Even if you are like me, a person who has an unhealthy obsession with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you probably still have some issues with Marvel’s approach to some elements of their filmmaking and world building. Where negatives appear, positives can too, it is why so many fans stick around to this superpowered cosmos to see new storylines and their favorite characters save the galaxy. Let’s blend together some of the universe’s brightest ideas that get people to the theater with every release and their biggest duds that makes fans roll their eyes.
#1: Character Chemistry
The weakest films tend to be the standalone adventures without any interaction from other heroes in the MCU. When our heroes all come together in Avengers, fight against one another in Civil War, or have smaller scale run-ins like Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Winter Soldier, this is what makes everything work so well. The fight choreography always improves when seeing people use their powers alongside someone else’s for that extra punch. This is needed in difficult fights like the ones seen in Infinity War against Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Not everything has to be violent. Captain Marvel sees fun chemistry between fan favorite Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the MCU’s most powerful hero Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). These relationships feel real through thick and thin. I felt the pain and complicated emotions the Avengers felt during the events of Civil War and its aftermath during Infinity War. In between the fighting, the character-driven moments have substance and don’t feel like it gets in the way of the action.
#2: Memorable Action Scenes
Superhero flicks have plenty of explosions and punches, so filmmakers need to make these scenes memorable for fans, or they become dull. A range of small scale battles with little risk to all-out war breaking out that threatens the lives of millions keeps contrast to combat without everything feeling overly dramatic with world-ending possibilities happening with every film.
One of the most intimate battles occurs during the final act of Civil War where Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Captain America (Chris Evans) must fight off a furious Iron Man who learned the truth behind the death of his parents. Out of the many moments where the Avengers had to go into combat, this remains the most emotional we have been delivered yet.
While those remain satisfying at times, the high stakes conflicts stand as the most exciting to watch, especially on the big screen. The Battle of Wakanda during Infinity War is arguably the greatest bloodshed seen in the superhero genre. Carpet bombing from War Machine (Don Cheadle) devastating hundreds of charging aliens lead by the surviving members of the Mad Snapper’s children is one of the most spectacular explosions from any movie I have seen. Cuts between various heroes teaming up to kill enemies left and right. Bucky picking up Rocket (Bradley Cooper) to go in a circle of gunfire is not only of my favorite moments, it worries me for Bucky that Rocket may steal his arm. Then the other significant moment that gets me pumped up with adrenaline every time is the moment for Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket, and Groot (Vin Diesel) to come down for their piece of the ass-kicking pie.
#3: Balancing Tones
I have cried, laughed, been in awe, and so many more states of emotion due to these movies. Movies that strike many different cords inside their audience go above and beyond to make a captivating connection to viewers. From the Avengers getting torn apart in Civil War, almost every jokes from the Guardians in both of their standalone movies and Infinity War, and the gut punch of a twist in Homecoming. I have felt everything I could imagine watching these 20 (and many more coming) films.
#4: Casting Choices
Whether you look at Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, or Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, everyone is perfectly suited for their role. Every person as a significant character embodies them in a way that makes it impossible to see anyone else as that hero. Downey captures Tony’s pain while maintaining his snarky attitude, Holland brings Spidey’s youthful energy to life, and Johansson strikes the traumatic past that haunts this agent while being a key component to the Avengers during their darkest days.
Marvel continues to get the perfect people for the job in their villainous roles. Michael Keaton rivals as one of the most compelling and sympathetic criminals to be shown in the MCU. Josh Brolin captured audiences with his performance as Thanos to be the ultimate baddie that defeated Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. While the supervillains tend to be much weaker, plenty of characters still shine as bright as the protagonists.
#5: Connecting a Large Universe
Making a believable and lifelike world takes both grand, elaborate ties along with subtle details to flesh everything out. The MCU goes through great lengths to make this universe feel real for both casual viewers and die-hard fans.
The latest edition of Marvel’s growing cosmos is Captain Marvel. If you read my review, then you may remember me praising how it connects itself to the universe in both critical and minuscule ways. To avoid spoilers, I will look towards some of its predecessors.
Civil War came due to the massive amount of mistakes and tragedies that surround the actions of the Avengers. The Battle of New York (Avengers), Battle of Sokovia (Age of Ultron), and the action scene at the beginning of Civil War brought unwanted consequences that end up dividing the team. It brought something to both the characters and the audience that everything that happens, positive or negative, can have a reaction.
Smaller details from easter eggs and references little every Marvel movie. A nod to one character or a hidden gem that could mean something in the future might take a few times of watching to find, but worth it once found. The Winter Soldier has a scene that names Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) which meant nothing to me at first until the release of Doctor Strange arrived to blow my tiny mind. Peter Parker’s standalone debut features a generic criminal named Mac Gargan (Michael Mando) who may seem like a random thug, but comic book readers instantly knew he becomes Scorpion, a classic foe for Spidey. Fingers crossed for a Sinister Six in the MCU.
#1: CGI Inconsistencies
When the digital effects of these movies are good, then you get things like the mind-bending visuals from Doctor Strange. When things look ugly and poorly rendered, then it is too apparent. Almost every entry has a point in which the beauty turns sour with some bad CGI. The final battle from Black Panther has a few moments that are painful to watch.
Expanding a universe across over 20 movies, you are going to have some issues with the plot. Plenty of accidents occur in which Marvel retcons or something slips into a film that contradicts something from the past.
Back in the first Thor, we see Thanos’ gauntlet then see him put it on at the end of Age of Ultron. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige initially stated there were two infinity gloves then after Ragnarok in which Hela (Cate Blanchett) knocks down Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) version calling it a “fake.” Eventually, Feige would say, “We had an internal Marvel theory that it was fake,” Feige said after Ragnarok‘s release.
The biggest retcon is early on when Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) dies in the first Avengers. He gets brought back to life by alien technology in the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While fans of the character got something they wanted, it proves the criticism that the MCU lacks any real stakes.
#3: No Identifiable Themesongs
When the Avengers are fighting aliens or Hydra members, the epic score plays to get fans hyped up as they watch their favorite superheroes save the day. For individual characters, nobody gets their own theme song. Having a set track for each person helps deliver more personality to their scenes, especially when having an epic solo moment. Captain Marvel is the only character so far to get her own, so hopefully moving forward we can see some more tunes for each member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
#4: Cookie Cutter Formula
While I love these films, the structure tends to blend together, especially for standalone narratives. Some experimentation has been done with the ensemble flicks and some others like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. For the most part, most entries don’t deviate from the formula that has been established because it works but could be problematic in another 20 movies.
Thankfully things are changing up in the future. The next phase of the MCU will start to shake things up for some much needed fresh ideas.
It is impossible to talk about problems within the Marvel’s juggernaut of a franchise without looking towards its villains. Lately, with Vulture, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), and Thanos, they have been on a roll with great antagonists. Sadly, those are the few greats that have been put on the big screen. Generic foes like Darren Cross (Corey Stroll) from Ant-Man and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) from Doctor Strange hurt the quality of the films and the larger universe. With the strong source material, it is a shame this has been a consistent issue.
For fans of Marvel’s giant franchise, what are some of your favorite and least favorite elements from these movies? Comment below what you think.
Videos and Images via Marvel Studios/Filmic Box/Marvel Mifat/FilmClips4K/Movie Nation/MovieClips