The End of the MCU Project

Pretty exactly two years ago, the channel Nelonen in Finland had been showing MCU films all through the spring. I’d seen a few and thought about trying to see all of the films. I kinda remember that the original impulse was powered by a sick leave. It seems that my enthusiasm ended only a few weeks later. So, really, the project ended already 2 years ago, I’ve just been that lazy writing for this blog. By that time I’d already seen Iron Man 3, which is a phase 2 film. After that I’ve seen Doctor Strange (phase 3) and I’m going to throw in the two Deadpool films into this blog post as well, although they are strictly speaking a part of the X-Men film series and not the MCU. So, without further ado…

Iron Man 3 [2013]

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This film, as the rest of the franchise, suffers from not knowing, if it wants to be serious or fun. The serious is so superficial that it can’t move anyone, and the fun is always interrupted by the boring serious.

Oh well, there’s some courage in trying to throw away Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) home base, making him survive on without all of his toys, and trying to make him an emotionally broken man, but the execution fails. The Tennessee trip seems like a detour to a different film and a boring one at that, the toys are recovered, and the trauma is written and played so badly that it produces some of the most cringe-worthy scene in a film that isn’t lacking in them. The final showdown has JARVIS (Tony’s assistant AI) control dozens of Iron Man suits and bring down the bad guy. There’s lots going on, but not really any tension.

  • Director: Shane Black
  • Watched on: 26th May 2017
  • Watched at: Home
  • 2/5

Doctor Strange [2016]

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I watched this in two parts, since I was way too tired to finish it, when it was broadcast by some channel, and finished it a couple of days later through Netflix.

Another origin story. Something bad: all the characters becoming supers are extraordinary already. They are not one of the top 15 guys in a field – they are the #1. They don’t have a fancy sports car, they have dozens some of which are completely unique. This is boring. Something good: this takes a step away from the better known parts of the Marvel universe. Something bad again: a white guy comes in a masters an ancient mystic order’s practices in a couple of months and takes over the whole order. Still, the imagery is refreshing in the context of the MCU, so this actually ends up being one of the better MCU films I’ve seen, that is, barely worth the time.

  • Director: Scott Derrickson
  • Watched on: 18th – 20th May 2018
  • Watched at: Home (Netflix)
  • 2.5/5

Deadpool [2016]

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Occasionally I have the strength and inspiration to stay awake for a 9 PM film. This was one such occasion. Finally, a super hero film, that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s another origin story, but quite a bit different to the superficial and bad drama being built in the others. The whole character is built on breaking the conventions of super heroes, so it is less surprising that the film does the same, but very much refreshing.

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is not wholesome and appropriate for the whole family. He is a former soldier of fortune with a death wish and a bad mouth. There’s excessive violence and blood, there’s heads and arms being severed, there’s relationships that at least start out about sex, there’s finally properly messed up characters.

The film runs on two timelines. In the past, it tells of Wade Wilson, the soldier of fortune, agreeing to an experimental cancer treatment that leaves him disfigured and immortal. In the present it tells of Deadpool going after the people that did it to him. The humor is laugh-out-loud good on many occasions and surprisingly the few more serious bits of the film work better than in the contrived MCU films.

Obviously, this is not high art, but who cares.

  • Director: Tim Miller
  • Watched on: 12th Sep 2018
  • Watched at: Home (Sub)
  • 3.5/5

Deadpool 2 [2018]

deadpool_2

It’s no surprise that you use your best material for the first installment and the sequel tends to be worse. The same is true here.

Now we see Deadpool’s wife Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) murdered in front of Wade Wilson. He regains his death wish, which is made difficult to implement due to his immortality. There’s a plot about a school for mutants, where the faculty is practically torturing their students and thus creating a future super villain. Deadpool goes in to try to save the future super villain from that destiny, aided and hampered by a time traveling soldier from the future, who has been tasked with killing the super villain in his youth.

This whole side plot contains way more drama than the film needs and it feels somewhat contrived most of the time, but on the other hand, it is an excuse for more of the slightly less but still laugh-out-loud good franchise.

  • Director: David Leitch
  • Watched on: 5th May 2019
  • Watched at: Airplane entertainment system
  • 3/5

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Iron Man 2 [2010]

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This is a classic sequel suffering from classic sequel syndrome. The protagonist has a new tragedy that is a bit far fetched and everything is bigger and more dramatic… which means that there’s less emotional attachment to anything and the film is just worse. Now Iron Man is dying. The arc reactor is powered by palladium, which builds up some poisonous gunk in his system and we keep getting blood toxicity readings throughout the film. Using the suit makes the toxins release faster. Due to dying, he is alternating between self destruction and trying to do something meaningful with his life, including handing over his company to Pepper Potts. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly the tech that was supposed to be 10 years away from anyone, who is not Tony Stark, is there. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a scientist that Tony’s father got deported, builds him some neat laser whips and takes Iron Man for a ride. Vanko is caught and jailed, but sprung from the prison by Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). He is a wannabe Tony Stark, who controls a military contractor that is trying to fill the void left by Stark Industries leaving military tech behind. Nick Fury shows up to cheer up Tony Stark, who ends up figuring out a new chemical element from stuff left behind by his father – the material neatly solves the palladium poisoning issue and Tony is back in business. Obviously Vanko betrays Hammer and uses Hammer’s resources to build an army of Iron Man like drones that he utilizes to attack Iron Man in a personal vendetta. Iron Man is now helped by War Machine/Lt. Col. James Rhodes, who got a suit by “taking” it from the self-destructive Tony Stark. “Taking”, because, well, Tony can prevent that from happening, but I guess that was another moment of self-destructive behavior / trying to do something good. The big bad is defeated by the duo – hurray.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this film in full before, but I’ve seen long bits of it, when it has been running on TV and I’ve had it open in the background. Some parts were very familiar, but others I’m very sure I haven’t seen before.

From the MCU point of view, we get more crossing over. Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is on assignment from S.H.I.E.L.D. to watch over Iron Man, agent Coulson pays a visit and Nick Fury has a quick scene. Even the big bad is tied in with Howard Stark, Tony’s father, who was there in practically all supers related events before he died.

Still, this is a bad story about trying to cope in the face of dying (which is solved by deus ex machina) and fighting a meaningless baddie in the meanwhile. Robert Downey Jr. is still great as Tony Stark, when Tony is not wallowing in self-pity, unfortunately the chemistry between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts is mostly gone, Sam Rockwell is just ridiculously bad in every scene as Justin Hammer, and Mickey Rourke feels like he is on whatever stuff ruined his face.

Some decent fight scenes, but not counting the increased connections to the rest of the MCU, this is just worse in every way compared to the first Iron Man.

  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Watched on: 25th May 2017
  • Watched at: Home (DVD)
  • Fanboy grade: 2.5/5
  • 1.5/5

Iron Man [2008]

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This was the first production ever released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film itself was in limbo for a few decades, before rights reverted back to Marvel. Around the same time Marvel decided to form Marvel Studios and to build a whole franchise around this MCU concept. This, it turns out, was a good decision.

I’ve seen Iron Man once before and parts of it again later on, but it has been a while, so I decided to watch it again for this MCU project of mine. Last film was origin story of Captain America, this one is origin story of Iron Man. A brilliant inventor and a playboy billionaire, who turns his life around, when he is captured by some militants in Afghanistan and he sees the weapons he has developed used for bad. He escapes by building a miniaturized arc reactor and utilizing that to power a scrap iron contraption that is strong enough to defeat a few badly armed and trained militants. Back at home he builds a proper high tech version of the suit and returns to destroy his own weapons. Afterwards he finds out that it is his own second in command, who has been dealing the weapons to the militants and ends up facing said man, Obadiah Stane, mano-a-mano, when he too builds a suit.

This is definitely an entertaining film. Jon Favreau was right, when he said, that Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark – Downey is clearly comfortable in his role and having fun. This crosses the screen. There’s some flashy combat scenes, a cute love interest that doesn’t go anywhere yet in Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), and a nicely menacing villain that you love to hate in Stane (played by Jeff Bridges).

The list of negatives is obviously long. The depiction of the Afghani militants is… well, no effort was put into that. The descent of Stane from corporate asshole to a megalomaniac… well, you have to buy into super hero comics to find that believable for one second. Camera work is boring. In the end it’s just made for pure entertainment with no ambition for anything but making fanboys drool and some millions of dollars… But that’s obviously the case with all the Marvel films, so I’ll try to not mention that too often, while writing these reviews.

There’s again a few quick nods to the rest of the MCU – S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a role and Captain America’s shield is in Stark’s private workshop. Nick Fury and a few other names flash by in some news clippings. Obviously there can’t be too much, as the its the first MCU release. Nice that they worked some of that into the film though.

Altogether a fun and harmless film.

  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Watched on: 24th May 2017
  • Watched at: Home (DVD)
  • Fanboy grade: 4/5
  • 2.5/5