Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Bad-ass quote: “I retire for what, like, five minutes, and it all goes to shit.” – Hawkeye
It might be titled, “Captain America,” but with this many heroes clashing, Civil War is pretty much the third Avengers movie. There’s no space magic in this one, as ideological differences over the team’s future create a rift between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Before the film ends with everyone in position for Infinity War, we’re also introduced to Spider-Man and Black Panther.
In many ways, Civil War feels like a pretense to divide our heroes so they can ultimately reconcile in Infinity War – lending some credibility to the complaint that Marvel movies can feel like advertisements for future Marvel movies. But like Winter Soldier, it’s got a compelling political hook and that airport fight scene remains pure nerd candy.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Bad-ass quote: “I choose to run towards my problems and not away from them. Because that’s what heroes do.” – Thor
Thor: Ragnarok picks up from the God of Thunder’s off-screen quest to learn more about the Infinity stones, and he even has a brief encounter with Doctor Strange. But ultimately, Ragnarok is a mostly disconnected vintage space opera that begins with things being rotten in the state of Asgard. Its mid-credits scene, which sets up a cosmic encounter for the Asgardians, leads directly into Infinity War.
The Thor films have always struggled in capturing the adoration of the MCU’s fans, and Taika Waititi’s answer to that is to use comedy to humble The God of Thunder. Thor’s braggadocio and swagger remain intact but he’s a fish out of water, and possesses an odd couple chemistry with Loki, Hulk and Valkyrie.
Doctor Strange (2017)
Bad-ass quote: “You’re a man who’s looking at the world through a keyhole, and you spent your whole life trying to widen that keyhole.” – The Ancient One
In Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch’s a natural as an arrogant surgeon turned gifted sorcerer, but he struggles to suppress his posh boarding school accent. Outside of the pivotal role played by the Time Stone, this is the most peripheral movie in the MCU saga. It does however, pave a way into realms mystical while establishing a character whose future lies on the other side of Infinity War’s conclusion.
Despite its novelty, Doctor Strange remains one of the weaker entries of the MCU. While it pays homage to the psychedelic visuals of its source material – testing the boundaries of the 3D / IMAX experience – it pretty much follows the same arc of hotshot professional humbled by a heroic journey seen in Iron Man and Ant-Man.
Black Panther (2018)
Bad-ass quote: “I did not yield! And as you can see, I am not dead! The challenge continues!” – T’Challa
If you’ve seen even just one trailer, you already know that Wakanda is one of the major battlefields of Infinity War. And while it was mentioned as far back as Iron Man 2, it’s not until Black Panther that we get to see Wakanda in all its majesty. Director Ryan Coogler and a wildly imaginative production team seize the opportunity to imagine the African superpower that could have been.
The film’s greatest success however, is making the fraught tensions of post-colonial relations part of the film’s central, albeit simplistic, conflict. The titular hero actually gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the script. Teen genius Shuri, special operative Okoye and undercover spy Nakia are most compelling, second only to deeply layered villain Killmonger.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until May for Black Panther to be available for home viewing on DVD, Bluray and digital streaming platforms. All together now: “NOOOOOO!!!”
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