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Guardians Of The Galaxy – James Gunn (2014)

The Marvel franchise needed a couple of new heroes, so in “Guardians Of The Galaxy” we follow a bunch of space criminals who have to work together. Initially to break out of prison, but then to save the universe.

The only link to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” appears to be that the globe that everybody is after, contains one of the “infinity stones”. Needless to say that some bad guy wants that globe to destroy the universe and the group of new heroes thinks that is a bad idea.

We have a ‘normal man’, a green woman, a rodent with a walking tree and a hulk type brute. Strange characters reminding a bit of Star Wars fill the screen. There is of course action, but all very ‘spacey’. Nothing too great.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Sam Raimi (2022)

I watched this Marvel ill-prepared. I was going to watch something else and decided to switch the last minute and this one was in the watch-list.

It is by and far the weakest Marvel that I saw so far. The movie is more of a Harry Potter type magical fantasy, but more pompous. Dr. Strange is some sorcerer who encounters a girl being chased by a monster. There appears to be another sorcerer in the neighborhood and the two take the girl to their temple of sorcerers.

Dr. Strange goes to consult his ex-wife who proves to be the most mighty of black magicians and she is after the girl’s powers. The girl has the ability to jump between different universes and so there is an “Inception” like chase through “the multiverse of madness”. This of course leads to a visual spectacle which is quite unimpressing.

Had I prepared myself a little better, I would have known that there have been Dr. Strange movies since the 1970’ies and this one is not even the first Marvel. There are almost no references to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, What is somewhat amusing is that Lashana Lynch appears as Captain Marvel, while in the “Captain Marvel” film she is Maria Rambeau. For a minute I thought she was also in the Wakanda films, but she is actually in “Woman King“. Also Sheila Atim from “Woman King” appears in this Doctor Strange.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Russo (2014)

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A while ago when I was looking around a bit to see what to watch and I came to a Marvel featuring Scarlett Johansson. I figured that was a good reason to watch “Black Widow“. By now it is clear that the Black Widows is in most Marvel films, even this one which is specifically about Captain America.

Steve Rogers still tries to be the good guy with old values. Values that he finds fading in modern life. For the rest the story is quite typical. There is a mysterious and mighty adversary that Captain Marvel and the Black Widow fight together. Then we have the changed roles in which the good guys appear to be the bad guys and everybody is out to get our super hero duo.

Amusing, with a few notches to the past and close to none to the ‘larger story’. Hence: a Marvel shootout.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron – Joss Whedon (2015)

So I have been looking into this “Marvel Cinematic Universe” a little. It seems that not all Marvel productions ‘tap’ into the ‘bigger story’. There is this “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” which appears to have all new characters for example. Other movies that I recently saw seem to be ‘stand alone’ as well. There are different “phases” in the movies/larger story. Some of these “phases” are linked, others not. In any case, it does not seem to be like that all movies together tell one, big story. There are just references to other films, but basically each film has its own story.

So trying to figure out which one I could watch next, I skipped the earlier two “Iron Man” films (2010, 2013) as the first one seemed to have little to do with the “MCU”. I ‘should’ have rewatched both “Thor” films perhaps. But I chose the second “Avengers”. Here at least different ‘super heroes’ get together, so it has to refer to their separate and connecting stories.

We again see Tony Stark / Iron Man making a bad decision for the world. His -by now- friends have to rescue the world twice. Both times “Loki’s Scepter” has to be recovered from the enemy. It was that scepter with which Stark unintentionally unleashed an AI way more advanced than his own Jarvis. This “Ultron” soon sets out to bring peace to the world, but in ‘machine logic’. This is a bit of a weak part of the film as “Ultron” is an AI, but he operates mostly inside an Iron Man type robot. Destroy the robot, destroy AI? Strange thought.

Anyway, a romance rises between Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and the Black Widow. The Hulk again can sometimes control his powers, but usually not. Thor again fights at the sides of the other heroes which we know from the previous “Avengers”, Captain America and Hawkeye (the only character that seems to have had no film of its own).

There is the usual brutal action. Also there are more jokes than in the previous “Avengers”, so this one is more like the first “Iron Man”. With regards the “MCU” the only thing I noticed of the ‘big story’ is that all the way towards the end, Thor tells about the six “Infinity Stones”. One of them, the “Soul Stone” is housed in the Tesseract that we encountered in earlier movies. Loki’s Scepter has one (“Mind Stone”). From there is went to Ultron. In trying to overcome Ultron it appears that also Ultron’s adversary “Vision” has the “Mind Stone”. Nothing much about all that in Thor’s story though, but he does say that the six stone came into existence during the big bang. There are a few references to Vibranium and Wakanda as well, including an amusing reference that man used Vibranium only to make a discus (Captain America’s shield) while it has much more possibilities (just see what the Wakandians do with it).

The whole “MCU” is quite a maze. This Wiki helps a little. I wonder how people have figured it all out. Be that as it may, “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” is another amusing Marvel, but I would like to see a film in which the larger story is more ‘condensed’ and explained rather than vaguely referred to.

Hulk – Ang Lee (2003)

So this was a Marvel film from before Marvel started to create a ‘Marvel comic universe’? Graphic novel to film, like other Marvel films, but with no references to other films then.

Bruce Banner’s father was a scientist who tried to genetically manipulate the human body so that it would restore itself after injury, like some animals grow back severed limbs. Since he was not allowed to experiment on humans, he tried his potion on himself. This he transferred to his son who accidentally ‘activated’ the manipulation. This caused him to turn big, green and incredibly strong when he gets angry. I guess you know the story.

We have a young Eric Bana, an also young Jennifer Connelly and actors such as Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot. The film is largely a drama, but in a few scenes there is action. There is -of course- a military interest in the experiment and Banner is unhappy with his ‘gift’.

Iron Man – Jon Favreau (2008)

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If I am not mistaken, this was the first Marvel film. Nothing of the big story/stories here. Just the story of weapons manufacturer and playboy Tony Stark who finds out that not just the ‘good guys’ have his weapons. He decides his company needs change.

Stark was abducted by terrorists. To escape, he builds an iron suit. Back home he decides to use that idea to make a more advanced version of that suit, which becomes his fighting and flying machine that makes him Iron Man.

Within his own company Stark turns out to have enemies as well, especially when he wants to steer his company into another direction. That adversary builds a similar suit to fight Stark.

“Iron Man” is a more typical action film than the other Marvel films that I saw so far. There is also more humor in it. It is amusing, but tells me little about the ‘Marvelverse’, safe -of course- the birth of Iron Man. But you have to start somewhere.

Captain America: The First Avenger – Joe Johnston (2011)

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Excuses if you do not like the Marvel films. I am getting into it a little. It is not like the films are superb, but I do enjoy the correlation between the films. I read somewhere that the present title makes the start of the Marvel universe. This cannot be entirely true though.

During WWII a scientist found a way to make a super soldier and he was his own first experiment. Hugo Weaving amusingly plays this bad guy called “Schmidt”. Early in the film he retracts the Tesseract (there it is again) in Norway.

A former helper of Schmidt (Erskine) goes over to the Americans and pulls off his trick again and so Captain America is born. Initially he is mostly the mascot of the American army, but he develops into the first super hero. Amusingly, along the way he gets that odd, round shield that he throws around all the time, but which comes back to his hand most of the time. The shield is made of “vibranian” which is so central to the “Black Panther” films. Anyway, we also meet familiar characters such as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Story and action wise, this Marvel is not the greatest. It sure does explain a few elements, but not everything. How did that Tesseract end up in Norway for example? Other internet sources advice to just start with the first Marvel film (“Iron Man” from 2008). I can imagine that some elements were simply added to the stories later and picked up in other films.

There appear to be over 45 Marvel films! I do plan to watch more, but I am not sure for how long. Until that time, excuses to Marvel haters.

The Avengers – Joss Whedon (2012)

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After “Black Widow” I decided to watch the first “Avengers” film for context. Here we have a story in which people try to gather “super heroes” from the Marvel franchise to form a super team. So here you get “Captain America” (is Captain America not the Black Widow’s father?), Tony Stark is I think “Iron Man”, Bruce Banner is “The Hulk” (who strangely sometimes has no control over his ‘hulkness’ and sometimes he does).

The club is gathered because “Loki” (from both Thor films) has plans with the “Tesseract”. “Thor” (both actors are the same as in the Thor films) comes down to try to save humanity and the Tesseract apppears to be an object of Odin.

In any case, there is a lot of fighting, fairly brutal action. An odd mix of mythology and science fiction, but I guess that is just the ‘Marvelverse’. Even more than in “Black Widows” there are references to other Marvel films.

Black Widow – Cate Shortland (2021)

Not really knowing many films that I want to see, I started browsing the Marvel franchise. I figured Scarlett Johansson is probably not a bad pick, so I watched “Black Widow”. Apparently Johansson’s character is, or used to be, one of the Avengers, so perhaps in hindsight I might have better watch these first. Oh well.

Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) is a retired Avenger looking for a quiet life. Needless to say that this is not how things will be and she is changed both by a superpower enemy and her (former) allies. Of course Romanoff is a one woman army who does not let herself get caught so easily.

There was a time I thought (hoped) that these Marvel films are more like Sin City, a mix between comic and film, but so far they never are. Instead “Black Widow” is an action movie with a somewhat superhero touch and a bit too much drama. Not boring, not great.

Amusingly (and not entirely unexpectedly) there are references to other Marvel movies, so I guess these films get more fun the more you have seen. Also a nice surprise was David Harbour who looks like a mix between Hopper (from Stranger Things) and a former superhero in tights who is probably the lead in other Marvel production.

Captain Marvel – Boden & Fleck (2019)

I am not too familiar with the Marvel merch, but since I watched the “Black Panther” films I am now suggested other Marvel films. So I watched “Captain Marvel”.

Carol is a test pilot who crashed an experimental plane and somehow ended up on another planet with a new identity and a wiped-out past. Trained within an elite group to fight bad guys, Carol is sent on different missions. In one of the them she ends up on earth in 1995.

Along the line, Carol starts to unravel her past and it starts to dawn on her that the new reality that she is taught is not quite how things really are. Or should be.

Of course Carol develops from being a girl with superpowers that she cannot control towards being the most mighty of all superheroes fighting villains and helping the weak.

The film has amusing parts by Samuel L. Jackson and Jude Law, also we run into Lashana Lynch and Ben Mendelsohn.

An alright watch. A bit of spectacle a bit story, some humour. I am somewhat curious how other Marvel films are linked to the story (if at all) so I may watch another few.