All of you waiting with bated breath after my Phase One list was posted can now relax those nether regions as I launch right into reviewing the Marvel Cinematic Universe's second phase of awesomeness!
(You will see that this is where I start to diverge from the Fanboy Legion)
Iron Man 3- It's weird to put the words "Controversial" and "guy wearing a super-powered suit of armor" in the same sentence, but that's the best way to describe this one. From its darker tone to its portrayal of Tony Stark's PTSD after almost dying in "Avengers," fans had a lot of shit to say about what is actually one of the stronger post-Phase One films. Writer/Director Shane Black reinvents the format here by portraying an even more troubled Tony Stark than the one we saw in the second sequel as he deals with real-world problems. Frankly, if by the third film we aren't seeing more of the alter-ego than the masked hero, it's probably not a good sign, hence the invalidation of the "Tony Stark has a bigger part than Iron Man" criticisms. Even Black's clever sleight of hand with a fake Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is entertaining and suits the film.
Thor: The Dark World- Another one that gets unfairly dissed, the Thor sequel is one of the stronger entries in the series. Yes, the plot is a tad typical but that's only because there have already been several movies at this point and world-ending threats have become the norm. But these movies are about our connection with the characters and desire to see them persevere.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier- Simply put, this is probably the best movie in the MCU's list of releases so far. Combining the feel of a late Seventies suspense thriller with incredible fight scenes and character moments, the Russo Bros. strike a perfect balance between Marvel's tendency to be too jokey and an edgier, more real-world feel. This is why I wrote previously that the first film is overshadowed. This one is literally as good as the MCU gets...at least so far.
Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol. One- And here it is. The movie that practically caused fanboys and girls alike to have screaming orgasms in the aisles because it was so hip, so cool, so freaking funny! To paraphrase Montgomery Burns, in case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic. I had numerous issues with this movie, from its obnoxious characters to its low stakes plot and tendency to shit all over decent drama with bad jokes. When I saw this one theatrically, there was a woman in the theater who literally laughed the entire time the movie ran. That was when I realized this film was an example of pre-programming. That alone doesn't necessitate a bad movie, however, and while GOTG certainly doesn't match the classic definition of a bad movie, I found it to be a series of misfires and a blatant attempt to combine Marvel with a Disney sensibility.
Avengers: Age of Ultron- Another film in the series fans love to hate, there is an admittedly compromised feel to the film, but that's not Joss Whedon's fault. Disney/Marvel is to blame. Despite that, this installment is quite a feat. Despite the changes to Ultron's origins and some quirky character reveals (Hawkeye has a wife and kids? Black Widow has it for Bruce Banner?) or perhaps because of them, this film, along with Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3, genuinely feel like sincere efforts to move the franchise into a more adult direction. In many ways, it's a stronger film than its predecessor, especially because the actors know their characters so well at this point, but there's an unfortunate "Been there" feel to the proceedings.
Ant Man- The stories of behind-the-camera turmoil regarding this comparatively small film didn't diminish its success at the box office or as a film. It's a welcome break from all the world-threatening mayhem films, keeping its plot relatively small and the drama more personal. Unlike the more bloated GOTG, the humor works beautifully here and I actually cared about the characters and what was happening.
Next up...Phase Three Finds Amazing New Ways to Disappoint Me...