2017 has been a controversial and hectic year, to say the least. But aside from the onslaught of political turmoil we’re exposed to each day, the highlight of the year, in my opinion, has been the movies. With the exception of a few, 2016 was overall a disappointing year for movies in general for me. However 2017 has consistently surprised me with the wonderful quality of films like Wonder Woman, Get Out, Baby Driver, and more. And of course, Marvel Studios has continued to impress with their ongoing film slate!
My previous article gave you the main information you needed to know for the release of Avengers: Infinity War, but before we jump into that next year, I thought it might be fun to go over the studios’ entries into their Marvel Cinematic Universe from this year. We only have three movies to look over, but which one impressed the most? Let’s take a look!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
The first Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn and released back in 2014, was a surprise hit with both fans and the general audience alike. Most people were excited, but cautious about the space opera following a group of misfits that included a talking raccoon and a tree. But by utilizing Gunn’s unique sense of humor, the charisma of it’s cast, and a catchy soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy blasted off to be perhaps the most beloved movie of the year. So when Gunn’s sequel, Vol. 2 was released this past May, audiences were understandably thrilled to see the next adventure for these characters.
Now while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has been met with praise, the popular opinion I’ve heard is that most people still prefer the first movie to this. Which, while I do understand their opinion, it also means I’m in the minority. I VASTLY prefer Vol. 2 to the first movie, and that is nothing against the first. But for me, the first movie was the setup, Vol. 2 was where the ride really starts. Now that we’ve grown accustomed to these characters, we’re really given a chance to explore how they function together. No longer as strangers, but as friends. This family dynamic gave the movie a heart and variety of emotions that spoke to me much more than the first did. Add to that the movie’s kickass soundtrack and humor, and you’re given one of the most emotional Marvel movies of all time. It’s not a superhero film, it’s a film about family.
When Marvel Studios announced their deal with Sony to share the rights to Spider-Man back in 2014, reactions were mostly positive, but there was a vocal group that had felt exhausted by the Spider-Man movies at that point. Between only 2002 and 2014 we had 5 of them, and two of them were a failed part of a reboot series. The first two Raimi movies were critically acclaimed, while Spider-Man 3 was bad enough for Sony to reboot the series, The Amazing Spider-Man had only lukewarm reception, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was bad enough for Sony to just let Marvel take the wheel entirely. Most fans were thrilled to see Peter Parker finally join the MCU, while still some others just saw Marvel Studios’ reboot in the works as just “another to add to the pile”, so to speak.
So when Spider-Man Homecoming was finally released in July of this year, it had a lot of expectations to live up to. I went into the movie excited, but at the same time aware that not only was Sony still a part of things, but they would have to do a LOT to break away from the classic Spider-Man movie formula. So did they do it?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that they did. For the most part at least. It should be noted that the classic Marvel Studios formula is still there, however this time they do a good job of making everything feel much more close and personal. While Peter has a lot to lose in this film, unlike almost every other Marvel movie, the safety of the world isn’t at stake. Maybe just the safety of Queens. The majority of the movie is setup like a classic coming-of-age high school flick. This is what I really wanted to see from a Spider-Man movie. When I was growing up, my favorite part about Spider-Man was always him trying to balance his life between being a student and a hero. This film definitely put more of a focus on the student aspect, but it worked for me. And from what I’ve seen, it worked for audiences almost everywhere else as well. However, while I and many others have declared it one of the best Spider-Man movies, there are still those who are suffering from “Spider-Man Movie Fatigue”. We’ll see if the planned 2019 sequel does anything about that!
I don’t think it’s a wild statement to say that of all of Marvel Studios’ movie series, up until last week, Thor’s was the most disappointing. While I enjoy the first two movies, even I, a big dumb MCU fanboy, will admit hat neither one is as fun to sit through or rewatch as some of the others. While neither movie is bad, I think the best way to describe them is to say that they both do “serviceable” jobs. Nothing about them stands out as truly special aside from a few performances, which is unfortunate because with Thor and his supporting characters, there’s just so much potential to blow audiences away. This all changed however with the release of Thor Ragnarok, a movie released just last week, that now stands as one of the MCU’s most successful and well-received films to date.
Directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), Marvel has finally found their footing in what to do with this character. Straying away from the more medieval vibes of the first two films, Marvel Studios instead shifts the focus to the cosmic side of them, and spends the course of the film breaking down the God of Thunder every step of the way. Without going into detailed spoilers, I can say that the Thor we are introduced to in the film is almost a completely different character from the one we are left with at the end. And despite the torture he endures throughout the movie, Waititi still shows off why he’s one of the most unique voices in the industry by letting his comedy flow into the movie every step of the way. Thor Ragnarok is not only one of the most interesting Marvel films, but surprised many by becoming undoubtedly the funniest. If you’ve seen Waititi movies before, you’ll know what to expect here. And it’s good.
Does it end up more of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie than a Thor movie? Well, I guess you could say that. But up until now the standard for Thor movies has been mediocrity, where as both Guardians movies have received worldwide praise in almost every aspect. It’s not difficult to see why Marvel Studios would choose to do the latter if the former wasn’t working out for them. And if shifting away from the classic Thor movie tone is what it takes to get the hero working on screen, then I’m for it. Add to this all a beautiful synth soundtrack, and some absolutely gorgeous cinematography, and you have a masterpiece of a Marvel film.
I just saw Thor Ragnarok three days ago as of the time this article is being written. I’m still letting it sit, believe it or not. But even then I’m confident to say it was my favorite of the year. Spider-Man Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 both brought a lot to the table in terms of character, story, action, and heart. But where as both of those movies did their job, and while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 may very well win the emotional category, it’s Thor Ragnarok that exceeded my expectations just about everywhere else. It’s one of the best times I’ve had watching a Marvel movie, and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and make it happen.