MCU Phase 4 Discussion

I think I agree with a lot of this; the VFX in general leaned towards the goofy sometimes, but all in all it did more to remind me I was watching a fun, light-hearted blockbuster romp than it was to distract from what could be a more epic movie. Honestly some of the 3rd act stuff is kinda nostalgic for me… reminds me of the blockbuster logic of movies I used to see pre-MCU (Katie learning to use a bow in 1 day for ex.)

I didn’t expect much more than popcorn fodder, so I was honestly surprised by how much landed. I can understand some folks’ critique of Shang-Chi’s characterization as too much of a cipher, but honestly it’s weirdly refreshing for me? Because I can’t remember the last time we had a true cipher in the MCU. Most of the time, the characters are pretty much clear in their personality, and a movie that uses ciphers correctly (Matrix, ex.) can embody a personal journey that connects with the audience in the way that it just couldn’t otherwise.

His cipher-ness also works really well for me personally because of the exploration of family, but it’ll take a second for me to explain why: if you’ve seen the movie you know that throughout the film they use styles of kung-fu to physically reflect the character’s internal natures/mentalities (which is why IMO the first 10 minutes set me up for a little disappointment down the line, that spar between his parents is sexy as hell).

When Shang-chi gets to the Wuxia world and meets with his aunt it’s the first time in like 17 years that he’s faced any vestige of his mother’s impact on him. During the final confrontation with his father, we see him beginning to recall those same movements she used; he understands that the light of his mother is still within him. But it’s only in the final stroke, after he’s acquired the rings and is facing the nightmare creature that Shang-chi accepts the yin-yang duality of both his mother AND his father: his final pose to end the nightmare monster is one of closed fists and climatic distruction, used throughout the movie to represent the teaching his father gave him.

To me, I read this as accepting all of his life’s history, not just cherry-picking the stuff he wanted. I felt like Shang-chi has begun to accept who he truly is. This rings really true in my own life; this past year has been about that a lot for me. To get a little personal, for years now in my adult life I’ve felt like I’d been walling off pain of my past, deciding that using logic to mask emotion was the only way to survive adulthood (I have a lot of existential fears/past garbage). But through therapy I’ve discovered that it’s only through accepting and embracing the darkness in me that I can also accept the light, because a rejection of a part of me was a rejection of all of me. By avoiding my troubles I had also been avoiding joy and contentment.

As Shang-Chi’s aunt says, “You are a product of all who came before you, the legacy of your family. You are your mother. And whether you like it or not, you are also your father.”

So yeah, I cried when he closed his fist. I felt like the writers got it, that for some, life isn’t about just “getting better” by focusing on exuding some shallow idea of wellness, it’s about acknowledging, even embracing, the things that have hurt us, because it’s only by accepting that they happened that we can make them part of us, make us stronger. It’s a beautiful sentiment, and it’s so simply expressed through a visual language that Shang-Chi, out of all the stuff the MCU can bring, could articulate so acutely by relying on movement instead of dialogue.

To come back full circle, this is also why the cipher thing really works for me. I’ve always liked kung-fu action, and a movie that can make that self-insert bond with me, made that sense of empathic connection to what Shang-Chi was going through all the more potent to me.

That may seem really silly to others, but technique like that is enough for me to forgive a lot of the CGI overload. To be fair though, I completely agree with anyone who points out how grey the final fight with the father was. I get that it exemplifies the colors of the rings, but, everything I just expressed also makes the case for why that scene could have been more visually pared back and have perhaps worked even better.

Anyways, yeah! I liked Shang-Chi!

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Oh, no, I liked that bit of the ending definitely (and it’s an oft-used bit of Wuxia - and other martial arts movies - to have the demonstrating your emotional affinities by your stylistic choices thing as part of the subtext). Especially, I did like the two textual meanings of Shang-Chi being arguably more effective than his father with the Ten Rings - on one textual level, because he was combining internal and external martial arts styles in using them, not just the raw force of Wenwu’s very external style - and on the other textual level, because he’s a combination of his father’s and mother’s influences, as well as others (so he even innovates by using rings as climbing supports and so on as well).

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Honestly, not all that into this. Seeing actors from the Raimi movies return should be exciting but it’s pretty clear it’s going to be filled with the usual MCU dialogue that acts like it’s above the source material. At the risk of sounding pedantic, the line making fun of Otto Octavius’s name immediately frustrated me. It’s the same sort of joke they put in all of these movies because they’re afraid of being seen as silly. Applying that not just to comics but specifically to the iterations from what are probably the most beloved comic book movies of the 00s just kind of sucks.

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Alfred Molina is already a better villain than half of the MCU’s rogues gallery put together. He’s so good.

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Definitely feels as if they’re ‘taking all the best bits from the better spider-man movies’. I’m 100% here for those elements though. Even The Lizard is back. Look at that.

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I can understand the frustration, though I wonder if there’s a generational/universe difference? The first Spider-Man came out in 2002, and I read Tobey Maguire (who is now 46) and his performance as being more relevant to a Gen-X audience, the way he’s swept up in his earnest, reluctant hero narrative. The current spider-franchise seems to be aimed at a much younger audience, the grey area right between/containing millennial and Gen-Z, who grow up using cynicism as a protective barrier to how dark the world can be. Maybe because its a movie about a spider-man who grew up in that zone/in a MCUniverse of far more chaos and meaningless destruction, that humor is a kind of shield?

I mean honestly, looking at the source material, this isn’t far off at all from many writers’ take on the webslinger; he’s constantly making fun of villains for their ridiculous names, costumes, abilities, etc. This doesn’t show up in the Raimis and it was something that always bugged me. I mean, he’s usually so annoying to the villians that they would refer to him as a pest, a nuisance. Spider man often wouldn’t take them seriously, and they in return wouldn’t take him seriously. Whether it’s humor as a shield, or a liberation of a persona he felt he couldn’t be as Peter, Spider-man has always been a wisecrack.

Maybe this is all a completely ridiculous angle, but it’s just a thought. Personally I adore the Raimi spiders-man (that includes 3, for all its cringey moments! I mean, that sandman birth scene? come ON), so I hope it’s more of an homage than it is about how shitty the earlier movies were. It’s the more logical studio move anyways; why would I as either Sony or Marvel want to shit on previous movies? The whole point of nostalgia fuel is to garner more attention for the old stuff. I mean hell, I hated Amazing Spider man (fell asleep), and now my dumb self has decided I need to see Amazing 2 so that I know this version of Electro. Thanks Marvel.

Also hell yes to Molina. He’s sexy as hell and I am HERE for his performance.

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^ (Street, for reference)

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At this point, I wouldn’t be suprised if they chucked in the Playstation spider-man at the end. It is a cool suit. Wouldn’t need to unmask him, great for brand awareness as well.

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You could absolutely do that. Get Yuri Lowenthal in the booth for a line or two. I’d be into that.

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Finally saw Eternals this past weekend. It was pretty good, I really don’t think this is the movie critics should have turned on the MCU over. I could name like 12 worse films in the MCU, maybe more, including several that are much more boring and much less ambitious.

However, the biggest problem Eternals has is the competition: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Zack Snyder’s four hour Justice League cut eats this movie’s lunch. It’s not even a close comparison either.

I hate how much months later I’m still thinking about that Justice League movie and how much I loved it, it’s a tragedy. But Eternals doesn’t compete. It’s much much more interesting on a filmmaking level than the last year of MCU stuff I’ve seen all combined, but it’s still half an MCU movie, so well impressive than it could have been.

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… I’m gonna need to watch ZSJL aren’t I

Go in with extremely low expectations and you might be pleasantly surprised

I 100% agree with all this!

I enjoyed the Eternals and it was so much better than some of the other Marvel movies (Iron Man 2,3, Civil War, Thor 2, Ant Man and Wasp). I like the big stakes it set up and was very pretty. But it was also rushed and tried to pack a lot of stuff in it! I hope they continue being weird with Marvel though!

As for Justice League, I also loved the Snyder Cut! I hope Flash brings some of that back and creates a good second wave for DC stuff! I haven’t seen any of the HBOMax shows yet, anyone know if they’re any good?

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Those of you looking forward to Rogers: The Musical do get one showstopping musical number.

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It’s very ‘parody of musicals written by people who like musicals’, which fits for the Hairspray dudes.

I wonder if the reason Adam Pascal is featured so prominently in this song is because he’s famous for being Roger in RENT and it is called Rogers: The Musical in-universe…

That is precisely the sort of in-joke I would expect from a bunch of theater nerds.

UPDATE: I occasionally ponder the Jeremy Renner app.

This is definitely a play on Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, the amazing failed musical from a decade ago (that I deeply regret never getting to see).

EDIT: I have to share the greatest song in the history of Musical Theater: Spider Man A Freak Like Me Needs Company on David Letterman - YouTube

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Jeremy Renner is kind of an event horizon of charisma, isn’t he? It feels like Hailee Steinfeld (who is delightful - I can’t wait for her to meet Florence Pugh’s character) is double-fisting espressos before her scenes with him just to try and get something out of him. Maybe it’s early yet.

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I think Joel Edgerton came around and we suddenly realized we didn’t need Jeremy Renner anymore.