Eastside investigates the success of Marvel Comics
April 25, 2019
Avengers: Endgame concludes classic Marvel saga
In just a few days, Avengers: Endgame, directed by the Russo brothers, releases in theaters. This movie will be the epic conclusion to the Infinity Saga, which is the plot arc that has framed a whopping 22 live-action Marvel superhero movies over the course of the past decade. Last year’s Avengers: Infinity War was hailed as the most ambitious crossover movie of all time, featuring fan favorite heroes from across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That movie grossed 2.048 billion dollars in the box office. For reference, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) grossed 2.066 billion dollars.
Avengers: Endgame will pick up directly after Infinity War’s dramatic conclusion, when Thanos the Mad Titan (Josh Brolin) acquired the six omnipotent infinity stones and destroyed half of all life in the universe with a snap. Most of Marvel’s best heroes were “dusted,” including a tear-jerking moment when Spider-Man (Tom Holland) bit the dust. In fact, the only living heros are the original Avengers (2012) cast and a few others, including Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
Despite finishing off the Infinity Sage, Endgame will not be the end of Marvel’s phase 3. That title will be Spider-Man: Far From Home which comes out July 2nd of this year. Additional movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming out after Endgame were confirmed. One will be about Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3, and a movie about The Eternals.
For a finale that is 11 years in the making, will Endgame live up to the hype? Will the universe be saved? Fans will have to wait just a few more days to find out
Marvel shines where DC Comics falters
It’s truly astounding the amount of success Marvel has had in putting together the first three phases of their Cinematic Universe. Their ability to keep continuity between 22 independent yet interconnected films is one of the great filmmaking accomplishments, while at the same time producing each at a high standard of filmmaking, with special kudos to Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy.
But Marvel’s success only serves to emphasize how badly DC Comics has failed in launching their own signature universe. DC chose to kick off their new superhero universe with the ensemble film Suicide Squad, a star-studded feature with Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Jared Leto hopefully paving the path to future success and movies. However, while the film was considered a financial success (like many of the other DC movies), critically it was panned, achieving only a 27% score on the aggregate-rating website Rotten Tomatoes. No Marvel movie was ever been received anywhere close to that badly; the worst being Thor: the Dark World with a 67% rating on the same website. For a film with the cast and resources that Suicide Squad had, it remains an astounding failure, even leading to what’s deemed “a complete reboot” by the director James Gunn.
Casting too, has been seen as an incredible success in the MCU while near a dismal failure in the DC universe. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth are believed in their roles as Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor respectively, each appearing in three successful solo films and the Avengers series. However, Leto was destroyed by critics for his portrayal of Joker, and Will Smith as Deadshot too was hounded and subsequently replaced. Ben Affleck’s Batman is done after only one movie, again the commercially successful but critically-panned Batman vs Superman.
It might seem like comparing Marvel to DC in their box office success is like apples to oranges at this point, like they are in different stages and therefore can’t be judged. But intrinsically that’s not true. There are six movies DC has produced with the current actors in the roles of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et cetera. That’s the same number as Marvel’s Phase 1, which culminated in the Avengers, a 1.5$ billion grossing movie with an incredible 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. And for the most part, the movies have only gotten worse, with a few bad apples in there like Thor: the Dark World and Iron Man 3. The inverse is true of DC, with a few good solo films like Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, but for the most part, duds.
With Avengers: Endgame arriving at the box office, it’s fair to say that approximately 20$ billion in gross revenue, 22 movies, and billions in merchandise sales has made the MCU so far the greatest cinematic event in history, unmatched by any other. If DC wants to catch up to its longtime rival, it will have to do better with its upcoming films than it achieved in its foundation.
Captain America achieved his physique unfairly
A tight-fitting suit adorned with America’s colors. A shield with a large white star in the middle, and of course, the man himself who possesses an insane physique.
Before you read the rest of my story, just let me say that I believe Captain America is undoubtedly cool. After all, he is the leader of the Avengers; the protectors of the world.
However, I have an issue with how Captain America received his superhero abilities, most notably his strength.
As someone who does a ton of strength training every week, I would say that Captain America is a fraud to the weightlifting community. The amount of muscle mass that he has equates to decades of strength training in a “natural” individual.
The person under the red, white, and blue-clad mask is Steve Rogers. He is skinny, someone I would say has the typical “twig”- like body type. In short, it is obvious that Steve Rogers had never picked up a weight before he became Captain America.
So how exactly did he become Captain America? Steve Rogers was recruited into the Special Scientific Reserve as part of a “super-soldier” experiment led by Dr. Abraham Erskine. After waiting for a little while for himself to be experimented on, the day came for Steve Rogers to get swole.
I would consider the actual experiment a super-steroid injection. And once it was over, out came a jaw-dropping hunk of muscle.
What upsets me is the admiration Rogers received for his physique. Girls would scratch their eyes out to be with him, but they did not see what he truly was: a fraud.
He did absolutely nothing except go into a tube and get poked with needles to get the dream physique. And he goes around and acts like he put in all of the hard work to get to his body type. That is quite low of him.
He may have received his strength and superhero abilities in a laboratory, but that does not mean he is not a “superhero,” per se. Before he was injected with the special serum, there was a man named Steve Rogers.
Although small in size, Steve Rogers was filled with more patriotism than any other American military enlisted during the wave of WWII. He volunteered for the military the first time and was denied because of his size, but he tried again and succeeded.
So, this is what a true American Superhero is. They do not need to possess flying warship suits, magic abilities, or even superhuman strength. Superheroes actually do exist in America today and they do not have special serums. To be exact, there are approximately 1.3 million active duty superheroes protecting America and the world against anyone who wishes us harm. And to them, as one would do for Captain America, I salute you.
Avengers: Endgame a messy, yet satisfying finale (Spoilers Ahead)
Marvel didn’t necessarily need Avengers: Endgame to be a perfect movie, so the fact that it wasn’t was perfectly okay. But the Russo brothers’ direction of the ultimate film in Marvel’s first three phases does enough to wow every person who sees it.
For one, it’s the ultimate fan film. It rewards the fans who dedicated hours of their lives watching the previous 21 interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe films while not necessitating you see each and every one. However, the character arcs of the originals (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, and Hawkeye) are enhanced greatly; the peaks and valleys are more pronounced, more deeply felt when the audience understands the connections each character has to the others and the experiences we have seen them overcome over 10+ years and 21+ movies.
One criticism of the ensemble Marvel movies is the lack of intimacy that we saw in the beginning of this massive franchise with movies like the original Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger. Endgame however, proves an upgrade in that sense, although not saying much, by emphasizing the path the surviving characters have taken and the emotional baggage each has on their backs.
The opening scene references back to Infinity War with Thanos’s genocide of half the universe’s population with literally a snap of his fingers. The scale of such an action makes it hard to understand the human cost, but seeing Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) lose his entire family only one second after turning his back certainly does the gravitude justice.
A time-lapse of five years puts distance between the initial shock of Thanos and the current society after the snap. Iron Man’s settled down with Pepper and a new family. “I love you 3000,” his daughter coos to him as he puts her to bed. Thor plays Fortnite, drinks beer, and generally wallows in obesity after Asgard was destroyed. Black Widow is simply lost. Hawkeye turns into Ronin, his vengeful alter-ego in Japan. And Hulk has become equal parts Hulk and Bruce Banner, both at the same time, and yet, not truly either one.
Sure, the plot gets a little contrived with the idea of a Quantum Realm-based Time Heist with the idea of finding the Infinity Stones before Thanos gets them all. It’s rough around the edges, and it on many occasions breaks both the butterfly and grandfather effects of time travel. But by tightening the cast to half the central characters, the intimacy returns that was clearly lost in Infinity War. Sectioning the ensemble off into six different groups was another smart direction by the Russo’s, allowing for deeply emotional scenes like Thor meeting his mother again or Tony having a deep conversation with his father during WWI without the burden of giving screen time to other characters and diluting the moments.
Moreover, the third act final battle, while looking good and providing the euphoria of seeing past faces again for the first time, is truly a CGI bloodbath and gives scenes to characters seemingly unearned. Oh, hello Spiderman, thanks for saving the universe. Pepper, you can fly?!
And how is a whole army of Wakandans ready to do battle only minutes after the world was brought back from partial ruin?
Whatever. That really isn’t the point. The film will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It transitions well enough to the next generation of Avengers. If you can ignore the flaws (you can), you’ll love where this movie takes you.
Ranking the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
As the Infinity Saga of the MCU comes to an end, it’s time to look back to the 21 films that led to Endgame. The MCU does not really have an awful film, but there are definitely some that are better than others. In my opinion, my top six are so close that almost everyday I switch them. Here is a look at the rankings of all 22-MCU films:
1. Avengers: Infinity War
The first part of the finale of the Infinity Saga is just slightly better than Endgame. The film finally introduces the villian that the MCU has been hinting at since the end credit of the first Avengers movie. Thanos, brilliantly played by Josh Brolin and an amazing visual effects team, is so scary and evil, but has an understandable motive- balance across the universe. The film is two and a half hours of pure action, but has some emotion throughout. Also, the film ends with one of the greatest film cliffhangers of all time, and everyone will always remember the Snap.
2. Avengers: Endgame
The finale of the Infinity Saga does not disappoint at all. It’s a great conclusion to the original characters from the first Avengers. Also, its final hour has the best battle in the MCU but with many emotional beats that would leave any fan in tears. The final film in the Infinity Saga is fantastic all together with everything fans have wanted in the 11-year journey.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The second Captain America film introduced Falcon and built the lore of Hydra within the MCU. It has the best fight choreography of any MCU with the gritty face off between Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Also, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson are great in this political thriller in the MCU. This film is so great because we get two amazing villains in Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes and in Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce.
4. Captain America: Civil War
The final Captain America film is more like Avengers 2.5. We get to see almost every MCU hero, besides Thor and Hulk, fight each other after a piece of legislation gets introduced allowing the government to control superheroes. Team Cap vs Team Iron Man in the airport is probably the second best fight scene in all of the MCU, and we get an emotional finale with our favorite heroes fighting one another.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
The original Guardians of the Galaxy has some of the best humor we’ve seen the MCU. Coming into the movie no one, besides hardcore comic fans, even knew who the Guardians were, yet leaving the theater we fell in love with a tree and a talking raccoon. Chris Pratt is great as Star Lord and we instantly have a connection with this band of misfits. I would call the first Guardians the most rewatchable and entertaining film in the MCU.
6. The Avengers
The original Avengers changed the game in terms of having a bunch of characters from different movies coming together. We get to see Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye sharing the screen for the first time. The action is great, the humor is great, and this movie became an instant classic after its 2012 release.
7. Thor: Ragnarok
The third Thor is by far the best of the three. The film has fantastic humor, great action, and an awesome buddy-cop feel between Thor and Hulk.
8. Black Panther
Black Panther follows Chadwick Boseman as the new king of Wakanda. The film really excels introducing a whole new country in Wakanda, while having messages that are very applicable to today’s society. Also, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is a great villain with pretty convincing motives.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Although Tom Holland was introduced in Civil War, his first solo film really brought the character into the MCU. There were great performances by Holland and Downey Jr, and Michael Keaton’s Vulture is one of the best villains in the MCU.
10. Iron Man
The one that started it all is still a very entertaining movie, although many forget about it. Without Iron Man being great, the rest of the MCU might not have happened. Robert Downey Jr is great and the MCU’s opener is one of the best.
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The second Avengers film had to live up to unreasonable expectations, and therefore was deemed a disappointment by most. The villain Ultron, one of the most menacing and powerful in the comics, was very unconvincing and disappointing. However, some of the great moments in the film put it in the top half of the MCU.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The second GOTG movie is very entertaining and helps to develop Star Lord and the other guardians. However, the film deems characters like Drax and Mantis as strictly comic relief and they serve no other purpose. The film relies too much on comedy, and it falls flat more often than usual.
13. Captain America: The First Avenger
The first Captain America does a great job of introducing Steve Rogers and is a well-done period piece taking place largely during WWII. The film also introduces Bucky Barnes and Hydra. The First Avenger plays a huge role in introducing things that are very important throughout the 22-film saga.
14. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Many prefer the original Ant-Man, but I personally find the second one more entertaining and important to the MCU. The film adds another superhero to the mix with the Wasp and continues the great humor found in the first one.
15. Doctor Strange
The film introduces the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Steven Strange. Cumberbatch plays an arrogant surgeon who loses feeling in his hands, and goes on a world trip looking for a cure. The film has lots of great action and introduces a new realm of the MCU in magic.
16. Iron Man 3
The third Iron Man film has a bad reputation for what the studio did to iconic comic book villain, the Mandarin. While the Mandarin was definitely disappointing, everything else in the movie is pretty good. We finally get to see Tony have to go on a mission without the suit, demonstrating his intellect and bravery.
17. Captain Marvel
The first woman superhero movie in the MCU is very entertaining and has a strong message, but does not have the same Marvel magic that many of the best do. Some of the comedy falls flat, and Carol Danvers seems pretty one-dimensional, but she does kick a lot of butt.
18. The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk mainly suffers from it being the second film in the MCU and having a different actor play Bruce Banner. Instead of Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton stars in the film. Although the action is great and entertaining, the film almost has nothing to do with the rest of the MCU besides brief character appearances.
Thor’s first film brings the God of Thunder down to Earth (figuratively and literally) as he lost all his power. The film does a good job of introducing Asgard and introducing the Thor and Loki characters, but it doesn’t leave any lasting impression.
The film follows Scott Lang who learns from scientist Hank Pym and becomes Ant-Man. The film has great humor, but lacks a convincing villain. The film is not a disappointment, but adds little to the MCU and is very forgettable.
21. Thor: The Dark World
The second installment in the Thor trilogy shares many qualities of Iron Man 2. The film serves to build Thor, Asgard, and his relationship with Loki. However, the villains are extremely boring and the comedic tones fall flat.
22. Iron Man 2
The second installment in the Iron Man trilogy serves mainly to build Tony Stark, while paying little attention to everything else. Robert Downey Jr’s charisma was not able to save a largely bland and forgettable film in the MCU.