, Tony Stark rebuilding himself feels more organic and it’s more fun because of the generally lighter mood.
And as for the whole Mandarin thing, it led to the first major retcon in the Marvel Universe in the Hail to the King short on the Thor: Dark World Blu-Ray. Basically, the actor isn’t the real Mandarin, and the real Mandarin hires a bunch of killers to bring the actor to meet him in person. The short ends well before they actually meet. For all we know, the real Mandarin might show up sometime in the future. Even before the retcon I didn’t have a problem with it. It was a surprising twist, and one that made the plot more interesting. Overall, I like this movie. By no means is it my favourite, but it’s fun and touches me on a personal level.
Thor: The Dark World. This is my least favourite of the live action movies so far, and considering the first Thor was my favourite of the pre-Avengers movies, that’s saying something. MCU Malekith is completely one-dimensional and boring, compared to the playful and blatantly devious Malekith of the comics. That said, it’s fun enough to pleasantly kill an afternoon. The action is good, the Thor/Loki dynamic is the strong point as always, and this movie actually gives the scientists something to do in the climax rather than just watch the skies like in the first Thor movie. If there’s one MCU movie I’d recommend a newcomer skip though, it’s this one.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is easily the smartest of the Marvel Movies to date, and is among my favourites. Not only is the Winter Soldier hardcore, but the conspiracy plot with Hydra hiding within SHIELD makes for some great commentary on corrupt spy agencies. Don’t forget that this movie came out within weeks of the whole NSA surveillance leaks, where we learned that they were spying on pretty much everyone in America and on political allies. Good timing, or prophetic sight from the directors? You decide. Even with all the brilliant plotting and the intense drama behind the Winter Soldier’s identity, this is still a fun movie to watch with great action and good humour.
Guardians of the Galaxy. If Winter Soldier is the smartest of Marvel’s movies, than this might just be the most enjoyable. Everything about this movie works, from genuinely deep character development to the greatest licensed soundtrack in years. The visuals are spectacular (I still think this should have won the best visual effects Academy Award for Rocket Raccoon and Groot alone). And sure, Ronan doesn’t have that much character development, but he’s certainly more complex than Malekith was, and there is a sense of subtlety behind his motives and brutality. Any movie that can bring people to tears when a raccoon cries over a stick must be good. Add this to my small list of movies that, no matter how I feel beforehand, this always puts me in a good mood by the time it’s finished.
It took me a while to figure out which of last year’s movies I prefer. My answer is … I love Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy equally, but for different reasons. They’re both up there with the first Avengers movie in overall entertainment and one could make a case for either being the best Marvel Movie to date (Ignoring Age of Ultron since I haven’t seen it yet).
Now for the live action TV shows.
Agents of Shield started off rough. The first episode is alright, but the second episode probably shouldn’t exist. If someone is jumping into the show from the start, I’d recommend skipping episode 2 and possibly episode 4. Episodes 3 introduced an important villain and episode 5 started Skye’s real character development. After that point the show starts to improve but it’s still just OK for the first 10 episodes. It’s around the time that Skye is injured (episode 13) when the show starts to get good, and the show becomes completely awesome once the Captain America: Winter Soldier tie-ins begin. Winter Soldier explored the greater consequences for Hydra’s infiltration, while this show explores the more personal side of things when people’s closest allies turn out to be double agents for a Neo-Nazi organization.
So far, Season 2 has kept up the brilliance of the post-Hydra episodes, with the mid-season finale probably being the best episode overall. Sure, the plot for the series is growing more complicated and it can be confusing if you jump into a current episode without watching anything beforehand, but it’s so worth it. And with the last few episodes building up toward the Age of Ultron tie-ins and the season finale, the best episodes may be yet to come. The last episode’s finale with Agent Coulson certainly has me excited for next week’s at least.
Agent Carter is just good. Unlike Agents of Shield, it doesn’t take its sweet time to get moving. In 8 episodes, AC brings us a compelling story of double agents, Cold War conflicts, Captain America’s legacy and themes of 50’s sexism in the workplace. It’s a very smart show that, while it doesn’t quite reach the level of Agents of Shield’s best episodes, it’s most certainly worth watching for anyone who’s interested in a short yet satisfying espionage series, Marvel fans or not.
And last but not least, Daredevil. I’m currently 8 episodes in and it’s just amazing. The dynamic between Daredevil and the Kingpin is fascinating in how they both genuinely want to help improve Hell’s Kitchen, but their methods and resources are completely different. And of course the action is brilliant. Want proof of this? Just watch the hallway fight scene that’s been posted all over the internet. Sure, not all the acting is stellar, but all the major characters are perfectly portrayed. I’m not the biggest fan of Daredevil as a character and this series probably won’t change that, but Daredevil’s Netflix series is definitely worth watching.
So those are my thoughts on Phase 2. Let me know what your favourites are in the comments, or your thoughts on the whole Mandarin controversy in Iron Man 3. While I’ll try to write a couple blog posts while I’m in England for the next two weeks, I can’t make any promises so until then, I’ll see you all later.