For 10 years now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been a web of interlinked films full of connections, crossovers and cameos, becoming a remarkable and bold film franchise unlike any other before it. With the latest blockbuster entry, Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios has promised a sort of culmination of the past 18 movies-worth of stories and characters. While it isn’t without its faults, Infinity War makes good on its promise and remains a solid entry in the oversaturated series due to its high-stakes story, captivating characters and luscious visual effects.
Coming off of great successes with 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldierand its 2016 follow-up, Civil War, Joe and Anthony Russo graciously return to direct the 19th entry in the long-running series (with a direct follow-up slated for next May). It’s almost disingenuous to merely label Infinity War as an “Avengers” film, however. Whether they’re an Avenger or not, nearly every major character in the MCU as well as their sidekick is featured here — including Black Panther, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy roster — and it’s honestly awesome to see so many of these characters sharing the screen together in a single film.
While we’re only two months into 2018, the year’s most eagerly anticipated film has already arrived with Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, which is a decidedly stunning addition in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) directs the long-running franchise’s first black-led film with dazzling, groundbreaking results, ultimately becoming a true cause for celebration.
The character of Black Panther (played by the wonderful Chadwick Boseman) made his impressive MCU debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, instantly becoming a fan favorite through the slight appearance. Here, T’Challa, the recently-crowned king of Wakanda — which is a fictional, secretly prosperous African nation in possession of virtually infinite supplies of a made-up super metal called vibranium — is really allowed the chance to be the A-list superhero he was always destined to become. It was no question that this film and this character would end up being an important milestone in the superhero genre as well as an inspiration to countless children around the world, but it’s extremely gratifying to be able to relay that Black Panther is also the stellar solo-outing that so many of us wanted it to be.
Below is a review of the recently-released Thor: Ragnarok, written by Lewis University student Jerry Langosch.
Since 2008 with the release of Iron Man, Marvel Studios have been, like clockwork, pumping out energetic, focused films in their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). They tell the tales of their plethora of superheroes and villains to the tune of millions of dollars in production costs, but billions in return from the box office, with 2012’s The Avengers being the shining star (making $1.5 billion on a $220 million budget). The Thor franchise, though, sticks out from the most from the bunch, as it is rooted in real Norse mythology. And though it is a tall order to hand over such material so heavily-rooted in mythology to any filmmaker, Marvel’s decision to put New Zealand’s Taika Waititi behind the third entry in this series is, astonishingly, the best move that the company has made in tapping directorial talent to date.
Looking at the ever-expanding list of main players within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s clear that my least favorite has always been Thor. At least, that’s what I thought before I saw the third and latest installment in the character’s solo film series, Thor: Ragnarok. Having skipped his previous two outings, I wasn’t particularly excited by Ragnarok’s announcement, especially with its release date stranded in between this summer’s awesome Spider-Man:Homecoming and next year’s potential-filled Black Panther.
However, given the spectacularly colorful and surprisingly humorous advertising, the film had gained my attention. Still, it was only upon learning that the film was being helmed by esteemed indie director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) that I was definitely in. While Ragnarok is far from being the best that the MCU has ever delivered, it provides enough entertaining sequences and funny one-liners that it ultimately overcomes its underwhelming and somewhat boring plot.
While I had hoped that Ragnarok would’ve simply been a super big-budget version of a Waititi film, it’s more just a standard Marvel affair that’s merely afforded a helpful boost by the director’s unique charm. This will probably please the bulk of the superhero moviegoing audience, as Waititi’s quirky comedic style isn’t necessarily the mainstream norm, but it was also a sort of disappointing realization on my part. Still, Thor is in good hands here, and the character’s inclination on being the self-centered airhead within the ranks of the Avengers works. There’s a number of great supporting characters surrounding the hero as well, but I also found the film lacking a substantial driving force.
While there has been a bit of fatigue for superhero movies in recent years — especially seen in 2016 with the releases of the downright bad-to-mediocre entries Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and X-Men: Apocalypse — I’d argue that 2017 has not only been a wonderful return to form for the highest-grossing genre in film, but also the absolute best year for comic book-based movies maybe ever. We’ve seen the release of the exquisite, mold-breaking Logan; as well as the unexpectedly good, DCEU-saving Wonder Woman; and, of course, the incredibly fun Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Also, I don’t know about you, but I’d include the hilarious Lego Batman Movie in this list as well…and as a guilty pleasure and total nostalgia trip, let’s put Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie on there, too — cause why not?
But while I’ve enjoyed my time with each of these previously mentioned films, my favorite of all this year’s contenders is the latest, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which sees its home release next week. Being a part of what is perhaps the most tired superhero film franchise since the turn of the century — following 2007’s unloved Spider-Man 3 and the underperforming two entries in the Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012 and 2014 — Homecoming had a lot to prove. It seems Sony understood this, as they finally struck a contract with the hugely successful Marvel Studios following Amazing Spider-Man 2 in order to include a new iteration of the character in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While this deal allowed for a glorified cameo and introduction for the new Spidey in last year’s Captain America: Civil War — and his part was awesome — it almost felt too good to be true. However, after seeing his first solo film for myself, I can say with certainty that Homecoming is the best movie the character has been at the center of since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.