Piling On The MCU And Other Superhero Movies

The continued dissing on the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and other superhero films by prominent filmmakers and actors has gotten ridiculous!

For years as the MCU gained more and more popularity and the films became more and more successful there have been grumblings from various actors and filmmakers who have not being involved in such films. They would pooh pooh the films and claim that they were only interested in real art and bemoaned the death of cinema. Most of us fans dismissed their rants and chalked them up to sour grapes and not bothering to understand the emerging cinematic genre.

But this piling on the MCU and the other superhero/comic book films is now overboard with the recent rants from Martin Scorsese and most recently Francis Ford Coppola. Frankly enough is enough.

Yes, we understand these filmmakers’ frustrations with getting their projects off the ground but to take it out on these films is uncalled for.  Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion and certainly the superhero films won’t appeal to everybody. However, Scorsese recently said he has not watched most MCU films and then went on to make a broad statement about how inferior they are and called them “theme parks”, in other words, inconsequential fluff. To have such an opinion when not having seen many films of the genre is backward. This also infers that Scorsese has not seen superhero films that transcended the genre such as The Dark Knight, Logan, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Of course, the genre film he produced Joker does not count (note the sarcasm).

While many superhero films may not be high art and are harmless entertainment, there are many that are high quality films and yes this applies to many MCU films. There is not a need to list the many fine superhero films but it is clear that they contribute to the cinematic art form. Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. It was the prejudice of many old fashioned voters that kept it from getting nominated for Best Actor or Best Picture. The same went for The Dark Knight, though Heath Ledger won a deserved Best Supporting Actor for his classic portrayal of the Joker.  Black Panther became the first superhero film to get the prestigious Best Picture nod, though there have been better superhero films. Nevertheless, this is an important achievement.

Superhero films are not alone in being disrespected by elite filmmakers. Sci-fi and horror continue to be disregarded by many of them even though many genre films are well made examples of cinema and have been very influential.

Keep in mind, much of this has to do with resentment. While Avengers: Endgame dominated the box office, Scorsese struggled to get his upcoming film The Irishman made and was forced to have it released through Netflix. The blame for this has to go to the studios who will only bankroll films that they are confident which will be successful, not just in North America but throughout the world. Superhero films happen to be the flavor of the decade. Each decade has a very successful genre that captures the public attention. Last decade it was epic fantasy films like the Harry Potter films or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the ’80s and ’90s it was action films, sci-fi epics, slasher flicks and disaster films. There was a time when the Western was the most popular genre, it is certain that many filmmakers back in the day grumbled about Westerns and how they couldn’t get their projects bankrolled. That is just the way it is. Sooner or later, some other genre will take center stage at the box office and there will still be complainers.

For us, we should ignore these critics, especially if they haven’t bothered to watch superhero films. As for them, maybe they should open their minds and genuinely give the films a chance. Either way, we know how great superhero films are and that should be enough.

José Soto

Spidey’s Back At The MCU! (For Now)

 

Ok everyone, take a deep breath, the nightmare is over. Spider-Man will remain at the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for at least two more films.

After weeks of anguish (let’s admit this is solely a First World problem!) we can all rest easy because Sony Pictures and Disney/Marvel Studios were able to reach an agreement over Marvel Entertainment’s most popular superhero. As we know this all started weeks ago this past summer when after the MCU-set film Spider-Man: Far From Home killed it at the box office, it was reported in the trades that Spider-Man, whose film rights lie with Sony, would no longer be in the MCU. This news exploded the Internet and outraged fans who blamed both Sony and Disney for being so greedy at the expense of fans. There were many reasons why negotiations fell apart back then and frankly both sides were at fault. But despite Sony’s announced plans for the Wall-crawler in their own start-up cinematic universe, many swore to boycott Sony films and even Disney suffered a black eye in the midst of their announcements for their upcoming MCU films.

What was worse was that Spider-Man: Far From Home ended in a cliffhanger where Spider-Man’s secret identity was revealed to the world while he was framed for murder. This led to questions over how this would be resolved in an MCU-film, if at all. That in turn led to anxiety over who would be calling the shots in a Spider-Man film now that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige would not be around to oversee future Spider-Man films.

As time went on, people clung on to desperate rumors about last-minute deals and of Sony being purchased. All of this did not amount to anything, until today when both studios jointly announced that they reached a new agreement where Disney will earn 25% of the next film’s earnings instead of the current 5%.

Spider-Man will conclude his trilogy in an MCU film coming out on July 16, 2021 that will resolve the cliffhanger. Hopefully this film will feature the long-overdue debut of Kraven the Hunter, who would make sense as a villain given his namesake and Spider-Man’s fugitive status. Spidey will also appear in one other MCU film, which presumably will be his final MCU appearance. The question is which film? Captain Marvel 2? Maybe he will be in the rumored Young Avengers film. Or he can help introduce the Fantastic Four because of his close ties in the comic books to the superhero team. This would be a perfect way to show, at least once, the rivalry between him and the Human Torch, which was the highlight of their joint appearances in the comics.

At the same time, it is inferred that the superhero will be featured in Sony’s upcoming films like Venom 2 or any of the Spider-Man spinoff films they have planned. It was not clear either if actor Tom Holland would play the Wall-crawler in the Sony films, although it would not be the end of the world if the character was recast while Holland played Spidey in the MCU. It worked for DC when two different actors played the Flash at the same time on film and TV. Now, as to how good those films will be and how they will affect Spidey’s popularity is anyone’s guess, but Sony’ has a very mixed track record with their Spider-Man films.

For all we know, the agreement could very well be a stop-gap measure until a newer deal can be ironed out when the time comes. Perhaps, Sony might really be sold down the line, which would mean Disney gets the film rights to Spider-Man for free (and no Disney will not spend $10 billion dollars, as was recently rumored, for the character. After their Fox acquisition and setting up Disney+, the company is not going to spend that much money for just one character). Or Sony and Disney will be able to extend Spidey’s appearances in the MCU. But even if this does not happen and we are left with just two more Spider-Man appearances in the MCU, at least the new agreement gives fans a sense of closure and will prepare us for Spidey’s eventual departure.

 

 

 

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.

The Tangled Web Of The Sony & Disney Spider-Man Debacle

Spidey out of MCU

AAARRGGH! We fans thought things were bad with the imploding DCEU and Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck’s departures, but now this! Superhero fans are still reeling from yesterday’s news that Spider-Man will no longer be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). To say this was a surprise is putting it way mildly. It’s a bigger shock to our collective consciousness than Trump winning the presidency in 2016. We all thought things were going great between Sony, who owns the film rights to Spider-Man, and Disney/Marvel. Spider-Man: Far From Home is a smash hit, earning $1.1 billion dollars, making it Sony Pictures biggest money maker of all time. Disney’s Marvel Studios, which produced Spider-Man: Far From Home, is continuing to earn accolades as they sit on top of the box office world. The sharing of Spider-Man with Marvel Studios was for him to appear in six MCU films and so we all waited for news of when that film would happen and when the two film studios would announce a new deal extending Spider-Man’s presence in the MCU.

But it was not to be. Deadline reported that negotiations broke down between Disney and Sony after Disney demanded unreasonable terms. When the news first broke, everyone was out with the pitchforks for Sony because let’s be honest, their track record for their own Spider-Man films has not been great. Sure, they released the classic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which won the Academy Award for best animated film and Venom was a far bigger success than it had a right to be. But their last three live-action Spider-Man films have not enthralled the world and the studio was seeing diminishing returns for their efforts, which prompted them to make a deal with Marvel Studios.

dancing emo peter parker

The arrangement to share Spider-Man between the two studios worked beautifully for everyone. Marvel and MCU fans got to see comic book company’s most popular hero be a part in the MCU. Marvel Studios used their topnotch talent to create a Spider-Man that felt more faithful to his comic book source while being updated. This led to a revitalized interest in the hero as audiences responded positively to the MCU reboot of the Web-slinger. His presence in the last two Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War were delightful highlights and he gelled nicely with the larger MCU. Meanwhile, Sony was able to reap the financial rewards of the two Spider-Man MCU solo films, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home. One would think that the two studios would want to continue this relationship.

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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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