The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Deteriorating and No One is Going to Stop It

When you pull something off as magnificent in scope and unprecedented in scale as Marvel Studios has with their endless string of Cinematic Universe-entangled superhero flicks, you get too caught up in seeing how far it can go rather than how far it should. Herein lies the problem with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, a Hollywood juggernaut set rampaging across box office records and gleeful moviegoers alike. It’s grown to a point where people just want to keep propelling it forward for the sole purpose of maintaining its “legendary success story in-the-making” narrative, rather than forcing it to earn that title on its own through actual merit in its films. Let’s analyze the core elements that made phase one of the MCU so great and how those same elements have turned phase three into little more than a dry-heaving mess limping towards the star-studded finish line.

The Avengers

Kicking off with Iron Man, Marvel brought quite a few unique items to the table. First, they were pushing mad money behind a relatively unknown (in the public eye) B-list character. Secondly, from day one they had plans to bring him into a much bigger fold across a series of movies, culminating in The Avengers. Thirdly, they were making something topical, given the Invasion of Iraq’s prominence in 2008. Relevant, unknown and secretly ambitious? An interesting mixture, no doubt. One that paved the way for Marvel’s road to greatness.

For the first phase that ingredient list was pure and fresh, culminating in the cinematic entree of superhero fine dining known as The Avengers, the most spectacular team-up to ever hit the silver screen. But anything after that, by the aforementioned film’s very nature, was bound to start springing leaks in the hull of the S.S. MCU. Phase two was rife with plot holes across all its movies, the grossly outnumbered critic-minded moviegoers pointing out odd omissions like “why couldn’t the Hulk help Iron Man when ____ was happening?” or any number of related crossover questions that sprung up whenever a hero needed to conquer an obstacle alone even though his friends weren’t busy and existed in the same world as the movie at hand. Then problem number two started to rear its ugly head: the lack of stakes. In order to give the big heroes sequels and trilogies, Marvel had to start scrubbing any stakes from its films to ensure heavy-hitters like Thor and Captain America would always survive for another solo round or Avengers sequel. This meant that when you walked into the theater you’d already know the ending, no spoilers required. The Avengers initiative was starting to poison itself.

Topical subject matters became a crutch for Marvel, being the only element to set Captain America: The Winter Soldier apart from its relatively cookie-cutter MCU brethren. The B-list (and later C-list) characters were being developed into full-on feature films because it was quirky and therefore meme-worthy, AKA big-bucks-baiting in a world revolving solely around Twitter hashtags. Before anyone knew it, the Guardians of the Galaxy and freakin’ Ant-Man were getting solo films devoid of consequence all in the service of building up a big ‘ol MCU for the grand Avengers: Infinity War finale, a construction project still underway at this very moment. And yet, now deep into phase three, the luster is gone. The magic has faded. While audiences still gobble it up because it’s light-years better than what the competition’s putting out (looking at you, Batman V Superman), there’s a somewhat sinister corporate greed starting to overshadow the artistic merit present during the early days of the first Avengers film.

Take Dr. Strange, for example. Stephen Strange goes through the exact same internal transformation as Tony Stark did in Iron Man. And look at Ant-Man—that story’s a near carbon copy of Iron Man at every major plot beat. Marvel’s got a nice cookie-cutter formula going for turning likable B-list and C-list characters into instant A-listers, but it doesn’t hide the blatant lack of creativity. Another glaring instance of unimaginative plotting is in the usage of superheroes making cameos in each other’s movies. While Marvel never, ever explains where other characters are in times of need, they’ll call on a poorly set-up Spider-Man to join in a massive Civil War fight for absolutely no other reason than to show off the prize they got from their deal with Sony. They’re now in the business of parading heroes around for market value rather than plot, and that, combined with the assembly line nature of the MCU’s recent entries, is starting to bode ill for any true artistic innovation left in this pocket of the genre.

Similarly to Thanos, the big villain of the upcoming Infinity War movies, the only entity that can stop Marvel is Marvel themselves. If Kevin Feige can descend from his ivory tower for just a wink to look at where this rollercoaster started and where it’s headed, maybe he and the suits in charge of the operation could redirect its course towards a more savory finish line, one not even considering a still-interconnected phase five AFTER the Infinity Wars have concluded. Because where there’s a new phase, there are extended contracts. Where there are extended contracts, there are recurring characters and no stakes. And where there are no stakes, there is no point at all.

Review of “Superhot” for PC

It’s super not.superhot5.jpg

For those of you who know the background info regarding this game, let’s get right to it: the “time only moves when you move” thing is a gimmick. It’s not a revolutionary mechanic. It’s an—admittedly, very entertaining—gimmick. It’s a single power-up that could easily be incorporated into any other FPS. Fun enough while it lasts, but hardly earth-shattering.

The campaign is meme-baiting, wannabe-meta nonsense and it lasts a short, sweet three hours at most. And while the inclusion of challenge modes is a nice gesture, it really doesn’t amount to much. The core of the game is hollow. The gimmick of Superhot isn’t enough to keep the game magnanimously heated or superlatively toasty; much as it wants to be.

And if you’re wondering why the short review, I’m just trying to simulate game length. In text.

“Lights Out” Review

maxresdefault (1)I hate horror. Absolutely hate it. And I am here to report that I, king of the Cinematic Horror Pussies Society, survived Lights Out with barely any effort.

In short, it’s not scary. Continue reading

The State of Gaming/What I’m Playing Right Now

As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, gaming is dead. Gaming remains dead. And we have killed it.

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Image Credit to Youtuber UMadBroYolo

Here’s the sorry state of the industry and why you virtually never see me reviewing games anymore: everything, literally everything, is some shitty rehash or sequel of a genre that’s already been explored to the brim. This year’s E3 only confirmed that.

Gears of War 4? Who gives a fuck. Forza Horizon 3? We’ve already had 2 of those. Battlefield 1? Ooh, another military first person shooter, such innovation. Call of Duty Infinite Warfare? Basically Halo for Halo‘s gap year. God of War 4? Literally Ryse with a Kratos skin and tacked on Brothers kid dynamic. Spider-Man PS4? It’s going to be a Beenox-grade movie tie-in developed by Insomniac. Watch Dogs 2? Looks like an expansion pass for the insurmountably disappointing bundle of corporate deception that was Watch Dogs 1. Mass Effect Andromeda? You know a whole bunch of corporate bullshit by EA is going to sully what was already destined to be a run of the mill sci-fi RPG trilogy’s sequel.

Noticing a trend here? Virtually everything is a sequel of something that didn’t need one in the first place. The racing, shooting and generic hack ‘n slash genres are so fucking oversaturated yet triple A game publishers just don’t care, as the sheeple who buy this shit are funding their own medium’s stagnation (cue the quote from the beginning of this post). I’ve had every experience they showed at this year’s E3 a million times over already in games released throughout the past decade, and as such, I’m more or less done with fresh off the press gaming. I’ll fill my time with movies and music and mediums where at least an INKLING of creativity is injected into most new releases.

What I’ll be reviewing in the way of somewhat new/relevant 2016 games:
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Not very hopeful for it, but I remember having a silky smooth time with the first one so why not give the only unlikely sequel being released this year a chance.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. To be honest, the more they show of it the less I’m excited. It looks like they’re trying to incorporate the verticality of Dishonored‘s maps minus the actual maneuverability moves that made upward traversal so fun in the aforementioned game. This is problematic. The Illuminati-busting story should be fun, though.
-Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th anniversary game. If it comes to PC, you bet your sweet nickers I’ll be hopping on for some break-neck speed platforming goodness.
Dishonored 2. Again, feeling kind of apathetic about this one as it does seem to display some of the annoying sequel trends mentioned above. BUT. But. It’s got purple death vine monster powers. So yeah, definitely considering it.
-Potentially Quantum Break and Killer Instinct (PC versions).

But that’s it, frankly. I know how every other tired game listed in that fat sequel-rant paragraph will play out, exactly how each will feel and since I can imagine it all, why pay money to verify my gaming clairvoyance. These industry giants have robbed the word “innovation” of its meaning with how many times they spew it in blatant press release lies.

To wrap up the post: taking time off from the stagnant hell that is 2016 gaming, I ventured back into a game that I previously couldn’t stand. That game was Darksiders 2. This time around, I played it in its entirety and wow do I love it now. Seriously, after experiencing all three DLC missions (Deathinitive edition), finishing the Crucible and beating Wicked K, I’ve gained a lot more respect for this game than I had in my initial review. Not to mention the soundtrack is fantastic. In short, go experience some oldies but goodies for cheap if you too cannot stand the slew of current sequels devoid of artistic merit or creativity.

“Captain America: Civil War” Batman V Superman 2: The Better Jokes Edition

All the same issues. Like with Batman and Superman, I had no emotional investment in Spidey and Black Panther, as they’re rushed, moving plot vehicles/blatant fan service. Hell, Spidey has LITERALLY no reason to be in the movie. It was obvious he’s here solely because the marketing deal with Sony fell through and Marvel wanted to flaunt it. Black Panther goes from “dad let me kiss your hand” to “I’m going to kill Bucky Barnes” within ten dialogue lines of finding out about the latter’s existence. Jesus.Captain-America-Civil-War-Key-Art.jpg

The drama is cringe-y as usual a la Age of Ultron; the only good, meaningful moment being the final ten minute fight between Cap and Iron Man. And even then, what WAS the shining ten minute moment of this otherwise trashy two and a half hour movie is sullied by *MASSSSSSSSSSIVE SPOILER* an instant reconciliation of ALL the movie’s potential lasting impacts on the MCU.

And to all the goofs claiming the villain “wins” in this one, no, he doesn’t. All the Avengers are basically friends again by the end, minus Tony Stark who will be re-accepted as a buddy by Infinity War Part 2. So again, NO consequences in a Marvel film.

Moving on, the new Spider-Man, beyond being RANDOMLY found by Tony Stark with absolutely no build-up, has a hot aunt and lives in a posh fucking apartment and has zero charm. He’s easily the worst of the three Spider-Men we’ve seen. For me, Garfield remains king by a small margin over Maguire, but both still stomp the shit out of Holland.

Lastly, the Russos direct their action sequences through fucking GIFs. It’s all just BAMBAMBAMBAM without a single cohesive motion in the frame. Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double’s scenes are so shaky-cam filled you can’t even see her. Between bad stunt double filming and cuts that last only a matter of milliseconds before the next disconnected shot is slammed into the forefront, virtually all the action in the movie is an utter mess. The only two exceptions are, once again, the climactic final fight and one sick Bucky+Cap team-up on a stairwell.

The Good:

-Emotional, well-motivated final fight between Cap and Iron Man
-Great Bucky+Cap apartment/stairwell team-up sequence

The Bad:

-Zero consequences
-No build-up to the bevy of unsupported random reveals (Black Panther and Spidey)
-Cheesy dialogue
-Mishmash of sequel setups
-Airport fight is terribly overhyped. It’s underwhelming and average at best
-The movie is only a hair better than its lackluster predecessor, Age of Ultron
The giant ocean prison just appears at a point

The Ugly:

-The continued downward spiral of storytelling in the MCU