Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 1 – Film

“Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 1”

Now that Phase 3 has begun with the release of Captain America: Civil War, I decided it’s time to revisit the movies which were chosen to spearhead this huge and hugely ambitious project.

Iron Man (2008)

For more information follow this link.

Tony Stark, playboy, millionaire, engineering genius, weapons mogul.  He is kidnapped and held in a cave, where his captors, who have a stockpile of his company’s weapons, want him to build a super weapon for them.  Instead, he builds a unique suit of armor, powered by a miniature arc reactor, to escape.  Once he returns home, he announces his plan to cease building weaponry and begins work on improving the suit’s technology in order to battle evil.

The audience is introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) with a bang in this film.   Aside from Robert Downey, Jr., as title character Tony Stark/Iron Man, many characters who are introduced in this film will continue to make appearances throughout the franchise.  Including Stark’s assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), excellent chemistry between them, by the way,  Hogan (director, Jon Favreau), Jarvis (Paul Bettany),  and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), a small role to be sure, but a staple of the MCU.

I gave this film 5 glasses of scotch on the rocks.  This is a wonderfully strong kick-off to the Marvel Cinematic Franchise.  Robert Downey, Jr is, without a doubt, Iron Man.  He brings a rich and varied background of both acting and life experience to the character which makes his performance uniquely believable.



The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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Bruce Banner has been on the run and laying low in Brazil, working on techniques to control his anger and therefore the Hulk.  When a scientist he’s been corresponding with suggests that might have a cure if he were to get more data.  Bruce returns home to find the data he needs from the experiment which created the Hulk.  General Ross tracks Bruce down, and finds himself working with a soldier keen on helping to weaponize the technology and volunteers to try the super soldier serum.

All the parts of the film are good.  The story is solid,.  Edward Norton does a decent job as Bruce Banner, the lovely Liv Tyler plays a soulful Betty Ross, William Hurt is a really good as a Captain Ahab-like General Ross, and Tim Roth gives an outstanding performance as Emil Blonsky.

Unfortunately, these good separate parts just kinda stay separate and don’t really mesh into a successful whole, which leaves the movie lacking.  I think, in part it’s the direction.  The timing of important moments were just slightly off or felt forced.  Perhaps a bit more tweaking with the editing could have fixed some of those moments, but not all.  Maybe the biggest thing is that I had a problem believing that there was any sort of chemistry between Bruce and Betty.

I gave this one 2 cans of soda.  It’s worth watching, once.  There are other interpretations of Bruce Banner and The Hulk that are better executed.  Aside from giving the audience a modern setting for the Hulk, I didn’t think this film was particularly memorable.  Although it had nothing to do with my opinion of the film, it is noteworthy, that currently, it is the only film in the MCU that does not have either a mid-credit or post-credit scene.




**Random Note of interest, Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009.  Although, Sony still owns Spider-Man, and 20th Century Fox still owns X-Men, Fantastic 4, Silver Surfer, and Deadpool.**

Iron Man 2 (2010)

For more information follow this link.

Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, returns, having some pretty bad side effects from the device that is not only keeping him alive, but powering the Iron Man suit.  While Tony is dealing with his health concerns, and confident that he has privatized world peace, the legacy of his father’s former partner, Ivan Vanko, prepares to confront Tony.  Vanko is recruited by Tony’s self absorbed and rather inept primary competition for arms development, Justin Hammer.

In this film, the audience rides along with the character and relationship development of our favorite playboy millionaire.  We also get the opportunity to revisit characters who continue to have important roles throughout the MCU, the endearing Agent Coulson and still mysterious Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  We are also introduced to Natasha Romanov, the talented Scarlett Johansson. Don Cheadle smoothly takes over as Rhodey (“It’s me, I’m here, deal with it, and let’s move on.”  Fantastic line and sentiment to acknowledge the change of actor).   Our villains, Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, bitter and vengeful, with a genius to match Tony Stark’s is brought to life by the ever intense Mickey Rourke, and one of the best things about this film, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.

Although I didn’t think this film was quite as strong as the first, it is still solidly enjoyable as a stand alone film and as a piece of the larger franchise.  I gave this 4 1/2 glasses of scotch whiskey.



Thor (2011)

For more information follow this link.

Astrophysicist, Jane Foster, runs into (literally, with her car) a mysterious man in the desert while following an atmospheric disturbance.  A man she and her partner think might be crazy.  Cast out of Asgard by his father, Thor is banished to Earth after a misguided attempt to defeat the Frost Giants of Jotunheim.  As events unfold, the rivalry between Thor and his brother, Loki, escalates and threatens all the realms.

The audience couldn’t ask for better casting than Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin, the All-Father, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.   It took a little to warm up to Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Thor’s mortal friend and love interest, she’s not sophisticated or elegant, she is very absorbed in her work and maybe a little socially awkward and this Norse god falls into her lap.  Portman portrays this very well.  Stellan Skarsgard is Dr. Erik Selvig, Foster’s partner, who we’ll be seeing  more of in the MCU.

We continue to feel the connection to the rest of the MCU with the inclusion of Agent Coulson.  We also get our first taste of Jeremy Renner as Agent Barton.  This film is a decent entry for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Showing the audience more of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how they work, especially when interacting with a potential threat who happens to be a Norse god.  It also introduces Asgard and the promise of other realms which will play important roles in future films.

When I first saw this film, I was unimpressed.  I remember thinking that the characters lacked passion, warmth, and left me feeling unfulfilled.   I had not revisited it since that first viewing until now.  I’m not sure if my perception of the film has changed due to having seen what follows, or if I was simply in a more receptive frame of mind this time, or maybe because I’ve seen the films that follow, where the character and relationship development leads, but I was better able to appreciate the  more subtle nuances of the writing and direction.   I gave this film 3 1/2 pints of ale.



Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

For more information follow this link.

As World War II rages, Steve Rogers, an ordinary young man from Brooklyn, wants nothing more than to be a soldier, to save people, to defend the world against bullies, but he keeps getting rejected due to his health issues, is selected to participate in an experiment to create a super-soldier.

I think what I like best about this film is how well it stays on the topic of what a hero is.  Although Captain America, Steve Rogers, is the super soldier/hero, his true value is that he is a good person and he becomes the leader by leading-by-example.  This film, to me, represents, although in a fantastical way, what true heroism is: ordinary men (the allied soldiers) doing the best they can in extraordinary situations.  It reminds me why generation after generation has loved Captain America.

It seems, based on comments peppered around the internet, that a lot of people were hoping for or expecting an action flick and were disappointed at the montage sequences instead of cool battle or fighting scenes. Where I do like a quality on-screen battle, I am glad that the audience was given more of a story about how an ordinary person became a hero, by not giving up or giving in to nay-sayers, rather than just nifty fight and action scenes.

Chris Evans, as Steve Rogers, is impressive, not just physically, he does the clean-cut, All American boy quite well.   Hayley Atwell gives a solid, strong performance as Agent Peggy Carter.  Tommy Lee Jones is a gem as the tough-as-nails Col. Phillips.  Dominic Cooper plays the confident, suave, lady’s man, Howard Stark (nice tie into the MCU), so it’s clear where Tony gets the “playboy” from.  Hugo Weaving does the best he can with the small but intense role as the villain, Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull, leader of Hydra.

Not to be overlooked in either talent or importance for the story are Captain America’s Howling Commandos.  Sebastian Stan is Bucky Barnes, Roger’s best friend and biggest supporter.  Neal McDonough is Dum-Dum Dugan, Derek Luke is Gabe Jones, Kenneth Choi is Jim Morita, J.J. Feild as James Falsworth, and Bruno Ricci is Jacques Denier.  (Apologies if I missed anyone.)

I gave is film 4 1/2 milk shakes.



**Random note of interest, Captain America was the last Marvel film to be distributed by Paramount Pictures.**


The Avengers (2012)

For more information follow this link.

When the Tesseract starts misbehaving, Loki uses it to open a door from the abyss into which he had previously vanished and return to Earth.  He steals it and uses the Mind stone scepter to enslave Dr. Selvig, who is now working with S.H.I.E.L.D., and Clint Barton, among others.   Now, Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers Initiative project that Nick Fury has been working on, must band together to retrieve the Tesseract and save the world from Loki and his army.

This is really a fantastic film.  There is so much going on, but Joss Whedon manages both the story and the direction of this huge ensemble cast well.  As the audience has come to love these characters who are working (and being manipulated) to come together as some sort of team, we get to enjoy the clashes between the egos, the continued development of characters and relationships. I especially love that we are just dropped into this comfortable, obviously long-term, intimate friendship between Rominov and Barton when Barton is rescued from Loki’s influence.

In addition to the faces we have been coming to know and love (well, love and hate in the case of Loki) through the previous movies, a new face has taken over the role of Bruce Banner.  Mark Ruffalo is an absolute gem as Bruce Banner, the Hulk, and by far, the best incarnation of the Hulk.  The audience is also introduced to Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) who we will see more of in the MCU.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film from the witticisms and one-liners to the action and fight sequences, and a truly heart wrenching scene.  It was a worthy culmination of, and in some cases improvement on, the previous 5 films.  I gave The Avengers 5 Long Island Iced Teas.




As a whole, Phase 1 started out strong, had little stumble, then picked back up the momentum for a very successful climax.

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