Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Original Review: The War of Bucky Aggression (five stars)
Captain America: Civil War is the beginning of a shift in focus for the MCU away from common people. A division subtly starts to erupt between “enhanced individuals” and everyone else, so subtle I didn’t really notice it until Infinity War. It makes sense as a natural progression of the shared universe; the more supers there are, the harder it gets to justify screentime for normies. We are about eight years in at this point, the days of SHIELD keeping everything quiet in Phase One and the “you’re that guy from the thing in New York” obfuscations of Phase Two are over. Black Widow released everything SHIELD and Hydra had onto the Internet and Ultron scooped up a city and blew it up. It’s a super hero’s world, everybody else is just living in it.
Original Review: The Smallest Man on Earth (three stars)
I have mixed feelings about this movie, but I think I’m going to rate it higher this time. Where to start? My problem with Ant-Man is that I don’t get his gimmick. He shrinks to the size of an ant and can also control ants, that all makes sense. But also he gets like super speed and strength when he’s shrunk down? When Hope starts training Scott in this movie she explains, “when you’re small, energy’s compressed. So you have the force of a 200 pound man behind a fist a hundredth of an inch wide. You’re like a bullet. You punch too hard, you kill someone. Too soft, it’s a love tap.” Sure enough, later we see Scott zipping around rooms knocking out professional soldiers with a single hit. But it bothers me that it never feels intuitively correct.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Original Review: Golden Living Dreams of Vision (four stars)
I realize now the folly of me being the one re-reviewing these movies is that I am predisposed to liking them. I’m the guy who buys tickets at five in the morning a month in advance for Avengers: Endgame, and whose Google News feed is full of articles about how toys are hinting at spoilers, and who would want to watch 20-odd movies again in less than two months. That enthusiasm doesn’t blind me to the faults in these stars, but it does make it easier for me to overlook them. So, instead of me writing again about how much I love watching these super freaks save people, I’ll try to take you through everything that is wrong with Age of Ultron. But, honestly, I think it’s awesome.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Original Review: Rise of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole (four stars)
SHIELD was the connective tissue that made the MCU feel like one thing instead of a bunch of disconnected super hero movies. The organization was so important that by 2014, Marvel had created a tie-in TV show on ABC about SHIELD’s agents. Then The Winter Soldier blew that all up, instantly making Agents of SHIELD a lot better but leaving us asking where do the movies go from here? How would the first new super heroes of Phase Two fit in without having Nick Fury show up to recruit them at the end? Well, don’t worry about it. James Gunn’s here.
Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)
Original Review: Cap’s Back (four stars)
Let’s talk about the politics of the MCU. Like a lot of post-9/11 entertainment, the MCU goes out of its way to make it clear that its villains are mercenaries or terrorists who have no genuine loyalty to any nation or ideology. Tony Stark was abducted in Afghanistan, but by a multinational group backed by an American businessman. Vanko was Russian, but his grudge was personal, not political. Captain America fought in WWII, but his enemy was Hydra, a faction of even more evil Nazis that later in the movie splits from Germany altogether. Again and again, the bad guys are simplified down to purely evil world conquerors. So who wouldn’t root for the good guys stopping them?
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Original Review: Thor 2 is the Star Wars Sequel We Always Wanted (three and a half stars)
My deliberately provocative (and misleading) title aside, I stand by the main points from my original Thor 2 review: I like the mix of sci-fi and fantasy, the comedy often doesn’t work, it’s cool that Phase Two was Marvel’s attempt at experimenting with genre. Regardless of my praise, there was a palpable apathy toward the film at the time that’s grown in the years since. Thor: The Dark World has become the black sheep of the MCU, the lightning rod for a never-ending deluge of thoughtless think pieces on “super hero fatigue.” Is that reputation deserved? Or does this movie shine when given a second look?
Original Review: Heavy Boots of Lead (three and a half stars)
My original review of Iron Man 3 is mostly focused on how off-putting it was that an Iron Man story could endanger the president and not involve the other Avengers or SHIELD right after The Avengers. It was so obvious to me where Steve Rogers or Nick Fury or at least Black Widow would fit into a story with this big a scope. I didn’t know it at the time, but the movie I wanted was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and now that I do have that, it’s easier to appreciate Iron Man 3 for what it is: the end of Tony Stark’s journey to become a super hero. Plus, it’s not like the movie isn’t extremely tied in with The Avengers.