Thursday, 30 June 2016


Hey guys. I know I promised a review of The Squeakquel this Thursday, but because the film is so astronomically dull,  this one is taking a little longer than usual. However, in order to keep my promise of having a new thing up every Thursday, here's a little something I've been saving for a rainy day. The Squeakquel review will be out on Monday or before. Cheers!
Alright, to begin with the title is a little misnomer. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) does not need defending, least of all from me. It’s a highly popular, highly successful mega-franchise that has basically consumed the pop-culture landscape and inspired countless imitators. Also, even though I consider the MCU Studio set up to be the most fan-base friendly studio I’ve seen in a long time, I am under no delusion that they are my “friend”. They exist to make money, first and foremost, just like every other movie studio that has ever existed.
However, I am most certainly a fan of the MCU and I believe that the studio has produced some legitimately great works such as the Captain America films, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Thor (Thor is a great film and I will hear NO argument to the contrary) Iron Man 3, Agent Carter, the Netflix shows and of course, The Avengers. Even the MCU properties that aren’t so great (Iron Man 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World and most of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) are still enjoyable and deliver what I believe to be the pinnacle of superhero action. The studio has yet to produce any singularly bad piece of material so far but that doesn’t mean that they’re flawless. They have a problem with representations of women and minorities (WHERE IS MY CAPTAIN MARVEL CASTING ANNOUCEMENT!?), the films have banal cinematography and there have been some cases of them screwing over the directors of their films. But aside from those and other legitimate complaints, there have also been some perceived flaws with the MCU that some have pointed out that I just have to scratch my head at. Of course, there is nothing wrong with not liking these movies, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I feel a need to justify or debate some of the complaints I keep seeing get brought up.
So, without further ado:

Grumble 1: Each MCU film is the same!
I’ll address the most frequent complaint first up. One of the biggest detractions against the Marvel films is that they’re way too formulaic and predictable. I will not deny that each Marvel film generally follows a similar structure (meet a good guy, meet some various hangers on and love interest, meet a bad guy, lots of jokes and gags built around character interactions, big showy CGI filled fight scenes etc.) but that is not the part I take umbrage with. Complaining about structure in a Marvel film is akin to complaining about the lack of sex and nudity in a Pixar film; that’s not what we are here for! We watch MCU films because of the hero, the jokes and the action.
Furthermore, every franchise follows a structure. You can practically set your watch to the beats of a James Bond film or a Star Wars film, every single movie franchise in existence follows similar beats. Most horror franchises like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street have instalments that are practically identical to each other in terms of plotting and structure, but they’re allowed to get away with that, because the focus of those films is the gory kills and creative ways that people get offed. If a Friday the 13th film came out that was loaded with board meetings and in depth discussions about the very nature of human existence, it would raked across the coals and then crucified by legions of Friday fans. That’s not to say that franchises should never expand or look to tell new stories, however, there are some elements that need to remain a permanent fixture. If this fact is something that bothers you, that’s fine but complaining about the similarities between the Marvel films whilst ignoring the stuff they excel at (great characters and character interactions, exciting action, witty and breezy scripts and colourful imaginative settings and creature designs) feels just a bit like missing the forest for the trees. Or in this case, missing the forest for the Yggdrasil.
(Also, quick side note: For those who say that these movies are bland and all “feel” the same, I have to say that’s simply not true. I defy you to find you a film that’s more Shane Black-y than Iron Man Three, or tell me to my face the Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely not a child of James Gunn’s wacky mind or that Thor is not the product of Kenneth Branagh’s brain!)
Grumble 2: They’re just advertisements!
The second most frequent meta-complaint (that is, a word I’ve used to describe complaints that aren’t directed to the text itself, but rather to the nature of the text) I’ve found is the decrement of the MCU as nothing but advertisements for their own product. As in, each film only exists to serve as an ad for an upcoming film.
This is a complaint that I too, have thought about sometimes but I think in the end comes down to satisfaction. How satisfied are you when a movie ends? Do you feel like you saw the whole film and are you happy with what you saw? A good film will be endlessly satisfying, something you can watch over and over again, with each viewing feeling satisfactory. Some films are like cupcakes, devoured but then never thought of again. A bad film is not satisfactory in the least. Sometimes it’s because of poor writing, or a myriad of problems that led to an unsatisfactory viewing experience. One of the biggest ways that movies can be unsatisfying is by being nothing but a 2 hour long ad. Whether it’s a desperate bid to sell Batman toys with Batman & Robin, or a blatant attempt to set up future movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, audiences don’t like to feel like they’ve been had.
Now, something to keep in mind is that every film is made with money in mind. When a producer backs a project, the number one thing they have in their mind is “How can make money off of this?” Some films are more artistically driven than others, but unless a film is a completely independent project, money is going to factor in to it. The trick, however, is to be satisfying enough and good enough that audiences don’t mind. People don’t care that The Dark Knight Trilogy helped sell a lot of Batman toys because those films are really good and tell complete stories and all that, people don’t mind that each Lord of the Rings film ends with a cliff hanger because each film is so good that they want to come back for more. It can even get to the point where something like The LEGO Movie can become critically acclaimed despite the fact that the thing it’s advertising is in its own title because it was just so damn good and satisfying to watch.
The point I’m trying to get at here is, yes, the MCU films are most certainly advertisements. But because they’re (usually) so well made and fun to watch, with characters people like to watch, it doesn’t really matter that they have the occasional “hey we’re making THIS movie as well!” kind of reference thrown in. Now, having too many references can be a bad thing as Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron learned, but even those films still managed to have stories that began and ended in a contained way.
And speaking of Ultron…
Grumble 3: The villains are weak!
When it comes to complaints inside the MCU itself, this one is probably the most frequent.  Yes, even I have levelled this complaint at the franchise myself, but for the record, I do think it is over exaggerated. From the way some people carry on, you’d think that in the MCU each and every villain is nothing more but a cardboard cut-out with the word “BOO!” written on it, and while there are certainly more than a few villain who’d fall into the category (looking at Malekith from Thor: The Dark World) I do think the MCU has more good villains than people say. In the movies alone we have one-note but entertaining villains like Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy but there are some more complicated and interesting villains in the film like Loki from the Thor movies, the endlessly watchable Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Zemo, from Captain America: Civil War. And nothing really needs to be said of the greatness of the Netflix series when it comes to their villains.
In the end, however, the quality of a villain is up to your interpretation. What’s not up to interpretation however, is focus. I think it’s a testament to the MCU’s commitment to long form story telling that they always put the focus on the hero, and make them the interesting and likable one. There are a lot of stories out there that put the hero on the side-line whilst the more interesting and watchable villain dances around and chews up screen time (Burton, Schumacher and Nolan are all guilty of this in their films). So while the villains of the MCU regularly disappoint, I feel it is in service of the important features. Like, removing a swollen appendix so your whole body doesn't spontaneously combust.

Grumble 4: The music sucks!
Okay this one is just a personal one, but I think it needs addressing. This is a complaint I see get brought up in almost every single “negative” criticism of the MCU. Now taste is subjective, I won’t deny that, but lambasting an entire franchise just because the music is sub-par strikes me as being a bit of a nit-pick. True, I can’t recall the music of Thor or Captain America: The Winter Soldier off by heart but that doesn’t make the music bad. Not everyone can be a John Williams or a Michael Giacchino. Also, I DARE anyone to listen to the Ant-Man theme and not be humming it for days afterwards:
So there we go. The Squeakquel will be up on Monday or sooner!

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