We Are in the Endgame now - Recapping Major Milestones in MCU: Part II - The Mediocre Phase

By Rohon Nag | 1.5k |

When Marvel’s phase 2 started, I was really excited. Iron Man 3 was the follow-up to Avengers and fans were clamoring for more Tony Stark. There was rumours of Ultron being the big bad for the end of this Phase and that sounded great! Ultron was a hugely popular foe to the Avengers and unlike LOKI he was not organic, making him unpredictable and exciting. Not to mention Joss Whedon who had crafted the amazing Avengers was back in the director’s chair.

Read phase 1 of this 3 part series here.

What could go wrong? - Plenty it seems.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Coming out the next year after the Avengers, this film had fans salivating for Phase 2 of the MCU. It got a very good opening and overall did well at the box office.
But the box office numbers don’t always indicate the film’s quality.
IM3 was directed by Shane Black of Lethal Weapon fame, he had worked with RDJ on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Shane did what he knew best, to make an irreverent off beat sort of film, only this time it had Marvel’s biggest star… Tony Stark.
The script has barely any room for the Iron Man armour and what little it gets featured it’s the butt of most jokes. The armours in this film are somehow very weak and prone to malfunction. Which was never the case before now. They have devolved in quality despite some new upgrades. After a lengthy prologue scene set in Switzerland, the film opens with Tony trying on this new Mark 42 armour, which has a new ability. Its different pieces can fly separately and form up on Tony’s body guided by some subdermal implants. Looks cool, till the last piece blows it all up and Tony falls flat on his face, along with that so does the rest of the entire film!
Speaking of falling flat, the story is flat and doesn’t hold up over time. Not to mention the villain played by the marvelous Guy Peirce is forgettable and it take a VERY long time for this film to pick up momentum.
The one thing which riled up a lot of fans big time was that they included ‘The Mandarin’. Iron Man’s most notable nemesis and then in a plot twist he turned out to be Trevor Slattery an Actor. The mandarin was a red herring and a fake villain. Reducing the most notorious Iron Man villain into a punch line didn’t go down well with the fans.
The ending sequence is genuinely good as 40+ Iron Man armours show up to help Tony. But still there is no notable armour showcased in the sequence. It’s quite an hodge podge.
I personally didn’t dislike mandarin’s twist. I didn’t care much for ‘The Mandarin’ as a villain but the thing that disappointed me most was the ending. In a more or less throwaway line Tony got his chest fixed and removed the arc reactor from his body and then tossed it away. This should have been the focal point of the film or at least a big chuck of the story. How tony no longer wanted to be dependent on the Ark Reactor to survive. But they crammed it like an afterthought into the already messy ending of the film. This thing messed up MCU a lot. So much so that the Infinity War directors later sort of retconned this a bit. But that’s best left for a future discussion.
For the end of the film, Tony having destroyed all his Iron Man suits is now free of the past and its burdens. Which is fine, but we already knew at that point of time that Age of Ultron was coming in two years… so what gives?
Continuity and Logic it seems.

Rating : 6/10. Nothing that happens in this film has any relevance to the future of MCU.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Continuing with seriously mediocre sequels we come to this film.
I liked Thor’s entry into the MCU. His character had a great ark and Avengers continued with that. Now we see the rest of the Loki – Thor conflict and how their story plays out.
Loki is the best part of this otherwise forgettable film. The only reason I cared to re-watch this film is because it has Loki and Thor’s story continuation from the first film and Avengers not to mention this film also features an Infinity Stone. The aether in this film eventually becomes the reality stone.
Other than these two factors, the film has 2 good action set pieces. The Asgaurd attack and subsequent escape and the climactic fight.
However, the film has so many issues. The villainous Dark elves are so forgettable and devoid of any sort of personality that barely 1 day after re-watching the film and the making, I cannot recall the name of the main villain. That’s just bad writing. These afore mentioned Dark elves are the definition of generic bad guys who have NO reason/motivation other than to be evil. Marvel at his point had no idea how to write for Villain characters. Not that Phase 3 fixed this issue fully, but atleast they began to try!
Other than these things, Thor 2 also had the main cast of Thor back, but they don’t do much in this film and are mostly there for the recall value. Although I don’t hate this film, it’s really difficult to get through during a re-watch.
Rating : 5.5/10. Might be one of my lowest rated Marvel Films.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

This is the first of the Russo brother’s film. Before this film, they were known for their work on the TV show Community. But that was a comedy series and this is a serious superhero flick. After the First Captain America film, no one know what direction his SOLO films would take. The man out of his own time and element story was already done.
This film takes Cap’s story and elevates to a whole new level. This was my second favorite Marvel film of phase two… my favorite one is coming up next.
The film is nearly flawless. The story, script, the pacing, the action as well as the acting is all excellent. This film introduces us to another regular marvel character of Falcon. Every character’s entry is very well done with memorable moment. The threat of a NEW HYDRA is amazingly well done without feeling repetitive and the film actually had a huge impact on the MCU.
This film didn’t just see a small espionage story play out in an unconnected scenario. The whole of SHIELD fell in this film exposing the entire world to new threats. Consequences of this film lead on till Infinity war and who knows, beyond that maybe!
The story plays out in such a way that Nick Fury is put out of action and it really seems like he is dead. He does come back in the end, he faked his own death but Fury is no longer the same person. This film adds a lot to his own character ark. Post winter soldier Fury and SHIELD go back into the background.
Captain’s relation with Bucky is also another focal point of this film. At the time, there were rumors that Cap would die in this film and Bucky would take over as the new Captain. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened in the MCU yet.
This film redefined what an MCU film could be and refreshed the people interest in the ongoing franchise!
Rating : 9.5/10.
I don’t have any major issues with the film at all. Other than one single thing. They established a REALLY cool Arnem Zola with machine brain character only to kill him off in a few minutes. I felt that was a wasted opportunity.
Not to mention if the Triskelion is such a huge building, how is SHIELD supposed to be a secret and covert operations organization?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2014)

My favorite Phase 2 Film. Although in hindsight GOTG Volume 2 and Infinity War has slightly dampened my enjoyment of this film, but at that time I LOVED it. While Cap’s story was all-serious and Political espionage stuff, this is a good old-fashioned space opera.
This film sees the Guardians come together and every moment of their interaction as a bunch of misfits is entertaining beyond belief.
We also get the first PROPER glimpse of Thanos on his throne. This being the first Cosmic Marvel film, it does its job well to set up more of a bigger universe than just the core Avengers. I know THOR is a cosmic entity as well, but this is the film, in which for the first time Marvel introduces us to new planets and civilizations. This film is like a Star Wars film set in the MCU. The climactic fight is also a bit ripped off from Star Wars Episode 4 but that’s alright. By now, Disney owns both those franchises.
Star Lord is the hero of the film but Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the show. They are a very dynamic duo and this is the film where GROOT is at his best.
But as much as I love this film, it’s not without its flaws.
First off, the villain is pretty boring and non-memorable. It’s not as bad as Thor the Dark World’s villain (whose name I still don’t recall.) but Ronan is very one dimensional without much of a character built up. Then we have Thanos who seems to be stuck to his chair. He does not come across as scary or sinister. Just a deep voiced psycho. He is so underwhelming that I wasn’t excited for Infinity war at all but the Russos managed to turn this character around big time.
Then we have another character called the collector. He is strangely acted out by Benicio Del Toro… I couldn’t take him seriously at all!
Despite these issues, the action scenes rocked. The escape from KLYN prison is epic. It’s the first time the team comes together in utterly chaotic and messy way and it’s brilliant to watch. The ending which has the Dark Aster, Ronan’s ship going all ‘Death Star’ on ‘Xandar’ the capital of Nova Empire has some innovative use of space ships to form a giant net to contain Ronan. The way Star Lord defeats Ronan with an impromptu dance off and then a subsequent epic scene is the highlight of the film. The music also helps a lot, its suitably operatic for the serious scene.
peaking of music, GOTG changed superhero film and their sound track for years to come. DC picked up on this as did many other films. GOTG used a mix of 70’s tracks to add to its soundtrack and reintroduce such classics to a new audience. GOTG 2 continued the same thing but it was this film which implemented this idea flawlessly. Kudos to James Gunn for this…
Rating : 8/10. Although I LOVE this film, Winter Soldier is arguable the best film in this Phase.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I wish I could call this a flawed masterpiece. But it is nothing of the sort. It’s a brilliant missed opportunity to the top the first film but even though everything is bigger and more louder it is not necessarily better.
First time I saw this film, the creation of Ulton stood out to be as a sore point. It was rushed, not earned at all. He quickly comes into play, zero subtlety or menace.
Making the creation and subsequent villainy of Ulton the fault of Tony is a good touch, but it is not given enough weightage. The way THOR reacts by trying to choke Tony is very out of character as they are now firm allies and no one tries to lift their friends by the neck!
The action set pieces are pretty good, from Ultron’s buying of Vibranium which leads into the Hulk Buster sequence (best action piece in the film) to the stealing of Vision’s body and the end climax, all have some pretty good and memorable action. But unfortunately the film’s whole story and script doesn’t come together.
It’s also disappointing that it’s not Age of Ultron, it’s more like a Week of Ultron! I understand that the title is Ulton referring to the world AFTER he has successfully killed all human life, but still. He wins but only until the Avengers go to Clint’s farm and then regroup. That is not satisfying at all! Wish some real time had passed between their defeat and subsequent come back.
Rating : 7/10. Not horrible, but definitely could have been a lot better!

Ant-Man (2015)

After the overexcitement for Age of Ultron, we finish off Phase 2 with a film much smaller in scope but very entertaining nonetheless. This film can be best described as a heist film with superheroes.
The casting for this film is spot on, Paul Rudd comes across as type of person who is nonchalant, easy going but he does have moment of intensity. This makes him funny at times but not silly.
To foil him we have the legendary Micheal Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym, a very important character in the MCU. The performances here are important as the film relies more on the character’s chemistry than the VFX.
The only weak link as is staple by now for marvel films is the villain. Darren Cross played by Corey Stoll is utterly uninspired and forgettable as villain. Every phase 2 film has this same problem.
The entire plot is fully derivative of how heist flicks like Ocean’s 11 are structured, with a lot of preparation montages, planning phase, training etc. All of which culminates on the day of the heist. This is a very good idea which for specifically for this film and this character.
Coming to the character of ant-man, the Visual Effects of showing normal sized things as huge when ant-man is shrunken down is innovative and something seen only in Sci-Fi films till now. It adds an extra dimension of size in the mix for the action. This is the crucial aspect for this film and they do not mess up on it at all.
I went in for this film with no expectations. The production had been troubled for Ant-man as the original director Edgar Wright was fired midway and only some of his script was used. However, on seeing the film, there was no incoherency or tonal shifts (Solo - A Star Wars story suffered from those issues as a reference).
This is an enjoyable film, the comedy by Micheal Pena is just enough to be funny and not irritating. Overall this was a tame but good close for Phase 2
Rating : 7.5/10. Just because Ant-man is small doesn’t mean he can’t have GAINT ambitions (Wink Wink)
With this, we come to the end of Phase 2. Other than two films, I was very underwhelmed by this Phase. Not disappointed or upset, but just neutral. Winter Soldier gave me hope for better upcoming MCU films. But I never anticipated what those crazy secretive Russos would come up with Next…

Read phase 1 of this 3 part series here. Phase 3 Coming next week!