Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – The Power of a Compelling Villain

“Infinity War” is easily in my Top 5 MCU films. This is a film I saw a second time before writing this review, and the only other Superhero films that have been that lucky were “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” As you can tell from those and this film, I enjoy my superhero films depressing or bittersweet. This is a film that hits you over the head with loss, and doesn’t stop until the end. Thanos is the villain, but also the protagonist, as his actions drive the film and force our heroes to make choices that define them before the loss comes. I’ll get into spoilers deeper into the review, but for now, this is a film I highly recommend.

This film was directed by the Russo Brothers, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, while being produced by Kevin Feige.

The story involves the Avengers trying to stop Thanos from getting all the Infinity Stones (cosmically powerful stones born at the Big Bang, and scattered through the Universe), as when he does, he plans to wipe out half the universe.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Universe – It is the Marvel Cinematic Universe… a universe full of aliens, cultures, clashing personalities, heroes, villains and in the end consequences. There is a reason I’ve become so drawn into the comic books. What Marvel and Disney have done is to interpret so much of that beautifully on the screen, and each new film I like returning to this enjoyable and fascinating world.

The Superhero Teams – The driving action of the film is the team-ups between different heroes. Characters clash and have to work out their conflicts in order to take on Thanos to keep him from destroying half the population of the Universe. I’ll cover what I liked about the teams below.

Bruce Banner and the Secret Avengers – The film kicks off with Thanos killing Loki and knocking out the Hulk. The Hulk is saved by Heimdall and sent to Earth where Hulk retreats into Bruce Banner. From here we see Banner reunite with the Avengers, and have to depend on his brains to take on the Black Order, as Hulk is afraid to come out after losing to Thanos. It is wonderful seeing this dynamic in action, with those in Wakanda, as he fights in Tony’s Hulkbuster armor against the alien swarm. Banner has always been the outcast in the Avengers, and now that he’s back he can’t even depend on his power as the Hulk. This forces him to adapt to thinking things through as Banner, as he realizes he has deeper issues to explore with the Hulk. I can’t wait to see where his arc goes with the Hulk and the Avengers in “Avengers 4.”

Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Iron Man – This dynamic is fun. To kick things off, Doctor Strange is the one who doesn’t care about people (he tells Tony and Peter that he will let them die before he gives Thanos the Time Stone). Spidey is full of pop culture references that annoy Tony, and Tony Stark is always trying to take control, which leads to conflict with Doctor Strange because of it. They succeed in taking out a member of the Black Order, but face deadly fallout when they reach Titan, Thanos’ homeworld, to battle the Mad Titan himself.

Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Mantis – 3 of this group eventually team up with Spidey, Strange, and Stark against Thanos… which happens after Gamora is kidnapped by Thanos, as she knows the destination of the Soul Stone. She has some powerful scenes with Star-Lord, and some funny scenes with Drax.

Rocket, Groot and Thor – This was my favorite team up, it happens after the Guardians of the Galaxy rescue Thor from his destroyed refugee ship. Thor’s ship was destroyed by Thanos when he picked up the Space Stone from Loki, before Thanos kills Loki. It is the death of Heimdall and Loki, and half of Asgard that have Thor full of anger and broken. This leads to Rocket stepping up to be the Captain and helping Thor through the process of healing, as they head to the legendary location of Nidavellir, so that Thor can create a god killing weapon. Groot is a teenager and full of attitude, but steps up to the plate when he contributes part of himself to making Thor’s new weapon.

The Story Arc of Thanos – Thanos is the protagonist of this film. It is desire for balance in the universe (which he believes can only come about through genocide after his planet is destroyed from running out of resources and overpopulation) that drives his desire for the Infinity Stones. Each stone costs him, as the members of the Black Order are all eventually killed by the Avengers. To get the Soul Stone he has to sacrifice the only one he ever loved (Gamora), and getting the Mind Stone out of Vision nearly costs him his life, when Thor attacks him with the God killing weapon. In the end he wins and wipes out half the universe. Where his story goes from here remains to be seen, as he achieved his goal, and as far as he knows… he is the monster who brought balance to the universe. Josh Brolin truly did a masterful job and is easily one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Okay:

The Black Order – These 4 look really cool but weren’t as effective as they could have been. I would have liked at least one of them to kill one of the good guys. They might be back now that Thanos has all the Infinity Stones, so they could get more development later on… we’ll just have to wait and see.

The Battle in Wakanda – The Battle in Wakanda is pretty generic compared to most of the other fights in the film. Most of the other fights involve use of the environment and powers to try and stop the Mad Titan, where here it is a bunch of expendable aliens against a group of superheroes and soldiers all lined up. It is like every other “big battle.” It still looked good, but the genericness of it all kept it from being a truly memorable part of the film. It was the kind of action we see in every other MCU film.

Pacing – The first time I saw this film I didn’t notice any pacing issues. The second time I watched I thought the beginning could have been cut down and happened faster, the Battle of Wakanda is too long, and Thanos needed more scenes with people. Each film develops him further, and with better pacing we could have gotten more of that, or least more exploration of his faction, the Black Order.

The team ups, the comedy, the action, the characters and their arcs… there is so much I have to recommend about this film. This is a film that could have been a gigantic mess, given how large the cast was, and all the different parts that are in play. The Russo Brothers managed to pull it off. Once again, showing why they are the ones shaping the story of the MCU. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, do it. This is a film that is well worth your time and shows just how powerful stories can be.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

 

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – A Solid Return to the Basics of “Spider-Man”

      Sony sharing custody of Spider-Man was the best thing that could have happened to the character. After they tied to go “Dark Knight” with Spidey and failed miserably as they ended up focusing more on franchise management rather than story…it is good that they let the studio who knows story shape their character’s future. This is film that isn’t great, but it is good and it is one I’d highly recommend. The villain and support characters are wonderful and there is a lot of good setup for future films. Before I get into spoilers, if you like the MCU or are a fan of Spider-Man, chances are you will enjoy this film as I did.

The film was directed by Jon Watts, who co-wrote it with 5 other people (hello Sony and Marvel Studios) and produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal.

After the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” Peter Parker is given a new suit by Tony Stark but soon finds himself left behind. As he finds himself pulled into thefts of alien technology around the city he must take on the mysterious Vulture while dealing with Tony Stark wanting him to stay out of it as he tries to juggle being Spider-Man and his complex social life at school and taking on the threat of the Vulture.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World of the MCU – The MCU is a world full of consequences. SHIELD was disbanded, the Avengers fell apart, some characters have died for good (though none of the biggies yet sadly) and each of the films plays into one another while still standing strong on their own. Spider-Man is one of my favorite comic book heroes, along with Batman when I was growing up and I’m glad he is in this Universe that is so rich and full of lore that now his amazing lore can once again be apart of as well.

Vulture – Michael Keaton is one of the best MCU villains to date. This is a guy who wants to look after his family after he loses out on a government contract to clean up New York after the events of the “Avengers.” You can understand his chip on his shoulder and he has a twisted sense of honor as even after he learns Spidey’s identity, he keeps it secret. His character manages to be both empathetic and threatening making him so very human…I’m glad that Marvel didn’t kill him off and can’t wait to see him in future Spidey films.

With Great Power – One of the key traits of Spider-Man is that, “With great power comes great responsibility” and this film illustrates it really well. The main arc is Spidey wanting to join the Avengers but he continues to mess up even as he tries to do good. So many of the problems that he has to fix are ones he created and his arc is the constant struggle with this as his social and super hero life collapse around him and he has to own up for his mistakes. It is his character and what defines him and the main arc that drives the story. Tom Holland really is wonderful in this role. This is a return to the basics of the character, which we needed after all the conspiracy Oscorp crap in the “Amazing Spider-Man” films.

Changes and Avoiding Past Pitfalls – There are things in here that I really liked that exist because the writers avoided doing what had been done before. We don’t have an Uncle Ben origin story death, there is not a Goblin to be seen, Peter doesn’t mope and the finale isn’t Spider-Man saving the love interest from the baddy who wants to destroy the city. These changes were masterful and in doing so let them do knew things like his friends Ned and Michelle, Ned who finds out he is Spider-Man and Michelle who ends up being a wonderful re-imagining of M.J. Seriously, Zendaya is the best part of this film outside of Vulture.

The Cons: The Point of Aunt May – Everybody creeps on Aunt May and I hate it. If the character is a guy he will comment on how hot she is and that is all she exists as. It is objectifying and annoying as she is Peter’s guardian and mentor and they could have done so much more with that. She has one scene where she comforts him but she almost wasn’t needed in this film as Tony Stark functions as a surrogate guardian.

The Uncle Ben Shaped Hole – Aunt May has been through a lot but we never know what happened to Uncle Ben or if he is even still alive in this version of the lore. I’m glad we didn’t get his death again but he should have at least been mentioned or dealt with as he is such a huge essential part of what drives Peter Parker and his becoming Spider-Man.

This is a solidly good film and one that I will probably go back and watch as I am a fan of Spider-Man. I hope we see more done with the characters and villains that are setup throughout the film as Spider-Man has one of the best rogues galleries outside of Batman and I can’t wait to see how the reveals done in this film payoff later as Marvel and Sony further develop one of the best characters to come out of Marvel Comics in the amazing world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Final Score:  8.2 / 10 Solidly good.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – The Legacy of the Throne of Asgard and the Gambit

Thor: The Dark World

After a second watching, I really like “Thor: The Dark World,” it has much more going on than the original and manages to get into the mythology of the Universe and offer us hints of things to come (as well as recognizing past events). But, before I go any further…the premise.

“Thor: The Dark World,” begins with narration by Odin telling of how his father Bor stood against the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith when he created the Aether in order to consume the Universe in darkness. After his father hid the Aether we are in the future with Thor and Sif and the Warriors bringing peace to the 9 Realms after Loki’s actions in “Thor.” After we see Jane investigating anomolies and getting possessed by the Aether. Thor brings her to Asgard…Malekith attacks Asgard and the story unfolds from there.

Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The 9 Realms – We don’t get to see all of them, but we get to see the Dark Elf World of Svartalfheim, the Ice Giant World and glimpse the world of fire and the forest world that one of the warriors three makes his home. We even see a glimpse of the Fire Realm…these glimpses hint at just at how big the world is which make me excited to see what they do with Thor next.

The Dark Elves – I won’t put them in okay because they are actually a worthy foe. They kill Loki and Thor’s mother Frigga, destroy much of Asgard and manage to get the Aether back. Never do they feel like an unworthy foe.

Malekith – Not the best Marvel Antagonist (that still belongs to Loki), but he is a threat. His biggest problem is arrogance and shortsightedness. He is so set on getting the Aether he loses track of the threats beyond Asgard (the science team) around him. Congrats to the 9th Doctor Eccleston for pulling this role off.

Battle of Asgard – Is a battle of consequences and shows that the Dark Elves are a much greater threat than the Ice Giants ever were. They are the organization that is the biggest threat at this point in the films because of this battle and what goes down during it. Even Heimdall is blind before their threat.

Frigga – She gets killed during the Battle of Asgard but we see how her intelligence rubbed off on Loki and how she represents the good in Loki as he does care for her. She fights with the dagger well and it is only the arrival of Kurse, Malekith’s dragon that leads to her death. She is the one who counters Odin’s firmness with compassion and is a great co-leader with him. Her death also actually means something.

Odin – The father who wants his son to rule…Odin is disappointed dad for much of this film but pulls it off really well. We see how lost he is with Frigga’s death and how unforgiving he is of Loki. Anthony Hopkins does it again.

Loki’s Breakout – We see Thor recount the plan and it go down as planned. Also some great moments in it such as Loki taking the form of Captain America and satirizing the character.

Sif and the Warriors Three – They don’t do the Thor and Sif romance, which I’m happy about. There is enough in this film without a love triangle…and we see all the warriors present help Loki escape and bring Thor and Jane to the Dark Elf World. They fit the theme of the film of every character having a purpose and advancing the story. They later are in the reveal too setting up things in the universe for later.

Heimdall – Helps Jane escape and admits his inability to see the Dark Elves. Manages to take out one of the dark elf ships on his own too. Idris Elba is one of my favorite actors for a reason.

Science Team – Dr. Selvig discovers the Convergence and gets arrested (slightly mad after having Loki in his head during “The Avengers.”) Is happy when he hears from Thor that Loki is “dead.” Darcy discovers the anomaly where the Aether is and her and her intern and the whole team help place the Portal Devices to fight against the Dark Elves. There are some good comedy moments too, especially with Darcy per usual.

Jane – Jane is great in this. We see a character who is active and has agency and doesn’t put up with crap. She smacks Thor and Loki for what they did and is the reason Malekith is stopped since she finds out how to manipulate the scanning devices to create Portal Weapons.

Thor – Hemsworth owns this role. We see depth in his relationships with Jane, Loki, Odin and Heimdall. He has some create comedic moments too, like when he comments on the phone call Jane gets from the man she dated before the events started to unfold, and when he takes the train during the battle, and his banter with Loki.

Loki’s Gambit – I’m beginning to think he wanted to lose on Earth…or used his loss for gain. He got revenge for Frigga by killing Malekith’s “Dragon,” (strongest Dark Elf Warrior named Kurse), fakes his own death and takes Odin’s place on the throne as he pretends to be Odin and watches Thor abdicate. His intelligence is fantastic and we see his is a complicated character…we’re left wondering if he learned from events or is still an antagonist. Again, what happened to Odin?

The Legacy of the Throne of Asgard – Has Loki learned? What does Thor’s abdication mean for the 9 Realms? Where is Odin? Asgard has shown to no longer be impenetrable by the Dark Elf attack, what does this mean for the future? This movie has shown us just how important this legacy is…what this means for the future remains to be seen.

Okay: The Music – Isn’t super amazing, but it isn’t bad. Just not as great as the first film.

The Narrative – There is a lot going on and not everything is fully explored. For example, where is Odin? Did Loki actually change? Where did Malekith’s desire come from? These are things that keep it from being a perfect film. Answering any one of these would have made more than great.

The Reveals – The Collector is weird and I hope he gets good explanation in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” cause based off this film I have no reason to care about this character. The ending with Thor and Jane is cute though and the Ice Beast is scene at the end chasing birds too (he was portalled into our world during the battle).

This movie is superior to the first “Thor,” and better than a lot of Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure this was a film that was even better with the second viewing and sets things up in the Universe really well, as well as being a great stand alone story in it’s own right. Alan Taylor does a fantastic job directing and this is a film I highly recommend. It is worth it if only for Hemsworth and Hiddleson and the dynamic their characters have with each other.

My final score for this film is 9.2 / 10. Definitely a favorite.

The Avengers (2012): Bringing the Team Together

The Avengers

“The Avengers,” is the accumulation of Phase 1, bringing Thor, Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man together…along with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Hawkeye and Black Widow to stand against Loki and his army. It is directed by Joss Whedon, one of my favorite television directors for his work in “Buffy,” “Angel,” “Dollhouse,” and “Firefly.” This is the movie that all past movies in the Disney Marvel Franchise Retrospect were working towards, and it is worth it.

Here is my assessment of the film:

Pros: Introducing Loki – The film begins with S.H.I.E.L.D. doing experiments on the Tesseract, which we saw they had discovered in “Thor.” During the test Loki arrives, kills a bunch of agents, takes control of Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig. This sets bringing the Avengers together. We see Agent Carter protect the tech. and agents as her and Nick Fury try to bring down Loki before he escapes.

Bringing the Avengers Together – We see Bruce Banner hiding out in India who is brought in by Black Widow who was on a mission undercover, we see Tony Stark brought in after he creates an infinite energy source in Stark Tower and Captain America with Agent Coulson who reveals that Captain America is who inspired him to be an agent in the first place.

The Avengers – Mark Ruffalo owns the role as the Hulk and manages to be just as good if not better than Edward Norton. Robert Downey jr. is great once again as Iron Man, Johansson as Black Widow, Renner as Hawkeye, Jackson as Fury, Hemsworth as Thor and Evans as Captain America are fantastic.

Drama – The drama in this is good. From Captain America hating Stark for his arrogance, to Bruce Banner feeling trapped, from Thor feeling like an outsider whose peoples’ wishes aren’t being respected since he came down to bring Loki back to Asgard to be judged. It is great and has some great fight sequences leading to them eventually come together. We see Loki use this when he uses the Joker’s trope of getting caught in order to turn the team on each other. The drama sets off Hulk which leads to Thor knocking him off the ship and later getting captured by Loki and dropped to Earth.

Captain America and Iron versus Thor – This is a great fight and on a visceral level the movie is worth it just for this. We see Iron Man use Thor’s lighting energy against him to power his suit and we see Captain America block the hammer and the fight finally end. It is fantastic and is real to all the characters. From Iron Man calling Thor, “Shakespeare in the park.” etc.

The Battle of New York – First, it isn’t a great plan. Considering a nuke would have stopped the invasion of the Chitauri….though the human cost would have been great. A nuke is what stops them in the end when Stark leads a nuke through the wormhole and it destroys the Mother Ship which shuts them all down. This is a great battle for seeing all the team in action. Every team member is great and does damage. Highlights of the fight are Hulk punching a Chitauri beast bigger than a building to death and slamming Loki to the ground after being mocked and doing a comeback of “Puny God,” and when he punches Thor between fights after Thor had kicked him off the ship when he is set off during their fighting. Loki’s defeat is rewarding, though we are left wondering if that was the plan all along.

Loki – Was a great enemy who was good at playing the long game…Hell he probably is still playing the long game as far as we know. Loki never loses considering all his plans within plans. “Thor 2” implies he probably is playing a long game.

The Reveal of Thanos – This was all a plot by Thanos who was using The Other to control Loki to do the Chitauri invasion in the first place. It is implied he wanted the invasion to fail since it was just to test the strength of Earth’s heroes…and maybe to get Loki back to Asgard too as a bonus given what happens later.

Agent Coulson – Agent Cameo finally becomes a character and is fantastic in his role as the fanboy who can also kick ass. He dies…and it means something, but they bring him back. This is one thing I hate that the Marvelverse does this. Death should be permanent. For what it is worth “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” does a good job exploring him as a person more, which he deserved. I just wish this could have been through prequels.

Thor and Loki – Their dynamic is great…from Loki feeling powerless as Thor tries to reach out to him…to their arrogance and vulnerability trading places as they trade barbs throughout the film.

The Music – Captures the epic feel of everything so well.

The Humor – Joss Whedon’s dialogue is witty and brilliant per usual. Tony Stark has some of the best dialogue besides how Hulk is used (in the scenes mentioned above). If “Age of Ultron,” can keep this and the drama it may be the perfect film.

Okay: Chitauri – They are Space Orcs with a hivemind. They have a great design but aren’t the best enemies. They are about as deep as the Frost Giants when it comes to opponents.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – Could have been great, but this is about the Avengers. S.H.I.E.L.D. really shines in “Winter Solder,” though…which is good. They are okay in this, but they are hurt the most by Loki, making them rather obsolete in the final battle. Agent Carter is fantastic in this in what scenes she is in and I can’ wait for her to get her own show.

“The Avengers,” is almost perfect…the main thing is that we don’t know if it was Loki’s plan to lose all along and the Chitauri just aren’t that amazing as a threat and us not knowing if Loki was supposed to get caught or not makes the final a little less rewarding than it could have been. This is what keeps it from being perfect since the narrative flows really well. I highly recommend this film, everything that was being worked towards in Phase 1 in the MCU really pays off and it is one of my all time favorite films in the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure.

Final Score for this film is 9.7 / 10. Nearly perfect.

Iron Man (2008): Changing the Merchant of War

Iron Man

“Iron Man,” is the first of the Disney Marvel Franchise that I ever saw…though technically this does pre-dates Disney buying Marvel Studios but I’m still including it in the Disney Marvel Adventure since it falls under that umbrella even if the first “Iron Man” does pre-date it. At the time it was a favorite and it still stands up to being a favorite to this day. Robert Downey Jr. is the quintessential Tony Stark in temperament and charisma and who really elevates the film further. We now continue the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure with “Iron Man (2008).”

The premise of “Iron Man,” adds dimension to Tony Stark’s character since when we first meet him he is a selfish playboy obsessed with work. What changes things is when a terrorist group named The Ten Rings kidnaps him and working with Dr. Yinsen and builds the first Iron Man suit to get out. From here the story unfolds as Tony is changed radically by the events of his captivity.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The music is a lot better than “Captain America: The First Avenger,” it is tense and exciting and captures the tech. feel of Tony Stark.

Pepper Pots – Gwyneth Paltrow does an excellent job as Pepper Pots. She is Tony’s assistant and somewhat love interest in this film but more than either of these she is his friend. We see it in her worry and risking herself to find out about Obadiah Stane’s plot and that he was behind the Ten Rings capture of Tony Stark.

Coloney “Rhodey” Rhodes – “Rhodey” also functions as Tony’s moral compass akin to Pepper Pots at the beginning of the film. Terrance Howard does an excellent job, and i wish there had been some way for him to stay throughout the other two films. He is calm compared to Tony’s erratic energy and anxious adding an interesting character dynamic.

Tony’s Robots/Tech – Tony’s Robots are great comedic relief throughout the film since he gave them personality…such as the one that sprays him with water after every test even when their isn’t a fire. J.A.R.V.I.S. is also something this Tony would make as well his Iron Man suits. There is a conservative sleekness to it all.

J.A.R.V.I.S. – Paul Bettany does a great job as the A.I. that runs Tony’s home and suit. He is calm and witty like the butler who inspired the character.

Dr. Yinsen – Is great as Tony’s moral compass in the cave. He is the one who motivates him to build the suit and do something with his life, as well as see what his weapons are being used for. His death actually means something…

Tony Stark/Iron Man – Tony Stark is the main character in this film, though Iron Man makes appearances from about halfway through onward…not including the early Iron Man suit. We see a narcissist who takes everyone for granted and doesn’t care about the damage his industry did…to a man trying to bring down the evils of his company. It is a great arc represented in his creation of an ARC reactor heart…he is the metaphorical Tin Man. His chemistry with others both before and after his change is fantastic and Robert Downey Jr. owns this role.

Obadiah Stane – Jeff Bridges does a good job of being the two-faced partner of Tony Stark. He is Jeff Bridges so even when he is being evil he still has charisma. The film is really a reveal of how he is putting money from weapons over people and disregards his partnership. We don’t have enough time with him as the Iron Monger and his Iron Monger is big and stupid…wish they’d gone with a different design and made it more Stane like…it is Tony’s stolen tech…it isn’t really Obadiah’s. He at least does a good job at the end though with stealing Tony’s heart to power his machine and causing Tony to be at much weaker power. Stane’s destruction is rewarding.

The Message – You can’t ethically sell in the weapons industry seems to be the help. It is like “Apocalypse Now,” that way…but in reverse. Tony is the one defending weapons to destroying his weapons as he sees the villages and people destroyed. This become a metaphor for the individual as Tony seeks to reform himself in how heartless he has been towards others. Ending with him coming forward as Iron Man.

The Reveal – We meet Nick Fury at the end who mentions the Avengers Initiative to Tony which ties into Agent Coulson’s presence throughout the film. Coulson is alright, it is more what he represents and means later that makes his cameo in this (as well as Nick Fury’s) a pro.

Okay: The Cinematography – There are some scenes that aren’t that good due to scatter shot. The shots don’t elevate or have a unique feel to them. They feel generic.

Raza – Played by Faran Tahir…I wish this guy had gotten an Iron Man suit. He is the one who kills Yinsen and the reason Tony needs the ARC reactor to live. The problem is he has very little agency and in the end is a less than impressive Dragon since Stane kills him.

The 3rd Act – The 3rd act is pretty weak. Obadiah isn’t even trying to be nice anymore and goes outright bad, which hurts what character was there. The final battle elevates it so it isn’t a con, as does S.H.E.I.L.D.’s presence. At this point Tony’s arc is done so it is just a big villain fight with no lead-up or investment in the Iron Monger. Which is a pretty common pattern in the Iron Man films in regards to the baddies.

“Iron Man,” is a solidly good film, with a good moral point that I would recommend. It is worth it to see Robert Downey Jr. play a role he owns so well alone. His character arc also feels real and you see him change so radically in his escape from the cave. There is a reason he probably the most memorable of the Avengers…and I can’t wait to get to his other films.

Final score is 9.3 / 10. A solidly great film.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – A Review in Honor of Independence Day and the Sci. Fi. Historicish Biopic

Captain_America_The_First_Avenger_poster

We begin the “Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” with “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Captain America was always the least interesting of the Avengers to me…like Superman in DC he was always more interesting in who interacted with him and less the character himself. I am happy to say these movies changed that for me though, which is one reason I am looking forward to doing these reviews.

The premise of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is that Red Skull a Nazi leader with a military group called Hydra takes control of the Tesseract (a mythical artifact we will learn more about and see later), that was said to be one of the greatest of Odin’s treasures. We then go to Steve Rogers, a small man from Brooklyn who wants to enlist after his parents are killed during the war. He is kept from enlisting because of how small he is but is given the chance when Dr. Erskine recommends him as a candidate for a special project. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Tone – The feel is that of an Historic Biopic mixed with Science fiction. The Tesseract is introduced at the beginning, giving us the sci. fi. and HYDRA’s energy weapons also play into that. But it also shows us the War Bonds, the lives of the soldiers and people and have it contrasted with modern day at the end…bringing the sci. fi. tone full circle.

Steve Rogers/Captain America – They made him way to small when he was trying out…he just didn’t look realistic…luckily Chris Evans playing him and writing make up for this. Once he gets the Super Serum he becomes the best part of this film. We see him in constant acts of sacrifice towards his fellow men and because of it being used by some for good (and for themselves) like the senator. His awkwardness with romance is great too since we see a kid who is not confident around women in the beginning and throughout the film. He is never used to attention and this adds humanity too him as well as his recklessness and ability to improve. He is what makes this film good.

Dr. Erskine’s – Is the man who believes in Steve because of his standing up for others and heart. He has a complicated past and is interesting too, since he invented the super serum that made Red Skull and makes Captain America.

Howard Stark – Tony Stark’s dad is awesome. We see how much of a nerd he is and he has a lot of respect for Captain America and loves invention and creation, even though he makes a fair amount of mistakes in his process of creation. You can see Tony in him as well as how different they are.

Colonel Phillips – It is Tommy Lee Jones, he is great as the no-nonsense Colonel who is skeptical but won over to Steve Roger’s side. He does is his part extremely well and makes the military relationships more complicated.

Freeing the Prisoners – Captain America goes behind enemy lines and frees his friend Bucky and tons of allied troops, who later rejoin him in the war. He also confronts Red Skull and learns of Red Skull’s origin as Johann Schmidt and the first of Dr. Erskine’s tests.

Captain America’s Commandos – Yes, “Bucky” is part of this team but as a character he is just kind of there. The team is much more interesting. It is an International group of Commandos who Steve saves from a HYDRA Camp and with them takes it out. They are Bucky, Jim, Dugan, James, Jacques and Gabe and the unofficial love interest Peggy. They deserved more exploration but the limits of a movie didn’t allow it.

Arnim Zola – Was Red Skull’s scientist and was more complicated than Red Skull. You never fully get if he believes in the cause or is doing it out of fear of Red Skull in this film…making him the only interesting and complicated member of HYDRA this film. He is the one who helps Red Skull harness the Tesseract’s power as a weapon for his machines of war.

The Present – When Captain America returns to the present and meets Nick Fury it is fantastic. It shows us how alien he feels in this new time period and gives us a twilight zone feel when SHIELD creates a room out of time to keep in when he wakes up.

Okay: Red Skull – He isn’t a bad villain but he is never good and I never feared for Captain America or his team. He kills more of his own men on screen than any of Captain America’s men. Hugo Weaving is great, but he wasn’t given much. At one point he is comedic too, pretty much yelling, “I’ll get you next time Captain America! Alas, foiled again!” When Captain America and his commando team destroy his weapon facilities. Because of this the final fight drags and isn’t all that interesting except for what happens after.

The Music – Is nothing special in this one. If you’ve seen any World War 2 film, you have heard this music.

Cons: The Romance – The romance with Peggy doesn’t exist…in that way it should have never happened since it serves no purpose but for a sad good-bye at the end.

Execution of Red Skull – He should have been much more threatening, given he created HYDRA which is the strongest organization we have witnessed so far in the Disney Marvelverse…that is made up of humans.

The Ending Battle – It goes on way too long, there are no stakes cause Bucky is already gone and we have had constant fighting up to this point. I honestly was bored during it. It looked great, but it meant nothing because the stakes didn’t feel real. We know Red Skull didn’t succeed because it would have been referenced in the other Disney Marvel movies…and nothing new happens except for the Tesseract revealing space.

“Captain America: The First Avenger,” was a good but not great film. It introduces elements that play a point later on…like the Tesseract as an energy weapon tied to Asgard, Howard being Tony’s dad and Nick Fury with the Avengers Initiative. It could have been shorter and would have been better as a mini-series to explore the character relationships better. It is still a good film I would recommend though.

A solid 8 / 10.

Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure

MCU2

Who would have thought that Disney buying the rights to Marvel would turn out to be such a great thing? Who knew they would create such wonderful and masterful stories that are overall pretty coherent?

As I continue the “Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect,” I will be starting the Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure in the lead up to “Guardians of the Galaxy. This is something I have been looking forward to doing since, “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Iron Man,” and “The Avengers,” are some of the best films ever made.

How I’m going to go about it is every week I’ll review a movie or more starting with the first films. Today I’m doing “Captain America: The First Avenger,” in honor of Independence Day, and later on “Thor,” “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” After I will do their sequels and finally end with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Afterwords I shall do a retrospect and rating them from worst to best.

This series will be called, “The Disney Marvel Franchise Adventure,” let’s assemble the Avengers!