Bridging The MCU Disconnect

A common complaint about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and its related television shows is how disconnected they are. There is lip service from the powers that be that all the films and TV shows are interconnected, but there is scant evidence. At least, when it comes to the films. Fans are desperately grabbing at straws and blurry screen shots to find evidence of the TV side of the MCU in the films but without success. To date, none of the characters that originated in the TV shows have shown up on film, aside from one exception. Howard Stark’s butler Jarvis, portrayed by James D’Arcy in Agent Carter, made a brief appearance in Avengers: Endgame. This lack of TV characters in the films implies that the two medium are not connected, resulting in an MCU disconnect.

jarvis in avengers endgame

However, the television shows made it clear, especially older ones, that they were set in the MCU. It’s hard to dispute that fact where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stars one of the secondary characters featured in the films (Agent Phil Coulson) and had appearances by Nick Fury, Sif and Agent Maria Hill, among others. They were portrayed by the same actors and were, in fact, the same characters. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has made numerous references to the films. Lately, this has not been the case as it appears that the producers have given up hope that their shows are part of the MCU and are ignoring what is going on in the films. A good example is the recent sixth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which takes place after the fifth season and that season referenced Avengers: Infinity War and Thanos. In the recent season nothing about Thanos’ snap was ever mentioned nor were other film characters. In a way, it’s good that the TV shows have thrown off the shackles of film continuity and are branching off on their own. The fact that Cloak and Dagger takes place in New Orleans and is far removed by the events in Avengers: Infinity War gives the impression that the MCU is much larger and complex. Like real life not everything has to be connected and it is fun for sharp-eyed viewers to spot obscure Easter eggs, such as Typhoid Mary mentioning the fictional country Sokovia in Iron Fist’s second season. But it can make it hard for some viewers to care about the events in the TV shows since they can rationalize the shows don’t have anything to do with the proper MCU.

That is changing though. With the new Disney+ streaming service, there will be numerous TV shows that are decidedly part of the larger MCU as they will star important characters like Loki, Hawkeye, Falcon and the Winter Soldier. MCU head Kevin Feige promised that the new shows will intertwine with the upcoming MCU films and held up the example of how the show WandaVision will directly lead to the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Alright, that is all well and good but what about the existing TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Runaways or Cloak and Dagger? That is still up in the air and most likely nothing will change. But there are rumors going on that the cancelled Netflix Marvel shows, Daredevil and The Defenders are headed to either Hulu or FX some time next year or afterwards. The rumors also has it that actors like Charlie Cox will reprise their roles, which means the revivals of the shows will not be reboots. If this is the case, then this will validate that shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones are indeed part of the larger MCU. This, not the Disney+ shows, will certainly go a long way to bridging the current MCU disconnect between the film and TV medium and create a richer and more complex universe.

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All 23 MCU Films Ranked

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been with us since Iron Man in 2008 and has been comprised of three phases. Twenty three films later, the MCU’s Infinity Saga is now complete with the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which heralded the conclusion of Phase Three of the MCU.

Now it’s time to rank all the MCU films to date. We’ve done this before back in 2015 when Phase Two ended but since then eleven more MCU films have been released which changed the previous ranks of films. Also, upon further viewings the older MCU films have either aged well and are actually higher ranked or are haven’t aged well and went down in ranking.

Looking back at the films, it is remarkable and necessary to note that there isn’t a terrible film in the lot, which is amazing considering there are 23 films. Even the lowest ranked films have their merits and are better than many other films of different franchises. Not all the films are classics, but almost all are solid and enjoyable superhero films that are among the best of the genre.

23. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Coming in at the bottom of the list is the first sequel to Thor. Despite Chris Hemsworth’s star power and natural charisma as the God of Thunder, Thor: The Dark World is a very routine superhero film that is quite forgettable.

It has its moments such as Tom Hiddleston, who is always reliable as the mischievous Loki and the final fight. But the film was listless and wasted Christopher Eccleston’s talents as Malekith, an uninspired enemy with lazily thought-out motives and background.

22. Iron Man 2 (2010)

This sequel to Iron Man could have been good, even great. It featured many interesting subplots and with some tinkering the villains could have been among the MCU’s best. Instead, we got a mishmash of conflicting plots that don’t go anywhere.

Thanks to the film’s scattered tone, Tony Stark regressed in character and reverted back to being an unsympathetic, narcissistic jerk. Adding to the flaws was that it was obvious that the film was being over-managed by film executives who wanted to use it to lay the groundwork for the MCU instead of ensuring this was a good film in its own right.

21. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

This sequel to Ant-Man is not a poorly made film, it has many fine merits such as a winning cast and great effects. The problems with Ant-Man and the Wasp is that it doesn’t have the same energy as Ant-Man, often the humor comes off as forced, and feels more pedestrian than its predecessor. Not even the unusual sight gags are as funny or inventive as in the original.

Making matters worse is that the film featured some of the worst villains in the MCU. They make the much-criticized Yellowjacket in Ant-Man seem like Thanos, yes, they’re that uninteresting. Still, it’s not a bad film but should have been so much better.

20. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The first sequel to The Avengers is sometimes frustrating to watch because it reeks of 1) wasted potential and 2) having too many cooks in the kitchen or rather execs in the editing room. Reportedly, director Joss Whedon was ordered to include scenes and subplots that had little to do with the main story and his frustration showed in the final product.

But worse than that, Avengers: Age of Ultron felt by the numbers and crammed with too many characters. It was unable to recreate the fun and energy of the first film. But, there are some terrific sequences, namely the battle between the Hulk and the Hulkbuster and the party scene where Steve Rogers nudges Thor’s immovable hammer, so there is that.

19. Captain Marvel (2019)

This is a fine, decent film that does a better than expected job of showing how the modern MCU was set up. More than that, Captain Marvel expands the cosmic side of the MCU while laying the groundwork for the future of the cinematic universe.

What holds this film from ranking higher is that it’s rather flat at times and feels like a formulaic superhero film. Captain Marvel is alright for what it is, but it doesn’t truly stand out like many MCU films. Making things worse is Brie Larson’s sometimes wooden performance as the title character.

18. Doctor Strange (2016)

The Sorcerer Supreme’s debut film might have ranked higher on the list if only it didn’t feel like we’ve seen this kind of film before. An arrogant tool learns some humility and becomes altruistically heroic in time for the end credits. This doesn’t mean that Doctor Strange is a bad film, not at all. It’s professionally put together with amazing special effects and imagery that has never been seen before. Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch is an inspired casting choice for the title character.

However, Doctor Strange sometimes feels formulaic and routine in between the hallucinogenic magic shows. Downgrading the film further is its main villain, a rather forgettable evil wizard with murky motivation and cliché dialogue. More screen time should have gone to Dormammu, the ultimate big bad revealed at the end. The confrontation between Doctor Strange and Dormammu was ingenious and its resolution was a welcome change from the typical fisticuffs.

17. Iron Man (2008)

As the very first MCU film, Iron Man holds a distinctive place in many people’s lists. No doubt, the success of the cinematic universe is due to this solid superhero film that defied the odds. Before it was released, many doubted that the burgeoning Marvel Studios could pull off a successful superhero film with a B-list character. Thankfully, they were proven wrong. Robert Downey Jr. shone in the role of his career as Tony Stark and was one of the main reasons why the MCU took off.

But looking at it objectively, the film has its faults. After a thrilling and engaging first half, it bogs down as we impatiently wait for Stark to build and use the iconic red-and-gold Iron Man armor. The villain didn’t help matters either. Jeff Bridges is OK as Obadiah Stane but didn’t have much presence and this lessened the final conflict between the two. However, the film’s post-credits scene was a true zinger and gave birth to the MCU.

16. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The only solo Hulk film from Marvel Studios is its redheaded stepchild, which is a shame. There are so many admirable qualities to the film and it revamped the character after the ill-received film version from 2003. Besides, The Incredible Hulk was a favorite film of someone very dear to me, so it holds a special place. The film is often overlooked but it’s important to the MCU. As the first film after Iron Man it featured many references and Easter eggs that helped solidify the MCU. It also was the first MCU film to crossover characters as seen with Tony Stark’s appearance late in the film.

The film cleverly echoed the vibe from the successful TV series of the 70s and 80s by having its tortured hero Bruce Banner living life as a fugitive as he tried to cure his condition of turning into the Hulk. In his only appearance as Banner, Ed Norton, successfully captured the essence of his comic book counterpart in that Banner was a geeky, unassuming man who had a lot of pent-up rage. He actually was better at the role than Mark Ruffalo, but alas, studio politics and Norton’s actions during filming prevented him from reprising the role.

15. Black Panther (2018)

It may be heresy to admit it, but while Black Panther is a groundbreaking and captivating superhero film (and the first one to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar), it is overrated. Taking away its world building, merits and cultural impact, Black Panther has its flaws like some cheesy CGI and it takes a while for the film to take off during its first act. But when it does, wow, it soars off with great velocity. This happens when T’Challa directly faces the film’s villain Killmonger.

tchalla and killmonger

Michael B. Jordan is one of the film’s greatest assets as the savage Killmonger thanks to his compelling back story. His story intertwines finely with the film’s theme about the actions and sins of our fathers defining and shaping us. Once Killmonger enters the stage to claim the throne of Wakanda, the film grabs you much more than the eye-popping visuals of the advanced African country.

14. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Believe it or not, Iron Man 3 is a very well done film and unbelievably the best Iron Man solo film with exciting sequences. It created a lot of controversy when it was released due to the nature of the villains and certain plot twists. This turned off many fans, but the twists were genuine surprises that paid off.

What makes Iron Man 3 stand out is that it was basically a deconstruction of the title hero. We got to see Tony Stark at his most vulnerable as he grappled with PTSD from the events of The Avengers, and this made him more human. We saw there was more to this wounded man than his snarky jokes and false bravado. Then we saw how heroic and resourceful he was without his armor. This film certainly deserves another, more objective look.

black and red spidey

13. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

There are many plot holes in the second Spider-Man MCU film, but it’s a blast with so much heart and boasts some of the greatest MCU post-credits scenes. As with the previous Spider-Man film, this followup showcases the precarious balance that teenage superhero Peter Parker holds between his normal high school life and that of his web-swinging, heroic alter ego.

spidey and mysterio

There are many memorable sequences and laughs, though not all of them land. Overall, the film is fast-paced and engrossing with dazzling effects and fights. The main cast has perfected their performances in this sophomore effort. One of the highlights is Jake Gyllenhaal who plays the villainous Mysterio with obvious glee. The fight scenes between him and Spider-Man are some of the MCU’s best and at times emulate the trippy nature of the Spider-Man/Mysterio fights featured in the comics.

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A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part Two

We’re continuing our look at the superhero film event, Avengers: Endgame. This time we’ll speculate on a major plot device, what lies ahead for the team and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even who will be in the team later in the future. As before, major spoilers will follow, so turn back now if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame yet.

 

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The Smallest Hero with the Biggest Impact

Avengers: Endgame didn’t just feature story arcs about the OG Avengers but on allies that joined the team and their mission to undo Thanos’ snap. Nebula and Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy, along with everyone else were at the end of their rope, feeling defeated after Thanos’ victory in the previous film. There was significant time spent on them and they had their special character moments. While they made important contributions to the team’s quest to reverse Thanos’ snap, one of other ally became the most unlikely Avenger of them all: Ant-Man. He is not only the smallest MVP in Endgame but the most important one because the Avengers’ ultimate victory would not have been possible without Ant-Man.

Lang shows up

When Scott Lang aka Ant-Man re-emerged from the quantum realm after the film’s five-year time jump, he quickly realizes that time travel is possible due to the way he experienced time differently in the micro-dimension. He goes out of his way to locate the Avengers and presents them with this idea. Lang, fresh and eager from his experience in the quantum realm becomes a beacon of hope and new-found resolve for a defeated team. He inspires everyone into believing that the devasting effects of the Decimation could be undone.

ant-man in Avengers Endgame

To think this was all possible because of a rat. This anonymous rodent just happened to step on the controls of the quantum tunnel machine in a storage unit that brought Lang back into the world. Coincidence? Sure. Blind luck? You bet! But sometimes all it takes is the right circumstance to change everything. Even if some rat didn’t accidently save the universe, Lang would have been released some other time, what is important is that his re-emergence happened at the right time. Given his contribution, including his actions which later saved the Hulk, Rocket Raccoon and War Machine, Ant-Man is a shoe-in not only for another solo film, but as an Avenger in the team’s next film.

A Soldier’s Final Mission

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Steve Rogers traveled back to different time periods to return the Infinity Stones and nip the creation of alternate timelines.

His final journey raised many questions given how his mission ended. As mentioned in part one of this post, Rogers decided to spend his days in the past with Peggy Carter and grew old with her. We know this because moments after he disappeared into the quantum tunnel, he turns up nearby as an elderly man.

This started rampant speculation about how he returned since he didn’t use the same quantum tunnel machine he left in. Some theorized he was in the Prime MCU all along and never created a new timeline. The writers for the film agree with this, but it’s hard to believe because given his heroic nature, there isn’t any way that Rogers, whether or not as Captain America, would not interfere with history. He would have prevented Bucky from becoming the Winter Soldier, stopped the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones, let alone real-world tragedies like the JFK assassination or 9/11. The Avengers: Endgame directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, contradict this notion and believe that Rogers lived out his years in an alternate timeline. Good evidence for this is the fact that he comes back with an intact shield. Remember that his shield was broken during his battle with Thanos. Rogers must’ve obtained the new shield in the alternate timeline. Perhaps that timeline’s Captain America died or the shield was no longer needed in the brave new world Rogers created.

The question is how did he return? The temporal/quantum technology in the new timeline must have advanced more significantly than in the Prime MCU. Or that timeline’s Doctor Strange could have used magic to transport Rogers back to his native timeline. This and how did Rogers return the Stones are intriguing material for a potential film or series on Disney+, though we’ll probably never know.

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A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part One

By now, most of the movie-going audience and fans have seen the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, Avengers: Endgame. The fourth Avengers film is a monumental epic that concludes the 22-film Infinity Saga that started back in 2008. While it sums up long-running character arcs Avengers: Endgame does leave us with many questions as to its implications, intricacies and the future direction of the MCU.

Needless to say, major spoilers will follow. So, if you’re one of the few who has yet to see it (what are you waiting for?), then stop reading and come back afterwards. You’ve been duly warned….

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Avengers: Endgame had an expansive cast of characters, and that is not including all the MCU heroes that appeared at the end of the film for the climatic final battle with Thanos and his army. The film could have been overstuffed with characters and plot lines, but thanks to the skills displayed by the directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, the film breezed through its three-hour runtime. The characters were the main focus in the film and came off as more human than in previous efforts. They were all traumatized by the Decimation or Thanos’ snap and Avengers: Endgame, at least in its first hour, was a story of survivors and how they dealt with failure.

Survivors and Sacrifices

Some like Hawkeye aka Ronin aka Clint Barton, saw their families turned to dust and went to dark places in their souls. Hawkeye became a murdering vigilante who had to be coaxed back to help the Avengers in their time travel scheme to collect the Infinity Stones and undo the snap. He was hesitant at first, then skeptical and more willing than the others to lay his life on the line because with his family gone, he had nothing to live for, except for the faint hope that they would be returned to him. When Barton finally reunited with them, it was beautiful to watch as he attained an inner peace. But this won’t be the last time we see him. He will show up in a Disney+ show where it’s rumored, he will be mentoring a new Hawkeye.

black widow and hawkeye

Other heroes were ready to make sacrifices to reverse the Decimation. In the case of Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, her sacrifice was her own life as she gave it up so that Hawkeye could attain the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir. Unlike many of the other Avengers, Romanoff never had a real family until she joined the team. She was even surprised on Vormir to learn that her father’s name was Ivan. In a way, she had nothing to lose except her life when she willingly let herself fall to her death. Even though she had no one, her death was painful to watch since she is so beloved among fans. But at least she will return in an overdue solo film next year, which is obviously a prequel. Maybe we can find out what happened in Budapest.

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Avengers: Endgame Is A Grand, Epic Finale Of The MCU—No Spoilers

Endgame poster

That moment is finally here. Dread it, run from it. Destiny still arrives. The 22nd film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers: Endgame, is a fitting conclusion to the 11-year Infinity Saga.

This will be a non-spoiler review of Avengers: Endgame, the fourth Avengers film which concludes the brilliant set up of Avengers: Infinity War.

Thanos endgame

Without giving too much away, the film revels in the disastrous consequences of the last film where the mad Thanos (Josh Brolin) used the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half of all life in the universe. Our heroes grapple with the magnitude of their defeat in Avengers: Infinity War and how they cope with the Decimation (or Thanos’ Snap) is quite dramatic, emotional and unexpectedly grounded. Some may complain that the pace of the film is slower than usual for an Avengers film, but it is necessary for the epic payoff later on.

The actors portraying Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are at their best in Avengers: Endgame, which has many scenes that allow them to display their thespian skills. Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) form the emotional triumvirate of Avengers: Endgame, as it should since they are the heart and soul of the MCU. Other characters like Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) also have their dramatic moments in the sun. Again, as mentioned above, these emotional beats have a dramatic payoff and underline the desperate nature of their mission.

Avengers in Endgame

This film lasts three hours with three distinct acts that have their own separate tone. As interesting as it sounds, it doesn’t always flow as well as say Infinity War. The previous film had a more consistent and intense feel throughout. This will probably disappoint casual fans expecting Avengers: Infinity War, Part Two, but this fourth Avengers film serves as a love letter to the MCU.

Fans of the beloved MCU film franchise will just be delighted with all the references, cameos and callbacks to the past 21 MCU films, even the mediocre ones, which can now be seen in a new light. The film seems at times to be a Who’s Who of the MCU, but it is never confusing except for an important plot device. It won’t be said what it is, we’ll save that for the spoiler discussion coming soon, but let’s just say that sci-fi fans are familiar with it and have dealt with the headaches it causes. The same thing occurs in Avengers: Endgame and it leads to many questions and plot holes, but honestly by the time the last scene is unfurled no one will care too much.

Instead viewers will be taken aback by the sheer EPIC scale of the film. Avengers: Endgame pulls no stops in its final act with a spectacular battle scene that will go down in cinematic history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest battle scene shown on film. The final battle is confidently and explosively has the scale of an all-out war that is sprawling and visceral! While the pyrotechnics and the effects are a highlight (and better nab this film an Oscar for best special effects!), just as impactful are all the dramatic moments showcased in the finale. There is a satisfying feeling of payoff, whether we’re celebrating or mourning or are left hanging on the edge of our seats. The final act seriously induces tears not just because of the fate of some characters, but because one can’t help but rejoice in the level of glory displayed on the screen. This film truly feels like a work of art to be savored.

Already some are proclaiming Avengers: Endgame to be the best MCU and superhero film of all time. To be fair, it’s too soon to bestow that honor. Let time pass and genuflect on how this film resonates. But it certainly is the most epic superhero film that sticks the landing. That was something this film had to accomplish and somehow pulls this off so powerfully.

Avengers in Benatar

By the time Avengers: Endgame ends, there is a feeling of completion. The story of most of these characters has come to an end. By the way, don’t bother waiting around for a post- or middle-credits scene. There isn’t any, although after seeing the film one will have to agree that none were needed. At the same time, we are left with tantalizing glimpse of how life goes on with an eye towards the next great phase of the MCU. For some this will be a good point to stop following the MCU, but there is so much to look forward to. For now, let this epic event called Avengers: Endgame sink in and permeate our hearts as we celebrate the greatest film franchise of all time.

José Soto