Marvel By Numbers – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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We’re taking a break from In a Galaxy Far Far Away to add another entry to Marvel By Numbers! This year, we’re getting three MCU entries, so it’s gonna be a good one.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

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Overview: Our favorite band of bizarre misfits are back, making a name for themselves in the galaxy, when they meet up with someone who has clues to who Peter Quill’s father might be. Also, there’s a really angry sovereign who’s out to destroy the Guardians for stealing something of immense value.

Note: I scheduled this for a few weeks after the film’s release to avoid spoilers, but even so, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, beware that there are spoilers ahoy!

Writing: 7/10

The comedy is top-notch, a good mix of clever and dumb-but-amusing. Everyone has whip-sharp comedic timing, and the audience in the theater was so tickled that their laughter often obscured follow up gags to especially effective jokes, so that is definitely a plus.

I took some points off because the script overall is VERY cliche. The first GotG had a similar problem, but in this one, a lot of the big impactful moments later on are pretty easy to spot.

Now that’s not to say that people weren’t tearing up in those final scenes, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see them coming a mile away.

I don’t think it affected my enjoyment of the film, but don’t go in expecting tons of surprises.

Style: 9/10

As always, it looks great. The character design is wacky and the soundtrack is fantastic. The human characters in this one all seem so offbeat that they could easily be taken for aliens if they were dropped off on Earth.

I also have to heap MOUNTAINS of praise onto Weta for their design of Baby Groot. I was a bit worried that, because they were doing the digital animation instead of Industrial Light and Magic (who have their hands full with Star Wars right now) that the overall look would feel too different, but they do a great job of capturing the heartwarming amazingness of Groot in wee form. Groot is so cute it almost hurts.

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And there are a few scenes where Groot gets sad and you just want to burst into tears and hug him because he’s just so precious and innocent.

I also love the design of Mantis. She wasn’t an alien in the comics, but her design is marvelous nonetheless.

My only disappointment was the design of Ego’s planet. It’s pretty, but in a digital matte painting sort of way. We don’t get a lot of characters interacting with the environment. It’s always these beautiful backdrops. I guess it would have distracted from the story, but it would have been nice to have more scenes outside Ego’s compound.

The Villain: 7/10

I guess there’s two villains, but the Sovereign Ayesha, though amusing, feels too silly to be taken for a real threat. Great character design, though. And I ADORED Elizabeth Debicki in The Man from U.N.C.L.E so it was awesome to see her in an over-the-top villain role again.

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The other villain, Ego, fell a bit flat for me. I LOVE Kurt Russell, and it was awesome to see him de-aged into his 80’s persona again (Hollywood’s de-aging technology has really made scary leaps and bounds since the days of X-Men The Last Stand and Tron: Legacy) but he’s never really trustworthy.

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I don’t know if we’re supposed to get drawn into his con as Peter is, but I think it would have been more effective if the fact that he was evil and untrustworthy wasn’t made so overwhelmingly obvious from the get go.

And in the final confrontation, there’s never a huge sense that he can actually defeat them. I guess this is meant to be lighter fare than previous MCU entries, but there’s not a whole lot of actual danger evident at the end. Now, this may also be to catch the audience off guard when a certain character sacrifices their life. It’s obvious they’re going to defeat Ego, but it’s NOT obvious that we were going to lose someone.

So, I’ll give them props for that.

Explosions: 10/10

I didn’t have my notebook with me in the theater so I couldn’t keep a tally, but there were hella explosions and they were awesome. And they totally furthered the plot and were important.

Favorite explosion: when Ego takes out all of Ayesha’s fighters at once.

The Hero’s Journey: 8/10

The character stuff is pretty good, if a bit telegraphed.

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Nebula was so one-dimensional in the beginning of this film, that I was really worried that they’d completely ruined her character, but then we get past her outer shell, and she has some great moments, which is fantastic.

Rocket is still a favorite of mine. We get more of what makes him tick, and it’s marvelous.

Baby Groot is perfect and I love him.

I LOVE Drax’s interactions with Mantis. She’s so odd and he seems to really appreciate that. And she’s so clueless that she isn’t bothered by Drax’s lack of a filter.

Gamora has a lot more depth and likability in this one, which I really appreciated. She was sort of flat in the first one, and she feels more developed here.

Peter Quill is the only one who didn’t draw me in, and that’s difficult to comprehend because he’s freaking gorgeous. His angst in this one is something we’ve seen in MANY other TV shows and movies, so it didn’t really draw me in. It was awesome to see him realize that he has super crazy powers, especially after feeling a bit too ordinary surrounded by so many crazy powerful folks, but I wish we’d gotten more of that in relation to his team rather than in his conflict with Ego.

It’s always difficult when you have so many main characters and he’s the only human, so by his very nature, he becomes the audience surrrogate that we see things through. And it’s REALLY hard to make that character stand out as much as the kookier characters. Chris Pratt does a good job with the more lighthearted stuff (he handles comedy very well), but the character just doesn’t have much in the way of dramatic heft (except in that heartbreaking last scene where the camera just stays directly on his while he tries not to break down. Oh my goodness, that scene was amazing).

Score and Rank

1. Captain America: Civil War (49/50)

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50) 

3. The Avengers (45/50)

4. Iron Man (43/50)

5. Doctor Strange (42/50) 

6. Iron Man 3 (42/50)

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50) 

8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (41/50) It tied with itself! Rottentomatoes likes the original a bit more so it wins out in the tie-breaker.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)

10. Thor (39/50)

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50)

12. Ant-Man (38/50) 

13. Thor: The Dark World (36/50) 

14. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)

15. Iron Man 2 (33/50)

 

Next week, we’re going back to the Star Wars Universe!

In A Galaxy Far Far Away – Revenge of the Sith

A trilogy ends!

I’m generally less of a fan of this one than most people, but there’s still good stuff here. If nothing else, it looks amazeballs and the music is some of the best in the entire franchise, so that’s fun!

I will say, watching this is a WAY more emotional if you’ve gone through all of The Clone Wars. Cuz you fall in love with all the clone commanders and the Jedi generals, and then it all goes to hell here. So, if you have time, WATCH THE CLONE WARS because it’s amazing.

Alright, let’s do this!

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Episode Number: 3 — Released: 2005 — Production Number: 6

 The Story So Far

 One of the best and worst things about this episode is the sense that you’ve missed everything that happened in between AotC and this one. And sure, we have The Clone Wars to fill in that gap, but still, we get such a short period of Anakin and Obi-Wan being a team in this episode before everything falls into teeny tiny pieces, jumping straight from AotC to this one feels like such a huge change.

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We don’t see Anakin become a sparkly new Jedi, and we don’t really see him move past the teenage resentment he was wrestling with in AotC. We get that AWESOME first scene of them flying through the space battle together and being a team and stuff, and then we get all their delightful banter as they’re fighting their way through Grievous’ ship, and it’s marvelous, and then afterwards, Palpatine starts driving that wedge not only between Anakin and the Jedi Council, but Anakin and Obi-Wan. So, basically, one HAS to watch The Clone Wars to get a fully satisfying story, and to give this one its highest impact.

How Do I Love Thee?

Folks love to mock AotC for its love story, but to be honest, this one takes the cake for sheer relationship cringe. It’s logical to not like sand because that stuff can be ANNOYING, but the whole balcony scene near the beginning leaps into nigh unintelligible clouds of question marks pretty quickly. It’s just…not great.

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And while Padme’s intense desire to fix Anakin makes sense in AotC, in this one, her inability to see how Palpatine is manipulating him, especially when she begins to question his use of power, just feels off. I suppose she’s trying to keep a low profile due to her pregnancy, but still…

I dunno. Padme is a pretty strong character, but this one makes her into quite the damsel, and Star Wars is not known for its damsels. *makes Rosie the Riveter pose*

I’ve Never Heard of Anyone Called Obi-Wan

Aside from his curious “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” comment (which I’m still trying to make sense of), Obi-Wan is a pretty fantastic character in this one, especially since we see him conflicted in complex ways! In many ways, his arc is more interesting than Anakin’s because, while Anakin is being manipulated by Sidious into a dark spiral, Obi-Wan goes through several different spirals and, during the second half of the film, he has to keep re-evaluating everything as his knowledge of what is happening and what has been happening keeps changing.

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When the Council sends him to kill Grievous, he nods calmly and does his duty, but when Yoda explains that he has to stop Anakin, who is obviously in thrall to a powerful Sith Lord, Obi-Wan resists, but then gives in when he realizes a fight with Anakin is inevitable.

And it’s just so heartbreaking because he spends the whole fight trying to reason with Anakin, remaining cool as a cucumber right up until he realizes he has no choice but to kill Anakin, and THEN he gets angry and gives in to emotion. He’s just gone through an endless war and witnessed countless atrocities on both sides, and this is the thing that becomes too much for him to handle because it has nothing to do with duty to the Jedi.

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It’s a failure of a galactic kind that he loses Anakin to the Dark Side, and I think it’s that failure that drives him to devote the rest of his life to making sure Luke Skywalker doesn’t fall in the same way.

Yoda’s exile to Dagobah is one of necessity, since the Force energies there cloak him, but Obi-Wan going to Tatooine is one of duty. He wants to make it up to Anakin by ensuring his son lives up to the legacy of good things Anakin accomplished.

I’m surprised Obi-Wan didn’t get a little MORE eccentric during his exile on Tatooine.

But I love the character, and he has such a wonderful progression throughout the prequels.

Plus, Obi-Wan gets to ride Boga, who’s the best squeaky lizard mount ever. I love Boga.

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A Bevy of Bad Guys

 First off, once Dooku is removed from the equation, General Grievous is the main bad guy for much of the film. And Grievous is cool. Obi-Wan’s been fighting him for quite some time, but this is Anakin’s first introduction to the ol’ cyborg, which has a fun poetic quality to it because Grievous is literally what Anakin is about to become, though he doesn’t realize it. Grievous is more machine than man, essentially just part of a face and some organs. He’s powerful, but I get the feeling Grievous would have been EVEN MORE POWERFUL had he not been reconstructed.

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But of course Anakin wouldn’t realize this until it was too late to do anything.

Then, of course we get Palpatine. For all his shrewd political manipulations and uncommonly slick deflections, once he goes full Sith and doesn’t have to hide things, he goes a little overboard. when we meet the Emperor in RotJ, he’s like this spider, cool, calculating, and completely deadly. And during that AMAZING scene where he tells Anakin about Darth Plagueis, you can see all the gears working in his head and there’s all this subtle danger beneath everything he’s saying, and he pulls Anakin farther into his web, and it’s fantastic. But at the end of this one, he’s a bit manic.

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His fight with Yoda could have been so cool and emotional (since Yoda vs. Palpatine was a matchup I have wanted ever since I first saw RotJ), but instead it’s a goofy brawl, which is sort of disappointing. I love the idea of destroying the Senate chamber in the confrontation, but a Sith’s power comes from anger, and Sidious is so…giddy throughout the whole thing. It would have been nice to see more rage and deadly force.

Sigh.

Sidious is still one of my favorite characters, though.

The Fall

With all that said, everything following Anakin’s defeat at Mustafar is pretty much spot on perfect. Vader’s reconstruction gives me chills every time, and that shot right near the end where we see Vader, Sidious, and Tarkin standing there looking at the beginning of the Death Star is AMAZING.

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I really wish we could have a movie set during this time where Vader has to fight to keep the Death Star secret and prove his value to Palpatine all while adjusting to his new tortured existence. We could also see him building his sweet palace on Mustafar here that we’ll see later.

But alas.

Though we do get that amazing Darth Vader comic series that Marvel’s been doing (has been doing? I’m a bit behind so I don’t know if it’s done yet) which I’m a huge fan of.

What About Padme?

The whole “she died of a broken heart” thing doesn’t ring true with a lot of fans, and I’ve found myself struggling with it a lot, too.

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She became so dependent on Anakin, and I think the fact that he was away so often fighting in the Clone Wars allowed her to create an idealized version of him in her mind. When they were together briefly amidst the fighting, they were so happy, it became so easy for her to forget the fact that this guy is emotionally unstable. The Jedi help him (and I think being able to train Ashoka helps ground him a bit more, too), and so from the outside he would definitely have appeared to be more stable and mature, but all that is a distraction. In moments when his fragile ego takes over (like when the Council doesn’t make him a Master) he’s still that angry kid.

But Padme was so desperate for a happy future that she loses sight of just how dangerous he is. His whole issue is attachment, and so it would have been easy to confuse possessive obsession with devotion, especially if they were separated and she didn’t get to see him consistently.

So, when all that finally comes out and she realizes that she’ll never have that peaceful future with him and her children are probably never going to know their father because Obi-Wan has made it clear that he has to kill Anakin, the overwhelming shock of it combined with the trauma of being physically assaulted by the man she loves and then giving birth COULD be a feasible explanation for why she wasn’t able to cope and dies.

People rag on her for not being there for her children, but people don’t realize just how powerful the mind is. Her whole sense of stability self-destructs. And she fights it. Her last words, that she believes there is still good in Anakin, are a last ditch attempt to bring herself up out of this black pit of despair and depression with something positive, but it’s not enough. She uses the last of her energy to bring her children into the world, even though she’s lost the will to live. And she doesn’t give up on her children because she knows Obi-Wan will take care of them.

I still don’t FULLY buy it (and if you have other theories, I’d love to hear them), but it is at least feasible. I think we’re so used to strong women in Star Wars that to see one with a fatal weakness is so unusual to us, but it’s not unrealistic. There are people like this in the world: strong, talented, motivated people who could do so much with what they have, but end up losing themselves to something that’s dangerous to them.

It’s crazy sad, but it carries with it a HUGE impact.

Conclusion

I always wondered why Leia was given the royal family and Luke the moisture farm. They both deserved the royal family.

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I guess, since they had to be split up, only one could be with their actual family. Owen and Beru are awesome, even if they’re living in a dangerous wasteland. Plus, it’s awesome that, after losing Shmi, they get to raise her grandson. Her memory and her legacy lives on. It’s amazing that Leia gets to grow up with the finest education and opportunities, but it’s also sad that she gets cut off from her heritage and her family legacy. So it does even out. And they do end up finding and saving each other in the future, but that’s another story.

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Next up is Rogue One, but next week’s post is going to be the next entry in Marvel By Numbers since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out a couple weeks back. See you then!

In a Galaxy Far Far Away – Attack of the Clones

People rag on this one, but I’m here to show all y’all just how awesome the writing. You think I’m lying, but seriously, my current re-watch has FINALLY won me over on this one. It used to be my least favorite film in the series, but my opinion has turned around a bit. So let’s do this!

It’s a good one.

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Episode Number: 2 — Released: 2002 — Production Number: 5

The Dark Side

The reason why I would always get hung up on this one is Anakin is such a dangerous personality, and yet no one seems all that bothered by it. Sure, Obi-Wan expresses his concern to Mace Windu at one point, but Anakin is so obviously unstable that Obi-Wan should have taken much more drastic action.

The answer is, of course, Palpatine.

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This is really his movie.

When you realize that literally everything that happens is the result of his manipulations, you get a sense of just how POWERFUL Sidious is, and how completely brilliant his plan to not only put the Sith back in power but to make that power a force to be reckoned with.

I’ll go into that in more detail in a bit, but the main point is that Sidious is an AMAZING villain, and I never really understood that fully until now.

Plot, Plot, Who’s Got the Plot?

What makes me most happy is realizing that so much of the movie is packed full of red herrings leading you away from what’s really going on in the same way that Palpatine is leading everyone where he wants them and away from the secrets he’s not ready to reveal.

When this first came out, I remember everyone obsessing over Sifo Dyas. Obviously, he was going to be CRUCIAL in the next film, right? There were folks online who posited that Sifo Dyas was really Sidious in disguise or that Sifo Dyas was not dead and was actually an alias for Dooku. The theories ran wild (kind of how now everyone feels like Snoke has a secret identity that they’ve figured out). But ultimately, Sifo Dyas was explained in the Clone Wars as just an actual human Jedi who commissioned the clone army.

He’s the reddest of herrings, and it’s wonderful.

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ALSO, the whole plot to murder Padme is another huge red herring whose purpose is to lead Obi-Wan to “accidentally” stumble onto this secret clone army (even though its existence has been deleted from the archives, so no one else accidentally found it before the time was right). Then Obi-Wan can tell the Jedi, and when Palpatine tricks Jar Jar into voting FOR the creation of this army, so that when Sidious sets up the pieces for a big confrontation on Geonosis, the weakened Jedi have no choice BUT to accept the Clone Army from the Kaminoans.

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The only upside is we get to see Obi-Wan going all Noir Private Eye as he tracks down Jango (who’s amazing and one of my favorite characters).

So, basically, Sidious had Tyranus hire Jango Fett to hire Zam to “almost” kill Padme (Jango knew the ship was a decoy but Zam didn’t) so Palpatine could suggest that Obi-Wan come protect her. And then have Zam try to kill Padme again so Obi-Wan could foil the assassination and then Jango could kill Zam with the sabre dart that would lead Obi-Wan to Kamino (because Obi-Wan’s connections would give him special knowledge that the Jedi archives couldn’t) so that the Jedi would use the clone army when Sidious started a galactic war.

It’s like there are strings attached to everyone and Palpatine is tugging on them.

Lovey Dovey

For a moment, I wondered if Palpatine knew that Anakin was unstable and had problems with attachment when he suggested that Anakin escort Padme to Naboo to keep her safe. If that’s the case, then his foresight is pretty incredible because he knew he’d later be able to use Padme to manipulate Anakin into joining him. If not, it was just a happy accident that Palpatine later exploits.

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But I feel like Palpatine had a hand in pushing the Tusken Raiders to capture Shmi so Anakin would begin slipping to he dark side.

Maybe just a wild theory, but like…Palpatine is amazing, so…

My Hero

Anakin gets a really bad rap in this one. I think Hayden Christensen is fantastic. It took a while for me to warm up to him because his character is so awkward, but like that fits.

He’s an ex-slave who had to leave his mother behind (in slavery) so he could gain enough power to come back and free her. He had friends as a little boy, but he had to give up all those friends and spend ten years learning about the Force and being told that he has to take things slow while his mother spends ten years in slavery (so he thinks). His obsession with getting what he wants grows throughout the years because I bet he spends a lot of time assuming he can just leave the Jedi and go get his mother someday. But then he realizes that the Jedi are treated with respect and are in control of their own destinies.

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Remember, as a slave, he was property and was ordered around. He accepted it because he didn’t know anything else but once he realizes that he doesn’t have to be treated as “slave scum” (to quote Sebulba), it’s obvious that would mess with his head.

Enter Padme

At first, she’s just an object of desire. She was the only girl he ever felt much kinship with as a kid (remember the other kids just mocked his podracer and never thought he could win anything) so when he’s sequestered away from the Jedi, going through adolescence and having to deal with volatile emotions that, were he younger when he joined the Order, he would have been taught to control, he fixes on Padme.

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It’s absolutely an unhealthy fixation, and when he meets her, he comes across as a total creep because he never thought he’d ever see her again. He had her on a high pedestal and when he finds himself with power and some influence, he realizes that he can possess her.

When he’s away from her, he’s clever and brave and strong and charmingly impulsive, but when he’s around her, his psychological shortcomings come to the surface. It’s only his Jedi teachings that allow him to kind of keep a handle on his feelings and agree with her when she says they can’t ever be together because it would jeopardize both of their professional lives (even though she’s a fixer and she wants to fix him just as much as she wants to fix the Republic).

If Palpatine weren’t in the picture, stroking Anakin’s ego and reminding him how much of a victim he still was, I think Anakin and Padme could have had a very healthy relationship.

But alas…

Oh Yeah, and the Jedi

And atop all of this, we have the Jedi who one would assume would be able to see through all this deception, but Sidious is so powerful that he’s able to cloud the entire Order’s minds and keep them from seeing what’s going on. Yoda comments early on that the Dark Side is clouding everything, and then later that the Dark Lord of the Sith is keeping them from seeing what’s really going on, and even with their knowledge that a Sith is out there, they still can’t pin it on Palpatine who should be practically RADIATING dark side energy.

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So, when the Jedi all charge headlong into that insane awesome battle at the end, they’re ALL being moved like chesspieces on a board by Palpatine who is literally starting a war and controlling both sides so he can be given more power to stop that war.

Like, oh my god, Palpatine is completely bonkers brilliant.

The only one who seems to suspect anything is going on is Yoda, but even he can’t figure it out. It’s like he gets the barest hints of ideas when he’s around Palpatine, but he can’t quite pin it down.

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Conclusion

This movie is brilliant. It takes a long time to see it because there’s so much misdirection, but definitely give this one another chance. And yes, Anakin and Padme’s romance is awkward. It’s SUPPOSED TO BE. It’s not a healthy romance. Padme falls for Anakin as a rebel and as someone she can fix and Anakin is too immature and possessive to ever be able to give Padme any kind of fulfilling relationship.

And yet they get married!

Stop it!

The final shot of this movie is so great because it should be this sweeping romantic finale in which they’ll be happy ever after, but he becomes so possessive that he turns to the dark side to handle his paranoia that he’ll lose her, and she is so trapped by her feelings for him (and later her devotion to the fantasy that they’ll be able to be a family in the fiture) that she doesn’t run screaming from the room when she has a chance.

They’re both completely doomed…but look how happy they look right at this moment.

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Sigh.

I will probably go through the Clone Wars series at a later time, but I really want to just binge watch the entire series right now. Sadly, I have other things to do.

But seriously, give this one another chance. Don’t pay attention to the surface stuff. Pay attention to the gears grinding beneath everything. This isn’t just the tragedy of Darth Vader. This is the tragedy of how paranoia and fear can be exploited by those in power to remove people’s freedoms. Srsly.

So, bye bye for now!

Next week, we’ll be looking at Revenge of the Sith!

 

In A Galaxy Far Far Away – The Phantom Menace

I’ve wanted to do a Star Wars nerd explosion for a while now, and Star Wars Day was this week, so I figured, why not now? So, let’s go through the saga in order! It’s gonna be fun. I promise. I’m not going to include the TV series (EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD WATCH THEM!) because I’ll probably go through them via my Tumblr which is terrible and you should totally follow it.

So, let’s look at The Phantom Menace!

Stop complaining! Stop it!

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Episode Number: 1 — Released: 1999 — Production Number: 4

Star Wars Returns

So, like, I remember the crushing disappointment that accompanied the release of this film…but I also remember the insane ubiquity of everything that accompanied it. Remember that podracer game? That was pretty sweet, right? And Darth Maul was amazing! And every marching band ever either played or wished their could play “Duel of the Fates” (which is a SUPER nerdy observation, but I was in marching band at the time, so sue me…but don’t, because I’m broke).

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I don’t remember people getting super excited for any future Star Wars films until the end of Attack of the Clones. But I think this movie, for all its faults, kept Star Wars relevant. It created a bunch of new fans who were totally OK with Jar Jar and the insane CGI battles who then grew up and fueled the insane fan reaction to The Force Awakens. This movie was totally necessary.

I would also like to state for the record that I like Jar Jar. If you wish to take my nerd card away, so be it. But I will not be deterred!

So Much CGI

One of the things people complain about is the use of CGI, but like this movie is freaking beautiful, you guys.

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It’s huge and sweeping and the characters are amazing and everything’s pretty. So. Very. Pretty.

So what if there are an uncomfortable number of “Yipee’s” in this film (seriously, they’re everywhere…). And I could have done without Panaka the Wet Blanket (I’m much more of a fan of Captain Typho in AotC). But this is a fun movie and it looks great and it sounds great, so all of you whiners who can’t follow a plot that contains animated characters, you just sit yourself down and give this one a re-watch, because it’s actually aged pretty well.

(in Palpatine’s voice) Do it!

Guardians of Peace and Justice

Hands down, the main contributors to this one’s awesomeness factor are the Jedi. Yoda’s cool, but he won’t hit his high point until the next one. Ditto with Mace Windu. But like, Qui Gon Jinn is probably the biggest bamf in the galaxy and I’m super depressed we don’t get more of him.

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Also, you could legitimately just re-write the entire Taken series and insert Qui Gon in there and have him carving a (cauterized) murder swatch through hordes of bad guys in search of the folks who kidnapped his padawan (maybe the one before Obi-Wan because Obi-Wan doesn’t really strike me as being especially damselly).

Red and Black

Also, Darth Maul is basically the coolest bad guy ever. Like, he’s so amazing that if he was sent to murder me in my sleep (because I dunno), I would be legitimately honored and would probably just let him do it.

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It makes me sad that he gets knocked out of the picture at the end, BUT, it’s OK because he has a pretty amazing arc in The Clone Wars and Rebels, so we get closure. Also, even the complain-iest of complainers will have to admit to experiencing a rush of fanatical giddiness when Maul revealed that his lightbaser had two blades. Like that’s just iconic right there and if you don’t like it, you’re dumb and I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.

“Are you an angel?”

OK, so perhaps Itty Bitty Anakin was too fresh-faced and happy and wholesome for most folks. I get that. I wished he’d been a bit less squeaky clean myself, but you can’t help but cheer for him. And though it’s literally the most pointless scene in the movie, dammit, I love the podrace sequence. Like, it’s just so well edited and cool and awesome and exciting.

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And then we have Padme, who will forever be marked at That Girl That Had Terrible Taste in Men, but this movie shows us how awesome she is! She’s naive, but she grows up and goes from Hedging Figurehead to Activist Soldier. And her wardrobe gives me life. I would die (and not of suffocation or heatstroke, either!) to get to wear something even half as grand as she.

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*dreamy sigh*

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*another dreamy sigh*

Every single one of her dresses (except maybe that dour gray number she wears when she decides to return to Naboo, ugh) deserves an Oscar. I mean she deserves an Oscar too, because she’s wonderful (have you seen Black Swan!?!?) but her dressmaker deserves to be buried in awards.

Cityscapes

I know most of this serves no NARRATIVE purpose, but I am completely addicted to those sweeping establishing shots that introduce every planet. Even that one from RotJ that’s just a bunch of green trees on Endor. I love it.

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And sure it’s computer generated, but like…how else would one do it? Flat matte paintings are fine, but digital matte paintings are just so much deeper and richer! Like, I know the name Theed is kind of weird, but LOOK HOW PRETTY IT IS!

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And Jar Jar’s city is awesome enough that it ALMOST (but not quite) beats out Cloud City as my favorite Star Wars locale ever.

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So, I know everyone was kind of all “politics, ew” when they first saw this, but I totally recommend you read Darth Plagueis.

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I think it was written JUUUUST as Lucasfilm began retooling their canon of novels (which had gotten super huge and was full of contraditions) but it doesn’t really fly in the face of anything that’s been established, so it still COULD be considered canon. Anyway, it does such a good job of explaining why the taxation of trade routes being in dispute could send the Republic into turmoil that I was literally in awe that economics and politics could ever be so interesting. Granted there’s Sith involved, but you know what I mean.

But even so, I love the political maneuverings in this one. We’ve got Palpatine whispering in Padme’s ear as he pushes himself into position to become chancellor, which is one of my favorite scenes.

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You get a sense of just how ridiculous and over-inflated this political system is that you kind of want Palpatine to rip it to pieces… I mean, I don’t condone fascist dictatorships that take away people’s freedoms, OBVIOUSLY, but if you don’t KNOW that he’s evil just yet, you do root for him.

Which reminds me, how did i know in 1999 that Senator Palpatine was obviously the Emperor? He’s never called Palpatine in RotJ… Mysterious… I guess it would have been the novels…

Anyway!

Conclusion

You are allowed to not like this one. That’s valid and I won’t judge you (much). But you should totally give this one another go.

If for no other reason than to enjoy John Williams’ sublime score and Padme’s amazing wardrobe and Qui Gon’s bamf-ness and the podracer sequence. Seriously, there’s good stuff here.

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So, I will leave you alone for now until I assault you with more incoherent nerd ramblings next week as I revisit Attack of the Clones!

In the meantime, what is your favorite thing about this one?

Or, because I like starting fights on the internet with strangers, what didn’t you like about it?

Or, if you don’t like opinions that could lead to disagreements (you pacifists, you), what kind of lightsaber is your favorite (and if you say anything other than a double-bladed red lightsaber, you’re wrong).

I told you I like starting fights…

Ciao!

 

What Have I Seen This Week?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is pretty cliche-ridden, but the characters are intensely likable and the humor is amazing. Three out of Five Stars.

Shakespeare Movie Night

There are moments when I wonder why there’s no (or none that I can see) Shakespeare fandom anywhere on the internet. I guess people get traumatized by it in high school and decide they never want to return to it ever again, which is sad.

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It’s got donkey folks! It’s a good fandom, you guys!

Shakespeare deserves a fandom.

 

And so I am here to take you calmly by the hand and encourage you that you need to organize a Shakespeare movie night with your friends. And before you say, “Nobody does that!” know that I’ve lived in two countries and I’ve totally had multiple Shakespeare movie nights with different groups of friends. So it’s totally a thing. And before you say, “But Shakespeare’s hard to understand!” know that it’s not really that hard. It’s different because a lot of the in-jokes (the Elizabethan memes, if you will) fly over our heads, but the dialogue isn’t actually that crazy. Characters over-explain everything, repeat themselves, say exactly what they’re feeling, and use strings of metaphors just in case the first metaphor wasn’t good enough.

There are also TONS of dick jokes.

And puns. SO. MANY. PUNS.

Yes, even in the serious plays.

Remember that Shakespeare’s primary audience were the illiterate rabble in the pit of the Globe theater. He threw in lofty stuff to make the occasional visiting noble (or the Queen) happy, but other than that, this was super accessible, crowd-pleasing stuff. So fear not!

I will even make things easier with a few recommendations for your movie night.

Let’s start a cultural trend, folks!

A good place to start is the comedies.

Much Ado About Nothing is marvelous. It’s completely hilarious and super easy to follow. Kenneth Branagh’s version is probably the gold standard.

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This is a publicity photo and not an ACTUAL shot from the film, but it sums up Beatrice and Benedick pretty well

It’s pretty, ridiculous (in a good way), and has a scene with a folding deck chair that is pretty giggle-inducing. ALSO! Michael Keaton as the clueless Dogberry.

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Yes, ladies and gentlemen… That is Batman.

If the Renaissance setting has you meh-ed out, there’s also Joss Whedon’s brilliant version that he literally slapped together at his house with his friends while filming The Avengers.

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In glorious black and white!

It’s clever, sexy, and filled with actors from literally everything Joss Whedon has ever done. Dogberry in this version is played by Nathan Fillion who’s just so earnest and clueless and adorable you just want to hug him and tell him he’s dumb, but it’s OK.

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*hugs Dogberry*

ALSO! This version makes Hero and Claudio genuinely interesting and able to compete with the AMAZING SASS EXPLOSION that is Beatrice and Benedick.

Another comedic must is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Because who doesn’t love faeries, RELATIONSHIP DRAMA, and ineptly-used magic?

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Oh look! Another Batman!

There’s a few versions out there, but the 1999 version with Stanley Tucci, Christian Bale, Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Kline, (*stops to take a breath*) Rupert Everett, Dominic West, Sophie Marceau, and Sam Rockwell is a DELIGHT. Ignore the critics that said it was fluffy and silly. It’s SUPPOSED to be fluffy and silly. That’s kind of the point…

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Literally everything is sparkly and magical and ridiculous and I swear you’ll enjoy it. It also helps if everyone is a bit tipsy and giggly, so be sure to serve booze with this movie.

Now, if fun and giggles aren’t your thing, maybe blood and guts are more to your liking?

I got you.

If you only want SOME blood and guts and also some comedy and a sprinkling of romance, might I recommend Henry V? This was Kenneth Branagh’s first Shakespeare outing and it’s a good one.

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The cast is incredible, the music is amazing, and the fight choreography is pretty intense. Also, few moments in any film ever will ever be as amazing as Derek Jacobi’s first scene as the Chorus who makes the prologue (my favorite thing Shakespeare has ever written) completely gripping and, dare I say it, sexy as hell.

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It’s my goal in life to wear a long coat as well as that

There’s also a pretty fabulous version in The Hollow Crown, a BBC television miniseries that adapts all of the Henry plays. Tom Hiddleston is Henry V and he does a good job of digging into the dark places in the character’s mind. It’s a bit less bombastic, but a lot more psychologically complex.

Another good one is Coriolanus, a Shakespeare tragedy that literally nobody has heard of up until Ralph Fiennes (aka Voldemort) directed and starred in this 2011 adaptation.

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Gerard Butler is a REALLY good Aufidius.

It earns its R rating with plenty of brutality, but the acting is also really fantastic and it’s so well done that the Shakespearean dialogue doesn’t feel out of place.

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But what about Hamlet!?!?!?

That’s The Big One, right? Well, you have LOTS of options with this one. Kenneth Branagh, of course, has the biggest version, a FULL TEXT adaptation that is bursting with grandiose production design and an incredible cast.

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You can guess who plays Hamlet, of course.

There’s also Franco Zeffirelli’s psychologically twisty version (which I actually like better, even though the critics all hate it). His Hamlet (played by Mel Gibson) is teetering on the edge of actually going crazy, has a REALLY creepy relationship with his mother Gertrude, and he delivers my favorite version of the TBONTB speech down in the catacombs surrounded by crypts. The medieval setting makes everything feel rougher and more claustrophobic. It trims a lot from the script (including, unfortunately a lot of Ophelia), but it doesn’t feel quite as self-important as Branagh’s version.

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There’s also, of course, the Laurence Olivier classic from 1948. It looks fabulous and Olivier gives an iconic performance, but it might not be a good intro to Shakespeare Skeptics. Best to show them this movie once you’ve hooked them with more modern productions.

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That costume looks like it weighs literally a million pounds…

If your taste is more colorful, I have some other recommendations, too!

I would like to introduce Julie Taymor.

If you haven’t heard of her, I’ll just say, The Lion King on Broadway, Across the Universe, Frida, and that Spiderman musical that kept injuring people.

But in terms of Shakespeare, she’s given us two entries!

Titus is a nightmarish (but cool) adaptation of Shakespeare’s first play, Titus Andronicus, a charming story about revenge, murder, and cannibalism! It’s pretty brutal and isn’t really set in any one time period, which is fun. It blends a bunch of different aesthetics which helps to keep the audience more on edge.

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Hannibal Lecter briefly moonlighted as a Shakespearean murderer

There’s also The Tempest, which is less brutal but no less bizarre. Ironically, this is Shakespeare’s last play (I wonder if Taymor planned it that way?). In this version, the wizard Prospero is become Prospera, an exiled witch with plans for revenge. Helen Mirren KILLS it in this role.

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Like, I’m not convinced that Helen Mirren isn’t actually magical

Critics didn’t like this version too much, but screw them. It’s crazy pretty and I love the cast. The character of Caliban has always been super problematic anyways, but this version does a decent job of at least humanizing the character (even though the play throws Caliban in with the clowns for most of the story).

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Allow me to teach you about postcolonial theory!

Julie Taymor is crazy, but we love her because she does make beautiful films.

Also, if you really want to freak out all your friends and make them NEVER WANT TO HAVE SEX EVER AGAIN, you should show them Prospero’s Books, an adaptation of The Tempest that has SO MUCH NUDITY it’s actually hilarious. I mean, in one scene, there is literally just HORDES of naked people wandering around. A college professor subjected our class to this movie (and she specifically chose the scene with the maximum amount of nudity) and I think it traumatized everyone. I’ve never seen so many breasts and penises in a movie that wasn’t intended to get people’s rocks off. So, be sure to get everyone drunk before you watch it.

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I chose this screenshot because the naked people are underwater.

At the risk of this post getting insanely long, I’ll conclude with (you thought I’d forgotten it, didn’t you?) Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

Stop groaning, it’s OK to admit you loved this movie. I know Franco Zeffirelli’s version is probably the “better” version because critics like it better…

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Yawn.

…but I don’t even care. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are EVERYTHING.

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Don’t lie. You lay awake at night wishing these two could have ended up together.

The music is amazing, the sets are insane, the costumes are ridiculous, and YOU KNOW WHAT? I love everything about it. It’s funny. It’s tragic. It’s fun.

Other good ones are the 2004 version of The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, the 1995 version of Richard III with Ian McKellan, the super brutal version of Macbeth from 1971 (which I think Roman Polanski directed??), the 1995 Othello with Laurence Fishburne, and, of course, She’s the Man starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. There’s not one word from the original script of Twelfth Night anywhere to be found in this movie, but dammit if I don’t love it obsessively.

Also, it’s not a Shakespeare adaptation, but Stage Beauty from 2004 features the BEST version of Othello and Desdemona’s climactic scene I’ve ever seen. It’s set in the 1700s when women still couldn’t be on stage, and features some fantastic acting. Shakespeare in Love is another good one, too, though I’ve heard from so many English professors that they loathe and despise that movie because reasons. But Stage Beauty is DEFINITELY worth seeing just for that last scene.

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Like, I don’t think I breathed once while watching this.

So start up a Shakespeare movie night, you guys! It’s important! I expect to see Tumblr filled with the burgeoning Shakespeare fandom very soon. Do it.

And to quote Oberon:

Trip away

Make no stay

Meet me all by break of day.

*disappears in a puff of glitter*

 

 

 

A Post About Posts

Hello all!

This week’s post is less of a post post and more of a post about posts, a post-ception if you will.

I’ve been pondering whether or not to continue with this blog. I’ve been super busy and haven’t been able to give this blog the attention it really deserves. But the truth is I really love writing this and I’m not ready to let it fall by the wayside just yet.

Plus, there are a few series (like the “By Numbers” series) that have more films forthcoming in their respective sequences and I hate to leave them unfinished.

The entries I REALLY enjoyed writing usually involved quite a bit of research (because grad school damaged my brain and I guess I really like doing research) so I definitely want to do more of those. But since those take longer to write, be prepared for some fluffy list-icles in between such things. I also would love to do a long journey through Steven Spielberg’s entire filmography because he’s my favorite director and he deserves tons of love for his frankly bizarre and expansive film career.

Also, I don’t think I’m going to do many reviews anymore. *Gasp* you say. The truth of the matter is, reviews aren’t as fun to write. Plus, most of my reviews are me gushing about how great said film is and that gets a bit repetitive (because I have really low standards when it comes to movies). So, what I’m going to do is add a mini feature to the ends of regular posts that give my opinions on any movies I’ve seen. If it’s a big deal, I’ll do a full review, but I’ll try to cut down on the repetitive “This movie is so good and you need to see it!” type posts.

Now, I do have some ideas for future posts. I’d love to do more posts looking at film scores and some brief biographies of the big film studios of the day as well as a few posts about the history of filmmaking in general. I also really want to do a whole lot more Disney, Star Wars, and Dumb Action Movie stuff because I love all of those things.

I am also open to suggestions, of course. Terrible movies you think everyone needs to know about? Actors you think are crazy underrated? Film composers who have changed your life?  Film series you’d love to see explored? Hit me up and I’ll add it to my to do list.

I guess by now you’ve figured out that I’m writing this mostly because I ran out of time this week to do a post. But fret not. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t know how many people actually read this (and it’s not that big a deal) but this blog is a wonderful outlet and even if I’m just screaming into the void, it’s nice to write.

Even when what I’m writing is a thin disguise for the fact that I didn’t actually write anything…

I swear next week’s post will actually be a good one (spoiler alert: it might contain Shakespeare).

Ciao for now!

 

Marvel by Numbers: Doctor Strange

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This one blew everybody away with its trippy visuals, but how did the rest of the film stack up? Let’s take a look!

Doctor Strange (2016)

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Overview: Stephen Strange is a brilliant surgeon who has it all, until a car accident destroys his hands and his livelihood. Desperate for any kind of help, he ends up in Nepal where he meets The Ancient One, a mysterious woman who shows him how to use magic to find a new purpose in life.

Writing: 8/10

The pacing is great and the main character is given a great arc. It blends humor and drama effectively. There’s a few times when the script has to sort of shove a character into a realization to keep the plot moving (Mordo’s transition into a villain seems rushed, especially considering how extremely evil he goes in the post-credits scene). And there are times when the script throws in cool action scenes which go on for a little too long (the disembodied hospital fight is one. It’s fun, but it cuts into the time Strange and Palmer have to tie up their loose ends, considering she never shows up after that scene). But overall, it keeps things going pretty well.

Style: 10/10

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There’s no question about this one. This film looks absolutely incredible. The trippy reality folding within the mirror dimension, the fiery spark aesthetic of the magic, the grand sweep of the visuals, it all works really well. The scene where the Ancient One first sends Strange hurtling through the multiple layers of the multiverse is enough to merit a perfect 10/10 on its own, but it keeps outdoing itself with each massive conflict. One of my favorite scenes is where Strange draws Kaecilius into the mirror dimension and the baddie proceeds to literally fold the city around them into origami before the Ancient One shows up to stop him.

The Villain: 7/10

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Kaecilius is certainly dangerous, but he falls into single-minded antagonist mode pretty quick. We don’t get a lot of his fall from grace (which would have been where most of the character’s complexity would have come through) and as a result, he tends to be pretty one-dimensional. His wants never change. He never explains his inner motivations (to the characters or the audience) with enough complexity to make him compelling. And aside from one scene, he’s never really allowed a lot of personality. He’s a single-minded zealot, and that’s not really interesting because they bury any internal conflict so deep that we don’t get to see the character as anything but a “I must destroy everything because I have to” sort of villain.

Explosions: 8/10

Count: not very many until the Hong Kong scene

This isn’t really an explosion-heavy movie. I guess the explosions all happen when the reality-bending visuals blow our minds, but this one doesn’t really need a lot of explosions since the whole point of everything is restraint and control.

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Favorite explosion: the backwards one in Hong Kong.

The Hero’s Journey: 9/10

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Stephen Strange starts out as a Tony Stark character, but while Tony comes to realize that his actions hurt others far more than they hurt himself, Strange is in the business of saving lives, so he has to literally lose everything before he’s able to learn his lesson, which is great. He’s no longer a millionaire by the movie’s end. He’s lost all his possessions save for the broken watch. I like his growth as a character, even though I take some issue with the whole, “American comes and surpasses everyone else who’s working hard to discipline themselves and he becomes the most powerful member of the order by breaking the rules” trope. I guess Mordo takes issue with that, too, and that’s why he goes evil at the end… Stephen’s still a great character, a sort of similar personality to Tony Stark, but I get the feeling that since he’s replaced surgical prowess with magical prowess, his ego may return, potentially negating all the growth he made in Kamar-Taj. We’ll have to see how his character grows in future installments.

Score and Rank

1. Captain America: Civil War (49/50)

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50) 

3. The Avengers (45/50)

4. Iron Man (43/50)

5. Doctor Strange (42/50) This seems fair. I was worried it would fall lower. This one and Iron Man 3 are tied, but RT rates this one about 20 ish points higher, so I guess it wins out!

6. Iron Man 3 (42/50)

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50) 

8. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)

9. Thor (39/50)

10. Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50)

11. Ant-Man (38/50) 

12. Thor: The Dark World (36/50) 

13. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)

14. Iron Man 2 (33/50)