MCU Phase 4 Discussion

Yeah, there’s actually a lot of really nice looking “shots” in this episode - considering the sometimes a little janky animation in some of the others, you do wonder if they spent all the budget on the last couple…

(Also: spoilering stuff on phone I usually do by actually just typing the spoiler tags ( [ spoiler ] without the spaces between spoiler and the [ brackets either side) manually.)

I’ve moaned a bit on the Discord about all the (I guess, objectively, relatively minor, but subjectively v annoying) things about the episode; although I forgot to mention the “gratuitous Cyrillic used for effect and not as its actual characters” thing.
Quick list for those interested of annoyances: The whole “Thanos does stuff about 2 years early” thing that just gets brushed under the carpet so Ultron can power up quickly for the multiverse storyline to fit in the time - especially since the places Ultron is shown visiting to destroy all life in the universe include places that Thanos should have already sacked in order to get infinity stones from them (Xandar, Asgard)** ; on that note, the fact that Thanos gets taken down like a punk with a single mind-stone blast is… a great visual and beat, but somewhat incompatible with just how tough he’s shown to be in the movies (consistently, though, Thanos is considerably powered down in What If, which is an interesting choice) ; also, the Universe seems pretty small when you just narrow it down to “the few planets we’ve paid dramatic attention to in previous MCU properties” - I am pretty sure all of these lie in the same galaxy in the MCU, and space is, did I mention it, big, really big. They’re eliding probably millions of years that it should take Ultron to destroy all life in the actual observable Universe*** - even if he just takes a few minutes per planet - rather than the “a few days probably” that it needs to take in order for the Hawkeye/Black Widow plotline to line up.

That said, especially once the “second half” kicks in, it’s hard not to like what the episode is doing, not just spectacle-wise (always a benefit of animation), but also in terms of some great voice acting from Jeffrey Wright in particular. I am a tiny bit concerned that we now have the usual escalation trap for the final episode though…

**and, on that note, where did he get the time stone from - are we to assume Thanos stopped off in the radioactive ashes of New York to pick it off of Dr Strange’s corpse or something? And since Gamora is shown to be still alive in the sequence where Ultron is sacking planets… who did Thanos kill to get the soul stone? Nebula, presumably, is still “second” to Gamora in Thanos’ hierarchy of “people he sort of loves in the weird twisted way that Thanos works emotionally”
***there’s ~1.5 million galaxies, at least, in the observable universe, and if we assume even a few civilisations per galaxy, it’s a very big job just to visit them all, even with teleportation

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I think those are all fair critiques. Some jumped out at me (the extremely limited number of planets we actually see Ultron visit - I guess we could headcanon that he used the stones to really speed up his destruction of the universe, but…?) but I hadn’t even considered the MCU timeline issues/logistical impact on acquiring all the stones.

As you say though, once the second half kicks in, I was pretty forgiving of the sleight of hand required to get there.

(Oh, and thanks for the spoiler tag tip! I keep trying to remember it and forgetting)

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Whoever was voicing Ultron gave a performance I would describe as “when people parody the drawl Agent Smith in The Matrix has when he says Misssderr Annnderrrssonn.” Which outright killed the pacing of the episode in a few scenes.

He’s just not a very interesting villain, overall. As far as the apocalypses to come go, he made the least sense in the Party Thor episode. I feel like the Ego who had his son on his side from the T’challa!Starlord episode, or evil Strange, would have been more compelling villains to break the multiverse and cap the season on. Also, I don’t get why Ultron - with the Mind Stone - is still “just a program” when that is untrue of the Vision who was uploaded with JARVIS.

And then it just recycled the solutions to the problems that arise in these what ifs… in the evil Hank Pym episode, the mystery was cracked by Black Widow in an old archive, and in several episodes, we’ve had some time taken to do “Captain Marvel shows up and punches a guy a lot.” It’s a bit dull, at this point.

Also, it is hard to imagine what the good ending is to uploading a Nazi to an ultra-intelligent, Infinity Stone-enhanced supercomputer hive mind is. Seems like the best case scenario is that he’d want to rule the world instead of destroying it.

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I know James Spader is busy BUT

UPDATE: Give me our alternate universe where Lake Bell was Black Widow from the beginning. She’s really good!

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I have to say, that didn’t annoy me as much last time, but in the final episode, this really did start to grate on me a bit.

That said: at least the writers seem to have been aware that the “good ending” couldn’t work the way we realised it couldn’t. Not that I’m super happy with how they decided to make it work in the end either. The entire thing seems super-overcomplicated, given that once they successfully get a stone off of Infinity Ultron, he should be slightly easier to get more stones off of (especially as Strange Supreme can apparently actually go toe-to-toe with a being on his level, and thus keep him busy whilst the others take stones off of him). (And I am especially unhappy with the cheap trick of oh, this infinity stone destroyer only works on artisanal stones from Gamora’s universe… despite the fact that it apparently indicates its own success on its display whilst actually failing. It would have made more sense for Ultron to just hack the thing than to have this kind of silly plot mangling.)

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What If… more like So What…

I’m joking, lets enter the multiverse for all franchises. I want to see Face/Off but what if Castor Troy was Sean Archer and Sean Archer was Castor Troy. Makes you think.

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I guess in the end it is a little more complicated, but in the moment my partner put it best: I’m not sure having an unreformed nazi save the day against a black man with good ideas is the best look. Did the ghost of Walt Disney write this?

Doing my best not to overanalyze some of the hopefully unintended symbolism, this was still a disappointing wrap to the series. Agreeing with everyone that Ultron was not a particularly compelling villain, just a mechanic to force this two part finale. It did at least have a little visual inventiveness here and there.

My hope is that season two will have already found its footing. I still think the Starlord!T’Challa episode was great, and not diminished by this finale, and there were enough other little touches as the season went on. But it definitely needs to up its game next time.

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1) If Zola got his way, he would’ve done exactly what Killmonger would have done because he’s a Nazi, which is why they’re BOTH in the time-out bubble for eternity. He didn’t “save the day”, or more accurately be a hero all of a sudden.

2) “black man with good ideas” Killmonger has been portrayed in Black Panther and especially in his own episode in What If…? as an unrepentant psychopath and habitual backstabber. Even if you think he’s a “good guy” and were somehow okay with all of that, how could you possibly think it’s good that he obtains unrivaled, godlike power? What “good” would come out of his ideas when there’s no one to stop him from killing half of all life with a snap of his fingers? He started a war between countries off of huge lies and needless deaths, sure, but I mean, he thinks racism is bad, so why not let him be a god?

And I dunno, I liked Ultron in this. He as a concept was never really a complex villain (all the complexities came from his hangups from being Hank Pym’s “son”, which was exorcised from the MCU entirely, so).

The worst thing about Age of Ultron is his wish-washy personality and that he was barely a threat with all the silly jokes and Stark-isms.

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I mostly disagree, though I don’t mean to argue your interpretation is invalid.

On Zola - as I said, it winds up being more complicated than that, but there’s a brief moment where it looks like Zola is going to stop Killmonger, before them both being bubbled by Deus Ex Watcher. In any case, Zola is instrumental in defeating Ultron and stopping Killmonger. I’m not sure what you mean by “he would have done exactly what Killmonger would have done” because I rather think Zola and Killmonger would have done very different things with the infinity stones, which leads me to…

Killmonger - I would not interpret him as a psychopath or backstabber. Both the MCU and What If…? portray him as laser-focused on a goal of global revolution to free oppressed peoples from colonisation. He’s not seeking power for the sake of power: when he gains it in Black Panther, he immediately begins trying to foment that armed revolution. I’m not necessarily endorsing every action he takes in pursuit of that goal (though “backstabbing” Klaw and an unreformed Tony Stark is fine by me) but it’s telling that in both continuities there’s little conversation with his ideas or motivations, just a vague “well he’s right, but he’s doing it the bad way”.

On the other hand - I agree Ultron in this isn’t all bad. It was at least cool seeing a version of the character using the synthezoid (sp?) body, and exploring what would have happened had he been able to achieve his goals.

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Also: since Black Widow is now “not premium” on Disney Plus, I finally watched it.

It seems fine, Florence Pugh is, indeed, written as quite likable, Ray Winstone is a good bad guy for the bits he gets, and their version of Taskmaster is… questionable, as many said.

I’m not sure if the script writers intend Melina to come across quite as… cruel… as she does with the whole “mind-controlled pigs stopping breathing” thing; by comparison, Alexei mostly just suffers from being a blow-hard who’s rough edges have become much rougher from being in a Siberian prison for decades wallowing in his own feelings of betrayal. (I also think it’s amusing that apparently it was unintended that the revelation in Falcon and The Winter Soldier that the USA continued its supersoldier projects at least in the 50s and 60s makes it quite possible that Alexei did fight “a” Captain America, just not the one he would like to imagine it was.)

(There’s a bunch of fridge logic issues (starting with all the medical problems - unless all the Black Widows are on hormone supplements, those involuntary total, radical hysterectomies are going to significantly increase their risks of osteoporosis and a bunch of other complications which will make them less effective assassins, not more effective.… and I am pretty sure you don’t just sever your olfactory nerve by breaking your nose like that…) too, but I guess we can work around them?)

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i lost my sense of smell when i got punched in the nose so that tracked for me

Soooooooooooooooooo…

The Eternals.

What did y’all think? Myself, I went in fully expecting to be disappointed. Like, Rise of Skywalker disappointed. I try not to get too bogged down by Rotten Tomato scores, but I remember being prepared to dislike RoS and honestly didn’t think I prepared enough.

And yet, that is NOT what ended up happening with Eternals. At all. I normally find an RT score to be a generally okay way to gauge my interest in a film, or at least curb my expectations so that I don’t get my hopes up.

But watching Eternals, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting to get bored. Waiting to be annoyed, or disappointed, or distracted. None of that happened, like at all.

I love this movie. Holy hell do I love it. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it sits far, far higher on the pantheon of MCU flicks than the likes of a Thor 2, or Incredible Hulk. It will likely make it’s way into my top 10.

So I’m left in a weird position. I’m second-guessing my enjoyment of the movie. Was I wrong to like it? What did I miss out on? Is it secretly dumb or something?

To be clear, I didn’t really find much to dislike about the movie. It’s brave, beautifully shot, and very interpersonal. Far, far more time is spent tracking the conflicts within the family of the Eternals than on action (not to say there isn’t any), something no other Marvel movie (as far as I can remember) has attempted. It’s dramatic and sweeping and self-serious. It’s a completely different flavor than anything that the MCU big screen has offered so far, and that alone should be applauded, even if it didn’t work.

But it did! At least, I thought it did. It was hopeful. It made a case for the value of human life while fully acknowledging the horrors that we have wrought. It’s romantic, and even if the romance didn’t entirely work on me, I was so glad to see them trying anything different. (Was that the first sex scene in a marvel movie?) And in the final showdown, it wasn’t fighting that brought down the big bad. It was empathetic love. How often do we see that in Marvel?

I know the pacing was probably too slow for a lot of people, but I appreciated it. It let me sit with the characters, feel what they were going through. There’s a LOT to establish about these people we know nothing about, and I was so glad they took their time. Hell, I wanted to spend more time with them!

Honestly, the only real quibble I had was the disappointment over the lack of development for the Deviants. They were really cool, and it felt like there was one last twist or reveal that could have really brought it together. But in the light of a grand, sweeping tale that took me through thousands of years of human history, that’s such a minor quibble.

I know taste is strange, but it’s got me wondering how I there’s such a big gulf between critic and audience scores. Am I now the MCU equivalent of the ultrafan who liked Dawn of Justice (no offense, just not my thing)?

So yeah. What’d y’all think? Like it? Meh? Hate it? And if I’m not crazy, and you liked it too, why do you think reviews painted it in such a different light? Personally, I don’t buy the diversity-review-bombing nonsense. I know what that looks like, and I don’t think this was it.

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I haven’t seen it, but I did read an interesting contrary interpretation of the negative critical reviews - in that they’re sort of “punishing” Chloe Zhao for lowering herself to doing a Marvel Movie and suppressing her own artistic expression in doing so. Do you think that’s a potential explanation?

I just watched Eternals, I don’t think it’s a good movie but I had a good time watching it. It’s far from the worst MCU movie, but the ways in which it is bad feel more blatant and ridiculous than MCU movies tend to be. Like the movie’s batshit explanation for climate change probably raised some eyebrows, or when it at one point cuts to a flashback of an Eternal dropping to his knees in Hiroshima right after it got bombed because he feels responsible for it.

But I’ll take those scenes over Far From Home’s techbro take on Peter Parker, or Age of Ultron’s obnoxious snarky take on Ultron, or Captain Marvel’s military propaganda. I can get why it has the worst critical reception of any MCU movie, but at least when Eternals is bad it’s usually ridiculous and entertaining. And I’ll always take that over the usual gross politics and Whedon-esque writing that the MCU tends to have.

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I watched Eternals… by means that result in something of a blurry, shaky, unclear image, let’s say… so I can’t judge it too much artistically, or on the cinematography. But overall I felt pretty meh about its story and characters, so I don’t know if the visuals would have saved it if I could see them in a higher fidelity.

Chan and Madden are both talented actors, but they have zero chemistry, and the focus on their romance really detracted from my enjoyment. I was more interested in Phastos and his husband, and Gilgamesh and Thena, but neither were given satisfying arcs or screentime. It also sucks that Don Lee’s Hollywood debut is basically just him being fridged a third of the way in! And Kit Harrington as the third wheel was dull, though I also found him to be one of the least interesting actors in Game of Thrones, so perhaps I’m just not tuned to his particular style.

Also, the entire conflict was just The Cluster from Steven Universe.

Not the worst MCU film, I think that honor firmly belongs to Spider-Man: Far From Home for me. I liked this one more than Incredible Hulk… but maybe not Thor: Dark World.

Out of the three middling big screen MCU films released this year, I probably liked The Eternals the second most. Shang Chi was just a bit more entertaining, had Trevor Slattery and a big dragon fight at the end. I liked that The Eternals was a bit more slower paced than your usual MCU shenanigans. I liked each of the Eternals as characters, pretty much every actor was decent in their respected roles.

Some bullet point thoughts:

  • Outside of the action sequences it just has a very still primordial vibe, I’m not sure if some of the MCU branded quipiness totally works on top of this. Thematically it basically explains how the world was created in the MCU and delves into the similar question of gods and gods walking among us, almost Zack Snyder territory. I suppose I’m glad that it doesn’t go too serious, but hey The Eternals they’re just like us, building the tower of Babylon, making the atomic bomb and talking about who would lead the Avengers. Wasn’t the great Disney genocide of 2018 awful?
  • All this hype of Kumail Nanjiani getting buff and he sits out the big climax fight? That is such a Dinesh thing to do. Perhaps he’ll get to later interact with Peter Parker’s school teacher for Dinesh/Gilfoyle.
  • First MCU sex scene! They just do it on a hard rocky surface… just really sensual stuff.
  • Not really into the deviants. Hair monsters based on hunter gatherer predators.
  • A lot of people saying it’s beautifully shot. I’d say it’s shot on beautiful locations.
  • Very much into the look of the celestial beings. Bring on Galactus.

  • The Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies are probably my favourite guilty pleasure movies. I’m a fan of her hitting stuff with a pointy stick, and it’s great to see her go back to basics in Eternals.
  • More people should see Nomadland - also on Disney+
  • I really hate the discourse surrounding the ‘failure’ of this movie. I think it would have been better if it could have somehow distanced itself from all the MCU stuff.

In typical MCU conventions The Eternals feels like a lot of setup for other characters. Don’t like what you’ve just watched how about some new characters! I had to google a lot of them at the end, including Harry Styles. Supposedly the voice in the end credits sequence is actually Blade, I mean you couldn’t just have him skulking in the corner looking badass?. Since all the Eternals basically have X-men powers seems fairly obvious they’ll somehow play into the rise of mutants. I hope they don’t use the deviants as the springboard for mutants and why humanity can’t trust them.

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I wonder how much of my experience was influenced by seeing it in a really good theatre. Like holy shit when As big as a fucking planet Arashem shows up, I was legit shook. Like, shook shook. Voice booming to an almost deafening level, how small Sersei looks in their hand… fucking hell friends, it was a LOT for me!

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I read an article on Hollywood Reporter about how Jack Kirby’s Eternals comic was also divisive when it released. I’m sure there are many factors but my first thought is that there isn’t a real villain that people want to see defeated, but I also feel that people may not connect with the idea of wanting to save Tiamut as well as saving humans. I think everyone has pieces of media that fit into the banner of “critically panned but I liked it” or “critically acclaimed but I hate it”, and I usually check out what other people are saying to try and see if there was something I missed, but it in the end I’m usually content with having a different take.

My jumbled thoughts:

  • Generally happy with setting up a bunch of different characters and their connections with each other.
  • Feels like there are fewer Marvel-flavoured quips in general. This allowed space for Gilgamesh to exist, who is a joker but not a wise-cracking comic relief character. That award goes to Kingo, who I’m kind of disappointed by, but at least it’s not as bad as Flash from Justice League.
  • Was anticipating scenes showing the Eternals starting out as emotionless and learning how to be more human, but that wasn’t a theme the film wanted to explore.
  • Makkari had the least amount of time in the spotlight, but the scene where she used her super-speed to look for a certain landmass and the fight scene after was really good.
  • I think the reception to Phastos’ scene in Hiroshima was exaggerated, my read was that him giving some technology to humans hundreds of years ago (such as the plough or steam engine) led to them making more and more destructive weapons and he should never have helped them in any way. (Although this leads to other thing which is: why are the Eternals happy to let Phastos build tech for humans when they have a strict non-interference policy?) I don’t believe Phastos made a single weapon for humans, it doesn’t make sense since they wanted to stay out of conflicts.
  • In relation to the above, there’s an actual worse moment where Druig says he thought of mind controlling all humans to stop their wars but “what are humans without their flaws” ??? Someone writing peaked/picked instead of piqued i.e. “piqued my interest” is a flaw, genocide is not. I think this whole thing comes from the film’s need to explain why the Eternals were not active in the MCU, which could’ve been explained away by saying their power diminishes when not threatened by a Deviant.
  • Not really impressed by either post credits scenes. The first, with Eros/Starfox because from what little I know of the character, he seems to be a bit of a creep. Additionally, he namedrops our old friend Thanos and I don’t think we need to revisit his place in the MCU or add more to his lore and background. The second scene did nothing for me until I read up who the voice belonged to. Looks like they haven’t nailed down what you-know-who is going to look like so they left them off screen.
  • I think the hero standing with the sun producing lens flare behind them is kind of overdone in these sorts of films but I liked it with Ikaris considering he flies into the Sun at the end.
  • Really liked the conclusion to Sprite’s arc.
  • I noticed that the long-lived Eternals bear no grudges and are quick to forgive. There are no hard feelings regarding Ajak lying about their mission, Kingo leaving and not helping stop the Emergence, Sprite stabbing Cersi, and to some degree Ikaris turning on them. Maybe this has something to do with living for so long and knowing that harboring resent only delays healing and reconciliation, or maybe from watching humanity do the worst things and still having faith in them.
  • There’s a lot of focus on memory. All of the flashbacks, Ajak only existing in memory, Cersi seeing the World Forge and the memory storage of her past lives, Thena being able to remember the destruction of a past world as well as her dementia and of course the ending where Arishem says he will judge Earth based on the memories.
  • Celestial morality: Arishem is operating as as arborist, selectively pruning parts of plants for the betterment of the garden. He doesn’t see the destruction of Earth as an evil act, and I think this is one of the things that a lot of audiences didn’t gel with. The Eternals try a plan to save both Earth and Tiamut, but when it fails Cersi takes the chance to turn Tiamut to marble before the Earth is ripped apart. I’m sure they will delve into this stuff again in either a sequel or with Galactus.
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Just got out of Eternals. It’s like…Marvel’s Justice League with a side of Interstellar? I think I’m glad I saw it (nice to see Gemma Chan as someone other than a side mook in Captain Marvel) but I don’t need to see it again.

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I’m a movie behind the rest of you, but I just managed to see Shang-Chi now it’s on Disney+.

I think I agree with a bunch of the positive and negative reviews: Tony Leung is the reason the movie really works, and it’s great to see him in a big Western movie showing people who’ve not seen any of his decades of movies made in Hong Kong how great he is as an actor; conversely, the movie teeters on the edge of being undone by a typically ott climactic action sequence which almost destroys itself with too much CGI.

Simu Liu is fine as Shang-Chi, and Awkafina is only sometimes a bit too the “nervy comic relief” (actually, most of the time she works well, and it’s, again, only when we get to the final 40 minutes that anything starts going wrong).

It is the case that I couldn’t stop thinking about where Razorfist’s ridiculous extending glowy machete blade arm thing goes when it retracts [there’s not enough room in the rest of his forearm for it, so, what, does it fit in his upper arm and he needs his arm completely straight to extend it out without it going through his elbow?]; and there’s definitely too much pointlessly glowy melee weaponry in the Ten Rings’ armoury in general [at least you got the impression the glowy future-tech shovel in Loki was laughing at itself…]
(and sure, hook swords look cool, and are unquestionably a Wushu staple… but they don’t need to be blue and glowy, and they super stand out as an unusual weapon, even in Chinese martial arts.).

But the first hour and three-quarters, say, is actually probably one of the best movies in the MCU line, so I guess I can forgive it for stumbling towards the end. (I’ll even forgive it for doing the “close-ups on the martial arts that stop you from actually appreciating the martial arts” thing, since I have given up on anyone in Hollywood understanding this.)

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