The Great MCU Rewatch: Doctor Strange, Guardians 2, Spider-Man

We are inching ever closer to the end of the the Great Marvel Cinematic Universe Rewatch (other posts here) and man was I glad to see Doctor Strange again. I really liked it when it first came out, but then I never caught it a second time.

At this point it gets kind of lame writing about enjoying these movies because Marvel has a great formula and they stick to it. How many different things can I say about hero origin movies, or Marvel’s ability to take characters that you wouldn’t expect to transition well to film and turn them into bankable franchises? Marvel’s casting is impeccable, the acting is top notch, there’s a great balance of humor and seriousness, and their movies just leave you feeling damn good.

Doctor Strange is a cool character that really could have come across cheesy on the big screen. Once you start down this path of magic, alternate dimensions, mystic arts, it can get corny. So Marvel busted out the big guns with Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the mercurial Stephen Strange so perfectly. Then you get David Bowie’s friend Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams to round out the main cast, and you’ve got a stew going.

When I saw this stuff in the trailer I was skeptical that Marvel could pull it off. Wrong again.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, a name I had to look up on Wikipedia, which I feel is a detriment to his character since I just think of him as Mads Mikkelsen. In spite of the fact I can never remember his character’s name, Mads does his Mads thing and makes a villain that is pretty insignificant fairly entertaining. The “Mister Doctor” scene is one of my top MCU moments.

Aside from that I don’t know what to really say that would sound intelligent. Impressive, Inception-influenced visuals help wrap the whole package up and give you a really entertaining movie. But I’m biased against Wong because he’s so fucking useless in Infinity War that I can’t even accept him here.

Next up is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is a sentimental favorite of mine since it’s the first movie Heather and I saw together. However, if I’m being objective about its place in the pantheon of Marvel movies, it is very uneven and nowhere near as good as the first one. Way too much reliance on Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” for my tastes.

The moment where Chris Pratt goes, “You shouldn’t have killed my mother and squished my Walkman,” stands out as particularly childish. The Guardians have a certain brand of sophomoric humor that I usually enjoy, but that line, delivered in such a serious moment, is way off the mark and is made even more silly when Pratt uses his celestial powers to make a giant Pac-Man in the final battle right after. Ill-timed and also just straight up unfunny humor sometimes make the affair seem so self-aggrandizing.

The real star of the show

Part of the charm of the first one was its totally unwarranted arrogance (“What a bunch of a-holes” defined the entire situation). This time around the arrogance was too much. A whole lot of writer/director James Gunn patting himself on the back and making the Guardians seem more epic than they are.

That’s not to say this movie isn’t entertaining and fun, but for a film that acts like it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I felt like Gunn actually took this too seriously with such an emphasis on what a family the team is and how wonderful their irreverent humor is. That squished Walkman moment stands out because it reeks of trying too hard. In the first one, when Pratt pops out with, “You said it yourself, bitch, we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy,” you laugh because it is a ridiculous line that comes out of nowhere and just fits. This time around it felt like Gunn was trying way too hard to come up with moments but nothing reached the highs of the first one. Vol. 2 is good, not great, because of it.

WWE legend Batista (I will never call him Dave Bautista) was absolutely hilarious and is the undisputed highlight of the movie. The lines he’s given are hilarious, but his deadpan delivery makes it even better. Baby Groot was both adorable and allowed for fresh comedy with Rocket, and their team up with Michael Rooker’s Yondu was another high spot. Kurt Russell showing up is on the level of friend-of-Bowie Tilda Swinton being a Marvel character for me. And much love to Sylvester Stallone.

I would pay a lot of money for a spinoff starring Stallone

Ultimately, if you enjoyed the first one you would enjoy this one. And given the fact I saw this movie with Heather, it will forever occupy a special place in my heart. But it has lower lows and also lower highs than the first, and is pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Marvel movies.

Then comes Spider-Man: Homecoming. After showing promise in Civil War, Tom Holland continued his stellar work as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and this flick comes with the added bonus of Michael Fucking Keaton playing the Vulture. Now, I’m a little biased when it comes to this movie. Like so many, I grew up with the ‘90s cartoon, and the Tobey Maguire trilogy was a significant development in my life. I’m all aboard the Tom Holland hype train and I think he makes a wondeful friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but Spidey is secondary to me here.

However, my earliest memory in life is of Batman Returns. Michael Keaton is forever and always the One True Batman, and Batman is forever and always pretty much my favorite thing in the world, so I was going to love Homecoming no matter what the second he was announced to be in it. Keaton was awesome as the Vulture – a man driven to a life of crime because Tony Stark is literally the worst, furthering the narrative of these movies that Iron Man is trash.

One thing Tony Stark does right – he designs a cool suit for our hero

Stark is just the worst. Totally dismissive of Peter Parker, too. Utterly clueless. It’s sad because Peter looks up to him, but Stark is not the guy he thinks he is. Go back to Civil War when Peter makes the case for Team Cap by saying, essentially, with great power comes great responsibility. Sadly, he thinks Tony Stark is on the same page as him because why would a billionaire genius just show up in Queens to exploit him? Look at the end of the movie. Tony really is so arrogant he calls a press conference to announce Spider-Man is an Avenger. Peter thinks it’s a test because of course Tony would be honorable, and Stark just rolls with it and acts like he isn’t such an arrogant douche. The culture these days relies too much on saying people/characters/places/things are “the worst,” but when it comes to Tony Stark…I’m just saying. Dude made Ultron.

Either way, this was a very, very fun movie. Great for the families. My mother turned this movie on for my nephews, and they are not even in elementary school, meaning they are not at an age where they can process scenes that don’t involve constant action. Anything that had Peter Parker living life outside of his Spidey suit was met with both boys asking, “Where’s Spider-Man?” Constantly. For the entire movie. Any explanation that he has a secret identity was met with, “Why?” So, there’s that consideration.

Damn what a jacket

Zero from Grand Budapest Hotel playing Flash Thompson, with the usual jock role being rewritten as a nerd like Peter, was a treat and a welcome change to an origin story everybody and their grandmother is familiar with. The character of Ned being a nod to Ganke from the Miles Morales Spider-Man series was also nice. And shoutout to Zendaya for her first major film role.

16 movies down, and I would rank them like this:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Avengers
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. Iron Man
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy
  7. Doctor Strange
  8. Iron Man 3
  9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  10. Ant-Man
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Thor
  14. The Incredible Hulk
  15. Iron Man 2
  16. Thor: The Dark World