It’s incredibly difficult to assign a grade to SHIELD’s inaugural season. I’m sold on the show now, but I’d given up halfway through until I’d heard it improved and Captain America 2 confirmed something had to be happening. The first half is fairly awful, with boring characters and weak stand-alone plots, like rejected X-Files episodes. Then Winter Soldier forced a change (though clearly in the works all along), and the show becomes episodic and suspenseful, full of great reveals and red herrings. The characters found their places, and the actors meshed. Even the fight choreography got notably better. It attempts Whedon-esque wit throughout, and the quips evoke more chuckles than groans. The addition of some fantastic actors, including Bill Paxton and cameos from Sam Jackson, Patton Oswalt, and Cobie Smulders, also did much to improve the show.
Captain America 2 felt more like a modern action thriller than a superhero film, and that is perfectly OK. It had all the slick melees, gunfights, and car chases you could ask for, never really giving the excitement time to wind down. Even Samuel L. Jackson finally gets a good action sequence. What downtime it does have is filled with Marvel-brand humor, so it flows by easily. Its only real fault is predictability, a fault which truthfully lies with the trailers and my knowledge of the comics, so it’s easily forgiven. It’s certainly better than the first film, and easily the best phase 2 Marvel film so far.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kids movie so consistently funny and purely entertaining. Every character was distinct and I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite. I was pleasantly surprised by how many LEGO franchises made cameos. And the animation blew me away. The dedication to keeping everything 100% LEGO produced astounding cohesion and immersion. A definite candidate for best film of 2014.
Avengers represents everything that is great about the summer blockbuster. It was witty, entertaining, and full of memorable moments. The characters were portrayed exactly as I’d hoped, with a surprising amount of depth given the limited amount of screen time available that comes from having such a large cast. My only real complaint was that the enemy aliens were fairly bland, though to counter that, their big snake ship things were fairly awesome.