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Episode 150 - The Avengers (w/ Jenelle Riley)

Poll: Episode 150 - The Avengers (w/ Jenelle Riley) (62 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "The Avengers" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (38 votes [61.29%])

    Percentage of vote: 61.29%

  2. No (24 votes [38.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 38.71%

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Dalton Maltz's Photo Dalton Maltz 15 Apr 2018

Screenwriter Jenelle Riley joins Amy to discuss the 2012 superhero movie “The Avengers.” They touch on the strengths of the main cast, the evolution of Marvel’s characters and storylines, and the prominent female stars. Plus, they dissect the film’s humorous beats and the small human moments among the spectacle.
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Buffyfan1992's Photo Buffyfan1992 16 Apr 2018

I'm voting yes because Marvel's The Avengers because I love all the Marvel films, Joss Whedon, and the cultural impact. I'm not sure if we ever will get another Marvel superhero film on the Canon so I must vote yes! I wouldn't have got further into comics without The Avengers and other Marvel films. A lot of the movies and televisions shows that I am a fan of wouldn't exist without Marvel films. Sure this is not an Oscar-worthy film or very intellectual, but there are plenty of movies in the canon that don't fit that criterion either.
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sycasey 2.0's Photo sycasey 2.0 16 Apr 2018

I think this is a very good movie, not a great movie, but I agree with the argument that the Marvel franchise is too culturally important to leave it out. The Avengers is the best single representation of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the rise of the superhero genre in American film. I vote yes.

I also sometimes think about why superheroes and why now. I think it says something interesting about the current cultural moment that THIS is what young people are looking to see on movie screens. Probably the only other franchise with this much cultural cache for younger generations is Harry Potter, which is another story about people with special powers who use teamwork to defeat evil. Westerns were about lone-wolf tough guys. Star Wars was mostly about the personal development of one hero, and then that of his father (until Rian Johnson came in and turned the whole thing on its head). Marvel movies are about assembling a super team. I think you can draw a straight line between this and the political movement being started by the Parkland kids. This is their thing.

That's also why I don't just dismiss these movies as fluff; I think they speak to the cultural moment in a profound way. The DC movies fail, in part because they are shoddily constructed and poorly planned, but also because they try too hard to be "dark and gritty" and (Wonder Woman aside) don't commit to the idea of heroes being heroes. Marvel does, and that's why they dominate.
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sycasey 2.0's Photo sycasey 2.0 16 Apr 2018

Oh! And to answer Amy's question, there actually is another Ralph Macchio, a writer and editor for Marvel Comics.

https://en.wikipedia...acchio_(comics)

I suspect this is who they were thanking in the credits.
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mrm1138's Photo mrm1138 16 Apr 2018

A million times yes to this! The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been one of the most ambitious projects in film history. While it's not the first time a studio has combined characters from separate franchises into one film—Universal was doing it as far back as 1943 with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and I have no idea if it happened before that—this is the first occasion I'm aware of where it was intended from the beginning and was successful in making it happen. Apart from that, it's a great piece of entertainment that I still revisit from time to time.

I was a little surprised by Jenelle Riley's suggestion that an Iron Man vs. Thor episode would be a painful decision for the listeners, since I'd always been under the impression that Iron Man was considered far and away the better film of the two. Perhaps that's just me projecting my own bias because, while I enjoyed Thor, it has never been one of my favorite entries in the MCU. The main characters are good—save perhaps Jane, since she's really bland—and I love the film's depiction of Asgard. Unfortunately, those elements weren't enough to overcome what I thought was a fairly slight plot. I suppose the same criticism could be leveled at Iron Man, but it does have the distinction of kicking off the MCU. That in itself would make it Canon-worthy, but it's also a joy to watch.

One final thought; I think Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes (a.k.a. Vulture) deserves to be mentioned alongside the best MCU villains. He's a sympathetic villain (like Killmonger), and Keaton definitely brings his charisma to role. From the opening scene of Spider-Man Homecoming, you understand completely why he and his crew turned to crime, and the fact that he's stealing from both the government and a wealthy industrialist allows you to be on their side. Unfortunately, he's selling weapons that will be used to hurt and kill a lot of people, so you still need Spider-Man to bring him to justice.
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LTL's Photo LTL 16 Apr 2018

I actually thought DEFINITELY YES before listening ... then after all the discussion I changed my mind to "meh" no. This film didn't seem memorable in anyway, other than : "I liked it when it came out."
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sycasey 2.0's Photo sycasey 2.0 16 Apr 2018

View Postmrm1138, on 16 April 2018 - 11:05 AM, said:

I was a little surprised by Jenelle Riley's suggestion that an Iron Man vs. Thor episode would be a painful decision for the listeners, since I'd always been under the impression that Iron Man was considered far and away the better film of the two. Perhaps that's just me projecting my own bias because, while I enjoyed Thor, it has never been one of my favorite entries in the MCU. The main characters are good—save perhaps Jane, since she's really bland—and I love the film's depiction of Asgard. Unfortunately, those elements weren't enough to overcome what I thought was a fairly slight plot. I suppose the same criticism could be leveled at Iron Man, but it does have the distinction of kicking off the MCU. That in itself would make it Canon-worthy, but it's also a joy to watch.


I think Iron Man would win that matchup in a walk. The more interesting match would be Iron Man vs. Captain America: The First Avenger, as I think the reputation of the latter has grown a lot in the intervening years. After rewatching all the Phase 1 Marvel movies last week (in preparation for this podcast and the upcoming Infinity War) I thought those two were clearly the best character introductions, with Thor fitfully charming but yet to find the right treatment for the character (Ragnarok nailed it). I guess I understand the argument for Thor engaging in female gaze a lot, but I'd say the Captain America movies do that just as much. After rewatching the first Cap movie, I was struck by how often they let you see Steve Rogers through Peggy Carter's eyes; I don't think it's an accident that she's the only MCU character to get her own spinoff series.

Of course, I also think Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the best standalone film in the series, so Amy's tastes and mine clearly diverge on these films.

As for Marvel villains, I'll take Hugo Weaving's hammy Red Skull performance as a memorable pre-Loki bad guy. The character is basically just an unrepentant monster with no deeper motivation, but nobody chews the scenery like Hugo Weaving.
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bleary's Photo bleary 16 Apr 2018

I'm a big fan of lists, so here's a list of Academy Award winning actors and actresses who have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnorok)
Jeff Bridges (Iron Man)
Benicio Del Toro (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Michael Douglas (Ant-Man)
Anthony Hopkins (Thor 1-3)
William Hurt (Incredible Hulk and Captain America: Civil War)
Tommy Lee Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Lupita Nyong'o (Black Panther)
Gwyneth Paltrow (5 or 6 of them)
Natalie Portman (Thor 1-2)
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange)
Marisa Tomei (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Forest Whitaker (Black Panther)

Plus, over 20 other actors in the MCU have been at least nominated for Oscars, including Avengers Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner.

Before I get into The Avengers, I want to mention that I agree in general with Amy about the eye-roll inducing nature of the "just at the last possible second" trope in action movies, while also saying that I don't think it's actually that bad in this film, since they don't waste THAT much time building suspense to something we all know is not suspenseful. Thor is only struggling in his Hulk cage for a matter of seconds. Ditto with Iron Man falling back through the space hole. I was much more annoyed by this with Ready Player One, whose climax is obnoxiously delayed by some van-shaking that any intelligent audience member knows will have no impact to the story. This was also largely why Inception infuriated me. So I'm with Amy on this in general, but I don't know if this is the movie I'd point to that's most guilty of it.

At any rate, I'm very much on the fence on this one. On the one hand, I love the movies of the MCU. I don't consider them high art, but to me, the consistency of entertainment is at an unfathomable level. If I'm channel-flipping and one of these films is on, there's a very high chance I'll watch it to the end. But that alone is not Canon-worthy, since I can say the same thing about The Rock. (On second thought, I'd totally vote for The Rock into the Canon if it were oddly decided that we need a Michael Bay film in there. But also, we don't.)

So then, is The Avengers the best modern (post 9-11) superhero movie? I'm inclined to say that both X-Men 2 and The Dark Knight are better, and for some reason tons of people pull for the terrible Spiderman 2. But the things that make X-Men 2 and The Dark Knight so successful larger overlap with what makes Marvel movies so great: they have good characters and allow them to have good character moments. None of those movies worked because of the plot. But you don't need the plot to be perfect when you have Heath Ledger giving such a breathtaking performance that it's just exciting to get to see him on the screen. But I also love the smaller notes in these films, like Halle Berry's Storm forming a connection to Alan Cumming's Nightcrawler in X2, or Michael Caine's scenes with Bale's Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight. This is a through-line for all the Marvel movies, that there's almost always some small thing that is so enjoyable to me that it keeps me into it, no matter whether the rest of the film isn't really working. For example, the plot of Iron Man 2 is a mess. But the scenes with Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke? Dayenu. Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones in the first Captain America. Michael Pena in Ant-Man. The Mjolnir-lifting contest in Age of Ultron. Letitia Wright in Black Panther. Marvel is successful because it cultivates deep benches of interesting characters, so they you care when they're on-screen and you care even more to see them interact with each other for the first time.

So then, is The Avengers the best MCU movie? Again, I'm inclined to say no, but to the point above, it might be the Marvel-est of the Marvel movies, in that it is the most successful at doing the thing that generally makes Marvel movies more successful than the DC films or the Sony/Fox films. Personally, I'm partial to the funniest Marvel movies, like Guardians 1, Ant-Man, and Thor: Ragnorok. But I have so much respect for the breadth that the MCU has. The first Iron Man film is possibly the best superhero origin story film ever made, and certainly the best since the first Superman film. Winter Soldier is such a great action-thriller. Black Panther certainly deserves all the praise it's received. So while The Avengers is not my favorite MCU film, nor does it necessarily represent the full scope of possibilities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's the best approximation. And it's a super enjoyable movie too. So I guess what I'm saying is that I talked myself into voting yes on this one.
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caringtype1's Photo caringtype1 16 Apr 2018

I was 9 in 2008 when Iron Man came out. For the entire time I have been interested in film, the landscape has been dominated by Marvel movies, and I'm at this point where I'm just apathetic about the whole thing. I was never a huge fan of this franchise, although I saw The Avengers intheaters and loved it at the time. But that was the last time I bothered seeing these movies in the theater. I never cared for the Iron Man movies (despite my undying love for Gwyneth Paltrow) and the rest of them, I just waited until they were on HBO or something. The part of Age of Ultron with Hawkeye and Linda Cardellini on the farm is my favorite part of any MCU film. But there is so little of that human, thought-provoking introspection in the rest of the films, it's hard for me to care at this point. It's all action and quips, and none of it is that memorable or distinct anymore. Not even Black Panther could get me excited again. I took one look at how many new characters were on the poster and thought 'this is daunting'.

I still like this movie on its own. It's fun and enjoyable to watch, more than I can say about a lot of superhero movies these days. And I understand the cultural impact argument, as this is the movie that really kicked off the trend of cinematic universes. However, I am not entirely convinced that the Canon would be missing something without this specific film. If the slot we are filling here is "early 21st-century superhero movie" then I would much rather The Dark Knight or Raimi's Spider-Man.

It's a no from me.
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DavidMDaut's Photo DavidMDaut 16 Apr 2018

The other night I rewatched The Avengers for something like the 8,000th time and I tried an experiment: I did my best to divorce myself from a decade of familiarity with these movies and their characters and watch it from the perspective of someone who had never seen a Marvel movie before.

Y’all, this is a buck wild movie.

It’s weird and messy and structurally incorrect in so many ways. It throws a ton of nonsense at you in the first act of the movie and only gets around to providing context for any of it during the film’s second act. It’s probably safe to assume – thanks to the TV show – that people are at least casually aware of who the Hulk is, but it’s nuts that this film is effectively introducing the character for the first time and only makes vague allusions to what Bruce Banner’s affliction is until we’re 40 minutes deep into the film. And that’s to say nothing of cryogenically preserved super soldiers, Norse gods, and flying, invisible aircraft carriers. This movie shouldn’t work, and I get why it flat out doesn’t work for some including our dear host, Amy. But when we look at the seismic impact this movie has had, man, oh man did it work for *a lot* of people.

Like, I said, this movie relies so much on assumed knowledge going into it, but when you look at the numbers (this one film made nearly as much as the previous Avengers’ solo films sans Iron Man 2 combined), it’s obvious that a whole lot of people saw this without seeing all or any of the prior five films. The reason I think it works as well as it does is due to its A+ casting. Every performance in this movie is so compelling that we’re invested in these characters before we maybe fully understand who they even are. And the joy of seeing these characters rub up against each other and the friction it causes is genuinely exciting.

It’s almost easy to forget now that before this came out it was perceived as an astronomical gamble. Combining these disparate superhero franchises into one mega blockbuster might not even work, and the ingenious move The Avengers makes is that that’s the literal plot of the film. Can these disparate characters and personalities come together and function as a cohesive team. The movie almost tricks you into rooting for the very gimmick of its existence to succeed.

And obviously it did given that we’re ten years and nineteen(!) movies deep into this crazy thing. The Marvel Universe has swept over Hollywood like the Biblical flood, and if this movie hadn’t worked, the entire universe would have died on the vine (see: Justice League). Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to personal opinion, but you can’t argue it’s not significant. In my estimation, The Avengers ranks alongside 9/11 and the iPhone as the most significant changers of global culture in the 21st century. Even Star Wars doesn’t have the global appeal Marvel has garnered.

It would have been interesting to pit this against The Dark Knight, which is probably a better movie, but despite what it would’ve seemed in 2008, was the less meaningful long term. Back then, it seemed like Nolan’s superhero crime drama would change the face of the genre, but its only real successor in the DC universe has been dead on arrival since 2013. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to see how Marvel’s success has fundamentally changed the industry.

Love it or hate it, The Avengers deserves a place in the Canon. This is among the easiest calls in this show’s history. It’s just too big a thing to ignore.
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sycasey 2.0's Photo sycasey 2.0 16 Apr 2018

View PostDavidMDaut, on 16 April 2018 - 05:02 PM, said:

It would have been interesting to pit this against The Dark Knight, which is probably a better movie, but despite what it would’ve seemed in 2008, was the less meaningful long term. Back then, it seemed like Nolan’s superhero crime drama would change the face of the genre, but its only real successor in the DC universe has been dead on arrival since 2013. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to see how Marvel’s success has fundamentally changed the industry.


Yeah, The Dark Knight at this point seems more like an artifact from the previous age of darker action movies, applied to one popular superhero. If you want to pit Avengers against an earlier superhero franchise that is more of a precursor, then I'd tab the Raimi Spider-Man movies. Those movies proved that a light, sunny tone and a focus on old-fashioned heroism could be accepted by mass audiences, perhaps even desired in the aftermath of 9/11.
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DavidMDaut's Photo DavidMDaut 16 Apr 2018

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 16 April 2018 - 05:32 PM, said:

If you want to pit Avengers against an earlier superhero franchise that is more of a precursor, then I'd tab the Raimi Spider-Man movies. Those movies proved that a light, sunny tone and a focus on old-fashioned heroism could be accepted by mass audiences, perhaps even desired in the aftermath of 9/11.


Absolutely. Raimi’s Spider-Man movies really feel like the prototype for what would eventually become the MCU, and Spider-Man 2 is still the best the genre has ever offered. I know Amy’s not likely to go back to the superhero well any time soon, but Spidey 2 more than deserves a shot at the Canon.
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Johnny Pomatto's Photo Johnny Pomatto 16 Apr 2018

I had some initial excitement about so many Marvel films given the silver screen treatment. And I have good memories of that opening night screening of THE AVENGERS. But Marvel fatigue has hit me hard. Even when they're good, and some of them are better than good, I find them exhausting, have difficulty retaining information and memories of scenes after seeing them, and have no urge to revisit them after a single viewing. What Marvel has done with its cinematic universe is truly impressive, and they deserve to be recognized for that. Maybe letting THE AVENGERS into The Canon is the easiest way to do that. We all might have different favorite characters and films, and at least this first assembling probably features one of those characters we respond to. But if we all have different favorite Marvel films, should we just lazily crown the one that links them as the winner? My favorite films in the universe are probably CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER or the original IRON MAN, but even those aren't held in such high esteem that I would insist that they be canonized.

I also believe that The Canon is meant for films that deserve to be revisited often and passed down. But as much as I enjoyed THE AVENGERS when I first saw it, I found myself actually nodding off while watching it last night. I don't hate it. I like it more than some of the other sequels, but subsequent viewings have weakened its impact and now it just blends together with all the other films in the series. I can't even muster up the enthusiasm to discuss the structure and content of the film itself, because what's the use? We've all seen it. We all know what we like about it and what we don't. Any argument I can make for or against this film has been spread across the internet since its release. I can't in good conscience vote yes on a film that I feel like I got out of my system, or one that will be or has been replaced with a superior entry down the line. So while I'll admit that the phenomenon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has undeniably made film history, for better or worse, I will have to vote NO on THE AVENGERS.
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FictionIsntReal's Photo FictionIsntReal 16 Apr 2018

I agree with Amy so much on this film, but the problem is that all her complaints about the size of the impact of the film actually weigh in favor of its inclusion in the Canon! I've only seen two MCU films, this & Guardians. Both were fine, but nothing special. I did find it annoying that it seemed like you had to see a whole bunch of films before Avengers, and if I wanted long-form storytelling I could watch tv. It seems to be the most successful superhero film of that time period was The Dark Knight, whose stature holds up in part because the series ended with the next film rather than having so many sequels (the quantity & limited range of which makes it harder to pick out a single entry for the Canon). Someone above criticized TDK as following an out-of-date model of superhero movies, but Logan pulled off "dark & gritty" recently to good effect. If the DCEU's recent failure to replicate Nolan's approach successfully doesn't speak to their canonicity, then I'd say their imitation of the supergroup aspect of The Avengers does as well. Maybe when crossovers become a viable model for other films The Avengers will seem canonical. But it didn't introduce most of these characters, and from what I've heard it follows much of the model of Iron Man, which was in turn made viable by the success of Spider Man, X-Men & Blade before it.
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FictionIsntReal's Photo FictionIsntReal 16 Apr 2018

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 16 April 2018 - 09:05 AM, said:

Westerns were about lone-wolf tough guys.

Sounds a bit like High Noon, which John Wayne denounced as the most un-American film he'd ever seen. Howard Hawks agreed with him enough to make Rio Bravo in response, where a group of people come together to help the sheriff against a gang of baddies (and then they remade the film two times). Personally, I think Wayne exaggerated the difference, since it's not a lone effort in either film. Similarly, I think you overestimate the degree to which such dynamics in film today are different from those of the past (although Robin Hanson thinks there is a shift in stories of group conflict).
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EarthaMajor's Photo EarthaMajor 17 Apr 2018

I'm a pretty solid no. The first time I saw The Avengers, I thought it was borderline unwatchable. I remembered literally nothing about it the next day, which for me is a very bad sign. Years later, I watched it with my 13-year-old daughter which was more enjoyable, if only because of her enthusiasm.

I just don't get the Joss Whedon love, I guess. To me, everything he does looks and feels like a TV show. He just doesn't have a cinema sensibility, in my opinion.
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sycasey 2.0's Photo sycasey 2.0 17 Apr 2018

View PostFictionIsntReal, on 16 April 2018 - 09:49 PM, said:

Someone above criticized TDK as following an out-of-date model of superhero movies, but Logan pulled off "dark & gritty" recently to good effect.


Fair point, though I'd say Logan was praised in part for being a change-of-pace and not part of the dominant mode.

And to be clear, I'm not "criticizing" the individual films here. I think The Dark Knight is also very good. But if I'm trying to identify the precursor to the current dominant superhero template, then I think that one is a little bit of a dead-end in the evolution of the form (at least until there is some major shift in the zeitgeist).

EDIT: Oh man, now you got me thinking about Logan. It certainly projects a "dark and gritty" tone, but look at where the narrative goes. (SPOILERS) The "lone wolf" hero dies at the end, sacrificing himself to protect a younger mutant with similar powers. Where does that girl wind up? You guessed it: with a new super-team of young mutants. It actually embraces something akin to the Avengers model, just by a different route.
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Lexotron's Photo Lexotron 17 Apr 2018

Avengers gets a hard "no" from me. Yes, the Marvel movies are culturally significant. Yes, they represent a needed break from the "dark and gritty" Nolan Batman movies.

So let's induct Jon Favreau's Iron Man into the Canon instead. It's a much better movie. Its story is tighter and allows us to experience a single character's complete arc. The big, city-demolishing battle at the end feels somewhat more personal. RDJ's blockbuster movie Renaissance? Started with Iron Man, not Avengers.

I think Whedon did the best anyone could have within the constraints of making a PG-rated team-up of five(ish) protagonists from films with different tones and rules, but in the end, these constraints prevent Avengers from being Canon-worthy.
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MSUBear's Photo MSUBear 17 Apr 2018

I loved the conversation in this episode but was surprised neither of you touched on the idea of an expanded universe as it has come to define big studio projects and has failed in every attempt with Marvel being the lone example of value.
The idea of an expanded universe is in my opinion an ultimately negative aspect of our era since it overstretches premises for the sake of profit. Marvel, however, has used the EU to develop each character individually and in turn has created a wholly unique feat in movie making and one that I doubt will be replicated in our lives.
In the golden age of Hollywood up until the seventies, quality, critically lauded movies were seen in mass by the public and we as a culture were allowed to have a conversation about them. I think the last film to accomplish this was Pulp Fiction and since then the way we view movies has become so diffuse that often one can't have a face to face conversation with another over a recent film. Star Wars is a modern exception to this but has become so tied up in its own expectations. While I'm not claiming Marvel films are as high a quality of older films I do value their exsistence as they are telling original stories (for the bulk of us who don't read comics) and immediately enter the public consciousness.
Re-watching the Avengers it is clear where Marvel's faults lie. The soundtrack is uninspired, the color scheme and set designs are muted, the villain is a faceless robot army. But! All these problems have been corrected ten fold by Black Panter and Thor 3. While the Avengers is less rewatchable than the films it has birthed, it deserves canon entry as being the evolutionary beginning of our own modern epic.
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Nathan Roberson's Photo Nathan Roberson 17 Apr 2018

The Marvel movies are worse for this one, as it introduced the annoying smarmy Joss Wheadon dialogue into an already awful stake-less franchise.

Yeah, I'm no fan of these movies. I get that they're huge. I get that they're in the culture. Yet, everything people hate about Ready Player One is also present in the Marvel films. They're entirely predicated on a comic book geek going to the movie, recognizing things the movie references, and then feeling smug superiority in explaining these things to people who stopped listening five minutes ago. Congratulations! You got the reference!

The Canon is about cinema, and Marvel movies are anti-cinema. They're all about satisfying expectations and playing it safe. A hard and firm no from me. Keep this dreck out.
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