Let me be clear. I love the MCU. As far as I’m concerned, what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has achieved in its ten short years is nothing short of genius and I have no doubt that it will be held up and studied as a pivotal era in cinematic history for years to come. I feel the same way about the original Iron Man movie as people do about A New Hope, and one day I hope to be the author of a book entitled ‘The MCU: How Superheroes Movies Saved The World’ © 2018.
So, when I say I rewatched every Marvel movie this year in preparation for the release of Avengers: Infinity War and it was the worst decision I ever made, I want you to fully understand how much that statement chills me to the bone. It pains me to say it, but I wish I’d never rewatched the MCU. Nearly four months, 17 movies (18 if you include Infinity War because I couldn’t rewatch Black Panther), and about 36 hours spent watching Marvel movies and all it did was make me hate the thing I loved.
It all started when I saw this post on Imgur (DAMN YOU GOOSEBRADSHAW!!!). It’s pretty straight-forward and explains how, if you watch one Marvel movie a week from the start of 2018, you’d be all caught up on the MCU in time for the release of Avengers: Infinity War. What could be better I thought? While I’d obviously already seen every Marvel movie more than twice before the build up to Infinity War was so great that I’d been thinking about rewatching them all before it came out anyway. And here was the proof I could do it! One Marvel movie a week? That’s nothing I thought! I was so keen on the idea that I even pitched it to my editor as a running feature, which we could update each week to eventually create the ultimate MCU recap. If I was going to be rewatching the movies anyway, why not get a great feature out of it? Maybe even some of our followers would want to join in... maybe it would be fun I thought… FUN!
In case you haven’t caught on yet, it didn’t go well. Iron Man - one of my favourite MCU movies - was a delight, but then it was onto the not-so-great, but technically canon The Incredible Hulk before rewatching the so-so Iron Man 2 and then diving head first into the silly Thor before rewatching my all time least favourite Marvel movie - Captain America: The First Avenger. Oh, and did I mention I had to start with a double bill of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk because I was already behind? Yeah… that was a long night! In total I’d already watched about 10 hours of the MCU by this point (don’t underestimate those long credits people!) and I was starting to feel it. On the plus side, rewatching these early, but mostly mediocre movies, and knowing where they eventually lead actually makes them better. I really disliked the original Captain America movie the first time I saw it, but after The Winter Soldier and Civil War I found myself much more able to put up with Cap’s slowburn origin story because it was now part of the beginning of the MCU. I knew it was going to be worth it.
But while watching them as part of a bigger (and much better) whole meant I could forgive certain negatives, it also really highlighted the issues I couldn’t ignore. Like Marvel’s villain problem? It’s now well-known that up until very recently, the MCU had a problem with creating memorable and interesting baddies, but it wasn’t something I really noticed or thought was a huge problem the first time I watched these Phase Ones films. When I rewatched them, however, it hit me like a tonne of bricks! Seeing Iron Man again it suddenly became painfully obvious that Obadiah Stane was the baddie all along (those suit and tie combos alone!), and while watching The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Dark World, and The First Avenger I realised that I couldn’t even remember who the villains were in those films until they were literally on screen (like The Silence from Doctor Who I forgot they existed as soon as I wasn’t looking directly at them). Iron Man 2 was perhaps the only exception to this, but that’s got more to do with my love of Mickey Rourke than anything else. Thankfully The Avengers was just around the corner...
What does the Avengers: Infinity War ending mean? And 8 other questions we have
The final Phase One film was a breath of fresh air after a month of disappointment and rewatching the first MCU crossover movie really does remind you what an achievement it is. Sure, there’s always going to be things you’d change, but I remember thinking there was no way Joss Whedon was going to pull The Avengers off before it came out. But I was wrong. While Iron Man is a great standalone superhero origins film, The Avengers is something special, something which hadn’t really been done before, something which makes you stop and think about what Marvel Studios has built with the MCU.
If you’re starting to think this MCU recap doesn’t sound too bad then I’m telling it wrong. Iron Man and The Avengers were merely bright sparks in a six-week long rewatch of despair, which already had me questioning what I’d done. And believe me when I tell you, it’s harder than you think to fit a movie in every week, at the same time every week (so you can stick to the schedule), and actually be engaged/happy about it.
After Phase One comes Phase Two and with it Iron Man 3 which is great, but was also coupled with Thor: The Dark World thanks to the necessity of another double bill, which… is not. Things were definitely looking up though as I moved onto The Winter Soldier (excellent!) and Guardians of the Galaxy (still the best Marvel movie), and even the disappointment of Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t much to contend with before moving onto the final film of Phase Two, Ant-Man. So what’s the problem? The problem is that you can have too much of a good thing. Even for someone like me who loves the MCU, having watched over 24 hours of it by this point it was all starting to merge together to create some kind of mediocre Marvel movie monster from which I couldn’t escape. In the same way that the MCU, as a whole, raises its not-so-great movies up to an acceptable level, it also brings its superb films slightly down to a lesser degree. Ok, so you’re never going to have that same feeling you did the very first time you watched GOTG in the cinema, but I’m not even convinced I actually even enjoyed rewatching it between Cap’s spy film the week before and the miniature heist flick the week after. I was all Marvel-ed out, numb to the good and the bad, I didn’t even care anymore, and I still had five films to go. Oh, and they were getting longer...
Phase Two is also when Marvel starts introducing important plot points into its individual films in preparation for its ultimate crossover, but it’s still too far away for it to feel tangible, so instead it can just be confusing. Guardians’ Power Stone plot worked, but can anyone honestly say that they got that whole Aether thing that was going on in The Dark World? The same goes for Age of Ultron’s Mind Stone/Vision arc, which is very hard to follow while it’s happening. In a lot of ways, rewatching the whole MCU helped me really get a grip on these more hazy aspects of the lore, but it also highlighted the problems and - at the end of the day - most of what happens in Phase Two is no longer relevant by the time you get to Infinity War so it was ultimately pointless.
Phase Three was easier for a number of reasons. Firstly, the quality of the films is high in the final phase. Civil War, although pretty long, is really a great movie and one of my personal faves. I’m not a huge fan of Doctor Strange or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but they’re certainly not bad (ok, maybe Doctor Strange) and I LOVE Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. Secondly, they’re all a lot more recent so you’re still living in the buzz of the new and exciting releases, which are more relevant to Infinity War rather than reliving the sometimes tedious past. Marvel’s Phase Three is much more now because, of course, Infinity War is part of Phase Three, and I found this really helped when rewatching them. It was still a lot to handle in terms of hours sat in front of the TV staring at Marvel-shaped things, but overall it was a lot more fun than Phase One or Two. Unfortunately, it was a lot less necessary - I didn’t really need to rewatch these films because they were more recent and some of them I’d even seen in the cinema last year - and possibly one of the only films I actually wanted to rewatch at this point - Black Panther - I couldn’t because it wasn’t out on home release yet. Sigh.
But at least it was finally over. I’d spent roughly four months rewatching the entire MCU before going to see Avengers: Infinity War in the cinema and I wish I could say it was worth it. It wasn’t. While you definitely get a lot more out of Infinity War having seen all the other Marvel movies, unless you actually haven’t seen them before or your memory is so poor you genuinely can’t remember ANYTHING, please learn from my 36 hours of hell and just don’t bother. There’s very little you won’t remember even if you’re a casual Marvel fan, and most of the important stuff is from the most recent films. In fact, these are really the only MCU films you need to watch to know what’s going on in Infinity War. It’s been less than a month since I saw Infinity War in the cinema and I’m nowhere near ready to look at another Marvel movie again. Hell, writing this feature was bad enough! It’ll be awhile before I’m ready to go back into this universe, but hopefully I’ll be recovered enough for Ant-Man and the Wasp, which is - *gulp* - less than 2 months away.