I’ve been reading a lot of Greek myths and legends, which you could argue contain the precursors to Marvel’s Universe. Gods and heroes like Achilles and Hercules, Hector and Odysseus. Great stories that have lasted for thousands of years. Only last year, the BBC retold the Illiad (with varying degrees of success).
Acting on the advice of various websites about which films are essential to watch before Endgame, my kids and I recently re-watched the first two Avengers films and watched for the first time Captain Marvel, Spiderman Homecoming, Ant Man, Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.
I enjoyed most of Captain Marvel until she became so super-powerful she could destroy entire starships. You start wondering at that point what villains can possibly challenge such might. Certainly not Jude Law, as a sub-Loki.
The Avengers films are good, but there’s too many characters in them. Joss Whedon did a good job of keeping us emotionally invested in the different arcs, but he might have done better to focus more on three or four only. Game of Thrones showed how to do that with great effectiveness in The Battle of Winterfell. They also made me wonder what Marvel would have done without Robert Downey JR, because Chris Evans’s Captain America does not have the charisma to hold all those superheroes plot threads together.
Ant Man was our least favourite, and we promptly cancelled our plan to watch Ant Man and the Wasp on the same night. Paul Rudd underwhelmed, and for some reason the film’s shrinking premise stretched my credibility too much. Strangely, in Civil War, Rudd’s performance was much stronger even though he had a much – ahem – smaller part. The other surprisingly good performance in Civil War was Tom Hollander’s, so we watched Spiderman, and I found myself begrudgingly enjoying the teenage angst of it. While Tony Stark’s appearances in the Marvel Universe are always enlivening, Homecoming was so good the film might even have been stronger without him.
Doctor Strange was the stand alone film. Benedict Cumberbatch was very good, an arrogant, less likable Tony Stark. I’m intrigued to see how those two characters will get on in Infinity War and End Game. The film itself, with it’s unusual imagery and effects and slightly more subtle humour than normal, was one of my favourite Marvel films.
Out of all seven films, my favourite set piece was the battle at the airfield in Civil War, combining action and terrific humour. My favourite superhero? Iron Man, without a doubt. My least favourite? Captain America, also without a doubt. But whichever your favourites, there is no denying that Marvel has created something extraordinary with this universe of superheroes.
Will it be as long lasting as the Iliad? Probably not, but who knows, maybe one day future archaeologists and historians will speculate on the location of Stark Tower in the same way they speculate today on the location of Troy.