"Marvel does it again!" squealed the early reviews for Doctor Strange. And that, old friends, is entirely the problem. Though neither expert nor aficionado, I’ve seen nine out of 14 MCU films, including both Avengers (although I could barely finish Age of Bloat-ron), the “good” one (Guardians of the Galaxy), 1.5 Captain Americas and innumerable Iron Men. Frankly, even if Kevin Feige isn’t done, I am.
Shiny, samey, and surprisingly cheap-looking, the films are increasingly hard to tell apart – as are the villains. Is that Ultron or The Destroyer? A Chitauri or a Dark Elf? Tom Hiddleston with stupid plastic horns or Lee Pace with mascara issues? The heroes don’t fare much better. Forever popping up in each other’s movies, there are so many of these dicks on the dance floor that even well-paid performers like Jeremy Renner complain about having nothing to do. And don’t get me started on the sexist sidelining of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.
Full of CG armies battling poorly disguised stunt doubles, the action scenes are weightless and wipe-clean; the dialogue sharp but so painfully self-aware (Tony Stark: “The Avengers. That's what we call ourselves; we're sort of like a team. ‘Earth's Mightiest Heroes’ type thing.”) you never forget that you’re watching a movie – a movie about characters who know they’re in one. If that floats your boat, fine; there are worse ways to spend two hours. But it’s not what I go to the cinema for. Shouldn’t escapism allow you to actually escape?
Less a series of comic book adaptations than a cartoon without end, the MCU plays out in instalments that finish back where they began: cities may crumble, but our heroes always triumph; Earth may be at stake, but the outcome is always assured. There’s no jeopardy: no one (major) dies, cries or, really, seems to care very much. The Dark Knight series may have been, essentially, a guy twatting about in a cape, but at least Bruce Wayne was fallible, changeable, human. The MCU may be consistent, but it’s their universe, not ours.
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