In revisiting the most recent wave of MCU films to prepare myself for Avengers: Infinity War, I have been surprised at how much the films have improved since my initial theatrical viewing. To be fair, I have yet to meet an MCU movie I didn’t like (except maybe The Incredible Hulk, which is fine, I guess), but it seems that the homogenization of the imagery and the slavish devotion to production deadlines have caused the films to feel less like the events they once were and more like perfunctory stepping stones toward the next entry.
This makes sense considering the fact that ten years deep in this grand universe building experiment, each and every step forward is a new frontier. While it would appear we are awash in interconnected franchise properties (and still unsure of how to pull it off as cleanly as Marvel), it’s important to remember that this is all still pretty new ground. As such, the MCU is disinterested in taking large leaps forward. Why risk imploding the behemoth structure when you’re the leader of the extended universe pack? This, I believe, is why each entry has come to feel like an episode of a TV show rather than a cinematic big screen event. It’s damage control. By adhering to a certain visual formula, it’s easier to pinpoint what deviations are worth pursuing.
Anyone who reads this site knows of my distaste for action sequences that are cut to pieces in post — which lean on the illusion of choreography rather than capturing tremendous stunt work. The most egregious example comes from the first act of Captain America: Civil War. When I initially saw the film in glorious IMAX, I was dumbfounded as to how the fisticuffs could look so awful, so lazy. But when I revisited the film recently via Netflix, using my iPad, a hard truth emerged: MCU movies, at least since Age of Ultron, look better at home.
Listen, I’m all about theatrical exhibition, especially for event films, but the fact of the matter is that some films look better on a smaller screen. And as much as I want to stand with David Lynch in the assertion that watching a movie on your phone is the wrong way to do it, I wonder if such blanket statements are reductive. Certainly ANY sort of exhibition is a good thing. More films, more voices, more access. But superhero flicks, ideally, should be designed to work on the big screen. Yet upon revisiting Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the same thing occurred. All three looked better and felt more suited to the screen when I watched them on my iPad. It’s as if the seams were only so visible to me because of the big screen presentation. It’s as if the small screen prevented that godawful feeling of “where am I supposed to look?!?”
Note: Even on a small screen, Cumby is still terribly miscast as Doctor Strange.
This isn’t meant to talk you out of hitting the multiplex for each new chapter (my ticket for Infinity War has been bought for weeks, in IMAX 3D no less), but as a way of pointing out an alteration in the way I’m going to be consuming the MCU henceforth. Meaning that when I hit the theater on opening night, I’m there for the event. I’m there for the characters, the story, and the plot. I’m there to consume the new chapter and move one step closer to the next. But as for taking it on as a piece of film craft? That’s going to have to wait until I can watch it at home.
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.