Marvel-ous Day 1

June 25, 2020 at 6:00 am (Reviews, TV/movie review, With a list)

Like every half-decent superhero geek, I plan to do a full rewatch of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies from Iron Man to Spider-Man: Far From Home aka The Infinity Saga aka Phase 1-3.

I’ll avoid any and all trivia, because there is SO MUCH, and I’ll stick to my personal reaction to the films as they stand. Sadly I wasn’t able to watch them in the correct order the first time around due to often being too sick to watch movies for months at a time (while pregnant twice).

I’ll rate each movie as fine (1 star), good (2), or great (3 stars but in a highly subjective manner—if it’s got a special place in my heart, it gets three stars even if its just for one very special scene or image). There are a lot of 3 star ratings, because there are a lot of great movies in here. Plus themes of ‘good versus evil’ and ‘fighting on even when it hurts’ are very resonant with me, and the idea of having super powers and changing the world for good is basically my ultimate fantasy.

I began watching at 2:55pm on Wednesday, June 24 2020.

NB: I may have the stones info wrong. They’re not all that interesting, to be honest.

Also, you’ll notice a lot of the images I use are very obviously taken off a simple google image search (complete with a minimising ‘x’ etc). That is because I am lazy (and trying to watch the movies as I type), and because it is SO easy to get the exact right image with a basic search eg ‘Iron Man tank top’.

***IRON MAN (2008) Disney +

Main superhero: Tony Stark aka Iron Man.

One-sentence summary: Stark swears off weapons then immediately makes the best one ever.

Two-sentence summary: Billionaire genius Tony Stark realises his company is supplying weapons to the USA’s enemies and decides to stop weapons manufacture. Then he builds the iron man suit, which is more powerful than any other weapon, and he becomes a superhero as a result—which he spontaneously admits at a press conference.

This is an incredibly good movie, from the very first scene which is charming and funny—and then hits you hard.

The scientist character (Yensen) in Afghanistan is so awesome. And he’s alone and doomed but still wears a waistcoat. Respect, Sir.

Stark: “I’m going to be dead in a week anyway.”

Scientist: “Then this is a very important week.”

When I experience such good writing, usually of the ‘all hope is gone but we persevere’ variety, it makes me a better, stronger person. And reminds me of what I want to create in the hearts of my readers.

Also, this is a beautiful thing:

It’s amazing to see the beginnings of some of the characters that are such a big part of the MCU for years and years to come. Iron Man, obviously. Pepper Potts (love interest and workmate). Happy (Stark’s security guy). Coulson (S.H.I.E.L.D. guy) Paul Bettany’s voice (Stark’s extremely intelligent computer system, Jervis). James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Stark’s military friend/handler who will get his own iron man suit in a few films’ time). Stan Lee cameos. Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (boss of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers Initiative).

The scene in which Stark has Pepper replace his arc reactor from inside his chest is just incredible. It perfectly showcases his vulnerability (and her vulnerability and competence)… and what an asshole he is at the same time.

*

Stark about Rhodes: “Ask him about that lovely lady he woke up with. What was his name?”

Ouch. Trans humour. Not okay.

*

Speaking of ouch: Pepper Potts attempts to explain consent to her boss as he makes her dance with him while she’s clearly very uncomfortable. Kids, this is an excellent example of a ‘romantic’ trope that is actually deeply messed up and wrong.

*

Stark leaves the beardy baddie for a bunch of refugees, including children, to deal with? What are they supposed to do? Wait for the police to come? No, they’re going to kill him themselves. In front of their kids. You know what? That’s not as fun and awesome as the movie seems to think.

I’m really glad the big bad isn’t Muslim or Middle Eastern, though.

*

I’m 100% okay with comic book physics.

*

My absolute favourite moment in the climactic fight is when Stark flies super high, knowing that Obadiah would never have tried flying that high for sheer fun, like he did in his montage earlier. I also love what they do with size: the baddie’s suit is so much bigger than Stark’s suit, and then there’s Pepper, tiny little Pepper, tottering through piles of broken glass in her heels.

Chris and I (we were dating at the time) walked out of this movie delighted with how simply fun it was. Marvel gets criticised for undercutting so many emotional moments with funny lines, but I for one enjoy a dumb, colourful reality where the good guys are good (although also flawed) and they get to make a real difference. I enjoy that silly escapism more and more all the time.

And that post-credits scene blew our minds (Chris had to explain who Fury was; he is extremely knowledgeable on all things comics and graphic novel). Little did we know what an enormous phenomenon was just beginning.

In other news, I REALLY like Stark’s Malibu sea-cliff house. Can I have it please?

Post-credits scene: Epic reveal that there’s gonna be a whole UNIVERSE (as it were) of superheroes.

 

*THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) Had to rent it off YouTube 😦

Superhero: Dr Bruce Banner aka The Hulk aka The Incredible Hulk

One-sentence summary: Banner is found by the government but eventually manages to go back into hiding.

Longer summary: Not necessary. The ex-girlfriend and the Abomination (another hulk, but spikier) are super important in this film but will never be seen again.

There are SO many tellings and retellings of this story (beginning of course with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) that it can be a little tricky to get the right version. Knowing the year helps.

By far the most iconic scene in this film is the blood drop falling in a drink factory, and Dr Banner freaking out about it.

This is not a film I was looking forward to re-watching, but it’s got a lot of good stuff going on (putting the entire origin story in the opening credits was very wise, especially in a phase rife with origin stories). The chase scene in which Dr Banner has to keep his pulse down is great (fantastic scenery and good characterisation).

I’m not super sure about the beauty and the beast trope, but I don’t hate it.

Liv Tyler manages to get a cheekbone-highlighting cut in just the same place as she did in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

First use of “Hulk Smash!” (by the Hulk; not as memorable as it will be later).

The final shot of Dr Banner meditating himself into a green-eyed smile is the other iconic moment of the film. I interpret it as meaning that, although he’s not “cured” as such, he is able to control his transformations now.

Overall this movie isn’t bad.

Post-credits scene: Stark chatting to a guy about possibly maybe joining The Avengers. Not actually that exciting, except that we didn’t expect to see Stark.

 

***IRON MAN 2 (2010) Disney +

Superhero: Tony Stark/Iron Man & introducing Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. “Rhodey” Rhodes gets to be War Machine for the first time.

One-sentence summary: Stark refuses to let the military use his suit design and says it’ll be fine because bad people definitely won’t be able to make any suits; two different baddies make suits.

Two-sentence summary: Stark is brought into court because his suit is so powerful it should not be owned by one man because there are others building copies; Stark says it’ll be ages before there’s a decent copy and is promptly attacked by two other fully functional iron man suits and countless drone suits. He blows up a bunch of things, including a large model of the world, and is then given a medal. It’s good to be a rich white man.

There’s a nice Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) intro.

There’s a central cast change for Rhodey/Rhodes (aka War Machine).

Elon Musk cameo. Remember when he was cool?

Iconic moment: Stark’s suitcase suit. The entire race/attack scene is excellent and memorable.

It’s good to see War Machine and Iron Man fighting the big bad together, especially given all that they go through friendship-wise in this film.

*

There was an moment in Iron Man 1 when Tony was drinking something very green and healthy-looking, which seemed a little out of character for such an irresponsible playboy. But in this movie we find out WHY. The amount of planning and connections in the MCU is absolutely incredible eg Coulson says, “I have to go see something out in New Mexico” (that’d be Thor’s hammer). That sense of overall purpose and consistency was extremely lacking in the most recent Star Wars trilogy.

It’s weird to see Black Widow flirting with Stark. Fortunately it doesn’t last long, and was 100% manipulation on her part.

For me the thing that makes this movie special is how Stark’s heart is literally killing him. It’s strange to rewatch it and see that it’s a relatively small plot point. For me, it’s everything.

Post-credits scene: Coulson in New Mexico seeing a giant crater (that is, a teaser for Thor).

 

***THOR (2011) Disney +

Superhero: Thor aka uh… just Thor (technically Thor Odinsson, but no one will ever call him Mr Odinsson so no need to remember that). And everyone’s favourite hero/villain/repeat: his (adopted) brother Loki. And the hammer, Mjölnir. And oh, hello Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton). I 100% forgot you were in this film but actually you’re pretty cool in it.

Infinity Stone: The Tesseract aka the space stone (blue and shiny, not to be confused with the Casket of Ancient Winters, which was also blue and shiny and in Thor but is irrelevant to everything).

One-sentence summary: The god of thunder becomes less of an asshole.

Seeing a god as a fish out of water is genuinely amusing (people keep being surprised at how good a comedic actor Chris Hemsworth is). The most iconic scene is when Thor fights through a bunch of guys to get to the hammer… and he can’t lift it. The pain of that moment is what makes the film great (for me).

Hawkeye appears as one of Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. people, and has a great opening line, as he is training an arrow on Thor. “You better call it Coulson, because I’m about to start rooting for this guy.”

Post credit scene: Somehow S.H.I.E.L.D. now has the blue shiny soul stone (aka The Tesseract, in its very first appearance), and also Loki is alive (surprise!) and looks like he’s in the process of getting hold of it.

 

***CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) Disney +

Superheroes: Captain America, aka Steve Rogers. His best friend Bucky Barnes, later to become the Winter Soldier.

Stones: The Nazis have the Tesseract aka the space stone, which is blue (when Schmit holds it, it appears to kill him but actually sends him into space, to the planet with the soul stone, and changes actors at the same time but since his face is a red skull I didn’t notice the cast change until Chris pointed it out), which Steve takes into the ice with him at the end. Stark Sr finds it while looking (unsuccessfully) for Steve.

One-sentence summary: A good-hearted weakling turns into a good-hearted superhero.

Longer summary: A super nice kid turns magical but doesn’t stop being fundamentally kind and good. He sacrifices his life to save others (and wakes up seventy years later).

I really wasn’t enthusiastic about a hero with such a jingoistic, USA, ra-ra name. But of course now he’s my favourite of all the characters in all these movies, because his character is so pure. That is the heart of his heroism, and the heart of this movie. Bucky is also a thoroughly decent and great-hearted man, which is shown several times over. And of course we meet Peggy Carter (aka Agent Carter), and get the beginning of that tragically-shortened romance.

It’s fun to see Stark’s dad (also a genius playboy and very much involved in SCIENCE) and a Stark expo, including the giant world sculpture that gets set on fire in Iron Man 2.

The opening two scenes are a tad generic. It feels like the MCU is already getting a bit overwhelmed with the masses of its own information, and also that they realised (correctly) that “wimp getting beaten up” wasn’t the greatest opening scene for the film.

The scene of Steve getting injected with the super soldier serum is made iconic by Steve’s shout of, “I can do this!” when they’re about to shut down the (very painful) experiment. And of course by Peggy’s hilarious reaction when he comes out of the tank just so buff.

That scene feeds immediately into a fantastic chase scene that shows even more of Steve’s excellent character as well as helping us the audience and Steve discover his powers. And when a baddie chucks a boy into water and Steve immediately looks to see if he’s all right, the boy says, “Go get him! I can swim.” It’s a great moment.

And then there’s the pain he can’t quite hide as he’s made into a publicity stunt when he wants to be fighting… and he’s still kind to everyone he meets, and he can still smile wryly when one of his own very embarrassing propaganda films is showing when he goes to see a movie.

*

Speaking of iconic: when he walks back into a military camp, dirty and tired, with four hundred rescued soldiers… it’s so satisfying.

Losing Bucky is iconic too, because of Steve’s reaction.

The two nazi baddies (Zemo and Schmit I think) reappear multiple times throughout the Infinity Saga, but you don’t need to bother remembering them because as soon as they enter the room you can tell they’re evil, and as soon as they start talking their accent says, “Yep, Nazi”.

I am so glad that the MCU never “developed” Captain America’s character into an asshole, as so often happens with any story that lasts a long time. The knowledge that he’s still so noble and good fifteen movies later makes this movie even better.

It’s 2:30am now, and I’m close to the end of this film. Just one more film to cap off Phase 1, but can I make it? Even at home, switching between my laptop and the TV, my bed and my armchair, the sheer number of hours is now taking a toll. I’m doing some gentle physio exercises to keep from lasting injury.

I’m pretty much a hero, is what I’m saying.

At the end of this film, when Steve said goodbye to Peggy over the radio as he deliberately crashed his plane, I had tears in my eyes. But that might just be what happens after this many hours of TV.

The final scene is Steve waking up in the modern day. Which has a great, eerie feel to it as people have tried to ease the shock by setting up a fake environment in which no time has passed.

Post-credits scene: Samuel L Jackson recruits Steve. It’s totally meh these days, but at the time it was an exciting sign that they really were going to put all these superheroes together. I can’t tell you how unlikely this all was.

I suppose I’d rather live in the alternate reality which has intelligent/compassionate/honest politicians and mediocre TV, but for now I’ll enjoy what this reality does best: TV and movies to make us feel better about… everything else that’s happening.

 

MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (2012) Disney +

Superheroes: Our original six: Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk (new actor; the final major cast replacement in this whole saga), Thor, Hawkeye, Captain America.

Stone: The Tesseract aka the Space Stone (blue). And Loki’s sceptre, which holds the mind stone (it’s blue in this film due to being powered by the Tesseract, but it’s usually purple).

One-sentence summary: Loki tries and fails to use a shiny to get more shinies.

Longer summary: Loki reaches peak evil (later ret-cons say the mind stone was making him more evil than he truly wanted to be). Hawkeye spends most of the movie as his zombie puppet. Black Widow is clever and competent. Thor is big and dumb. Iron Man is shiny and dumb. Captain America and Dr Banner do their best to be vaguely useful despite major negative emotions (grief and anger, respectively), and they fundamentally succeed.

Hmm. 2 hours 24 minutes. That’ll take me to almost 6am. That’s… not ideal. But now that I’ve started this re-watch, I know it’ll be my obsession until it’s done. Better push on…

Ugh, baddie rant as an opening scene. Boooring. It’s all about exposition, and we all know it.

But it gets forgiven, because there are over six main characters and they all get a chance to shine. Back in those innocent days, we thought no movie would ever be more impressively over-stuffed with heroes. Lolz.

Black Widow’s torture/interrogation scene is iconic, including this exchange:

Coulson: We need you to come in.

Black Widow: Are you kidding? I’m working!

Also iconic is the way she ‘requests’ help from The Hulk by first luring him out of the city and then lying that it’s “just you and me”. Soft voices, high tension.

*

There’s another iconic scene in Germany, when Loki forces a crowd to kneel and says,

“You were made to kneel.”

An elderly man gets up and says, “Not to men like you.”

Loki: “There are no men like me.”

“There are always men like you.”

That will never fail to thrill me.

The film uses bickering to quickly re-establish the characters of our six main heroes, and it works very well. There’s even some fan service in having heroes fight each other (plenty more of that to come, naturally). The bickering doesn’t just make us laugh and establish character at the same time. It’s also showing the negative effects of the mind stone. So that’s three in one. With a movie this packed, scenes have to do triple duty.

And it’s actually four in one, because it’s foreshadowing when Captain America says Stark “isn’t the one to make the sacrifice play”. Because he is, in this film and in others. For once, Captain America is wrong.

Speaking of fan service, this is the film that launched a million ships. It’s lovely how the science bros immediately connect (Banner and Stark), and the sexual (?) chemistry between Stark and Steve (aka Stony) is sizzling (the ‘hate each other then work well together in an emergency then grow grudging respect and then emotional closeness’ trope is SO COMMON in romance). Of course, in a few films’ time Captain America is also part of the three-way pairing known as “All Caps”: Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon). Close male bonds are always beautiful, and they’re my favourite ships. My all-time favourite is Captain America and Bucky, aka Stucky, mostly because those two are so close and at the same time so sad. And/or All Caps. I really like Stony, too, but Tony and Pepper work really well so I wouldn’t break them up.

It’s 4:36am and this movie is so good that I’m genuinely enthralled even after a-l-l these hours.

Coulson dies (he gets better, but only for the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, and lots of flashbacks), and as a result The Avengers get their heads together and start working as a team.

Chitauri aliens are both iconic and world-changing; they are clearly alien, and Earth will never be the same. I love how they move.

The moment when the six Avengers stand together mid battle, is the ultimate iconic moment of this movie, and of Phase 1 of the MCU.

And then there’s three delicious Hulk moments:

When Hulk says, “That’s my secret Cap: I’m always angry”—and changes into the Hulk with perfect control*.

When Captain America assigns everyone jobs, and says, “Hulk. Smash!”

…and when the Hulk grabs Loki and bashes him on the ground like a rag doll. Then walks off saying, “Puny god.”

 

Post-credits scene 1: We glimpse Thanos for the first time. Very exciting at the time.

Post-credits scene 2: The main six sit together eating Shawarma. It’s a lovely coda.

Boy howdy gee that’s a lot of films. And I’m just getting started. But the truly amazing part is that so many of these films are really, really good.

*This is especially meaningful to me as someone with an anxiety disorder, because I’m always afraid. Every day, for absolutely no rational reason. So when something truly scary happens, I feel fantastic, because for once my fear level matches the actual threat level. As a result, I do really well with scary things (for up to three weeks, then I collapse). Banner appears to be an incredibly calm, affable guy. I also appear calm. It might be the 5:58am talking, but I’m pretty sure that makes me a superhero of some kind.

1 Comment

  1. Summary of a Saga | crazy talk said,

    […] Phase 1 (all reviewed in full here) […]

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