Monthly Archives: February 2016

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.

Marvel Musings: The Most Defining Scenes of Phase 1

I is always difficult to do Top Ten lists of an ongoing series, because as long as new content is added, it will always be subject to change. Thankfully the MCU has this handy little Phases. So I start with Phase 1. And I’ll use a handy tool to do so: Top Five lists. Yes, Top Five, not Top Ten. I’ll do Top Tens once I reach Phase 2, but since Phase 1 consists of exactly six movies (Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers), I think Top Five lists will provide exactly the right groundwork, especially since every movie is allowed to provide exactly one moment. And I am starting with the five most defining scenes of phase.

To clarify, with “most defining” I mean those scenes which define the movie in question, preferable scenes are both memorable, as well as having a big impact in the universe. And you might have guessed it: The incredible Hulk didn’t make the list. Of all the MCU movies, it is the one which can be skipped most easily. If not for General Ross turning up again in Civil War, I would claim that nothing in it carried actually over to later movies. But let’s see what the other movies have to offer.

The Five Most Defining Scenes of Phase 1:

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

Now, the picture I connect the most with this movie is Tony sitting in the donut (yeah, that says more or less all about it). But the moment I think resonates the most within the universe is this one. Tony’s complicated relationship with his father was already hinted to in the first movie, but here the MCU opens a whole can of worms. But even more, it opens a door to the past. The MCU would feel way smaller if not for the sense that behind everything we see on screen, there is a rich history behind it. And Howard Stark is the first link to this history, being one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. I don’t think that they will address it in Civil War, but he is also one of the elements which split Steve and Tony apart. For Steve, Howard Stark is a friend, someone who fought by his side. For Tony, Howard Stark is the guy who always ignored him, and who gave him a legacy of death. In a way, he is the embodiment of the fact that every story has more than one angle.

4. Thor / Loki lets go

I could also simply say “Loki” because to this day, he is the biggest unsolved mystery in the MCU, and it all started with this moment. Sure, he spends the whole movie pulling off a convoluted plan in a desperate attempt to get attention from his (adoptive) father.

3. Captain America: The First Avenger / Steve wakes up in the future

Currently there is (again) this discussion going on which Avenger should die in the upcoming movie. I think that death is the most boring of all consequences. After all, if a character is death, his story is over, right? But what happens to Steve is one of the most compelling of all consequences. The world he knew has vanished and he has now to deal with a century with an entirely different outlook on war and heroics. And on him. But the MCU goes for extra-points by now only exploring what his sacrifice meant for him, it also examined what it meant for those who left behind. Especially Peggy and Howard.

2. The Avengers / The Group Shot

There is a reason why this group shot of the Avengers is constantly used by “Honest Trailers”. This was it, the moment all the work Marvel put in Phase 1 culminated into one memorable money shot – quite literally. Before the Avengers became the highest grossing Superhero ever, the very notion of a shared universe was considered to difficult to pull off. Now every studio is trying to built one of their own, with so far questionable success. We will see if any of the attempts pan out, but even if they do, The Avengers will always be the first, the trailblazer for the current age of Comic book movies.

1. Iron Man / “I am Iron-man”

It is hard to believe that there actually is something even more important than the Avengers changing movie making forever, but at least as far as the MCU is concerned, this is the moment which threw down the gauntlet. It says “no, we won’t do the whole secrecy thing”. It says “we’ll write our own rules”. It says “we love comic books, but we know that there are some clichés which have to die”. This scene set the tune for the MCU which is, despite all its craziness, still firmly connected to reality, in a sense that it asks the question: “If there really were superheroes pop up in our reality, how would we react?” And really, why should someone like Tony Stark hide his true identity? Being a rich genius, he is a walking target anyway. So why not be a flying one?

Marvel Musings: Let’s get excited

I have decided to add a new topic to speak about to this blog. Don’t worry, I am still working on my article about the Soundtrack of Beauty and the Beast. But I admit, I am currently neck-deep in the MCU. I just love this franchise, which is kind of a surprise for myself, because I am neither a comic book fan, nor did I ever had a particular interest in Superhero movies. But here I am, all enthralled in this universe which spans movies, shorts, network TV and Netflix-shows. And like every fan out there, I love to talk about my obsession. Plus, I actually don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to add Marvel movies to this blog, considering that it already does cover the work of all the other Disney subsidiaries which make movies.

Currently I am weeping every time I see the ratings of Agent Carter. I just don’t get it. Of all the Superhero shows on Network TV, it is by far the one which offers the most quality. A cast full of movie-level actors, clever writing, not to mention all the effort which goes into the costumes and setting, this show deserves way more love. It will be a crime should it go off the air due to low ratings.

I am also excited about the upcoming second half of Agents of SHIELD. Talk about a show which has steadily improved since it started. I can’t wait to see the secret warriors in action. And they have just announced that a particular character I enjoyed very much last season will turn up again.

I am a little bit more weary about the new season of Daredevil. I am excited about the Punisher as antagonist, but I have the feeling that they go for a Matt/Electra/Karen love triangle which would be just…urgh!!! Please, spare me! Also, it doesn’t look like Marcy Stahl will be in the upcoming season, which would be a shame, I really liked her character.

And then there is Civil War. Moderating my expectations for it is difficult. I think this will be the first time that I will watch the movie on its release date, even if it means that I’ll have to go alone (normally I first have to coordinate a date with my friends, but this time I won’t wait until our work schedules match). I have the feeling that this movie will not only be a game changer, it will also be the first Marvel movie which will end on an unhappy not (with a glimmer of hope thrown into it, to make it not too much of a downer ending). Unlike others I still think that this movie won’t cover the whole Civil War, but only the start of it, causing Avengers to be broken apart until Infinity War I. After all, the tagline of the movie is “divided we fall” – so I want to see a fall, even though it will hurt. A lot.

Well, until Civil War, I intend to cover some ground concerning the MCU. I already shared some of my thoughts when I discussed the female movie characters in it in my other blog, but there is way more to say about it. So I guess I’ll start with a number of top-something lists.