Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Thor (2011)

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Iron-Man (2008). This is where it all begun, the Mark I of all Marvel movies. This is the movie where Marvel–after deciding to make their own movies based on characters they haven’t sold yet–finally hammers it home. In a cave. In Afghanistan. Tony Stark’s billionaire-genuis-playboy suits Robert Downey Jr. perfectly in the same the way the red and gold weaponized armor suit fits Tony Stark. The CGI’s top notch. So is Iron Man’s origin story: Stark’s transformation from an egotistical weapons manufacturer to an egotistical armor-suited do-gooder. For better or worse, this movie has forged Marvel’s formula for superhero origin movie. It could have been near perfect, had it been able to follow up its rock riff-fueled arc with a better climactic fight. Still, that leaves us with a few highlights: that kick-ass sequence where Iron-Man saves a family from terrorists in Afghanistan and that crude big black armor suit blasting out of the cave with bad-ass flame throwers!

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The Incredible Hulk (2008). Say what you want about Ang Lee’s Hulk, that was still better than this movie. Sure, Hulk has more flaws than Marvel’s unincredible remake, but Lee brought something on the table: he made Banner’s origin a tragedy, that’s only resolve by having the son kill his own father. Marvel’s louder rehash only improves on the special effects, the action. The most interesting idea in this movie is that Banner can’t have sex because the Hulk might come out. Liv Tyler’s pretty, but so was Jennifer Connely, and Edward Norton is, well, he’s Edward Norton—all of which were easily forgotten, once Mark Ruffalo showed up in The Avengers. Still, Marvel’s worst is pretty decent when compared to Fox’s Wolverine. No, not The Wolverine, the origin one, the one with Deadpool. No, not Deadpool. Definitely not Deadpool.

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Iron Man 2 (2010). Iron Man 2, or: How To Make A Bloated Sequel. Black Widow made her first appearance in this movie. That’s the most vivid detail I remember from this really really long and talky Robert Downey Jr. movie. That and Tony Stark literally pissing his iron pants. Iron Man 2 tried to be a Tony Stark soap opera and a typical superhero sequel (all while hinting at the upcoming superhero crossover), it just couldn’t mix the two to the same explosive results as the first movie. Whiplash’s actually a more memorable villain than Obadiah Stane, but his backstory and character motivation was written even thinner than that of Iron Monger.

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Thor (2011). Maybe it’s this: Norse gods, comic book movie, and Shakespeare just don’t mix too well. But Kenneth Branagh’s Asgardian drama and canted camera angles didn’t all go to waste as movie hits the mid-high notes when Thor was vanished onto Earth. How did they humanize him? They made him look like a jock wearing flannel and jeans as if he just discovered grunge yesterday (the movie features a song called “Walk” by the Foo Fighters, by the way). It makes for somewhat funny fish-out-of-the-water story, but also earns the movie some level of much needed earnestness. The middle third also has the movie’s best fight sequence. And that would be Sif, The Warriors Three, and eventually a hammer-less Thor versus the Destroyer, which with its crude otherworldly design, is probably the most interesting Marvel villain up to this point. (Also, there’s something about Destroyer’s uncanny design, something that reminded me of T-800 in The Terminator and ED-209 in RoboCop.) Loki? His plan doesn’t make sense. Killing his own father and destroy Jotunheim to earn Odin’s favor? Didn’t he know the reason why Odin took him in the first place? On a second thought, he probably needed to destroy Jotunheim. Because the only way for Thor to stop it, is to destroy the Bifrost. Which also means he won’t be able to see Jane again. Awwww. That is, Thor fighting Loki and Loki dying in the end is so dramatic——ally forced. Talk about being the most contrived ending in all of the Nine Realms!

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Wonder why I couldn’t like this movie more. It’s well made, has a unique look, the right amount of heart, and nice-looking set pieces and action scenes. Found it boring at first, gave it a second look and found Joe Johnston’s efforts, quite admirable, though still not a knock down punch. Maybe it’s just that the story is predictable. I already knew Cap’s only gonna end up frozen, he’s not gonna die. Could he even get hurt? I’m not sure. Looks like he’s nearly invulnerable. And that’s a major storytelling problem. Thus, he’s journey from the skinny undersized soldier with a huge heart to the beefcake super soldier with undersized shirt, is just a little bit more than plain information dump (Cap was once a mascot, he once worked with Stark’s father, he’s still a virgin, etc., etc.). If there’s one strong reason to watch this movie, it would be Agent Carter. Carter working with Cap, getting jealous with Lorraine, and giving Cap that last-minute kiss somehow made me forget that I’m watching an Avengers/SHIELD prequel. I wished there were more scenes with Cap and Agent Carter together, much much more than that last minute kiss. Some late night “fondue” would have been nice. And the ending would have been more heartbreaking.

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