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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Which MCU movies are worth watching?

The World's Laziest Superhero by from flickr (CC-BY)

Not a day goes by that I'm not disappointed by what Wikipedia turned into. It went all the way from trying to be "sum of all human knowledge" under "neutral point of view" to cutting everything not "notable" enough and just mindlessly parroting establishment view.

That's tolerable when the establishment knows what they're saying, like in science articles. Well, mostly. Unfortunately this policy gets extended to domains without anything resembling genuine experts, and nowhere is it more ridiculous than with "film critics".

It's one thing to mindlessly parrot some social scientist who fudges statistics and uses questionable methodology, but is at least pretending to do science. Treating someone speaking out of their ass as a "reliable source" just because someone gave them a newspaper column to publish at is a mockery of what Wikipedia used to stand for in its early days.

There is an objective measure of film quality - enjoyment by the audience. And we have pretty good metrics of that - like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes audience score. Such metrics occasionally suffer from issues like vote stuffing, demographic imbalance of voters compared with movie watching audience, less representative sampling for very old or foreign movies, and occasional overrating of most recent movies before it regresses to the mean, but it's insanity not to take these aggregates as starting points.

Even these issues are mostly overstated. IMDB filters handle vote spam quite well, voter demographics while imperfect tends to be far more representable than film critic demographics, and as for questionable early ratings due to hype, just check out how many completely forgettable movies managed to win an Oscars somehow. That reminds me, what was the Oscar list for the year of The Empire Strikes Back? It's hilarious in hindsight.

So what Wikipedia's doing? Ignoring all real data, and just parroting establishment of course!

MCU Movie Ratings

So here are the objective ratings, in chronological order:
I don't always agree with all them - for example I tend to enjoy superhero movies which don't take themselves too seriously more, so personally I find Doctor Strange overrated, and Iron Man 2-3 underrated.

But don't mind me, statistically speaking you're far more likely to enjoy what other people enjoy than what some cat blogger or film critic likes. All I can do is provide a bit of context for those numbers.

The best one

Pretty much everyone agrees that the best movie of them all is Avengers: Infinity War and it's not even close. If you plan to watch a lot of MCU movies, definitely include this one somewhere.

However, it might not be the best movie to start with. It's really good if you're invested in the story, and know at least half the characters. Otherwise, it will probably be too confusing.

Really good movies

There's a lot of options where to start. Movies establishing new characters like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, which are also really good on their own, are probably the best place. If you're completely new to MCU, these are just the two I'd recommend starting with. If you don't like them, I doubt you'd like the rest anyway.

Thor and Captain America have some good movies, unfortunately their first movies are rather mediocre. So you can either start with their first weak movie because it gets better eventually, or just read its plot summary and get straight to the better ones. Nobody will blame you for skipping early Thors, honest.

Watchable movies

These movies are still pretty good, and they mostly don't require watching anything before.

Notable here is Black Panther, which due to the nearly all-black cast became inevitable battleground of culture wars. It's decent movie, but it's massively overrated by the overwhelmingly liberal film critics, and this generates a bit of audience backlash. It's definitely far better than the trainwreck Wonder Woman was, but every single MCU movie is far better than Wonder Woman, even Thor 1.

Forgettable movies

Unless you're really invested in the MCU, it's probably best to skip them. Personally I quite enjoyed Iron Man 2-3 movies, but I definitely have preference for sillier movies that most people don't share, and I can totally see why they did not get universal aclaim.

None of them are key to anything, and a huge added benefit of skipping them all is avoiding Natalie Portman, who according to some is the most annoying actress in Hollywood [citation needed].

So that's it for today. If you know of anyone who's working on an encyclopedia which follows Neutral Point of View, please let me know.

Hearts of Iron IV Online Division Designer

Okay, I posed... now where's my treat?? by Lisa Zins from flickr (CC-BY)

There's division designer in the game, but it takes 10 minutes of console commands to ask basic questions such as "would this division be better with Superior Firepower or Mobile Warfare".

I've seen a few spreadsheet style division designers online, but they're not really able to answer such questions easily, and I don't have much confidence in their calculations.

So I wrote a command line tool to run such calculations based on game files. And then since I was halfway to something useful for other players, I added React.js frontend, then support for two most popular mods (Kaiserreich and Millennium Dawn).

Here it is.

It's first public release, so bugs are definitely possible, and UI could definitely use more polish.

Calculation engine got amount of decent testing to make sure it matches game data (disregarding Paradox rounding), but I could have missed something, especially if it's something only mods use.

It has extra features which are not exposed in the UI right now, like selecting any combinations of techs not just year + doctrine, and forcing old equipment, and I'd like to expose that somehow perhaps. I'd also like to make calculations more transparent with some extra tooltips explaining how those values got derived.

It doesn't even try to run in old browsers like IE11.

Best place for bug reports and feature requests is its github page, but I'm on all social media, so you can contact me whichever way you'd like to. Pull Requests welcome of course.

Over the years I wrote a huge number of various command line analysis scripts and modding tools for CK2, EU4, and HoI4. This is the first one that's available online, but I guess I could setup frontends for more of them. If you have any requests, send them over.