10 years of Marvel Studios

2018/04/25

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe mere days from marking its 10th year of movies and its 18th in the series, “Avengers: Infinity War,” it’s high time I revisited what’s become my favorite franchise of all.

Back in 2016, I wrote about Marvel Studios’ then-baker’s dozen films and their highlights and nadirs. Go read those, then come back here. Or, if you want to get on with this current post, here’s a little recap of the chronology of the MCU’s feature releases:

  • Iron Man [Spring 2008]
  • The Incredible Hulk [Summer 2008]
  • Iron Man 2 [Spring 2010]
  • Thor [Spring 2011]
  • Captain America: The First Avenger [Summer 2011]
  • Marvel’s Avengers [Spring 2012]
  • Iron Man 3 [Spring 2013]
  • Thor: The Dark World [Fall 2013]
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier [early Spring 2014]
  • Guardians of the Galaxy [Summer 2014]
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron [Spring 2015]
  • Ant-Man [Summer 2015]
  • Captain America: Civil War [Spring 2016]

 

And now, on with the new entries to my recounting:

Doctor Strange [late 2016]

Another origin story, this intro was competently done. But for some viewers, including me, it was also an entry in the franchise where the formula began to wear thin.  And then there’s the whitewashing controversy surrounding the Tilda Swinton casting. Add to that a generally uninspired villain, and you have an MCU film that doesn’t stumble but doesn’t dazzle, either.

Low moment: When you really realize “It’s like ‘Iron Man,’ but with MAGIC this time!”

High moment: “I’m here to bargain.” That whole sequence saves this movie, to be frank.

———

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [Spring 2017]

You can read what I thought about this one upon release here. Franchise-wise, this installment is disposable fun but maybe also unnecessary. It’s not nearly the sophomore slip that “Age of Ultron” was for the central Avengers series, though.

Low moment: When a gag got extended a bit too far. It happens ALL THE TIME in this film, but nowhere quite so much as when Yondu massacres his mutinous crew. I got the point in the first 30 seconds, thanks

High moment: Baby Groot dancing over the credits and opening fight sequence

———

Spider-Man: Homecoming [Summer 2017]

The product of a deal between Marvel/Disney and Sony, which has owned the film rights to Marvel’s flagship character for nearly two decades, “Homecoming” is a none-too-subtle attempt to integrate Spidey into the established MCU. Unfortunately, IMO, it’s had to erase a key part of Peter Parker’s character to work — that his chief motivation for wearing the suit is his guilt over his uncle’s death. Making him a pup eager to impress Tony Stark does him a bit of a disservice. It’s still an effective effort, though, and continues Marvel Studios’ unbroken streak of solid, enjoyable popcorn movies. It also deserves a great deal of credit for its very diverse cast reflecting New York’s actual population.

Low moment: Stark of all people having to give Parker the responsibility speech.

High moment: “You must be Peter.” That’s great writing to lead up to this moment that surprises and yet feels completely natural.

———

Thor: Ragnarok [Fall 2017]

I wrote about this one here on the blog. And after a second viewing, it is solidly higher in my personal ranking than the other two Thor films I also loved. But some viewers thought the humor quotient was far too high for a story that should be pitch dark.

Low moment: One joke too many amidst the destruction of Asgard.

High moment: “Choose your next words carefully.” Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is FIERCE

———

Black Panther [early 2018]

Marvel Studios has gone its entire filmography without making a truly bad film and made a lot of very good ones. But only a few could be called great.

Black Panther is the greatest. It manages to elevate the franchise in every single way but one* and is the single most successful comic movie in history — and No. 3 among all films, period, box-officewise.

I wrote about BP for work here. I’ve wanted to write about it a lot more but have realized I need to delve into it like I did with my Life Lessons from The Empire Strikes Back series in 2010. So watch this space for an eventual deep dive into Wakanda.

*Low moment: So the CG of the final duel wasn’t great, true. (But no really cares that much about CG, post-“Avatar”)

High moment: Too many to pick. But forcing myself to choose, I’d say the minor key version of the King/Ancestor theme during Killmonger’s dream sequence. It’s a level of musical sophistication not seen at all in this entire franchise until now and it’s emblematic of the sheer excellence of BP from top to bottom.

 

Avengers: Infinity War [2018]

A decade containing a dozen-and-a-half features have all led up to this: the first movie that will really feel like a Marvel Universe-spanning crossover. I have no idea how the Russo brothers have pulled this off. But I’m looking forward to seeing if they did it.

 

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