Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: 'The Avengers' (2012)

*This post contains spoilers for The Avengers (2012). You have been warned!*

I honestly can't praise this movie enough. It was when I saw this back in 2012 that I started getting more into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because while I wasn't crazy about superheroes at the time, I loved seeing how much more the franchise actually had to offer than just tough guys in colourful suits punching aliens. I distinctly remember leaving the cinema after watching this and saying, 'It was funny! I didn't think it would be that funny, but it was!' And amazingly, that comment still stands even though this film is now almost seven years old and I've seen it many times. So, in place of any actual commentary about why the humour in this film works so well, I'm just going to quote my favourite lines below:

  • Fury: Sir, please put down the spear! 
  • Tony Stark: Like Christmas, but with more...me.
  • Tony Stark: Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?
  • Thor: He's my brother. / Natasha: He killed eighty people in two days. / Thor: ...he's adopted.
  • Steve Rogers: I understood that reference.
  • Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
  • Tony Stark: He wants a monument built to the skies with his name plast-...son of a bitch.
  • The entire interaction between Tony and Loki inside the Stark tower.
  • Tony Stark: Well, we got its attention...what the hell was Step 2?
  • Fury: I recognise that the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've decided to ignore it.
  • Hulk: Puny god.
  • Steve Rogers: We won. / Tony Stark: Alright, yay. Great job, guys.
I think most of what makes this film work is the fact that the initial conflict between all of the Avengers feels organic, not just a plot convenience conjured up by the writers. They turn on each other because they have different ideas of what constitutes a 'superhero', they disagree on how to handle Loki and his plans, and they are cautious about trusting each other. But that is what makes it so satisfying when we see the iconic shot of the six of them together poised for battle on the streets of New York: they have overcome their issues and learned to work as a team because the world is in danger, and they are the ones who must save it. At no point does their union feel forced, as though they are just coming together to save the day because the script says they must. The film builds up these characters to make you care about them (well, most of them - do many people really care about Hawkeye?) and to make you understand who they really are, so seeing them all come together, seeing all of these different personalities interacting and all of their different skills playing off each other in battle, feels like a huge deal, almost like an event

On top of all that, this movie proves that Loki is totally worthy of the 'Best Villain in the MCU' award. Lovable villains are hard to pull off, but he's so charismatic and theatrical that you just HAVE to like him. All of the best Marvel films are the ones with memorable villains, and you'll probably see that mindset reflected in my ranking as we go on. 

It goes without saying that this is number one on my MCU ranking so far. It's just so damn good - so funny, so well-paced and well-acted, full of iconic lines and scenes that stay with you long after the film has ended...like I said, I can't praise it enough.
  1. The Avengers (2012)
  2. Iron Man (2008)
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  4. Thor (2011)
  5. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  6. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Next: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Monday, 8 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: 'Captain America: The First Avenger' (2011)

*This post contains spoilers for Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). You have been warned!*

I never thought I'd warm up to Captain America. Before I watched his trilogy, I passed him off as Marvel's equivalent of Superman - a character that could never do wrong or lose a fight, and who was just a bit bland. But the first time I watched this film last year, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and watching it again to write this post has reaffirmed my fondness for it. Steve Rogers isn't a two-dimensional hero who only punches bad guys and saves the world (although he certainly does do those things). He's just a kid from Brooklyn who is given the opportunity to fight for his country, and finds himself in the spotlight as a symbol of hope and strength. In many ways, he's your typical hero - courageous, strong, morally correct, almost faultless - but behind the Captain America mask, he's also still the scrawny little man who is still carrying around his old insecurities. He's also surprisingly good with the quips - I found myself laughing at some of his one-liners, which I wasn't expecting from a more serious character in a more sombre film. 

Comparing the romance in Captain America to the one in Thor makes the latter seem laughably lame. Steve and Agent Carter's relationship is inevitable, but it's gradual and builds up over a long period of time, to the point where their final words to each other are truly heartbreaking. And while we're on the subject of Agent Carter, can I just mention how awesome she is? As much as I hate to use the phrase 'strong female character', she fits the mould effortlessly. She's fierce and no-nonsense, but also passionate, hence why she shoots a gun at Steve after she catches him making out with another woman. She acts as more than just a love interest. She is Steve's companion and mentor, and it's a relationship that you root for. 

A few quick observations and things that I liked about this movie:
  • The final scene. I remember it catching me totally off guard the first time I saw it, and even though I was expecting it this time around, I still felt the tension while Steve was asking where he really was. 
  • 'Stan twitter' is right to be so obsessed with Steve and Bucky's friendship. Because I know everything that happens to them after this film, I'm preparing for heartbreak as I continue with this marathon. Even seeing their interactions in this made me remember the ending of Infinity War, and I just had to groan in pain. 
  • The scene in the bar, specifically the moment that Peggy turns up in the red dress, and throughout her interaction with Steve, she stands out so vividly against the dim brown set and the outfits of those around her. Just a nice detail that I appreciated. 
I'm going to put it here on my ranking for now. Although Thor is the film that I would rather re-watch because of its silly humour and fantasy aesthetic, there's no denying that Captain America: The First Avenger is the better film. 
  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  3. Thor (2011)
  4. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  5. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Next: The Avengers (2012)

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: 'Thor' (2011)

*This post contains spoilers for Thor (2011). You have been warned!*

I have a real soft spot for this movie, in spite of its flaws. Maybe it's the 'fish out of water' humour that still makes me chuckle, or maybe it's the fact that I just like Thor as a character. We'll get to Thor: Ragnarok later, of course, and I'll get a chance to praise it to no end, but remembering how he's much funnier and quirkier in that film makes it feel like his character is almost wasted in this first instalment in the Thor trilogy. This film could have been so over-the-top and cheesy, and that would have made it real 'guilty pleasure' viewing. Instead, I feel like it falls short of being a fun flick that doesn't take itself all that seriously, and any serious moments tend to weigh it down.

But no matter what issues I have with it, this movie, like many of the MCU films, gets by on the strength of its main characters. Thor might have a predictable character arc as the arrogant king who must learn humility, but he has these moments of humour that always manage to make me laugh. But the real star of this show is Loki, of course. He's probably one of the best characters in the entire cinematic universe - mischievous and charismatic and very entertaining to watch. Maybe he and Thor stand out SO MUCH because this film is full of characters that are very easily forgotten. I don't remember much about Thor's friends, or Jane's companions, or many others apart from the main characters. While we're on the subject of Jane, she's not exactly the most compelling love interest in the MCU. It's like they tried to make her this super-smart, super-confident girl boss, but she ends up being a giggly, girlish stereotype whenever she's around Thor. Her relationship with him feels less like a love story and more like a lust story - they don't really seem to fall in love no matter how much the film tries to trick us into it with their stargazing scene, but they definitely fancy each other, hence why she goes in for a full make-out session before he returns to Asgard. Nah, I don't buy it.

I'm going to place it here on the list just now, which surprises me considering how many negatives I can find in this movie. But, at the end of the day, I'd rather re-watch this than re-watch Iron Man 2. I prefer the fantasy element of this film, and I'd much rather see Loki as the villain as opposed to Justin Hammer. Ugh.
  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. Thor (2011)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Next: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: 'Iron Man 2' (2010)

*This post contains spoilers for Iron Man 2 (2010). You have been warned!*

Of the three Iron Man films, this is probably the one that stands out the least. It feels like they took the first one and tweaked it a little bit, and the result is a slightly darker, slightly more bloated version of the original Iron Man. I think I could pretty much copy and paste my commentary on Iron Man (2008) here and it would basically be the same. Tony Stark is by far the most memorable part of this movie, and the moments when he is on screen are the highlights of the movie. He's just the same lovable asshole he was in the prequel, but ten times more self-destructive to the point where I was actually happy to see Fury, Coulson and Natasha giving him strict orders in an attempt to stop him from almost killing himself.

Most of the joy I got out of this film came from the references to other characters in the MCU: Coulson finding Captain America's shield in Tony's workshop, the events in New Mexico that are also teased in the post-credits scene, and the knowledge that everything is building up to The Avengers. I certainly got no joy from Justin Hammer, one of the main villains. In fact, I wrote in my Notes app while I was watching the movie 'Hammer is a condescending prick and I hate him.' He's probably my current least-favourite villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because he's irritating, unlikeable and, as I've mentioned above, condescending. Everything he says and does annoys me. It's not that all movie villains have to be likeable, but when your villain is detestable for all the wrong reasons, it doesn't exactly add much to a film.

For now, I'm going to place the film here. It has its faults, but Tony Stark is an entertaining enough character to counteract the other aspects.

  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  3. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Next: Thor (2011)

Friday, 5 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: 'The Incredible Hulk' (2008)

*This post contains spoilers for The Incredible Hulk (2008). You have been warned!*

Confession: this post is pretty much my reaction to seeing this movie for the first time, since I'd never actually seen it before yesterday. I wasn't sure what to expect, having heard mixed opinions about it. I'm not entirely sure why I put off watching this film for so long - maybe it's for the simple reason that I missed it while it was in cinemas and later got so used to Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk that I figured it wasn't worth going back to watch this one - but I'm glad that I've finally watched it, although it's not what I expected from a Marvel movie. Something about the colour palette and the distinct lack of comic relief makes it feel more detached from the rest of the cinematic universe, so much so that I was surprised at the references to Stark Industries and at the appearance of Tony Stark himself at the end of the film. The colour grading makes it look like a film from the Transformers film franchise, honestly. At least, that was a thought that ran through my head while watching this movie.

However, the fact that there aren't very many funny moments makes the one joke that I remember really stand out among the rest of the film. For reference, it's the moment when Bruce and Betty jump out of a cab, Betty yelling at the driver for his dangerous driving, and Bruce tells her that he knows plenty of methods that could help her deal with her anger. It's an obvious joke, but it caught me off guard and made me laugh because the rest of the movie is so dark and dismal.

As with plenty of other films in the MCU, the main character is the most interesting part of it all. Bruce Banner is a complicated character, and while I'm more used to seeing him played by friendly-faced Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton still brings him to life as a likeable character who finds himself in a 'Jekyll & Hyde'-type situation. Maybe that's why it feels so different to the other films in the MCU: while other main characters are busy saving the world from bad guys in their separate films, Bruce is trying to protect the world from himself. Through the eyes of other characters in the film, HE could be seen as the bad guy. The scene in which Bruce first turns into the Hulk is so dark that you don't see the big green monster for a full five minutes, only the destruction that he causes, which made me wonder if the film was trying to borrow tropes from the horror genre, trying to keep the monster as shrouded in mystery as possible before the big reveal. Bruce is a tortured man who wants to find a cure for his condition so he can protect others. He's selfless and caring, plus he's desperate to believe that he and the Hulk are two different entities. He can't bear the idea that he has to control the immense power that is contained within him, and wants to get rid of it so that he can't put others at risk. Of course, he's far from the bad guy, as we learn from this film and from the ones that follow, but there's no denying that you wouldn't want to take him on when he's angry. And this film wins points with me because I'm a sucker for a big loud character who can be calmed down only by one specific person, and each time that I watched Betty successfully calm down the Hulk, I couldn't help but smile a little.

But right from the get-go, this movie has its issues. Bruce's entire backstory is reduced to a quick montage in the opening credits, a montage that almost made me say aloud to myself, 'Whoa, slow down.' And I know that this is because there was also a Hulk movie in 2003 that tells this part of the story, but it just feels out of place in this cinematic universe. If you're only watching the MCU films, you're going to feel like you've missed some context. The film suffers from weird pacing all the way through: at about fifty minutes in, I could have sworn that I was already 75% of the way through the film, judging by how much stuff had already happened. It almost feels like the film could have been simplified down to Bruce Banner's battle with his own condition, as opposed to him also trying to escape from the U.S. Government. There's just slightly too much going on, considering the fact that it's not a long film.

And the thing that makes it feel VERY detached from the MCU? NO POST-CREDITS SCENE!

So, after watching the first two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is how my personal ranking is looking:
  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Next up: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: 'Iron Man' (2008)

*This post contains spoilers for Iron Man (2008). You have been warned!*

The one that started it all. I believe that this was the first Marvel movie that I ever saw (fittingly enough, as it IS the first instalment in the MCU), but it's not one of the films that stands out to me all that much. However, it's definitely one that I appreciate a lot more when I watch it years later in the context of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. As I rewatched this film again to start this little series, I found myself wincing at certain moments that hurt in hindsight after watching The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018), so I suppose that's a sign of consistency in this cinematic universe that has been running for ten years now. After watching the other films and seeing how many evolutions the Iron Man suit has gone through, and how Tony Stark himself has evolved over the course of all these films, it gives me an odd sense of nostalgia, and the unpleasant feeling that, if Tony dies in Avengers: Endgame, I will probably cry quite a lot.

Is it any wonder that the most memorable part of this film is Tony Stark himself? He's arguably the best character in the entire MCU, although I feel that I may be saying that a lot about many characters as we get into the rest of the movies. With that being said, anybody who doesn't instantly like Tony Stark is clearly someone who isn't worth bothering with. Tony is one of those 'lovable asshole' characters who are flawed yet absolutely adored nevertheless. He's impulsive, he's sarcastic, he's borderline misogynistic, he's out of control, he's late to meetings and arrives whenever it suits him...the list goes on. But there's more to him than that. He's courageous, he makes decisions for the greater good, he cares about those close to him, and he ultimately does what's right. A whole subplot of the film is basically him attempting to shut down his father's weapon-manufacturing company because he knows that the world does not need any more bad guys getting hold of weapons. Underneath the 'I'm a billionaire and I can do whatever I want' facade, he has a big heart. And yeah, that's not exactly a groundbreaking observation on my part considering the fact that Pepper Potts acknowledges this fact by gifting him with 'proof that Tony Stark has a heart', but it needs to be reiterated.

Tony and Pepper's developing relationship throughout the film kind of says it all, because Tony spends so much time alone and without many real friends that the only times we see the real him is when he's around Pepper. Their relationship is different from the usual tired 'boy meets girl and they fall in love and live happily ever after' subplot. They are just two people who do not have anyone else, who are always in very close proximity to each other and have therefore seen each other at their highest and lowest moments, and they help to balance each other out. It's a relationship that doesn't evolve into anything officially romantic in this film, but it's one that we root for nonetheless. Typical of me to talk about the romance in this movie as opposed to anything of real substance, but the MCU characters are so interesting that I barely feel like talking about anything else. After you watch this film, chances are you'll remember the characters and their interactions before you remember any of the action.

One thing that I will say is that the way that this film begins and ends makes it feel like this movie is ridiculously important, like it's worthy of starting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It begins by blasting AC/DC at you and gifting you with the scene of Tony in an army truck, bantering with the soldiers, and it ends with Tony disobeying orders in very characteristic fashion to tell a crowd of eager journalists 'I am Iron Man.' If we're counting the post-credits scene, the film actually ends with the appearance of Nick Fury, and the teasing of The Avengers (2012). It's a film that leaves you feeling like something big is coming, and like it's the start of some sort of new era. And it is. Phase One of the MCU might not be my favourite of the phases, but there's no denying that it sets everything up brilliantly, and there's no better character to start off with than Iron Man, in my opinion.

Since I'm going to be adding each Marvel movie to the ranking as and when I review them, the table currently only looks like this:

  1. Iron Man (2008)

It's simultaneously the best and worst movie at the moment, but as the list fills out, it'll find its true place. At least, it'll find its place on the list according to my opinion...

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Marvel Movie Marathon: A Quick Intro

Before I went to see Avengers: Infinity War last year, I watched all of the Marvel movies in order in preparation. This was before I had properly started blogging again, and I didn't take the opportunity to give my opinions on any of the films or rank them or even just live-tweet my reactions. I had been watching some of these films for the first time, after all, and it would have been the perfect time to write 'first impression' reviews for those ones. For the ones that I had seen multiple times, it would have been fun to pick out little details that I hadn't noticed before.

So now, I'd like to rectify my mistake by watching all of the Marvel movies once again to prepare for the release of Avengers: Endgame, and by reacting to/reviewing each and every one of them. I'm going to buy plenty of popcorn and assorted other snacks, sit back with my notebook, and plough my way through the Marvel Cinematic Universe one more time.

A few things about this marathon before we start:
  1. Technically, I'm not 'marathoning' these movies since I'm not watching them one after another in one day, but eh. I want that sweet sweet alliteration in the title of this little series, so let's just pretend that it's a real movie marathon.
  2. I'm going to watch these films in order of release date (beginning with Iron Man) instead of according to the MCU timeline (beginning with Captain America: The First Avenger). Not sure if that's a controversial move or not, but who really cares? 
  3. I'm going to be ranking them all as I watch them in the same way that I Hate Everything does with his 'Search For The Worst' series: adding each film to the list one at a time until I reach the end of the marathon with a complete ranking from best to worst. The overall ranking will just be based on my personal opinion and how much enjoyment I get out of each film. 
So, with those points in mind, let's begin! Stay tuned for the first instalment tomorrow...
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