*Note from the Editor: This contribution is from “ironmima,” a member of the FoCC forum.
13 days until Avengers: Infinity War
Let’s face it: Iron Man 2 isn’t really that great. I mean sure, it was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been, especially with all the promise its predecessor brought. Truth be told, the plot and pacing just isn’t as strong as that of Iron Man—and again with that villain problem—but it does one thing right: it skillfully expands the lore to introduce the wider MCU, giving us a glimpse of what the next eight years would be. It seemed as though Marvel Studios learned the importance of a stellar cast in this film, because for what it lacks in diegesis it makes up for with a compelling company of characters.
I mean, come on: this film is nearly perfectly cast. Sam Rockwell absolutely shines as rival weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer, breathing new life into an otherwise stuffy character (Hammer is an old Englishman in the comics). He is also, strangely, a foil for Downey’s Tony Stark—I say “strangely” because at face value, Stark and Hammer have the same negative personality traits: arrogant, eccentric, and narcissistic, among other things. But Hammer shows us the dangers of corporate power, propping up Stark’s less selfish agenda. It’s a riveting contrast to watch unfold on screen, and it definitely helps that Rockwell is a fantastic actor.
Here is another replacement I’m all for: Don Cheadle steps into Rhodey’s shoes, previously filled by Terrence Howard. Watching Iron Man and Iron Man 2 one day apart gave me the opportunity to really make a distinction between the two performances, and there is one, well, stark difference (pun totally intended, by the way)—Cheadle and Downey just have more chemistry. Tony and Rhodey are supposed to be old college buddies that wreaked all sorts of havoc at MIT, and Howard didn’t bring that depth and history to his Rhodey. Cheadle did, and he was more engaging to watch on screen, too.
We got to see a little more of our favorite SHIELD agents, with the addition of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow. While I did not have any particular preference on who should have been cast as Romanoff, I can see why there were some reservations with Johansson at first. In this film, Black Widow had a more femme fatale aspect to her character than dangerous, reformed spy, but I blame that on the writing rather than Johansson’s performance. All the other films she’s part of do a much better job of fleshing out the character, giving Johansson a much wider playing field to work her magic. Having Nick Fury and Phil Coulson back was an absolute treat and helped build SHIELD’s role in the MCU even more. It also gave us what is perhaps the MCU’s most classic line: “If you attempt to leave or play any games, I will taze you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet.”
So, final verdict: Iron Man 2, while not as compelling as its predecessor, keeps the integrity of its characters intact, investing more into the wider MCU universe. Iron Man 2 effectively set the stage for the Thor franchise and, by extension, the Captain America franchise. It’s really not hard to understand why everyone calls RDJ the Godfather of these movies, “the one who started it all.” Without the Iron Man movies, we wouldn’t be counting down to Avengers: Infinity War.
Now, I was pretty excited to rewatch Thor. For some reason, Thor has always been my favorite MCU franchise. I have a penchant for the ridiculous, and the Thor trilogy is certainly the most ridiculous in the MCU. Ridiculous in a good way, of course. I’ve heard people call Thor Marvel Studios’ only B-movie, which is not entirely untrue. But that’s what makes it such an entertaining movie, though—Norse gods with a shot of Shakespearean drama? Sign me up.
The fact that a serious actor like Anthony Hopkins would step into Odin’s shoes amuses me but, then again, would all the father-son theatrics have worked without well-trained thespians putting weight behind a lackluster script? That scene where Loki demands that Odin tell him the truth about his parentage is particularly impressive, and it was nice to see Tom Hiddleston show his acting chops to a wider audience. It’s not until the last third of the movie that Chris Hemsworth grows into the Thor role, but that’s the whole journey this character makes.
The strength of Thor lies in its ability to bring the fantastical and the epic back to earth. I suppose that’s why Kenneth Branagh chose to incorporate a heavy Shakespearean element into a superhero movie about Norse mythology and a rainbow bridge in space. It works to some degree, but it doesn’t make up for the shortages in plot and dialogue. The Thor movies don’t really improve much until Taika Waititi gives it his unique spin in Thor: Ragnarok, but the first film is still a great addition to the MCU. For one, the film introduced the cosmos to the MCU, gave Phil Coulson more screen time, and gave us a glimpse of Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye. And besides, it’s just plain fun to watch Norse gods fight each other because of daddy issues.
Which brings me to Captain America: The First Avenger. This is probably the only MCU movie that’s a straight shooter: it’s a period piece, it’s an origin story, and it has a protagonist that you can’t possibly dislike. It’s on par with many enjoyable, old blockbuster-type films, mostly because it plays by the rules. But that means it doesn’t have the same dangerous excitement as Iron Man, which is a pity—it makes a movie about a superhuman a little staid. Then again, I don’t think you could have done the first Captain America movie any other way.
Despite that, watching the film again gives me a greater appreciation for screenwriting duo Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Captain America: The First Avenger does have a solid script with a cogent plot, which is why along with a great cast and no-nonsense direction from Joe Johnston, the movie works and delivers on enriching the MCU. After their excellent work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and the Whedon mess that was Avengers: Age of Ultron), it’s not surprising that they were given the mammoth task of writing the third and fourth Avengers movies. This is the main ingredient of what is a well-built foundation for the Captain America franchise, and it gives me hope that Avengers: Infinity War won’t crash and burn story-wise.
Our movie schedule for tomorrow: The Avengers. Check back then for the next feature on our countdown to Avengers: Infinity War!
Top 5 MCU movies ranking so far:
- Iron Man