Marvel Studios stumbles in Phase Four, but still makes good films

A still from Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022), directed by Sam Raimi

It seems that I had made an entire post about the recent happenings in Ukraine, but that I completely forgot to mention that I had been to Ukraine. I had been there once as a tourist, and the place where I went is the Crimea, when it was still a part of Ukraine. The climate of this peninsula is sunny and warm. Therefore, I understand why the Ancient Greeks decided to establish settlements on this peninsula. However, I didn’t go to Chersonesus, which is the most famous Greek colony on the peninsula. The place where I went is called Gaspra, where the Swallow’s Nest is located. By the way, there’s an entry about Athens, the famous Greek city, in one of the books that I own, which is ‘Encyclopedia of the World’ (in Colour) by Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, published in 1978. “Athens is the capital of modern Greece. Athens lies in the plain of Attica by the 500 foot (152 metres) high Acropolis and has 2.5 million inhabitants, if its seaport, Piraeus, is included. This metropolis controls the country’s industry and commerce, and much of the marketing of the agricultural produce – tobacco, coriander, raisins and olive oil. It is also responsible for the import of petroleum, timber and manufactured goods. The modern city dates from the 1830s, from the rebirth of the Greek nation. On the Acropolis stand remains of temples, amphitheatres and statues from ancient Hellas, whose classical civilisation both spread into, and later inspired, the western world in its development of democracy and culture. The most imposing remains are those of the Parthenon, symbol of the glory that was Greece. This white marble temple, surrounded by 46 Doric columns, was built during the ‘golden age’ of Pericles and dedicated to Athena, the city’s patron goddess. Athens reached the peak of her glory in the 5th century B.C., after defeating the Persians at Marathon. Democracy flourished under Pericles, and the names of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato are for ever linked with the city and its culture. The rivalry between Athens and Sparta led to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) in which Athens was temporarily subdued, but the city’s power did not finally wane until the Macedonian conquest of Greece in 338 B.C. By the middle of the 2nd century B.C., Athens had declined to the status of a Roman dependency. It remained within the Byzantine Empire until the Crusades, then came under Turkish rule in 1458. The archaeological relics together with the sunny climate have led to the growth of a tourist industry which attracts many visitors to Athens.”

The people that follow my blog have probably noticed that I’m again watching all of the films by Marvel Studios in order. This is my third time doing this. I began doing this by accident and out of curiosity at the end of March, mostly to see how well the films from Phase One of the MCU fare against subsequent films in the MCU. The films from Phase One are a little special to me because I got to see them in theaters at a time when I began going to theaters more often than I had before. Moreover, I saw these films in theaters that no longer exist. One of these theaters was called Empire Granville 7 Cinemas and the other was called Cineplex Cinemas Esplanade. Seeing a film in these theaters definitely added to the enjoyment of seeing a film because their auditoriums were built in the old style and their decor was appealing. For example, I remember that after I finished watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is one of the best films in the MCU, in one of the auditoriums of Cineplex Cinemas Esplanade, in the spring of 2014, I came out to the well-designed foyer on the second floor and stopped to look around for several minutes and to look through the large windows at the scenery outside. It was sunny and warm outside, the trees were blooming, and the strong sunlight was beaming through the windows of the foyer. So, I took a moment to stand in the sunlight and enjoy the view. There were also no people around me at that time. The closure of the two theaters saddened me. Cineplex Cinemas Esplanade was the last one that was closed, in 2019. Since then, I haven’t been going to theaters as often as I had before because the experience was no longer the same. The theaters that got built in the 2000s are simply bland. At that time, I also finally came to the conclusion that movie studios in the West can’t make films as competently as they did before the 2000s. Almost all of the films that got made after the 1990s have no replay value. Anyway, I got to see all of the films from Phase One for the first time in theaters. I remember in which theater I saw each film, what the weather was like on that day, and even what happened on that day. I got to see Iron Man (2008), the first film from Phase One, at Cineplex Cinemas Esplanade. This is also where I got to see The Incredible Hulk (2008) a little later on. Of course, at that time, I had no idea what the people at Marvel Studios were planning, that they had an idea of creating a cinematic universe. The film from Phase One that I liked seeing the most at that time is Thor (2011). It’s still my favorite film from Phase One. Admittedly, it’s not the best film from Phase One. That honor goes to Iron Man or The Avengers (2012). But it is my favorite because I got to see it in my favorite theater, Empire Granville 7 Cinemas, on a sunny day, at the end of spring. And the films featuring Thor have remained some of my favorite films from the MCU ever since. I still get excited when I see the Bifrost travel sequence in the first Thor film. There’s also the fact that I like the characters, the action, the music, and the comedy in this film. I’d like to point out that I like all of the films that got made by Marvel Studios. I don’t consider any of them to be bad. I like seeing some of them more than others, but I consider all of them to be enjoyable. I know that I criticized Avengers: Endgame (2019), but I still like this film a lot. Perhaps the film that stood out the most to me this time is Iron Man 2 (2010). I like it more now than I used to. There are some really neat touches in this film. The MK V armor is my favorite Iron Man armor. It looks fantastic. The comedy in Iron Man 2 is quite effective. Sam Rockwell, in particular, is very funny in some scenes. The dialogue is good and so is the action, especially the fight at the end involving Black Widow. The only letdown is the music, which isn’t very memorable, but this isn’t a big problem. One thing that I have noticed when seeing the films from Phase One again is that they’re not geared toward children as much as the films from Phase Four. The films from Phase One are more serious and edgy than subsequent MCU films. They even contain a few horror elements. The Incredible Hulk, in particular, contains a few scenes that can be called scary. I think that after Marvel Studios got acquired by Walt Disney Studios in 2015, MCU films began to be geared mostly toward children, and the typical Disney messages began to appear in MCU films. The one film so far where this is most obvious is Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021). I enjoyed seeing this film, but not as much as I thought I would. The film is clearly geared toward children because it features many cute mythological creatures and childish comedy. At times, it even seemed like a Disney animated film because of all of the CGI action and characters in colorful costumes. Even the presence of Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who looks good as usual, and the cool-looking rings can’t distract from how lightweight this film is at times. But I’ve got to say that the return of Trevor Slattery was a welcome surprise. Moreover, the short All Hail The King (2014), in which this fake Mandarin appears again, is a must-see film, as I’ve recently discovered because I’ve never seen it before. I enjoyed watching Black Widow (2021) and Eternals (2021) about as much as Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. These films are good, but they’re not my favorite MCU films. I like Scarlett Johansson’s performance in Black Widow and I like the action. Natasha Romanoff is much more appealing as a character in this film than in any of the previous MCU films. In Eternals, I like the CGI and I like the action. When it comes to characters in this film, I think that the character interactions are hit or miss. The big surprise of Phase Four for me so far was Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). I waited to see this film on home video because I couldn’t go to a theater when it was released in theaters. It’s because vaccine mandates were still in effect at that time. The films in the MCU featuring Peter Parker as the main character have never been my favorites. They’re good, but they just don’t click with me as well as other films in the MCU. May Parker, played by Marisa Tomei, is not an interesting or appealing character at all in the Spider-Man films. She didn’t have much screen time anyway. Tom Holland was the right age to play Peter Parker, but he’s not all that good in the role. Tobey Maguire remains the best Peter Parker for me because he’s a better actor. Anyway, while Tobey is as good as ever in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the real surprise is Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker. Andrew delivered a very appealing performance, and he’s better in this film than in the two awesome (terrible) Spider-Man films that he starred in. I mean, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Paul Giamatti delivered a simply majestic performance as the Rhino. How can you top that? So, the inclusion of the three Peters and the fact that their friendship was filmed well elevated this film to my favorite film of Phase Four so far and to the best Spider-Man film in the MCU so far. But this is how I felt before Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022) was released in theaters. I got to see Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness several days ago. I can easily say that this film is now my favorite film of Phase Four so far. The reason why this is the case is because I enjoyed watching it from beginning to end. The previous films in Phase Four, even Spider-Man: No Way Home, were hit or miss for me. But Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness isn’t only a feast for the eyes from beginning to end. It also features good performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, and Rachel McAdams. Some critics criticized the inclusion of the Illuminati, but I actually enjoyed seeing this group of superheroes. I found Earth-838 to be very appealing visually. Even the Earth of the destroyed universe looks incredible. By the way, Olsen, who plays Scarlet Witch, looks better in this film than in any other film in which she has appeared. Her makeup and costume look perfect. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is by no means a perfect film. The plot and the characters can be criticized. America Chavez didn’t have to appear in this film, and she was included only as a way of finally introducing this character in the MCU. But I don’t expect to see The Godfather (1972) or Gandhi (1982) when I go to see a film by Marvel. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is simply an entertaining, delightful, and well-directed film, and this is good enough for me. So, while Phase Four has suffered somewhat from interference by Disney, I don’t think that MCU films are bad now. For example, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness have become some of my favorite MCU films. In order to keep up with what’s going on in Phase Four, I finally got around to watching the series that Marvel has put out since 2021. WandaVision is the first show that got made, and it’s also the best show from Phase Four so far. I wasn’t expecting much from this show. This is why I got around to watching it only a few months ago. But I was pleasantly surprised by the time the show came to an end. I don’t like absolutely everything about this nine-episode series. For example, the idea of having the town of Westview and its residents change their appearance in almost every episode is interesting, but it wasn’t executed all that well, in my opinion. Sure, Wanda and Vision get to wear different clothes, but little else is done with this concept. At least this concept is somewhat important to the character of Wanda because she enjoyed watching some American shows from different decades when she was growing up. I did like the performances of Olsen and Paul Bettany. They definitely contributed to making WandaVision as good as it is. Where this show really shines is the second half, especially the last few episodes. Some of the scenes are truly memorable, and they contributed to making Wanda and Vision much more appealing characters than they had been previously. When it comes to The Falcon And The Winter Soldier and Loki, I don’t have much to say about these shows. I think that these shows are good, and I enjoyed watching them for the most part, but they have their flaws. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier can be noted because it features some impressive action scenes, though they’re sometimes cut so quickly that it’s difficult to see what’s going on. Loki can be noted because it features some impressive visuals. So, there you have it. I somehow ended up making another post about films by Marvel Studios. I didn’t plan on doing this, but I guess that I just had to share my thoughts.