film.Antrikshy | Thoughts on film and games

2023 MCU Rewatch Diary - Phase Three

Of the MCU’s first three Phases, the third one is not only the longest, but also the most ambitious by far.

Arguably, it’s more ambitious than Phases Four and Five. I say it’s arguable for a very specific reason. David Gauthier of the They’re Just Movies podcast once pointed out that the MCU doesn’t just make more movies per Phase; they push the boundaries of genre and style in their movies in each successive Phase. This forever changed how I view the MCU, because he was 100% right. Think about Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy in Phase Two. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which of their MCU episodes they discussed this in. If I come across it again, I’ll link it here with a timestamp.

Anyway, this would imply that Phases Four and Five must be more experimental and ambitious. I can see arguments on both sides.

Marvel Studios are now making more and more streaming-exclusive content that is gradually weaving in and out of their feature films. They’re expanding their genres, tone, and casting beyond anything we’ve seen thus far. They’re leaning into the style of storytelling that radiates outwards from tentpole content, in every direction. Think teamups leading to spinoffs with narrower appeal, such as Avengers: Endgame to Loki. We’ve seen this type of storytelling before - not in mainstream cinema - but in comics. They don’t seem to be worried about alienating an audience they held captive, one that cared about every single new release. In exchange, they are trying to garner a more diverse audience with relatively niche interests. Compare: She-Hulk, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Ms Marvel, Moon Knight.

On the other hand, Phase Three’s sheer ambition and scale completely eclipses Phases One and Two by a huge margin. Building up a 10 year cinematic universe to such an incredible climax, actually pulling it off with broad cultural impact, the first time, makes it particularly commendable. I still see critic reviews and Reddit comments alike compare new MCU releases with Infinity War and Endgame, so many years after they released. In a way, the ambition and sheer success of Phase Three’s climax may have set the bar way too high for Marvel Studios themselves to compete with.

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2023 MCU Rewatch Diary - Phase Two

Some of Phase Two deals with the fallout of The Avengers. Obviously due to budget reasons, there’s a focus on solo adventures once again, but with plenty of references implying the Avengers’ existence off-screen.

Popular opinion seems to be that Phases Four and Five (ongoing at the time of this writing) feel directionless. If you ask me, this isn’t new. Phase Two has solo adventures tugging at the shared story in all directions. Minor tone and character motivation inconsistencies creep in and start wearing down the verisimilitude of the universe (more on this later).

However, I’ll concede that the tight focus on a small, core set of characters makes the chaos feel much more purposeful than the broad focus on new character introductions in Phases Four and Five.

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2023 MCU Rewatch Diary - Phase One

Phase One turned out a lot more enjoyable than I expected, viewing from a post-Endgame, 2020s lens.

These are genuinely fun movies, with some solid writing, and a lot more interconnections than early-to-mid-teens-unaware-of-the-MCU-me could have possibly noticed. I guess Marvel Studios were pretty confident, pretty early on, and started sowing the seeds for an interconnected universe right from the first couple of movies.

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2023 MCU Rewatch Diary - Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts documenting my first rewatch of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Phases One to Three; starting at Iron Man (2008) and ending at Avengers: Endgame (2019).

I’ve been watching them since way back, but I only recognized Marvel Studios’ long-term aspirations around 2013. That’s when I started following the series in earnest. I’m usually not one to rewatch stuff, so I haven’t watched most of these titles more than once. For many of them, the initial theater experience is the only memory I have.

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Analyzing A Decade's Worth Of My Movie Ratings

As we have established, I have rated over a thousand movies on IMDb thus far. At the time of this writing, it’s a treasure trove of data over a decade in the making. I’ve had many ideas to find interesting patterns in it.

I decided to poke and prod at an exported copy. IMDb’s CSV export includes basic data about each title - the IMDb user rating, release date etc. To get the real juicy info, I had to cross-reference it with full IMDb datasets. I finally had an excuse to put my Rackfocus project to good use. It’s a little Python command line utility (install using pip install rackfocus) to pull freely available IMDb datasets and organize them into convenient SQLite tables.

Here are some interesting finds from my own ratings. If you too have a trove of ratings on IMDb and want to run these (and more) analyses yourself, skip to the end for instructions.

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