And now we come to the end as of now. Since Phase 3 is still in progress, I'm obviously stopping at the most recent film but I will add to it as the later ones are released. This time around, you'll likely notice a diminished enthusiasm and a creeping annoyance in my tone.
Captain America: Civil War- The Law of Diminishing Returns is, as the hipsters say, a "thing" and nowhere is it more obvious than this third Captain America outing. Hats off to Marvel for making a dozen films before this became the case but damn! They really saved it all up for this disappointment. My criticisms are numerous, yet the real irony is that I can still find enough enjoyment in this movie to watch it from time to time. Still, it's an over-crowded mess filled with sub-plots galore, absurd contrivances and easily the most anti-climatic showdown in the franchise's history. The much touted battle royale between titans is reduced to little more than a stalling action for the main plot and a parking lot brawl with little actual consequence. Iron Man 2 is often maligned for being an obvious franchise bridge yet for whatever reason this one gets a pass? Fanboys, I disdainfully shake my head at you!
Doctor. Strange- A brief restoration of sanity and quality to the MCU, this long-awaited origin film featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme almost feels like a DC movie, and that's not an insult coming from me. This is a wonderfully absurd piece of thoughtful filmmaking that provides a nice rest for all the obnoxious franchise building going on in the other films. Ironically, this nice break would continue with
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Something happened on the way to the GOTG sequel. I sat in the theater and loved every minute of it! How, after my unimpressed reaction to the first movie, this one was such a great experience is either a testament to my incredible open-mindedness (Doubtful!) or the fact that James Gunn et. al. improved upon every single criticism I had of the first film and delivered an incredible sequel. I am now a fan of this franchise.
Spider-Man: Homecoming- And here endeth the honeymoon! Marvel spent years trying to finagle the rights away from Sony (who was absolutely destroying Spider-Man with those awful Andrew Garfield movies) and they finally got him, recast him, made him a kid again and threw him awkwardly but enjoyably into the mix in Civil War. Expectations were high for a movie that finally got the character just right and delivered the MCU goods in new and exciting ways. And on paper, it was all there to happen. Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker and Michael Keaton's Vulture was the most refreshing villain since Loki. But then a hit and miss script seemingly more concerned with the trials and tribulations of teenage existence was chosen and what could have been the best MCU movie since the Avengers turned out to be enjoyable but shockingly mediocre.
Thor: Ragnarok: An enjoyable threequel, this Thor installment eschews the melodrama of the previous installment and builds on the humor of the first with mostly satisfying results. Chris Hemsworth knows his character well enough to poke fun at him, although the poking gets a tad obnoxious at times. Tony Stark's influence aside, I often had difficulty with the wacky line deliveries but the story worked and the interplay of the characters sold the film's minor shortcomings.
Black Panther: I really enjoyed the first three fourths of "Black Panther" but the Third Act was a bit of a mess. It didn't make it a bad movie but I do find it mildly overrated. It went from potentially great to sort of hackneyed and cheesy. One thing Marvel keeps doing that bothers me is handing these important films to directors who have never made a big budget film before. Sometimes it pays off, usually it has mixed results and this one was no exception.