Marvel Musings: Do you know the score?

A couple of months ago Every Frame a Painting uploaded a vid about the Marvel scores. To be specific, it offered a theory why the Marvel themes are not memorable. I usually feel that the videos on this particularly channel are highly educating and interesting, but this one made me pause. I had a number of issues with the argumentation used. And I wasn’t the only one. This video followed a string of other ones, which examined the issue and the arguments. The end result was exactly the kind of discussion I would love to see more often on the internet, on topic, with a number of well articulated point of views which in turn made me consider some aspects I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. And I naturally have my own opinion about the matter. But before I get to it, I’ll try to summarize the core points made in the various vids – I nevertheless encourage you to also watch them yourself. The first one, The Marvel Symphonic Universe, was uploaded on the 12.09.2016.

The arguments brought up here are:

  1. Marvel themes don’t cause an emotional response
  2. The music is too predictable and doesn’t challenge the expectations of the audience
  3. The dialogue distracts from the music.
  4. There is a trend in the industry believing that music in movies shouldn’t be notices.
  5. Producers encourage composers to imitate the temp music.

The arguments boils down to the Marvel scores being too safe – which is a common complain about different aspects of those movies in general, but let’s stick to the music for now.

Just three days later, on the 15.09.2016, the first rebuttal, A Theory of Film Music was uploaded by Dan Golding.

Golding agrees to the basic idea that the Marvel scores are forgettable, but disagrees partly when it comes to the reasons. This video points out that:

  1. The Star Wars Theme was actually created based on temp music.
  2. Temp tracks are not a modern phenomenon, but are as old as film music itself.
  3. Unoriginality is normal for film music.

and brings up the following points:

  1. The tracks used nowadays tend to be more recent.
  2. Hans Zimmer pioneered the use of digital music, which changed the process of creation.
  3. And lead to a tendency to use rhythms instead of melodies in movies

Dan Golding concludes that Marvel movies have a musical landscape but are different not in melody but through texture.

Just one day later Marvel Movies: The Thematic Continuity Issue added another thought to the discussion.

This video points out that

  1. the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends to change composers, which often use different scores in the different movies, thus not creating a thematic continuity in the music.
  2. The Avengers theme, which might be the most memorable of all of them, might have this status because Danny Elfman used Silvestri’s score in Age of Ultron, thus preserving the theme.

It concludes that the points made in the previous video essays are correct, but sees the lack of a thematic continuity within the scores of the MCU as the main reason for the inability of people to remember the scores.

Similar thoughts are voice in Why You (Actually) Don’t Remember Marvel Music, uploaded roughly one month later on the 19.10.2016.

This one is also a response to the first two videos, stating that both of them describe symptoms, but miss the point. In an argument similar but not quite identical to the one above, it points out that:

  1.  The theme music of Pirates of the Caribbean is an example for a very popular and well known score which is both temp music and made by Hans Zimmer (for the record, he was the producer, not the actual composer).
  2. Star Wars, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean are all franchises which have been around for way longer than the MCU, and which have used the same theme music not just in all of their respective movies, but also for connected media, theme park rides and above all the general marketing.

This video concludes that the key to a score being remembered is above all repetition, not quality, and adds that the Marvel movies actually have a number of great tunes, pointing to the Thor score and the Avengers theme.

The latter is also in the centre of the last, but perhaps best rebuttal, The Avengers Theme – a video response to “The Marvel Symphonic Universe”, which was uploaded by HelloLillyTV on the 15.11.2016.

HelloLillyTV points to the comment section of the first video essay and how many said that that they, unlike the people in the video, immediately remembered the Avengers theme. This rebuttal argues further that this particular theme neither plays in the background of the movie, nor is it devoid of emotion. Based on the concept of repetition with association, it points out that:

  1. The theme consists of two distinctive parts.
  2. It is used multiple times through the movie in very specific key moments.
  3. It is shown in association which large scale shots, connecting the music with the notion of “greatness” early on.
  4. And is then played during the most iconic moment of the whole MCU, when the Avengers unite for the first time.
  5. It is also part of Age of Ultron and therefore part of a thematic continuity

This video then draws attention to the fact that while certain themes are actually used multiple times and very effectively in the MCU, they are next to never used in the marketing. There is even a supplementary video to make this point.

So, where do I stand in this battle of sometimes conflicting and sometimes overlapping arguments? Let’s start with my thoughts concerning the first video.

I am a big admirer of Every Frame a Painting. I especially love the videos in which the staging and the camera work in movies are taken apart, since they really opened my eyes and made me realize what is possible to convey just on a visual level, what a difference something as simply as a movement in the background can make. Those videos made me more critical towards modern movie creation, including some issues with the MCU I didn’t notice beforehand. But this particular video essay is, in my honest opinion, one of the weaker ones, because it is very manipulative and bases the conclusion on the connection of two barely related issues.

From the very beginning this argument stands on very shaky grounds. A collection of random people being asked any question is always a little bit problematic when it comes to formulating a thesis. For starters, the group of people presented is way too small to be in any way representative, and as a viewer I am unable to judge if really every person who was asked actually made it into the video. I am giving Every Frame a Painting the benefit of the doubt here and assume that there wasn’t a person who did remember the theme but was cut out of the video to preserve the intended impression. But even then this is far from a remotely scientific group. In addition, I think it would have been interesting to play the Avengers theme to a number of people to test if they would have recognized it, or confused it with other themes.

Another aspect I noted about the essay are the scenes which were picked to make the argument. Instead of identifying the main themes of the movies and discuss how they are used, most of the scenes discussed are fairly random moments. I have to admit that I think the argumentation here is a little bit odd. Yes, playing a “funny” music for a funny scene is an expected choice, as is the high note for suspense. But that is kind of the point. Film music is to a certain degree codified, meaning we connect a certain kind of music to certain situations or feelings. The last rebuttal I linked, the one by HelloLillyTV, even gives a great example for this when it points out that the trailer for Age of Ultron feels more like the advertising for a horror movie. And this impression is nearly entirely based on the music alone. Age of Ultron does have a number of moments which are reminiscent of horror movies sprinkled through the more jokey and action-packed  scenes, but none of the more obvious ones made it into the trailer.

There is one “main score” which is briefly touched upon in the video essay by Every Frame a Painting, and that is Silvestri’s Triumphant Return. The complain here is that the useless narration hides the movie, followed by a demonstration how the scene would work without it. And yes, it works beautifully, thus proving that the score elevates the scene in question considerably. But the narration is actually not useless at all, it is needed to bring the whole audience on the same page. Let’s pretend that someone in the audience hasn’t seen The First Avenger, or doesn’t remember the movie all that well and is also not particularly informed about the comic book lore. Without the narration he would be able to gather that Steve is remembering his past in the military, but he had no idea what Bucky actually means to Steve. So when Bucky looses his mask later in the movie, said audience member would not gasp in surprise, he would ask “Who?”, confused about Steve’s strange reaction. But independent from the question if the narration is needed in this particular scene or not, the same score is used earlier in the movie, during the jogging scene, with no narration at all (unless you count “on your left”).

My point is that the MCU is too large to make a sweeping statement about it based on a few randomly picked scenes. You would at the very least need to look at the way one movie as a whole is scored, or how a specific score is used in different movies within the MCU to make at least some sort of judgement about it – and yes, that is my roundabout way of saying that I really like the argumentation of HelloLillyTV, which does the former with The Avengers and then the latter with the main theme of the respective movie. But more about that one later. Let’s examine first the statement that the Marvel scores don’t take risks, as well as the more general claims concerning the current trends in film music.

For starters, I don’t think that any of those trends are actually that current. As Dan Golding rightly points out, using temp music has been common since the very beginning of film making. What also has been around since the start is the need to find a balance between the different elements of a scene. Meaning, what the audience is supposed to notice in any given scene is not necessarily the music. Unless you watch a musical or something along the line of Fantasia, the most important element of a movie is usually the plot, and the music is, along with the visuals and the dialogue, only there to serve the story. Consequently it shouldn’t be the main feature in any given scene unless the director wants it to be.

Thus said, if music is used, it should enhance the scene in question. If you just can take out the music, like Every Frame a Painting did in the Ironman scene, and it doesn’t really make difference, than it might have been better to not use a score in the first place, since the focus should be on the dialogue anyway. The example from the Thor movie on the other hand is simply a matter of taste. Yes, you could have used a more attention seeking score to replace the more conventional one, but I actually wouldn’t have, because I feel that something too grand for the setting would have overwhelmed the scene. This feeling might, btw., be related to the fact that the score Every Frame a Painting added instead is, just like the Avengers theme, used for big fighting scenes and large spaces through the movie. So, yes, I am sure if I go through the whole MCU I will find a number of music choices which do nothing to enhance the scene, as well as a few I would personally disagree with. But I’ll skip the rant about the lack of Heavy Metal in Ironman 3 for now, and focus on the idea that the music choices in the MCU are too generic.

I mentioned before that Every Frame a Painting mixes two different issues. One is the question if the MCU has a theme people can hum on the spot, the other is the question if the themes of the MCU are particularly memorable. Those two questions aren’t necessarily related to each other, though, since a score doesn’t have to be hummable in order to be memorable. If someone would ask me what soundtrack I consider particularly remarkable, one of the ones I would point to is this one:

 

But I wouldn’t be able to hum this one if my life depended on it. And, to address the notion in Dan Golding’s response that the use of digital music is the reason why certain themes aren’t remembered that well, the theme doesn’t become more hummable if it is played by a full orchestra either.

What it nevertheless is, though, is unusual, remarkable and perfect in every way for the movie it which it is used.

This in mind, I am inclined to dismiss Dan Golding’s complain about the Hans Zimmer style of scoring movies. Yes, using rhythms instead of melodies is a bit of a trend in Hollywood, a trend which was born out of an unusual choice which then became mainstream. I am currently (mostly) sick of it, too, but I don’t think that either approach to movie scoring is in any way superior. And the MCU itself is a great example for it. Or, to be specific, the Captain America Franchise.

This piece is easily my favourite score in the whole MCU. It is a very compelling – and melodious – tune, and it is used to perfectly in The First Avenger. The moment I hear it I have immediately a bunch of associations, most of which originate from the scene above: Steve Rogers, practically back from the dead, having managed the impossible, finally accepted by his peers and superiors alike, the hero of the day. This is truly a triumphant return and it is no accident that this piece is used very briefly in The Avengers when Cap turns up in full costume, back in Germany and again standing up to yet another tyrant in yet another triumphant return. It is also no accident that it turns up again at the very beginning of The Winter Soldier.

Nothing about this scene is accidental, but especially not the way the theme rouses in connection with buildings and monuments which do stand for the American Ideal more than even the Lady Liberty. And Cap fits perfectly into this picture as yet another symbol of said ideals, but also of a time long gone by. It is a poignant choice that the theme plays again in the museum, in connection with a view on the past, which focusses more on the heroics of Captain America than the experiences of Steve Rogers. It is also quite deliberate, that the actual main theme of the movie is this one:

Take a Stand is more or less everything what Triumphant Return isn’t. It’s not a rousing, slowly swelling melody, but a fast staccato of rhythm building up to climax, which sounds as if someone just hit the table with his fist to make everyone present listen to him. And I love it. It is perfect for this movie exactly because it is so different. The contrast between the sepia-tinted world of pure heroism seen through a lens of nostalgia to our way more complicated, hectic and cynic reality is reflected in the way those two score pieces are used in the movie.

Which brings me to the idea that the MCU has an issue with thematic continuity in its scores. Well, this is kind of correct if one looks at the MCU as a whole, especially within the Ironman franchise, in which not only every movie has a different composer, but the third one doesn’t even fit remotely into what came beforehand. With the two Thor movies, it is kind of a shame that those soundtracks are different, but at least they are tonally in the same ballpark. Ironman 3 just switches to a different tone, bit without the narrative connection which make the change in The Winter Soldier so brilliant.

I admit, I would love it if each Superhero in the MCU had his or her own theme. The Captain America franchise does this to a certain degree. Aside from Triumphant Return and Take a Stand, the Winter Soldier theme is another one which sticks out, and carries over from The Winter Soldier to Civil War. But what Civil War lacks in my opinion is a clear theme for Ironman, which can play in contrast to Cap’s theme. But that is not the fault of Henry Jackman, he couldn’t use a theme like this because there was never one established for Ironman beforehand.

On the other hand, though, a rule like this might limit the composers too much. There are narrative but also stylistic reasons why Henry Jackman switched from Triumphant Return to Take a Stand. This choice doesn’t just reflect the change in the character, but is also a way better fit for a movie, which is not a wartime adventure put a political thriller. It would have been difficult to have the more patriotic tunes of The First Avengers present through the whole movie without undermining its themes. For similar reasons Jackman went for a less rhythmic and instead more epic score for Civil War, to reflect the tragic aspect of a larger than life conflict.

And no, it is not at all hypocritical of me to complain about the musical changes made for Ironman 3, while praising the ones in The Winter Soldier. I truly dislike the soundtrack for Ironman 3, and not because I think that the music chosen or the scores are in any way bad, but because I consider them a change which is not carried by the narrative. I feel that it is jarring.

At the end of the day, I don’t think that there is a thumb rule for the right way to score a whole universe. While a consistent musical line has a lot of merit, the decision what works and what doesn’t has to be made on a movie to movie base to a certain degree. Thus said, I am very pleased that Silvestri will score Infinity War, since switching composers isn’t exactly helpful in keeping a consistent tone.

But consistency or not, I don’t think that the use of specific themes within the movies is the deciding factor for it become ubiquitous. I agree with HelloLillyTV that marketing and advertising has a way bigger influence on which music pieces we connect to which movies – to a certain degree. While everything which is said in the video is correct, there simply are scores and songs which click with the audience better than others.

See, the trick with playing the score from Gladiator, which one of the videos used? Didn’t work on me. It didn’t work even though I have never even watched Gladiator, nor did I pay any attention to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise after movies two and three were such a giant let-down. I still like the first one and consider it the best pirate movie ever made, but overall, there wasn’t a lot of marketing which could push me into remembering that particular score more than other scores I listened to in the last years. I nevertheless noticed immediately that the score which was played to me was not quite the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, because I love that score. I have loved it from the moment I first listened to it. It was an instant ear worm for me. You could play other music pieces a hundred times to me or connect them to a very emotional moment, and they wouldn’t stick with me that way.

Another score I love even though it is not part of a particularly popular or successful franchise, but was used in exactly one critically not particularly respected movie is the one from The Man in the Iron Mask. And I am obviously not the only one who felt that way about this melody considering that Yagudin used this this score for the ice dancing performance which won him the Gold medal. A lot of people love this score and might even be able to hum it.

I don’t think that it is really possible to explain completely why some melodies connect with the majority of people while others doesn’t. The marketing is certainly not the only aspect one has to consider. For example there are a number of animated TV shows with themes which are repeated again and again and due to the repetition, people watching those shows will most likely at least recognize them. But I just need to do this:

“Duck Tales…wohooo….”

and a number of my readers will have this damned song stuck in their head yet again (and no, I am not sorry, I spend the last week trying to get the title song of Moana out of my head and I am really in the mood to share some of my suffering. Just be glad that I didn’t mention It’s a small world…ooops). There is really no obvious reasons why this particularly theme song has such an effect. It is not like Duck Tales had a longer run than other TV shows, or that the opening is particularly well animated. Some unique word combinations in the text certainly helped to create trigger words for the theme song, but otherwise, there simply is something about the tune which makes it memorable.

All this said, the marketing is certainly the best explanation why people don’t connect the MCU immediately with a particular theme. But it is also an observation which doesn’t really address the quality of the actual MCU soundtracks (though all videos which went for the repetition argument as explanation did praise specific scores in the MCU). Let’s disconnect the whole argument from the question why the MCU scores aren’t hummed on cue, and go back to the question if the MCU soundtracks are generic or not.

There is an underlying complain in those first two videos essays which does have some merit: That there might be a systemic problem with the way movies are scored. But I don’t think that the points brought up in those videos are new at all. As Golding rightly points out, temp music has always been used. Likewise, there have also been trends in film music. In any given time period it is possible to point to a number of movies which followed a specific trend, and to a number of movies which ignored said trend or set a new one. The main reason why film music is codified in the first place, why we associate certain tunes with certain emotions, is because we connect said tunes to certain kind of scenarios. And this connection is older than movies themselves, you’ll find the same kind musical cues in the opera or the ballet.

It is true, though, that digital music has changed the way movies are scored. But again – is that really a bad thing? Since the scores now can be changed more easily, the composers can bring in their ideas way earlier, instead of having to score the movie after it already has been finished. Every approach has, at the end of the day, its upside and downside.

But there is one thing one always has to consider when it comes to film music: Every movie is a collaborative effort. A musician who works on his next hit single or creates something for the stage has, at least theoretically, all the freedom in the world to realize whatever idea occurs to him. A musician who works for the movie industry is limited from the get go by the movie he is working for and might get limited even further when directors already have been influenced by temp music, want music in the background and not in the forefront, or aren’t really open to any new ideas from the get go, because they want to follow a trend instead of doing something experimental.

But those are all aspects and concerns for the movie industry in general, not just for the MCU. So, how much freedom do the composers in the MCU actually have? The fact that music themes often don’t carry over to the next movie actually points in the direction that they have a lot creative freedom. Seen as a whole, the MCU offers a rich collection of very different music pieces. Just listen to this collection (once you have an hour of free time):

 

Naturally not every soundtrack is necessarily on the same level, but overall, there is a lot of quality in the MCU. In addition, if there is a recently released movie which really shines when it comes to the use of music, it is Guardians of the Galaxy.

The most obvious counterargument to this statement is that Guardians of the Galaxy sticks out, because it uses songs which already were popular, and nobody remembers the score. Well, first of all, a lot of movies use already established songs and music pieces, but that doesn’t automatically make it a good use of said songs. In fact, using even good scores and songs can end up annoying and distracting for the audience, if they are used too on the nose (*cough* Suicide Squad *cough*). The songs in Guardians of the Galaxy work so well not because they were already popular beforehand, but because they have an important function in the story. They provide an emotional connection to the protagonist, serve as a constant reminder of his traumatic past, while simultaneously spreading a sense of fun and a little bit of nostalgia – meaning they deliberately trigger a sad memory and a happy emotion. But they are also only one half of the soundtrack and only take centre stage whenever there is a narrative opportunity to play a song in-universe. Otherwise the movie does rely on a score, which, yes, gets overshadowed, just like most of the songs which are used in the movie ore overshadowed by Hooked on a Feeling, which was used in the marketing. But it is nevertheless a score which takes the centre stage in the scenes more than ones. For example here:

And naturally here:

And let’s not forget this scene:

Did you notice how the movie switches from the song, which is played in-universe, to the score? I could write a whole essay about the way Guardians of the Galaxy is scored and take apart every single scene just to point out how much the music enhances the experience and often adds a second layer to a moment.

To summon up my thoughts:

  1. I don’t agree that there is necessarily a problem with the MCU scores in general, or that Marvel limits the creativity of their composers too much.
  2. I do think that more coherence and some sort of symphonic connection in the MCU movies (not the TV shows) would be a neat idea, especially if it leads to each hero having a specific theme. But I don’t think that it is absolutely necessary, it is just a personal preference.
  3. I nevertheless prefer it if Marvel sticks to the same composer within a franchise as much as possible, unless there are good reasons for a change.
  4. Using the scores, especially the Avengers theme more often in the marketing is a good idea, but this is an aspect which would improve the marketing of the MCU as a whole, not the quality of the movies themselves.

 

At the end of the day, the movies in the MCU are like every other movie: They do some things right, and some things which don’t quite work. Some of the scores are remarkable, some are forgettable and generic. Sometimes a scene is scored perfectly, and sometimes you wonder what exactly the composer was thinking or why there even is a score at all. If you ask me, the movies which have the best scores are The First Avenger, The Avengers, The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. The one movie which has a score which annoys me is Ironman 3 (and again, more in relation to the previous scores, on its own it is perfectly fine). Btw, the TV show with the best title sequence is in my opinion Jessica Jones, even though I don’t even like the melody (if you can call it melody) used, but it is one which really sticks out. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deserves a lot of love for its scores, too (and a lot of hate for having the most annoyingly to write title), one which especially stuck out to me was the tune used in the Parting Shot scene (fans of the show will know immediately what I am talking about). And then there is naturally the exceptionally use of songs in Luke Cage.

I for my part look forward to what the MCU will deliver in the future, weather people are able to hum the Avengers theme or not.


Puh, I never thought that this would end up being such a beast of an article. But then, this seems to happen to me quite often when it comes to this particular blog. Anyway, I hope a few of you made it to the end. Feel free to share your own thoughts about this topic, I would be quite happy to continue the discussion or little bit. Or list your own favourite scores and/or soundtracks in the MCU.

 

 

 


Nine Properties I would love to see as Animated Series

So, Disney has apparently decided that they should do animated TV-Shows based on their properties again. And why not? DreamWorks already does it, and it worked just fine back in the 1990s. And to be honest, the properties they picked this time around have a lot of more potential than the ones they did back then. I really look forward to the Tangled TV-Series because I really wanted to know how Rapunzel learns to adjust to the life out of the tower (though I do fear that Disney might end up going for something more shallow in an attempt to appeal to the perceived target demographic), and Big Hero 6 is practically made for being a TV -Series.

This got me thinking, though. Are there any other properties I would actually like to see as animated TV series? And what would they look like? So I considered and came up with a small list, not just of Disney movies which would work particularly well as a TV show, but also some untapped book properties as well as some franchises which I think could do really well with a shift to animated TV. I ended up with nine, because I didn’t feel the need to force this into being a proper top ten, especially since this isn’t a ranking at all, I sorted them based on the year of creation. After all, every adaptation can potentially be good – there are just some properties which are more suited for a TV shows than others.


The Letter for the King (1962)

What is it about?

It’s a book by Tonke Dragt, set in a kind of medieval setting. It tells the story about Tuiri, a young man who is about to become a knight. His last test is spending a night thinking about the path he is about to take in a chapel, when suddenly he is confronted with the decision to either fulfil this last test or listen to a request for help, thus abandoning his knighthood. He naturally does the latter (or it would be a really short book), and starts a very dangerous journey, trying to deliver an important letter to another kingdom, while being followed by a number of different enemies.

Why do I want it?

The book has been adapted into a movie once, but that went as well as you can expect when you cram a story about travelling to a number of different places into a relatively short running time. The character moments kind of got lot along the way, which was a shame, since the story is actually not that much to write home about unless you are really invested in the struggle of the character, and a number of different scenarios, which simply can’t be rushed but need room to breath. In addition, the story is a little bit episodic from the get go, meaning Tiuri reaches a place, deals with some sort of hurdle to overcome, and then goes to the next place. It could easily fill 20 to 30 episodes if handled right. And if the first season is successful, well, there is a second book about the adventures of Tiuri, which is just as good if not better.

How should the series look like?

I’ll be honest here: There is no particular reason for this to be an animated series, it could work in live action TV just as well – with a proper budget. And that is kind of the problem, because I doubt that any network would spend that much money on some strange European property, no matter how well-known it is in a number of countries. American networks and studios are a little bit snobby in this regard. But if they do an animated series, I would prefer classical animation in a style reminiscent of medieval art and paintings. It needs to look kind of romantic but also colourful.


Voyagers! (1982-1983)

What is it about?

It’s a mostly forgotten but still beloved by those who know it TV-series about time-travelling. You have a time-traveller, a child who accidentally becomes his partner and one of the greatest time travelling device ever created in the Omni. The episodes are about fixing history – meaning something went wrong at one point and the protagonists have to ensure that history goes the way it was supposed to.

Why do I want it?

While the show had a lot of flaws, mainly due to its very American perspective on history, it was also very educational. It is one of the main reasons I ever developed an interest in history and how it affects us today. I think we need another show like this, which teaches children something in a fun way. I am usually not into time travel at all, but the fact that the Voyagers worked outside of time sidestepped a number of possible paradoxes. I guess you could also simply reboot the show for Live-Action TV, but I am hopeful for it catching on better the second time around. If you go for multiple seasons, you have the problem that the child actor will age out of the role pretty fast (the original one had only three season which run in a less than two years, and the child-actor had already hit a grown spurt by the end of it, which put him pretty firmly in the teen category). So, animated it is.

How should the series look like?

The original show had a few steampunk elements to it, and I would like a remake doubling down on this, at least when it comes to the design of the Voyager Headquarter. I also think that it would be important to portray the historic figures in it as adequate as possible. I am not sure if CGI is able to do that, and Stop-Motion has always a weird feeling to it. So (surprise, surprise), traditional animation is it. I actually think I would like the Disney style, along the lines of what they did in the short “Ben and I”.


The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

What is it about?

Well, animation fans should know this hidden gem from the Disney canon. In short, it is the story about a Mouse-version of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Why do I want it?

It is kind of a no-brainer, really. During the 1990s, Disney made direct-to-video sequels and TV-shows about more or less everything, but somehow they mostly managed to miss out the properties, which were perfect for some kind of sequel. The Great Mouse Detective could be a wonderful detective series for children and young adults, and between the book series the movie was based on and the actual Sherlock Holmes stories, there is a lot of material to draw from. They could even introduce an early version of the Rescue Aid Society at one point, thus suggesting that Basil belongs in the same universe as The Rescuers, just in a different time period.

How should the series look like?

Like the movie, naturally. The style is perfect for TV anyway.


Harry Potter (1997-2007)

What is it about?

Do I really have to explain? It’s Harry Potter, you need to have lived under a rock to not at the very least know the basics.

Why do I want it?

Mostly because I always felt that the movies were really dissatisfying. I loved the sets, the costumes (mostly), and they were an okay watch overall, but there was so much lost in the adaptation that I really, really want a better one. But I don’t think that the audience would accept another one anytime soon, plus, even if you would redo the movies already knowing which details would become important later on and which not, it would still be nearly impossible to cram all the information into movie lengths. So why not a TV series? An animated one, to ensure that the actors don’t grow out of their roles, and to allow some creativity when it comes to spell-casting. Though it would be important that the creators take the book series serious and don’t dumb down the themes in it.

How should the series look like?

Ever seen Harry Potter Fanart? Yeah, something along the line of the most popular artists would be great. I also want to add that while I want a version which allows the different story-arcs some room to breath, it doesn’t have to be a slavish one-to-one adaptation of the books. There is certainly a little bit room for improvement, some details which could and should be added in order to avoid some of the plot holes.


Operation Nautilus (2001-2001)

What is it about?

It’s a book series by Wolfgang Hohlbein, also called Captain Nemo’s Children. It is set around the time of the first World War, and describes how a group of teens end up commandeering the Nautilus (yes, THAT Nautilus), finding traces of the Atlantian Civilisation at the bottom of the ocean while evading the war ships.

Why do I want it?

Well, for starters, the teens in the series all have different nationalities, meaning they are working together while their respective nations are at war with each other. I have the feeling that this is a message which will be desperately needed in the upcoming years. But it is also one of the book series which had a number of great ideas, but doesn’t really work that well as a whole. Really, don’t get me started on how much it went of the rails, and how terrible and contrived the finale was. I would love to see someone take another stab at the concept, using the best ideas of the book and building on them, step by step. Basically I want a more or less original series based on the concept and the characters of the book series.

How should the series look like?

In this case, I can see every form of animation working just fine, as long as the result doesn’t look too cartoony. The story might be fantasy, but it is set in a realistic setting, and the animation should reflect that.


Treasure Planet (2002)

What is it about?

Another of Disney’s overlooked gem. The movie is basically Treasure Island in Space steampunk style. Disney actually did plan a series based on the movie, but after it bombed spectacularly, the series was scrapped.

Why do I want it?

The world of Treasure Island just look infinitely interesting. I own the DVD, and it fascinating how much thought the animators put in the working of the ships. There are a number of details which never made it into the movie. I would love to see a series exploring more of this world. Jim could go on even more travels and crazy adventures.

How should the series look like?

Well, like the movie, naturally. (I have a deja vu….).


Firefly (2002)

What is it about?

Well, Firefly is the Whedon show which infamously run for only one season but still managed to spawn a cult following and eventually a movie. It was a quite interesting concept in that it took the concept of Wild West in space a little bit more literal than even Star Trek did (and that franchse has “Trek” in its name!) going for a very dusty look during a time, in which most Science Fiction shows created a very pristine future. It also frequently experiemented with story-telling, creating some very memorable episodes in its short run.

Why do I want it?

It only run one season. Do I really have to say more? It deserves to get a proper continuation, but with the various actors having aged out of their roles by now, an animated series is the only way to make it possible without it being too grating. It could pick up where the original show left off (ignoring Serenity) and just continue the story.

How should the series look like?

I lean towards traditional animation in this case, because I think it would be easier to capture the feel of the original show in this style. Not that CGI can’t do dusty and dirty – see Rango – it’s the character animation which worries me. That can end up fast in uncanny valley territory.


Supernatural (2005-now)

What is it about?

Supernatural is the longest running Sci-Fi Series in the USA, which is frankly downright impressive. Impressive enough that I recently decided to figure out what the big deal is, proceeding to binge watch the whole show. And I actually liked it quite a lot after I discovered that it is about so much more than just two to three attractive leads experiencing a lot of man-pain (what? We all have our prejudices). There are actually a number of really creative ideas in the show which I adore. I would recommend the first five season of it to everyone – what follows is a little bit more wonky, but still has its moments.

And yes, I am aware that there is already an anime based on the show…I’ll address it later.

Why do I want it?

Unlike Firefly Supernatural is an ongoing show which still utilized the same actors. But I nevertheless would love to see a complete reboot of it. While I do like a number of ideas in the show (careful, I will now go full-on spoiler) especially the concept of not so fluffy angels or a Supernatural series becoming the Winchester Gospel and their take on the apocalypse, there are also a lot of elements which I feel prevent the show from reaching its full potential. Partly it is the format. The writers have to fill a lot of episodes, so they often drag plot-lines out or throw in detours, and since the writers change, there are sometimes elements which are just left hanging in the air, contradictions in the lore and quality shifts. Partly it is the budget. They did a fairly good job with depicting angles (love the shadow wings) and heaven, but hell has been an ongoing disappointment so far. Partly it is simply the writing. I can’t be the only one who actually wanted to see at least half a season with Godstiel being the big problem Dean and Sam have to deal with it, instead of getting one episode and then having to deal the whole season with boring black goo.

I just feel that it would be great to rewrite the whole thing, using the best story-arcs, streamlining some aspects (like the whole “the police looks for the Winchesters” thing), making some elements bigger and dropping a few more questionable decisions. I want the best of the world of Supernatural combined with visuals which aren’t possible to do on a TV budget. I want a more careful world-building, with clearer rules. And doing this in an animated show would allow for doing it without it feeling like a cheap knock-off from the get go.

To achieve that, it would be necessary that it becomes more than just a retelling. It should have its own set of twists.Which is what the Anime kind of tried to do, but more in the single episodes than in the actual myth arc. But that is exactly the place where they should start. Why not actually go for the notion of Sam being part of an army of people with tainted blood this time around instead of doing the whole “one surviver” solution, which, imho, was mostly picked because of budgets restrains? Why not changing around some stuff? Like, the whole idea of Castiel being under mind control from heaven would have actually fit was better into season 6, when there was still one archangel left. This storyline can lead into Castiel being freed of said mind control which would then make his pact with Crowley way more understandable.

Then there is Adam, who is still one big black mark on the series because he is apparently still in the cage and nobody seems to care. His character could be handled better from the get go. For example instead of repeating the whole “Adam is already death” shock (which lead to some problems down the line – death really hasn’t much meaning in the show when characters are constantly brought back as soon as it is convenient), it would be interesting of Adam is actually younger when Dean and Sam meet him, and they make the decision to leave him with a relative of his mother, hiding the Supernatural from him, because they want him to have a normal live. That would naturally cause resentment in Adam, which would be hashed out further down the line when the angels start to use him. Similar elements, different story, and the opportunity to explore some ideas which never got the attention they deserved, that’s what I want to see. In case someone is curious: I also would love to see the fight for the seals in greater detail, a more creative take on the cage, the pagan gods as a third party and more of the fight between the various angels. I also felt that the show really should have explored the relationship between Castiel and Jimmy Novak instead of forgetting about the latter for multiple season just to explain then that he has been in heaven for quite a while. And without the budget restrains, it could create a more complete world, in which the Winchester adventures actually have a large impact. What happens when there is suddenly an increase of paranormal activities which can’t be ignored, when there are people declaring themselves to be god and others who leave their families because they agreed to be a vessel or have been hijacked by a demon? There are numerous options for a rewrite, which honours the original while still being its own thing.

How should the series look like?

I discovered that I actually don’t like the Anime style at all, though my issues are more with the Anime style of storytelling than the actual drawings. See, Anime storytelling is extremely melodramatic, with a lot of telling instead of showing. But that is more or less the opposide of what makes the show work. Yeah, it is sometimes corny, but what makes it so great is the underlying realism, the constant demystificing of our beliefs. Angels are just dicks. Demons exist, but they can be defeated. Yes, it has its dramatic moments, but it can also be funny or just really horrofying. So what the show would need is a drawing style, which allows it a lot of freedom to design certain elements of it really freaky and go all creative with it. Supernatural is also a series which likes to play around a little bit on a meta-level. Therefore I like the idea of mixing different kind of animation. Normally stop motion would clash horrible with traditional animation, but it could be used here for a deliberate “off-feel”. The important part is that they pick a style which allows the characters to show a lot of emotions in their faces, as well as some really creepy imagenary. So perhaps traditional animation with a realistic touch to it is in order, but with an emphasis on the character animation.


Inside Out (2015)

What is it about?

It’s a view into the mind a girl, showing how her emotions struggle with some big changes in her life.

Why do I want it?

Of all the properties I put on this list, this is actually the one I want the least. Inside Out works just fine as stand-alone movie. But Pixar currently has a bad case of sequilities, so they will revisit one of their most successful properties sooner or later. And if they do, I just can’t see them figuring out a story which doesn’t feel like a repetition of the first movie. So, why not go smaller? Focus on small events in Riley’s everyday life, and let the emotions comment on it. And yes, that is more or less like Herman’s Head, but doing the same concept with the perspective of a teen as centre could yield a nice little show for this demographic. Just keep it small, and simple.

How should the series look like?

CGI. That’s the style of the movie and they should stick to it. I can actually see the emotions working if they based them on the concept drawings, but I somehow can’t see Riley in this style, so it would be better to stick to what works.


So, that is my list. There are other adaptations and/or sequels I would like to see at one point, but those are the ones I would love to see specifically as animated TV show. What do you think? Do you agree with my picks? Or do you have some ideas on your own? I would love to hear about them.

 

 

 


Batman V Superman under watch

I don’t like Man of Steel. I could launch into a long explanation why, but it basically boils down to me not liking Snyder’s work as a director. He is all about visuals, and while I enjoy something impressive to look at, I still need a cohesive story to enjoy a movie – unless it is something along the line of Fantasia or Yellow Submarine. I couldn’t relate to the characters in Man of Steel and since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was mostly made by the same team, my hopes that I would like the result were not that high. I thought the trailers looked bad (safe for the scene with Affleck watching the buildings crumble) and already spoiled most of the movie. But I honestly didn’t expect that the reaction to the movie would be that negative.

Anyway, I didn’t watch it in theatres. Call me a sheep for listening to critics, but I would rather take the opinions of people with knowledge into consideration than watching a film simply because it is sold as an “event movie”. I also didn’t bother to try keeping away from spoilers. I knew that it wouldn’t be possible to keep myself in the dark until the movie is available anyway.

So, now I do have the opportunity to watch the movie and considering that a lot of people claim that this is for comic book movies, I will do the following: During this first watch I will pause the movie and jot down notes roughly every ten minutes. Then I will watch it again for an overall impression. And then I will watch the uncut version. Let’s see how this movie holds up, and how it relates to the stuff I already heard about it.

9:46

This was both better and worse than I expected. Better because some reviewers said that the dying scene of Bruce parents is incredible stupid staged. I don’t think that it is. It works fine (aside from the fact that real pearls are not connected on a string and would therefore never fall apart like that, but that’s really a nitpick). But what is the deal with young Bruce floating in the bats? They could get away with it if they cut after this to Bruce waking from a nightmare, but they go to what happened in Metropolis. Which, imho, should have been how they started the movie, with the first time Batman saw Superman, to set the tone of this movie. By starting with Batman, they made it from the get go a Barman movie in which Superman happened to be in it. I already know that the scene with the parents dying will become important later on, but this could certainly have been put as a dream sequence of flashback later on in the movie (preferable parallel to a defining moment Clark remembers from his childhood, to show the differences between the two characters). The scene in Metropolis itself, well, I still liked the bits and pieces we saw in the trailer, but more or less everything else is so much worse than I imagined. So the employees of Wayne industries are too stupid to leave the building when the world is falling apart around them? I also can’t get behind Bruce driving like a maniac through the city, it is a wonder that he didn’t kill any of the people trying to flee from the destruction.

15:10

Oooookay, the ten minutes are not over yet, but let the record show that I am confused. Why are we suddenly 18 months later? Why is this alien stuff somewhere in the ocean and not recovered by some government or Superman himself? Who is this guy looking happy because of the green stuff? Is this supposed to be Kryptonite? If yes, how does this guy know that it is important? And what is the deal with Lois and the terrorist? First the CIA is involved, and then suddenly another group starts to shoot, and the Superman rescues Lois and apparently something went really wrong because some sort of committee holds him responsible for…whatever. We are barely 15 minutes into this movie and I already feel totally lost. It’s like I have seen pieces of at least five different movies so far.

20:45

The movie looses points for unnecessary nudity. Otherwise…I think I might have liked the discussion between Lois and Clark if I had known what the f… happened in Africa. And why do we keep discussing an event we didn’t even see but during which apparently a few people died through unintended consequences and not the big event we actually did see during which countless people died because Superman was carelessly crushing into buildings? Also, the editing in this movie is awful! The cut to Batman being a vigilante which is so brutal that even the victims he rescues are terrified of him came out of nowhere.

25:32

Hallelujah, two cuts in a row which made sense. But you know what would have made even more sense? If Clark watching the news about the Batman would transition into a proper scene instead of just a moment of him seeing that Batman exists (because apparently that is news to him after all this years? I don’t get it). After all those self-important dialogues between Bruce and Alfred, it would have made sense to contrast Clark’s point of view immediately after. This would have  been the right place for the “I don’t care about the effect of my actions as long as you are safe” talk.
Also we get our first scene with Lex Luther. I am not sure if we actually get his motivation in this scene, but the argument that humans should be prepared just in case that the “gods among us” act out is actually a good one (especially since it is basically Batman’s reasoning). It become apparent though that the scene with the kryptonite earlier was pointless. Back then it didn’t have any meaning (even less if you are not comic book nerd enough to know that green stuff in a superman movie usually means kryptonite), and we get the important explanations now. But why does Lex need an import licence? Nobody knows what this stuff is, so shouldn’t he be able to import it as much as he wants? And what is the Metahuman thesis?

27:45

Okay, I have to pause again…what was this with the wall of crazy? Whose work was this? Also, what is the deal with the Daily Planet? You don’t just give one reporter “sports” for a day, journalists are usually specialized on specific topics they have a broad background knowledge about. I also don’t see how some graffiti on a statue (really, that was the priority of the city after all the destruction?) is a bigger end of the “love affair” with Superman than him actually being accused by a committee of being responsible for countless deaths.

29:55

I now understand what some critics meant by the overblown soundtrack. The score when Lex walks to the alien ship (without safety suit for some reason) is positive obnoxious, which becomes even more evident since it is multiple times interrupted to show the talk with the white-haired guy – whoever that is. Why do we need to see this? Why can’t we simply shown that Lex has access to the stuff and be done with it? Why is it so important who gave him access?

33:13

Can this movie stick with one story-arc for more than a minute? It has been barely more than 4 minutes and in this time we saw Bruce conducting his terrorist investigation (I don’t care about), Clark acting like a douche by telling Perry White what the paper he is working for a just a little bit more than a year is standing for as well as Lois’ bullet investigation (I also don’t care about) and finally the import discussion between Lex and the Senator (which is equally boring). Can we perhaps go back to either Batman v Superman or the question of accountability for Superman? Please?

47:33

Thank god there is actually something like coherent storytelling for a few minutes. More or less. The cuts make sense for a change and the movie stops jumping around like a bunny on a sugar rush for at least a few minutes during the party. But next to nothing in this works. If Wayne Manor is destroyed, where is Bruce actually living? Does Lex know who Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne are in their spare time? It seems that way. And why Clark attacking a random millionaire whose name he didn’t even know a few minutes earlier (worst reporter ever) over batman? I am also not into the montage which follows. It looks beautiful, but the idea of a family which is about to drown taking the time to write the superman symbol on their roof and he is hovering dramatically over them instead of starting to rescue all those people before it is too late ruins it for me. It’s just…so stupid. Beautiful, but stupid. (and yes, I am aware of the underlying symbolism…I like the Jesus imaginary even less here than I did in Man of Steel. And there I already felt that it was too on the nose).

51:35

I feel lost again. I guess that Lex would use leg-less guy to make trouble for Superman makes sense, but what is this whole thing about mysterious woman (well, Wonder Woman I guess, but that hasn’t been revealed yet) stealing the hard-drive just to give it immediately back? That is kind of a pointless detour, isn’t it?

56:00

WTF was that? I mean I dislike dream sequences on principle, but this was one of the most confusing things I have ever seen. The Mad Max part apparently only exists because someone realized that it has been already too long since the last action beat, but what really threw me off is the moment in the end. Who is this guy screaming at Bruce? Is that the Flash cameo everyone is talking about? But Bruce doesn’t know the Flash yet, does he? So how can he dream about him? Or alternative futures? I don’t get it.

59:13

Finally the whole things with Bruce’s investigation makes sense. But the editing has gotten even worse. What is the point of Perry asking where Clark is (and why he hasn’t fired him yet is beyond me, it is one thing to insist on a story but another thing not to do the work which was assigned to you), only to cut then to Lois who is apparently working on uncovering what the audience already knows, that there is a weapon which would hurt Superman.

1:04:30

Oh, great the movie has finally remembered that it is called Batman v Superman, and not Lex Luther v the Senator or Lois Lane, investigative reporter. Took only one freaking hour! And now we got a confrontation with next to no built-up. It is odd, I have at this point a pretty good idea what the public thinks about Superman, but not why he is so obsessed with Batman’s action. On the other hand I have no idea what the public thinks about Batman, but I know exactly why he is so obsessed over Superman.

1:13:32

I know I repeat myself, but I don’t get it. How could anyone know that Superman would come to rescue Lois? Did leg-less guy send the messages, or did Lex ensure that he never got his money and send those himself? What is the point of those messages anyway? And how does one conclude from a jar of piss that something terrible might happen in the next moments? But you know what, the biggest problem I have in all this is that Superman finally had the chance to declare himself – and the movie didn’t let him. What a waste! And what was the point of the whole Committee story then if it leads to nowhere? I mean we already have what happened in Metropolis to make humanity angry with Superman. Than we have this mysterious Africa incident. But no, we need to set-up a third incident to justify…whatever. Can’t we just get to the fight? Please?

1:21:04

So…I guess Batman stole the Kryptonite off-screen? And Superman now believes that he can’t be a hero because he didn’t notice the bomb? I think this was the gist of his speech, but I am not sure if I follow the logic there. The training montage is useless filler which could have worked if parallel to it we would have seen Superman preparing himself for his battle with Batman but, well, at this point Superman doesn’t even worry about Batman any longer, does he? And what is Lex doing now? Making strange experiences? Why? I thought his plan was to pit Batman against Superman in the hope that Batman is somehow strong enough to destroy him? Wouldn’t it have been way easier to plant a kryptonite bomb instead of a regular one?

1:25:53

I really hate to interrupt again, but the movie is jumping around yet again. So apparently he population is totally okay with Superman destroying a city by fighting people from his planet, but when a bomb goes off beside him he is somehow responsible, even though everyone thinks that wheelchair guy did it? On the upside, the movie finally does what it should have done all along, parallel Superman and Batman to each other by showing both of them having a talk with their father figure (at this point I don’t even worry why Superman sees dead people…I just roll with it). I guess Superman was raised by farmers and Batman by hunters? This is a thought which is certainly worth exploring. Too bad that nothing in the movie beforehand built up this distinction between the characters, and muddles it by throwing in some strange story which seems to boil down to “if someone dies because of Superman’s actions it is never his fault”.  And why we go from that to Superman’s mother getting kidnapped, I have no idea.

1:33:44

I just realized that Lex knows more than he should. Not only did he apparently know the true identities of Batman and Superman all along, he also knew that it was time to kidnap Martha before the bat signal turned up in the sky. And he somehow knows that Superman will be there to rescue Lois no matter where she is, but is unable to realize that his mother is in danger.

1:37:37

Okay, those are the infamous Justice League tie-ins. And let me tell you: Nothing about this works. For one, the nature of the scene. Having a character look at footage is the laziest thing I have ever seen. Two, the placement. It’s like those TV shows when the big fight starts, but no, we go on an advertising break first. It’s ruining all the tension. And three, the snippets itself might make sense for the comic book fans, but for the general audience? I was barely able to piece together what the first two are about, but the third one, which I guess is about Cyborg, means nothing to me. And if I didn’t know that a Cyborg movie is scheduled, it would mean even less. Because I know nothing about this character, I had never heard that he even existed before DC made their announcements. So, after this useless detour, can we finally go to the fight? Which will be pretty one-sided if Superman only wants to ask for help, because…Batman is somehow better suited to find Martha?

1:54:07

Is it just me or is the fight somewhat disappointing? I am not sure what I expected, but certainly not Batman dicking around the whole time, throwing literally a kitchen sink at Superman, instead of simply grabbing the spear and doing what he came to do.
The solution of the fight has already become a meme. I think I am not quite as down on the idea in itself as everyone else seems to be. Granted, it is strange that Superman would call his mother “Martha” instead of “mom” but let’s imagine that the scene was set up in a way that it looks more similar to the scenes of the murder of Bruce’s parents. Than the use of the world “Martha” might cause him flashing back to the moment and realizing that he now has taken the position of their killer in the scenario. But the way it actually is set-up, it’s really very stupid.
Batman freeing Martha (and I am still not sure why Batman and Superman don’t work together on this one. It would be a great bonding exercise), looks somewhat cool. Over-the-top violent but it is at least a better action scene than the title fight.

2:03:30

I liked the fight in space. I would have loved to see more of this. I am not sure, though, what to think about humanity literally nuking their messiah-figure. Also, this should be a very emotional moment, having to make a decision like this. But no one in this control room actually knows Superman and last time I checked the world was on a “we hate Superman”-trip.

2:09:02

Wait a minute…how do Batman and Lois both know that they would need the spear? Neither of them were present when Superman discovered what Lex had done. And even if I assume that they have both incredible good deduction abilities, how does Superman know that Lois threw the spear into the water for no reason?
Speaking of the spear, wouldn’t it have been a better plan for Batman to leave the monster on the thankfully abandoned island and fetch the spear instead of leading it closer to the city? I question his strategy there.
And speaking of strategy, shouldn’t Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman agree on one? They are standing together, but they aren’t really fighting together. They just happen to fight the same monster at the same time.

2:14:35

I think I would have loved those scenes, if they were part of another movie. One in which Superman is such a compelling character that I actually care if he dies or not. But Wonder Woman, Batman and Lois standing around Superman’s fallen body, this is some really beautiful imaginary (lifted from religious paintings, but in this case, I can ignore this fact).

2:23:40

And they ruined it by cutting from a perfectly staged scene to Lex getting his head shaved. Who the f.. cares? Why not go directly to the two funerals. Which, at the very least, work for me in a sense that they pay tribute to Superman’s dual existence – only that we never really saw him being either Clark Kent or Superman all that much and let’s be honest here, Perry White just lost the worst reporter he ever had on payroll.
Also, Batman waxing poetically about how he failed him feels false considering that he is talking about a guy he hated for nearly two years to a woman who never even talked to him.
And finally, what is the whole scene in prison about? Is that another dream? Is everyone in this movie a pre-cog? I just don’t get it.

 


 

Honestly, this was exhausting. But I am glad that I decided to watch the movie piece by piece, because I have the feeling that without pausing in-between in order to put the puzzle pieces  together, I would have been even more lost than I already was. Also, it was a good thing that I spoiled myself, because I don’t think that I would have recognized the Flash otherwise.

I originally wanted to watch the movie without interruptions immediately after, but I think it is better to let this sink in and rewatch the movie tomorrow, with a clear mind. Supposedly it is better the second time around.

 


 

So, I rewatched it. It is better? Well, kind of. It is less confusing if you actually know what is going on, that Lex knows the whole time who Batman and Superman really are, and the second time around I realized that Clark maybe heard Bruce talking with Alfred over the intercom during the party and confronted him because of that. But this is not a “I understand this movie now better because I see new connections” experience. It is a combination of not expecting the characters to behave in any logical manner and filling the gaps in the movie through a lot of research. I shouldn’t need to research anything to understand a movie. And if I had trouble with what the movie expected me to know, I honestly have no idea how someone who has no idea what “The Killing Joke” or “Under the Red Hood” is about is supposed to deal. Apparently the Chinese audience was confused about Wonder Woman, and I can certainly imagine this. If you don’t know about her, her whole subplot makes no sense whatsoever. I would have most likely thought initially that she is supposed to be cat woman.

But before I go into plot points, I want to discuss the technical side of the movie. The editing is atrocious. I can’t think of another movie which does such a bad job stringing scenes together. There are three aspects to it which combined make for a very unpleasant viewing experience: The lack of establishing shots, the length of the scenes and the sudden transition between them.

See, usually a movie is edited in a way that there is some kind of connection between the scenes. There are a lot of way to do this, but the most basic methods are either visual or verbal cues. For example, a character does an upward motion and then the next scene, even though it is set elsewhere, this motion is either continued or mirrored. There is nothing of this kind in this movie. It just jumps from one scene to the next and to add to the confusion, it sometimes gives verbal cues which makes you expect a cut to a certain character which then doesn’t turn up (the Perry White scene I mentioned is an example of that). Since there is neither a proper transition nor an establishing shot, I always needed a few seconds to figure out where the movie went and what is going on in the scene in question, but due to the scenes being so short, I got pulled out of the movie again just when I settled into a situation. One of the reasons why Batman works so much better than the other characters in the movie is because he gets more scenes which have a proper length (he also tends to get better dialogue in general). I think you could have done the movie a lot of good by simply rearranging some scenes. The scene with Wonder Woman looking at all those files should have been the end of the second act and not somewhere in the middle of the third, Lex Luther in prison shouldn’t cut into the funeral scenes, those scenes belong to the very end of the movie (or even better into a mid-credit scene).

Then there is the sound design. Now, I don’t have an issue with the score itself, but I hate the way it is used. In some scenes it is so overbearingly loud and obnoxious that it comes off more like a laughing track. Yes, a score should influence our emotions, but it shouldn’t practically scream at the audience “see how badass this character is! Be impressed!”. Especially not if said character is simply walking down a hallway!

And finally the action scenes. When they are good, they are really good, but at times they feel more like they were lifted from a computer game. I can’t exactly pin down why, but it makes it hard to be invested in them. And what is with all the lens flares during the chase scene? I was barely able to figure out what was happening on screen.

Well, I guess this is enough about the technical aspect (and really, those are film making 101 problems), let’s talk about structure and narrative. I am pretty much a “plot and character” kind of gal. That doesn’t mean that I nitpick every detail in a movie, there is always room for suspension of disbelief. But I need to like the people on screen, I need to know why they do what they do and the narration should work towards a specific point. This movie, though, has no less than five different story-lines which barely connects with each other.

Let’s take it from the top. There is Batman. And I certainly know why so many consider him the best part of the movie. Because he is the only one who has a storyline which actually has something to do with the advertised title fight. He has a reason to be angry with Superman, and most of his activities are about obtaining a weapon against him. There are only four issues with his storyline: For one it is never really addressed how the public sees him opposed to Superman, two, I am not sure if he was retired and now returned or had been around all the time but got harder all the time (in general the movie assumes that the audience will reach the right conclusions over his past just from a destroyed suit, but the only thing we have are fan theories) three, he is a hypocrite because he actually does exactly what he accuses Superman of and fourth his arc is unnecessarily complicated and isolated. Wouldn’t it have more sense if he had worked with Lex in order to find a weapon, instead of tracking the work of someone else? How did he even know that Lex had discovered said weapon?

Then there is Superman. Who is just there. I guess he has a hang-up about Batman’s brutality, but this is hard to buy when he himself is smashing humans through walls. Nothing about Superman really worked. I hate to rag on actors when they are trapped in such a clearly ill-advised movie, but Superman looks constantly constipated. He is a horrible reporter, a questionable saviour, but what it is even worse, none of the stuff which was set up in Man of Steel was picked up again in this movie. The killing of Zod isn’t even mentioned, the destruction of Metropolis serves as a motivator for Batman, but in order for the public to question Superman, the movie (or Lex) feels the need to set up not one but two unrelated incidents (because people totally care about the death of some terrorist on the other side of the world more than the fact that their city got destroyed in a 9/11 event). Shouldn’t it be the other way around, that Superman has to sway the opinion of those people who hold him responsible? But then it is perhaps a good thing that Snyder blew up congress before Superman could declare himself, because he apparently never understood why so many people had issues with the destruction in Man of Steel. It was never the fact that there was a perceived death toll, but that it felt like destruction for the sake of destruction, with no deeper meaning behind it, caused by a Superman who didn’t seem to care. I don’t need a “there are no people around” disclaimer, it is frankly insulting. What I needed was an exploration what the destruction of Metropolis meant for Superman. Even the one person who has a good reason to accuse Superman isn’t allowed to act in their own volition, but is manipulated by a villain. But you know what, Superman is a dick in this one. The only time he actually voices some sort of opinion is when he says that he doesn’t care how many people die as long as Lois is safe. He freaking should care!

Speaking of Lois, her arc is the most coherent one, but also the most useless one. Her motivations are clear, her actions make mostly sense, but what is the point in her looking into those bullets when what she discovers has no impact on the plot whatsoever? For all the screen-time she gets, the only time she is relevant is when Superman has to rescue her. Which he has to do no less than three times, the third time being a totally useless detour which does nothing but add running time to an already way too long movie. As a general rule, the movie treats female characters terrible. They are only there to look sexy, be in danger or getting killed off. Even Wonder Woman doesn’t escape unscathed.

Don’t get me wrong, there are moments in which I genuinely liked Wonder Wonder. I am one of those who doubted Gal Gadot’s casting, not because of some nonsense like her built, but because I wasn’t sure if she is a good enough actress to carry a movie and able to sell the confidence I expect of the character. Well, I am still not sure about her line-delivery, but in the battle scenes, she shined. And I don’t mean her looking impressive while holding a shield, this moment was actually very corny. No, I mean the way she smiles before attacking Doomsday even harder, and the moment at the very end, when she is standing beside Superman’s body and looks toward the sky. There is something about it which worked really well, even though I like Wonder Woman better as ambassador of peace than as warrior. But she somehow managed to sell her actions as “I enjoy this, but I don’t necessarily like it”, if that makes any sense. Thus said, her arc in the movie is terrible. She seems to be only there to set up the Justice League and nothing of this makes sense. If she wants the photo, she needs more than just a copy, she has to destroy every exemplar available of it. Why should she first steal the data from Batman and then give it back to him because she…couldn’t crack the encryption? Honestly, that’s just stupid.

But the actual main plot of the movie is neither of those arcs. At the end of the day this movie is not Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it is Lex v Holly Hunter: Dawn of Doomsday. There is way more time spend on Lex’s shenanigans than on anything else. I count no less that six different plots he has going on: He sets up Superman getting blamed for Africa, the bomb at the congress, is sending both Superman and Batman letters, imports the Kryptonite, kidnaps the people who are closest to Superman in order to force him to fight and is experimenting with alien technology. All this his needlessly complicated and his main opponent in all this is neither Batman or Superman, not even Lois Lane by investigating him, no, it is a random Senator who gets blown up halfway through the movie.

None of those arcs I just mentioned  work on their own all that way. But they also barely connect with each other. If we assume that Batman and Superman are the heroes of this piece (yeah, I have to assume this, I don’t think that this is obvious) and Lex is the villain, I would expect one of two things: Either that the heroes spend a lot of screen-time with each other, so that the movie can built up to the conflict between them escalating (or them teaming up, whatever the movie in question is going for), or that they spend a lot of screen-time with the villain, so that we can see two opponents seizing each other up. But instead those characters share exactly one scene before the third act, two if you count the brief encounter between Batman and Superman. That’s it. The first time you watch the movie, it is as if you are watching three different ones which got shoehorned together somehow (with some tie-ins for future movies thrown in). During the second watch you at least know that a lot of what happens is orchestrated by Lex somehow off-screen, but that makes the experience barely better.


 

So, I have discussed the technical aspects and the plot, but what is with the actual themes? After all, a movie so stuffed with Jesus references and quotes should have something to say, right? Well, not really. I think that Dawn of Justice tries to say something, but whatever it is, it gets lost because most of the references are just that, meaningless imaginary which don’t really figure into a large theme, and the little bit the movie has to offer in this direction is undercut by the movie itself.

One example: Lex “reasoning” for creating doomsday is that if man (meaning Batman) can’t win against god (meaning Superman), the devil has to do it. Well, for one this goes against something he says earlier about the devil coming from the sky, but the bigger problem in this is that the very first thing the movie does is lifting Batman into the air, making him more than man.

Another example: As I said, I am not as down on the Martha scene as other people are, but I don’t think it works. What I think the writers is going for is that Batman suddenly realizes that Superman has a human element to it, that he does have a family he cares about and that he himself shouldn’t be the judge, jury and executioner for someone else. This whole idea is undercut twice, first by Batman making a sarcastic remark about Superman’s parents before the word Martha is uttered and then by Batman going to safe Martha by acting as judge, jury and executioner for a bunch of people. I guess he has learned his lesson about killing just as well as Superman did when he killed Zod, meaning not at all.

If this movie has a theme at all, then that fascism is a great thing. Now, all Superhero stories have a fascist element to it. After all, they tend to be about people with special abilities who use the power they have in order to enforce their will on other people, and they do so outside of any written law, but following their own set of rules. This context is not escapable, and the only way to deal with it, is to question the actions of the hero once in a while. The Senator actually has a point that Superman flying around the world doing whatever he wants is a problem. But this is a point of view which gets literally blown up in the movie and is replaced by Pa Kent’s not so uplifting story about rescuing the own farm on the expense of another one. Sure, actions often have unintended consequences. But that doesn’t mean that one should dismiss said consequences. But that is exactly what the movie ask the audience to do. Dismiss this guy in the wheelchair. Dismiss the question what a Superhero should be allowed to get away with. Dismiss all those people Batman killed or endangered. All this isn’t important, as long we can watch a long, manly brawl.


 

You might have noticed that I didn’t really address the “should Batman kill” question so far aside from pointing out that him doing so by the end of the movie undercuts the arc he kind of is supposed to have. Because that isn’t really important. Now, if I would write those movies, neither Batman nor Superman would kill. Superman wouldn’t smash people through two walls, he would show his superiority by solving problems like this without hurting anyone. And Batman would be the last person I would pick to assemble the Justice League, because I consider him a loner who is not keen of working with anyone, unless it is an impressionable teenager he can form after his own ideals. But all this is not really important for the question if this is a good movie or not. It would be important if the question were if this is a good adaptation, but since everything about it already fails on the most basic level, it is not a question I even have to consider. But then, perhaps the extended cut improves on the movie.


Later:  Well, it does in some regards, but not in others. The editing is a little bit more fluid, which makes this way less of a headache to watch, and I actually like Clark a little bit more in this version because he has some scenes which explain why he is so zoomed in on Batman. Him staying after the explosion makes a big difference in how I see his character. It is also helpful to know that the wheelchair had lead in it, even though this is yet another instance of the movie assuming that the audience is aware of a Superman weakness which never got established in this particular movie-verse.

On the other hand, though, Lex schemes just multiplied, because he is apparently also paying people in prison to kill criminals with the bat brand, and he sets up the home of wheelchair guy to make him look more guilty (though why he should go through all this effort makes no sense to me, isn’t the idea to frame Superman?).

Also, this cut officially kills of Jimmy Olsen. Why? It is a pointless event which does nothing but prevent any other writer from ever using one of the most important characters of the Superman stories.

All in all the extended cut makes the movie more watchable, but that’s it. It is still a horrible movie. I might even go so far to say that this is the worst Superhero movie of all time along with last years Fantfourstic and Catwoman. Oh, there are a lot of other movies with a lower production value, worse acting and more problems overall. But you know what those movies didn’t do? They didn’t try to lie to the audience. They didn’t pretend to have anything to say just to waste the time of the viewer with meaningless references. They didn’t advertise for the sequel in the middle of the third act. They didn’t spend an insane amount of money conning the audience into the belief that they will see a big event movie. And they are bad on a very simple level. I can easily sum up the problems with those movies in a few sentences. With Dawn of Justice I just wrote a long article, and I haven’t even touched some of the aspects I hate about it, like the toxic masculinity it idealises or the way Snyder rips off the work of famous artists for his praised cinematography. Dawn of Justice got a lot of attention, but the only attention it deserves is imho as an example how not to construct a script and put together a movie.

The good news is that I haven’t quite given up on the DCEU yet. I still hope that I might at least get a decent Wonder Woman movie out of this, if nothing else. Those movies which have different screenwriters and directors than Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice might end up being worth the watch. Hopefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Captain America Civil War and the Future of the MCU

I’ll hold this article back until the movie is out in the US, but I wanted to write down my thoughts while they are fairly fresh. I won’t do a review of the movie just yet, because, let’s face it, more or less everyone else is currently doing it. Instead I will talk about the repercussions of Civil War, what it means for Phase 3 and how I think Marvel should proceed in Phase 4. (In case this wasn’t clear, there will be spoilers from here onwards).

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Marvel Musings: The Five Most Emotional Scenes of Phase 1

To clarify this titles, this is not necessarily about the saddest moments, but about those scenes to which I have the greatest emotional response. The moments which made me sit up in my seat, bite my nails or, yes, break out in tears. The more of a roller coaster, the better. As usual, I tried to stick with one scene per movie though.

5. Iron Man 2: Tony watches the recordings of his father

It was surprisingly difficult to find a moment which really touched me on an emotional level in either The Incredible Hulk or Iron Man 2. The former movie does have a number of moments which should work for me, but don’t because I never managed to connect with the characters. And the latter movie is just not focussed enough to built up a scene properly and then linger on it as long as it should. This scene is the exception, though. I am usually not into daddy issues at all, because the trope is just used way too often. But I really liked how this movie portrayed the problems without spelling them out. There is Tony, who believes that his father never cared for him, and this old recording which reveals that Howard Stark was an alcoholic who struggled expressing his feelings and was pretty much a broken personality. In a way Howard is what Tony might become if he isn’t careful. I always wonder what else happened to turn the carefree Howard Stark we know from the Agent Carter era into this self-hating man. But seeing him loosing his control on camera just makes me so unbelievable sad, for him and for Tony, who never got to know Howard Stark before he was weighted down by regrets.

4. Thor: Loki confronts Odin

Thor is pretty much packed with dramatic scene. There is Thor trying to lift the hammer, Thor dying, Loki falling into the void, and yet, I ended up picking this scene, mostly because it is the most relevant of them all. Neither Thor nor Loki actually die and Thor gets his power back. But the knowledge that he is an ice giant and the self-loathing which comes with it, that will always be part of Loki’s character. And I can’t stop wishing that the revelation had been less traumatic.

3. The Avengers: Tony flies through the wormhole

 Again, there were a lot of moments to choose. I came close to picking the old man making his speech or Coulson’s death, but in the end, there was so much to love about this moment. There is the movie subverting an old trope by not allowing Tony to connect with Pepper in his “last moment”, there is Cap having to made the decision to close the worm hole and Black Widow having to follow the order and finally Hulk coming to an unexpected rescue. It is a rollercoaster of excitement.

2. Iron Man: Tony is found in the Desert

I always felt that Marvel could have ended Iron Man with Tony escaping from the cave and I would have been totally satisfied. I realize that the general audience would have been angry for not seeing Iron Man in action, but what makes the movie so good is in my eyes the first part, which shows Tony surviving against all odds. This passage turned a millionaire into an underdog the audience can root for. When he stumbles through the desert and suddenly Rhodey turns up, I feel the elation of the characters, and when Tony then breaks down crying, I want to reach through the screen and hug him, too.

1. Captain America, The First Avenger: Steve and Peggy’s Goodbye

This one won by a mile. The only question was if I should pick that one or the moment when Steve wakes up in the present. But then, those moments kind of belong together. Steve waking up in the future would be only half as effective, if we didn’t know what he left behind. His last interaction with Peggy, hinting at everything which could have been and got cut short by his sacrifice, that is what makes this moment. And I feel that heart-break all over again when his first reaction to the realisation that he is in the future is “I had a date.” I am not a fan of time travel, but if it means that Steve and Peggy at least get that dance, I would get behind it in a heartbeat, even though I intellectually know that Marvel should never go back on what they did to Steve and Peggy. It would cheapen the scene.

 

So, hopefully I’ll manage to cover Phase 2 over the weekend. If not, well, next Wednesday I’ll watch Civil war. I expect me to be all obsessed with it, judging by the reviews. Either that or I will be shattered because my expectations were too high.  In any case, it will delay me writing about anything else for a while.


Marvel Musings: The Ten Worst Decisions of Phase 2

Somehow this ended up more a long article than a top ten list. Most of the problems in Phase 2 are simply to complex to explain them in a few sentences. Overall, though this was surprisingly difficult, mostly because Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy are so good movies, that I would need to go very nit-picky to criticise them. Same with the first season of Agent Carter. But I finally found ten decisions which didn’t really work out in Phase 2:

10. Agent Carter, Season 1: The Marketing

It would be a lie to claim that the Marketing for the Marvel movies during the first two phases was particularly inspiring.

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Don’t you think that you should have changed up the poses at least a little bit?

 

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I am blue, not red. That is totally different!

 

It usually got its job done, but the floating heads, the questionable “woman leans into man” poses, the by the numbers trailers, would have failed to create any interest in a property which the audience isn’t already predisposed to care for. Which is why the marketing for Agent Carter turned out to be particularly problematic. Haley Atwell is awesome, but Captain America The First Avenger is a criminally underrated movie within the MCU, and there are always enough people who can’t imagine that the story centred around a love interest could be any good. Spoiler Alert: Those people were wrong. But it certainly didn’t help that Marvel used the worst tag-line ever in the trailer (“Sometime the right man for the job is a woman.”), and laid it on thick with the feminism theme.

Now, some will claim that this is a proper description of what the show is about (though I would argue that it is less about promoting feminism and more about acknowledging sexism, which isn’t exactly the same thing), but it nevertheless left the impression that the show is a kind of apology for not giving the fans the Black Widow movie they want so badly. Above all though it did nothing to convince the audience that this is more than a little side-dish which one might deign to taste if it is ever shown on Netflix. What it should have done is convincing the audience that this is an event, the first female lead Comic book show since the god-awful Birds of Prey, as well as an exploration of the past of the MCU, including Tony Starks roots.

But the marketing failed to create the appropriate hype. As a result, Agent Carter never got the love it deserved. Oh, the first season was critically highly acclaimed, and Peggy Carter herself became immediately an Icon. I am sure we will see her blue dress and red hat on Comic cons for years to come. But there is still a sizeable number of people, including MCU fans, who have never seen just one episode. Which is too bad. Because it is a show worth watching.

9. Daredevil, Season 1: Fisk defeating himself

I wasn’t exactly as enamoured of Wilson Fisk in the first season of Daredevil as a lot of other fans were. I certainly saw the potential in the character, but for me the one thing I really need of a villain is that he has to terrify me. But I was never sure who the true mastermind actually was, Wesley or Fisk. Fisk’s hold on Hell’s kitchen often seemed flimsy, mostly based on the power the other crime lords gave to him for some never explained reason. This impression was underlined by the fact that in the end, all the efforts to collect evidence against him seems to be pretty useless (especially since in the case of Karen, Ben and Foggy, the process often involves trying to find information either Daredevil has already uncovered or the audience already knows). The only thing which was needed all along was Fisk loosing his temper and wrecking his allies so that eventually the right person would flip on the syndicate. Hallelujah.

8. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2: Side-lining Trip

Some fans would say that killing Trip was the big mistake of Season 2. I was actually largely okay with the decision in itself, though the fact that his death didn’t accomplish anything does rank a little bit. I also don’t think that it established a “dangerous pattern”, since the show is more or less an equal opportunity killer (the only ones safe seem to be the original six actors – their characters suffer in different ways) and the show runners could not know that Daredevil and Jessica Jones would both go ahead and kill the black older character in the show. My main issue with his death was that the character was barely present in the episodes beforehand anyway. Which is too bad. Him being the grandson of a Howling Commander could have allowed way more interesting angles than just him providing some nifty gadgets. And since we barely got to know him anyway, his passing didn’t cause much anguish in the end.

7. Jessica Jones, Season 1: Robyn

I am usually not into over-the-top violence. I am pretty much convinced that there are few stories which require going all graphic. Nevertheless  I liked the Netflix-shows we got so far. But both of them have some serious plotting problems which lead into disappointing third acts. In Jessica Jones, this is partly due to the fact that she has Killgrave under her control multiple times but decides not to kill him, and only one of those times Killgrave manages to escape through careful planning. That the third escape is the result of a giant coincidence doesn’t help at all. Ant this coincidence ties back to one particular character.

I know that Robyn isn’t meant to be endearing (she practically says it herself). I know that she is supposed to be annoying. I am not sure if her relationship to Ruben was supposed to be as off-putting creepy as it was, but I guess they did get the point across that caring too much for a person can just be as damaging as the opposite. But while I do understand the concept, I think the execution added a very dissonant element to the show. Especially Robyn is like fingernails on chalk board every time she turns up. That she is the one who frees Killgrave the third time Jessica has managed to capture him is just the spoiled cherry on a smelling top.

6. Ant-Man: Keeping Edgar Wright too long on the project

The movie we didn’t get tends to be the better one in our minds. So it is no surprise that a lot of people bemoan the fact that we never got Edgar Wright’s Ant-man. I am not sure if he was even the right man for the job in the first place, considering that what most people love about the Ant-man comic is usually the Wasp, and if there is one thing Edgar Wright doesn’t have, it’s a record of writing compelling female characters (or giving females any room in his movie at all).

But in a way this is a useless discussion. What we got, was a really good movie. Which could have been even better if it’s director hasn’t been forced to jump into the work of someone else, rewriting the script during production and rushing the movie out in an insane short time for a special effect heavy piece like this in order to meet the planned release date. In the end the vision of the two directors does clash in the movie. And the whole thing could have been avoided if Marvel hadn’t patiently waited for Wright to wrap up the other projects he was interested in, but had insisted on a reasonable schedule. Who knows, if they had done that we might have gotten the Wasp as one of the founding members of the Avengers. Maybe not. But the movie would have certainly been way more cohesive overall.

Watching this movie I have always the felling that Wright wanted to make a movie about the relationship between mentor and mentee (hence the villain being a former mentee of Hank Pym) while Peyton Reed wanted to discuss the relationship between fathers and daughters as well as transporting the idea that Superheroes don’t fight for the world, but to make said world a better place for the people they care about. The two ideas are kind of wrestling with each other for screen-time. And I think that could have been avoided if Marvel had not waited ages for Edgar Wright to finally get the project off the ground.

5. All movies and shows: Lack of diversity

I decided to put this one in the middle, because this is an important issue, it is also something Marvel is clearly working on. Plus, while I am an advocate for more diversity and a better portrayal of females in the media, the lack of the former is not necessarily impacting the quality of the movies in itself and the latter has been a problem for decades which won’t vanish from one day to another. Marvel has made baby steps in the right direction though.

We got two female lead TV-shows in Phase two, and more shows and movies with diverse characters are in the works. There is also Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which has an unusual high ratio of diverse characters for a network show, instead of the usual token characters. On the other hand though, there are places at which Marvel could have done better. For example the Netflix shows are overwhelmingly white and have this unfortunate habit to kill of the old, black character on top of it. With Daredevil this turns into a true problem, because the show is full of criminals of different ethnicities (and stereotypical behaviour), but we have yet to see a mayor Asian character on any Netflix show which wasn’t some sort of villain.

Now, Marvel had a good excuse in Phase 1 because they needed to establish the universe with the best-known characters they had, and those are all white males due to the time during which most of those stories were written. Marvel’s more diverse franchise, the X-Men, is sadly firmly under the control of Fox. But now that the Marvel brand alone is enough to get the attention of the audience, it is time to do better wherever possible.

4. Thor, The Dark World: Tying the story Back to Earth

One of the most common question which was asked during Phase 2 was “where are the other Avengers?”. If there is one franchise in which this shouldn’t have been an issue, it’s the Thor Franchise. I really don’t get it. There is this impressive alien world we haven’t explored at all. And yet, we keep going back to earth. Why so complicated? Why not starting the movie with the bifrost being repaired and Thor going back to earth, inviting Jane to Asgard? Not only would making her the eye of the audience have given her character a purpose, there would have also been no need for all the contrivances needed to tie her into the plot. When I was watching the movie, I am actually very invested in the world and in everything involving Loki. But whenever it cut back to earth I was immediately annoyed. I just hope that the third movie will stay as far away from earth as possible.

3. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 1: Rushing the Team Building

It is common wisdom that Marvel’s first attempt at television started utterly mediocre. But the opinions differ what actually went wrong. Was it the lack of actual comic book characters? Partly, since a lot of people had unrealistic expectations in this regard, but I think it is mostly that the characters which were presented to us were not properly fleshed out until the end of the first season. The writers just portrayed them in the broadest strokes possible and expected the audience to be invested in them.

I think most of the problems within the first season steamed from the second episode. So, we have this team, consisting of the two cocky scientists, the two mysterious specialists and the new kid on the block stepping into the world of spies. So far, so good. Perfect opportunity to allow the characters to get to know each other step by step, with the usual conflicts which happen when different personalities clash with each other. But nope, that takes too much time. Let’s throw the team into danger and declare them a team because they survived together so that we can get to the “fun” stuff. Problem: The fun stuff isn’t much fun if you don’t care for the characters involved in it. And you won’t care for the characters if you don’t know them.

The show rectified this problem towards the end of the season. It wasn’t even that complicated to make the first step. Just put all the characters into a lie detector, ask them some question and based on the different answers the audience gets a read on them. This fairly simple scene made me understand the characters more than anything which came beforehand.

The sad thing is that this mistake caused a lot of people to drop a show which is just getting better and better. At this stage I think it is as good as the Netflix shows – just in a very different way. It’s exactly the right mixture of drama and fun, but without going all melodramatic about it as most shows nowadays do. I never rued that I gave the show second chance.

2. Age of Ultron: Too many arcs

Okay, this will be a long explanation, ending into an equally long rant. But first, a question: What are the parts of Age of Ultron people normally like? Well, the party scene, the farm scene, the Hawkeye during the last battle, the final confrontation between Vision and Ultron. And what are the scenes which are usually disliked? The romance and the mystical bathing pool. What have the last two in common? They are an attempt of giving characters some sort of arc while setting up future movies. And they are not needed. At all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed of characters having an arc – if it serves the overall story. When I watch an Avengers movie, I don’t do it because I expect some ground-breaking character development (that’s what the stand-alone movies are for), quite the opposite in fact. I watch it, because I want to see the characters I already know interact with each other, I want to know what they think of each other and how they react to each other quirks. The party scene works so well because it gives me exactly that, a measuring up between the different characters. The farm scene works so well, because it gives the characters some downtime to come to terms with their defeat – and then starts to drag because the romance rears its ugly head.

Yeah, I am one of those fans, who were fuming about this particular plot point in the movie. At this point common wisdom has apparently decided that those who had an issue with this were overreacting and/or obsessive feminists. But I frankly don’t care. I have some serious issues with the way Black Widow is portrayed in the movie, which all boil down to “for some reason Joss Whedon started to write her as a female character instead of simply a character”, but in the end, the whole romance doesn’t do Bruce Banner any favours either. The main issue with this arc is that it doesn’t really tie into the actual main arc of the movie. It is a distraction, which takes the viewer regularly out of the story. Sure, Hawkeye gets a lot of character development in this movie, but it all ties into the main arc. The romance doesn’t. It is just a useless filler. As is Thor’s hot tub myth machine.

Sure, both arcs have some kind of pay-off. The romance ends with Natasha forcing Bruce to Hulk out and Thor comes back with the conviction that yes, the Avengers really need to create Vision. In both cases, though, you could have had the same scenes with less complications. Bruce certainly doesn’t need a romance in order to make the decision “maybe I should leave the Avengers”. During this movie he first helps Tony to create a dangerous robot and then looses control of the Hulk to such a degree that he wrecks the city. He has already ample reason to believe that maybe he should stop being close to the Avengers. The whole scene with Black Widow forcing him to Hulk out, it could have happened without the romance and imho, it would have made the betrayal even worse if Natasha had done it not as his love interest, but as a member of the Avengers betraying his wishes for the greater good. In the end, the romance arc diminishes a potential powerful storyline involving betrayal within a close knit team.

And Thor? My only comment to this is: Why so complicated? Why does Thor need to go to Selvig in order to take a bath at some strange place in order to have a vision? Why can’t he simply visit Heimdall, who then tells him that yes, there are Infinity stones popping up left and right, and they now apparently deal with another one?

So, let’s imagine we had made this changes. No awkward flirting between an attractive woman and a guy who is nearly old enough to be her father and unable to have sex to boot. No mystic pool. Instead a lot of time to spend on the twins and their interaction with the Avengers. I for sure would have taken one talk between Natasha and Wanda over all the nonsense they did with her character in the movie.

1. Iron Man 3: The last twenty minutes

I have complained about this before, specifically about Tony getting rid of his arc reactor and why I consider this problematic. But that is only one of the numerous problems which pile up in the finale of Iron Man 3. There were some minor issues with the movie beforehand, but this is the point at which it falls apart. Tony’s army of robots turn up, begging the question why Tony didn’t bother to activate them when his house got attacked. Though most likely they wouldn’t have been useful anyway, considering how easily they get destroyed in the final battle. But the real insult is Tony healing Pepper in a short narration. No movie can get away with piling up conflict and problems and then solving them by basically saying “yeah, the main character took care of that”. No one. Not to mention that Tony being able to remove his arc reactor in an operation makes him look even more stupid in the second movie, in which he is dying because of it. Iron Man 3 is mostly an okay movie in my eyes. A little bit too ambitious for its own good, but I liked what it tried to do. The last 20 minutes make my blood boil, though. There is nothing redeemable about this hot mess.

Okay, this became quite a long article. I guess I will do something more fluffy and less wordy the next time around. Perhaps the most emotional scenes?


Marvel Musings: The Five Worst Decisions in Phase 1

So before I go back to gushing over the MCU, here are the aspects which I didn’t like about the movies. Note that I didn’t call this the “worst moments”. I could have done a list like this, too, but I asked myself: What are the things I would have improved, if I had a say, what are the decisions which had a negative impact during the whole movie? Thus said…I decided early on that The Incredible Hulk will not be placed on this list. The only way to rescue this one would have been to redo it from the scratch, with a different idea and a different cast. And yes, I know that some people really like this movie, but I feel that it is mostly incredible boring. This list will (just like the others) be highly subjective because what I hated, others might have loved. In fact, I am pretty sure that I will get a lot of disagreements on this one. Nevertheless, here it goes:

5. The First Avenger: Casting Hugo Weaving

I already hear the outcry. Hugo Weaving is after all very popular with a lot of nerds. I never really understood that because he is one of those actors which don’t impress me at all. I usually don’t mind him,  but his performance as Red Skull always felt very “off” to me. I couldn’t really figure it out until I read a couple of interviews with him and realized that he interpreted the role as stereotypical evil Nazi. But, well, that’s not how the Red Skull is written. Oh, he is a Nazi, no question there, but his character doesn’t stop there. Looking at the script and not the performance, he is basically the Evil Queen of Snow White, insanely jealous of Cap getting what he sees as his own right. At the same time, though, convinced of his own superiority. Him also being a Nazi is in a way the least interesting aspect of his personality (though it naturally informs it). It is perhaps unfair to blame Huga Weaving that none of this is truly reflected in his performance. It is, after all, partly the job of the director to ensure that the actor has a clear grasp on the character. Nevertheless, I feel that another actor with a different take on the role would have done a better job.

4.  The Avengers: Isolated Thor

 I give Whedon a lot of credit for the way he managed to balance all the Avengers, allowing them to interact with each other. With one notable exception: Outside of the fighting scenes, Thor is only kind of there. At no point he has a proper conversation with Tony or Cap or Bruce. I usually would have chalked this up to his screen time mostly being tied up with Loki, but then Age of Ultron rolled around and Thor is isolated yet again. And yes, I am aware that there were demands of the studio concerning the tie-ins, but even outside of this Thor is mostly there for comic relief, while everyone else has a proper arc. Which brought me to the conclusion that Whedon simply didn’t really know what to do with him. It will be interesting to see how the Russo Brothers will handle him in Infinity War.

3. Iron Man: Stane going crazy

Two thirds of Iron Man are really good. But in the last third the movie kind of goes off the rails. Or, to be precise, Stane does. Up to this point he is portrayed as this clever scheming business guy (not that I ever trusted him). But then he suddenly decides to pilot a suit and attack Tony for  – reasons? His motivation or plan stops making sense at this point, and the only reason for his actions seems to be that the movie needs some villain to fight in the last act.

2. Thor: Doctor Selvig

Yes, I know, Doctor Selvig is usually liked. And to be honest, I don’t mind the character in itself. In another movie, he would be an entertaining character. But in Thor (actually in every movie he turns up safe for The Avengers) he is a pointless addition and useless distraction. Just think about it, what would happen if Doctor Selvig were no present in Thor? Well, instead of Jane trying to convince him that Norse mythology might have a true core, we could have Darcy trying to convince Jane to broaden her view, making the interaction between both characters way richer. Instead of him convincing Coulson to let Thor go, we could have Jane helping him out. Instead of him having a highly sexist conversation with Thor (Jane’s love life is really none of his business, he isn’t her father, and even if he were, she is a grown woman. This condescending BS has to end!), we could have Thor and Jane talking about why Thor actually did to get expelled and her providing a different point of view on that matter, tying Thor’s redemption arc properly into their romance. There are a lot of reasons why Thor and Jane don’t really work as a pairing. One of the main reasons though is the fact that Selvig tends do things which Jane could do just as well, making her a less fleshed out character with less agency then she could be. (Not to mention that it is kind of insulting that the one female scientist main character in the MCU is also the only one, who needs a mentor to hold her hand).

1. Iron Man 2: The stupid bird!

Okay, that is not fair. The bird is only a symptom of what went wrong with the movie. But it is the element which annoys me the most. It is weak attempt to give the villain more background, but I don’t think that villains need a particularly fleshed out background. They only need a convincing motivation and a good plan. Whiplash has the former, but not the latter. His plan makes as much sense as him requesting the bird from Russia. If he really cares that much about the bird, why didn’t he ensure that it is properly cared for? Or is he just trolling Justin Hammer? Who, btw, is the sole reason Vanko even made it out of prison. Without this stroke of luck, he would have sit there, basking in the fact that he made a guy bleed who he knew was already dying anyway. Yay? I think that the script of Iron Man 2 could have worked with a couple of rewrites. But the first act should have been to scratch the bird. It’s a stupid running gag, which keeps reminding me that nothing in this movie makes sense (it is still a fun watch, though).

 Well, those are my thoughts on that matter. Which flaws bothered you the most? Next time I will cover Phase 2 and then we will go back to more positive thoughts.


Marvel Musings: The Best Action Scenes of Phase 2

I have to say that I felt that most of the action in Phase 1 was okay. Enjoyable, rarely boring, but action beats which I would feel compelled to watch over and over were rare. Phase 2 is another matter though. The action suddenly became, for the lack of a better word, creative. In Phase 1 I was entertained by the movies despite not being a big fan of action. In Phase 2 I started to specifically rewatch certain action scenes because I loved them so much. It’s not because I have suddenly discovered my interest in explosions, but because the movies started to offer more than that. Much more. So let’s take a look at the

Ten best action scenes:

10. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Season 3: Coulson’s Portal jump

This scene is simultaneous awesome and totally ridiculous. For the poor souls who have given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  too early: Hydra has opened a portal to another planet and sends a team through. Coulson, who is really out for blood in this episode, jumps out of a plane under fire and manages to hit the opening in the ground spot on, is catapulted into the air on the other side and ends up rolling down a ditch, hitting his head. After an episode which was incredible tense, it was the perfect ending point. A fist-pump combined with a big “oh sh….”.

9. Thor, The Dark World: Switching through the convergence

There isn’t really much which works for me in Thor the Dark World. But I have to give it to the writers: The idea for the final battle is very creative. Especially the part with Thor’s hammer having to take the scenic route in order to reach him again. If I would care more for all the people involved in it, this one would be way higher. As it is, it gets points for thinking out of the box.

8. Age of Ultron: Taking out Baron von Strucker’s base

As important as the Battle of Sokovia is, as an action beat it mostly left me cold. It felt too much like a repeat of The Avengers. The best moments are happening more in-between the actual action beats, like Thor distracting Ultron, Captain and Natasha deciding to fight until the last minute even if it means their death, Hawkeye talking to Wanda and especially Vision confronting Ultron. Iron Man vs the Hulk Buster was a little bit too long and self-indulgent for my taste. The very first battle, though, was close to perfect. The way the Avengers are fighting with each other shows from the very first moment how close the team has grown between movies. The call-back to The Avengers when Thor hits Cap’s, but this time around in order to take out the enemy, is perfect. As is the moment when Cap just grabs his bike and throws it into the attackers.

7. Ant-Man: Ant-man vs Falcon

One thing which is sometimes a problem in Marvel movies, is that the writers tend to pin fighters with similar abilities against each other. In two of three movies Tony is fighting a guy in a suit, Steve always goes up against another person with Super-serum perks, Gamora fights Nebula aso. It is therefore very refreshing to see two characters with a totally different set of abilities have a go at each other in a fairly detailed fight. Poor Falcon though. How do you deal with an enemy, you barely see coming? But if anything put across that Ant-man is not just a joke, than this moment.

6. Agent Carter, Season 1: Dotty scaling down the stairway

The fight scenes in Agent Carter don’t tend to be very fancy, mostly because Peggy’s style is very direct – meaning she tends to grab the next heavy object in order to smash it in someone face. Which is awesome because I am kind of tired of female fighters having to do those flips all the time. I have to admit though, the scene in which Dotty was scaling down the stairway in an acrobatic act was awesome!

5. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Season 2: The Sacrifice of the BUS

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really ramped it up in the second season. There are countless great fight scenes for Bobbi, May and even Daisy gets her moment to shine. But the moment which stuck out to me the most was this one: The team intends to infiltrate a base. They do so by flying into the danger zone with a larger plane (the so called BUS) and a smaller plane on top. The BUS is destroyed and May flies the smaller plane to the ground, pretending to be part of the debris. It is not like the audience sees a lot of the fancy flying. This is still a TV show on budgets restrains, so it is shown exactly as much as needed so that the audience understands what is going on. But for some reason showing the characters in the plane makes the scene even more tense. The moment also works on an emotional level. The BUS was the main base of the team in the first season. In this episode the original six characters are on a mission together again – for one last time. The destruction of the BUS is a reminder that there will be no going back to the beginning. The team we got to know in the beginning is gone, and will never be again. But it got send off with a bang.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Battle for Xandar

To ruin my geek cred for good: I am not a big Star wars fan. What bores me the most about this franchise (and Star Trek for that matter), is what most fans love the most:  The space battles. I usually don’t really get invested in a bunch of models or CGU ships firing BS laser at each other. It always looks the same, and it rarely feels real for me. But in Guardians of the Galaxy, I enjoyed every single action scene, including the space battles. I think mostly because it was so much more than just ships in some sort of vacuum firing at each other. That is especially evident in the battle of Xandar. The flying under the explosion, having to evade the attackers in order to reach the main ship and the blockade which is formed in the end in order to keep the Dark Aster from reaching the ground, every moment in this is so not what I have come to expect from a space battle. It helps that the fighting in the air is interrupted by scenes from the ground, and the battle within the ship. Not to mention the emotional moment when the Dark Aster finally crashes towards earth. I can watch this again, and again, and again.

3. Iron Man 3: Skydiving Stunt

I already hinted it when I wrote about phase 1, but most fighting scenes with Iron Man leave me pretty cold. He is always either walking through the crossfire or making those fancy flying moves, but in the end, it is always about shooting a tank missile in the right direction. But this scene is really tense. For one, it really feels like a situation in which Iron Man could fail. He might not be able to reach all the falling people in time, they might end up being too heavy for him, but he does it in the end. The scene is so well done, I am even able to forgive that it wasn’t him at all in the end.

2. Daredevil, Season 1: The Hallway fight

What else? This scene has become legendary. And for good reasons. This is the antithesis of fake CGI action. The set-up is actually fairly simply, one guy fighting his way through a group of gangsters. But the way it is shot, from the stark yellow light to the seemingly lack of cuts (there actually are some, but they are well-hidden) while the camera moves up and down the hallway, makes it stand out immediately. But the choreography is the icing of the cake. The way how Daredevil becomes visible more exhausted during the fight, how the goons fall down but trying to stand up again after a while, every detail in this just works. And that it is done on a Netflix budget makes it even more impressive.

1. Captain America, The Winter Soldier: The Elevator Scene

It is a good thing that I have a “one per movie or Season” rule, or this movie would have made up half of the list. Ever – single – action – scene in this one is awesome. And I was very close to picking the battle on the bridge, because of the emotional pay-off and the fancy knife-work in the hand-to-hand combat. It’s those details which make a scene like this special. But in the end, it is hard to beat out the elevator scene. First you have the tense built-up. The way more and more people enter the elevator, while Cap notices a number of small details which tell him that something is off, ramps up the expectation that something will happen. And then the fighting starts, with Cap having to take out a whole group of agents with fancy gadget trying to capture him. Similiar to the Hallway fight in Daredevil, this one is personal and intense. Though my favourite is the shot from above at the end, showing him standing between the bodies of the fallen enemies. It’s simply perfection from start to finish.

I have spend now so much time praising the MCU, I am starting to think that I should criticise it a little bit more. So the next two lists will be about my least favourite elements of the MCU.


Marvel Musings: The Best Action Scenes of Phase 1

Yeah, I decided to go for action first. I guess I should start with a small disclaimer: I am not the type of person who is satisfied with a lot of destruction and cool special effects. In fact, there is nothing worse for me than a movie which offers nothing but that. Nothing more boring than an action scene which goes on for too long – though too long is relative. Sometimes five minutes can be too long, sometimes I can still be entertained after half an hour if an action scene is well-made. So, don’t be too surprised if I don’t necessarily go for the big action scenes:

5. Hulk vs Abomination

The Incredible Hulk is not a movie which will ever get a lot of love from me. There are a number of issues I have with it, but not necessarily more I have with some of the other early Marvel offerings. But it is a monster movie. I think that monster movies are boring. Jurassic Park might be the one exception, and even that is not a movie I would be keen to watch again and again (yeah, I know, I am not a proper nerd). Thus said though, the final battle scene is pretty cool. I certainly take it over most of Iron Man flying around (with some exceptions, but that is a topic for phase 2).

4. Thor vs. SHIELD

I guess everyone else would pick one of the more big scale action scenes on Thor. But to me, this is the one I got the most invested in, simply because of narrative behind it. Sometimes a smaller scale delivers a better pay-off, and in this case the pay off is Thor trying to lift his hammer, while Clint Barton is ready to shoot him the moment Coulson gives an order. I guess I experienced the scene differently than die hard comic book fans. I didn’t realize what the cameo meant back then, I just thought that the remarks he made were funny. The whole set-up lamp-shaded something which has always bothered me in a lot of action movies. If there is a guy fighting through a bunch of goons in a more or less open room, why don’t you simply shoot him from afar? So they already won me over there. But when Thor finally reaches his hammer that was easily the first time I actually felt for him in this movie. (What? He was an annoying brat beforehand and strangely unbothered by being cast out).

3. Black Widow vs. goons

In a way, this is the opposite for Thor scene, because this is hand-to-hand combat in a location, in which a shot from afar isn’t that easy to take. And seeing Black Widow move smoothly through a bunch of goons, not pulling her punches in the slightest, is a welcome change from the usual Iron Man action, which is usually very low on direct confrontations. As much as everyone is harping about the inclusion of Black Widow into Iron Man, this was the scene which made it worth it. At least for me. (Could have done without the “sexy crouching pose” though)

2. Cap jumps over the explosion

The First Avenger is barely mentioned when it comes to action. I guess because most of the action scenes are either pretty simple  in the sense of them being more about Steve running through the streets, or they are part of the montage. The movie also rarely lingers on an action packed moment, unless it is for a money shot. But then, for someone like me, this is perfect. There is certainly no danger of an action scene in The First Avenger overstaying its welcome.But the moment which gets my attention every single time is Bucky and Steve trying to escape the burning facility. The fight shortly beforehand, when Cap confronts the Red Scull the first time is kind of pathetic. But the scene after? When Bucky first has to walk over the small make-shift bridge and then encourages Steve to jump? It’s very old school adventure movie suspense, but it works on me every single time.

1. Battle of New York

What else? This deserves the credit for the fact alone that it is a half an hour long action scene (at least) and yet, I was never bored by it. I think what I like the most about it is how it showcases the different abilities of the Avengers. After that scene nobody will ask why exactly Cap is the leader, he obviously has a tactical mind. Between Hulk taking out the giant alien ship, the group shot and “puny god” this action sequence is full of memorable moments. But what I like the most is that this battle is as much about protecting the people on the ground and limiting the damage on a very specific section of the city as it is about taking out the enemy. The camera often takes the perspective of the people on the ground, instead of taking in explosions from afar, like a lot of action movies do.

All in all, Marvel started pretty well, action-wise. In a way, each movie got a little bit better in this regard. Especially The Avengers. If there is one aspect in which the movie shines, it is the action. Especially in the way how every action-scene is about more than just action. Each of them also tells the audience something about the characters in question. I think you could watch just the action scenes of the movie, and you would nevertheless have a pretty good idea of the characters involved. That is the kind of writing which makes action work even for someone like me, who needs more than explosions to be satisfied.


Marvel Musings: The Most Defining Scenes of Phase 2

I have thought a long time where I should make the cut between Phase 2 and 3. It is easy with the movies, Phase 3 starts with Civil War. But the TV shows? Does the third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. belong to Phase 2 or 3? I finally decided that everything which aired before 2016 is Phase 2 and everything after it Phase 3.  So, Phase 2 includes in my eyes Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, the first seasons of Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones as well as Season 1, 2 and the first half of Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But before I list the most defining scenes of this phase, I have a dishonourable mention:

Iron Man 3 : Tony throwing away his arc reactor

I already mentioned in my last article good and bad consequences. Tony being forced to live with the arc reactor in his chest was one a great consequence, a constant reminder of what his weapons can do. And Iron Man 3 just took it away! Forget the Mandarin, this is the true crime of this movie. Because if a consequence like this can just be reversed in a fast narration, what is the point of anything? Imho, this is the single worst decision which was ever made within the MCU.

But enough ranting, let’s talk about the good stuff. Here are the ten most defining moments of Phase 2 (be warned, there will be spoilers):

10. Ant-Man: Thomas the Tank Engine

The MCU spend Phase 2 with final fights which just got bigger. Iron Man suddenly had an army of robots as back-up, Thor was jumping through the convergence, Age of Ultron lifted a whole city into the air – it seemed like the only direction for the MCU was up. And then Ant-man came around and went small (pun intended). Pulling back from the big battles to more personal stakes gave the MCU the breathing room it needed. And nothing stands more for this approach than having a fight in the bedroom of a little girl, with Thomas the Tank Engine as special guest.

9. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3: Coulson “kills” Ward

Biggest mistake ever! Coulson had the change to destroy Hive once and for all. The only thing he had to do was to forget his revenge and haul Ward back through the portal, bringing him to justice instead. Now he has unleashed a monster on the world. The only thing this event isn’t higher on the list is because it will most likely not impact anything else but the show.

8. Agent Carter: Peggy walking down the street

Welcome in the past, with an image, which summoned up the theme of the first season perfectly. Peggy walking in the opposite direction of a crowd dressed in in a costume which instantly became eponymous  for her with its blue, white and red colour palette symbolically summons up the struggles of her life. Always on her own path, stepping to her own tune, paving the way for S.H.I.E.L.D. – and for the Avengers. After all, it was Nick Fury who brought them together.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lords Dance

Guardians of the Galaxy was not only the surprise hit of Phase 2, it was also the first step into the space-verse of the MCU. And nothing defines the movie and this corner of the universe as well as Peter Quill dancing his way to a hidden treasure, using alien vermin as microphone.

6: Daredevil: Matt takes out people smuggler

The Netflix shows opened up yet another corner of the MCU, one for the gritty street-level heroes. And the first scene set the tone for it. Bloody, brutal and a hero which walked away with a number of bruises, there was no doubt that this would be different from everything which came beforehand after this scene. The show gets bonus points for showing how the Battle of New York impacted the community.

5. Age of Ultron: The Battle of Sokovia

Maybe it should be higher, but I guess there will be more than one element which causes the Civil War. But at this point the battle already was referenced in Ant-man and impacted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the now more negative view on heroes and gifted.

4. Thor, The Dark World: Loki replacing Odin

With any other villain, this would only be half as interesting. But Loki is one of the most unpredictable characters in the MCU. What is his plan? What happened to Odin? And why did he send Sif to Earth twice since he has taken the throne? All questions which will be hopefully answered in the next Thor-Movie.

3. Captain America, The Winter Soldier: Bucky is alive

Not exactly a big surprise for avid Comic book readers, but let me tell you, for the general audience this came pretty much out of the left field. “Who the hell is Bucky?” is one of the most memorable lines in the MCU. And it practically rewrote history. Did Bucky kill Kennedy? Howard Stark? What exactly did he do while he was under Hydra’s control? And what will happen now that he has broken through the conditioning? Not to mention that he will apparently cause the rift between Steve and Tony.  

2. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 : The Fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. / Ward is Hydra

Okay, it might be slightly cheating to give the show credit for something which happened in the movie (thus allowing me to put the other important twist in The Winter Soldier on the list), but those two events are too closely connected to each other to not consider them one. Plus, it is one thing to intellectually know that S.H.I.E.L.D. will never the same again, and another thing to see everything falling apart up close. When Ward turned out to be a traitor, nobody saw it coming, even though it made sense. And having Hydra back in the picture provided a string of compelling villains.

1. Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2: The Terrigen is released into the Ocean

It is kind of odd that THE big event in the MCU happened in the TV-show and not in the movies, but here we are. Even though the movies will most likely never officially acknowledge it, here is one of the main reasons why there is a sudden influx on super-powered people in the MCU. Supposedly Doctor Strange will be the last origin story, but we won’t need them anymore either way. There is no longer the need to make up strange accidents or experiments (though no doubt those will still happen), fishoil pills are now the to-go reason for Superpowers. Kind of goofy, but also very fitting. And a good preparation for the Inhumans movie, even though that one will most likely stand-alone, too.

Well, this was a little bit more difficult than the first list, mostly because some of the impact was difficult to gauge just yet. Next list will be easier. I will either go for best action or most emotional moment – feel free to tell me what you want to see first.