Let’s just say that leg two of the MCU race has not been nearly as enjoyable as part one. (If this is your first time checking in on my Marvel challenge, you should check out my original post here and Part One here.) I had a feeling this was going to be my least favorite section of the challenge, and so far, I was right. But a lot happens that is important to the MCU as a whole, so while I didn’t particularly enjoy these films, I’m glad I watched them. And hopefully I can give you some good notes so you don’t have to suffer like I did! Part Two:
The Basics: Iron Man was actually the first project in the MCU in terms of release date, though the story of Captain America takes place first in terms of time. Released by Paramount in 2008, Iron Man stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges. At the time of publishing, Iron Man is available on Amazon Prime.
Important Plot Points: Much as the first Captain America takes us through the “creation” process for Cap, Iron Man follows much the same trajectory. The main difference is that Tony Stark creates his own superhero persona as he sees it as his only way out of a pretty dire situation (kidnapped by terrorists). Stark learns that his business partner (Bridges) has been selling weapons to terrorists, and the final showdown is between Iron Man and the guy who has basically been like a father to him. We do meet Agent Coulson in this film, and it’s our first introduction to SHIELD, which has not established its acronym yet.
End Credits Scene: After Tony admits to being Iron Man in the final scene of the movie, Nick Fury shows up at his house and tells Tony he wants to talk to him about the Avengers Initiative.
My Reaction: This was not my first time seeing Iron Man, though it has been years since I’ve watched it. I remember liking it before, but I did not love it on this re-watch. The beginning of the movie is hard to watch given the current political climate. Seeing Tony being captured by terrorists, and then learning his company has been providing said terrorists with weapons–weapons that we see are used to kill innocent people–is disturbing to say the least. I also am not a huge fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, and though many like the couple together, I found the way they constantly talked over each other to be grating. Also, it’s amazing how far we have come with graphics and tech in just the nine years between this film and Thor Ragnarok. It looks dated, which is a shame because many of the other movies have held up better.
Rating: 7 out of 10, I’m meh about the whole thing.
The Incredible Hulk
The Basics: Released by Universal just one month after Iron Man in 2008, Incredible Hulk stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt (with a random appearance by Ty Burrell). As of this posting, Incredible Hulk is available on HBO Now.
Important Plot Points: Again, like Iron Man and Captain America, this movie takes us through the creation of the Incredible Hulk. And I seriously think that is the only important part of it. Bruce Banner takes some experimental drugs and turns in a huge, green monster.
End Credits Scene: Important note if you are watching on HBO Now–the end credits scene is before the credits, not after. But the scene entails Tony Stark approaching Hulk’s former boss about the Avengers.
My Reaction: Okay. Lots of thoughts here. I pretty close to hated watching this movie for many reasons, but the main one is that because none of these actors appear in later films, it feels completely disconnected from the MCU. It also is, so far, the only movie released by Universal, which is odd and may account for why it feels disjointed. I found it hard to connect with Edward Norton’s Hulk because in my mind, Mark Ruffalo is the Hulk I know and love. I also can’t stand Ed Norton, so there’s that. I couldn’t help but notice that all of the problems in this movie stem back to narcissistic male egos. First, with General Ross, who “creates” Hulk in the first place, and then with Blonsky, who pushes the limits of the power so far he turns himself into a monster. People die because this particular group of men are egomaniacs. Eff that. Hated the plot. Didn’t like the actors. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s short.
Rating: 4 out of 10, and I feel like I’m being generous.
Iron Man 2
The Basics: The main players from the original cast return for Iron Man 2, released in 2010 by Paramount. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Scarlett Johansson. As of this posting, the movie is available to rent from Amazon for $3.99.
Important Plot Points: The US government is trying to get a hold of the plans for the Iron Man suit so they can create an army of super soldiers (which is the same basic premise as the Hulk movie, which we all know turned out great). A crazy Russian named Ivan (Mickey Rourke) is able to replicate the suit, despite Tony’s insistence that it’s impossible. Turns out, Ivan’s dad used to work for Howard Stark and Howard got him deported. So he’s pissed about that. Tony’s weapons rival hires Ivan and Ivan becomes the typical Russian bad guy and creates a whole army of robots–no operator necessary–and sets them loose on the Stark version of the World’s Fair. In order to help Tony defeat the robots, Rhodes dons one of the prototype Iron Man suits and becomes War Machine for the first time (though he is not referred to as War Machine during the movie). It’s important to note that between Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Don Cheadle takes over the role from Terrence Howard, and is Rhodey from this point on. In addition to battling robots, Tony is dealing with a problem with his arc reactor–he needs it to stay alive, but the palladium in the reactor is poisoning him. He solves this problem when he finds secret plans from his dad for the creation of a new element, which of course, he is able to replicate and save himself. We also meet Natasha Romanoff for this first time in this film. She is posing undercover as Pepper’s assistant, though she is working for SHIELD and attempting to keep an eye on Tony. Her identity is revealed before the end of the movie. In the final scene, Nick Fury tells Tony he is too volatile to be a part of the Avengers, so they’re only going to use him as a consultant from now on.
End Credits Scene: Agent Coulson and his team find Thor’s hammer in the New Mexico desert, which is of course the lead in to the next film on the list, Thor.
My Reaction: I liked this one better than the first. I’m always down with girl power, so I was happy to see Natasha, and happy to see Pepper take charge of Stark Industries. I still am not a huge Tony Stark fan. I really don’t know why. I love sarcasm, so he should be one of my favorites, but the rich, entitled, arrogance is a little too much for me. I think I like him better as part of the Avengers, so maybe that is why I struggle with his individual films. I did think the fight scenes in the early part of this one were lacking, but the robot battle was alright in the end. It was overall, just alright. I did enjoy the fact that this movie is more than just an origin story. I realize that we need those to lay the foundation for the MCU, but there are a lot of similarities in all these creation plots and it was nice to see something more original.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10, an improvement over the first, but not by much.
I am looking forward to the next branch of the challenge as I get to see my second husband, Chris Hemsworth, multiple times. I should have the next section completed soon so keep an eye out for Part Three!