The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special is the final part of phase four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it definitely ends it on a high note. It keeps a lot of the humor of what made the two Guardians Of The Galaxy movies so hilarious in the first place as well building a bit more development for the characters as well, it’s a very festive special that truly is heartwarming and is the very definition of a holiday special. It mainly focuses on Drax and Mantis which Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff really do a fantastic job here, the interactions they have with the people they come across plus Kevin Bacon is truly hilarious and pretty cleverly written as well. James Gunn nails down the music extremely well, like the rest of the special it’s very festive and has an incredible amount of charm to it as well. The underlying story of Star Lord loving and missing Christmas is a genuinely emotional and really strong one that add some really great animation as well. Overall there might not be a whole lot to The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special but it’s very well made, written and has a lot of charm to it that you can’t help but love.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special is available on Disney+
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the last film of phase 4 of the MCU (the last part of phase four is the Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special which is releasing next Friday) and it was a very strong way to close a rather very mixed phases. The first five minutes of the film alone is one of the best scenes Marvel has ever done, they really worked Chadwick Boseman’s passing into the story very respectfully and carefully which in the end gives plenty of incredibly strong moments. There’s a lot of character bits here this time around sort of like how Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 was more of a character piece, here it’s quite similar only that the themes are much more different. The themes here is loss and trying to cope with losing the people you looked up to most, the performances here absolutely compliment this well. Letitia Wright who plays Shuri is a very strong lead who really does a great job with her performance, Angela Bassett who plays Ramonda absolutely nails it she gives one of the best performances of the year and truly steals every single scene she’s in. Bassett has always been a powerhouse performer who really puts in so much passion in so many roles she’s in and here is no exception, Lupita Nyong’o who plays Nakia is really strong here as well, it’s great to see her character again after being absent for awhile and it’s also seeing that she gets a lot to do in the film. There’s tons of powerful moments with her character and gives a ton of development that’s quite investing. Finally there’s Tenoch Huerta who plays the villain of the film Namor, his character is refreshing to mainly due to actually having a well developed motive. He’s not the stereotypical “I want to take over the world” type of villain he actually has a short but very well done flashback scene that really develops his character and why he is doing certain actions and what’s the goal. All of this really blends together well that ends up creating some really emotional moments especially during the beginning and the very end of the film, the film does have it’s hiccups mostly with Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who are just sort of there, they do a decent enough job with what they are given but it’s really not anything special. The tone is drastically different from the other scenes and has the energy of a CSI episode when it comes to the scenes with the two. Dominique Thorne who plays Ironheart is decent enough here and has pretty okay introduction, but it’s not anything particularly great either. Unfortunately Ironheart isn’t all that interesting here and ends up being there mostly for comedic relief, however when Thorne is given some strong moments she does quite a great job. Lastly there’s plenty of action scenes that are really strong one in particular that really steals the show, the major thing that really separates Black Panther: Wakanda Forever from a lot of the other phase four projects is that there were actual themes and high stakes for the characters, there was a sense of loss where anything could happen. It was an investing film that actually studied the characters and gave them their flaws rather than just not show any at all. Overall Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is by far one of the better parts of phase four, outside of the few hiccups as mentioned this is a entertaining yet character moment filled film.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is currently in theaters.
She-Hulk is the eighth Disney+ and MCU series….and it’s by far the absolute worst one. But before that let’s get the positives out of the way because they are very straightforward, for starters Tatiana Maslany is very solid as She-Hulk, that’s mainly due to her just being a really strong actress who can work with any sort of script. She’s hands down the best part of the entire series it’s just such a shame she wasn’t given a better show or script, episode eight is the highlight by far. While it’s not perfect it’s the only episode where the humor genuinely worked, plus having Charlie Cox back as Daredevil was pretty neat, he also gives a solid performance. The chemistry between Cox and Maslany while short is actually really charming and very entertaining. As for the rest of the show it’s a complete and total mess, if you thought the Marvel humor was terrible in previous shows or movies then you are going to have a dreadful time here, outside of a joke every once in awhile a lot of the humor really comes off as obnoxious. There’s a lot of fourth wall breaking humor that at this point way too many films and TV shows have done, I get that the source material has a lot of fourth wall breaking humor. The problem is the writing doesn’t do it in creative ways, in fact it quite honestly gets progressively worse as the series goes on. Heck the final episode ends up being this whole “this series was meant to be bad!” type of thing which again had the writing actually been investing or knew what it wanted to say that could have worked. Then you have the other characters who are just sort of there Jameela Jamil, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Roth and Ginger Gonzaga are fine enough but they are really not given a whole lot to do outside of unfunny lines. There really isn’t anything else to say here which is unfortunate because a She-Hulk show could have easily work had the writing been a lot more focused and actually attempted with the humor.
Werewolf By Night is hands down one of the best installments to come out of Phase Four in the MCU, for starters everything from the tone, style, characters heck even writing is a night and day difference from the rest of the MCU and I mean that in a good way. The special itself is only 52 minutes long yet still manages to flesh out it’s characters pretty well, Laura Donnelly and Gael García Bernal are both highlights who give really strong performances that completely make the special shine, the use of black and white combined with the throwback elements of the Universal Monster movies is truly fantastic. There’s some quite clever style and writing tricks that the writers and Michael Giacchino use. The film is very well crafted with so much attention to detail included, it helps that the special actually feels like one of the Universal monster films. It shows that everyone involved did their homework rather than create a cheap copy of the films.
Ms. Marvel is another addition to the MCU and Disney+ Shows and there was a bit of controversy among fans before this came out. Mostly because for whatever reason they made the decision to change Ms. Marvel’s powers which is an important element in the comics that adds to her character, luckily the show does manage to bring some emotional scenes that are surprisingly well done despite the change. However the change does hurt the show during the middle of the season, mainly because they have to gather so many different ideas together and it sort of loses it’s footing. The acting is overall pretty decent but Iman Vellani is the clear standout she completely captures the personality and actions of Kamala Khan it’s truly one of the best casting decisions the MCU has made so far. The parts where there’s quiet scenes involved and the series dives into her character are the highlights and actually give this show some depth. Like Moon Knight I will give this show credit where credit is due that it did not rely on cameos (I mean there’s one but that’s during the end credits at the final episode so that doesn’t count, plus I actually didn’t mind that one since it does have a purpose of being there) to tell a story. Instead they stuck with the characters of the series and told a decent story, if there’s one main flaw it has to be the middle of the season, this is something that a lot of these MCU shows struggle with. They have a very messy middle that really hurts the pacing, it mainly came down to the show throwing way too many ideas in the series with way too much going on at the same time. But the series does get the emotional bits back during the final episode and wraps up decently, it’s a very nice set up for next years The Marvels. Overall Ms. Marvel is a decent show that does have it’s bumps in the road that stops it from being a lot better, but from what was presented there’s entertainment to be had as well as some very strong emotional bits.
To say the MCU Phase Four has been divisive would be the understatement of the year, while there have been some really installments that I would actually go as far to say are some of the best of the MCU such as Doctor Strange: And The Multiverse Of Madness, Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home, there are also ones that completely missed the mark (Black Widow and Eternals) or had a ton of great ideas but settled on playing safe or were just hindered by the 6 episode format (looking at you Moon Knight even though I gave it a 7/10).
Thor: Love and Thunder is truly baffling the way it came out, there was so much here that should have absolutely worked but didn’t for several reasons. I’ll start with what I liked, Natalie Portman who returns as Jane Foster and becomes The Mighty Thor is truly fantastic here. Like in the first Thor films she really captures Jane Foster quite well and absolutely tries her best with the bare bones script she is given, what hurts her character is she isn’t explored nearly enough which is quite odd considering this was supposed to be a huge part of the film. Christian Bale who plays Gorr (or The God Slayer) also gives a strong performance but is the very definition of underutilized, Gorr as a character is very interesting and has a backstory that could have been quite emotional and actually powerful as well. The problem is Gorr is not given enough screentime to make that work, plus his backstory itself is nowhere near as explored as it should have been, Bale goes all out with the role which is just another huge reminder of how good of an actor Bale is. There’s a few fun action scenes here and there but a lot of it feels very empty that goes completely off the rails towards the end in all the wrong ways. Lastly there’s Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie who for some reason gets put into the backseat and just becomes some sidekick, when she does get time to shine she’s really great but Thompson and her character deserved far better than this.
Now for what it is completely wrong with this movie and that’s mostly due to three major things that completely break it. The first being the jokes, while I do understand the criticism of Thor Raganrock having jokes in it at least they worked to an extent and were at least controlled on a tight leash, the jokes in Thor: Love and Thunder are the complete opposite the first half of the movie is filled to the brim of jokes that are painfully unfunny. Even resorting to the screaming goat meme which is from 2012 (went viral in 2013), the first time it might have gotten a chuckle but the film kept doing it over and over again. The biggest problem here is the movie tries to juggle between jokes and serious moments, there’s some okay setups for some emotional scenes but are hindered by poorly written jokes that feel like they should be in an entirely different movie. The second major issue is the writing which can be pretty much summed up as being the definition of bare bones, characters who could be interesting have no character development, plot lines are introduced and abandoned with a snap of a finger and writing that completely prohibits any emotion or depth. Lastly there’s what I hinted at the beginning of this review, this another case of Phase Four having a ton of great ideas but completely wasting them. Particularly with Gorr and Jane Foster, there were many ideas about them that are interesting the movie just completely fails to do anything with them and if the movie does do then it’s barely anything at all, Thor finding out who he really is could be interesting but once again that’s only mentioned a few times throughout the movie but is quickly abandoned. Overall Thor: Love And Thunder is a huge missed opportunity that should have absolutely worked, it’s honestly quite baffling how wrong this went and is just massively disappointing overall.
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is the newest film of the MCU, without beating around the bush a major problem that myself and many others have had with some of these movies is they rarely feel like the directors are given the creative freedom. There’s definitely the exceptions such as the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies, while some of the other movies are still great I wish the directors had more creative freedom. Luckily Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness allows Sam Rami to go absolutely wild with this one, for starters the acting all around was really strong particularly Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong (who’s finally given a lot to do since his debut in the first Doctor Strange) and lastly Xochitl Gomez who plays America Chavez. While America Chavez definitely needs to get a lot more development from what was presented the movie gets your interest in her character and I’m very interested to see where they go with her. The Sam Rami style kicks in with just about everything else, there’s a lot of callbacks to The Evil Dead films with a few particular scenes using close up shots that are wildly entertaining. There’s a few body horror elements that work very well, the writing has a lot of that Sam Rami style to it. Even if the writing isn’t always the strongest in some areas there is this sense of it bringing you more into the film than a lot of the other films in the MCU, plus the build up was incredibly worth it and does finish the film off with a complete bang. Doctor Strange’s character is a lot more fleshed out here than he was in the first movie, we get to see a lot more of his relationship with Christine (Rachel McAdams) and how he feels about it, (the way their relationship is handled here heavily reminds me of Peter Parker and Mary Jane from Rami’s Spider Man films) Wanda is also done really well here, it’s a great continuation of Wandavision and wraps up a few plot lines very nicely as well. The action scenes are some of the most detailed and entertaining of the franchise to date, there’s a whole lot of different directions the action decides to go so it’s refreshing to see something a bit different with each action scene. Lastly it’s the most I’ve been entertained from a film from the MCU in quite awhile (besides No away Home) while at the same time trying something completely different and not following the exact formula of these movies. Overall Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness is a ton of fun and shows that the franchise can evolve quite well, if the franchise takes this approach there can be truly some great films ahead.
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is available in theaters!
Moon Knight is the newest of The MCU Disney+ shows, it’s one of the ones that I’ve been actually looking forward to for awhile now. Moon Knight does a lot great and a lot that it could have improved on, I’ll start with what stood out…for starters the acting this time around was quite strong and that’s mainly due to the cast, Oscar Isaac, May Calamawy and Ethan Hawke are just phenomenal and brought some very interesting characters to life. Oscar Isaac playing two characters Marc Spector and Steven Grant who might look like the exact same but actually have different personalities and work quite well. Oscar Isaac is truly one of the biggest reasons the show is held together he puts his all into it and the results are excellent, May Calamawy plays Layla El-Faouly who may not get the most development but she is still a pretty solid character mostly due to Calamawy’s performance and I do hope her character gets expanded on later down the line. Ethan Hawke is the villain of the series known as Arthur Harrow which is by far one of the most interesting villains of the MCU by far, Hawke does a pretty fantastic job in his role and gives quite a different role than he usually does. I don’t think Harrow reaches his full potential as a villain (I’ll get to why in a bit) but for how short the series was I do think Hawke worked with what he was given. Some other positives are the filming which is probably the best looking MCU Disney+ series since Loki, there were some pretty neat action scenes that gave the series it’s own personality there aren’t many but when they do happen they are quite satisfying. Finally Moon Knight gets credit for not relying on cameos or other characters from the MCU, the show sticks with it’s new set of characters and that’s it. Other characters don’t randomly appear for no unexplained reason, there’s no cameos the series does it’s own thing. Now here’s what is holding this series back from being really strong, first and foremost we need to point out a problem that a lot of people have started noticing….the 6 episode format ever since Falcon And The Winter Soldier every show has been 6 episodes outside of What If (but What If is an anthology series so even if it was 6 episodes it wouldn’t had really mattered much). The 6 episode format is a huge gamble sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t It worked for Loki and Hawkeye (although there’s an argument to be made that it didn’t), it didn’t work well with Falcon and The Winter Soldier and it sadly did not work for Moon Knight. Moon Knight has a ton of interesting concepts that are pretty solid and are quite different from a lot of the MCU but a lot of them just aren’t expanded upon quite well and that’s mainly due to the 6 episode format just not giving enough time to develop them, I hinted at earlier that was the main issue with Arthur Harrow he’s a very interesting villain he’s just not given enough time to get the concept fully developed. Moon Knight clearly wants to tell a much bigger story but doesn’t have enough time to do that, from what was presented I do think it was pretty decent. The Egyptian god elements are very interesting and give the story a darker tone which is always welcome and I do think the characters are more interesting development wise when it comes to the MCU. Overall Moon Knight is a decent series that could have been so much more had it was given more time, I am interested to see where they go with the characters and do hope they are given far more development down the line.
Before I begin I will note that it will be next to impossible to talk about this movie without mentioning spoilers so if you haven’t seen the movie yet I would recommend not reading this review.
Phase Four when it comes to film has been rough. Shang-Chi as I said in my review is an incredibly solid film up until the third act, Eternals was incredibly disappointing and Black Widow was just there. So I was really hoping Spider-Man No Way Home would come out and wow me…and that it most certainly did. So starting off let’s discuss characters and performances, Tom Holland as Spider-Man is still fantastic. He truly puts everything he has in this film and it delivers in every single way possible, Zendaya’s character Michelle gets far more development than she has in the other films which is something that I’m glad they did. Granted it was one of the more predictable aspects (not in a bad way) like of course she was going to get more development it’s the third Spider-Man film in the MCU. She completely grows as a character and doesn’t feel like she’s being shoved off to the sidelines, I really don’t have anything interesting to say about Doctor Strange, Benedict Cumberbatch once again does the role really well and doesn’t over stay the welcome. Finally let’s talk about the villains plus Tobey Maguire’s and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man and how they are used plus compliment this giant film. I’ll start with the one who got the least development which was The Lizard honestly he’s about the same as he was in The Amazing Spider-Man, there really isn’t a whole lot to his character and that was really to be expected. Next up is Electro and Sandman who I both feel are around the same level when it comes to development, for one thing Jamie Foxx is far better as Electro here than he was in Amazing Spider-Man 2. A nice reference to Sandman’s character growth in Spider-Man 3 is shown during a scene where he teams up with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to fight Electro (although he does become somewhat evil again but we will get to that.) Lastly there’s Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, Green Goblin and Doc Ock. Who all have an incredible amount of development, Alfred Molina once again is perfect as Doc Ock and although he isn’t a huge part of the film. I truly love what they did with his character, once again the film acts as a continuation to Spider-Man 2 with his character. He was a man corrupted by his inventions deep down he wasn’t demonic like the next character The Green Goblin. Willem Dafoe truly owns the role of The Green Goblin I truly can’t picture anyone else in the role, the film does such a good job showing how evil he really is and shows why he is the most threatening of the villains. He has all the villains besides Doc Ock go completely mad and attack, the strongest parts of the writing come in when Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield come in. Not only do we get to see both of them again but we get to hear how they are doing, what’s changed and so on. The film acts as a continuation to their stories, even the little conversations end up meaning quite a lot. One important rule when it comes to a team up sort of element is to never have one part of the certain team or character overshadow the other. And I feel No Way Home does a fantastic job of doing that, Tobey, Andrew and Tom’s version of Spider-Man feel equal one doesn’t feel far stronger than the other. The jokes in the film are actually quite fantastic, there was a lot of charm put into them that I can’t help but smile at. The ending is truly hard hitting and definitely one of the more emotional moments that have happened in the MCU thus far, it’s hard hitting change that has this sense of moving on from memories. Overall Spider-Man No Way Home is a huge celebration of Spider-Man it’s a fantastic film that’s hands down one of the best the MCU has to offer!
Hawkeye is the fifth Disney+ Marvel series, it explores Jeremy Renner’s character Clint Barton or Hawkeye which does a fantastic job of doing exactly that. It’s the first time where I actually cared for Barton as a character something that has been completely missing for years, we also get some new characters which leads to one of the best casting choices the MCU has done thus far…Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop. I’ve always loved Hailee Steinfeld as an actress and she always brings in a fantastic performance and here is no exception, she completely nails it as Kate Bishop. From the humor, mannerisms and wanting to be a hero she does a perfect job, what’s even better is when Florence Pugh as Yelena enters the series. I had my problems with Black Widow and is definitely one of the weakest parts of Phase four so far, however Pugh’s performance as Yelena was the main positive and here is no different. Pugh and Steinfeld both work incredibly well together, sure when they are both in different scenes they are already fantastic but when put together they truly give some of the best moments in the series and some of the best of Phase four thus far. It also helps that Yelena is given character development which was definitely needed after Black Widow, Alaqua Cox as Echo was another huge highlight of the series, what’s even better is Cox is a deaf actress who playing a deaf character. Echo is given a solid backstory that has a lot of questions but that remains to be seen in her own series she will be getting (hopefully comes out soon!) lastly there’s Vincent D’Onofrio who reprises his role as Kingpin, although he’s not in the series that much when he does finally appear the build up is incredibly worth it, it’s some of the best build up I’ve seen from the MCU in quite some time and truly feels earned. The writing this time around is actually really great, where as lot of the MCU films and some of the series have a huge problem with balancing the humor and serious moments. Hawkeye actually manages to balance the two really well, there’s a lot of character moments for Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Florence Pugh and Alaqua Cox that are very effective and push the characters forward. The humor is actually quite well done it’s genuinely surprising given how bad Marvel humor can really be, but here there’s genuine charm put into it. Overall Hawkeye is an incredibly strong series that really makes you excited for what’s to come next for Kate Bishop, Hawkeye, Yelena and Echo, I truly hope the future shows follow in the footsteps of Hawkeye because this was great!