Some people take weeks off from work to go on holiday, hang out with friends or simply relax. What I do of course is delve ever deeper into the marvel cinematic universe, watching the Netflix TV shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones and watching phase 2 of the Marvel movies, starting with Iron Man 3 and moving on to Ant-Man. I have a feeling Stan Lee was stretching for new superhero ideas.
So following on from my review of Phase 1, I will now give brief reviews of all the films in phase 2, which featured several sequels which mostly disappointed, as well as introduced us to some new heroes as we try to keep up with the amount of superheroes residing in New York. (I wonder if Marvel knows there are other places outside of The Big Apple).
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The third outing for Tony Stark sees Iron Man fighting a fiery Guy Pearce and evil terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), as well as his own Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the events of The Avengers.
A lot longer than I thought it needed to be with comedic elements that miss more than they hit, I felt Iron Man 3 was the weakest of the marvel movies so far. It felt unnecessary, more of a well this is something else Tony Stark did one week rather than adding anything to the overall marvel cinematic story.
I was surprised it got pretty good reviews from critics, with many praising the character of The Mandarin and the interesting twist in the story, but not being a fan of the comic books this reveal had no real impact on me.
Still there was fun to be had and it kept me relatively engaged, but once again too many robots (they just don’t do it for me) and I did think why are none of the other avengers helping him!
Iron Man 3: 4/10
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Next up was Chris Hemsworth returning as Thor as he battles an alien Christopher Ecclestone, forming an uneasy alliance with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an easier alliance with his scientist love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Once again Hemsworth’s performance as Thor is great, as he finds the right balance between serious and humour, and the continuing story between him and Loki is far more interesting and has much more depth than his love story with Jane.
The Dark World did well at mixing our world with Asgaard, and I enjoyed the London setting of the film, but its story was too convoluted and crazy like the convergence itself.
Although it was an okay follow up to Thor, I felt it lacked the energy or originality of its predecessor, and like Iron Man 3 really didn’t add anything to the overall story.
Thor: The Dark World: 4/10
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
America’s red white and blue super solider was back in Captain America’s first sequel, The Winter Solider, and despite the lack of personality for the titular character, The Winter Solider proved to be one of the better films of the marvel cinematic universe – and the best sequel to date.
Like The First Avenger, this film has a well told story with what feels like actual consequence. From the infiltration of S.H.E.I.L.D by Hydra, to the added depth to the character of The Black Widow, again played excellently by Scarlett Johannson, The Winter Solider is easily one of the best told stories by Marvel.
The addition of Falcon (Anthony Mackie), was well handled, and the surprise return of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) was a nice touch as well.
I did at times find the film a little hard to follow and the story slightly confusing (if Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D all this time – why didn’t they do more to hurt them), but overall I really liked this film – if only the actual superhero was more interesting.
Captain America: The Winter Solider: 7/10
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The first Marvel film not to feature any of the Avengers, and quite possibly the best.
Staring an ensemble cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and a surprisingly funny and heartfelt performance from wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent addition to the marvel universe.
The film is genuinely very funny, looks amazing and the action pieces in the film are wonderful, and the whole story is better crafted than the usual Marvel films.
It also nicely ties in with the universe, showcasing more of Thanos who will be a main villain in future films, and gives us more back-story to the infinity stones, which were briefly touched on during Thor: The Dark World, without it coming across as simply fan service and the references to the other films don’t feel clunky or forced.
But it’s the 80s inspired soundtrack which really separates it from the other movies and gives it it’s unique film. It works perfectly in sync with the humour and feel of the movie – and helps it standout compared to the usual safe alternatives of the other films – such as ACDC with Iron Man.
My only gripes with the film are it does generally rely on action more than it does character development, and the ending is a little bit corny. But this is really me just trying to think of something bad to say, and I really enjoyed this film.
Guardians of the Galaxy: 8/10
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
For many people, possibly myself included, the first Avengers film is the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I went in with very high expectations for this sequel.
But despite excellent performances from the likes of James Spader, adding his unique voice and tone to the main villain Ultron, this big budget film largely disappointed.
Age of Ultron jumps straight into the action and plot, which really doesn’t work, as it feels like you’ve missed key points, and if you haven’t watched the other films in the series you would be lost from the get go.
The film felt rushed and really drags on, which is weird because it is actually two minutes shorter than the first film, but feels so much longer, and for a film with so much going on and so many cool action sequences, it was rather boring.
The story was largely incongruous and hard to follow, with Thor’s random trip to London to visit some whirlpool really not making any sense – and the addition of The Voice seemed thrown in after so much build up.
But if you don’t think about it too much and just sit back and watch some superheroes fighting stuff, you might find yourself relatively happy.
Avengers: Age of Ulton 4/10
The final film in Phase 2 was Ant-Man, ending with Marvel’s smallest superhero in a very fun film which may appeal more to younger viewers of the Marvel universe, with his helper ants and cute, adorable daughter Cassie a stark contrast to the blood and swearing in their TV shows like Daredevil.
Paul Rudd is a likeable leading man as our ant hero, and the film manages to stay on the right side of silly – but does stray occasionally into taking itself a little too seriously for a film about a fighting ant person. This may come from having two very different directors/writers – Edgar Wright who left due to creative differences, and then Peyton Reed – and this mish mash in styles is apparent – it seems unsure what kind of film it wants to be.
I did actually enjoy Ant-Man though a lot more than I did Avengers 2 or Iron Man 3. It has a spark to it, with Michael Pena really stealing the show as the comic relief, and hopefully Marvel find a way of keeping his character in future films.
The miniature sequences are excellent and inventive as well, like a bigger budget version of Honey I Shrunk The Kids.
The consequences of the action and the plot are on a smaller scale compared to the other films, which works with the character, and helps it stand-out and give the film its own life; you don’t need to see the other films to enjoy this one. Certainly worth a watch.
So that is my review of the films of phase 2. Again I have to say I did enjoy following the story that is being built, even if it continues to get very convoluted and crowded with larger than life characters and superheroes and villains all over the place (mainly New York).
Phase 3 will be starting soon too with Captain America: Civil War hitting UK cinemas on the 29th April, and I have to admit it does look good. For the first time since The Avengers, I actually may take a trip to the cinema to see it. (It seems Marvel have made a fan out of me too…bugger)