Documentary Review: Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! (2014)

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Music by: Lauren Pardini, Daniel Sternbaum
Cast: Axel Alonso, Hayley Atwell, Gerry Conway, Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Seth Green, Clark Gregg, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Ralph Macchio, Todd McFarlane, Patton Oswalt, Nicole Perlman, Joe Quesada, Peter Sanderson, Jim Shooter, Kevin Smith, Jim Starlin, Emily VanCamp, Len Wein, Ming-Na Wen

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

I recently reviewed a short, made-for-TV documentary on Disney+ called Assembling a Universe. That one was a piece on how Disney and Marvel assembled a movie franchise based off of Marvel’s rich treasure trove of characters and stories.

This short documentary is kind of more of the same but it focuses mostly on the comic books themselves and how Marvel grew into what it is today.

Like the previous documentary, which came out earlier in the same year, this one is really just a marketing tool to try and get people to go see their movies. It’s made by Disney, Marvel and ABC, all of whom are essentially the same company, so this is made to sort of pimp themselves out.

Ultimately, this is an autobiographical puff piece. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things of value in it. It’s informative and gives you a good amount of info to start with for those interested in Marvel’s history but there are much better documentaries, books and magazine articles on the subject.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Assembling a Universe and Empire of Dreams.

Documentary Review: Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Shane Black, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Clark Gregg, James Gunn, Chris Hardwick, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Jeph Loeb, Anthony Mackie, George R.R. Martin, Tom Morello, Bobby Moynihan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Joe Quesada, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright (uncredited)

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

After watching the beefy but solid Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, I noticed that Disney+ also featured a similar made-for-TV documentary about the making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured I’d check it out, as it originally aired in 2014, on the cusp of the MCU reaching its peak.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as compelling as Empire of Dreams and it plays more like a Marvel produced production used mainly to pimp themselves out and market Captain America: Winter Solider and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. But I get it, this played on ABC, which like Marvel, is owned by Disney.

It’s still an informative piece with a lot of insight into the making of the first Iron Man movie, which opened the floodgates for the rest of the MCU.

It also expands beyond that and delves a little bit into each movie up to the then still in-production Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I think that this was the first real peek into the Guardians of the Galaxy production.

The best part about this short feature is the interviews with the stars and filmmakers who helped bring this universe to life. I especially liked hearing the enthusiasm that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau had with the early Iron Man pictures.

Overall, this isn’t a must watch but it’s worth your time if you are a big MCU fan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other filmmaking documentaries about blockbusters. Empire of Dreams, immediately comes to mind.

Film Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

Release Date: February 27th, 2019 (London premiere)
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve
Based on: Captain Marvel by Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Kelly Sue DeConnick (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 124 Minutes

Review:

“You are Carol Danvers. You were the woman on that black box risking her life to do the right thing. My best friend. Who supported me as a mother and a pilot when no one else did. You were smart, and funny, and a huge pain in the ass. And you were the most powerful person I knew, way before you could shoot fire through your fists.” – Maria Rambeau

This was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that I didn’t see in the theater. Frankly, it looked boring and unimaginative and it really has nothing to do with the controversies surrounding the film regardless of what side of the argument your fanboy/girl heart lies on.

Seeing it now, I wasn’t wrong.

This is a drab, mostly pretty boring film. Also, it looks cheap compared to other Marvel movies. This looks more like an episode of a CW superhero show than a film produced by Disney and Marvel. And it’s kind of underwhelming and depressing, really. Especially since this had its fair share of outer space stuff, which Marvel has handled exceedingly well with Thor: Ragnarok and both Guardians of the Galaxy outings.

I think part of the problem is that this film had too many creatives trying to steer the ship. It had two directors and five writers. Fuck, guys… just pick a team of a few people like your best movies and let them make the magic happen. Films made by committees rarely wow anyone.

In regards to Brie Larson, she is, as I’ve said in reviews of other films, a charisma vacuum. She makes charismatic actors around here give uncharismatic performances. Sam Jackson and Jude Law are typically very charismatic and fun to watch. Here, they’re about as entertaining as sleeping dogs.

Throughout this entire film, Brie was told that she’s too emotional yet she barely shows any actual emotion and just delivers her lines with a blank face in monotone. She also does this juvenile smirk all the time that just makes her look like a middle aged soccer mom thinking that she’s still youthful, cute and wishes she was still in high school so she could cozy up to the mean girls.

If this film wasn’t part of the larger MCU canon, it would have come and gone and been completely forgotten already. It’s not even bad to where people can talk for years about how much of a shitshow it was like Catwoman. But this is the future that Disney apparently wants and between this dead on arrival, boring ass film and the slapped together, clusterfuck that Avengers: Endgame was, makes me think that the MCU‘s expiration date was 2019, just a year after it celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.

Usually for a film of this caliber, I’d have a lot more to say. But there isn’t much to talk about with this one. It’s a waste of time, it carries an obvious agenda with it and like things that are trying to be political statements, it fails at conveying that message in a meaningful or genuine way.

Plus, everyone and their mother has torn this film apart already. I don’t think it’s as bad as many people do but it’s certainly a soulless, unemotional, pointless film more concerned with its place in history and trying to challenge societal ideals in the laziest way possible than it is trying to be a fun, escapist piece of entertainment.

But hey, this isn’t as bad as Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which still takes the cake as Marvel’s worst. I would put this in my bottom two or three though.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Everything else in the MCU, I guess.

Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

Release Date: April 11th, 2012 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany (voice), Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton, Ashley Johnson, Kenneth Tigar

Marvel Studios, Paramount, Walt Disney Studios, 143 Minutes, 173 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“The Tesseract has awakened. It is on a little world. A human world. They would wield its power, but our ally knows its workings as they never will. He is ready to lead. And our force, our Chitauri, will follow. The world will be his. The universe yours. And the humans, what can they do but burn?” – The Other

There was a time when this was the big culmination of all of Marvel’s achievements in their cinematic universe. I don’t think any of us realized how small the universe was then. It felt grand but now, in 2018, things have grown to a monstrous size, to the point where it’s hard to imagine how the upcoming Avengers movie is even going to work. I mean, this had six heroes in it, plus a few more characters. The next Avengers movie has to balance roughly sixty characters. It’s gotten insane.

Anyway, this was the first time we saw a big group of these characters crossover.

In this film, we see Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Mark Ruffalo replacing Ed Norton as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. We also get Sam Jackson returning as Nick Fury, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, all important SHIELD characters and support for the Avengers team.

On the villain side, Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and he has an army of Chitauri aliens gifted to him by The Other, who is a minion of Thanos.

The story does a decent job of uniting these heroes against a common and very large threat. The first act of the film is very good and I enjoyed it. The final act is also better than decent, even if the aliens are generic and unexciting. The middle act is what really soured me on this picture and it brings down all of the other parts that are actually good.

The middle of the film is pretty much just the heroes hanging out and gabbing on the SHIELD Helicarrier. Some shit pops off and we get to see the Avengers go into action… to fix a damaged propeller. The fact that a gazillion dollar SHIELD helicarrier doesn’t have some sort of emergency protocol for a failed or destroyed propeller is a gross mismanagement of government funds. You’re going to build a vehicle that costs more than the entire GDP of most countries and you don’t have emergency parachutes or balloons to guide the vehicle down to Earth? Good thing Iron Man was there to fly in circles and Captain America knew how to flip a switch.

Joss Whedon helmed this picture though and I’ve never been a fan, even though he is like Jesus to nerds. Does he know how to handle an ensemble cast? For the most part, but his experience is mostly in the realm of cheesy teen TV drama or the severely overrated Firefly.

While the last act of the film gets things back on track and exciting, I hate the Chitauri aliens. They’re drab, boring and ride around on some flying Sea-Doos shooting shit lasers. Then there are the giant flying worm creatures that didn’t do a damn thing other than chase Iron Man and crash into shit. What were they supposed to be doing? Couldn’t they have had aliens on their armored hulls and been more like weaponized battleships? Kinda like living Star Destroyers? I mean, a six year-old could have made them more interesting. In the end, the aliens should have been the Skrulls or even the Kree. I know that Marvel lost the movie right to the Skrulls, at least at the time, but damn, give us something more imaginative and cool.

The Avengers has its problems and I’m spending more time pointing them out than anything else but it is still an enjoyable film. It’s not as good as the best solo hero movies but it is hard to balance an ensemble and to focus on developing and enriching characters when there are so many. But that’s why the solo films are better movies, as these big team-up pictures are just spectacles or special events, the Royal Rumble of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But making this work was a giant undertaking and a tough challenge. It’s more positive than negative and the real highlight is seeing these characters exist in the same space at the same time.

Plus, it has Harry Dean Stanton in it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Phase One films from the Marvel Cinematic UniverseIron Man 1 and 2The Incredible HulkThor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Film Review: Thor (2011)

Release Date: April 17th, 2011 (Sydney premiere)
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Clark Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner

Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be your equal!” – Loki

As I am reworking my way through all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in preparation for Avengers: Infinity War, in about a month, I was really looking forward to revisiting the first Thor.

While I thought that Thor: Ragnarok was maybe the best Marvel film to date, a part of me wanted to go back and watch the two Thor pictures before it. Sure, I knew they wouldn’t be as good as Ragnarok but I absolutely adore Hemsworth’s Thor more than any other hero in the larger Avengers franchise. And yeah, I’ve been a massive Robert Downey, Jr. fan my entire life.

It’s not just Hemsworth’s Thor that makes these films a really fun experience though. A lot of credit has to go to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who is, by far, the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted, he’s not a total villain and may be more of an ally in the films now but he was certainly an evil force in the early films. No other villain has had his presence, his charisma and his longevity. Every other villain is essentially a one-off castaway. There’s a reason as to why Hiddleston doesn’t simply disappear like all the others.

The Thor movies also have an incredible ensemble of people. But then they also have Natalie Portman, who I’ve never been much of a fan of and frankly, she didn’t really enjoy doing these movies anyway and more or less didn’t want to do the second one and got herself written out of the third. But the loss of Portman also caused Kat Dennings to be written out. Really, she was more entertaining and probably would’ve worked better as Thor’s girl because the banter between the characters would have been more fun than the boring and lazy Portman.

Anyway, we see Thor banished from Asgard because he pissed off Odin, his father. He has to prove himself and his worth in order to be allowed back into his home realm. He meets Jane, a scientist, and her crew. Thor’s first mission is to retrieve his magic hammer, Mjolnir. He then must fight Destroyer and eventually confront his brother Loki, who has deceived him throughout the events of the story.

We get the return of Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, as well as a cameo by Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and the debut of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

This feels like a smaller film than what Marvel puts out now. But I like the smaller feel. The world of heroes hadn’t yet expanded to where it would, a few films after this one. This is a cozy origin tale and really is a stark contrast to what we would all see in Thor: Ragnarok. Plus, the Asgard side of the story is broad enough to not feel like you have cabin fever sitting in a small desert town the entire movie.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Thor: Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. Also, The Avengers, as that’s the next time that Thor would show up.

Film Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Release Date: April 26th, 2010 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Theroux
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice), Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, Gary Shandling, John Slattery, Kate Mara, Olivia Munn (cameo)

Fairview Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 125 Minutes

Review:

“If you try to escape, or play any sort of games with me, I will taze you and watch Supernanny while you drool into the carpet.” – Agent Coulson

I remember that when I first saw Iron Man 2, I was disappointed. I really hadn’t watched it since it came out but it was nice revisiting it and I was surprised to discover that it was better than I remembered it. Maybe it’s because Marvel movies are a dime a dozen now but this had more of a plot and more character development than most of the massive team-up movies we get today.

This film also introduces us to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who would become a major player in the Avengers franchise, and it recasts James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine with Don Cheadle, who brought more charisma than Terrence Howard and also has much more chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. We also get more of Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury, Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, small roles for John Slattery and Kate Mara, a cameo by Olivia Munn and others, as well as the addition of Gary Shandling and the return of Leslie Bibb.

The main additions to the film are the villains though. We get Sam Rockwell, recent Oscar winner, as Justin Hammer, a rival of Tony Stark. We also get Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, who is a combination of Iron Man villains the Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash. I liked both men in their roles and thought they had a solid chemistry when they shared scenes together. Whiplash’s backstory was interesting and I actually would have liked to have seen him return. Well, I’d like to see Hammer return too and since he doesn’t die, his return isn’t impossible.

The film isn’t as good or as refined as the original but it expands on the Iron Man pocket of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe that hadn’t reached its apex by 2010. It is a better film than The Incredible Hulk and seeing it now, I like it better than all of the other Phase One Marvel films after the first Iron Man. Although, I am planning to revisit Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger over the next week.

I think that Jon Favreau did a great job directing the first two Iron Man movies. It was a hard task but he accomplished what he set out to do, which was to build a good foundation for the future of the MCU. The entire franchise was born out of Favreau’s vision for Iron Man and I think it was a good vision and a great starting point.

The climax was long but it was much bigger than the simple fight that capped off the first film. Iron Man had his work cut out for him but now having allies made for a much richer finale. I just wish that the actual fight between Iron Man and War Machine against Whiplash wouldn’t have ended so quickly. I felt like Rourke’s character deserved a few more minutes of being a total badass. Then again, he bit off more than he could chew in engaging two men in Iron Man suits.

Iron Man 2 is a better movie than what I thought it was at first glance, back in 2010. Ultimately, it is a fun, larger than life, popcorn flick. It’s a damn good one at that, though. We now live in a world where there’s a half dozen superhero movies per year and that might be a low estimate. Iron Man 2 is better than what has become the standard, as the genre becomes more and more watered down with each comic book movie and television show.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Iron ManIron Man 3Captain America: Civil War.

Film Review: Iron Man (2008)

Release Date: April 14th, 2008 (Sydney premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany (voice), Samuel L. Jackson (cameo), Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, Tom Morello (cameo), Ghostface Killah (scene cut), Peter Billingsley (cameo)

Fairview Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

“[reading the newspaper] Iron Man. That’s kind of catchy. It’s got a nice ring to it. I mean it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s a gold titanium alloy, but it’s kind of provocative, the imagery anyway.” – Tony Stark

I decided that it’s time to go back and rewatch the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning, as the world patiently waits for the release of Avengers: Infinity War in less than three months. It’s been a really long time since I’ve watched the Phase One films, so I figured I’d start with the first, a film that I can’t believe is a decade old already. Man, time flies.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched the Phase One stuff in so long, but I truly forgot how great the original Iron Man is. It’s definitely the best of the Iron Man films and much better than most of the Phase Two and Phase Three movies. It was smaller, simpler and actually told a story instead of being a dozen big action sequences strung together by a fragile plot thread.

This is the origin story of Iron Man and really Tony Stark, even though some of the sequels to this flesh out his backstory more. This doesn’t get too bogged down in the origin stuff though, as it does a great job of focusing on the main story and moving forward. Plus, that post credits scene sets up what’s to come with the formation of the Avengers and a hint at something much larger than just Stark’s world. In fact, Nick Fury even states that Stark isn’t the first superhero, alluding to Captain America and possibly even Captain Marvel, who ten years later, still hasn’t gotten her movie.

Iron Man is just so well acted, well constructed and Jon Favreau did a fine job directing it, even though he got to play a role in it and other Iron Man-related films after this one.

This is small in comparison to the Marvel films that would come later but I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s a bit more grounded in reality, emotion and something actually genuine.

Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark but we all know that by this point. It’s like he was born to play the role and everything else before this, as great as many of his films were, was just preparation for this role, the biggest thing he’s ever been a part of.

Jeff Bridges was fantastic as the first ever Marvel Cinematic Universe villain. He was a powerful and charismatic choice and still, better than most of the other villains that have come and gone. Granted, other than less than a handful of characters, Marvel has had an issue with managing their bad guys in these pictures.

This was a perfect start to the larger Avengers universe. I think we knew how good this was, at the time, but seeing it now, with so many other Marvel movies having come out after it, helps put into perspective how good this motion picture was.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Iron Man 2Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War.