In preparation for Avengers: Infinity War, I am watching all of the MCU films from Iron Man to Black Panther to prepare myself. In this week’s Marvel Movie-thon monthly special, I talk about the first five films leading up to The Avengers.

 

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Marvel Movie-thon Part 1 of 4: Before The Avengers

I’ve mentioned on Twitter that there’s a perfect opportunity to start a Marvel Marathon before Avengers: Infinity War and I’m doing that right now. It involves watching all the Marvel movies under the MCU banner from Iron Man to Black Panther and the idea is watching one per week starting on January 1st, I will be ready for Infinity War by the final week.

So that’s what I’m doing. I figured I’d discuss the films many years after the fact to see if any of them hold up. All of them do, of course, but I’d love to talk about them as someone who has only watched a few of them prior. I’ve seen all of the Avengers, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy films, but I haven’t seen the others.

I’m going to review the films I’ve seen throughout January, ending at Captain America. Obviously, I’m skipping on the Avengers, but we’ll get to that next month.

So with that said, let’s give a summarized review of the first five Marvel films.


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Iron Man

This is where the story begins, and where the first known Marvel hero debuts. Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man. He’s a genius, as well as an absurd loser who tries so hard to get the ladies, but his abrasive attitude gets him into more trouble than he should. He goes on a trip to the Middle East when his private limo is ambushed by Al Qaeda militants who hold him captive. In here, he builds the precursor to Iron Man by using a power core that is a miniaturized version of the one he has in his private lab. Since then, one of his allies tries to harness the power for himself. and Tony realizes how desperate people are to get his power.

It’s a great film with the unlikeable-likable hero. Tony’s hilarious to listen to even if he can be a little overbearing. There’s plenty of action and drama and Tony, despite being a genius, can’t seem to win. He allows a terror organization, secretly under US government operatives, to harness the same power Tony built in that cave.

His carelessness is his biggest downfall and what makes him different than most super heroes who are noble and likable. He’s the opposite and it’s unique to see compared to Captain America or Thor.

My only thought is sometimes the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. His attitude lands him into hot water numerous times and he’d easily get out of it if he’d just shut his mouth. Often I find myself thinking “what is he doing?” when faced with easily solvable situations.

Even now, his attitude nearly tore the Avengers apart, but it remains to be seen if he’ll learn from that.

It’s a wonderful film and a great start to an epic franchise.

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The Incredible Hulk

Coming off the infamous Ang Lee adaptation, The Incredible Hulk is the second film in the series. It follows Bruce Banner in (I think) Brazil where he’s living a life of seclusion. He works in a bottling plant, but a mishap causes his radiation-infused blood to draw the attention of military operatives to hunt him down, inadvertently unleashing the green monster himself.

It’s different than most Marvel films since many of them are action-packed and have the same action movie tropiness many of them have to this day, The Incredible Hulk opts for a more soft approach as a thriller than an action film. It’s dark, perhaps darker than most Marvel films and isn’t seen in any of the others.

I think it kind of works for this film. Sure they could have gone the action route, but it took a lot of guts to make this a thriller rather than a full on action film. Think Bourne meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I honestly would love to see more films like this. This does appear to be the unsung hero (yes, that was a pun) of the MCU and while it’s not as good as the other films, it’s miles better than the last effort.

Speaking of which, the ending sequence where Tony talks to Thaddeus Ross about the Avengers Initiative. Yet in the following MCU film (Iron Man 2, which I’ll get to in a moment), Tony doesn’t seem interested in the Avengers. It’s unclear why they didn’t have Nick Fury or someone from S.H.I.E.L.D talk to him and why Tony had to do it. It creates a strange continuity and makes me wonder where this actually takes place in the timeline (or if it can even be omitted at all). It’s a strange continuity issue that stood out for me.

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Iron Man 2

This is where we start to see the Avengers Initiative move forward. In this sequel, Tony is now a famous hero and we see him as the star of an Expo run by his company. We also learn that the core inside of his chest is killing him, and he spends his remaining moments, what else, being a complete idiot and getting himself into dangerous situations.

While Tony is busy partying, Whiplash AKA Ivan Vanko is busy seeking revenge for what his father did to him. Being the son of Howard Stark, he has a deep-seated vengeance against Tony.

This is also the debut of Black Widow, which will build up into the Avengers. She’s a badass and she really shines in this film. She has a secret agent personality and I think it suits her perfectly. This also has another trend. That the military are the bad guys here. There’s no doubt why Nick Fury is forming S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s because he doesn’t trust the military anymore and is taking things into his own hands.

The film is better than the first and shows the dire situation Tony has put himself into by letting the core affect his body.

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Thor

This is the first new Avenger since Hulk and it shows a different kind of superhero. Thor, God of thunder. The story has one half take place in Asgard and the other on Earth. Thor is recently honored to be the successor to Odin and despite an effort to end the war with Jotunheim, he ends up damaging the relationship between the two worlds. As a result, Odin punishes his son Thor by banishing him to the mortal realm, AKA Earth. Naturally, everyone thinks he’s crazy, but without his power, he cannot return to Asgard where his brother, Loki, is no doubt plotting his demise.

The story, while not entirely original, is a good idea for a superhero film. While many superheroes are considered god-like, few are actual gods from a higher plane of existence. I like the idea and enjoyed the film overall.

The antics between Thor and Jane’s family is hilarious to watch and each of them have personalities that mesh well with the super serious Thor, who finds it hard to fit in with the mortals. Many stories like this would involve calling to police to arrest Thor just for being crazy, but I applaud the film for ignoring that route and just letting Thor be Thor. It’s a nice change of pace that makes me enjoy the plot here than other series of its type.

Plus when Erik and his friends show up, the story gets even more hilarious seeing Norse deities walking around like it’s no big deal. It’s a good thing everyone doesn’t believe they’re who they truly are. It also helps that they’re in a small town in New Mexico, so while S.H.I.E.L.D. is investigating the strange occurrences, they’re more interested in Thor’s power than arresting some crazy guy.

That said, I did feel the CGI was shaky and a little stiff in spots. The Jotunheim beast (as the MCU wiki calls it), did look a little blatant, but it was passable enough that it didn’t bother me. That’s my only gripe that the CGI wasn’t as good as the other Marvel films.

This was a good film overall and still holds up to this day. And speaking of holding up.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

(Disclaimer: As of this writing, I tried watching the film prior to writing this post, but the DVD I borrowed from the library is skipping a ton, so while I’ve seen the film before, I’m going off the MCU wiki. I’ll be sure to watch it in full later this week).

Not only is this my favorite Marvel Film thus far, it might be one of the best films ever. Captain America is the first MCU film I’ve seen in theaters and it’s what made me love this series. It’s the kind of superhero movie that doesn’t rely on flashy special effects and ridiculous action sequences that make it look goofy.

It’s a war film with a superhero twist. Steve Rogers, a wimp with a heart of steel, enlists in the US army to fight Nazis. While he’s woefully unprepared, he gets himself involved in a top secret project run by Abraham Erskine, with the assistance of Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark. The three allow Steve to endure the injection of a superhuman serum that’ll make him the ultimate soldier. However, not everyone believes that Rogers is capable of fighting, so Steve brings it upon himself to rescue POWs (one of them being Bucky Barnes, later known as Winter Soldier).

However, they discover a plot by Hydra, a group of fanatics obsessed with the power of the Tesseract, a power once held by the Norse deities.

It’s a wonderfully made superhero film that proves that these types of films can be done right. I think this was what killed the stigma that all superhero films are over the top and ridiculous. Captain America is one of those films that I wish I’d see more of. Normal guy gets superpowers that aren’t too unbelievable and beats the bad guys.

WWII is a popular genre that I’ve seen plenty of stories about it, more than I can count. This is the kind of film that should be the standard, rather than the exception. It’s serious enough, but a joy to watch “new guy” Steve Rogers try so hard to win his fellow soldiers over. Not to mention all the show tunes that Steve is put through just to promote the war.

This is a stellar film and is one of my all-time favorite films, let alone superhero films. It’s definitely worth the watch if you, somehow, haven’t seen it.

 

Final Thoughts

This is the series that broke the barrier of what superhero films mean. Back then, superhero films were either mediocre enough that it worked in their favor (The Sam Raimi era Spider-Man films) or were just plain awful. It’s nice being excited about a superhero film without having the stigma attached to it.

While I won’t be covering these films again until next month, it’s a good time to get invested in the series before Infinity War comes out. I’ll be checking out Black Panther sometime this month and will have a review on that about a week after, but things are looking up for the series.


That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.