The Avengers (2012)
“It works because the movie is so infectiously fun that it quickly sweeps the audience into its world and recruits us into the superteam. ... Honestly, I can’t sell short just how fun this movie is.”From day one, we knew the Universe was building toward The Avengers, but I don’t think that any of us was quite ready for what we got. Joss Whedon, nerd-king and archduke of seemingly effortless storytelling, writes and directs the hell out of what might have been a disastrous omnishambles of multiple storylines and vastly different characters. Instead, all the moving parts coalesce into what might be a perfect film; no knowledge needed of the various franchises at work, because the film introduces them, gives them all something to do, and keeps all the plates spinning while sacrificing neither momentum nor entertainment value. While some of the final action sequences may be derided as mere cannon fodder, note the way Whedon uses them to wrap up character beats and give closure to the impracticality of uniting so many disparate elements. Perhaps best of all, The Avengers doesn’t feel like a lowly best-of cover band, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like Whedon is betraying the characters; their trajectories and behaviors fit perfectly with the earlier characterizations while moving them forward in exciting ways. Dang, now I just want to go rewatch The Avengers – who’s with me?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
“Winter Soldier’s willingness to tackle pressing issues in current events might mark a sea change toward greater cultural relevance beyond merely making a literal ton of money.”As incredible as The Avengers was, I always had a nagging thought in the back of my mind that it was too big to fail – there was no way we’d get a disappointing Avengers film, not after how good the lead-up had been. With Captain America, though, we’ve got a “Most Improved” winner on our hands. The older I get, the more I find myself seeing films more than once in a movie theater; though this is often a casual decision, in the case of Winter Soldier it was a compulsion – I needed to see this film more than once. While this is, in a sense, Avengers 1.5, Winter Soldier is a perfectly contained unit with an impressive amount of risk-taking and innovating. The former I won’t spoil because it’s one of those fantastic slack-jawed moments, feeding into the film’s intensely relevant message about surveillance and oversight, but the latter comes in the form of a contagiously compelling performance by Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, a veritable scene-stealer in a film littered with scenes worth stealing. It moves from character beat to action beat without stalling the plot, a relentless espionage piece that you’d be excused for forgetting was a superhero film to begin with. This isn’t a “comic book movie” in the derisive sense of the word – this is a proper film. Plus it has the best Stan Lee cameo to date – ’nuff said!
What do you think, true believers? Excelsior or excrement? Sound off in the Comments with your picks for the Top Marvel Cinematic Universe film! As for next Monday? Well, we wouldn’t spoil the surprise just yet – in the best Stan Lee tradition, to be continued!
PS - This is the 400th post here at The Cinema King - thanks for reading! Here's to 400 more, eh?