A considerate, political potboiler honoring the brilliant shadow that stands over it. A refreshing pivoted superhero origin story. The Furious 7 of the MCU.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “The opening sequence is some of the most emotional and sneakily meta filmmaking that I’ve seen in a long while. I can’t imagine we’ll ever achieve the heights of emotion present in the first ten minutes in the MCU ever again. It is powerful, for it is born from the connections we make between fiction and reality.”
Thor: Love & Thunder is lovable and… thunderable? It rides those good time Ragnarok vibes and adds some emotional tonal shifts to tell a story about reconnection and the care we demand of and give to others. Above all else, Natalie Portman (and Jane Foster) gets the superhero story she deserves as The Mighty Thor and the villain is a sympathetic, creepifying Christian Bale. I just wanted more of him.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “I liked it when the giant goats screamed.”
Skeleton count: 0 human skeletons, but one big alien skeleton that probably counts as like 7 human skeletons
A campy, Sam Raimified entry into the MCU and a few of its multiverses, with groovy Evil Dead energy, Dutch angles, and POV shots to spare. The more horror in the MCU the better, and Dr. Strange MoM completes a critical arc with a darker, sometimes surprising turn into the genre.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Bruce Campbell and Benedict Cumberbatch have the same initials, so I naturally assumed Campbell would be playing another version of Strange.”
A dense, beautiful film that feels like a new beginning for the MCU more so than any other entry after, well, Iron Man. It doesn’t break the MCU mold so much as it reshapes what a movie in this series can look like by pressing against the sides. What Black Panther and Shang Chi did for the modern superhero character, Eternals does for the allowed style and substance of these movies. There is absolutely room in these things for Zhao’s practical filmmaking, weighty conversations about immortality, Bollywood numbers, and slight Watchmen-adjacent interrogations of the superhero genre and the pedestals on which we place these characters.
It seems like the movie is divisive because it’s either too much of a Chloe Zhao movie and not enough of an MCU one or vice versa. For me, it’s kind of a perfect mix that takes some critical steps forward in it’s representation of humanity. Either way, change is good. Change is necessary.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “The Eternals are kind of the immortal, dysfunctional Power Rangers and I’m into it.”
A romantic dramedy in the guise of a modern dark antihero/superhero movie. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is what it is, and that’s okay. That’s beautiful, even. They took what worked about the first, namely two Tom Hardy boyz interacting with each other and figuring out their relationship, and just built the entire movie around it. Then they gave Woody Harrelson a silly red wig and slapped some CGI on him to transform him into 90s icon Carnage, and it all just kind of works in a fun, B-movie kind of way.
My mildly spoilery VHS cover pull-quote: “Exciting things are no doubt in store for the Venom character beyond the Sony Spideyverse, but I appreciate this little weird 90-minute corner of the superhero genre and hope it continues to do its own thing. Like Morbius? That’s going to be wild. He’s a living vampire and some filmgoers are going to confuse him with Owen Wilson’s character Mobius from Loki. What an odd treat that will be!”
Fathers. Sons. Dragons and Awkwafina, together again. This movie has it all, including some of the most kinetic and gorgeous hand to hand combat scenes that blow even The Winter Soldier out of the floating, mystic water. It feels like a thoughtful, bona fide martial arts film that just happens to be in the MCU. I was only left wanting more of the coordinated physicality and more of the characters.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Cool, quick knife flips while in the middle of a fight are how you can tell if it’s a good MCU movie. So, my official MCU movie rankings are Everything Else, Shang Chi, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I don’t make the rules.”
“I’m not the killer that little girls call ‘hero.'”
An entry into the MCU that touches on familiar themes but pulls the universe into the realm of spycraft with ease, which makes it feel different enough from (and comparitively fresh in relation to) the rest of the films in this sprawling series. More importantly, though, Natasha Romanoff is finally given substantial character development and time to be both human and, damn it, silly. Is it too late? Definitely, but better late than never.
Another place I think the film really succeeds is in its use of humor. While most MCU movies make jokes, even if they’re not comedies like Thor Ragnarok or Guardians, there is a dark undercurrent of trauma in Black Widow‘s jokes that I feel enhances out understanding of the characters’ (Yelena, especially) horrid experiences at the hands of the villain.
If anything, I’d say the action is the weakest part of the movie and the action is actually pretty solid.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Taskmaster is so damn cool. This version of Taskmaster, that version of Taskmaster, whatever version of Taskmaster. I’ve always wanted to be Taskmaster because I don’t want to work for years honing an ability to fight like Captain America, I just want to watch Chris Evans and be able to fight like him.”
A superhero movie with heavy 007 vibes and both narrative and emotional complexity as important in the evolution of the modern genre as last year’s Wonder Woman. The celebration and incorporation of African culture in all aspects of the film, from the setting to the memorable score, offers a more than welcome new perspective to the MCU.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Lest we forget the trailblazer Luke Cage, though, who took the MCU to aid Harlem and later beat up many ninjas for the good of the world. With how separate the Netflix shows seem to be from the Iron Mans of it all, I doubt these two worlds will ever meet, which is a damn shame.”