Pit Stop After Infinity War, or, Fifty Outcomes

It’s out! It’s out! Infinity War is out! And I saw it! Twice! And now the bill has come due and I’ve got to live up to the fifty predictions I made for the film just before going into the theater opening night. I got basically everything and the stuff I didn’t correctly predict is absolutely there in the subtext, so without further adieu, enjoy how impressive I am!

 

 

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Thor and Black Panther “King High-Five”
I mean… maybe off-screen?

2. Ebony Maw is horrifying
This is a bit of a gimme, since he was a total creep with his creepy little “shush” finger in the trailer, but whatever punks, called it!

3. Cap and Doctor Strange “Steve High-Five”
This is a sore one as not only did Cap and Doc not “Steve High-Five,” I also failed to predict that Star-Lord and Spider-Man would “Peter High-Five” and on top of that Star-Lord and Spider-Man didn’t “Peter High-Five”

4. Cull Obsidian turns to camera and says “remember when my name was Black Dwarf? Anyway, where’s Supergiant?
Look all I’m saying is I didn’t understand a word that doofus said, so I’m probably wrong, but, I mean, you don’t know

5. Tony and Doctor Strange “Facial Hair High-Five” a.k.a. “kiss”
Okay I’m “wrong” in the sense that they didn’t actually kiss, but I’m right in the sense that they actually came really, really close

6. Lando shows up
I found this blockbuster both as thought-provoking and as infuriatingly Lando-less at The Last Jedi

7. Hela lives! #goddessofdeath #Avengers4
If I’m being real, this theory was based on Hela replacing the role of Death from Infinity Gauntlet in Infinity War, but if I’m being petty… juries still out suckers!

8. Surely someone makes fun of the name Proxima Midnight
Seemed like a dead-ringer and than no one in Thanos’ Black Order, or the Black Order itself, ever got name checked, aside from Ebony Maw getting the illustrious “half-name-drop”

9. That GD soul stone is in Wakanda whether they know it or not!
Swing and a miss!

10. By the time the movie starts Thanos has already murdered Glen Close and John C. Riley
“Blah, blah, blah Xandar, blah, blah, blah last week.” -Thor. Boom.

11. Tony quips. Cut to: Thanos making “Jim” face
Tempted as I am to try and claim “Jim” face just means a purple face, I can admit when I’m wrong

12. The real Hawkeye was the friends we made along the way
Prove me wrong.

13. Bucky is very unhappy with Cap’s beard and he’s not to keen on his facial hair either
Inconclusive

14. Bucky gets to work on a jealousy beard and starts growing out his facial hair too
Slightly less inconclusive, but he’s got stubble and he certainly had a moment with that racoon!

15. Tony and Pepper already divorced
Even though they didn’t say it’s their first wedding, I’ll own up to this one

16. Red Skull has something to do with something somehow
Alright come on, this one was pretty freaking impressive

17. Vision just gets totally #*%@ed over by the whole mind stone thing
I mean, obviously, but still

18. Groot experimenting with recreation drug use, or the implication of as much
Video game addiction is a thing! But I guess it’s not a drug…

19. The Guardians’ various space-gibberish languages revealed at last!
I’m just saying I did genuinely think this would be a thing

20. Rocket bullies the shit out of Thor
Who’da thunk?

21. Scarlett Witch? She’s just kind of there
Wouldn’t ya know it, the ol’ Witch arguably had more to do than ever before. Spooky!

22. No one invites Ant-Man to the war and when he confronts everyone about it they’re all like “oh you weren’t there? We thought you were just tiny” but they didn’t, they knew
I mean… half right.

23. Justin Hammer saves the day, again
Apparently we’ll have to wait until Avengers 4 to find out… all I’m saying is, Rockwell’s got that Best Supporting Actor Heat

24. Peter Parker still a virgin
Prove me wrong, I dare you

25. Some crafty backpedaling regarding the ol’ Aether
Not a word! Just go with it I guess?

26. Joke or jokes made at the expense of Bruce Banner’s penis
Seemed reasonable at the time

27. Nobody notices Black Widow changed her hair
Boom!

28. No explanation of Thanos’ hat provided
So what? He get’s the space stone and all the sudden he doesn’t need a hat anymore? So it’s, what? A space hat? Huh? Huh?

29. Banner Hulks out in the Hulkbuster armor and is like “Hulk bust!” or some shit
Nope!

30. We find out who bought Avengers tower and it’s just sort of whoever
Nada!

31. Anthony Mackie kills it
Briefly, but I’ll take it!

32. Someone calls Rhodie “Iron Pants,” then remembers he’s disabled, and feels like a dick
But somebody probably thought it

33. Gamora stabs someone or something to death
Thanks, reality stone. More like “BS” stone, amiright? #aether

34. Nebula and Bucky “Metal Arm High-Five”
I don’t think anyone ever high-fived in this whole god-forsaken movie

35. The Outriders are way creepier on film than in LEGO
Look, those LEGOs aren’t creep at all, so, right by default

36. Someone makes fun of Thanos’ chin right to his face
Huzzah!

37. Peter Quill’s Zune has transformed him into an insufferable hipster
Mark my words, they’re holding on to this for Guardians Vol. 3

38. Nobody says anything about the Agents of SHIELD TV show and nobody cares
I said predictions, not impressive predictions

39. Nobody says anything about any of the Netflix Marvel shows and some people care for a second but then they GTFOver it
Not an immortal weapon in sight!

40. Groot in Infinity War is a third Groot and the Baby Groot from Guardians Vol. 2 died off screen and if nothing in the movie explicitly contradicts this than I’m right
Called it!

41. Wong and Thanos go way back
I’m just thinking about prequel sitcom spin-offs here

42. An Avenger gets the gauntlet, but, like, in a bad way?
Not yet anyway…

43. Dinosaurs, surely somehow dinosaurs. Or at least a shark or dragon
Sorry, you did what with the time stone? Anything but bring dinosaurs back alive? Oh, oh okay, sure. Sure, real realistic. Oh brother

44. When Thanos finally gets out of his space chair he puts his hands on his knees and goes “ooooooooooph”
Definitely offscreen though

45. Loki not happy about Cap or Bucky’s beards and he’s not to keen on their facial hair either I’m here all week
Yeah, yeah… rule of threes though!

46. All the white Avengers constantly embarrass Rhodie and Falcon in Wakanda
I mean… didn’t they though? Just in a not funny way?

47. Thor is missing an eye and I’m pretty sure Rocket and Groot stole an eye from the Ravagers and I’m just saying this specific prediction is actually cool and good!
I mean, c’mon! Pretty, pretty, pretty impressive. Maybe not a Ravager, maybe. But c’mon. This should count for all 50

48. Nick Fury finds a way to creep out of a dark corridor even though everyone’s on, like, $&@#ing Pluto
Nope, he just creeps out of the dark and into our hearts and souls in this one

49. Someone acknowledges Mantis
Mantis actually had, like, stuff to do in this movie!

50. Thanos is at least 38
Inconclusive, but you sure as shit ain’t going to convince me he’s 37

 

Come back next year for, I don’t know, like 100 predictions for Avengers 4? Maybe some Ant-Man & the Wasps predictions in July? This is so much easier than baking hot takes.

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The Mauve Knight, or, Avengers: Infinity War

There aren’t any specific spoilers for Infinity War below, but if I hadn’t seen the film I wouldn’t read it. You can check out some of my pre-viewing predictions for the movie, which I’ll be returning to on Monday to grade for correctness in a separate post, here.

infinitywar

CHIN ATTACK

Watching the 18 preceeding Marvel films before going into Avengers: Infinity War gave me an appreciation for the myriad character narratives that wind throughout the franchise, with huge developments often happening for characters in movies that don’t even bare their name. For instance, some of the most compelling moments in Iron Man’s development throughout the MCU have been in the likes of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Black Panther has a huge moment of clarity in Civil War. Black Widow has an arc all her own despite never having an eponymous film. You never know how consequential any given Marvel film will be for any given Marvel character, and so going into Infinity War I was very curious what it would contribute to some of these individual characters’ narratives, what this chapter would mean in the book of Iron Man, or Black Panther, or Captain America.

I was pretty surprised when the answer was, sort of, kind of, not a lot. That’s not a barometer for the quality of the film, mind you, and it isn’t to say that consequential things don’t happen, but there aren’t a dearth of defining character beats for our heroes. There are simply so many that no one Avenger has a particularly verbose arc. I thought there’d be more Cap. More T’Challa. More Tony. And despite loving the film, I found myself wondering who exactly it was about.

But that’s actually pretty obvious.

Avengers: Infinity War could have just as easily, and more aptly, been dubbed Thanos: Infinity War, because Josh Brolin’s Mad Titan is the protagonist of the film.

In The Last Jedi (don’t worry I promise I don’t have another hot take) Supreme Leader Snoke makes a comment to Kylo Ren bemoaning the existence of hope. Not hope in the Jedi, or hope in the Resistance. Just straight up hope. It’s an exchange that drives me bananas because it rings so flat and so dull, because it is such an utterly villainous sentiment, as if Snoke is going out of his way to be a villain. It’s a sentiment that makes it seem like Snoke is not only a villain to our heroes, but a villain to himself, as if he is primed and ready to unironically grab the mic and announced “well my name’s rappin’ Snoke and I’m here to say it’s fun to rap in an evil way.”

Thanos, inversely, is no such arch-villain. In fact he’s not entirely dissimilar to Tony Stark. Both operate under the assumption that they have been, as Loki would say, “burdened with glorious purpose.” They have lofty, conceptual ideas of morality and salvation and equally lofty, conceptual notions for achieving those ends. There are certainly parallels of egomaniacal do-goodery between Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet and Stark’s Ultron program.

Part of what makes Thanos’ pursuit so compelling, what makes him a perverse, distorted protagonist (not hero, mind you), is that it doesn’t seem like he even necessarily wants to be doing what he’s doing. He’s possessed by the notion that controlled destruction is the only way to save life from utter annihilation and that he, like a great cosmic martyr, will foot the bill of that heinous but necessary sin on his own soul for the good of life itself. He seeks to save life from itself at his own expense.

There is no time then, to plumb the depths of the likes of Tony and Steve and T’Challa once more, because if Thanos is the protagonist of Infinity War, the antagonist is the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Every one of the heroes in this movie has run deep in some previous film and thus, at least so far as the long term Marvel audience is concerned, they do not need to here. Here, in Thanos’ story, their purpose is to be short-sighted, to lack the will and purpose to make the sort of sacrifices the film’s true protagonist is prepared to demand of himself, to lack scope beyond themselves in space and time. They’re henchmen, the lot of them. Obstacles. And to see them relegated to as much before Thanos is frightening and distressing, all the more so because Thanos is our twisted protagonist.

How do you bring together twenty-something protagonists from six or so separate film series? You flip the script and dare them all to stop one protagonist from acquiring the dopest MacGuffin ever. If this were the last film in Marvel’s phase three I’d be unhappy, but as the penultimate chapter before much of the MCU’s inaugural class purportedly graduates, Infinity War upends the MCU in exciting ways with a villain whose six-year build up does not disappoint.

Road to Infinity War – Doctor Strange, or, Started From the Bottom Now We’re Magic

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

doctorstrange2

Look, if you get Michael Stuhlbarg, you give Michael Stuhlbarg top-billing. How Marvel survived such a faux pas the world may never know.

It’s easy enough to write off Doctor Strange as magic Iron Man. Both films are origin stories about rich pricks with facial hair getting taken down a peg. Fair enough. But the humbling of Stephen Strange is so much more expansive than that of Tony Stark.

In Iron Man, Tony Stark has to reckon with, essentially, living his life in the wrong direction. By the end of the film he’s the same dude with the same skills, he just harnesses them for a different cause. He’s still an inventor. He’s still a smartass. He still struggles with egomania. But he does it in the right direction. Stephen Strange, on the other hand, is forced to reckon with that sinister insecurity that has perhaps nagged each of us in our worst moments, that he is living his life wrong. That what he believes is wrong. That what he thinks is wrong. That his ironclad existence has been made of straw all along.

In the world-expanding, black light bonanza, Timothy Leary roller coaster sequence the Ancient One sends Strange on upon their initial meeting, we watch a man’s sense of self and understanding of the universe get utterly obliterated. His quest from there is not a simple reorienting or rebranding, it’s one of rebuilding from the bottom up.

The new world in which Strange rebuilds himself is a fascinating one of charming allies, intriguing villains and fantastic visual effects.

We aren’t in 1993 anymore. Jurassic Park is, like, 100 years old. CGI is a fact of blockbuster life and usually the only time its noteworthy is when Andy Serkis is involved or it totally sucks. But the effects in Doctor Strange not only serve as a narrative catalyst for Strange’s humbling and new pursuits, they create mesmerizing fabrics and textures for this previously unexplored corner of the MCU that go beyond the typical blockbuster fair of beams and lasers and crumbling superstructures.

Of course, those visual effects would be little more than an expertly-crafted distraction were it not for the film’s cast. Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor in particular are two of the primary reasons I’m hoping to return to the world of Doctor Strange sooner rather than later. Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelsen are both on point as opposing forces of mystic power that have presumably encountered the same humbling Strange is in the midst of, but have since let their egos drip back into their beliefs and perceptions.

This is a film that tosses aside better actors than most could ever hope to get. Look, no discredit to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, but having Oscar MVP Michael Stuhlbarg traipsing around the fringes of your movie is bound to coax a few daydreams out of me about what a Stuhlbarg Sorcerer Supreme might be like. Similarly, fellow dramatic powerhouse Rachel McAdams gets the Natalie Portman treatment. That said, I devoted much of my initial post on Doctor Strange to my displeasure with McAdams’ sidelining, but in rewatching the film I understand her character, Dr. Palmer, is not entirely squandered.

The good Dr. Palmer brings to the world is practical. She is a person who helps those in need that are right in front of her face. Real people, with real injuries. Dying, hurting, bleeding patients. Not the disembodied charts and stats Stephen Strange mulls over blessing with his presence. When we meet Strange his do-gooding amounts to little more than selfishness disguised as lofty innovation. Amongst the visually spectacular, physics-bending skills Strange picks up over the course of the film, he also learns what Palmer already practices – to put more stock in how you can benefit the world around you, rather than how it might benefit you.

Coming off of the unresolved philosophical divide of Civil War, Doctor Strange introduces an important, timely notion to the MCU, the idea that widening one’s perception and opening up to ideas that contradict or even dismantle your own can be an invaluable strength, rather than a haughty catalyst for conflict.

For some characteristic anti-establishment film criticism and general bemoaning of Rachel McAdams limited roll in the MCU (though, I mean, third-billing? That’s some agent):

November 8, 2016: Doctor Strange, or, Breaking Most of the Rules

Road to Infinity War – Captain America: Civil War, or, When Keeping it Rational Goes Wrong

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

civilwar2

KISS FIGHT.

With its 13th film the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially arrives at the point in which audiences can reasonably assume that the denizens of the MCU would be like “hey these super-folks are great I guess but they sure do knock stuff over a lot with alarming regularity and I guess maybe we should do something about that.” Captain America: Civil War delves into that sentiment without ever lapsing into navel-gazing, becoming the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Universe that Age of Ultron fell short of and, perhaps most notably, dividing the Avengers along philosophical lines that as of this writing have yet to be resolved.

That there is no clear answer to the problem of collateral damage in the MCU is a testament to the franchise’s characters, who bring perfectly rational ideologies into a world too vast and sprawling to rationalize. Tony and Cap’s conflict in Civil War is such an ideological standstill because, after a dozen previous films, it arises so organically, so reasonably. Tony is being Tony and we love Tony. Cap is being Cap and we love Cap. The only thing that’s changed is circumstance.

Since 2008 Tony’s heroism has always been bombastic and proactive. He’s never thought small and this isn’t the first time he’s forecasted a problem and sought out an inventive solution like a man possessed. He’s always been about the big picture and he’s always had the ego to believe, for better or worse, that he can and should change the world.

Inversely, Cap is a hero who has always been grounded in the here and now, defined by a call of duty to intervene in any situation in which he senses injustice. What is broken right now? What can be fixed right now? Cap’s concerns are the injustices he can see and hear, not those that others imagine and prognosticate.

These ideologies don’t necessarily have to conflict with one another, but Civil War’s Sokovia Accords all but ensure they do. The Accords present such a compelling source of conflict because they play to the thematic backbones of both heroes.

Tony’s character arc has always been a humbling. He was a hot shot who was taken down a notch and forced to reevaluate his entire life, and now, even as a hero, his ambitiousness often sees him flying too close to the sun, all too often reaping dire consequences for the world around him, as in Age of Ultron. If you’re Tony Stark and you have even an inkling of self-awareness, come Civil War you might realize you’ve got a track record of biting off more than you can chew to the detriment of humanity. Tony’s acquiescence to the Accords is a step in the right direction for the character, an admission of guilt, a surrendering of the ego to the idea that maybe Tony Stark doesn’t always know what’s best for the world.

But for Cap, agreeing to the Sokovia Accords would mean abandoning responsibility, signing up for an excuse to take the easy way out rather than doing what is right and standing up to injustice whenever and however he can. Even as a scrawny Brooklyn kid Cap has always been about doing everything in his power to stop bullies. If something bad is happening and Steve Rogers gets wind of it, he will always take it as his personal responsibility to intervene, whether it means stopping the Red Skull from world annihilation or confronting a heckler in a movie theater. For Cap, surrendering his agency to act against injustice is irresponsible, lazy even.

These ideologies ensure that Cap and Tony come into conflict, which is unfortunate because in other circumstances, having both a head in the clouds and boots on the ground could be an asset. The reasons Cap and Tony come to blows are the same reasons the Avengers need both of them. Hopefully circumstances will arise that shed light on that, for the sake of both our heroes. Like, I don’t know, maybe a purple-chinned glove-monster from space or some shit.

For more on Captain America: Civil War, specifically why the youth of today should be held responsible for coming up with hot takes on this shit rather than me:

May 20, 2016: Captain America: Civil War, or, What’s Your Policy on Late Work?

Road to Infinity War – Iron Man 3, or, I Don’t Know What to Tell You I Just Don’t Like This Movie

Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.

ironman3

I hope you don’t think that’s the hull of a submarine he’s on and that you’re going to see Iron Man fight a submarine because let me tell you… you’re not.

Iron Man 3 had the unenviable task of being the first solo outing after The Avengers, which gave it the equally unenviable responsibility of explaining to audiences why they should give a shit about any one single Avenger hanging out by themselves after Marvel proved they could not only bring a bunch of Avengers together, but also do it really well.

I liked The Avengers when it came out enough to see it twice in theaters, but for me 2012 was undeniably the summer of The Dark Knight Rises (six times). Avengers was great, but it wasn’t Christopher Nolan and I had not yet drank the Marvel Kool-Aid. Iron Man 3 did not get me closer to the punch bowl then, and even now, lips stained sugary crimson, I don’t love it.

I love director Shane Black’s movies, and I love Marvel movies, but when you put the two together you get my least favorite entry in either canon. Iron Man 3 boasts the sort of neo-hard-boiled characters and tropes of a Shane Black film without the R-rated, bleak hilarity that makes those tropes and characters feel fresh and alive. Iron Man 3 also has superheroes, but it doesn’t feel like it particularly likes them. The result is a weirdly masculine, immediately outdated flick that is at its best the farther away from Iron Man it gets. Iron Man 3 is a lot like Amazing Spider-Man 2 in that way. The less it involves itself with superheroics the better it is.

There’s some great stuff here for sure. Tony dealing with the emotional and psychological fallout of the battle for New York City is truly compelling stuff, and his DIY assault on a lavish Miami estate is one of the cooler action sequences in the MCU to date. But as a Marvel film Iron Man 3 seems disinterested at best and as a Shane Black film Iron Man 3 feels nerfed. Add to that yet another Iron Man movie that shoe-horns in scantily-clad women, Rebecca Hall’s utterly pathetic pseudo-femme-fatale and Gwyneth Paltrow’s consistent state of sitcom-wife emotional distress and the veiled threat of her seduction (veiled only because Marvel didn’t let Black and company have her coaxed via pheromones into making a sex tape with Tony’s nemesis. No, really) and you’ve got a movie with large swaths of uninspired material that become harder to stomach the older the film gets.

Folks seem to dig Iron Man 3. You won’t have to look that far for someone who thinks it’s the best of the Iron Man films, but from my seat it failed in its task of maintaining the footing of the MCU on the new plateau it reached with The Avengers.

Somewhere out there in the multiverse there’s a world where Shane Black got to make his own film with RDJ and Don Cheadle and Iron Man 3 was directed by, like, Werner Herzog. But here we got Marvel’s very own Cousin Oliver and Guy Pierce literally setting fire to Warren Ellis’ Extremis source material. Not to mention that the bigger character moments for Tony in the film are all but entirely undone within the first minutes of Age of Ultron. RDJ has never turned in a bad performance as Tony Stark, but for my money Iron Man, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming make a far more compelling Iron Man trilogy than the actual Iron Man trilogy.

There’s plenty I like about Iron Man 3, but it ultimately feels like two separate films and cinematic ideologies that would have been better had they gone their separate ways.

And with that we are in the realm of Marvel films that came out after I established this blog. Which means that you can look back on the excessively brash and sassy commentary of a younger man just trying to find his way in the blogosphere. Sorry, I guess…

May 29, 2013: Iron Man 3, or, Robert Downey Jr. and Some Other Things are in a Movie

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron, or, Marvel’s Big Comic Book Movie

Superhero movies are nothing new. Long before everyone and their mother decided they needed a “shared-universe” Superman and Howard the Duck were running around on the big screen to the delight and chagrin of moviegoers. But in a lot of ways Avengers: Age of Ultron feels like the first full-on comic book movie.

BIG ATTACK

BIG ATTACK

It’s all there. From the exciting feeling that any one of dozens of characters could pop up just around the corner to the dead weight of ever-imposing continuity, viewing the second Avengers movie is like reading one of DC or Marvel’s massive semi-annual, line-wide , status-quo altering crossover spectaculars. And it comes with all of the same highlights and hindrances of a big comic book event.

Characters from across the Marvel Universe are brought together to interact with one another, be it with clever quips or exciting fisticuffs. There’s all kinds of fun pairings to be had, all in the face of massive, eye-popping set pieces and world-threatening antagonism.

But that epic comic book event scope comes at a cost on film just as it does on the page. The places Age of Ultron goes are huge, explosive and over-the-top. By the monstrous climax of the movie even Hawkeye points out the ridiculousness of it all. It’s spectacular and ludicrous and getting their in two hours requires a few lapses in logic. The same type of lapses found in massive event comics that have to condense a fight for the entire known universe into six issues. Age of Ultron is a fun, exciting ride from A to Z, but it makes that journey in way fewer than 25 steps and it isn’t graceful enough to cover up the letters it missed along the way.

A lot of that is because, much like a major comic book event, Age of Ultron is up to its neck in mythology. I feel confident asserting that Age of Ultron has to contend with more mythology than any other film ever made. It’s the eleventh film in a series that simultaneously has to react to not only its own direct predecessor but also a half dozen other sub-franchises while simultaneously setting up not only its own direct sequel but half a dozen others.

Just a couple of dreamy teens.

Just a couple of dreamy teens.

It’s a lot to grapple with and Age of Ultron doesn’t always do it flawlessly. A lot of the bigger moments wind up feeling a little out of left field and I find myself left with questions I don’t suspect there are particularly compelling answers to.

But Age of Ultron isn’t just like a big, brash comic book event. It’s like a really good, big, brash comic book event. The new characters introduced here are exciting. James Spader’s Ultron is fascinating and entertaining and menacing. The movie is consistently hilarious, the cast always charming and the dialogue sharp. The little, intimate moments in Age of Ultron are fantastic.

I recently posted a piece on Daredevil in which I put forth my opinion that the show is very much Marvel’s take on a DC movie, much as Winter Soldier was a Marvel political thriller and The Incredible Hulk was a Marvel fugitive movie. I suspect the most obvious argument to put forward for Age of Ultron is that it’s Marvel’s artificial intelligence movie, but more than anything before it Avengers: Age of Ultron is very much Marvel’s quintessential comic book movie.

Iron Man 3, or, Robert Downey Jr. and Some Other Things are in a Movie

Good or bad, this is essentially Iron Man 3 in a nutshell and/or a really funny parody of those "WAZUP" commercials from back in the day. AMIRIGHT!?

Good or bad, this is essentially Iron Man 3 in a nutshell and/or a really funny parody of those “WAZUP” commercials from back in the day. AMIRIGHT!?

Heads up – sort of spoilers for Iron Man 3 ahead I guess.

So turns out The Avengers actually happened and it turns out The Avengers actually didn’t suck. Go figure. Marvel pulled out all the stops (a.k.a. Joss Whedon) and successfully pulled together four different franchises stemming from five different movies and arguably made a movie far better than any of its predecessors while simultaneously making so, so, so much money you guys. Like, more money than you will ever see in your entire life. Like, Tag Romney money. Like Avengers money.

But as daunting a task as pulling together four different franchises into one massively successful film juggernaut that doesn’t suck is, making the follow up to that massively successful film juggernaut is no small undertaking either.

Basically – “Iron Man 3 is the first Marvel movie to come out since The Avengers, so, be interested or something.”

The third (and/or fourth) entry in the Iron Man franchise is essentially what you’d expect from a third entry in a movie franchise; it’s something of a bigger, badder Iron Man movie that is vaguely conclusive and comes with its very own Cousin Oliver kid because when you’re out of ideas audiences always love kids. Right?

After watching the entire credits reel and standard Marvel post-credits scene I had a feeling similar, if not identical, to what I felt at the end of Iron Man 2: “That movie wasn’t that good.”

Robert Downey Jr. is as always a fantastic Tony Stark, arguably turning in his best performance as the billionaire Bob the Builder yet. Stark’s arc sees him dealing with PTSD after his brief pre-shawarma foray into space madness. It’s something of a midlife crisis and while it isn’t quite as fun as the prospect of watching him struggle with the Demon in a Bottle it does give Downey the opportunity to stretch his character a little further than in previous performances. Unfortunately a franchise can only survive on the shoulders of one superbly entertaining performance for so long.

The film’s two romantic leads, for instance, both fall flat in their own flatly flat ways. Gwyneth Paltrow continues to rake in a no doubt ungodly amount of money filling the shoes of the “every super hero needs some lady to get kidnapped and get saved by him and kiss him and get angry at him and then get kidnapped again and get saved again and kiss him again and maybe roll her eyes along the way” archetype. Does she do a terrible job of filling that archetype? No. But it’s a bland archetype that evokes not only a similarly bland performance but a predictable turn of events in the film’s finale.

Paltrow is, however, leaps and bounds more tolerable then her costar Rebecca Hall, who plays a magic botanist that Tony Stark wienered one time when Limp Bizkit was still in their prime because before Y2K we all did it all for the nookie. Rebecca Hall turns in a familiar performance as the same sort of pouty, pathetic, insufferably helpless female lead we see her portray in the likes of The Town or The Prestige. I couldn’t help holding my breath for the moment her character would sad herself to death.

Don Cheadle has an entertaining turn as James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, a.k.a. Iron Patriot, but The Cheads doesn’t get nearly enough screen time and War Machine gets almost none to the point where his only real action sequence is essentially comic relief. Say what you will about Iron Man 2, but the final shoot out in the atrium was a sight to behold and one that isn’t repeated, or even attempted, in Iron Man 3.

The villains in Iron Man 3 prove to be something of a mixed bag in that on one hand they are not carbon copies of Iron Man like the preceding entries in the Iron Man franchise but on the other hand none of them are Sam Rockwell. And on a third hand by the time the inevitable villainous end game was finally revealed I literally stood up in the middle of a crowded theater, hurled my empty popcorn bucket, empty zip lock bag, cutting board and credit card at the screen and screamed “no shit” at the top of my lungs while blood pumped out of my nose in rivers of fury-fueled ferocity.

But as I had time out of the theater to come down, blow my nose and think about what I’d seen, much like Iron Man 2, I found Iron Man 3 began to grow on me.

LOL@TERRORISM

LOL@TERRORISM

Is the villain’s end game ground breaking? No. But the motivations of the antagonist do serve as something of a counterpoint to Tony Stark’s own personal journey throughout the films thus far and while the inevitable big bad brilliant plan was pretty standard fare I can forgive the film that considering its adaptation of the villain The Mandarin.

Traditionally, the Mandarin is a stupid wizard with seven stupid power rings and I guess he’s supposed to be the stupid magical counterpart to Tony Stark’s scientifically granted powers or something. But at the end of the day he is at best the bad guy in a breakfast cereal commercial. What the writers of Iron Man 3 have done with Iron Man’s arch nemesis, however, fits perfectly into the world that has been crafted in the earlier Iron Man films and is arguably the most interesting aspect of the movie.

Additionally credit has to be given where credit is due – the directors Jon Favreau and Shane Black. Yeah, yeah, Jon Favreau, the director of the first two entries in the franchise isn’t helming the film this time around, but he’s still in for round three as Tony’s driver/bro-for-life Happy, and he provides solid comic relief.

Shane Black, the actual director, should also be credited for taking an interest in the hero Tony Stark is in his Converses and hoodie rather than in his Iron Man suit, which is clear to see when the finale approaches and neither Stark or Rhodes are in their armor. Had the rest of the movie gone for a more “Tony and Rhodie – Buddy Cops” vibe I can’t help but suspect it would have been the greatest movie ever made with the name “Iron Man 3.”

When all is said and done I’m definitely going to see Iron Man 3 again. It’s the kind of movie that’s destined to become a cable television staple on weekend afternoons because while it misses a lot of opportunities, at the end of the day, much like Downey and The Cheads, Iron Man 3 is charming. Not fantastic, mind you, but charming. Like when an ugly boy dresses up nice and asks a pretty girl out on a date.

I really thought by the time I finished writing my way through this Man of Steel would be out.