Category Archives: Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure

Top 5 Villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

mcu-villains

     I’ve always been drawn to the villains in films and shows, and comics are a host to some of the best rogues galleries in fiction. Whether it is Batman and also his villains who are some level of crazy or Spider-Man and his foes ranging from alien parasites to hunters…each group of rogues brings something different to the table. Now, when it comes to the Marvel and Disney Marvel Cinematic Universe the villains have usually been the weakest part, with the exception of those within “The Defenders” Universe on Netflix. It is here where I draw from a lot of my Top 5 as the people they kill don’t come back to life and there are consequences. Not all the characters are from Netflix, but there are enough of them that it shows. This review will also contain minor spoilers though I will aim not to reveal too much in case you haven’t watched the series yet and will stick with the vague.

     This is also my second Top 5 like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the other being my Top 5 Favorite MCU Films list that I did last year, which I plan to update with another after “The Infinity War.”.: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/top-5-films-of-the-marvel-cinematic-universe/

   So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Villains in the MCU.:

kilgrave-discussespower-s1e8

5th) Kilgrave 

      Fifth place was difficult. I was honestly torn between Zemo and Kilgrave (Mordo may replace both of them after he has the chance to do stuff) but chose Kilgrave because of the creepy factor (he’s probably the most unsettling villain on this list) and his kill count. This is a character who is winning up until the end and even when he loses is able to manipulate himself out of almost any situation due to his ability. To go with the power of controlling with voice though he doesn’t pull a Joker and try to cause anarchy, his theme is obsession and abuse and like any toxic relationship he can’t let go and defeating him is defeating and continuing the process of healing from trauma and abuse. Jessica’s fight against him is rewarding and he proves to worthy a foe time and time again, though his final showdown was underwhelming and he should have done more with his power, those are the big things that keep him from being higher on this list. David Tennant really did a great job and I hope we see this character again.

cottonmouth_profile1

4th) Cottonmouth 

  Cottonmouth is the most tragic character on this list for many reasons. Born Cornell Stokes all he wanted to be was a musician but due to the corrupt Harlem Gangsters who raised him turned him into a killer. Now he only lives for experience and power. The man has an aura of threat about him that never leaves him, even when he’s losing and his ability to laugh at anything gives him a charm that Luke Cage doesn’t have. Without giving that much away, he isn’t the primary antagonist on the show so he doesn’t stick around all the way through, which was a shame as he is much more compelling than Diamondback and a better foil than the ones who take his place. This is a character who really should have been Luke Cage’s foil all the way through as he is everything Luke Cage is not but has just as much if not more complexity than Luke Cage. Mahershala Ali is great in everything I’ve seen him in and “Luke Cage” is no exception.

madame-gao-profile

3rd) Madam Gao

      Madam Gao is the greatest mystery in the “Daredevil” series as so much of her past is unknown, yet she knows so much and isn’t above working with the heroes if it will serve her ends. She is the one character who is unafraid of the Kingpin and easily takes out Daredevil when Daredevil attempts to capture her. She also is able to make a win out of any situation, whether it is a Kingpin implosion or the rise of her competitor the Blacksmith…she plays her cards to come out on top and I can’t wait to see how her game plays out. She is a character who is an antagonist but has shown she is more than just a villain. Wai Ching Ho is amazing in this role and she’s one of the best parts of the “Daredevil” series.

loki_ttdw_poster

2nd) Loki 

      Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie villains really haven’t been all that memorable. Yeah, they fill in all the boxes of having a decent motivation a lot of the time or are sufficently hammy to make things interesting…but compelling? Outside of Loki none of them stood out and there was a reason none of them are on my Top 5. Even Zemo was unable to kill an Avenger, but that goes for all the others too. Loki kills a major lore character if you discount “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” though and he is easily the most complex. Hiddleson and the writers created a character who is out for power but for often times what seem good ends. In “Thor” he manipulates his biological father the Frost Giant King in order to kill him and end the threat of his people against Asgard, in “Avengers” it could be argued he’s trying to stave the worse coming storm of Thanos by being a benevolent dictator and “Thor 2” he shows he’s not above sacrificing for his brother Thor. Loki is one of the best parts of the MCU and I look forward to seeing him once more in “Thor: Ragnorak.”

kingpin

1st) Kingpin 

      The Kingpin…the Marvel Cinematic Universe has yet create a more complex or effective villain. This is a man who over the course of his series manages to take out most of his rivals and those who could reveal his corruption to Hell’s Kitchen. He’s one step ahead of our protagonists and even when it looks like he is out, Season 2 shows that you don’t mess with the Kingpin as whatever world he is in, he rises to the top of and plots his agenda further from there. He is the only one on this list who truly loves another as well…Vanessa is a character who challenges and forces him to reveal his darker self and also his idealism as all his destruction is for the greater good of bringing about stability and cleaning out the corruption and abuse that so scarred him as a child. Vincent D’Onofrio truly owns this role and whatever moves the writers have him do next it is going to have ripples through the Defenders Universe and possibly the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Kingpin is truly number 1.

Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

MCU2

     Now that I have watched “Ant-Man” it is time for the Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far! I originally was going to rate them from least to greatest and include all of them but that struck me a bit as overkill, better to focus on the truly great ones so that those ones will recieve more attention, since Marvel doesn’t exactly need help for getting people to talk about these films.

     For what I look for in a film is mostly bittersweet. I am drawn to loss and joy and how they relate as well as having a narrative that makes sense and doesn’t have too many climaxes. I value story structure unless it is suberveted or done in a unique way the way the Coens or Tarantino does it…given that there aren’t really any directors with that level of uniqueness in what they do in these films, I’ll be ignoring that. Disney is conservative and cautious and that is something pretty universal in these films, even the ones that take risks like “Avengers,” “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

  So without further ado, here are my Top 5 from least to greatest.:

Ironmanposter

5. Iron Man (2008)

     It was a tough toss up between “Iron Man” and “Ant-Man” but in the end I decided on “Iron Man” because Tony Stark is just the more compelling character. Ant-Man’s universe is fascinating but Scott Lang is kind of boring and bland while Tony is in conflict with everyone. He is always changing, growing and adapting and it makes his origin story compelling. His story also shows us the Military Industrial Complex as it is his weapons that are used to capture him when he is in Afghanistan and it’s decision to stop making and selling weapons that leads to the conflict with his mentor. Robert Downey Jr. completely owns this role as well and Jeff Bridges isn’t half bad as Stain he just isn’t given much to do, which is a problem for a lot of Marvel villains actually and why I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the first.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/iron-man-2008-changing-the-merchant-of-war/

Iron_Man_3_theatrical_poster

4. Iron Man 3 (2013)

   I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the original because it isn’t as much about Iron Man the hero as it is about Tony Stark and him facing the consequences of his ego and selfish actions. We see countless people die from a man he cared nothing about and we see his ego put Pepper at risk when the Mandarin attacks his home. The film also subverts comic book tropes too as the Mandarin is not who you suspect and the baddie is one of the more memorable villains to come out of these films. Definitely would recommend it as it completes Tony’s arc and sets up the next phase of the Marvel Universe really well.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/iron-man-3-consequences-from-the-past/

The Avengers

3. The Avengers (2012)

   Joss Whedon pulled off magic when he made this film. “The Avengers” is a film that should not work. How does a man out of time (Captain America) 2 secret agents (Widow and Hawkeye) a God (Thor) a sci. fi. industrialist (Iron Man) and a mutant (Hulk/Bruce Banner) work in a film? On paper it shouldn’t but it does because of how well Disney and Marvel built their universe and it is a lot of fun! Loki is the best villain the films (Kingpin is probably best overall if we count the Netflix show) and seeing the witty banter and fantastic action in a very tight story is really wonderful. “Age of Ultron” could not capture this magic, and I’ll be surprised if any Avengers film does post this. This is something rare and wonderful and in many ways was the perfect storm.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/the-avengers-2012-bringing-the-team-together/

Guardians of the Galaxy

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

     “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a masterpiece. If you are looking for a fun adventure with great comedy that has no real heroes, this is the film for you. I didn’t know who these guys were until the film but I care far more about Groot, Starlord, Gamora and Rocket than I do about the Avengers. All of them are flawed and like Tony Stark they end up causing a lot of their own problems in the course of getting by. The weakest part of this film is the problem that Marvel has overall where Rhonin is boring and Thanos does nothing. Besides that, this adventure is awesome and there are so many great and colorful characters. I highly recommend it. This film made Chris Pratt the most wanted action star for a reason.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/guardians-of-the-galaxy-2014-a-masterpiece-of-sci-fi-action-and-comedy-gold/

Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

First place goes to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This was the film that got me to care about Captain America and is easily one of the best political thrillers to be made. There are consequences, the world changes and there is loss throughout the film. This is Marvel and Disney at their best as the villain is even made compelling and given reasons for the things he does and the choices he makes. Every character deals with their past or lack of past and the difficulty of those situations force them to grow. The action is of course really great too and Anthony Mackie as Falcon is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film has yet to be beat by MCU and still easily holds it’s place at Number 1 on my list.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/captain-america-the-winter-soldier-an-amazing-spy-thriller-that-changes-the-marvel-universe/

Now that you’ve seen my list I’d be curious to hear about yours. It is pretty cool that we live in an era where comics are the new medium to tell great stories on the screen.

Ant-Man (2015): Marvel’s Return to Fun and a Story That Stands Alone

Ant-Manton Reed

     When I first saw “Age of Ultron” I had a lot of fun…but the more I thought about the film the less sense it made. What the studio wanted from Whedon created so many holes and created a fractured narrative. For this reason I changed the score from in the 9s to the 8s as the Cons I listed still apply, they just feel bigger now…especially in relationship to  “Ant-Man.”  This was a film that worked and feels complete in and of itself while still tying into the wider universe without the wider universe bringing the story down as what happened in “Age of Ultron.” The villain also does a lot more damage than Ultron did…which is pretty sad when you think about it. Suffice to say, I enjoyed this film…and it is amazing Marvel Studios pulled this off after the development hell this movie went through in order to be created.

     The film was directed by Peyton Reed, written by Edgar Wright, Paul Rudd, Joe Cornish and Adam McKay and produced by Kevin Feige.

SPOILERS AHEAD

       The story involves the ex-thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) being hired on by the past Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in order to steal the Yellowjacket outfit and destroy the technology of his protege Cross (Corey Stoll) who plans to sell the suits and technology to H.Y.D.R.A. Things soon get more complicated as time is working against them.

The Pros: The Action – The action is wonderful! From Scott’s heists to the fight with the Yellowjacket…space and size are used really well as Ant-Man jumps around from different sizes in the action sequences he is put in. They are the best to come out of this universe so far.

The Cinematography – This relates to what I said about the action, we get to see things on a small and normal level and this lends so much strength to things and immediately draws you in. There are stakes in both sizes and Scott is always having to learn and adapt.

The Past – The story begins with Hank leaving the Team that Peggy, Howard Stark and Carson are a part of (early S.H.I.E.L.D.) after Howard tries to steal his technology. This leads to him being isolated and we see how hard the missions he was on have made him more difficult to work with than he already was, and how the suit has made him more paranoid of others.

Falcon – Anthony Mackie is back as Falcon! We see him fight Ant-Man when Ant-Man is robbing the Avengers for tech. he needs to beat Yellowjacket. It is a great fight and we later see Falcon bring Ant-Man into the Avengers as well as implying that he will connect him with Captain America so they will have a secure place to rehabilitate Bucky who is revealed in the after credits scenes.

Cross/Yellowjacket – I like this baddy and it’s wonderful seeing Corey Stoll again post “House of Cards!” He is driven and we see how hard Hank leaving him took a tole. He reveals Hanks dark side as they are both people who are sociopathic and can disconnect from others to protect themselves while having a huge domination factor of how they view things. Hank grows through this, not so for Darren Cross as it ends up leading to his death at the hands of Ant-Man when he tries to kill Ant-Man’s daughter.

The Pyms – The Pyms are the strongest part of this film and I would have watched an early S.H.I.E.L.D. film with Peggy Carter and Howard Stark and their relationship with Hank Pym! His daughter Hope is just as antagonist as he is but both have a softer side too when they feel heard. Their path towards  healing is done really well.

Hope Van Dyne – Evangeline Lilly is wonderful and I’m glad she finally gets the Wasp costume she should have had from the beginning. She is the one who is always standing up for herself and holding her dad accountable. I really liked her character and hope we get to see her in action in the next film.

Hank Pym – Hank is a dick and doesn’t get along well with people. He is also intriguing too as he is right about the Starks tech. leading to trouble with it being so open. He is the skeptic and is antagonistic in many ways and his arc is learning to communicate and truly live the action of caring about Scott and Hope. It’s done really well.

The End Credits Scenes – Bucky is found by Captain America and Falcon is there to help as they keep things undercover from Tony Stark and the government knowing that if they find out that they are keeping safe a wanted criminal…things can only go bad.

Hope receives the new Wasp suit! Can’t wait to see it in action!

Okay: Scott Lang and Co. – All of them including Scott are funny sometimes but they don’t have the intensity the Pyms have or Yellowjacket does so it makes it hard to care about them. They feel like comedic relief at times…including Scott.

Scott’s Family – They are bland, including the step-dad. I didn’t really feel that I got to know any of them and that they were just plot devices for Scott’s growth.

   Scott Lang and his family were the weakest parts of this film, besides Scott’s Team but it still didn’t keep this film from being better from “Age of Ultron.” Evangeline Lily and Michael Douglas are amazing as the Pyms and Corey Stoll owns the role of Yellowjacket. It’s great seeing the wider universe play a part and not dominate the story either. This story is more personal as it is Scott’s path of redemption and the Pym’s path to healing. Both have great payoffs too. I’d recommend this film far more than “Age of Ultron” and won’t be suprised if it makes my Top 5 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): The Scars We Carry and the Potential To Heal

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster

“Age of Ultron” was great, a lot of fun and actually had some amazing points to make about motivations and how we as people relate to one another as well as how those wounds we carry relate to our relationships and the choices we make from them. It also is not the best of the new Marvel Properties. “Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Marvel’s Daredevil” are better, though I can’t deny that Ultron is the first villain besides Loki and Kingpin I’ve actually cared about and found truly interesting and memorable.

The film was directed and written by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige.

SPOILERS from here.

The story involves Banner and Tony creating the Ultron program in attempt to retire the Avengers after they find Baron Von Strucker’s files and capture him after raiding a H.Y.D.R. A. base and choose to use it to create an A.I. to guard against future space invasions and enforcing the peace at home. Sadly this doesn’t go as planned as Loki’s Scepter and the Program Ultron take control of J.A.R.V.I.S. and begin attacking the Avengers. They soon find themselves alone and isolated as Ultron works with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to destroy the Avengers from the inside as he plots his own agenda for the fall of humanity.

The Pros: The Dialogue – This is Joss Whedon and the dialogue is not as funny as the first “Avengers” but just as witty. Characters still have great banter with one another with the party scene where different folks try to life Thor’s Hammer as one of the best examples of this, but there are these moments throughout the film. Ultron has them too with each of the Avengers as he is a very human A.I.

The Action – The action is fantastic, though in the case of Iron Man vs. Hulk it goes on for a pretty long time and could have been shorter. The action in general I would have traded for more character moments as each of the moments we get with our characters are fantastic, be they hero or villain. We are given reasons to care about what happens to them and we see how the choices they make motivate who they are and what they become.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful in this film and we get to see the darkness the characters carry with them in the fear induced visions that Scarlet Witch gives them and in the actions of Ultron as he creates fear and chaos around him. Ben Davis did a good job.

The Characters – Most characters in this film have great development and we get to see them change or get glimpses into their past. Given that “Avengers” set the stage so well, this was one of the only directions the film could be taken and Whedon succeeds in his task in giving us wonderfully complex characters once again.

War Machine – Rhody is pretty cocky in this and we see how Tony has rubbed off on him but also accepted him onto the team too as he is in the last battle and takes part in the battle in the Avenger’s Tower against the first Ultron bots. He is great and we see how insecure he feels around the big guys, especially Captain America and Thor when they don’t even blink about his story of showing up a general who asked him to deliver a tank. There is promise for him at the end though. Cheadle is still good in this role it’s just the role needs more development.

Falcon – Falcon is tracking Bucky for Captain America and takes part in the fight in the Tower against Ultron’s first attack. We don’t see him again until the end but he is secure working behind the scenes showing that in many ways he’s an unspoken S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in mentality. Really like the twist at the end and I’m rooting for this guy to be the new Captain America after Steve Rogers most likely gets assassinated in Civil War. Mackie is fantastic and is one of my favorite characters in this Universe.

Nick Fury – Nick Fury is the teacher in this and pull Tony out of his ego to actually deal with taking down the threat at hand. He also comes with the New S.H.I.E.L.D. which is there to protect and save civilians, not target potential threats. It’s a wonderful moment and we see how Captain America has changed him as a person and his ends justify the means approach he once had. Once again, you can’t go wrong with Samuel L. Jackson in this role.

Scarlet Witch – I was impressed with Elizabeth Olsen’s acting in this. Her Scarlet Witch is both powerful and vulnerable and we see her destroy the Avengers and later choose to be a part of them even though she is afraid for her life and afraid to work with the people that she had caused so much pain. In the end they accept her when she chooses to fight and saves Hawkeye. Sadly her brother dies which leads her to killing Ultron Prime to show him what it is like to die. I really want to see her dynamic with the Team and the others in the future. She is the most compelling new character besides Vision introduced in this film who is for sure still around.

Thor – Thor is shown to be a leader in this. We see him go to the Pools of Vision to understand his dream induced by Scarlet Witch which leads to him going against Captain America to help Banner and Stark create Vision. We also see his insecurity when others like Steve Rogers (who moves his hammer) and Vision (can use it fine) are shown to be comparable in physical power to him. Hemsworth truly masters this role and I’m curious to see where they take it as Thor is the one who sees the bigger picture now and knows the full threat of the Infinity Stones and what it means for the future. This is the most active Thor has ever been.

Black Widow – In this we see what the Black Widow Program does to the girls it makes assassins. In Natasha’s fear induced dream we see her train as an assassin, see her made sterile and her first kill. She knows the monster that was created in her and this leads to her being able to relate to Banner and the monster that lives in him. Their romance is powerful but in the end the Mission is what drives them apart as well as Banner’s fears of hurting her. Natasha lives for the mission still while Hulk just wants to be away from it all, no longer hurting anyone.

Hulk/Bruce Banner – Banner’s story is a tragedy again as he murders civilians as the Hulk after Scarlet Witch sets him off. He doesn’t come back from it until Iron Man beats him in his Hulkbuster Armor and we see how he can’t trust himself anymore and all the progress he made with Natasha is now gone. In the end he leaves everyone behind, afraid to hurt them even though even as Hulk he is now in control of himself once more. The regret and shame at the murders he caused as “The Big Guy” in the end are too much.

Iron Man/Tony Stark – This story follows the idea from “Iron Man 3” where Iron Man wants to create an army of suits so he can settle down with Pepper and not Super Hero anymore. Sadly things go wrong when he uses the power of the Infinity Stone to do so and it leads to the program Ultron getting free and reeking havoc upon the world. This doesn’t stop Tony though as he goes about creating Vision who is the next evolution of J.A.R.V.I.S. who has been protecting the world from Ultron even though everyone believed him to be dead when instead his program was just shattered but not destroyed. It is this creation of new life and realizing he can’t watch everyone die that leads him leaving the Avengers at the end dealing with the loss of Banner and his lost dream where the risks from Space are real and there isn’t a real defense against it. Tony is lost and his leaving is the only way to deal with it and the consequences of his creation of Ultron.

Captain America/Steve Rogers – Steve is the cautious one and is the one most angry at Tony for not getting their endorsement when he was going about creating Ultron with Banner. In this we see Captain America lives for the mission and being a man out of time he lost his chance for peace and settling down. Like Black Widow at the end, all he has is the mission and acting as the guardian of the world which becomes his motivation as he is the official leader of the New Avengers.

Hawkeye – Hawkeye is the glue that holds the team together as he is the only one who wasn’t put through a traumatic program or experimented upon by any organization. In this we learn he has a family and it his family who was protected off the books by of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Nick Fury that leads to the healing process as they are reminded again of who they fight for. In the end it implies that Hawkeye might be retiring and settling down like Tony too as we see the danger he is in and how it affects the relationship he has with his family. Hawkeye is the one Avenger who isn’t “special” in any superpowered or cursed way and this gives him perspective and helps him see what the other characters sometimes have trouble seeing through their scars and pain. I finally cared about this character after this film. Also he’s the only one not to have any mind games done too as he gets Scarlet Witch before hand referencing how much he hates mind manipulation and never wants it done to him again.

Vision – Vision is the next evolution of J.A.R.V.I.S. whose parents are Tony Stark, Ultron, and Thor who all made his mind in some way and Helen Cho who created his body. We don’t get to know Helen all that well but her compassion as a healer is a major part of Vision’s character. He is the one who has no problem lifting Thor’s Hammer and is an idealist about humanity even though he sees them as doomed he is honored to be an android among them and their to protect them. He is a slave to no one and is the one who finally ends Ultron who had been the one planning to use the body he now inhabits.

Ultron – James Spader is fantastic in this role! He is funny, scary and is sympathetic too as he thinks humanity can’t be saved because all he sees is conflict and war and himself and those he chooses to be the best bet for the evolution of mankind. He is like a child in many ways too and has a personal vendetta against Tony Stark who sees as a slavemaster for only seeing him as a puppet for his own ends and hates the rest of the Avengers too as their task is so pointless as humanity will always be the problem in the end. For me Ultron is now up there with GLADos and HAL 9000 as memorable A.I. enemies who I hope we see in the future or future incarnations. Only disadvantage is I wish he’d had a higher body count and had killed mroe named heroes besides Quicksilver.

The New Avengers – The New Avengers who are lead by Black Widow and Captain America are Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Falcon and Vision. I actually care about these new folks, some of whom we have met before in past films and would watch a television show of what they do. I hope we get to see them in action before “Infinity Arc.” All of them rock.

The Message – The core message is that the scars we carry with us can force us to stop making a difference and to leave everything behind (as Bruce Banner does and Tony Stark too) or to use it to grow as we see happen with Scarlet Witch when she avenges her brother’s murder by Ultron and becomes a member of the New Avengers. This dynamic is powerful and from within it or potential to protect (Vision) or destroy (Ultron). These A.I. are meant to reflect us and it is presented really well how they do.

Sign of Things to Come – Thor has a vision induced by Scarlet Witch and goes to the Pools of Vision and learns about the fact that 4 of the 6 Infinity Stones have been revealed. This leads to his decision to create Vision to protect the stone and his leaving Earth in order to find the final stones since he knows the full damage their power can cause. In the after credits scene we see Thanos put on the Infinity Gauntlet and decide to take matters into his own hands so we see that Thor is right and destruction is coming.

Okay: Baron Von Strucker – This leader of H.Y.D.R.A. is confident and smart and ends up dead far too quickly. For a guy who was the leader of a powerful organization he was taken out too quickly for us even to get to know him. He was okay for what little time we saw him but never registered as a threat.

Quicksilver – Quicksilver is killed by Ultron when he defends a child and Hawkeye. He is the angriest of the twins and we see him rock against the Avengers when he faces them and put up a good fight against Ultron too. His death was sad but still wasn’t as powerful as the death in the first “Avengers.” I did like how it changed Scarlet Witch though, so there is that.

The Soundtrack – Brian Taylor and Danny Elfman did the soundtrack and I couldn’t even tell that he was behind it. The only unique thing that didn’t quite work was “No Strings on Me.” The soundtrack was going for creepy but I can’t remember the soundtrack. It was forgettable, but not terrible.

This was a great film and Marvel has once again created a favorite film. I’m going to hold off on my list of MCU films from Worst to Best until I see “Ant-Man,” but this one will be pretty high on the list. The characters are great, the villain is great and though there are problems it did not stop from enjoying the film. This is a film I would buy and shows that Disney and Marvel still know what they are doing with their story and Franchise. Even if you haven’t seen any of the other films, you don’t need too. This film is great as a stand alone film.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): A Masterpiece of Sci. Fi., Action and Comedy Gold

guardians_poster_via_marvel

I really want to see more of James Gunn’s movies after this. I haven’t seen any of his other stuff, but it has been a while since three things (sci. fi., action and comedy) have gone so well together. Marvel Studios you have done it again, and what a spectacular way to end the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” at least until “Ant-Man” and “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” later.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” follows the story of Quill after he watches his mother die of cancer and he is kidnapped by aliens. In the future he has become an outlaw dubbing himself Star-Lord, from here he finds a device that a buyer has promised him a lot for which brings Gamora (one of the daughters of Thanos) and Rocket the Raccoon and Groot trying to capture the device. They all end up in prison where Drax’s attempt to kill Gamora allies them together to take out the main baddy Ronan who works for Thanos and wants to destroy Xandar, home of the Nova Corps. From here the story unfolds as their personalities collide.

Warning – Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Drax – Who would have thought a professional wrestler would end up being an amazing actor. Dave Bautista owns this role and has a lot of comedic moments as his character doesn’t understand figurative expressions. He is the one who brings the team together too besides Rocket and Groot protecting Star-Lord because they want what he has. Drax is the most reckless of the group and more than a little insane. He also has a heart, that we get to see in the end and we know why he is the way he is since Ronan slaughtered his wife and child. Can’t wait to see what they do with this guy in the sequel. After Gamora saves his life she becomes part of the team to him too.

Rocket – Bradley Cooper is fantastic as the snarky, sarcastic raccoon with a major chip on his shoulder. His character is an inventor and was experimented on to become the creature he is today. This becomes a plot point when he gets really drunk in the outlaw hideaway Knowhere and Quill and the others finally understand what he is going through. There sticking up for him leads to him eventually them as family. He has a touching scene with Drax after Groot is gone and we see his humanity in a plant in a pot carries at the end.

Groot – “We are Groot,” is one of the best lines in the film and it is when Groot sacrifices his body so that the Guardians of the Galaxy will survive. He is the heart of the group and the one who acts for the best in any situation. Vin Diesel’s voice acting gives a lot to this role given for most of the film Groot can only say, “I am Groot,” in different inflections to get his point across.

Gamora – I want to know more about her relationship with Thanos given Thanos kidnapped her and destroyed her family in order to make her a weapon. Her sister Nebula I believe went through something similar. She is great as the guarded assassin but shows a lot of humanity. She is the one who reminds Quill that there is more to the galaxy than money, and teaches him the meaning of honor. They have a great complex friendship/romance and her friendship with the rest of the team, especially Drax who first sees her as an enemy, is a pleasure to watch. Zoe Saldana is once again fantastic in sci. fi.

The Collector and Knowhere – First Nowhere is a fantastic location. A Titan’s head made into a city as the organics are processed from it is a masterful idea. It makes sense the Collector would make this his home. He is creepy as always and shows us the device is a purple infinite stone of which there are six. When they are distracted his slave destroys everything having him finally face some accountability for treating people like objects. Knowhere is where Ronan arrives with Nebula and his army after Drax gives them a call. The Collector has a funny scene at the end too.

Nova Corps – Nova Corps is a like a futuristic military made up of mostly humans or humanlike aliens. Glenn Close plays Nova Prime and John Reilly plays Corpsmen Dey her unspoken second in command. When Ronan attacks having consumed an infinite stone (He is a Kree Zealot who sees the Xandar’s as needing to be cleansed). She risks everything including trusting the Guardians of the Galaxy to protect them from Ronan using the Infinite Stone to consume their world.

Nebula – Karen Gillian has a lot of range. I loved her as Amy Pond on Doctor Who and as Nebula…one of Thanos’s daughters who hates her sister Gamora and Thanos…she makes a complex baddy. She can also regenerate her body and escapes during the last battle managing to survive. We don’t know where her loyalties are, and I love that.

The Comedy – From Drax’s inability to understand language expressions, to Quill’s sarcasm, or Gamora’s obliviousness or Groot’s Grootness…contrasted by Rocket’s crazyness creates some great moments of comedy. Better comedy than “The Avengers,” for sure, which didn’t always know what tone it wanted.

The Final Battle – The final battle is fantastic and has a cost. Groot loses his body, the Nova Corps is decimated, and their capital is at least partially in ruins. There is the moment of awesome too when Drax, Quill, Gamora and Rocket use the power of friendship to contain the infinity stone and use it to destroy Ronan.

Quill / Star-Lord – This guy is wonderful. He starts out as the scoundrel and becomes the accidental hero. There is not a moment this guy is unfunny though. I love his arc in becoming a hero too since we do see much of his motivation is money. I really want to see Chris Pratt in other things now. Not much more to say, beyond his hero journey is fun and in the end he isn’t a total hero as he plans to do a little bit of good and a little bit of bad with the team.

The Music – Using the mixed tape that Quill’s mother gave him when she was alive we get some amazing 80’s music throughout the film, all the songs work perfectly and also contribute to the comedy too as Quill embraces every song so fully. I loved the soundtrack and plan on using it for writing inspiration.

Okay/Good – Ronan – Nebula is the Loki of this movie…Ronan is the Malekith. We know he’s a religously fanatical Kree who follows Thanos, but we don’t know what his religion fully intends. He hams it up perfectly though and is a great threat, since unlike Loki in “The Avengers,” this guy can actually succeed, and he nearly does.

Thanos – He is just a shadow in the background and doesn’t feel like a threat yet. We know he’s a powerful manipulator…but so is Loki. What sets him apart from Loki besides number of followers in the MCU? That is one thing I hope we learn as the Infinite Arc unfolds. He wasn’t bad, but he seemed powerless to do anything about Ronan’s betrayal, which was a shame…I was hoping he would come to Xandar to take the infinite stone himself and shut down his subordinate for the betrayal.

This is one of my favorite movies of the year, and in many ways on par with “Winter Soldier,” the only reason I can’t give it a ten is because within the Marvel Cinematic Universe H.Y.D.R.A. now feels like a much greater threat than Thanos. I would like that to change, since this guy is a destroyer of worlds. We’ll see what happens. Character, action and humorwise this film did everything it needed to do and I very highly recommend it.

My final score is 9.8 / 10. One of my new favorite films.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – An Amazing Spy Thriller That Changes the Marvel Universe

Captain America Winter Soldier

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” is one of the best movies I saw in theatre this year. The only one that beat or was comparable was the “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” In my Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure this film is top of my list to write about, along with “The Avengers,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” once I see it.

There are a lot of reasons I like this film, but for the non-spoiler version that is as vague as possible: The security state is critiqued, we see the price of war and the it asks us the question of freedom versus security and what makes an organization good or noble.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” is a sequel to both “The Avengers,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” tying it to both and furthering the continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The story picks up with Captain America working for S.H.I.E.L.D. as an agent, but quickly finding out that he doesn’t know what is going on when Nick Fury is attacked by unknown agents and the Winter Soldier arrives the scene who is a famous assassin who Black Widow knows about only through rumors largely but who she witnessed in action in one of her missions. From here Captain America and Black Widow go undercover to find out what is going on as S.H.I.E.L.D. sees them as possibly guilty for the attack on Fury. They also get help from Falcon, a veteran who is part of an airborne division where he had prototype wings that he used in combat. From here the story unfolds as the conspiracy is unraveled.

Spoilers Ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Tone – “Don’t trust anybody.” Is what Nick Fury tells Captain America at one point, and that level of unknown and fear pervades the film. We get hints of it in the beginning with Widow’s side mission and after that it continues on throughout the rest of the film continuing to grow with the face of that unknown in the Winter Soldier and the actions against the protagonists.

Black Widow – Johansson does it again. We get to learn more about her past and why she doesn’t trust anyone, and we get to see her in the mentor role, since Captain America is Super Hero that has never had to do undercover work. She is the secondary protagonist besides Falcon and is the best that we have ever seen her. She even makes a pretty hard choice at the end that I will discuss later in the review.

Falcon – Can’t wait for this guy to take Chris Evans place after he leaves…which I hope they do now that Falcon is Captain America in the comics. Falcon is a veteran who helps veterans, and because he isn’t a super soldier depends on his training as a soldier with a prototype weapon and adaptability to help Widow and Captain find out how far the conspiracy goes. He is there only friend at the end at one point. Anthony Mackie is fantastic.

Nick Fury – Is the mentor in this and has some great reveals about his past and why he doesn’t trust and is so brutal. This is the movie that gives us Fury as a fully realized character, and it is awesome! From his friendship to Pierce and to Captain America and the choices he makes. Samuel L. Jackson owns this role.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – I shown to be a complex government organization that ends up being compromised. The first warning signs are the Helocarriers that have been programmed to deal with threats. It is Captain America who first questions this but is shutdown by Nick Fury through his story of growing up rough and how his grandfather always was armed to protect himself…and that the government needs to do the same (a reaction to Loki’s attack on New York). Alexander Pierce (one of the heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the main guy advocating for this protection and offensive might. I’ll go into what happens with them later.

Fury’s Death – Fury has an awesome fight with The Winter Soldier and unknown agents and eventually takes them out after a pretty big fight and goes into hiding with Captain America. He delivers his warning and is shot…

Arnim Zola – This guy is back! We saw the government take him in after World War 2 and he worked for them but also used it to plant the seed of H.Y.D.R.A. there as well as making himself into a program to control and use S.H.I.E.L.D.’s data. He turns S.H.I.E.L.D. into an arm of H.Y.D.R.A. He is also one of the creators of the Winter Soldier. We see him face Black Widow and Captain America from an old style computer that he eventually sacrifices to try and kill the two of them. We learn that he was loyal to H.Y.D.R.A. all along which was a question after the first film given he betrays The Red Skull. I hope we returns later on and that some part of his program is still active. He was a lot of fun and a great threat.

H.Y.D.R.A. – Using the Winter Soldier they “kill” Nick Fury and try to kill Black Widow, Falcon and Captain America…regardless they win to some degree in this. They destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. by becoming S.H.I.E.L.D. it is brilliant and show how idealism can get hijacked by the corrupt as well as the danger of concentrated power in anything with military might.

The Winter Soldier – Is “Bucky,” Captain America’s old friend who has been brainwashed and given a metal arm by H.Y.D.R.A. he is a huge threat and pumped full of the super soldier serum. He is like the terminator throughout the film but gets some great moments with Captain America as he fights to find who he once was and get control over himself again.

Fury and Captain America – There is a great conversation here when we learn he Fury faked his own death to go underground…and rather than it being cheap, like it has kind of become with Marvel…it has consequences. It is when Black Widow and Nick Fury fight to bring down S.H.I.E.L.D. it is the death of this organization that changes everything in this universe.

The Confrontation – This is where everything comes to a head. The Winter Soldier has been rebrainwashed and is being used to kill the heroes, the Helocarriers are taking off and haven’t been implanted with Fury’s virus. This is some of the best action I’ve seen (much better than “Avengers” or “Iron Man 3,” and “Thor 2,”) and in it all it has a point in it too.

Alexander Pierce – As the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. and H.Y.D.R.A. Robert Redford gives us a fascinating character who sees ends justifying the means because of how Fury disobeyed orders. He saw that on the large scale which lead to his corruption. He is clearly bad but you can at least sympathize with this very flawed villain who is all the corruption of the security state justifying itself. Fury gets the kill on this guy when he tries to kill the Council.

Captain America – He grows a lot in this film. From having to make hard choices in regards to killing, to trusting Black Widow fully and becoming an agent undercover…to all his interactions with the Winter Soldier. Chris Evans nails it all and is a pleasure to watch.

The Reveal – Baron Von Strucker has 2 mutated children (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) and plans to feed Fury, Widow and Captain America false info. to keep them away from key H.Y.D.R.A. facilities. Giving us a hint of things to come.

Bucky returns to the museum we saw Captain America at in the beginning, showing him in his quest to find out who he is.

I highly recommend this film. There really weren’t any cons for me. It is what I want out of a Super Hero movie. It knows what it is about, has a consistent tone, the characters actually grow and the action actually means something. Captain America actually became an interesting character too and I hope Falcon will have the chance to be him after Chris Evans leaves.

Final Score is 10 / 10. The greatest thus far.

Iron Man 3 (2013): Consequences from the Past

Iron Man 3

“Iron Man 3,” is the next movie on the Disney Marvel Franchise review list. It like, “Thor 2,” is more enjoyable after a second viewing. The film is directed by Shane Black, who focuses on the human level of the character and the post-Avengers world.

The premise of the film is Tony Stark is dealing with PTSD because of battle in New York City while dealing with people who he has slighted in the past who have come back for revenge as well as the new threat of the Mandarin. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Introduction – Tony Stark is recounting how his demons have come back to bite him and later brings it full circle at peace in himself.

The characters – Shane Black is great at directing actors and this is a great character piece…from the exploration of Tony and Rhody, to the antagonists of Killian and Maya. I’ll go into more details further into the review.

The Action – The action is quick and even has Tony suitless having to fight against Extremis soldiers (super soldiers who regenerate and can breath fire). It always feels like something at stake at the action rises believably throughout the film.

Pepper Pots – She is a pro in this, though she gets less exploration than “Iron Man 2,” and the first one. We see her trouble with dealing with PSTD Tony, but also her strength when she fights the baddie at the end.

Rhody/The Iron Patriot – I hope we see the Iron Patriot used by someone else and War Machine become War Machine again…it is even shown in this movie that Rhody hates the new name. This is a movie where he needs to be saved most of the time he is in the suit, but when he is out and about is as competent as Tony. He even manages to save the President after the suit had been used by Killian’s dragon to capture him.

the kid Harley – There is a kid who lost his dad who helps Tony repair his suit after the Mandarin blows up his house. He even distracts the Extremis soldiers during the battle in his town. It ends with Tony upgrading his barn since he sees the kid is an inventor like himself…and also thank him since he is pretty funnily cold to the kid throughout the film. So glad he doesn’t team up for the final battle…he feels like an actual character not a wizkid or damsel needing saving.

Extremis Plot – Created by the main baddie Aldrich Killian with the help of Maya Hansen, these soldiers are seeking to take over the government by using the soldiers as both terrorists and the soldiers fighting the terrorists. The Mandarin was created as the fall guy in the situation since it is just an out of work loser actor who is taken advantage of to create the character. What sets Tony Stark against them initially and openly (telling the Mandarin where he lives) is when his bodyguard Happy is almost killed.

The Locations – A fight in a small country town before Christmas, a fight on an oil rig on Christmas, a rescue from an exploding plane…the locations of action are fantastic in this.

Maya Hansen – One night stand with Tony, taken in by Killian and eventually sees that she can still see the consequences of the work she is doing with Killian so tries to stop him. A great complex character who should have got more time for us to know. Rebecca Hall does great.

Aldrich Killian – Guy Pearce does a fantastic job as the slighted scientist out for revenge. His motivations seem real since he was the guy who was invisible and bullied. It makes his super soldier transformation believable…he’s like the Anti-Captain America. I liked that he fought to the end and that it took everything Iron Man through at him and Pepper Extremised to defeat him. One of the best baddies in this universe.

House Party Protocol – J.A.R.V.I.S. “House Party Protocol,” is fantastic and I can see why it wasn’t used sooner beyond it being a game breaker (and can’t wait to see how this plays into the creation of Ultron later possibly). Iron Man was in the panic PTSD mode, he wasn’t thinking clearly, it doesn’t occur to him until he’s found himself again…and when he does…all his suits fighting for him is one of the coolest scenes in this entire franchise.

Tony Stark/Iron Man – From using the suits as a cocoon to hide from the world (his own words) in dealing with PSTD and eventually letting his suits go in the final battle and accepting them as a part of him and that he is Iron Man regardless, is a fantastic arc. We see Tony the inventor who wins through his wits and also Tony at his most believably desperate and paranoid. Robert Downy jr. once again owned this role.

Okay: The President – He doesn’t do much, he’s just there to be rescued and used.

The Mandarin – Is there to be a fall guy. How he is used is interesting, but as a character he isn’t interesting at all. Luckily the actor is told in one of the short films “All Hail the King,” that the Mandarin is the true leader of the Ten Rings (the terrorist group from the first film) and wants to meet him. Can’t wait to see where this goes. Also, can understand why they got away from making him the traditional mandarin since it is some of the worst of the Cold War propaganda and paranoia. How they make him in this film (and how he might be in this universe) might get away from it though.

Bruce Banner reveal – We see Tony recounting this story to Bruce who has fallen asleep. Would have preferred the Ten Rings short film reveal instead. This is cute but it doesn’t serve the plot or arc of the universe in anyway. We knew they became friends from “The Avengers.”

Cons: No one died – The President’s cabinet gets killed…and Maya who changes allegiance to good but Happy and Pepper live…if one of them had died it would have mad the ending more bittersweet. It is almost too happy for all that goes down.

“Iron Man 3,” is a sold film and worth the praise it receives. In many ways it is better than the first film since it is structured better. Wish they’d worked Extremis into what we learn about the universe in “Winter Soldier,” though. Extremis would have tied in perfectly to that plot…who knows, maybe it was and we won’t find out until “Age of Ultron.” Regardless loved this film, especially Robert Downey Jr. for the greatest range I’ve seen him take the character and for Shane Black for making an entertaining adventure.

Final Score for this film is 9.4. It is solidly good, some actual loss would have made it better though…and it still a favorite film.