Ving Rhames

Ranking Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

That’s right! We’re back again with another installment of ranking the MCU films. It’s become an HPN tradition to bitterly fight behind closed doors about where the new films rank. We almost look forward to destroying our friendship each time Marvel releases a new film.  With that said, we are placing the newest film: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We’ve already done a super-spoiler podcast on it, so if you want to give that a listen first, feel free to check that out here.

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Before we get too deep, let’s remind you what the line up was previous to the film.

14. Iron Man 2
13. Incredible Hulk
12. Iron Man 3
11. Thor: The Dark World
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
9. Doctor Strange
8. Thor
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. Ant-Man
5. Iron Man
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. Avengers
1. Captain America: Civil War

Where does Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 fall?

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How it Succeeds

I will say that we all decided Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was overall a fun movie. It does quite a few things really well, being one of the better sequels that the MCU has produced. One thing that really impressed all of us at the HPN is the additional characters this time around, particularly Mantis and Ego.  Both were well developed and blended into the created universe seamlessly.  It’s easy to tell that director James Gunn did not want to shove new characters into the film just for the sake of having new faces around. He wanted to make them just as beloved as the returning characters.  Newcomers Kurt Russell and Pom Klementieff were easily some of the highlights of the film.

Speaking of characters, the most compelling story of all had to have been Yondu.  His role in the first film was a fun antagonistic one that lead us to think he’d be flying in and out of films to come. With this latest venture into the Guardians world, his role isn’t necessarily expanded but a heavier importance is put on him.  He proves to be more than just another alien, with back story revealed, confirmation of his Kree heritage, and a suitable ending for any hero.  We may not see Yondu again, but his effect on the MCU will be felt for multiple films to come.

The easter eggs and the name drops were great. Bringing back both Cosmo and Howard the Duck was an absolute riot to see on screen. I’m convinced James Gunn does whatever James Gunn wants. He brought in an Adam Warlock reference (hope you stayed for all the follow-up scenes) even though the MCU has come out multiple times against his character joining. He even referenced the original Guardians, tapping Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh, and Ving Rhames for some star power, leading everyone to believe they’ll appear in Guardians 3.

How it lets us down

While he’s a huge bright spot, Ego is also a huge sore spot for the film too. This time, though, it’s more with the writing behind him and not the acting. Ego is presented as a formidable foe, but one that is just a little too EGOtistical to pull off his plan (see…. see what I did there?). He was so perfect up until the very last half hour. He monologued! If he hadn’t, he would have been just fine! He would have won! It seems too convenient a plot point to have the entire ending hinging on Ego revealing he killed Starlord’s mom.  Absolutely ridiculous.

Also, what’s the deal with Gamora? The comics portray her as the most deadly woman in the galaxy, being in the top 5 fighters of the entire Marvel cast of characters and we’ve seen very little proof that she’s any better than the rest of the Guardians. Not only does she not get her due when it comes to how she’s written, but she also isn’t allowed to have a personality. Zoe Saldana is a great actress, reigning as the current queen of the nerds, and yet, none of her vivaciousness and sass get to show through.  Gamora isn’t just the serious one in this goofy boy band, but she’s dry wall. She’s written as if she exists to be lusted after and nothing else. I do appreciate the attempt to have Nebula bring out some of her goodness, but it was for naught.

So, where is it already?

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After very little deliberation on this one (I know, we actually agree), we have decided that the film was a solid follow up to a great movie and deserves to rank in the upper half of the 15 MCU films.

15. Iron Man 2
14. Incredible Hulk
13. Iron Man 3
12. Thor: The Dark World
11. Captain America: The First Avenger
10. Doctor Strange
9. Thor
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
7. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
6. Ant-Man
5. Iron Man
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. Avengers
1. Captain America: Civil War

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Would you rearrange everything? Yeah, so would we. But this is where we are and we’ll be happy to reevaluate in July when Spider-Man: Homecoming releases.

Ranking Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Ranking The Mission: Impossible Movies

Since its revival in 1996, Tom Cruise has starred in five Mission: Impossible movies. The fifth one, Rogue Nation, hits theaters today. These movies are a testament to the time in which they were created. The somewhat over-the-top gadgets have gotten more advanced and less clunky over the years, the plots have adapted to the times, and the action sequences have become more complex. This list will rank the Mission: Impossible movies starting from the worst and working our way to the top. So let’s plunge right into what the worst that the franchise has to offer…

4. Mission: Impossible II

Mission: Impossible 2

After the successful first movie, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. However, this movie had a very different tone from the original Mission: Impossible. This could be attributed to the new director, John Woo, who specializes in making action movies, as opposed to Brian De Palma, who can certainly do action but is also known for making thinking and complex movies The Untouchables and Scarface. There was certainly a lot more action going on in this film. However, that is the nature of a Mission: Impossible film. More problems lied with poor supplementals. By supplementals, I mean production values. First, the music was atrocious, which is a surprise from Hans Zimmer, who is a prolific composer nowadays. His overuse of the electric guitar as a lead instrument did not work well for this movie. Second, the cinematography is flashy and oftentimes irrelevant. Whether it’s strange fights in the sand, four different angles of Ethan Hunt aiming his gun before he fires, or the birds flocking in a cellar, the cinematography draws the viewer out of the movie with its lack of subtlety.

Supplementals aside, this movie had some problems in the story department as well. The romance plot was terrible. We knew Ethan Hunt would never end up with a thief, and their romance being almost entirely built off of a narrowly-avoided car crash is a sloppy addendum. Lastly, there was the supposed twist. The first Mission: Impossible made the twist almost entirely about the masks, which worked well with that film. Mission: Impossible II tried to use the masks as well. Unfortunately, the twist was fairly predictable and lackluster, like the rest of this movie. Mission: Impossible II remains the worst of the franchise.

This film gets one fancy camera angle out five.

3. Mission: Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol

There is not much bad you can say about this film. It has a strong cast with Simon Pegg reprising his role as Benji from M:I:III and Jeremy Renner as a former IMF agent with tragic past. However, after Mission: Impossible III, this film felt like a step down. This was not a personal story for Ethan Hunt and lacked the character development of the previous. It also lacked Luther, who only provided a brief cameo in the film. However, the plot is fun and, while Ethan Hunt does not have much character development, the supporting cast has plenty with Benji entering field service for the first time and the revelations of Renner’s past. And let us not forget the cool stunt work on the skyscraper.

This film gets three and a half skyscraper climbing stunts out of five.

2. Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible served as a revival of the franchise from the 1960s. It even featured a character from the old show, Jim Phelps, as played by Jon Voight. This film is a meticulous spy movie in the same realm as From Russia With Love. Danny Elfman’s musical score perfectly creates this tone without much bombast. There is not as much action as any of the others, but the twists and turns keep the film from getting even close to boring. We also have some rather enjoyable gadgets with the gum explosive and the camera eyeglasses. With its twisted plot and ’90s technology, this film is a fun trip down Nostalgia Lane.

It gets four NOC floppy disks out of five.

1. Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible III

After the lackluster second movie, it was nearly six years before audiences saw another Mission: Impossible film enter cinemas. The wait was well worth it with J.J. Abrams taking the helm as director. Mission: Impossible III‘s primary objective was to focus on Ethan Hunt as a person and it does so wonderfully. Ethan is no longer on active field duty but instead trains recruits. He is engaged, which further keeps him from wanting to go back into the field. However, when his superiors ask him to take one last assignment, Ethan’s personal life becomes threatened. Throughout the film, it is the protection of his fiance that drives him, which is why this film has found its way to the top of the list. Of course, Mission: Impossible III has incredible action sequences, a wonderful score from Michael Giacchino (who was just beginning to become well-known at that point), and a solid cast. One would be remiss in not mentioning Philip Seymour Hoffman’s incredible job as the villain.

Mission: Impossible III gets four and a half wind farm chase sequences out of five.

Do you agree with our list? How would rank them? Let us know in the comments!

Ranking The Mission: Impossible Movies

Mission: Impossible – Treating Women like People

I didn’t intend to write anything about Mission Impossible, even with the latest installment of the series debuting in a few days.  But Netflix conspired against me and put the first two movies in the series up on the Recommended for You list.  Inevitably I ended up watching both of them, and there are some things that I feel need to be said about them.

We give Disney and Marvel a lot of grief since, despite all of the things they do right, they have continued to be extremely hesitant to dedicate any time or money to developing their female superhero characters into being much more than supporting characters.  Black Widow easily deserves her own movie.  Hopefully, we’ll see a lot more of Wasp after Ant-Man…but who knows at this point?  We’ll get Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers in a few years, but until then, that’s pretty much it.

The renewed attention to this inequality made it impossible for me to watch the Mission Impossible films and not apply the same concerns here.  So lets look at each movie briefly to see how it treats the female characters vs male characters.

There will be spoilers for the first 4 movies in the franchise, but not for Rogue Nation.  Since the previous entry in the series was released in 2011, I feel no guilt about discussing spoilers.

Mission: Impossible – Franchise Analysis

 

Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible

The movie seems to start out well, as the 6 person team that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is a part of is split right down the middle: 3 men, 3 women.  But that observation falls apart as soon as you examine what each character does.

For the men, we’ve got the Team Leader (Jon Voight), the Point Man (Cruise), and the Computer Guy (Emilio Estevez).  What do the women do?  One of them got a job at the embassy before the action even started, so anything cool or impressive that she did happened completely off camera.  The second’s entire job seems to be to simply stand around, wearing sunglasses indoors, watching how a specific person moves through the crowd.  Definitely not a job that could be performed by a computer or someone hacked into security feeds.

And the third female member of the team?  Her sole qualification seems to be that she is the wife of the Team Leader.

By the time that first team mission is over, the first two female characters have been killed off and the Team Leader’s wife also dies towards the end of the film.  Where her loyalties lie is one of the turning points of the plot, but it’s never particularly clear what skills she brings to the team or why she is even there, other than “the plot demands it”.

 

Mission: Impossible II

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Right off the bat, this movie commits the sin of sending Ethan Hunt to recruit Nyah (Thandie Newton), ostensibly for her skills as a thief, only to upend that assumption when it is revealed that her entire purpose is due to her previous relationship with the movie’s villain.  Whatever skills the character may have are irrelevant.  What’s important is that the character is a woman, and that she’s pretty, and that the villain wants her in the worst kind of way.  At no point does the movie treat her as anything more than a prize to be won.  In fact, it gets worse once she injects herself with the movie’s supervirus, which turns her into a literal prize to be won and woman to be saved.

 

Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible IIIThe only female characters of note in this film are Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell) and Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), respectively Ethan’s protege and fiancé (and later wife).  Lindsey dies at the conclusion of the mission that opens the movie.  Julia is largely a non-presence in the movie, and primarily seems to serve as a plot device so that Ethan can be killed via an electric shock and then brought back, since Julia is a nurse.

 

We do get a female agent, Zhen Lei (Maggie Q), but it’s been a long time since I watched Mission: Impossible III, and the Wikipedia page for this movie doesn’t say anything about this character or what she does in the movie, other than the fact that she exists.

 

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Apparently the marriage to Julia was never meant to last (who knew?), because at the start of this movie she is believed to be dead.  At the end of the movie she is revealed to be alive and well, and that her death was faked in order to protect her while Ethan continues to do crazy stuff for the IMF (while threatening to quit at the end of nearly every movie).  Once again, the character is used as more of a plot device than a character.

It took until the fourth movie in the franchise to give us a female agent that doesn’t die in the opening sequence and isn’t a traitor.  I can’t help but think there’s something wrong with that.  Yet Jane Carter (Paula Patton), for as competent as she is in combat, is effectively a blank slate.  We learn nothing about her history or her character, other than “competent, loyal agent”.   And yet in the same movie we get William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who actually has a story and character arc built around him in the movie.

The Verdict

I suppose an argument can be made that these movies are primarily Tom Cruise movies.  He is the star of the movies, after all, right?  Except that as the movies have progressed we get more and more characters that stick around for the next movie.  Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) has been in every single one of the movies along with Tom Cruise.  Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) joined the team in Mission: Impossible III, with Brandt in Ghost Protocol.

So whoever is running the franchise has absolutely no problem creating new characters to add to the team and building new movies around, so long as they are male.

And that’s the biggest issue I’m having with these movies right now.  The feeling I get coming away from them is that the movie thinks, ultimately, women are interchangeable with each other.

From what I’ve seen of the marketing for Rogue Nation, I can’t say that I’m particularly hopeful that this movie will change things at all.

What do you think about the Mission: Impossible movies? Are we missing any strong, significant female characters? Comment below!

Mission: Impossible – Treating Women like People