Review: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Two [2013 – 2015]

a review by the Team.

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The Crow: Continuing our long-delayed run-through of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we finally arrive at Phase Two of the franchise.

Click here for The Corvid Review‘s investigation of Phase One

This will be the longest of these installments, since a grand total of none of these movies have yet appeared on The Corvid Review, and it will also be the first to feature some of our non-Avian friends (one of whom has been a long-time collaborator — and natural enemy — of mine).

With that said, let’s not waste any more time, and jump straight into our investigation of:

THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
[PHASE TWO]

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Phase Two

The movies that make up Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are:

  • Iron Man 3 [2013]
  • Thor: The Dark World [2013]
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier [2014]
  • Guardians of the Galaxy [2014]
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron [2015]
  • Ant-Man [2015]

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS CONSIDERABLE SPOILERS

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IRON MAN 3 [2013]

a review by the Crow.

A sequel to the utter disaster I felt Iron Man 2 to be, Iron Man 3 is a breath of fresh-er air.

A slipshod depiction of Tony Stark’s PTSD, following the events in New York runs through the movie, and I found it to be… annoying. The right ideas are all there, but they’re just not done well. The humour of the production (typical of Marvel Studios’ movies) doesn’t help, either — especially with the inclusion of a very annoying child “sidekick”. Again: the right ideas are there, but the execution — again — leaves a lot to be desired.

And I like Shane Black (although I am somewhat dreading The Predator). It’s just that he’s not in full form in this outing. There’s a “twist” of sorts that caps off the second act, which immensly annoyed me, which seems to have his stamp all over it. If this was a different movie, with a different tone, it might’ve worked. However, as the first direct sequel to The Avengers / Avengers Assemble, it falls flat on its face.

The starring villain here is The Mandarin, Iron Man’s arch-nemesis, portrayed with a great deal of menace by Sir Ben Kingsley. Instead of the mystic ancient(-ish) warlord we know from the comics, this movie’s take on the character is styled after the likes of al-Quaeda terrorists, and speaks through videos to his “audience”. Sir Kingsley’s portrayal of the character is something I was alright with, for the most part, up until the climax of the second act.

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Along with the Mandarin, the movie features Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), the creators of the central MacGuffin of the plot: the Extremis “virus”. Hansen becomes a bit of a side note to the plot as the movie progresses, despite her character showing promise early on, but Killian manages to stand his own ground as a formidable presence in the movie.

The plot — as expected — is loosely based on the Extremis series, which is generally touted as one of the best Iron Man stories ever told, even though I feel differently, plus a few bits and bobs from other stories here and there. Mashed together with plot threads relating to Stark’s obsessive building of a wide range of impressive suits and his “PTSD”, it has all the signs of a good story to be on the books, and yet — as I’ve said time and again — fails to make the most of them.

Rhodey (Don Cheadle) returns as the Iron Patriot — a rebranded War Machine in Red, White, and Blue — and his inclusion is a nice touch. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has a much more expanded role, but fails to capture the audience’s interest in the way that the team behind the movie had intended.

The final sequence is a stunning action set piece involving some of the best “Iron Man moments” ever put to screen. To be frank, the movie has some of the best action scenes in Marvel movies. Shane Black does still have a strong grip on his art, but the story lets the final product down by a considerable margin.

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The CGI in the movie is also quite above-average when considering how Marvel is willing to overlook underpar CGI as long as the final product is what they intended (a sentiment I can get behind). The visuals are quite good, and the sound design is adequate. Technically, Iron Man 3 is a solid product, and there is little to complain about when looking at its production quality. But when considering how its story is laid out, and the weak character moments it displays, it fails as a movie.

It is thoroughly enjoyable, but while I recommend it, I do so with a pinch of salt on the side. It’s one of those movies that is watchable, but isn’t for everyone. And I find myself to be one of those it isn’t for.

  • THE CROW: 3.5/10
  • THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 6/10
  • THE CAT: 4/10

Recommended Additional Viewing: the Marvel one-shot All Hail the King, starring Sir Ben Kingsley.

Trust me: it’ll be worth your while.

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THOR: THE DARK WORLD [2013]

a review by the Azure-Winged Magpie.

Hello! Hello all birdies and hoomins and delicious fishies! Here we go with one of the films that EVERYONEand their mum! likes to throw a fuss over!

THOR: THE DARK WORLD! 

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And I can see why. So… Imma make this one quick. m’kay?

Thor’s bae Dr Jane (Natalie Portman) gets herself infected by the Aether: a weapon used long ago by the Dark Elves to try and turn the universe’s lights out (no… really).

A long long time ago, in a realm far, far away, Odin’s daddy Bor (Tony Curran) beat the daylightstee-hee! outta Malekeith (Christopher Eccleston) and locked the gooey stuff away. But the second Jane gets herself gooped up by the stuff, he wakes up, with all his Dark Elf homies, and before you could thunk it, he’s-a-coming for that light switch!

(ಠ◡ಠ)!

See, I don’t mind this film too much. It’s got some dumb shit going on in it, but it has some fun fighty-fighty, too. I like the villains (they look cool), and I like the big showdown in London, too. But I hate-hate-HATE all the human characters, and the Dark Elf homeworld looks like utter shit.

Loki does his usual thing. Thor does his usual thing. And… it’s all… okay, I guess?

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This film actually got me to kinda not-like my (usual) bae Nat. She’s so… annoying in this one. Especially when she’s on Asgard. If it weren’t for her getting all gooped up by that red sludge called the Aether, Thor and Loki would still have a mammy. See?

If she hadn’t gotten gooped-up, the Dark Elves would be all happy and asleep and NOT DED by the end of the flick. (Hey! They’re cool!) I mean… yeah, we need this film to happen, I guess. But what was all that for?! Oh, wait …I know! I know!

Here’s the important thing about the film! So… that gooey-goop stuff. That’s really, really important. The Aether is really… waitforit…

AN INFINITY STONE!

It’s the Reality Stone! (Red) … Day-umn, these Elf-folk weren’t messing around. They meant business when they said they were going to go switch the universe’s lights out!

This film gets saved from the “meh, watch it later” pile because it sets up the second ‘naked’tee-hee! Infinity Stone (it’s the only other one we’ve seen, right? RIGHT?!) AND some rules about how these things work AND that there’s a whole universe out there that we haven’t seen before.

Keeping two Infinity Stones too close to each other is a bad idea, Odin says. So the Collector (Benecio del Toro) stashes the Aether away for them in his little curio-shoppe on Knowhere, since the Tesseract is already on Asgard. (This film’s post-credits scenes really steal the show…) And just like that, the ending of this takes us right into…


Y’know what? I’ll let our Trained Monkey take that one away. BUTFIRST! Here’s our scores for Thor: The Dark World!:

  • THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 7/10
  • THE CROW: 4.5/10
  • THE CAT: 3/10
  • THE MONKEY: ?/10

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER [2013]

a review by the Crow.

A movie which stands in stark contrast to the first in its self-titled series, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the movie in which I consider the MCU to have finally ‘grown up’.

Immediately darker in tone and brisker in pace, The Winter Soldier steps away from the starry-eyed, comic-book-typical hopefulness of its predecessor and into a setting reminiscent of modern spy-thrillers.

And that is, essentially, what the movie is: a spy-thriller. Sure, we have our titular superhero, and our titular supervillain, but at its core, the movie is nothing more.

We have something strange happening in the upper echelons of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Captain America finds himself right in the middle of it all. Enter: the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) — a highly-skilled assassin/possible supersoldier with a bionic arm as his most-prominent feature (and primary weapon).

Soon, we become embroiled in a hard-hitting, brutal back-and-forth between S.H.I.E.L.D. and its one-time heroes. We meet some new faces familiar to those who know the comics in the form of Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), et al. and their characters form themselves around the central plot and our protagonists like brickwork.

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This is the first outing in which the Russo Brothers (Anthony and Joeseph) have been involved with in the MCU, and both they and their team do an admirable job of delivering an excellent product for audiences of all forms. Like The Dark Knight (soon to appear on The Corvid Review) before it, one does not have to be a fan of the comics or the characters to enjoy the movie for what it is, despite the superhuman abilities on display. Considering that they went on to direct Civil War (and — eventually — Infinity War, where all these roads lead to), Marvel/Disney have struck gold with their selection. These brothers, and their teams, know how to deliver a tightly-packaged product.

To keep things short and sweet, Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes highly recommended. It’s a great movie which boasts excellent visuals, a great soundtrack, and a tight — and well-paced — plot. It’s well-worth a watch, and would make for a great night in with friends, over pizza (pepperoni, please!).

  • THE CROW: 6.5/10
  • THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8/10
  • THE CAT: 5.5/10

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014]

a review by the Monkey (curated by the Crow).

Compared to the previous Marvel movies there has been no post credit scene to give us any insight on this movie. This movie is an authentic solo blockbuster, which shows the coming together of a group of delinquents.

The movie starts off emotional with the leader of the team, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). This scene shows how his mother passed and how it was at this point that his journey to becoming Starlord began.

The second character portryed begins with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) the adoptive daughter of thanos, it is also at this point that we meet the big bad for the movie, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). We also learn the plot of the movie which is to obtain one of the Infinity Stones, in this case being the Power Stone (purple). Throughout the Marvel phases this would be the third stone found.

What we learn about this team, when comparing them to the Avengers is that they are the B team in the long run. They are a bunch of delinquents that have been mashed together by chance, unlike the Avengers that were individually picked (aside from Thor).

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As we follow along the film we then see a duo called Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), two CGI mercenaries who track down those with a bounty on there heads. It is at this point that four of the Guardians are introduced, that being the duo, Gamora and Peter Quill. (Gamora and Peter were introduced earlier in a confrontation to steal the Power Stone.)

This where the Nova Corp. arrives and arrest them all. We are then introduced to a humorous montage as they are incarcerated. We then go on to meeting the final member of the guardians, Drax the Destroyer (David Batista), a psychotic prisoner with a tragic back story. We learn that Ronan killed both his wife and daughter.

Now that we have the main heroes out the way, the story progresses on to a humorous action scene where they all break out of prison. What made me laugh ton particular was how Peter Quill goes back for his music player which follows up to Drax calling him an imbecile.

The story follows on to Knowhere where they attempt to sell the stone for the highest price to the collector. The Collector has a very loud presence as he introduces himself to our heroes which fits his own character quite well.

He explains how the Infinity Stones were created; and after learning of the power and destruction that stone can cause, the heroes ultimately decide to not sell it in order to keep it out of both Thanos and Ronan’s hands. This is all good and well until a drunken Drax decides to signal Ronan and get his ass handed to him, ultimately losing the Infinity Stone to enemy hands.

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We are thereafter introduced to the Ravagers. This is a faction of a much larger organisation (which we learn in the second movie) that had adopted Peter instead of delivering him to his father as contracted. A deal is struck, and the two groups band together along with the Nova Corps to defeat their enemies at large.

After a spectacular battle, the battle ends with nothing other then dance off in the style of Footloose (in the words of Peter Quill, ‘the greatest movie ever’).  In this comedic scene we also learn that Peter is somehow able to hold and withstand the power of the infinity stone due to his heritage.

The movie ends with the Infinity Stone in the ‘safe’ hands of the Nova Corps, and the team fly off to cause more mischief and mayhem (and the occasional save).

Final thoughts: Without a doubt Guardians of the Galaxy is a well written movie, it has humour in all the right places and the action doesn’t fail to please. The characters are well scripted and the movie itself is genuinely fun and enjoyable.

The only negatives I would give the movie would be the character-building since aside from Peter Quill and Drax, the rest play a mysterious part. The CGI did not disappoint and definitely did well to portray the settings and the ‘power effects’ from MacGuffins.

The music plays a very significant part in the movie and is used in the development of Peter Quill, and in general really does help to lighten up the mood throughout the movie itself.

  • THE MONKEY: 7/10
  • THE CROW: 6.5/10
  • THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 7/10
  • THE CAT: 6.5/10

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON [2015]

a review by the Cat (curated by the Crow).

(Note: this review has been adapted from a phone conversation.)

In this, the second movie in the Avengers series, the heroes face an AI-based threat against humanity: Ultron (played and voiced by James Spader).

Premise: After recovering the sceptre wielded by Loki in the first film, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover what appears to be a dormant AI within the gem that powers the weapon. Together, they use it to finish Iron Man’s secretive “Ultron” programme (a global defence mechanism).

As the Avengers are recovering from a party at their HQ, Ultron reveals himself after having destroyed Stark’s personal AI assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced by Paul Bettany) and taken over one of Stark’s damaged suits. Sentient, and following his intended objective of “saving the Earth”, he attacks the Avengers, and escapes with the sceptre.

It is explained to us that Ultron’s method for achieving his objective is by eliminating the human race, and it is against this threat that the Avengers unite.

Thoughts: Avengers: Age of Ultron has considerable problems, starting from the very first scenes of the film. The consequences from the ending of Iron Man 3 are not present whatsoever. For a film that is the middle part of an extended universe, the lack of importance given to the “single-hero” movies that came before it is a large oversight. But of course: considering that this is a Hollywood production, made for children and grown-up children alike, they threw in a very long action scene at the intro for the purposes of our simple-minded entertainment.

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We are introduced to two new main characters within the first half of the movie: the twins Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), while the African nation of Wakanda (which will become relevant in later movies) is also introduced. And one of these characters is not relevant to the greater story Marvel is trying to tell.

As for the story of the film itself: everything is quite simple. In terms of the plot’s effects on the larger story Marvel is trying to tell: only Vision (Paul Bettany) and the existence of the Mind Stone (Yellow) is important.

To get this out of the way…

If one were to ask if this film is necessary viewing: I would have to answer in the negative. Two recurring characters are introduced, and the stone is introduced; but just as with the lack of thought given to Stark’s decision to remove the Arc-reactor from his body in the beginning of the movie, the movie does not hold the weight that a sequel to the first Avengers should.

There is a section of the movie following the first significant meeting of our heroes and villains, set in a farmhouse, which delivers us with a good degree of insight into our core main characters. It is unique in tone compared to the rest of the film, and a relief from the burgeoning action sequences that the film skips through.

And this is something else that must be pointed out: other than the farmhouse scene, this film does very little but jump from one action sequence to the next. It seems as if a lot of these action scenes had been planned-out before the story had been completed.

Ultron makes for a weak villain. His concept is simple. The performance is much above-average. But in the end he is nothing more than a “villain of the week”. His master-plan is interesting, but quite unbelievable.

The Corvid Review Age of Ultron - According to our calculations Ultron is an idiot
Showing our work — the Crow

According to our calculations, Ultron — an AI (actual, seemingly) with a genius-level intellect; capable of accessing the internet and infiltrating networked systems — is a lamentable idiot.

His master-plan would eradicate much of Sokovia, but for it to work (considering that physics in this universe follows something similar to the rules of our own, despite the ridiculous violations of natural law that Marvel routinely put to screen), as an Extinction-level Event, it is akin to a mosquito sting on an average human body.

We cannot believe that an Actual Intelligence with the reservoir of resources Ultron has available to him would be so stupid. Perhaps, if he had planned on simultaneous, multiple collisions around the globe, we might have been led to mark him with more sympathy, but he does not.

We understand that arguing physics problems relating to a Marvel film sounds like an exercise in futility, but the margin of Ultron’s error is so large, even to the naked eye, that we must point it out.

Summary: A mostly-missable collection of action scenes, tied together by a simple plot and featuring some quaint character-building, Avengers: Age of Ultron might excite, but fails to impress.

  • THE CAT: 3.5/10
  • THE CROW: 4/10
  • THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 7/10
  • THE MONKEY: 5/10

Ant-Man The Corvid Review review placer

ANT-MAN [2015]

a review by the Azure-Winged Magpie.

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Let’s make this a tiny one, m’kay?lol!

So, around the time I was done spawned, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) gets himself the fuck out of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which they’re still working on) once he finds out they’re stealing his work. And what does he do about it? Huh? HUH?! 

He only goes and hides it away!

And that’s all folks!

Like fuck it is!

We skip to “today”, where poor papa Pym has been slung out of his own company by his own little babby girl Hope (Evangeline Lily) and his old star-pupil Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who’s building his own take on Pym’s patented (okay, not to him, but the company with his name slapped on the letterhead) ‘shrinking suit’. And this makes him sad — very sad. But that’s not all that goes wrong for him! He gets his house broken into by good-boy thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his mates.

(◕︿◕oh no!

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BUTWAIT! It turns out it’s not a bad thing after all! Papa Pym so smart, he got Scotty to break into his house! He wants Scotty to become the new ANT-MAN(!) and steal Darren-boy’s “Yellowjacket” shrinking suit. And joining the team is Hope, who realises that Darren’s nat good. In fact: Darren’s got it in his noggin to do business with those warty-farty Nazis (who.just.won’t.DIE!) HYDRA! 

Aaand, FIGHT! 

This one’s the first Marvel film that looks like a proper comedy, even though Marvel really outdid themselves only two years down the line with Thor: Ragnarok.

It’s around here that the Crow really, really, really wants me to talk about some science stuff (again!) and how the powers are really REALLY bad and ruin the fun for everyone. But you know what?! I ain’t gonna (bite me, birdie!)!

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Edgar Wright (…pub?) sat on this one for donkey years, and maybe I’d-a-liked him to take it away, but Peyton Reed (who I’ve not seen any other films by) did a good job of filling the fan-favourite’s shoes. It’s fun. It looks good. And it has a lot of funny-bunny arse-kickery to boot (I love the toy-train bit)!

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And yeah… I gotta say. The science in this one is a bit… ground-breaking (see what I did there?!), but I’ll let it go, because…

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By the time we’re done finished with this, the sequel (Ant-Man and the Wasp, also starring my bae HJ-K) is gonna be out, and I.CAN’T.WAIT! Sorry for making this one so tiny, but I think it fits the theme. (Right? RIGHT?!)

See ya laters, tiny alligators!

  • THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8/10
  • THE MONKEY: PENDING/10

The Corvid Review Marvel Cinematic Universe Investigation Review 2

The Crow: In our next post on The Corvid Review, we’ll be recapping the matches from the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup before returning to wrapping up Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We’ll see you soon.

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16 thoughts on “Review: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Two [2013 – 2015]”

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