4th Jan 2023, 2:26 AM MCU 2022 In Review (Spoilers)
Somehow I was completely cognizant of the end of the year coming up and yet it didn't occur to me I should probably put another one of these together for the sake of consistency. Until now.
  • Moon Knight: I am very, very torn by this series. It's well-made, well-written, a great exploration of what makes Marc and Steven tick with a really great villain. On the other hand... the scale of the overall plot and especially the finale doesn't feel very much like a Moon Knight show. The big giant CGI battle at the end in particular had me rolling my eyes pretty hard, it was genuinely starting to feel like Marvel Studios is actually allergic to doing more low-stakes street-level stuff. Between She-Hulk and the eventual new Daredevil show it seems like that isn't the case anymore, but as a Moon Knight fan it still kind of hurt. Still, I'm absolutely hoping for a continuation, there's too much good stuff here just to leave it sitting on the table.
  • Morbius: ... Okay so I know I didn't cover Venom 2 last year because it's not Marvel Studios, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that Sony is desperate to give their sinking ship legitimacy by tying it to the MCU, so I'll include it if only to say: this was bad. This was a nothing of a movie. It's dull, it's stale, it's an absolute waste. Jared Leto meanders from one plot point to another because otherwise there wouldn't be a movie, and eventually it doesn't even end, it just stops. And somehow the post-credits scenes are even worse than the movie itself.
  • Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness: My favorite MCU movie of 2022. This is what I'd hoped for in a Doctor Strange movie all along, crazy unrestrained magic that doesn't need a shit-ton of explanation, and despite having America Chavez as co-lead and Wanda as the villain she's always been (sorry not sorry XD) it still feels like it is mainly Strange's story with an arc that fits his character. Plus some really great cameos, two of which were absolutely mind-blowing for me.
  • Ms. Marvel: There is a really great teenage superhero story arc heavily laden with the perils of institutional racism in here that unfortunately has to battle for screentime with a much less interesting arc about the Clandestine and Kamala's family history. No I am not just sore about them not using The Inventor, although I am miffed about that YOU COULD'VE HAD HIM WORKING FOR DAMAGE CONTROL FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. It just feels like this series got hit harder than most with not having the time it needed to tell the story it wanted and the family trip to Pakistan story could've been saved for a hypothetical season two. But Kamala's great, her supporting cast is great, and she has me more excited for The Marvels than anything else we know about it so far.
  • Thor Love And Thunder: This is the first MCU movie where I left the theater in a bad mood. Waste of the villain, waste of Natalie Portman, waste of Tessa Thompson, an over-abundance of Taika Waititi on-screen and off, and then they have the gall to feature a post-credits scene teasing the guy whose movie this should have been. Entirely too goofy, clashes with the rest of the MCU tonally and logistically (do not get me started on the Eternity wish thing because I hate it so much) and utterly wrecks Thor. A worse Guardians of the Galaxy in almost every conceivable way, including the soundtrack. 
  • I Am Groot: I... think this counts? It's cute, Baby Groot is an adorable little gremlin and the apparent lack of supervision goes a long way to explaining why Teen Groot is the way he is I think. The last short is my favorite.
  • She-Hulk Attorney At Law: Not a huge fan, but I don't think it's bad. If anything I think it was maybe misaimed in its marketing? There were definitely things that got a laugh out of me, but on the whole I thought it was weird to pitch this show as "Marvel's first comedy" because I don't really find it as funny as the Guardians/Ant-Man/Spider-Man movies? And also that it's weird you kept writers who, by their own admission, weren't great at writing legal scenes for your lawyer show? Jen's fine though, no notes, I like the fourth wall breaking even if I think the ending's... weird, in a "yes it's very cute of you to point out how stupid this all is writers, but you also could have... done something better instead?" Some great use of characters for cameos too.
  • Werewolf By Night: I love this. I need more of this yesterday. This might be the most "targeted at me specifically" thing that Marvel has ever done. I love schlocky horror movies and Marvel utilizing that aesthetic to give us a cheesy monster-hunting special brings me joy in a way I am not used to experiencing. My literal only problem is that I wish it had been longer. Like actual made-for-TV-movie length.
  • Black Panther Wakanda Forever: That this movie is as good as it is given the circumstances is absolutely amazing. And it is sad. Profoundly, distressingly sad. But I mean that in the best possible way. And it even got me to like Ironheart, which I thought would be impossible. The Ross/CIA subplot is kind of clunky, but I'm sure it'll pay off later (oh hey, he's in Secret Invasion this year isn't he?). And of course Namor's a great new addition to the MCU and I'm very excited to see what they do with him. If they end up making a third movie and it somehow ends up being Doomwar I am actually going to lose my shit with hype.
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special: Disney+ series are dead. Long live Disney+ Special Presentations. When they first announced this my initial reaction was "I never knew I needed this until now but also how dare you make me wait this long for it." A great way to give Mantis and Drax some extra spotlight after they've been given less focus in recent projects, and like all of Gunn's work on this franchise it's as emotionally-moving as it is gut-bustingly funny. I am going to be heartbroken when Volume 3 comes out and this comes to an end.
Overall, I feel like the back half of Phase Four has been... more uneven than the first. On the one hand, some really great creative choices and some of my favorite things Marvel Studios has done in... ever. On the other hand, my actual least favorite thing they've ever done. But hey, whatever. The whole idea of expanding out in different directions and aiming more things at specific demographics means not everything's going to click with everyone, and that's fine except Thor Love and Thunder if you like it we can't be friends anymore IT'S FINE!

No really, it's actually pretty fitting. The MCU was never going to recapture that Endgame magic right off the bat and expecting anything like that was folly. But it doesn't feel like that struggle to determine what they're about going forward is completely inorganic; it's pretty well baked into the narrative with old characters struggling to figure out where they fit in and new characters rising to take the mantle of people who aren't there anymore.

Ultimately, Phase Four was an interesting experiment, and I'm hyped to see where it goes in Phase Five.
21st Dec 2022, 11:49 AM Captain America: The First Avenger Retrospective

Time for a look back at the last Marvel Studios movie of a pre-Avengers world! Unless you count Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Which I don't. Honestly I could've just said last MCU movie but then I wouldn't have an excuse to bring up Spirit of Vengeance. Anyways, here's my rewatch thoughts!

  • I'm not sure how I feel on opening with the discovery of Cap's crashed plane and then making most of the rest of the movie a flashback. But to its credit, a) it doesn't ruin the emotional impact of the end, and b) for all I know "Captain America is a guy from the 40's" might have been well known enough that it didn't really constitute a spoiler. Anyways, I'm nitpicking.
  • Interesting tidbit, an alternate opening for the Incredible Hulk featured Banner trying and failing to commit suicide in the Arctic and was going to include a frozen Captain America. We know based on the Avengers that the scene (or at least Banner's suicide attempt) is still canon, so maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. only found Cap to begin with because they were tracking Banner's movements? The timeline probably doesn't work out, but still an interesting possiblity.
  • Originally when I first started this comic I thought about making a running gag out of all the villains having the same powersets as the heroes because the only way Kevin could figure out how to match all the broken builds was by copying said builds. But circumstances change, for multiple reasons.
  • Nice bit of connective tissue, giving the Tesseract ties to Asgard.
  • Skinny Steve is a really good bit of effects work. Like the only reason it looks uncanny is because I know that's not how Chris Evans looks.
  • I don't know if that guy dragged Steve out of the movie theater into the alley to beat him up, or if he just ambushed him after the movie. But I think it's a lot funnier to assume the former and no one did anything about it.
  • Captain America's theme is one of the few solo character themes that I can instantly recognize.
  • Really should've put another Human Torch gag in here somewhere, since the original robot Human Torch is literally in this movie. Which, damn, I know they were part of the Invaders together in WWII, but also another multi-layered casting gag maybe? Probably not.
  • There are many things about Cap that I will come to question as his arc progresses, but not how close he is with Bucky. Good bro chemistry.
  • I'm not going to complain about the movie "wasting Erskine" because his whole function is to die. I will, however, complain about not giving the Tucc more to do.
  • Should probably note that almost none of my problems with Cap stem from this movie. Lines like "I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies, I don't care where they're from." are totally sincere and I 100% believe it.
  • Schmidt's an unrepentant Nazi bastard and I think the movie does him a disservice by downplaying the Nazism by having HYDRA break away from it. But it's the little things like him taking the controls from Zola and cranking up the power that keep him engaging.
  • PEGGY!
  • That thing I said about not giving the Tucc more to do? Doesn't apply quite as heavily for Tommy Lee Jones, but it still applies.
  • I don't think there's really anything I can say about the grenade scene that hasn't already been said. It's good. A perfect encapsulation of what Captain America is meant to be and really great foreshadowing.
  • I guess to be fair Schmidt being a member of Hitler's inner circle speaks to how rotten of a human being he is.
  • "I don't have procedure tomorrow. Drink it after, I drink it now." BRING BACK THE TUCC.
  • I think it speaks to Schmidt's ego that he thinks a Super Soldier is the only shot the Allies have against the Tesseract. Honestly without the Vibranium shield I think Cap would genuinely be toast against Tesseract weaponry. But because Schmidt thinks he's the greatest thing on the planet, the only thing that could stop him is another him.
  • MCU needs more spy stuff.
  • Perserverance is both Cap's greatest asset and also (eventually) his biggest flaw. And I feel like it eventually becomes the latter because he's so used to it being the former.
  • I have said it before and I will probably say it again, Chris Evans is a hunk.
  • Hayley Atwell clearly agrees.
  • Farewell sweet Tucc.
  • After watching her take out Clemson's driver, Clint Barton is secretly a grandchild or something of Peggy, I've decided. This will not be the case in the comic, but it's my new headcanon for the films. And no that doesn't make him related to Steve. I do not hold with that stable time loop explanation.
  • I feel like this is one of the better-integrated "hero learns how to use their powers properly" scenes.
  • Cap catching up to a submarine underwater really helps highlight what it means to be a Super Soldier.
  • Hugo Weaving does a really good job ramping up to an obvious conclusion with style. And the little tsk of disappointment when it takes him a couple shots with the gun.
  • Based on what we know happens later, Zola's look of horror seems less "oh god I've thrown in with a madman" and more "HYDRA is being spearheaded by a madman".
  • Another things this movie does wonderfully; provide a tongue-in-cheek but also 100% plausible explanation for the costume and superhero name.
  • Also a nice homage to the cover of the first Captain America comic.
  • "America's New Hope" Use the Foooooooorce, Cap.
  • Captain America has no need for your petty pragmatism. He is the Star-Spangled Man With A Plan!
  • I'm honestly surprised the chorus girls apparently had real, effective helmets for their costumes.
  • "There are always more workers". Insert joke about standard business practices here?
  • Really goes to show how much HYDRA values competence that nobody notices the guy running around with an American-flag-painted shield on his back.
  • Like any good D&D player, Cap finds something shiny and immediately pockets it. Respect.
  • Add the Howling Commandos to the list of woefully underutilized side-characters. It's a shame the Disney+ era of TV production came too late for them to get their own little side-series. Probably.
  • Again, Schmidt's ego means that as soon as another Super Soldier enters the playing field he just throws up his hands and sacrifices the base. Also speaks to his cowardice that despite all his Tesseract weaponry he doesn't really try to engage Steve himself.
  • At least I assume Schmidt and Steve running into each other on the way out wasn't intentional.
  • The idea of Red Skull just sitting at a television watching Captain America's war serials fills me with joy.
  • Oh yeah, Steve calls him out on running away and Skull doesn't have an answer.
  • Ultimate show of bad guy trust. Lending your partner in crime your badass HYDRA-mobile.
  • Really is hard for your boss to complain about your job performance when you come rolling up with a bunch of rescued prisoners and a damn tank.
  • Also respect Steve blowing off all the pomp and circumstance in favor of getting real shit done as soon as he has the pull to do so.
  • Okay so I have problems with Steve and Peggy's relationship inasmuch as I think it's overvalued by later writers, but they do play off each other well.
  • I hate this kiss scene. I know it's a movie and you need romantic tension, but do you really? The relationship's doomed anyways and it just makes both of them look bad.
  • "Vibration absorbent" You keep using that phrase. I don't think it means what you think it means.
  • Seriously, Steve jumps to conclusions because he doesn't know the word "fondue" and Peggy shoots at him. Could've just taken that whole bit out, it doesn't amount to anything.
  • This montage needs to be its own movie/miniseries, I know it's too expensive and probably too late to do convincingly, but dammit I want it.
  • Props to the filmmakers, I would've had a Wilhelm scream when he tossed the guy out of the tank.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about how Bucky's used in this movie. On the one hand, taken just by this movie alone, Bucky being captured and presumed dead is a good way to throw the audience off the scent of the train scene, but taken with Winter Soldier and Civil War I feel like it starts to get a little repetitive?
  • In a (for me at least) rare critique of effects work, Bucky actually falling off the train doesn't look convincing? Not a physics major so I might be off, but I feel like he should also be moving backwards relative to the train faster than he is. Again, could be wrong, it just looks off.
  • I just realized the effectiveness of putting the scene where Schmidt executes one of his own men just a little bit before Phillips and Zola talk terms, it helps hammer in why Zola decides to switch because he's seen what Schmidt does to perceived liabilities.
  • I wonder where HYDRA's motto came from. Assuming the organization was started by Schmidt, and I know Agents of SHIELD has its own stuff to say there but I'm still not sure that show can actually be canon to the main movies, he clearly had no intention of dying or being replaced. Maybe it was Zola's idea?
  • Even a Super Soldier can bleed. Emotionally. Not my best metaphor, but the point is, mourning Bucky is sad.
  • Ah there's the Wilhelm scream.
  • There's... almost a little bit of humanity to Schmidt when he and Cap are talking about Erskine. For the talk of being Erskine's greatest success, he's clearly disappointed that Erskine didn't think so. It's a nice little moment to remind you that Schmidt's still human and not just a walking caricature of Saturday morning cartoon rottenness. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • At least if the whole superhero thing hadn't worked out Cap could've gotten a job throwing knives at the circus.
  • I am amazed that Cap manages to end up on the outside of a little mini-fighter plane that is actively trying to throw him off, still makes his way back to the Valkyrie... and it doesn't feel unbelievable at all.
  • Nosediving airplane is a fun way to add some variety to what's otherwise two guys slugging it out.
  • Why does Schmidt pick up the Tesseract here? Nobody else manages to activate it like this just by touching it, so I assume it was an intentional attempt to use it, but Schmidt's gone the whole movie not touching the damn thing, so why start here?
  • Another thing I've only just noticed, Phillips actually motions for him and Morita to leave to let Peggy and Steve have the room. That's sweet.
  • I genuinely feel like Endgame takes a lot of the oomph out of Steve's sacrifice for me. I know that what's important is they both think they'll never see each other again, but knowing that he gets a functional reset button removes some of the heartbreak.
  • I figured it out, Steve's supporting cast feeling under-utilized doesn't hurt this movie as bad as it does the Thor movies because it's baked into the tragedy of Steve's circumstance. We're attached to these characters just like he was, and having to leave them behind and be sad about it is a feature, not a bug.
  • Would it have killed SHIELD to get recordings of a baseball game from after Steve went under the ice? I've seen the theory that Fury wanted to test Steve's acuity after coming out of the ice, but the way they bungle the rest of the mission and let him bust out into Times Square does not fill me with confidence on that one.
  • Okay the slow realization of what waking up in the future means creeping onto Cap's face is still heartbreaking.
  • Not a fan of post-credits scenes that are literally just trailers. Thankfully they don't do this often. Still, you could've just stopped after Fury's "Trying to save it." line.
In a lot of ways, Captain America functions like Superman. Admittedly he doesn't have the same power-scaling problems, he's still closer to a regular human than Iron Man or Thor, but like with Superman you run into the issue that his whole job is to be the guy who knows what the right thing to do is without spending a bunch of time agonizing over it, and who can help other people see it too. And the key to pulling that off, I think, is to do it with sincerity and without going over the top.

I think the greatest thing about this movie is that the same sincerity that goes into making Cap feel real permeates the entire movie. A lot of what was planted here ended up working its way back into the MCU eventually (Howard's relationship with Steve, Schmidt and the Tesseract, Bucky obviously), but if this had just been a WWII superhero movie unrelated to any kind of broader connected universe, it still would have worked almost perfectly. Which shouldn't be a surprise considering the director also made the Rocketeer, but still. As origin movies go, I think it's one of the best for sure.
15th Nov 2022, 7:10 PM Very Slight Delay (EDIT: NEVER MIND)
Latest update probably isn't going up until later Wednesday. Long story short, work schedule changed just for this week which kept me from getting the page done early, and now I have a bad enough headache that looking at a screen to type this blog post is making me nauseous, so unless it wears off with a few hours of sleep it's going to be a bit before I can finish it. Sorry for the bad news but I should have it up at some point tomorrow.

EDIT: Never mind, headache wore off enough to finish the page, update will happen as normal.
16th Aug 2022, 5:46 PM The Incredible Hulk Retrospective
In honor of achieving my primary goal of making the current chapter longer than the Incredible Hulk chapter and the upcoming premiere of She-Hulk (and having a day off where I feel comfortable procrastinating on everything else that needs doing), it's time for a rewatch retrospective on the second MCU release, The Incredible Hulk!

Stray observations while watching:
  • I'll admit, I do miss these opening credit sequences for superhero movies with stylized fonts and thematically appropriate graphics over dramatic music. I know they've pretty much just moved to the end credits now, but still. Done right, they were really good at getting you pumped up for what was coming (then again, this movie, Spider-Man, and X-Men all proceeded to slow down immediately afterwards if memory serves, so maybe that wasn't a good thing after all?).
  • Quick little references to Stark Industries, Nick Fury, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Also Rick Jones! He's probably never showing up at this point. :D
  • God this first bit's just reference heavy, even Bill Bixby gets in on the action. I wonder if Eric Bana's ever going to get a nod.
  • Portuguese Grover just sounds... wrong to me.
  • Banner has 7 PhDs but struggles with basic Portuguese. I know these two things aren't actually related to each other, but it still strikes me as funny.
  • "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" is one of those lines where I genuinely can't believe we've never gotten it played straight. Kind of like how long it took to hear "Avengers Assemble".
  • while Bruce pricks his finger for a microscope sample "What happens if he gets some kind of bacterial infection from contaminated equipment? I know Hulk seems to stop him from dying to blunt force trauma and other such things, but does it help with illnesses?"
  • I hope Stan Lee's character didn't die from the gamma blood Pingo Doce. That'd hit too hard now. :(
  • The fact that Ross not only gets away with all the shit he pulls (including but not limited to using military resources and personnel for law enforcement purposes) but gets promoted to Secretary of State eventually is... depressingly realistic.
  • Good thing Blonsky shot that dog or we'd never know he was a bad guy.
  • I feel like after five years on the run Bruce should be... at least slightly better at acting natural than he is?
  • Chase scene is well shot, though. It feels properly constricting and frantic.
  • I wonder how much Coca-Cola paid for all the advertising? I don't really have a problem with it, it's just hard to miss.
  • I think the added body-morphing effects would be difficult, but man. The Hulk's first appearance in this movie is so tinged with monster movie vibes that it makes me want an Immortal Hulk movie yesterday. If you haven't heard of it, it's a 50 or so issue run starting in 2018 by Al Ewing, and it's some of the best Hulk stuff I've ever read.
  • Admittedly Hulk looks a little... PS3-ish now, but he still doesn't look bad, and it completely validates the choice to keep him hidden while still giving us that full-scale environmental destruction you want from a Hulk fight scene.
  • I understand compartmentalization of information, but you might want to warn your guys about the giant green rage monster.
  • Sad walking away music is, I think, just one tier below the Spider-Man theme and the X-Men theme in terms of recognizability, so well done using it.
  • as Banner starts walking home "Does Hulk transformation do anything about starvation or fatigue? These are the questions."
  • As much as I would've preferred to focus on the gamma side of things, I do appreciate how well this movie ties in with Captain America regarding the super soldier serum.
  • You can tell it's early days MCU because as far as I can tell, not one name on the board at Culver University (aside from Betty Ross) is a comics reference. XD
  • Ty Burrell is criminally underutilized in this movie and if they ever get him back to be Doc Samson I will flip my fucking lid with joy.
  • Lou Ferrigno may be immediately recognizable as the TV Hulk, but for me he'll always be himself but beating up Jason Segel in I Love You, Man.
  • Is it standard practice for university computers to just a have an encryption shortcut on the desktop?
  • On the flipside my reaction if Liv Tyler came back as Red She-Hulk would be much more ambivalent. Also I'm curious how many gamma mutates we can combine together namewise. Can we have a Red-She-Hulkling Abomination?
  • The double-edged sword of skipping the origin story is that you're dependent on the actors to sell pre-existing connections, and I'm not sure Tyler and Norton really do that here? I guess it fits with Banner being a more subdued character than Hulk but it doesn't necessarily play the best.
  • Banner's gag reflex (or lack thereof) is pretty fucking astonishing.
  • They definitely do a good job showing Hulk as a pretty much unstoppable juggernaut. Even Blonsky's explosive rounds seem to piss him off more than anything.
  • I know these jeep-mounted sonic cannons are supposed to be the Stark-designed ones, but it seems like they don't do quite the same thing? I wonder if it's a Hulk-anatomy problem or a "they didn't the right frequency" problem. Or maybe both. Paralyzing him outright would've been much more effective, is all I'm saying.
  • I feel a little cheated we didn't actually get to see Blonsky get sent flying from Hulk's kick. But only a little.
  • More proof that Hulk still has a little bit of Banner in him, it'd take more than a little eighth-grade geometry to throw a piece of metal at a helicopter that precisely.
  • We immediately get a reason to hate Samson followed by a reason to love him. Bring this man back!
  • Hulk is mad at Thor for ruining his moment.
  • Forget the Red Skull, Blonsky's the Red Everything after the beating he took.
  • "The circumstances called for a little improvisation." Liiiiiiittle hint of what would become Ruffalo's Hulk in there, so at least it's not entirely incongruous.
  • USB glows green when it's plugged in. Nice.
  • "You know, I know a few techniques that could help you manage that anger very effectively." Okay, two hints.
  • Really, just bring back everybody at some point. Tim Blake Nelson does really well with what he's given for Samuel Sterns.
  • Betty being able to help pacify mid-transformation Hulk is one of those things I've never really thought much about, but not only does it work with the idea of Hulk being connected to (if also still distinct from) Banner, it sets a nice precedent for the "sun's getting real low" thing in Age of Ultron.
  • Move over Dr. Michael Morbius, Samuel Sterns is clearly the superior hematologist.
  • "Why are you always hitting people?" I know the MCU occasionally has a problem with too much humor, but I feel like this one could've used a little more, this line still gets a pretty decent chuckle.
  • "The mixture could be... an abomination". EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY THERE IT IS!!!
  • Nice job not bringing the clearly unstable super soldier with you and leaving him with all the gamma equipment, Ross.
  • The lack of ear fins is regrettable, but the Abomination design is still solid anyways.
  • Good hero moment from Bruce, being willing to risk a transformation just because he knows they need the Hulk to stop Abomination.
  • We need enough moments of Bruce basically dying before Hulking out to make a montage, funny every time.
  • Oof, I thought it was just Hulk and Abomination that looked a little rough in this final fight but even the helicopter looks like it's from a video game.
  • Have we seen the shockwave clap since Hulk used it to put out the copter fire? I don't think we have?
  • There are some really creative strategies/environmental use here though, however the CGI looks. Ripping out  Abomination's elbow spike and stabbing him with it feels like something out of a Mortal Kombat finisher in the best way possible.
  • Hulk busting out those Spider-Man parkour skills while running away.
  • I think it fits the "monster movie lite" vibe of this movie that the ending is ambiguously sinister, between Bruce purposely inducing a hulk out and the last scene that comes immediately after being Tony showing up to talk to Ross about a vague problem.

The Incredible Hulk is... not a bad movie. Ultimately I think its long-term reception was hurt by a combination of being a more serious (downright gloomy in a couple points) movie and the lack of follow-up. There are MCU movies that I think are objectively worse in terms of structure, narrative, and tone that I'll still watch more often than this movie, just because they're either more fun, or because I'm doing rewatches for a particular character or something similar. It doesn't even really feel like a crucial introduction for Bruce Banner, since this movie compresses the details of his origin into the opening montage and a quick recap from Ross, the first Avengers movie works about as well as a debut for him anyways.

There's speculation that Marvel might get the distribution rights back for Hulk soon (if they haven't already), and if that's true, I hope we can get some more development for Banner and the Hulk both. With any luck we've got She-Hulk to help dive into the rogues gallery and other gamma mutates, but Banner deserves some more exploration himself, without his character progress being relegated to offscreen in team-up movies. stares at Smart Hulk

Anyways, thanks for reading, feel free to comment with your own thoughts on the Incredible Hulk. The Captain America retrospective will be coming with the end of the chapter as normal.
26th Jun 2022, 11:48 PM Iron Man Retrospective

So yeah, originally I was planning to do retrospective rewatches for Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk after the Avengers chapter was done. Buuuuuuuuuuut the closer I've gotten to actually starting that chapter, the more I've been thinking that it doesn't feel right to tackle these after the Avengers have already assembled. After all, build-up is important, that's the whole reason they did five movies before the Avengers in the first place and why I decided to adapt them each as their own chapters in the first place (even if abbreviated in some cases XD). Once I realized that it just became a matter of when I felt like sitting down and rewatching them, which in Iron Man's case happens to be now. Obviously. So let's get right to it with the usual list of rambling thoughts and observations!

  • I already feel like this is just going to turn into me saying things that other people have already said a thousand times before, but starting with almost immediately putting Tony in peril before doing some deeper character establishment goes a long way towards making him less abrasive at the start.
  • Tony's in an interesting position where after three solo movies, four team-up movies, and two major appearances in other people's solo movies, his morals and priorities undergo a huge change, but the character himself doesn't feel like he's changed all that much, if that makes sense? Infinity War and Endgame mellow him out a bit, but for the most part he feels like he goes out basically the same well-meaning but snarky button-pusher he started out as in the convoy.
  • Probably exposing my age range/ignorance of military history and perception here but I can't help but wonder how much different the whole "weapons developer" angle to Tony's character would have gone if this was made pre-War on Terror. I feel like it would've ended... kinda more in line with how I ended the comic chapter?
  • I don't think I ever included a joke about how it should have been obvious Obadiah Stane is the bad guy based on his name being Obadiah Stane. More's the pity.
  • I heavily relate to being unable to remember anyone's birthdays.
  • I'm not sure I can pin down why Terrence Howard isn't as good a Rhodey, but if I had to try, and I feel like I do, Cheadle's Rhodey feels like he's more Tony's equal. To be completely fair, Cheadle had more opportunity to demonstrate that idea even just comparing their first movies, but I really can't see Howard's Rhodey beating Tony up and taking an armor suit.
  • Tony's enunciation and emphasis during the weapons demonstration is absolutely magnificent. It's so awkward and stilted because you know a) he's hungover, b) he only wants to be there to show off his new toy, and c) he knows he doesn't have to be good at doing the speech, the tech speaks for itself.
  • I usually tune out the idea that Tony just has a hole in his chest to accommodate the electromagnet/arc reactor, but every so often I remember, and it is an unsettling thought. Carry on.
  • In the moments where they aren't being threatened by terrorists, Yinsen has the most "I don't give a shit, I'm dead anyway" aura whether he's cracking jokes or relaying sad backstory. No wonder he and Tony get along.
  • Re-imagining the Ten Rings as a terrorist organization is a really smart move. I've seen some takes here and there that this group we see in the first movie were also part of Killian's Mandarin scheme, and... I really don't understand where that idea comes from? Especially after Shang-Chi came out, the timeline is consistent with Wenwu re-consolidating his power after his wife died.
  • "If my math is right, and it always is." - the universe will remember that.
  • Okay you know what, I guess I can see it, if Raza's group are dumb enough to not immediately kill Tony after seeing that he's working on a mechanized leg that is clearly not a missile, they probably could qualify for Killian goons. Still, I maintain they are the real deal, if a little stupid.
  • Booby-trap on the door makes for some handy Iron Man 3-shadowing regarding what Tony can do without the suit.
  • The Mark I Armor is a thing of absolute beaty. By which I mean it actually looks ugly and unfinished and like an obvious prototype, and that's the beautiful part.
  • Another thing that qualifies these guys for apprenticeship under Killian, three of them with guns running from one guy with a gun.
  • There truly is little quite as satisfying as watching an appropriately powered-up hero tear through a room full of mooks.
  • Really, how did that one poor sap end up ricocheting a bullet into himself? I did him a favor making it a misfire.
  • I like the idea that it's not just the loss of control from being held captive that changes Tony's perspective, it's watching other people die for him.
  • I genuinely appreciate the restraint they showed in not playing Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" when he blasted off. That is more than I would have shown. Hell I probably would have had it start when he stepped out of the makeshift lab and started wrecking people's shit. I'm weak-willed, sue me.
  • While I still don't think Tony and Pepper are the BEST couple, and the first couple of movies in particular don't sell me on it as much as I'd like, they at least do a decent job setting it up.
  • Good to see you Phil. Hope you can come back someday. Or somehow get your spinoff show validated, even if it peaked at season four.
  • Y'know what I take it back the arc reactor replacement scene is dripping with chemistry. And an inorganic plasmic discharge.
  • Eccccccccch I forgot the spring break of 87 joke. Not great.
  • I like that Tony's first inclination when designing the suit is "I am not a hero and should not be wearing this. Rhodey should be wearing this." It is criminal that it took until Armor Wars for Rhodey to actually headline something.
  • Then again, maybe Tony careening into the ceiling was a dexterity problem and not a math problem. Might not be cosmic payback for the brag after all. Either way, him slamming into the ceiling? Priceless.
  • Not every superhero needs a "the hero learns how to use their powers" sequence, but since Tony's designing his powers I'd say that him figuring out the logistical hurdles of flight is not only acceptable here, it's crucial.
  • Apparently the suit freezing at high altitudes was not originally meant to be foreshadowing, it was just a scene that existed. Then they were having troubles getting the final fight with Iron Monger to coalesce and they realized they could bring it back. Just a neat bit of trivia there.
  • Tony's a better man than I for programming his AI buddy... *checks notes* pardon me, his natural-language user interface buddy to give him sass. I don't like it when I perceive my computer as disrespecting me, if I was better with tech not a single one would ever talk back to me.
  • His license plate says "STARK 4". I haven't been paying attention to the rest of his license plates, so I wonder what happened to STARK 1 through STARK 3.
  • Did Coulson guess Tony was going to show up? Or was he staking out Tony's house and followed him to the gala without Tony ever realizing? I choose to believe it's the latter.
  • Thank god the kiss did not happen there, would've been way too soon.
  • "Yeah they just put my name on the invitation I don't know what to tell you." I also make jokes instinctually and increasingly so when panicked. Very relatable.
  • Even if his is an obvious villain based on his name and tie, Obadiah is also a very charismatic fellow. So I guess I can't be too mad at everyone else for being fooled.
  • Something that never occurred to me until now, Tony almost never shuts up. But the first two times he suits up to fight the Ten Rings, he hardly utters a sentence. Which not only helps demonstrate how seriously he's taking this, but it also helps set up the secret identity swerve at the end.
  • The military pilot callsigns are Whiplash. Not sure I have anything to say about that, but worth noting.
  • Okay if the cigar and the tie and the name didn't give it away, Stane's uber-sinister pajamas should have.
  • "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing." I still want to know what topped the list, thanks.
  • Standoffs between bad guys are generally a fun time. This is no exception.
  • I'm kind of surprised this sonic stunner never really comes back except presumably in the form of its larger, truck-mounted cousin in The Incredible Hulk. But I guess you can only use it so many times and have a hero live before it starts to reflect more poorly on the bad guys than anything else.
  • "I shouldn't be alive, unless it was for a reason" 11 years and numerous movies later, that hits hard. Because I feel like that's stuck with Tony ever since he said it.
  • "Now I realize, well, Tony never really did come home, did he? He left a part of himself in that cave." Another absolute banger of a line. Obadiah's right on the mark, even if not in the way he probably meant.
  • In general Pepper having to copy the files and play nice right under Obadiah's nose is suitably menacing. Thank goodness Coulson was there.
  • It's really funny to watch Obadiah menace the lab bois knowing that he's helping start a villainous journey to be paid off 15 years later.
  • I know it's a minor detail, not worth focusing on, but where did Obadiah get the reactor extractor? Did the lab bois build that too? Did he get exact measurements or did he just eyeball it and hope for the best? He's really lucky they were spot-on if that's the case.
  • DUM-E really is the best robot friend someone could ask for. Even with the unnecessary extinguishings.
  • The third act of this film is always the part that drops off for me. Not because it's bad, but because the rest of the film is just so damn good, whereas the last bits are... fine. Perfectly serviceable.
  • Maybe they should've called him Iron Miner. Because he digs up out of the ground you see.
  • A thing I will definitely give them credit for in this third act fight is that the ticking clock is not an actual ticking clock, but his reactor's energy levels. It's both a nice change and means that they don't have to either make the timer too long to matter or break suspension of disbelief by making a "five minute countdown" last longer than it should.
  • I just hear "Mmm whatcha sayyyyyy" every time I watch Stane start tumbling back to the ground, I'll admit it.
  • I like that Stane's total lack of practice with the suit means he can't aim worth a damn without a computer to help him.
  • Ah, a blue sky beam. Bet we'll never see that again. Ever.
  • Really I'm surprised anyone lives through that arc reactor explosion considering how far the explosion spread.
  • So I know per tie-in comics the explanation is that they didn't have the shorter abbreviation for SHIELD at first, but I choose to believe it's just Coulson's way of messing with people to say it the long way.
  • Ditching the secret identity was a masterful call. It's such a huge swerve from typical superhero movies of the time and it opened the door to really free up story-telling possibilities.
  • I feel like the fact that almost every unsuccessful attempt at franchise-building through post-credit teases gets compared unfavorably to Nick Fury's appearance at the end of this movie speaks volumes.

The first Iron Man may be the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I think the thing that gets missed the most (mainly by other franchises trying to duplicate its success) is that it's a very good movie in its own right. It has the SHIELD namedrops and the Nick Fury cameo at the end, but its primary concern is telling Iron Man's story and getting you to care about Tony as a character, and it very much succeeds. I definitely feel like some Marvel movies have gotten a little too jokey and irreverent at times, but even though this movie set the stage for that with its loose script and letting the actors just bounce off each other, the serious moments still actually play as serious, and obviously that's very important. When Tony's feeling the guilt of his past actions and complicity in what his company's done, you feel it too.

Other than that, don't really know what else to say that hasn't already been said. Maybe if the MCU ever does a full reboot we can get Tony fighting the Mandarin like they originally planned, but I think pivoting to Obadiah Stane was definitely the right choice. Thanks for reading, feel free to sound off with any thoughts you have about the first Iron Man, and stay tuned for The Incredible Hulk retrospective coming... at some point later this chapter.
31st May 2022, 12:54 PM Thor Retrospective
We're approaching the end of another chapter, and that means it's time for another look back at the movie I just finished adapting. In this case, 2011's Thor.

Stray observations from my rewatch:
  • Do they ever actually explain what the atmospheric disturbance Jane's been tracking is supposed to be? I know it's Bifrost-related, but why is it predictable except for when Thor gets beamed down, at which point it's suddenly not?
  • The MCU just needs more Anthony Hopkins narration. Not even just for the Thor movies, just in general. Anything magic/fantasy/mythology-related, get him to open it with a monologue.
  • For as many problems as I have with Ragnarok, I do like how it forces me to re-evaluate Odin's interpretation of the war with the Frost Giants. Was this after he gave up conquest and decided to become a benevolent protector, or did it just happen the Frost Giants stepped on his turf and he decided to kick their asses?
  • "Both of you were born to be kings" Odin learned much about peace, but very little about parenting.
  • I'm glad they stopped dyeing Chris Hemsworth's eyebrows, they make his face look smaller and squinty.
  • Everything about Odin's coronation speech also deserves a side-eye in the wake of Ragnarok. Calling Thor his firstborn, mentioning Mjolnir's unrivaled power to destroy as well as build, claiming he's defended the Nine Realms from the beginning... obviously they didn't have this whole thing planned out in advance, but it really does add some interesting characterization in hindsight. It feels like Loki really takes after him more than Thor does.
  • Okay so Thor's clearly over-reacting to the weapons vault break-in, but I feel like Odin is under-reacting. At the very least, if someone broke into my personal stockpile of uber-dangerous things, you can bet I wouldn't just be like "Well they didn't actually take anything, no harm no foul". You can bet there would be inquiries at the very least.
  • "BUT YOU'RE NOT KIIIIIING! Not yet." Anthony Hopkins truly is the actor we need, but not the one we deserve.
  • I don't want to say Idris Elba is the unsung hero of the Thor franchise, because I feel like he gets plenty of well-deserved praise, but of all the under-utilized characters in this subset of movies, he certainly does the best with what he's given.
  • The set design of Jotunheim is magnificently gloomy. It really sells the idea that the world itself is crumbling away and decaying.
  • So Laufey is clearly an asshole for invading Tonsberg back in the day and attacking that village, but he's not necessarily wrong about Odin. Honestly him reflecting on the horrors of war and being willing to let them leave hits surprisingly hard.
  • It's hard to tell exactly where Loki's plan spiraled out of control, but I genuinely think it was the moment where that one giant called Thor a "princess".
  • In general the MCU has nerfed a lot of their powerhouses, but wrecking the Jotuns' shit with a single lightning bolt and OHKO'ing the Frost Beast are still very impressive showings from Thor.
  • I had to keep in Odin cutting off Loki with the "HAERGH!", it's just too damn good.
  • Goddammit I really don't want to turn this into a dissertation on Ragnarok but it really does make Odin's banishment speech hit all the harder. This isn't the first time he's had to banish one of his kids, and it is clearly tearing him up inside.
  • I have a lot of issues with how the Thor franchise handles the Earth side of things, but Darcy tasering Thor? Still classic.
  • Making Jane an astrophysicist was a smart move, in theory. Since Thor isn't Dr. Donald Blake in this continuity, it's a good way to give them a point of commonality.
  • Miss you Stan. :(
  • "This mortal form has grown weak. I need sustenance". Do  Asgardians not actually need to eat? Otherwise that's a pretty weird line.
  • Okay I take it back, given what Loki says about having tipped off the guard, maybe his plan actually went out of control once Heimdall actually let them go to Jotunheim? Maybe the plan was just to get Thor in trouble for trying to subvert Odin's orders. It's hard to tell of course, since it's Loki.
  • Loki finding out he's adopted makes me feel bad for him of course, but it also makes me feel bad for Odin, you can tell he did not want to have that conversation today. Props to Tom Hiddleston for carrying his own weight in the scene alongside Anthony Hopkins.
  • I don't remember where I first saw this, just that it's not an original observation, but I think it bears repeating; I appreciate that when Jane chastises Thor for breaking the mug he accepts that things are different on Earth, apologizes, and rolls with it. After watching him be a jerk for most of the movie so far it's a nice indication that he can be agreeable even when things aren't going his way.
  • Speaking of nice indications, good bit of foreshadowing in this movie for Avengers and especially Winter Soldier. S.H.I.E.L.D. is (generally) well-intentioned, sure, but they're also kind of assholes sometimes.
  • In another timeline where Edgar Wright had gotten to make Ant-Man as a Phase One movie as originally intended, I wonder how different things could've been. Pretty sure Hank Pym was supposed to be Selvig's old contact who'd dealt with S.H.I.E.L.D.?
  • Why exactly does Loki automatically take the throne while Odin's sleeping and not Frigga? I mean I know why, because otherwise we wouldn't have a movie, but why? The Odinsleep clearly isn't news to Frigga, what were they doing before?
  • As far as "I'm weirdly intrigued and moderately infatuated with this person who should be sending up a shit-ton of red flags" romances go, Thor and Jane's chemistry in this movie is... okay.
  • Hey it's Hawkeye! ... Crazy how far we've come in terms of "little cameos that only people who read the comics will understand".
  • Not only because Hawkeye is now known the world over and has his own Disney+ series, but because as cameos go, this one is actually super-clunky. The fact that you chose the movie about actual gods to introduce the guy with a bow and arrow as some important thing to pay attention to is honestly kind of hilarious, and it's even more awkward because he only shows up to be a potential obstacle for a depowered Thor who never pans out.
  • The way the music changes when Thor tries and fails to pick up Mjolnir is quite good.
  • In the same way that it's really funny to watch Tony brag about establishing world peace knowing all the crazy shit that's going on, it's really funny to watch Coulson be so sure he has Thor profiled as a mercenary and just... have no idea how off the mark he is. XD
  • Why is Loki in a suit when he shows up to lie to Thor? It can't be for camoflauge, clearly nobody notices he's there or they'd be wondering who this rando is trying to pick up the hammer and not wearing a hazmat suit.
  • Honestly I think the saddest thing about Loki lying to Thor here is that of their entire friend group, Thor is the one who seems... I don't want to say the most supportive of Loki, but definitely the least dismissive.
  • Okay the fake ID scene. As I commented in the section itself, I kind of hate this bit, it raises so many questions. Who made this fake ID (I mean it's clearly Darcy but I'd like to think maybe it was Selvig)? It has to be a fake, it's the same picture she took of Thor in the diner. Why are they so willing to throw Donald Blake under the bus by using his identity? Thor can't possibly actually look like him because otherwise you'd think Jane would have brought it up. Why didn't they just make a fake name if they're already making a fake ID? It wasn't going to fool S.H.I.E.L.D. anyways.
  • Selvig is cool and I'm genuinely sad that the last time we saw him is Age of Ultron. He's my favorite of the Earth trio. Which, in this movie at least, isn't a knock against Jane or Darcy. I will speak at length about Darcy when I get to the Dark World.
  • I'd complain about later installments of the MCU making Loki be bad at schemes, but he's always been bad at schemes. Letting Laufey in only to kill him and gain glory is an involved scheme with lots of steps and that's all very impressive, but like. What's going to happen when Odin wakes up? You think he's going to approve of killing Thor, freezing Heimdall, and destroying a town full of innocent people? Then again, maybe he would...
  • I think if the early MCU had been more willing to say that there were things happening between movies, the Thor/Jane romance might have actually worked better. Him explaining the Nine Realms to her is genuinely cute.
  • The Warriors Three need some kind of spinoff, they aren't bad but they do not get enough screentime to matter much in this or any movie. Here's hoping Love and Thunder hits some kind of anti-Ragnarok reset button or something. They're gods, magic them back, nobody will care.
  • Even Hogun smiles when they find Thor, that's sweet.
  • Heimdall loophole abusing his way into trying to kill Loki is just a perfect example of why he's the best under-utilized character. Which is why he's a player character in this chapter and the Warriors Three are not.
  • Oh no, the Destroyer's wrecking everything! You know who we could really use right now? Hawkeye!
  • What constitutes "destroying everything?" Clearly the Destroyer can't have killed all the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents it encountered, Coulson managed to get away.
  • This fight to keep the Destroyer distracted went way quicker than I remembered. Probably could've stood to be longer.
  • Seriously they make Sif and the Warriors Three look like total chumps next to Thor. They don't even seem to hurt the Destroyer, and they're at full power!
  • Again, I feel the need to stress that Loki and Thor being adversarial doesn't necessarily work here. The fact that Thor's first approach when talking is to assume it's something he did and apologize speaks volumes to what he thinks about his brother. I know Loki's gone a little around the bend because of finding out he's a Frost Giant and all, but it does not do his character any favors.
  • We really don't get enough of Thor's weather powers in these movies, that tornado is sick.
  • I understand the reasoning for having the Bifrost open at specific locations in theory, but it doesn't really amount to anything in this movie and I'm glad future movies moved away from it.
  • I find it really funny that Loki was willing to let Odin live despite keeping all this stuff from him, but Thor? Nope, gotta die, sorry bro.
  • I'd like to point out that after blasting Thor out of the palace, Loki proceeds to... ride his horse all the way down the road to the Bifrost, and yet somehow, Thor doesn't catch up until Loki's already activated it. What the hell is that?
  • It really is tragic that at the time they start fighting, Thor has no idea what discoveries Loki has made. So he has actually zero context for what's gone on and why his brother is doing this.
  • "Is it madness? Is it? Is it?!?" is one of my favorite parts of this movie, it's heartbreaking. You can tell by this point Loki's not even trying to convince Thor that his plan is sound, he's trying to convince himself that it's all justified.
  • Odin can't even wake up from a nap without making a big production out of things, no wonder Loki's so dramatic.
  • I know the sadness of Thor not being able to go back to Earth and Loki being MIA is the big crux of this conclusion but seriously can we at least acknowledge the siutation with Jotunheim?
  • Post-credits scene is... fine? I wasn't as big into comics when I first started watching these movies, so I had no idea what a Cosmic Cube was or why I should care. Loki being able to reach out and control someone's mind from who knows how far out is hella impressive though.

On paper, Thor is one of my favorite Marvel characters. I love the spin on pre-existing mythology, I love the faux-Shakespeare dramatic speech, I love going out into space and across the realms to vanquish evil and the such. So that being said, the Thor movies as a whole don't really appeal to me all that much. But the first Thor movie is ultimately fine. I think it's definitely the best Thor movie we could have gotten at this stage of the MCU. The scenes with Thor on Earth are more engaging than they have any right to be and actually do a pretty good job making up for the relatively scant action. Asgard and Jotunheim both feel like completely different worlds from each other and from Earth, which is absolutely important. And the things that I ultimately don't like about where the Thor franchise has gone are... not this movie's fault, I think? I feel like the main problems come from either the Dark World doubling down on the wrong areas and then Ragnarok just chucking out the entire toybox as an over-correction, but I'll get to those when appropriate because the first Thor isn't really to blame for either of those points. Ultimately this one just falls into the "it's perfectly acceptable" category for me, definitely not one of my least favorites, but nowhere near the top 10.
10th Jan 2022, 7:59 PM A Look Back At Marvel's 2021 (Potential Spoilers For Marvel Stuff)
Soooooooooo... obviously this is a little bit late. Long story short, had a covid exposure scare ON New Year's Eve, and that really sucked out a lot of my enthusiasm for ringing in 2022. But this was still a pretty big year for the MCU, especially after the drought that was 2020. The start of Phase Four, the first (and maybe only for a while at least depending on how 2023 shakes out) year with four theatrical releases from Marvel Studios, the first year with Disney+ original MCU content, just an overall interesting mix of old and new stuff. So I figured "eh, so what if it's a little late, it's worth talking about I guess". Which brings us to this, my general thoughts on each of the Marvel projects that came out in 2021.
  • Wandavision: I was waking up at three in the morning to catch these episodes live. As a sitcom homage, I absolutely love it. The performances are fantastic, the little nods and effects they use to keep it feeling like an authentic product of whatever time period it's supposed to be are great and only make the points where the curtain peels back all the more unsettling. But once all the sitcom stuff falls away to solve the greater "mystery" of what's going on, I think it goes from being a really great series to just kind of okay, and the ending leaves a really sour taste in my mouth. Then again, full disclosure, I kind of hate the MCU's Wanda, and this didn't really change my mind on that. Still, I think this is probably the most genuinely ambitious MCU project in a while just in terms of genre-busting scope even if it stumbles at the end, and I hope to see more projects... not necessarily like it, but with the same sense of trying to push the boundaries of what MCU installments can be.
  • The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: It's okay. But it really needed either one or two less subplots, or two or more extra episodes. Everything about Falcon's journey to accepting the mantle of Captain America is really damn good, and I'm super-excited to see him again in whatever they do for Captain America 4. It's just a shame that the rest of the plots have to duke it out for resolution. Bucky's arc is woefully understated and I don't think the resolution is as satisfying, Walker's story feels like it's missing a huge chunk in between its hypothetical second and third acts, Zemo's as superfluous as he is completely badass, and honestly I think the villains are incredibly weak-sauce. All in all, this series feels like it got hit with one of the worst cases of "hyping up whatever's coming next at the expense of its own story"-itis of anything this year. I do really enjoy the dynamic between Sam and Bucky though, and they continue to have Sam do some really neat stuff with his apparatus.
  • Loki: Decent show, but I think with the exception of episode 5 it's an honestly terrible Loki show. For a supposed tricksy god of mischief, it doesn't feel like he actually pulls a lot of tricks or really has much in the way of coherent schemes going on, and he feels ridiculously underpowered compared to previous showings. Except in episode 3 for some weird reason, which I actually assumed for the entire week after it aired had to be an illusion because so little of it makes sense. I give them major props for having the finale be mostly a conversation rather than a big drawn-out CGI fight, and for at least using one episode to explore the concept of what it means to be a Loki, but I'm hoping for a little more of that from Season 2.
  • Black Widow: I know there was a lot of corporate BS going on keeping it from happening, but I really think this would have been a much better movie if they had made it for a 2016 release. There's surprisingly little espionage and spywork for a movie based around Black Widow, the stakes of the action feel particularly unconvincing given Natasha's plot armor until Endgame, and even though the family dynamic is cute and gets some laughs, I have a hard time buying that it's such an important part of Natasha's life just from the way it's presented. Taskmaster feels like they used the name just to put butts in seats, which is kind of disheartening because not only do I feel like we should be past that kind of thing, but Taskmaster feels like a deep enough pull that the name was only going to attract nerds like me who were still going to see this anyway because it's the next big Marvel release. Yelena is an absolute delight though, and I look forward to them putting her in as many future Marvel projects as she can stand to be a part of.
  • What If...?: Probably my least favorite MCU release in a while, because I'm a giant nitpicker. Most of these don't feel like they could have organically spun out of the MCU as we know it, and since it all builds to a big multiversal team-up I feel like it defeats the purpose of calling it "What If" in the first place. If you want to make Exiles, that's fine, just make the Exiles. That aside, there's some genuinely great stuff here, Strange Supreme is heartbreaking and very well done, Star-Lord T'Challa is amazing, and the murder mystery episode was very well written, but the show loses some major points for undercooking Marvel Zombies and the less said about Party Thor, the happier I'll be. Honestly I hope maybe they'll try some longer episodes for season 2? It doesn't feel like any of these really get the time they need to flesh their concepts out in 30 minutes.
  • Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings: I think this is the best thing Marvel's released all year. Literally the only real weak point for me is that I wish the final fight hadn't turned into a battle between big CGI monsters, but even then, it's decently well done and the only reason it disappoints me is because I was so enthralled with the hand-to-hand combat in the rest of the movie. Not really much else to say, it's a beautiful movie with great performances, spectacular writing, and awesome fight choreography. I can't wait for the sequel.
  • Eternals: I don't think this movie would have been better as a Disney+ series, but I do think it needed one more pass in the editing room. Kro could've been cut out of the third act entirely and left as a dangling issue to be either resolved in a sequel or handled elsewhere by another party, and Ikaris and Sersi just aren't all that engaging, so maybe some of the screentime put toward enforcing their "epic romance" could've been better used establishing their connections to the other characters/developing them as individuals instead? I definitely respect that this movie was trying to be more of a thinker, but there's some definite weakpoints to be patched up. Also, more Druig and Makkari in the sequel please. That's the real most valuable relationship here.
  • Hawkeye: I hate the LARPers. Other than that, I think this show's really damn good, probably the best of the Disney+ series just in terms of nuts and bolts structure, and tying the whole thing into the Christmas season gives it a surprising amount of charm. Kate's another welcome new addition to the MCU and I'm eager to see where she shows up next. Also I'm not a relationship expert or anything, but I feel like Clint and Laura have one of the healthiest, most communicative marriages I've ever seen in a TV show, and it's just really refreshing.
  • Spider-Man No Way Home: Okay I'm really not going to go into any details on this one because it's still relatively recent and still in theaters, but I feel like it's worth stating: I don't think this is the best Spider-Man movie, in general or live action. Honestly I don't even necessarily think it's the best Tom Holland Spider-Man movie. But god damn if slamming the nostalgia center of the brain doesn't count for a lot, because I definitely had the most emotional reactions to this movie out of any of the other Marvel stuff this year. By this time next year I feel like I'm going to look back at this movie and think it was just "pretty damn good", but there are moments in this that will probably never stop making me tear up just thinking about them.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with how this past year of Marvel content's turned out. There's a bit of an awkward "finding the footing again" feel to the whole sandbox again, but after Endgame I feel like that's actually pretty fitting. We're not just in Phase Four, we're in a new Phase One for whatever's following up on the Infinity Saga, and the most intriguing thing, I think, is that there's things building up across a whole bunch of different corners. And even while trying to plant seeds for whatever's coming next, most of these installments still work very well as entertaining and fulfilling experiences on their own, even if they're also keeping the hype machine running in the meantime.

Thanks to all those who decided to humor my ramblings by reading this, feel free to comment on what you thought about any of the Marvel stuff that came out this past year. And here's to an even better 2022 (hopefully)!
12th Nov 2021, 6:54 PM Marvel's Disney+ Day Announcements
It's funny, ever since I started this comic every Marvel rumor/announcement/release fills me with a weird combination of anticipatory hype and creeping dread. On the one hand, I don't want to jinx anything or come off as super-full of myself presuming that there's going to be any major continued interest in reading this comic in the however many years it's going to take me just to get through Phase Three. But on the other hand, I do have at least a basic outline for just about every project that's currently out, and honestly, seeing how far out in advance I can connect the dots has been a lot of fun. Still, some of their more off the wall announcements tend to elicit a reaction of "Oh man that's super-cool!" followed by "Oh man how the actual hell is that gonna work?!?". To wit, my increasingly panicked reaction to all of Marvel's Disney+ announcements today went something to the tune of:

--> Marvel: ECHO
--> Me: Oh, that's official then? Guess she's gonna need to be a PC. No problem, Hawkeye comes out soon, I can figure this out.
--> Me: Okay, that one was trade-confirmed a while ago, already have the Wandavision outline mostly adjusted...
--> Me: Echhhhhhhhhhhhhh, alright, I kinda had What If figured out, I think I can spin this one out into something possibly-
--> Me: Aggggggh, this is a prequel? But I already... I thought No Way Home was going to be the pain in the-
--> Marvel: X-MEN 97
--> Me: ... Nope. I ain't even think I'm touching that one. But maybe-NO. STOP IT. GET TO PHASE TWO, THEN WE'LL TALK.

Anyways, there wasn't really much of an underlying point to this whole thing, now that I've realized blog posts are a thing I just figured "hey this might be a halfway funny thing that doesn't give away too many future plans. Definitely not anything in the immediate future". Hopefully it is that thing. Anyways, thanks for reading, feel free to comment and let me know what you thought about the announcements. 
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