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March 30, 2015

So How Good Are the Marvel Movies, Really?

Am I the only one who’s starting to panic about Age of Ultron?

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been following the Avengers sequel that closely.  I saw that trailer from a while back that had Iron Man’s take on the Hulkbuster, and I’ve seen a few posters, and I kinda-sorta know who’s set to appear in it.  But the details are lost on me, and that’s the way I want it.  An air of mystery is still appreciable -- even if the movie does just ultimately boil down to “punch lots of bad guys”.

But man oh man, I can’t help but worry.  There’s a lot of hype (and money) riding on this thing, and it’d be way too easy for it to fall apart in any number of ways.  What if it’s just pure stupidity?  What if it’s just no fun?  What if it can’t deliver on the spectacle?  Yeah, the Marvel movies have had one crazy-long hot streak, but every streak has to come to an end.  When is it going to happen?  I don’t know.  But what if it’s this one?  The one movie that matters most?

More recently, there’s been something on my mind: have all the Marvel movies secretly sucked?


It’s weird.  I don’t have any attachment to comic books or the heroes bouncing around in them, but it seems like these days the best way to get me in a theater seat is to play something from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It’s practically a cycle at this point: a new movie comes out, I go see it, I enjoy it, and then come back to Cross-Up to post a glowing recommendation.  I’m practically a sycophant -- a stooge that might as well be Stan Lee’s puppet.

Just how far am I reaching when it comes to these movies?  It’s hard to know for sure, but I have a really bad hunch.  Part of me thinks that I like the Marvel movies because I just get swept up in the fever; all the hype and spectacle and cool guys doing cool things makes me more likely to offer my praise and overlook the flaws.  That’s kind of a given with any story (explosion density aside), but have the Marvel movies won me over because they’re genuinely good?  Or because I’m amped up by them when I walk out of the theater?


Right now Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only my favorite of the bunch, but wormed its way into my top ten favorite movies -- by nudging The First Avenger just enough to the side to slot in.  I did two separate posts analyzing the movie, which seems a little much for something starring a guy dressed like an American flag.  Did I praise it so much because I’m a Cap fanboy?  Because the movie dulled my senses?  If I saw it again today, right now, would I be so kind?  Or would I go on a rant that not even a CinemaSins video could match?

I guess the most important question to ask is this: what do the Marvel movies do well?

My answer to that question, I suppose, is that they’re pretty hype.  Not hyped up by marketing (though they technically are), but what happens in them is so exciting that it makes awesomeness practically routine.  It’s a given that Cap and the Winter Soldier are going to duke it out, but the movie presents it -- the multiple encounters, of course -- in such a way that it’s always a thrill to watch.  Same goes for Guardians of the Galaxy, albeit on a different, more comedic axis.  Even if Thor: The Dark World had its problems, it’s still got a ton of good moments in it.  I can’t think of a movie in the MCU yet that’s made me say “Well that sucked” or “Just skip this one, you’ll be fine”.


I tend to read deeply into the things I consume, because I’m me and I need to put this big head of mine to good use.  But even if you aren’t, there’s always the fact that the Marvel movies -- even if they have faults, and even if they’re dumb -- are fun.  They’re there to take ALL OF THE MONEY, sure, but they’re also bumping around (and succeeding routinely) because they’re here to try and make people happy.  You can’t really compare it to something like Michael Bay’s Transformers, because “jokes” aside, it feels like a product of and bringer of misery -- just something churned out by a machine with no sense of romance.

We live in a world where Marvel’s greatest rival (one struggling to create its own cinematic universe) is rumored and assumed to have a “no-jokes policy” baked into its movies.  Meanwhile, the Marvel movies are free to do pretty much whatever comes to mind.  They can try to be funny.  They can try to be dark.  They can try to be smart.  They can try to be thoughtful.  Do they succeed all the time?  I don’t know; maybe they’re just that good at pulling the wool over our eyes.  But damn it, we can count on the MCU to give us heroes fighting villains.  Even if it’s not a Shakespearian effort, maybe sometimes all we need is simple fun.  Maybe all we need, every once in a while, is a chance to see heroes rolling out -- and a reminder that heroes are all around us.

I don’t know what the answer is.  And that’s why I’m making a call to action for you readers.  The question is simple, so answer it if you dare: how good are the Marvel movies?  All suited up?  Then you know what comes next. 

Ready?  Set…comment!


And that’ll do it for now.  See you next time.  And…please don’t let Age of Ultron suck.  My heart can’t take it.

10 comments:

  1. I think Marvel has the right formula and know what they're doing. I didn't think the first Avengers movie was good at all, but most people liked it. Even if for some reason this movie is considered unsuccessful, they'll still rack in a bunch of cash before word spreads around. I'm kind of excited because after this, Joss Whedon won't be doing the other Avengers movies.

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  2. If you're amped up by them when you leave the theatre then surely they *are* good? That's what a good action blockbuster *should* do. On that count I think they've all been fantastic films and I've greatly enjoyed them all (well, I haven't seen Hulk's movie but I've seen all the others). I think you're right about one thing - the streak has been amazing, but it will end one day. I'm certainly going to keep enjoying them until that happens though.

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  3. Are they good? Yes and no.


    To the world they seem to be. Marvel, to some small degree like Harry Potter, created a demographic of people willing to go to the theater religiously to see an adventure continue to progress in a meaningful and enjoyable way. The movies are funny, they're dark, their happy, they're full of life that seems lacking from most other films. Since Marvel is given enough freedom to do what they want (because they are guaranteed money), they are seemingly on the side of the people and what they demand despite being a company they in theory should not give in too much to such pressure.


    In my world, I'm barely interested. Avengers had the funniest scene in movie history (I nearly turned blue and cried from laughing so hard); I bought into the Thor hype in spite of it's obvious problems; and the first Iron Man was a joyous ride. Everything else has failed to entice me for one reason or another; sometimes the reasons have been petty while others weren't entirely. Captain America never excited me and I never gave the Hulk a chance. Not even Guardians of the Galaxy made a good impression on me despite the tsunami of trailers, hype, and praise; I simply didn't care.


    I attribute a lot of this to my general dislike for superheroes and American comics, but it's also a deeper phenomenon I've always experienced since a child. If many people keep telling me something is good - to the point they claim I'll regret it if I don't or it'll change my life forever - and I give it a chance, either I'll find it simply mediocre (i.e. Final Fantasy, Hunger Games, Se7en, etc) or I'll ponder disturbing methods of torture to conduct on the people responsible who made me suffer through the damn thing (i.e. The Dark Knight, Prometheus). To protect myself from going insane because it's impossible to be open and accepting of everything, I simply trust my gut instinct on some things and avoid them. That's part of my stance on Marvel at the moment. I'm avoiding most of their things, but I'm also not spending hundreds of hours bitching about the movies I know little about. Call me narrow-minded, but I have other media to consume that is a much higher priority for reasons concerning enjoyment, convenience, and reputation.


    Seriously though, being open-minded about everything is impossible, so you have to make the most of what you can take and what you can't. While I don't find Marvel as great as everyone else seems to feel, I don't rain on their parade any more than me saying "Sorry, but I'm not interested."

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  4. Oh, right. I forgot that Whedon was stepping away -- so I guess the question that follows is what's next for him? Well, that question's probably been answered already, but you get the idea.


    You're right, though. The original Avengers made tons of money, and I can't even begin to imagine how much money this new one will make. I'm preemptively prepping myself to spit all over my monitor -- but hopefully it'll be for a good cause. Even if this movie's a miss, Marvel and company will still earn enough to make their next production stronger. Hopefully.


    They already won my favor with the mere existence of a Thor movie (let alone two). They go through with Doctor Strange, and I'll forgive all sins. Even the hypothetical ones.

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  5. True, it's not often that I see something that leaves me genuinely electrified -- but if there's one thing that can do it consistently, it's the Marvel movies. There's still a part of me that wonders if that's just because the theater environment puts me in a trance (in the dark with no distractions but an emptying popcorn bag and cup of Sprite), but it's hard to know for sure.


    I guess all we can do for now is enjoy the streak. It'll end some day, yeah, but on the bright side? It's not as if it'll retroactively make the other movies worse. Assuming the streak-breaker isn't a DISASTER, but even then it's doubtful.

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  6. Interesting that you'd choose the path of indifference -- not hating it, of course, but it does make me wonder. The MCU's been playing up this shared universe and story arc for a while now, so it makes me wonder if jumping in at a later point for those who haven't followed every movie will be a stumbling block (as it's been for the comics, apparently). I mean, from what I can gather Age of Ultron is going to feed almost directly into the next Captain America movie -- and a cursory look at the comics means that things are about to get nasty.


    But yeah, I agree with you. Marvel's got the freedom to do what they want, and they've clearly been using it to do what people actually want instead of what they THINK people want (otherwise known as The Watch Dogs Approach). Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut it's possible to have too much freedom, I think. Am I the only one who's a little wary of the MCU being charted out for years to come? Like it's a given that they'll be able to make every movie on schedule and just according to keikaku? Don't get me wrong, I'd love nothing more than to see a Black Panther movie (for pretty much the exact reason you'd expect), but it takes some real hubris for Marvel to say "WE ARE MAKING ALL OF THESE MOVIES! AND YOU SHALL WATCH THEM!"


    In the world of fiction, that's the sort of mindset that leads to a very thorough and humiliating downfall. But you didn't hear that from me.


    http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/696/851/cfe.gif

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  7. I'm actually pretty hyped about the Captain Marvel movie. I hope it's awesome.

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  8. *Googles Captain Marvel*


    Yes. Yes. YES. A good Captain Marvel movie can only be beneficial for the human race. Oh, and the arts, too.

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  9. No. They aren't. Passable at best, really, save for a few standouts. They're the westerns of our age.

    I'll give more, but I just got off work and I'm bushed.

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  10. B-b-but Captain America, though!


    I'm not even going to pretend like I know much about westerns (which is weird, because my mom really likes them), so as always, I'll be looking forward to your comment(s). Granted I know/have heard that westerns used to be the it-genre for Hollywood to push, buuuuuuuuuuut IIRC, that didn't end well.


    Guess we'll see what happens with the Marvel movies.

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