5 MCU Films To See Before Avengers: Endgame

Settle down folks, that means all of you celebrating or lamenting the X-Men and the Fantastic Four going to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). We still have Avengers: Endgame to deal with and that monumental conclusion to the MCU Infinity Saga is just over a month away. It’s a given, Marvel Studios and Disney will have our hard-earned cash for the opening weekend and we’re all caught up with the 20+ MCU films. But what about our hapless dates and companions who we bring along to see Avengers: Endgame? What if they have no idea who Rocket Raccoon is or where Wakanda is located? The intricacies of the cinematic universe could be explained, but wouldn’t it be better if they see for themselves? Easier said than done, there are over 20 films to slog through, and not all of them are great. You’d be doing them a favor by suggesting just a few MCU films to watch before Avengers: Endgame, so at least they won’t be distracting you with annoying questions as the Avengers prepare for that final battle against Thanos.

Like last year when we presented 10 films to see before Avengers: Infinity War, here is another list and this time, let’s cut it down to the bone: five MCU films to see before Avengers: Endgame in alphabetical order. Some spoilers will follow.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018):

The concept of quantum realms was first introduced in this film’s predecessor, Ant-Man. But this sequel explores the mysterious realm much more. We learn that there are time vortexes within the miniscule dimension that Hank Pym explores in order to rescue his lost wife. Also, Ant-Man and the Wasp is directly linked to the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War as seen in the mid-credits sequence as the Wasp, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are victims of the Decimation or Thanos’ snap.

Meanwhile, unaware of how directly involved he is now with the universe-spanning event, Ant-Man is trapped in the quantum realm and his time spent there will most likely hold the key to victory for the Avengers as teased in the trailers for Avengers: Endgame. Needless to mention, that the plucky Ant-Man will be a critical player in the coming film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):

It’s not the best MCU film, but it’s proving to be a vital nexus for what happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe afterwards. There are some plot points that are relevant to the other Avengers and MCU films, which include heroes become obsessed with upcoming threats. Iron Man has visions of Earth doomed by cosmic forces, which leads to his ill-advised creation of Ultron and fractures his relationship with Captain America. Meanwhile, Thor learns about the Infinity Stones and leaves the team to search for them, to no avail.

Meanwhile, Captain America’s visions of his lost love, Peggy Carter, imply his soul is still haunted by their separation by time and as hinted at in Avengers: Endgame, perhaps this will be addressed. We also discover that Hawkeye has a loving family and the latest trailer implies that they are victims of the Decimation. This explains why he takes on the persona of Ronin in the film. It should be noted that there are rumors that the villainous android, Ultron, will return in Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018):

Well, duh! It’s the Avengers film right before Endgame! The fourth Avengers film is a direct follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War and explores the aftermath of the devastating events shown in the third Avengers film. Viewers learn about Thanos, his twisted motivation and fiendish plan to snuff out half of all life in the universe.

What’s fun to watch are the interactions, appearances of and team ups with the MCU’s finest, from Spider-Man to Doctor Strange to the Guardians of the Galaxy. This was a true epic crossover film that ends with Thanos triumphant and half of the MCU heroes turned to dust. It only makes sense to see this film before Avengers: Endgame to at least see the set up before the fourth Avengers film and understand the high stakes for the surviving heroes.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011):

The first Captain America film has one of the earliest appearance of one of the Infinity Stones, the Space Stone and of course, features the star-spangled debut of Captain America, aka Steve Rogers. As shown in the Avengers: Endgame trailer, unlike the last Avengers film, he will be more vital to the film’s main plot.

Just as important, Captain America: The First Avenger explores the relationship between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter. The tragedy of their budding romance is that it was never fulfilled, something that haunts Rogers (see Avengers: Age of Ultron and the other Cap films). As hinted in some Avengers: Endgame trailers, this lost relationship could be a major plot for Captain America in the film. Perhaps, a clue to his final destiny?

MFing Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014):

As stated in last year’s post, this film not only boasts the fabulous debut of everyone’s favorite cosmic misfits, but clearly explains the Infinity Stones and the background to the Infinity Saga. Rocket Raccoon, the anthropomorphic and snarky raccoon, debuts here and is one of the main heroes in Endgame as the sole surviving member of the Guardians. In addition to introducing viewers to the Guardians of the Galaxy, this film has the first full appearance of Thanos, who appears as a background boss, but already exuded a malevolent presence.

Guardians of the Galaxy also debuts Nebula, who is Thanos’ daughter. We learn of her complicated relationship with her adopted father and sister, Gamora, and why she wants to kill her father. This obviously will be her main driving force in Endgame, which is only natural after she saw firsthand the effects of the Decimation.

avengers first team up

Miscellaneous:

See these films if time permits. They are not crucial to watch and didn’t make the list of five essential films to see before Avengers: Endgame, but do add information and context about the beloved characters and situations of the MCU.

Ant-Man (2015) is the first MCU film to feature quantum realms and other dimensions and of course, debuts Ant-Man, a major character in Avengers: Endgame.

The Avengers (2012) introduces the superhero team and how they get along with each other, while featuring two of the Infinity Stones. Bonus point: Thanos makes his first appearance in the MCU in a cameo.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) is more of a prerequisite for Avengers: Infinity War. In this film, we see how the fragile relationships between the members of the Avengers, especially Iron Man and Captain America, come apart. The dissolution of the team is why the heroes lose in Avengers: Infinity War.

Captain Marvel (2019) of course, features Captain Marvel, who will be one of the major characters in Endgame as seen in the film’s mid-credits scene.

Doctor Strange (2016) has the Time Stone, possibly important to the fourth Avengers film since the film’s plot is rumored to involve time travel.

Iron Man 3 (2013) explores Tony Stark’s fragile psyche in the aftermath of the cosmic events of The Avengers. It helps us understand his state of mind in future films, culminating in Endgame.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017) heavily features the cosmic side of the MCU and Nebula, a key player in Avengers: Endgame, as she transitions from a villain to an anti-hero.

Thor (2011) marks the first MCU appearance of aliens, the cosmic portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the God of Thunder himself.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) is one of the weaker MCU films, but has one of the Infinity Stones, the Reality Stone, a major macguffin in the second Thor film.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) sets up Avengers: Infinity War towards its end and provides context for Thor’s state of mind in the final Avengers films.

José Soto

 

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Captain Marvel Is A Solid MCU Entry

Captain Marvel is here at last, satisfying our desire for new content from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), being that it’s been several months since we had anything from the famed MCU. At the same time, the latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe sets us up for next month’s Avengers: Endgame.

As many know, Captain Marvel, based on the Marvel Comics character, has been mired in controversy lately thanks to Internet trolls and people with their own agendas. It’s a shame really, because all this noise is distracting from the film itself. It’s bad enough that so much is expected from an MCU film these days that unless the film is an absolute epic, it is bound to disappoint. With all this going on it may be difficult to judge Captain Marvel on its own merit.

Looking at the film objectively, it does have its faults but it’s not a disaster at all. In fact, on the whole, Captain Marvel is a solid entry to the MCU and has so much to enjoy. Part sci-fi space adventure, part fish-out-of-water story, part mystery and part buddy cop yarn, the film bridges the cosmic part of the MCU with the Earth-based part. It introduces us to Vers (Brie Larson), who lives on the Kree homeplanet Hala and is part of the Starforce, dedicated to peacekeeping throughout the Kree Empire. She and her squad routinely hunt the Kree’s mortal enemies, the shape-shifting Skrulls. Early in the film, Vers crash lands on Earth in 1995 and meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson sporting some amazing deaging CG). The two team up to find out why the Skrulls are infiltrating Earth until she is recovered by Starforce. Along the way, she has flashbacks that reveal she is actually Carol Danvers, a human test pilot and this revelation has her questioning her allegiance to the Kree.

Captain Marvel is an enjoyable film with some interesting twists and character moments. Some plot developments can be seen light years away but they’re well executed and the film is highlighted by the cast who are quite good, especially Jackson, who portrays a less jaded version of Nick Fury, and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, the main Skrull in the film. Talos is an unexpectedly complex character and Mendelsohn’s acting is exceptionally good here as he is able to emote so effortlessly through the heavy Skrull makeup.

As for Brie Larson, her performance is rather stoic and comes off as a largely unemotional hero and not very interesting despite her personal dilemma. Larson is OK as Danvers/Captain Marvel. but one has to wonder if anyone else could have done the role better. This could be a problem because she is supposed to be a major player from here on out. But there is room for growth and Larson is a talented actor. She does have some good banter and chemistry with Jackson, but Jackson is the more charismatic of the two. Larson’s performance is just part of the problem the film has. It’s slickly made and has many fun moments, but the direction is bland at times and some pivotal scenes are poorly lit, which detracts from their impact. Marvel Studios has a penchant for hiring largely inexperienced, but talented directors and this usually works. In this situation, perhaps the film studio should have gone with someone other than Ann Boden and Ryan Fleck. The two don’t seem to have distinctive voices like James Gunn or Taika Waititi.

The film is not bad by all means, its merits easily outweigh its problems. It’s quite awesome with dazzling special effects, a great ’90s soundtrack,and hits most of its marks. Plus, the mystery behind Danvers’ identity and what happened to her are done well. Despite what some trolls are proclaiming it doesn’t have some kind of feminist agenda. It’s a straight up superhero adventure. Also, Captain Marvel is an important entry of the MCU because it explains how many aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to being. Plus, its post-credits scene is vital to Avengers: Endgame. On the whole, Captain Marvel is a respectable, flashy high-middle tier entry of the MCU that adds new wrinkles to the ever-growing film universe.

Superheroes Represent At The Oscars

Last night, the Academy Awards were surprisingly kind to superhero films. Sure, there were some disappointments, big and small; seriously, First Man had better special effects than Avengers: Infinity War? Please. But on the whole the superhero film genre was well represented in the Academy Awards for films that came out in 2018.

Recognizing the MCU

Comic book fans had reasons to celebrate last month when Black Panther was nominated for best film. As we all know, this is the first time a superhero film earned that prestigious nomination. Whether or not the film deserved it is open for debate. But nevertheless it was a great and historic moment for fans as at last the superhero film was recognized as a genuine piece of cinematic art. OK, this is a bit hyperbolic, but the fact is that for too long superhero films were considered juvenile fare though that has been far from the truth.

black panther at wakanda

In the past, these films were often nominated for best visual effects or some other technical category and sometimes won. That has changed slowly over recent years. The Dark Knight picked up an award for Best Supporting Actor in addition to getting numerous technical nominations. However, many rightly felt that The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture, and this snub caused a changed in the amount of films that can get the Best Picture nomination. Others also believed that Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination, but it did get one for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was the first time a superhero film got such a distinguished nomination. With this, it was only a matter of time before a superhero film was nominated for Best Picture and that happened only a year later.

Of course, cynics will credit Black Panther’s numerous nominations to a strong marketing campaign from Disney, and they would not be wrong. But in the end the film studio was largely successful with Black Panther nabbing the coveted Best Picture nomination. Honestly, it winning was always a long shot, especially since it didn’t garner nominations for directing, writing or acting. Traditionally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a huge bias against genre films. No science fiction film has ever won, and only a couple of fantasy films have won including The Shape of Water. Also, that film just won for Best Picture the year before. There wasn’t any way the Academy would allow a genre film to win for Best Picture two years in a row. In fact, this doesn’t happen with other genres. Besides, the Academy likes to pick “important” biographies or historical dramas with timely messages.

Put all that aside for now. It was great that not only was Black Panther nominated, but that it actually won three well-deserved awards. The most for any superhero film. Frankly, it would have been a shock if the film didn’t win for Best Costume Design or Best Production Design. In these categories, Black Panther excelled with its unique and eye-popping visual look and costumes. The award for Best Original Music Score was a pleasant surprise since the score was so enchanting. These wins signal the Academy’s recognition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) quality and caliber. This will be the first of many awards that the MCU will win. It may be a long time before an MCU film or any superhero film will win for Best Picture, but it will happen.

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Aquaman Salvages The DCEU

It’s official, Aquaman is the biggest hit for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) or the Worlds of DC. The newest superhero film released by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment has proven so successful that it has joined the lucrative billion dollar club as of this weekend. Aquaman’s success could not have come at a better time for DC and Warner Bros. as the film studio desperately needed to have a genuine supehero hit film given all the headaches they’ve had with the DCEU lately.

The DCEU has always had an uneven existence with films that either polarized audiences or just left everyone unimpressed. For every Wonder Woman there was a Suicide Squad. The DCEU was supposed to be a viable competitor to the far more successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but that did not turn out to be. For the most part, Warner Bros. was to blame with the way they micromanaged the DCEU films and their directors and never gave the people running the film universe the chance to organically develop it. In their rush to compete with the MCU, many of the DCEU films felt like rushed trailers for subsequent films. This all came to a head with Justice League last year. What was supposed to be DC’s answer to The Avengers was poorly received and flopped in theaters.

Adding to the woes were all the behind-the-scenes headaches that have been covered before such as the inability to create a proper sequel to Man of Steel, the drama of whether or not Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill would reprise their roles of Batman and Superman. Films were announced and shelved. Directors and writers came aboard for films only to depart soon afterwards.

After the failure of Justice League, not many had hope for Aquaman. After all, he was not a popular superhero and was often derided by many for being so underwhelming. His appearances in previous DCEU movies redefined the character into more of a fun-loving surfer dude type, but this did not inspire confidence that he could carry a film. Thankfully, many of us were proven wrong.

An Underwater Spectacle

Aquaman turned out to be a fun, exciting and spectacular film that just went for broke. It is outrageous with its imagery and the film created a stunning underwater world that is so richly detailed and colorful that it evokes films like Avatar or the Star War films. As with the latter films, Aquaman is one exhaustive film that constantly moves in terms of plot and action. Some parts of it, especially the scenes in Italy, recall the brisk pace of the Indiana Jones films. Much of this credit goes to director James Wan who injected needed levity and adventure to the DCEU and people reacted positively to Aquaman.

Of course, the film can be silly and goofy but it is never dull. On top of that the natural charms of the leads Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard helped sell the film to wide audiences. What also helped was the timing of its release. Unlike previous Holiday seasons, there was no Star Wars film to compete with. Audiences who are weary from all the sour news of the world want escapism and fun in their films. And Aquaman delivered that to them.

Finally, it seemed as if Warner Bros. left Wan and the other filmmakers alone and didn’t try to inject the greater DCEU to Aquaman. Aside from two references, this film could stand apart from the DCEU, and it helped since this allowed the characters to have the spotlight to themselves and for the film’s story to develop naturally. Does this mean this formula will work for future DCEU films? It’s possible, just think about it, Aquaman followed the same path of the early MCU films in that they were largely standalone affairs with lesser known characters that won over audiences. By the time the MCU expanded into team up films, people were invested in the characters. This does not mean this standalone formula will work with every film. But for now a loose affiliation with the DCEU may be the key…for now.

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Films Of 2019

Geekdom continues to rule at the box office in 2019. Superheroes, aliens, robots and more await us with 2019’s film offerings. Listed here are the most anticipated films for 2019, though everyone will have their own preference.  Naturally, some films on this list will turn out to be hot garbage, while others will be talked about for years to come. Who can say how they will turn out? Be aware that the release dates will most likely change for many of these films. In fact, three of the films on this list are holdovers from 2018, starting with…

10. Dark Phoenix (June 7):

There is a lot of animosity towards the final Fox X-Men film for various reasons—the film is pointless now with the Disney/Fox merger; a first-time director (Simon Kinberg) associated with the unpopular X-Men: The Last Stand is helming this film. But this is the last proper X-Men film before Marvel Studios reboots the franchise, so it will be interesting to see how the nearly 20-year franchise comes to an end.

9. Captive State (March 29):

Rupert Wyatt directs this sci-fi film that was held over from last summer. The film chronicles the lives of Chicago residents after aliens have occupied our world. As the aliens indoctrinate humanity, a rebellion emerges, and the film will show both sides of the struggle. The impressive cast includes John Goodman and Vera Farmiga.

ad astra Brad Pitt

8. Ad Astra (May 24):

Twenty years after his father (Tommy Lee Jones) disappears on a mission to find alien life near Neptune, a man (Brad Pitt) travels our solar system to find out why his father’s mission failed and to possibly locate him. According to director James Gray, the sci-fi drama will be very grounded and will the dangers of space flight, while echoing Heart of Darkness.

7. Alita: Battle Angel (February 14):

This film was delayed from last December and is a live-action adaptation of the popular manga about a futuristic cyborg warrior. James Cameron produced this pet project with Robert Rodriguez directing. The visuals from the trailer look astounding, but the question is if Alita: Battle Angel can escape the dismal fate of previous attempts to bring manga and anime classics to Hollywood like Ghost in the Shell.

6. Star Wars: Episode IX (December 20):

The Star Wars franchise is at a crossroads now with fandom bitterly divided. The fallout from Star Wars: The Last Jedi is still being felt by Star Wars, hence the failure of last year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. It is not an exaggeration to state that a lot is riding on how the latest Star Wars film is received.

After director Rian Johnson alienated many fans with The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm handed Episode IX to J.J. Abrams to direct it. Will Abrams bring back the fans and successfully conclude the Skywalker Saga? We’ll find out later this year.

5. It: Chapter Two (September 6):

The first It film was an unexpectedly chilling horror film that was acclaimed by audiences and critics. It adapted Stephen King’s mammoth novel of several children in a Maine town haunted by the supernatural entity Pennywise, who took various forms, but favored a frightful clown.

The second film takes place years later when the children are adults and have to reunite to confront Pennywise again. Most know that It had been adapted before as a mini-series that faltered when it shifted to the adults’ storylines. Hopefully, It: Chapter Two will deliver a satisfying finale.

4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31):

The sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, this film returns the most famous kaiju and introduces other popular kaijus like Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. More importantly, Godzilla: King of the Monsters firmly establishes Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse cinematic universe that includes King Kong (last seen in Kong: Skull Island).

Putting that aside, this film looks absolutely epic! With shots that seem taken from a frightful opera or a baroque painting, and the promise of some serious giant monster action, it’s easy to see why Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a highly anticipated film for 2019.

glass trio

3. Glass (January 18):

M. Night Shyamalan completes his grounded superhuman trilogy with Glass. It all started with 2000’s Unbreakable and the director shocked audiences in 2016’s Split when it was revealed that the film took place in the Unbreakable universe.

Taking center stage, Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role of Mr. Glass, the villainous mastermind who seeks to prove the existing of superhumans to an unbelieving world. Co-starring Bruce Willis (returning from his reluctant hero role in Unbreakable) and James McAvoy as the demented Horde, Glass looks like it will re-establish Shyamalan as a top-tier director.

spider-man far from home black suit

2. Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5):

Marvel’s most popular superhero returns (apparently from Thanos’ snap) in this followup to Spider-Man: Homecoming. This time out, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) goes to Europe on a school trip and tangles with Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a special effects stuntman turned supervillain.

Most of the cast and crew from the enjoyable Spider-Man: Homecoming return, so the new film should be in competent hands, which ensures a winning film. Of course, there is the question if it can compare favorably to last year’s instant classic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But Spider-Man: Far From Home should be another great MCU entry.

1. Avengers: Endgame (April 26):

As the most anticipated film of 2019, all eyes will be on this film. It is much more than the fourth Avengers film. Or the conclusion to the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War. We’ve followed the saga of the MCU for over ten years. Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of over 20 diverse films.

Very little is known about the concluding Avengers film, only that it takes place after Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) victory and will feature the original core Avengers and allies trying to undo Thanos’ universal genocide.

Being that it’s the final Phase Three film and the possible swan song for many popular characters like Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans, it is important that Avengers: Endgame sticks the landing. It is not as easy as it sounds, many concluding films of famous film sagas wound up disappointing fans, but with the talent behind it, Avengers: Endgame should rise to the challenge.

Other Films:

As always, these films that did not quite make the list are definitely worth our attention and as before, it’s a guarantee that the following films will wound up being among this year’s best offerings. Others will probably be delayed until 2020 and beyond. Here are other films that warrant keeping an eye on:

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (February 8), the first Lego film was so much fun and inventive, let’s hope the sequel is at least as good;  How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (February 22), the final film in Dreamworks’ Dragon trilogy looks awe-inspiring and heartfelt: Chaos Walking (March 1), Doug Liman directs Tom Holland in a sci fi yarn about a colony world where all thoughts are readable; Captain Marvel (March 8), the 21st and next MCU film about the title hero coming to Earth and rediscovering her lost past hops to continue Marvel Studios’ winning streak;

Shazam! (April 5), speaking of winning streak, after the humongous success of Aquaman, DC and Warner Bros. hopes to keep up the much-needed good will with their superhero films with their next film; Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (April 10), the CG/live-action hybrid brings the uber popular Pikachu to the real world,

Brightburn (May 24), is a James Gunn project which is a dark retelling of the Superman alien origin story;  Toy Story 4 (June 21), Pixar’s crown jewel franchise returns in what may be its most heartbreaking entry, which is rumored to be its last; The Lion King (July 19), director Jon Favreau turns in another CG remake of a Disney classic; Joker (October 4), Todd Phillips directs a dark prequel film that chronicles the creation of the demented Clown Prince of Crime; Zombieland Too (October 11), it’s been ten years since the original Zombieland delighted audiences with its comical world overrun by zombies, but better late than never;

Terminator 6 (November 1), let’s see if James Cameron can resurrect the floundering Terminator franchise now that he is producing the latest film;  Sonic the Hedgehog (November 8), the other well publicized CG/live-action film brings to life the popular video game character.