After Infinity: The Most Exciting Marvel Stuff To Look Forward To

July 11, 2020 at 6:20 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

Amazingly, this beautiful MCU juggernaut hasn’t run out of steam.

5. The Black Widow film

Fans have been clamoring for this film for over ten years, and some of us are tired of the whole idea by now. But if the film is good (which seems likely), all our pent-up excitement will return in full. And all the pain of Black Widow’s ignominious death too *sigh*.

4. The Eternals, Shang-Chi, and more diverse heroes

I know very little about these characters, but Marvel now has an extremely well-established history of taking anyone and anything from past comics and making them great. Arg, the wait sucks!

I don’t just want diversity because I’m a fundamentally decent human being, but because we’ve had a LOT of straight white men telling stories, and even the greatest writers are never going to be AS good at telling different stories than people who have different life experiences. That is, after all, why Phase 3 spat out so many unique and brilliant movies after all these years. It was a hint of the diversity to come.

That trailer really didn’t tell us a thing, did it?

You do you, Marvel.

3. More Spider-Man! Yay!

2. More Black Panther! Even more yay!

And hopefully way more Nakia (and everyone else from Wakanda too). I’d love to see Nakia and T’Challa’s romance play out.

1. The TV shows

Lots more hours of our favourite characters? Uh, yes please. I’m not super excited about WandaVision, but I’m always ready for more Loki, and I’m deliriously excited about The Falcon & The Winter Soldier.

I stan Mackie & Stan.

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5 Biggest Writing Challenges for Marvel after the Infinity Saga

July 11, 2020 at 5:06 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

5. Will people get sick of superheroes?

It has been mentioned elsewhere that the MCU uses a lot of fancy imagery to try to hide the fact that most battles ultimately still come down to punching. The thing about punching is that it’s fun and cathartic and satisfying to watch (punching Nazis especially so) because it’s so simple. I’ve become aware of the inclination towards violent climaxes in my own writing, because the great thing about fiction is that it’s so much simpler than real life—especially when it’s violent. But I’ve been trying to improve my own writing (by which I mean thinking more about non-violent solutions) and it’s possible that the rest of the world will ask more than escapism from its fiction at some point. Maybe even me, as an audience member. Maybe.

4. So much backstory.

Marvel tends to handle this by having everyone forgive everyone and just move on as if nothing happened. Which is actually really sweet in some ways, and it fundamentally works. Each movie just needs to take a few seconds to establish who is good (in this movie) and who is bad (in this movie), and then it can get into the story.

3. Marvel is too powerful (especially Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel).

It was extremely noticeable in Endgame that Captain Marvel had to be busy “elsewhere in the universe” or all Earth’s problems would be fixed too quickly. This is going to continue to take some tricky writing.

How would I write a story in which one character could fly through space and destroy rockets in seconds, and another character is a regular human? Well, mostly I would try to avoid the situation altogether, because it’s not easy to balance stuff like that. The main strategy Marvel will likely use is to separate people into teams a lot.


2. Where to go after Thanos?

How can you up the stakes after “half the universe”? And how do you make it not be boring if you keep nearly destroying the universe?

Ugh, I just read on twitter that Marvel may bring Thanos back. I really hope that’s not true. He was a mediocre villain, and he’s had all the screen time he’s worth. Plus they already did bring him back, in Endgame, and it’ll ruin the satisfaction of Endgame if it isn’t the final end of Thanos.

Spider-Man: Homecoming brilliantly pulled us WAY back to just one baddie (and a highly local one at that). More of that, please. Because when it’s our local bodega getting trashed, that means a lot more than an entire galaxy blown up somewhere else.

But of course the biggest writing challenge going forward is . . .












1. So. Many. Characters.

It was amazing when they managed to balance six heroes and one main villain way back in Marvel’s Avengers. Let’s consider the fates and futures of all those from the poster above (coloured side first):

Iron Man – dead

Captain America – retired and old; possible cameos

Black Widow – dead but has a movie coming out (set in her past)

Thor – hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy; part of their group now I reckon

Professor Hulk – withered arm; possible cameos

Hawkeye – fine but maybe in prison/retired; possible cameos

Captain Marvel – too powerful so they’ll be keeping her mainly in space having her own adventures

Ant-Man – fine; probably getting a third movie and generally being in tentpole movies

Nebula – reformed; probably joining the Guardians of the Galaxy crowd

Okoye – fine; will be in any Black Panther or Wakanda movie

War Machine – fine except for magically-fine (or are they?) legs; possible cameos

Pepper/Rescue – Gwyneth Paltrow is sick of acting so I don’t reckon we’ll see her (or Morgan) again

Rocket – part of Guardians of the Galaxy

King Valkyrie – I hope we’ll see her get a lesbian romance but she may fade out of the main storylines due to Thor being off world

Wong – sidekick to Dr Strange; in danger of death due to being a sidekick of colour

Happy – likely to appear in Spider-Man movies

Now for the black and white side:

King T’Challa – at least two more Black Panther movies; a central character going forwards

Star-Lord – Main character of Guardians of the Galaxy crowd; may have a romance with past Gamora; another movie coming

Gamora- dead, but now there’s past Gamora. As a love interest, she’ll stick around near Star-Lord and probably not die since she did that already

Dr Strange – two more movies so I guess he’s a central character going forwards

Spider-Man- another movie’s coming and he’s wildly popular; he’ll be a central character going forwards; possibly part of a younger generation of heroes. It’ll get tricky in 5-10 years when he’s not a kid any more

Scarlet Witch – shunted out of the main action since she’s too powerful; see her on TV

Vision – dead but past version will be on TV with Scarlet Witch

Fury – still around but mostly as a mentor figure

Loki- dead but past Loki has a TV show

Princess Shuri – attached to anything Black Panther/Wakanda

Groot- with the Guardians

Wasp – with the Ant-Man movies; in danger of death due to being a female sidekick

Falcon/Captain America- he’s Captain America now and I hope we see a lot of him. Definitely in TV

Bucky/ex-Winter Soldier- on TV with Captain America #2 and likely to stay on the small screen

Mantis -Guardians

Drax – Guardians

That’s all the main heroes, so going forward we have:

TV crowd: Scarlet Witch & Vision; Loki; Falcon & Winter Soldier

I reckon they’ll try to keep the TV heroes away from major roles in the movies from now on. Ditto original-and-tired/wounded/old heroes Hawkeye, Captain America, and Hulk.

Guardians crowd: Star-Lord, past Gamora, Nebula, Groot, Rocket, Drax, Mantis, and now Thor (probably temporarily since we’ve already seen so much of him).

Other major heroes: King T’Challa (+ Okoye, Shuri, and hopefully Nakia), Ant-Man (+ the Wasp, and possibly Cassie), Spider-Man (+ Happy), Dr Strange (+ Wong), Captain Marvel (+ hopefully Monica Rambeau and/or Lieutenant Trouble who’s grown up by now).

That’s “only” six, so long as we count groups as one person. Keeping them balanced will be super easy—barely an inconvenience.

Plus of course there are heroes we haven’t met yet—most notably, The Eternals, Shang-Chi, and a rebooted Blade (plus a bunch of Spider-Man stuff).

I have ONE list left to write: the list of what I’m most looking forward to from Marvel in the near future.

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5 Best Romances in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 11, 2020 at 3:29 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

I am, sadly, not going to rank all the beautiful gay ships that have blossomed during the MCU’s run thus far. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all perfect and there must surely be enough timelines for all of them.

So let’s talk about official romances that have been established in canon thus far.

5. Pepper and Stark

By far the longest and steadiest (which isn’t saying much) of our romances thus far, this is the golden couple of the Infinity Saga. It’s last on the top five because Stark is terrible and unhealthy in so many ways. It’s in the top five because Pepper is extremely familiar with all his faults and she usually manages to set healthy boundaries. There’s no doubt that Pepper is the reason Stark is as sane as he is, and ultimately able to settle into being a pretty decent husband and father in Endgame. (Note: It is never a woman’s job to fix a man. This is a super dangerous trope that abusers love.)

4. Okoye and M’Baku

These two are settled in their relationship, but still call each other ‘My Love’ with such affection. It’s beautiful. And they love each other, even when their core beliefs conflict. It’s highly notable that they seem to have moved past their strong disagreement (you remember the battle, with the war rhinos?) in Black Panther, and are still together in Endgame.

3. T’Challa and Nakia

They’re broken up in Black Panther, but are still extremely close. I find that beautiful, especially when it becomes clear that their disagreement on Wakandan foreign policy is the cause of their break-up (rather than something petty). I hope they are able to get together now that King T’Challa has decided to open up Wakanda to the world—and I also hope Nakia is never reduced to a mere queen. She deserves her own plot lines. I would 100% watch a movie trilogy that was all about her.

2. Captain America and Peggy

It’s fair enough that they both moved on, but it’s also lovely that they ended up together and lived a good long life as husband and wife. I have lots of questions about what they each did during all those years (World War 2? Hydra? etc) but sometimes logic doesn’t matter.

Honorable Mentions:

*Thor and Jane, since Thor’s respect for Jane makes him a better person. (Jane is already perfect, and it’s great to see that she has her own life apart from his—and she’s handy in a climactic battle too.) I look forward to seeing Jane become Thor.

*Hawkeye and his wife, because they’re obviously doing a fine job raising three kids together, and because keeping his family secret is a very wise move on Hawkeye’s part (and telling Black Widow about his family makes sense too—she’s his best friend, plus it’s nice for hot single co-workers to know you’re not available so no sexual tension builds up).

*Scott Lang and Hope. I think this is mostly based on them working together under high stress rather than anything they actually have in common, but I’ll allow it.

*Peter and Gamora. Peter is a man-child and Gamora is a semi-reformed psychopath, so there’s a rocky road ahead (behind?) but both of them seem to be improved by the relationship.

*Black Widow and Banner. This is quite sweet except for the part where Black Widow describes herself as a “monster” just because she’s unable to have kids. That’s the part where any decent human says, “Er, that’s not monstrous. Thank you for being up front, now let’s talk about whether we actually even want kids, and how we feel about adoption or surrogacy…”












1. Peter Parker and MJ

They are young and awkward and adorkable, but there’s more to them that just being two young hot people. They’re both in the science club, but they also actually know each other properly. Peter knows that MJ’s favourite flower is the Black Dahlia (“because of the murders”) and knows she deserves to be asked out in the most romantic manner possible. She knows he’s Spider-Man.

They’re smart, and good, and brave, and lovely, and their concern for each others’ safety is genuine and deep.

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Top 5 Scenes in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 11, 2020 at 1:50 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

5. Captain Marvel beats up everybody.

It’s so cathartic, not just after all the gaslighting Danvers has been through in her own movie, but after all the years we waited to have a female hero with her own film.

4. Hulk vs Thor in Ragnarok

I’ll be honest: a lot of fight scenes are pretty boring. Not this one. There are so many emotional beats to this scene that it tells a full story. Thor is delighted to see Hulk; Thor tries and fails to get Hulk to recognise him; Thor fights; Thor attempts to calm Hulk to get Dr Banner to reappear; more fighting, etc

Meanwhile we also have Loki and the Grandmaster watching the show, and there is another story playing out as Loki sees the Hulk (remembering him very clearly from his rag doll moment in Marvel’s The Avengers), and has to act like he’s having fun in front of the Grandmaster while at the same time watching his brother get beaten up (or not?)

3. Baby Groot dancing while the Guardians attack a big tentacle monster (and keep an eye on him at the same time).

This is joyful, character-filled, and hilarious. It’s a stunning opening to a sequel.

2. Captain America and The Winter Soldier fight on a crashing helicarrier as Steve tries to get through to Bucky.

This is a fight that matters on an emotional level, while also challenging Captain America physically because it’s not easy to have a fight in which you’re trying not to hurt the other guy (much).

1. The Dusting.

Marvel spent so long making sure we knew that the heroes would always win and everything would be okay, and then they broke everything and everyone.

Honorable mentions:

*The airport scene in Civil War.

*Peter Parker’s home video of the airport scene (Spider-Man: Homecoming).

*The battle for New York in Marvel’s Avengers —bonus points for the fact that it has consequences eg Vulture, Loki’s failure, Earth knowing about aliens now. And it makes a fantastic backdrop for time travel scenes in Avengers: Endgame.

*Star-Lord dancing, stealing the orb, and then announcing his hero name… to confusion (Guardians of the Galaxy).

*Stark vs Captain America (and technically Bucky) in Civil War.

*War rhinos, and the confrontation between Okoye and M’Baku that ends the battle in Black Panther.

*Stark and Nebula dying in space. Nebula softening emotionally, and Stark talking to Pepper via his helmet recording (Endgame).

*Endgame final battle.

*Grief for Stark after his death (several scenes, but they work together perfectly) in Endgame.

*Steve Trevor finally dancing with Peggy (Endgame).


What’s your favourite scene?

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The MCU: Infinity Saga’s 5 Most Problematic Moments

July 10, 2020 at 11:53 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

You may have picked up on the fact that I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But although it’s mostly great, some of it is seriously problematic.

5. The Missing

There is an increasingly-glaring lack of women, people of colour, and (most of all) gay people in the MCU so far. Even characters that are in a gay relationship in the comics (such as Ayo and Okoye) are straight in the movies. There have been many, many promises made about future diversity, and we have Captain Marvel and the cast of Black Panther now, which is a good start. Killing off both Gamora and Black Widow is…. not ideal.

4. Haweye killing people of colour

Hawkeye goes full vigilante after his family is snapped into dust by Thanos. He massacres several gangs, and it just so happens that both of the ones that are mentioned/seen in Avengers: Endgame are people of colour… perhaps because if he’d killed white people, or US citizens, there might have to be some kind of consequences. Hmm.

3. Fat Thor jokes

I don’t need to write a second time about how trauma can cause massive weight gain. Nor do I need to point out that mocking weight gain is not okay.

2. Replacing Asian characters with white people

Marvel has done this at least twice, swapping out The Mandarin and The Ancient One for white folks. Ugh. They actually went out of their way to be less diverse than the comics, which is awful.

Dishonorable Mentions:

*”You’re insane!” It’s a phrase often used in fiction, which is going to fall out of favour as it becomes offensive to speak so lightly of mental illness.

*Scarlet Witch and Vision dating. The age gap between the two actors is ew, and is one of the reasons I’m not desperate to see their TV show (having said that, I’ll still give it a shot and see if they change my mind).

*Did Captain America kiss his own niece that one time? Weird.

*Thanos ‘loves’ Gamora, which is why killing her gets him the soul stone. Yeah, that’s definitely not love.

*Black Widow dies instead of Hawkeye. Is it because he’s a man? Because he’s married? Because he has kids? It’s certainly not because he’s killed less people than her.

*Problematic romances. Both Stark and Star-Lord pressure their respective romantic options in icky ways.

But most of all. . .


1. That anti-trans joke in Iron Man.

Yeah, I know it was a long time ago and it’s a throwaway line. But that’s the thing. Comedy should punch up, not down, and no one is further down than trans women (especially trans women of colour), who are literally getting murdered because awful people think that their deaths won’t matter.

Their deaths matter, and so do their lives.

Jokes at the expense of trans people are not, have never been, and never will be okay. This is a matter of life and death.

Do better, Marvel.

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The 5 Best Chrises

July 10, 2020 at 10:17 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

There are so many white, handsome, famous Chrises right now. So let’s rank them!

5. Chris Sullivan

You might not have known his name. Or if you knew his name (from This is Us) you didn’t recognise him under three and a half hours of makeup. But this is Chris Sullivan aka the mighty Taserface (Guardians of the Galaxy 2).

4. Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt rapidly changed from a schlub in The Office to a superhero (even if Drax describes him as a “dude” rather than a “man” like Hemsworth’s Thor). He is, after all, an actor. I don’t have a strong impression of the actor’s personality except that he loves laughing both at himself and at others. He manages to balance that humour with action scenes, and with Star-Lord’s emotional complexity and growth.

3. Chris Hemsworth

Yeah, but Hemsworth is funny and has the biggest muscles and he’s Australian.

2. Chris Evans

Chris Evans, though. He has the best arc of all the Chrises (so far… Thor and Star-Lord are still going), and the best heart, and he’s clean-shaven (usually) which I prefer in my eye candy. The actor has great range, but also uses his fame to speak out about those who are less privileged than he is. He’s a real-life hero. What could beat that?

Honorable mention: Chris Pine. He’s in Star Trek and Wonder Woman which makes it feel like he’s in Marvel even though he’s not. Pine is the most intellectual Chris, with a love of books and of unusual words used well. But he’s not in the MCU, and he once said he’s not that big a fan of superhero movies, so screw him.

Also, his eyebrows are stupid. There, I said it.

1. Mine

Well, obviously.

I’m a sucker for a (mostly) clean-shaven Chris with gorgeous green eyes, a love of all things nerdy, a quick wit, and a hero’s heart.

So that’s the most correct and final list of all the greatest Chrises of our time. No need to sound off in the comments; I know I’m right.

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The 5 Worst Father Figures in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 7, 2020 at 11:05 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

So many choices, amirite?

So let’s start with the man who got a pass on the villain list despite making Ultron.

5. Tony Stark

Look, Tony. I know your own dad wasn’t super emotionally competent, but it is not okay to enlist a child into your civil war, okay? Particularly without his guardian’s knowledge or consent.

And coming on to said guardian while you’re there? Unhelpful at best.

No matter how cool the scene ends up being.

4. Yondu

In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Yondu is ret-conned to a certain extent. He didn’t keep Quill because he was handy child labour; he kept him to save him from his killer father.

Having said that, Quill was still abducted from his home planet and was constantly threatened with being eaten. Yondu died to save him, and that’s worth a lot—but parenthood takes a fair bit more than one grand heroic moment. Quill has a lot of reasons to be screwed up, and Yondu is definitely one of them.

3. Odin

The all-father seems like a great dad, wise and compassionate and all kinds of great stuff. He sends Thor on a quest that makes him a better person, and he adopts a baby belonging to his traditional enemies, raising him as his own. His quest for Thor nearly gets the god of thunder killed, and he should have told Loki he was adopted… but it’s not until Thor: Ragnarok that we find out about Hela and about Asgard’s blood-soaked past.

Parenthood: It’s not one of those things where you can change your mind about your parenting style and lock the first kid in an underground dungeon so you can start over.

It is an elegant tragedy that Odin’s most lovely, fatherly speech towards Thor is actually Loki pretending to be Odin.

2. Ego

Impregnating various races in order to gain a child who can help you take over the universe is not a good reason to become a dad. Killing countless offspring who disappoint you—and the occasional mother that you’re tempted to stick with—is also not good parenthood.

Just… just no.

Honorable mentions, for those who are mostly good but also kind of awful:

Rocket cares deeply for Baby Groot, and it’s adorable, but in an ideal world children don’t get raised by psychopaths. Just saying.

King T’Chaka raises two wonderful children, and is fundamentally a good man—but he has something in common with all the worst billionaires of our time. He chooses not to care about the rest of the world. I understand the urge to protect one’s own people at the expense of others, but if you truly want to be a decent father, that means being a decent human being as well.

Hank Pym, for being cranky as and for taking way too long to let Hope have a suit. She’s so, so much more competent than Scott.

Scott Lang, for going to prison and then continuing to steal stuff and risk his freedom. He loves Cassie, but he makes a lot of dumb, awful decisions that put her in harm’s way and that stop him being able to actually act like the good dad he wants to be.










And finally, Thanos

Not because he wants to kill half the universe (although that’s certainly a solid entry in the ‘nope’ column) but because of the way he gaslights, abuses, and manipulates his adopted daughters.

Those girls are deeply messed up, and that was entirely intentional on his part. He wanted them desperate for his approval, and constantly fighting one another in an attempt to please him that would never be satisfied.

It is delightful to see them both break free of him.

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Five Best Exposition Moments in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 7, 2020 at 1:21 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

If you’ve read any of my recent articles on the Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga, you know that I don’t like obvious exposition. There’s a lot of very good writing throughout the Marvel movies (in particular, bickering to introduce characters and character goals works beautifully), and here are my top five moments of exposition:

5. Black Panther‘s opening animation

I know I lowered Black Panther‘s ranking in the five best films because of the opening exposition, but it’s still very good exposition. The animation isn’t just good; it’s fitted to the story and its technology—Princess Shuri later mentions her sand table.

It tells us a lot: why Wakanda is rich, where the vibranium came from, how the Black Panther super power is given via the heart-shaped herb and most of the ritual and tradition that comes with that. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to communicate all that info quickly and memorably. And I have a feeling that the panther-god Bast may be more than just a minor cultural detail in future films. (Or not. Who knows.)

4. The Wonka tunnel experience in Thor: Ragnarok

This is a very funny, entirely bonkers mini-scene that tells us a little about the Grandmaster and the planet Sakaar. It knows that it’s echoing the tunnel sequence from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (that traumatised a generation of children), and used a twisted instrumental version of Pure Imagination to let us know that they know that we know. From this we learn that no one leaves Sakaar, the Grandmaster is the boss, Thor is his slave, and that gladiatorial combat is a-coming.

3. Stark’s name on weapons

Way, way back in the very first scene of the whole Infinity Saga, Stark is blown up. In the middle of an intense firefight that ends with his capture, he spots an unexploded (at that point) missile with his own name on it, and he is so shocked to see it that he freezes, staring at his own name.

This is when the audience and Stark both find out that his company—the company of which he is supposedly the boss—has been selling weapons to baddies. It is devastating not only because Stark is captured and nearly killed, but because everything he believes he knows just got turned on its head. It is abundantly clear from his face that he didn’t know his weapons were being sold to both sides.


2. The opening of Thor: Ragnarok, with Thor talking to the Ragnarok-bringing monster about the Ragnarok prophecy.

Yep, Ragnarok again. Thor chats to a skeleton and is then threatened by a big horned monster (Su-something) that is prophesied to destroy Asgard (which he then kills*). He takes a page out of Black Widow’s book and uses his own imprisonment and interrogation to find out what he needs to know. And we’re laughing so hard we don’t notice that they’ve just outlined an important plot beat so they don’t have to waste time explaining it in the climax.

*It gets better.

Honorable mention:

“And get this man a shield.”

Captain America gave up his shield to Stark at the end of Civil War and he doesn’t get it back until Avengers: Endgame, when he and Stark are fully reconciled. King T’Challa fought against Captain America and Bucky in Civil War, but that fight is well and truly over, and has been replaced by respect. This line is badass, while also establishing that King T’Challa and Captain America are friends now, and how Captain America gets the Wakandan shield he uses in the battles to come.

And people love this line. There’s something deeply satisfying about it.

Speaking of lines that are just beautiful, while also conveying vital plot information:

1. “He’s from space. He came here to steal a necklace from a wizard.”

Now that is what I call an excellent summary of all the salient facts needed to jump into an action scene. And an epic movie, for that matter.

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The Best 5 Movies in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 6, 2020 at 1:00 am (Reviews, TV/movie review)

All these lists are incredibly hard to rank, and this one I had to cheat a little. The twinned films of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are extraordinary. The first two times I watched them, I could hardly pay attention because I was so blown away by the brilliant writing: the quiet moments; the emotional hits; the way the films introduced characters and their personalities both speedily and with action rather than exposition. But part of the reason they work is the other twenty-one movies behind them.

So. I would have made them number one, but instead I left them off this list.

This pic is Rocket, Nebula, Rhodes, Natasha, Thor, Stark, Steve, Banner, Clint, Scott, Carol, and Okoye. There are so many characters missing from this: King T’Challa, Dr Strange, Sam Wilson, Peter Quill, Peter Parker. . .

5. Iron Man

If this film wasn’t brilliant, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would not have happened. Brilliant main character, brilliant opening, brilliant script, brilliant twists. The baddie is very clear from the beginning, but that just adds a sense of menace. Obadiah Stone isn’t all that great as a villain, but his creepy “affection” for Stark and Pepper, and his touchiness to everyone does add a lot. And, as I may have mentioned, this film was fun.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

It was Marvel that got us in the door to see this wacky space movie with a talking racoon, but by the second scene we were all thoroughly hooked. My son loves Spider-Man with the passion of someone with nerd parents who introduced him to superheroes before he could roll over… but after watching bits of many MCU films, his favourites are now the Guardians of the Galaxy. Brilliant opening; brilliant balance and mix of characters; brilliant themes; brilliant ending. The baddies are numerous and Yondu is a good one (the rest are forgettable). My only quibble is that Quill’s mother appearing at the “hold my hand” climax was uneccessary.

This was the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this was the point at which we knew Marvel could do anything, and do it well.

They were more than twenty hours into this saga, and they were still just so freaking fun—again.

“We are Groot.”

3. Thor: Ragnarok

Thor is a jock. He’s big and strong and. . . not dumb, but dumb compared to the geniuses around him (not to mention dumb compared to the god of mischief). Ragnarok brought him back to life, for both Chris Hemsworth and for the audience.

From the hilarious opening scene onwards, this movie is a technicolour delight. There is surprising depth to it, from the destruction of Thor’s hammer to the prophesied destruction of his home realm.

After so, so many films, this film changed the game yet again. It also introduced ever so many fan-favourite characters: Hela, goddess of war. Grandmaster. Valkyrie. Korg. And Stan Lee as a hairdresser who advises Thor to stay still since “my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be.”

All the other films on this list are origin stories, which are relatively easy to write. This one deserves all its praise for taking a sequel tale and making it so, so good.

2. Black Panther

The tomatometer scores this at 96%. The only reason it’s not #1 on my list is that the opening scene, although beautifully animated, is pure exposition and I have a personal dislike of any obvious exposition.

Speaking of brilliant characters though? All of them. The tolkien white guys are brilliant; Killmonger is brilliant; Okoye and W’Kabi and Nakia and Ayo and M’Baku are brilliant. T’Challa is exquisite. Even T’Chaka, the king who died before the film began, still manages to be more interesting than many living characters from lesser films. Also the world-building, costumes, and use of language are brilliant. This film is all perfection, except maybe for some of the fight between T’Challa and Killmonger, which is potent on the waterfall and devastating at its end, but a bit blah on the train track. (Still better than many many superhero climax scenes.)

Honorable mentions:

Marvel’s Avengers: I love it, and Loki and the Chitauri are both exquisite villains. But the opening scene is baddies talking exposition, which I find very dull. So, in such a list, that lost it a spot.

Winter Soldier: Again a brilliant villain, and the climax actually matters. I know there’s a lot going on, but to me and everyone else it’s all about Steve putting everything on the line to try to reach his best friend. In a world of dull CGI climaxes, it stands out. The only reason it didn’t make the list is that I don’t buy the idea that Hydra could really infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. for so many years. Obviously that’s from the comics, and it’s a huge twist which is fun… but I still just don’t buy it.

Captain Marvel: Another climax that really, really works—and all the more so because the film has a relatively slow start and spends so much time with an amnesiac hero. But I still penalised it for that slow start and amnesiac hero. Yeah, I was looking for reasons to take films off my main list.

Captain America: The film means even more than it did when it first came out, because Captain America is still the noble, selfless hero that he was before he became Captain America. I love this character, and I love that the writers (and Chris Evans) keep him from being so good he’s dull.

Nazis are always good villains, but perhaps there was a missed opportunity to have a Nazi villain who didn’t spend all their time being eeevil and chewing scenery. These days, Nazis are much scarier than they are in this film, because a Nazi who lives next door is a real and present danger.

And finally. . .














1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

I did not expect this film to end up as #1. It’s just a silly little bit of fun, isn’t it? It didn’t reinvent the concept of theatre or make anyone think more deeply about real-life issues. But as far as I can tell, this movie is perfect. Perfect hero, perfect villain, perfect beginning, climax, and end. I can’t think of a way to make it better. And it’s hilarious too.

It’s so good I have hardly anything to say. Kudos to Tom Holland, who is extremely funny, great at action scenes, and can then break down in tears and rip out the audience’s heart. Because that’s the heart of Spider-Man, isn’t it? He’s just a kid.

So there you go. What’s your #1 pick?

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Five Most Iconic Lines in the MCU: Infinity Saga

July 1, 2020 at 11:59 pm (Reviews, TV/movie review)

There are truckloads of brilliant lines in the MCU: Infinity Saga. It was not easy to whittle them down, but I decided not to attempt to decide which line was funniest or ‘best’, and to focus on the lines that are most instantly recognisable. All of the top five are iconic in part because they are used more than once. Is it cheating or great writing? You decide.


5. I could do this all day.

When Captain America is just weedy, asthmatic Steve Trevor, he objects to others mocking soldiers in a movie theatre and is beaten up for it. This is where we get a glimpse of his sheer justice-based tenacity.

“I could do this all day.”

When Bucky comes and chases the bully off, he comments that Steve seems to enjoy bleeding. It’s clear this is not the first time he has gotten himself beaten up and refused to back down even after getting knocked over multiple times.

Of course as super-powered Captain America the line comes up again, and someone who didn’t know Steve would imagine that his toughness comes from his physical strength. It doesn’t.

And of course when Cap says it to Future Cap, thinking Future Cap is Loki, Future Cap is annoyed to have his own line thrown back at him. Because Marvel is nothing if not self-referential.

4. Hulk smash!

An excellent two-word summary of a character. We all remember it best from Marvel’s Avengers, when it is spoken by Captain America as he rapidly outlines a strategy against Loki and co. during the battle of New York. It first appears in The Incredible Hulk and of course is referenced many times after that. In Avengers: Endgame, when several Avengers travel back in to the time to the battle of New York, Professor Hulk is embarrassed by the original Hulk being all… Hulk-y, pausing mid-battle to smash a car.

3. Yibambe!

I have mentioned elsewhere that I came home and yelled “Yibambe” at the cat for weeks. There’s no need for me to tell you how brilliant Black Panther is, since you already know. The world is now very aware that an extremely successful movie can have a whole non-white cast, non-white setting, and even use an actual African language and African accents. The movie knew how good it was, and didn’t even bother having subtitles during the war chant of Yibambe (which only appears later, in Infinity War, but it works because of Black Panther). Because this movie is so good that people were happy to go along with it and even to google it later (figuring out how to spell it on the way). The character of King T’Challa is the closest thing to a straight man that the MCU has, which gives him a weight that no other character possesses. And Wakanda and the Dora Milaje are iconic in their own right (not to mention Okoye) so when they stand united ready to fight, there is real power. All of that characterisation, world-building, and sheer good writing crystallises into that war chant.

And Endgame wouldn’t be as good without it either.

In case you don’t faithfully study the minutiae of your pop culture, Yibambe is a Bantu word meaning “Hold” or “Hold strong”. Bantu is related to Zulu and is spoken by over seven million people, so now you speak one work of Bantu. Be sure to yell it at your pets.

2. I am Iron Man.

This line, waaaay back in the final scene of the first Iron Man, made audiences gasp. It was the first of many delicious twists on superhero film expectations made by Marvel over many years.

So much for Stark’s secret identity.

Any “I am” statement speaks to identity, which is why Stark says, “I am Iron Man” again after destroying all his suits at the end of his trilogy. Even without his armour, he is who he is.

Then, of course, way at the end of it all, in the final battle against Thanos, that line comes back.

Thanos: “I am inevitable.”

Stark: “I am Iron Man”

And Stark snaps his fingers, and Thanos and his army turn to ash.

The universe is saved, and Stark’s life is lost.

It is an unforgettable moment.

Honorable mentions:

For sheer joy: He’s a friend from work! (Thor about Hulk, Thor: Ragnarok)

For insight, on screen and off: I’m always angry. (Dr Banner, transforming into Hulk on a dime in Marvel’s Avengers)

For the biggest twist: Hail Hydra. (Bonus points for when Captain America says it in Endgame, showing that he has more flexibility than he used to have.)

For shocking the audience: You should have gone for the head. (Thanos to Thor, after all Thor has been through, just before Thanos does the snap that kills half of all living things.)

For love: We are Groot. (As Groot sacrifices himself for his friends, in Guardians of the Galaxy.)

For devastation: Mr Stark, I don’t feel so good. (Whether you love Stark, Peter Parker, or both—this line hurts so very much as Peter Parker turns to dust and Stark is left alone.)

1. I am Groot.

It shouldn’t work to have a character who speaks just one phrase over and over and over. Not only do the films manage to annoy the characters without annoying the audience (an impressive feat, believe me), but both of the Groot characters are extremely well-developed character-wise.

“I am Groot” has a million meanings, and the vast majority are instantly understood by the audience.


Goodbye from Baby Groot!

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