Marvel Movies, Post Avengers

People seem to like to split superhero movies into pre and post Avengers.  I wasn’t that enamored with the film so I am a bit skeptical of using it as the bifurcation point, but I will anyway.  That leaves us three sequels: Iron  Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2.  I am going to throw The Wolverine and Amazing Spider-man in here even though technically Fox and Sony still owns the rights to them.

My ordering:

  1. Thor 2
  2. Captain America 2
  3. Wolverine
  4. ASM
  5. Iron Man 3

Consensus seems to be brewing that CA2 is the best, but having just seen it I can’t agree.  That said, none of them have hit Iron Man levels of quality because of some rather obvious flaws that for whatever reason crop up near the end.

Thor 2 – Thor is probably my favorite character of the current Marvel movie lineup and I am a sucker for fantasy, so that probably taints my view.  However, I love the Thor/Loki relationship in this movie.  I feel like they kind of neutered Loki in the Avengers movie making him into something of a joke, but here he is back to his devious old self.  I also thought the death and consequences of Frigga’s death were very well done.

Now many have expressed disapproval of the comedy in the movie, thinking it out of place and slapstick.  For the most part I disagree, it’s a superhero movie and shouldn’t take itself too seriously as long as we don’t turn the villain/threat into a joke too.  That said, Kat Dennings’ character did get on my nerves occasionally rather than being unmitigated humor.

The problem with this movie is the ending.  Somehow, Thor and Jane find a portal from Svartalfheim to Earth.  Total plot contrivance.  Then, for whatever reason, Malekith has to unleash his plan for total darkness on Earth and an Earth scientist has the method for stopping him.  The battle between Thor and Malekith where they fly through portals into different realms was completely underutilized.  The nine realms have got to be full of completely ridiculous places to do battle and the movie just barely traverses them.

Then to kill Malekith, Thor just spears him and teleports him back to his homeland where he is crushed by his own ship.  A far better ending IMO would have been to have only Svartalfheim returned to total darkness since it is true that their realm has been corrupted by light.  Some of the plot points earlier suggested this is where they were going, but no all the evil elves must die I guess.

Anyway it was another Thor movie where the weakest parts were on Earth with Earth characters.

Captain America 2 – This was really well done with great action scenes and a plot that up until the end was really tight.  The Zola reveal and the revelation that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD was all great stuff.  But why did they have to add the part where their new surveillance/precognition system is immediately used to kill a bunch of potential dissidents?  I mean what do they think the backlash of that will be except chaos (which they are trying to avoid) and a quick dismantlement of SHIELD?  I think they should have stuck to the NSA PRISM angle and just left it as a vast intelligence gathering operation where they take out key targets that their system identifies.  Not dissimilar to Deus Ex or Metal Gear Solid with a bit of Minority Report.

I liked the idea and backstory of Robert Redford’s character, but he doesn’t deliver it with enough force or presence.  But I feel like that was the primary failing everywhere.  There seemed to be a distinct lack of emotion.  Fury’s longtime friend betrays him?  Is he furious?  Not really.  They want to take down SHIELD, his life’s undertaking, and he kind of looks around and accepts it.  The Bucky reveal Cap takes in stride, nevermind that his old friend he though had perished is back as an amnesiac cyborg killer.  Even the scene with Cap and dementia-laden Peggy should have been far more touching than it ended up being, even though all the words seemed fitting.

Finally, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow is still pretty weak.  Natasha is as old as Cap (at least in the comics, though it sounded like they changed that in the movies) and a hardened killer that worked for the Soviets and Johansson portrays none of that.  Instead they mostly insinuate a romance between her character and Cap.  Also I feel the female characters should beef up for these roles like the male characters.  Seems a bit sexist and it stretches credulity that tiny Johansson can hold her own in martial combat.

Once again, I should stress that the fight scenes are pretty amazing.  In particular, Nick Fury’s escape is up there with the great car chase sequences and the street battle with Winter Soldier is equally invigorating.

Overall an improvement over the first Captain America.

Wolverine – I liked this movie a lot, my favorite superhero film of 2013.  The plot of a guy trying to steal Wolverine’s regeneration to save his life is obvious, but effective and setting it in Japanese culture worked.  At this point Hugh Jackman could play Wolverine in his sleep, he is just that good at it.  Also he looks freaking ripped for 45, just saying.

The movie itself has a more subdued feeling than the over-the-top action seemingly required by the genre since Avengers.  Up until the end it might have passed off as not even a superhero film, but a kind of pulp noir film what with all the hiding out in seedy hotels and such.  Which is not to say the action scenes aren’t there and that they are not amazing.  They are, in particular the one on top of a bullet train is really good.

What mars the movie is mostly the ending.  Why did they use Viper in all her cheesiness?  Such a dumb character and really ruined the vibe of the whole movie.  Then there is Logan just walking into a village full of ninja when another character bypasses them easily to get to the villain’s base of operations.

Other than that, I really enjoyed it.

ASM – I admit to liking this much more than Spider-man with Toby Maguire.  However, seeing his origin story AGAIN after such a short time really made the entire movie uneventful.  We all know Uncle Ben is going to die and comic readers know that Captain Stacy will kick the bucket too.  So competently done, but nothing really exceptional.  Sadly trailers for second film don’t give me a lot of hope that the sequel will be better.

Iron Man 3 – I am really sad that this series kept going downhill as Downey as Iron Man is pitch perfect.  It suffers from Men in Black 2 syndrome where the main characters never take their situation seriously which undermines the effectiveness of the villain.  Also making the Mandarin and Ben Kingsley into a joke was really awful.  The actual villains are much worse than a potential Mandarin, their motivations and goals nonsensical.  Lets set up a puppet villain to draw attention to our activities!  Lets steal Iron Man’s wife so he fixes our drug, nevermind that his expertise is in other areas!  Lets attack the President so we can control the VP, nobody will suspect a thing!  You feel like the entire movie could have been avoided by corporate negotiations.

The only reason to see this is to bask in the gloriousness that is Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, otherwise it is something of a mess.  I even found the action scenes a bit inert.

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