Flicks With Nicki – Very Brief Movie Reviews: Marvel
In order to get ready for “Avengers: Endgame,” I decided to re-watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies in order.
Iron Man (2008)
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a genius billionaire who makes weapons of mass destruction. When terrorists kidnap him and demand he make weapons for them, he literally has a change of heart. The shrapnel in his blood forces him to create his signature arc reactor and Iron Man suit. There’s a bad guy terrorist and a bad guy businessman. Bad guys never have hair. Though he isn’t my favorite Avenger, I will always root for a guy with a degree from M.I.T. Grade B-.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Tony Stark versus Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) a.k.a. Whiplash. These two guys have so many daddy issues I needed Oprah to show up and fix them. Oprah does not show up. The government wants Tony’s suits. There’s the Russian bad guy and a bad guy businessman (Sam Rockwell). For MCU continuity, we meet Black Widow in this movie. I should give some extra points for electricity whips and Mickey Rourke’s wild ass not even having to act. As it stands: Grade C.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth), son of Odin the Allfather (Sir Anthony Hopkins), gets into big trouble by starting a fight with the Frost Giants. Their leader is a dead ringer for the Night King from “Game of Thrones.” The Allfather sends Thor to Earth for punishment. Like New Mexico punishment. For MCU continuity, we meet Hawkeye in this movie. Thor is a golden ripped hulking beauty. For reasons that cannot be explained, his pasty-white, stick-thin brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is also hot. In order to learn about humility and to earn back his rightful place in his homeland Asgard, Thor stands in Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) kitchen with no shirt on for a full minute. I don’t know how those low-slung jeans even stayed on his hips. Then the movie was over. Grade C-.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a skinny kid from Brooklyn who wants to fight in World War II. Because he is good and righteous, he receives a magical concoction that makes him look like Odinson. He has to fight super bad guy Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) who uses the power of the Tesseract (Space Stone). Not only does this bad guy have no hair, but he has a red skull for a face, hence the bad guy name Red Skull. We see two versions of the infamous “Steve Rogers gets his butt kicked” scene. Cap gets a Vibranium shield! I love this movie even though there’s the tired Hydra/Nazi villains plot device. I liked the characters in the movie from start to finish. There are two kinds of Marvel fans. Those who like Tony Stark. And those who like Steve Rogers. Let it be known, I am Steve Rogers all day every day. And Bucky Starnes. Who doesn’t love Bucky? Grade A-.
The Avengers (2012)
Loki gets mad at Thor, and New York has to pay the price. We meet Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and rest of the Avengers. Possibly the best ensemble superhero movie ever made with the best understanding of personality type. Loki’s scepter (Mind Stone) is used to control people. The villains are the Chitauri, big space reptiles after the power of the Tesseract. Didn’t Odin tell you not to play with the Tesseract? By the final scene you want to be best friends with these heroes even though their individual origin stories were pretty mediocre. Grade A.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man’s mind gets really messed up from the Chitauri in “The Avengers” movie, so Tony Stark ends up in Tennessee with a kid who helps him solve the mystery of some local explosions. This movie includes Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, and Ben Kingsley. I’m talking about a silly action movie, and Ben Kingsley is in it as the villain with no hair. That’s a thing, you know. I like this movie a lot. Maybe it was the attempt to portray PTSD. Maybe it was a sort of kind look at the South. Maybe it’s because Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets to put on an Iron Man suit. It fares quite well as the third installment of the series. Grade B.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Odin’s dad Bor fought a war against the Dark Elf and their magical aether (Reality Stone), which looks like the smoke monster from LOST. A really beautiful story about Thor and Loki’s bond and hatred and distrust. Several amazing scenes between Hemsworth and Hiddleson. The rest of the movie made no sense. The red stuff is an infinity stone. I’ve seen it three times. It is one of the most boring action movies ever made. I fell asleep during one viewing. Now I realize it’s because Thor wore a shirt the entire movie. So just go for the Thor/Loki bromance. They are adopted brothers, but still their chemistry is good. The movie is not. Grade C-
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
What would you do to save your oldest and dearest friend turned psychotic assassin? If your friend is Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), everything! From start to finish, this movie will have you on the edge of your seat. We also see Cap develop new friendships with Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). These movies are not about explosions and chase scenes. They are about character. They are about the choices we make and who we want to be as people. A near perfect movie. Grade A.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Take a deep breath. You are about to meet a new cast of characters. It will all make sense one day. Stick with me. Earthling Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted by space pirates led by Yondu (Michael Rooker and “The Walking Dead” fans rejoiced). Never has more care been put into the crafting of a side villain-esque character. Quill steals an orb (Power Stone) then meets up with assassin Gamora, Rocket, a the genetically modified raccoon, Groot, the tree-like lifeform with limited but meaningful vocabulary, and Drax. Drax is everything. He needs revenge against Ronan and Thanos. Yeah, that’s “Infinity War” Thanos. This is an enjoyable movie all around. It has 1980’s human music, comedy. and an origin story that includes the origin of a lot of characters. I probably liked it because it condensed five movies into one. Grade B.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The bad guy with no hair in this movie is Ultron, an angry Artificial Intelligence (AI) who wants to kill everyone. Again. Like, we get it. Computers want us all to die. For MCU continuity, we meet Klaue and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in this movie. Vision is born via the Mind Stone. Grade C
One hundred percent fun. A cat burglar (Paul Rudd) is hired to use a super suit that makes him the size of an ant. “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” meets “A Bugs Life” meets “Iron Man.” Very excellent supporting cast includes Evangeline Lilly, scene stealing Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, and Michael Douglas. This movie did not take itself too seriously, and it didn’t need to. Grade B+
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Is Steve Rogers in this movie? Yes. Then it is perfect. Bucky is accused of killing the King of Wakanda. The Avengers decide to go North and South in this installment. The twist is why they take the sides that they do. Big questions like what are we willing to fight for and what are we willing to die for. The stare down between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Okoye (Danai Gurira and “The Walking Dead” fans rejoiced again) is perfect and amazing. As is this movie. Grade A.
Doctor Strange (2016)
I am team Captain America. It is really hard to be team Cap, and like a character like Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), M.D. He really is a doctor, a narcissistic surgeon who loses everything. He hears a rumor about a mystical way to regain use of his hands. This movie was just so weird for me. I could not find a single character that I liked. But hey, the visual effects are stunning. Stephen Strange pushes his mediocre way into the sacred secret temple that holds the Eye of Agomot (Time Stone) and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) agrees to teach Strange even though he reminds her of her worst student and the villain of the entire movie. It took a lot of ocular strength for me to side-eye for an entire movie. Grade C-.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Peter Quill and his friends must find out where he came from, and it is not all Earth. We meet new character Manthis (Pom Klementieff) and have to decide what we think of Gamora’s crazed sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Drax, Groot, and Rocket continue to steal our hearts. We are in love with these characters. And Yondu. This movie is corny and funny and stupid. I almost cried real tears at one point. I can deal with that. Grade B-.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man is my all-time favorite Marvel character from my childhood. This time we get a good view of teen Peter Parker (Tom Holland) from an actor who isn’t 30 years old in real life. Peter is a nerd with his nerd friends. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him superpowers. But he still has to go through the everyday droll of high school and young love and an interesting reveal about the super villain (Michael Keaton). Spidey is earnest and sweet and good. I love him. Grade B.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor Odinson is back for his third turn. This is best of the Thor movies despite an atrocious villain Hela (Cate Blanchett) as Thor’s sister. She is a leather clad, vamped up, egomaniac. Boring. I was embarrassed for her. But she does spot a fake Infinity Gauntlet on Asgard. Thor finds himself on a planet called Saakar run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). It’s gladiator time. With the help of Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson) and the amnesiac Hulk, Thor must escape to get home and save Asgard. This can only mean that Loki shows up to hinder/help. And we get another glimpse of Heimdall (Idris Elba) and no one ever complained about his presence on screen however brief. To me, this movie was even funnier than Guardians of the Galaxy. Grade B+
Black Panther (2018)
If you want see a great movie, look for one with a good story and compelling characters. In this installment of the MCU, we meet T’Challa, the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). He is the new King of Wakanda, and Wakanda is a land of many secrets. A hidden country of super people, supernatural resources, advanced technology, and a secret handshake greeting. Black Panther is challenged by hulking M’Baku (Winston Duke). Then T’Challa is threatened by his fine ass cousin from Oakland named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Killmonger cannot possibly be a good guy, but he is so beautiful, and mostly right, we are confused for half of the movie. But T’Challa is cut from the same cloth as Captain American so I’m #Wakandaforever and all day every day. The only disappointment in this movie is that the Soul Stone does not come from Wakanda. I have another Very Brief Review of “Black Panther.” Grade A+
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Thanos wants to kill half the people in the universe. Like Killmonger’s manifesto, we spend the movie wondering if he is right. A polarizing conclusion, but the majority of the movie is a beautiful orchestrated symphony of hints, stones, cubes, villains, and grudges from all the previous films. There are clues in every movie that leads to this film. I have a private online group where we have argued and dissected this movie from start to finish. If you could deal with “The Empire Strikes Back,” you can deal with this. I still say it is a Grade B+.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Another movie with two villains. The businessman villain, but he has hair, so I was confused. The second villain is mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Ant-Man must partner with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) as the Wasp to do the shrinking and fighting stuff. These movies take a lighter approach. You do not need to have an online discussion group about it. The nuances are minimal, but it is still fun. Grade B-.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) must recover from her space amnesia to find out the truth about her past and an age-old war across the universe. While listening to 90’s music. I also wrote a Very Long Movie Review of Captain Marvel. Grade B.
I have seen “The Incredible Hulk” (2008) C- and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) B+, but do not think they are required viewing as part of the “Avengers Endgame” MCU. There are probably some diehard fans who will fight me on this. So be it. Do you have a favorite Marvel movie? Tell us in the comments.