Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3 - The beginning of the END

By Rohon Nag | 1.4k |

After being thoroughly underwhelmed by MCU Phase 2, we begin Phase 3 with a bang.

Interestingly, the first film of this phase is so explosive that at the reveal event for Phase 3... Marvel said the next movie was Captain America : Serpent society. It had a mixed groaning by fans. That line of comic books were not really that popular.
But later during the event they revealed the REAL title… Civil War and the fans exploded with screams and applause. Then followed Iron Man and Captain on stage to banter.
This set the stage of the upcoming phase. Civil war is the comic book run that has transformed Marvel comics the most. Civil War means lots of long standing implications for the MCU. The chance to see it onscreen had the fans going crazy...

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

What a way to begin the Phase 3 of the MCU. Civil War as mentioned earlier has always been a fan favourite and to see it realized on screen was a dream come true. If anything, this was an even bigger team up / cross over event than the first Avengers.
When the movie first came out, there was some talk on how this cinematic civil war is much smaller in scale and perhaps the comics would have best been adapted for a long form of storytelling such as a TV show. But we got what we got. It is different from the comic’s version but it did have the Avengers split into two fractions, both with their valid points.
Iron man Vs Captain America is the best pitch line for a film and they use it SO well. Seeing the different personalities of these two, their conflict doesn’t leave a single element out which we would want to be there. From Howard Stark references to super soldier formula, it all comes up. Not to mention Cap’s inability to let it go and Tony’s ego about how right he is… this forms a very explosive mix. The resolution of their conflict is still not been seen onscreen as they never came face to face in Infinity War.
Coming to the story, intercut with the Sokovia accords (MCU’s version of the superhero registration act) storyline is the continuation of the winter soldier story. The writers have managed to mix up the two seamlessly without the audience feeling any disconnect between the two plot lines.
The action is crisp, smart and very well done. There is no shaky camera effect or quick cuts. We can clearly see what’s going on and it looks damn good. Every single action scene is memorable and visceral. The best moment of the film is when Captain America stops a chopper from taking off with his bare hands. Its an awesome hero moment which is earned.
The best action scene is undoubtedly the airport fight sequence. It’s the best action sequence in the MCU so far, Infinity war included. But being an MCU film, they don’t forget to add some fun and jokes in between. They don’t just shoe horn them in but the jokes land so well that sometimes they echo what the audience might be thinking at that point of time.
Spiderman is introduced in this film along with Black Panther. Both characters are phenomenally well done. Black Panther holds his own against the legendary Avengers without either side looking silly or over powered. Spiderman is not shown as very strong which is perfect, this is Spidey at the beginning of his career. He gets taken down easily by quite a few heroes, which again works well for the character.
Post the airport battle, I expected the film to take a very different turn. They hinted at more super soldiers and I thought there would be a fight between them, Iron man and Captain. But that turns out to be a misdirection by the writers. These super soldiers were never important to the plot. HOW the winter soldier GOT the super solider formulae is important.
The moment when the brain washed winter soldier is shown killing off Tony’s parents is chilling to watch and Tony’s subsequent reaction is fully understandable. The ending fight is not huge or epic but it is emotional. Captains’ dialog… “He is my friend…” and then Iron man’s “So Was I…” sends shivers down the collective audiences spines. The shot of Iron Man shooting his hand’s lasers full force at Cap’s shield is iconic.
This is possibly my second favourite team up film in MCU. The first being Infinity War. If by some chance you haven’t seen this film or not seen it recently… Do re-watch. This one is epic. Once I saw this film, I was sure Infinity War was in the right hands.

Rating : 9/10. More or less perfect. Baron Zemo’s Ludacris plan aside, this film is awesome!

Doctor Strange (2016)

I was looking forward to this film as the trailers looked very mind-boggling. It was like Inception but with superheroes.
The film did not disappoint me AT ALL. The script is tight and paced well. It doesn’t drag and despite the familiar Marvel Villain issues of bland villains, the film manages to do rather well.
The highlight of the film is the use of its Mirror dimension. This dimension makes the world bend and twist in ways which is beyond our imagination. Not to mention the first trip Stephen Strange takes is absolutely trippy beyond words.
In theaters the 3D in those scenes made for a unique visual trip.
Moving away from the visuals and VFX, the characters in this film are rather well done too. From the lead who is well cast and suits his role perfect to side characters like Wong and Baron Mordo are all VERY memorable and they all have their punch lines and moments. This is something hard to do overall in films. To keep the highlight on the film’s hero but at the same time developing well-rounded side characters who stick in the mind. That’s something THOR didn’t manage at all, I couldn’t remember the warriors 3’s names on a whim.
Lastly, we come to the biggest addition to the MCU. That is magic. Doctor Strange opened the doors for a different sort of power to exist in the MCU apart from Asgardian technology and Superhero serums. It’s the mystic arts. In the MCU they have defined it as dimensional energy being used in various ways. This magic also involves Dr. Strange using the Eye of Agamotto. That is revealed to be an Infinity Stone by the end of this film.
The climax of this film is beyond unique. The whole scene takes place as events around the characters are reversing. Broken buildings are coming back up and the hero and villains duke it out in between these things.
But even more innovative is the way Dr. Strange dispatches the villain Dormammu. Traps him in a timeloop till he gives up. This scene is so much better than the hero punching his way out of trouble. It shows creativity and also the resolve of the hero. Sheer brilliance of concept and execution!

Rating : 9/10. One of the most visually different and innovative Marvel films since Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

I had high hopes for this film. The first one was one of my all-time favourites and the trailers looked VERY promising for this one.
The opening of this film was decent, then came the lull in the middle part and by the end, I was wondering… that’s ALL there is to this film?
So this film is all about Peter Quill’s father. The giant planet sized being called EGO. He is the reason Peter aka Star Lord could hold on to the purple Infinity Stone in the first film.
There is more development of Yondu and some new characters are introduced who might come into play IF and when there is a third film… (lots of drama there if you don’t know).
Not to mention, Gamora and her sister also share a few moments. Baby Groot is now a dumbass and is nothing like his older more mature version. The director of the film has also revealed that this baby Groot is actually not Groot, but his son… Groot is dead. That led me to some pretty dark places. I loved GROOT! We are Groot!
Long story short, Peter finds out his old man pappy is a douche, defeats him and end of story.

Rating : 6/10. This is the movie I cringe every time I have to see it again. My least favourite Phase 3 film apart from Captain Marvel.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

I didn’t like this film when it came out originally. It’s still not one of my favourites, but I have grown to not dislike it. My main issue with the film is that it doesn’t do much for Peter Parker’s story. He does grow and all but 15 mins of Infinity War does more to advance his story than this entire film.
Leaving that aside, this is a smaller and more youth centric story. It focusses on Peter’s life in school and as someone who has had a brush with the Avengers but is now left out in the cold. That is one aspect of the film which I liked this time around. The film shows how an average person would react to having taken part in extra-ordinary events and now going back to normal life becomes difficult.
The Villain of the film, is not as bland and forgettable as normal MCU villains. His motivation is rock solid and it’s easy to relate to him as he is a common man too. I didn’t really like how Tony Stark is very different in this film, but it does setup Ininifty War and his relation with Peter so now with the power of hindsight I have made my peace with this film.
There are some decent action scenes in the film. But the ending climax is a huge letdown as Peter has been stripped of his enhanced spider suit and he goes back to his original homemade design. To the filmmakers credit that thing DOES look its homemade! It also made the climax more of a clash of egos than powers. I see what the filmmakers were going for, but it didn’t thrill me.

Rating : 6/10. It’s not awful, it’s not difficult to get though like GOTG Vol.2 but it’s no Spider-man 2 (NON MCU) either!

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

From the first trailers which showed Thor’s hammer being destroyed we knew this would be a very different sort of film from the usual THOR films. After The Dark World, we needed something VERY different.
The director has somehow managed to make an 80’s cheesy sci-fi movie with electronic synth music but with modern VFX and great action.
This film is a gem in the MCU. Despite also suffering from the bland one dimensional villain syndrome all MCU films until date have fallen for, the hero’s journey in the film is rather satisfying.
Odin passes away and Hella, Thor’s elder (and till now locked away in secret) sister shows up and immediately all hell (pun intended) breaks loose. Thor’s hammer goes for a toss along with his dignity and ego. Thor ends up in a landfill, repeatedly shocked by an Ex-Valkyrie.
Thor gets crew cut, he fights Hulk and they end up in an adventure together. Including the Hulk in this film was a genius move. A Thor + Hulk buddy action adventure film is awesome. Especially when Hulk calms down and becomes Banner again.
Chris Hemsworth is REALLY GOOD in this film as THOR. The character has grown SO much since his first film and yet he learns that there is more to learn and further to fall.
Loki is also back for this film. His scenes add more to the story of two estranged borthers without a romantic sideplot to take away from their screen time. If you like Thor, Loki and Hulk this is the best team film they could have made. Not to mention, Thor loses everything in the film. The direction of this film is so well done that despite how easily Hella kills off the warriors three, I didn’t really mind. It didn’t bother me. This film does perfect what Star Wars Episode 8 wanted to do. It was a soft reboot of the character and tonality of the film without pissing off the fans.
Did I mention the music of this film? After Guardians, this has my favourite score in a MCU film. The music is all Synth pop and somehow it just works. Thor came from Shakespearean origins and now was fighting on a Led Zeppelin song… Nothing speaks 70s and 80s cheese than the soundtrack of this film, but somehow they make it work.
Last but not the least, Jeff Goldblum as the Grand Master is not the average MCU villain and he is simply amazing in his role. I wish he got his own spin off! For the climax they destroy Asgard itself. This movie unlike Spiderman and Black Panther has huge implications for the lead character. Thor has lost his home, his parents, his hair and his hammer by the time this movie ends.
Then they run into Thanos’s ship. What a cliffhanger to end on… 1 entire year to go for Infinity War and that’s how they end Thor Ragnarok! Sheer brilliance! Rating : 9/10. This film rocked like Thunder itself.

Black Panther (2018)

This movie released mere months before Infinity War. While Thor Ragnarok’s ending was a direct lead into Infinity War, this film for the most part had nothing much to do with that. No Soul Stone was revealed like many had speculated. Nothing in the film had any links to the upcoming event film of the year.
I was not at all excited for this film. I hoped it would be good, but wasn’t rocking in my chair awaiting this. My low expectations were not disappointed. The film turned out to be pretty decent.
My issues with the film is that nothing happens in the film, which affects the main lead too much. This is their first film, but it’s not an origin story. It can’t be Thor Ragnarok where the hero loses everything and can’t win it all back. So in the end, other than T’Challa realizing that Wakanda can’t hide forever, everything else is inconsequential.
Maybe that’s the whole point of the film and story, but I needed a lot more than that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike this film. Far from it. The way they have shown an ideal nation of the world in Wakanda is brilliant. I wish more of this film was set in Wakanda. There are no action scenes in the Waknadan cities.
The best action scene in this film is the one set in Busan (Korea). It was heavily featured in the trailer and the entire scene is a LOT of fun to watch. The story is bit of a Reverse Baahubali where the King’s son is challenged by his cousin whose father was killed by the previous king. Calling himself the Killmonger, Eric decides that he will use Wakandan tech to terrorize and overthrow the world governments. T’Challa discovers that his father did some less than ideal things in his youth and the price of which has to be paid by him and Wakanda.
For once the villain is VERY well rounded and memorable character. This movie escapes the MCU curse of a weak, bland and forgettable villain. The real standout In the film was the vibranium and Wakandan tech. Shuri, T’challs sister is shown as a literal genius and all of the tech and innovations are very interesting to watch.
The ending climax is a bit of a let down. For me the VFX were all over the place, the rhinos looked VERY fake and the last fight between Killmonger and T’challa looked like some PS4 game cut scene. Guess all the budget was spent on the landscapes of Wakanda…

Rating : 7/10. A good film, it did VERY well at the box-office. The inclusion of a good villain hopefully means that the MCU is learning how to do villains properly.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

I know this movie came out AFTER Infinity War released. But other than the end credits scene all of this film takes place pre-snap. SO I will talk about it here.
I thought the first Ant-man film was decent, but the scope of it was sort of small. This one doesn’t do much to improve on that but makes the stakes very personal for Hank and his daughter Hope as they want to rescue Janet, Hank’s wife who has been lost in the quantum realm for the past 30 years. This is the major story arc of the film along with a lot of minor subplots.
The first time around, I didn’t enjoy the film much. I didn’t have fun with it since I was hoping for something more. But now, with a second watch and my expectations firmly set, I did like it a lot more.
This seems to be the recurring theme for third phase MCU films. I like them a LOT more on second or third viewing. The reason for this maybe that Civil War raised the bar and Infinity War blew it away completely.
Coming back to this film, we get some new characters, Ghost is a phase shifting villain and then there is Laurence Fishburne (Of Matrix fame) as Dr. Bill Foster. These two along with another new villain are the foil to our heroes who are also on the run from the law.
All of these elements come together in a pretty spectacular and fun finale.
Overall I enjoyed this film more than the first part and it’s good that they kept music cues from the original film. I used to hate how Marvel forgot its hero’s music cues in their sequels.
The post credit scene is the most important one in this film. Janet mentions time vortex and then Scott jumps into the quantum realm and the rest of the team is dusted. Setting it up for Endgame…
But we have one last film in phase 3 before we reach Endgame. Captain marvel might not be my favourite MCU film, but it’s the most recently released one.

Rating : 8/10. A fun watch, but suffers from the repeated issue of weak and very forgettable villain.

For Phase 3 I am ending this article here. Infinity War deserves its own piece of recap. Captain Marvel will be included at the end of that discussion since somehow Infinity War leads up more to Captain Marvel than it does to Ant-man and the Wasp. I wondered about this till I learnt that Cap Marvel was supposed to do the follow-up to Infinity War but due to the success of Ant-man they had to adjust the release dates and we got Captain Marvel a lot later than it was expected.

Read the phase 1 and phase 2 MCU journey.