Hello all, and welcome back to day three of the 25 Days of Stadarooni. After the success of yesterday, we are back again with yet another look at a huge blockbuster film franchise, this time being the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We talked about the MCU back in May, and since then Doctor Strange has been released and my opinions have formed on it and the general direction of the franchise’s ‘third phase’ is becoming far more apparent to me. While the title may indicate praise for this, this is really a look at the past and how Marvel has completely upped their game since Phase 2.
As I have stated all the way back in my first post on this blog, there are many flaws within the MCU that come through the fact that all its movies seem to be constrained to a shared universe. Films like Avengers: Age of Ultron did not reach their full potential as they had to set up future storylines for Phase 3, and films like Thor: The Dark World were just bidding time for a more important conflict to come. Guardians of the Galaxy is the exception to this rule, as it exists within its own bubble, reaches its potential, and still contributes to the overall universe in significant ways without being bogged down by it.
While only two films have been released as of yet in Phase 3, (Captain America: Civil War, and Doctor Strange) both have already headed into an amazing direction that makes me ever-the-more excited for next year’s three releases that all show great promise.
After the mediocre meander of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War may have just seemed better upon the comparison of the past and the present. However, the film still kept its energy and pure awesomeness on a second viewing, which I cannot even say about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Civil War is vastly impressive in what it sets out to do: create a huge conflict between the majority of the Avengers while still telling personal stories for both Captain America and Iron Man, introducing two new heroes to the mix, and providing an exceptional sequel to The Winter Soldier. This film does all that with flying colours, but don’t expect the thinking man’s movie that Batman v Superman tried to promise in its trailers. This is an action film to its core, with plenty of flair and emotions to its side as well.
Questions may arise such as how this film is a Captain America film when the majority of the Avengers take a central role, but he is the center of the film’s core. His actions are what divide them, and his personal quest may conflict with their interests as well. It is beautiful how the film juggles all these plotlines around almost seamlessly, which would distract it and make it a mess if less-developed talent helmed its direction. The Winter Soldier helps tie this movie back to the last in meaningful ways and also to the more emotional conflict at hand.
The film knows that having the idea of the Avengers fighting each other cannot be extremely emotional while remaining fun, and atop that to not make it too sappy either. The Russo brothers were well aware of that, and the fight amongst them is simply amazing as a result. Characters constantly banter, and each shines with an equal opportunity to fight. Captain America and Iron Man are not center-stage due to their prominent roles in the film, furthermore Spider-Man and Black Panther are not simply due to being new characters. The emotional battle between Captain America (and the Winter Soldier) against Iron Man is riddled with drama and intensity because of the previous battle and its ending, and the reasons for both sides to fight are compelling enough. Tony Stark had ample reason to lash out at the Winter Soldier, and Captain America had his own to defend his friend.
One criticism I have heard is how none of the characters die, and that is not a flaw of the movie. The consequences are the huge development for this film, with the Avengers broken and many of our heroes incarcerated as a result. It makes characters such as Iron Man and Captain America have plenty of room for development and leaves us on an interesting doorstep for what comes next. This is a film which highly indulges in its abilities, but also is very progressive in terms of the overall MCU. It is a film that is not constrained by its place within an inter-connected universe and is perhaps my favourite in the MCU for these very reasons.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange is a rather closed off film in relation to the rest of the MCU. Its contributions may pale in comparison to Civil War’s but this is not a bad thing. It is an origin story and not the third film in a trilogy. It acknowledges its place in the cinematic universe, but it overall exists outside its premises.
What Doctor Strange does so well is its origin story. Steven Strange is a rather pompous and arrogant man, and his development to become better may seem rather cliché to some, but it is done very well and organically. Benedict Cumberbatch dominates the titular role with flying colours, and he helps to make the film what it is. The side characters may take a backseat to his role, (Wong is amazing, however) but they enhance his place as a hero. The use of ‘magic’ in a universe with the supernatural, futuristic, sci-fi and militaristic may seem like another screw in an unlikely jar, but it works flawlessly in its believability for a superhero film.
The all-important Infinity Stones have a central role in Doctor Strange, but the film works without the viewer having prior knowledge of them. This is why Doctor Strange succeeds in the same way that Guardians of the Galaxy does: one can go in blind and understand it, but more importantly enjoy it as well.
In terms of the overall progression of the MCU, Doctor Strange honestly does not do too much. One of its ending scenes is a nice segway for Thor: Ragnarok, so this film seems to be a starting point for events to come. Within its own existence, it is still excellent and nearly as flawless as Captain America: Civil War in many regards. Phase 3 can benefit from these developments both old and new, as both are working very well in preparation for the arrival of Thanos in-universe.
And with that, this look into Phase 3 of the MCU comes to a close. There is not too much to say at this point in time, but these Marvel movies are doing the impossible: becoming even more awesome. The Avengers is a movie that is like a ship with millions of tiny holes in its hull, but they can be completely ignored due to how totally awesome the movie is. On the other hand, these films do so much more in meaningful ways to tell more enriching stories, while staying true to the inception of the MCU since Iron Man back in 2008. I do hope the future will come soon for the MCU because I cannot wait.