Directed by Ryan Coogler Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
The African nation Wakanda is a super-advanced, technological power which masquerades as a Third World nation to avoid international attention, while imbedding spies in other countries. Some establishing scenes explain that four tribes founded the nation, while a fifth – the Jabari – opted out of the rule of the Black Panther, a warrior empowered by a ‘heart-shaped herb’ which, like much in Wakanda, was itself transformed by the arrival on Earth of a meteorite of the alien metal vibranium. We also see the former king, T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani, whose father John Kani plays the older T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War) coming to America to retrieve his brother N’Jobu, who sold out the country’s secrets to fund some nebulous criminal activity.
Directed by Taika Waititi Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins
In pursuit of his visions in Age of Ultron, Thor (Hemsworth) winds up in Muspelheim, where he breaks out of captivity to defeat Surtur, greatest of the Fire Giants. Taking Surtur’s crown seemingly defers Ragnarok, the long-prophesied fall of Asgard, but Asgard is on the skids. With Loki (Hiddleston) ruling in disguise and gatekeeper Heimdall (Elba) replaced with slacker Skurge (Urban).
Directed by Jon Watts Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
After his debut in Civil War, Peter Parker (Holland), aka Spider-Man, is keen to get his teeth into superheroing. With Tony Stark (Downey) keeping him at arm’s length from the Avengers, he fights local crime while reporting to Happy Hogan (Favreau) and cutting back on his extra-curricular activities – including academic decathlon with love interest Liz (Laura Harrier), best mate Ned (Jacob Batalon), jerk jock (in as much as a tech academy has jocks) Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) and girl of mystery Michelle (Zendaya) – in preparation for his next mission.
Directed by James Gunn Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and David Hasselhoff
As always, the following review will not be spoiler free.
After an introduction set in 1980, introducing us to Peter’s mother and father (Russell) in happier times, celebrating their love and introducing alien species to an unprepared ecosystem, we flash forward to the Guardians doing a job for the Sovereign, a gold-skinned race of genetically engineered superbeings, in return for Gamora’s (Saldana) sister Nebula (Gillan). When Rocket (Cooper) angers the Sovereign, however, their High Priestess (Debicki) first sends ships after the Guardians, then hires Yondu (Rooker) and his Ravagers to pursue them.
Directed by James Mangold Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
As always, there will be spoilers in this review.
In the not-too-distant future, Logan (Jackman) is living on the (unwalled) Texas/Mexico border, working as a limo driver in order to support Charles Xavier (Stewart), who now suffers from an unspecified degenerative brain condition that causes him to suffer seizures with terrible effects on those around him. The mutant tracker Caliban (Merchant) acts as Charles’s nurse and struggles to be a conscience to Logan in a world where most mutants have been exterminated. This arrangement is upset when a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) finds Logan and asks him to transport her and a young girl, Laura (Keen) to Dakota.
“Open your mind. Change your reality” or “Question reality. Change your destiny” or “The impossibilities are endless.”
Directed by Scott Derrickson Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelson
Dr Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a brilliant, but arrogant, neurosurgeon, pioneering new techniques while telling War Machine (or… wait? Was he actually talking about Diamondback from Luke Cage?) to take his entirely pedestrian spino-cranial injuries elsewhere. Then he gets into a car crash because he’s using his phone while driving at high speed in the rain – we get it already, he’s reckless – and loses most of the use of his hands.
Directed by Bryan Singer Starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Jame McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Nicholas Hoult and Peter Dinklage
Almost a decade before the Marvel Cinematic Universe struck gold, the company’s go-to allegory for prejudice hit the big screen with X-Men (2000). The property had gained considerable traction thanks to an acclaimed 1990s animated series, and in the hands of The Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer, mutants took the world by storm (almost literally, as the release coincided with co-star Halle Berry’s Oscar, resulting in a much larger, if somewhat inconsistent, role in the sequel.) A direct sequel – X2 (2003) – was widely held to be even better, but 2006’s disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand squandered the goodwill – save perhaps for the little bit that was then pissed away by X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – and threatened to kill the series dead.
The Reboot/Late Sequel
The actual reboot of the series came with 2011’s X-Men: First Class, a 1960s set Cold War adventure, with McAvoy and Fassbender as the younger versions of feuding leaders Charles Xavier and Magneto, previously portrayed in their more patrician years by Stewart and McKellan. First Class did a lot to win back fans with its portrayal of the early years of the X-Men and the break between the two men, and hopefully I’ll get to reviewing that, but then Days of Future Past appeared in 2014 as a late sequel to the original trilogy, as well as a reasonably timed sequel to First Class and so converted the straight reboot into a Star Trek-syle in-universe soft reset of the series as a whole through time travel shenanigans.
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo Starring (deep breath) Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johanssen, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily Van Camp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl and William Hurt
After a brief flashback of the Winter Soldier’s (Stan) cold war career, we see the current Avengers taking down former SHIELD/HYDRA agent Brock ‘Crossbones’ Rumlow, in a fight which ends up devastating a Lagos office block. As a result, the UN ratifies the Sokovia Accords, legislation to regulate the Avengers under the control of a UN panel. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), wracked with guilt over the Ultron affair, is for it, but Steve Rogers (Evans) is agin it, given his experiences operating under oversight.
Directed by James Mangold Starring Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada and Svetlana Khodchenkova
Logan (Jackman) – aka Wolverine – dreams of his past, and an encounter with a Japanese officer and a certain Fat Man at Nagasaki. He wakes in the woods, haunted by nightmares of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) relating to X-Men: The Last Stand, which is understandable. He is drawn out of his self-imposed retirement to avenge a bear poisoned by stupid hunters, then lured to Japan by Yukio (Fukushima), a retainer to Yashida, the officer Logan saved in Nagasaki.
Following on from my Ant-Man review and ‘Marvel Needs Women‘, I am planning post-Summer of Lovecraft to do a season of Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews. Before that, however, I thought I might as well do the almost obligatory ‘ranking the MCU’ post.