Watching the Infinity Saga during Quarantine (Phase 1)
I decided to spent my valuable quarantine time binge watching the MCU movies in release date order. I plan on ranking them eventually, but for now I'm just reviewing them one by one, starting with the first phase. This post contains facts, and little to no opinions.
So while other people are spending their quarantines getting jacked as fuck, or learning how to bake, or growing entire salads in their gardens, I decided to steal a friend's Disney+ login and watch the entire 'Infinity Saga' from the MCU. This only includes the major film releases, since I'm not about to trying to take this project to my deathbed. There are way too many Marvel series on Netflix and ABC to realistically consider them, plus there's very little (if any) crossover.
I know there'll be people out there saying shit like "If you didn't watch Agents of Shield from beginning to end you're not a true fan" and to those people I say — You're damn right. I'm not about to watch Robin from HIMYM speak into an earpiece about offscreen super heroes for 7 seasons.
Side Note: Holy crap, I had to look that up but 7 seasons?! How can the least interesting people in the MCU get like 90ish hours of airtime? I mean honestly, it's probably pretty good, but I have way too many video games to be shitty at, I can't make that kind of commitment.
I've seen all these movies before, but I figure that since now they're all in one place I can just binge them over the course of a few weeks, and provide my opinion on each of them. I'm going with 'release-date' order instead of 'chronologically' because I guess I hate fun? I just don't want to get 15 movies in, then suddenly be hit with terrible voiceovers and poor CGI or something.
I'll be putting together a few paragraphs about each as notes for myself and cataloging them in these posts. After I've gotten through them all, I'll assemble a finalized list as a follow-up. Just keep in mind that the list is actually the objective truth, not my opinion. If you disagree with me, you are picking a fight with science and God (sorry, I don't make the rules). Alright enough preamble, this is starting to look like an online recipe site.
Iron Man (May 2, 2008)
Coming back to this movie after so long, and it still holds up great. They do an excellent job of establishing just how slimy, and immoral Tony Stark was, prior to the suit. He starts off appearing as a smart, charismatic CEO of Stark Industries, but they make sure to show his loneliness, over-confidence and difficulties with the family legacy.
While some of the ways he talks about/interacts with women bother me now (like having the stewardesses of his private jet dance for him when he's drinking with Rhodes), I definitely understand the type of person they built Tony up to be. I especially like that Pepper Potts doesn't just fall for him head over heels, and faces her own internal conflict.
While I definitely think the villain plot with Obadiah Stane was hella rushed, and some of the scenes didn't make sense (Iron Monger surviving the fall, the arc reactor explosion not hurting Tony, why Stane there wasn't any legal issue when it came to light that Stark Industries sold arms to terrorists), they were mostly forgivable. The first 45 minutes kick ass and man does the second movie drop that ball through the fucking floor. Spoiler alert for my opinions on Iron Man 2.
The Incredible Hulk (June 13, 2008)
Yeah, this movie is awful. I thought people were a bit extreme with how they talked about it (since I'd never seen it before now), but it's objectively bad. The CGI is forgivable, it was over a decade ago. However, having a forced, boring plot with forgettable characters is pretty shitty. I even kind of wanted to be the contrarian, and argue that this movie is better than people think, but I couldn't find any ground to stand on. Let's break it down.
First of all, Bruce Banner is so boring in this movie. Since he's alone for a big part of it, he barely speaks at all and Edward Norton never really gets the chance to develop the character. We just know he's a big green dude and trying his best not to be. When he does finally get a partner, it's his love interest, Betty Ross. She has no discernable personality as well, aside from being in love with Bruce. They barely converse and instead just seem forced together from some off-screen romantic history. They even have this awfully awkward sex scene which Bruce cuts short since "he can't get too excited".
What about villains? Well, the antagonist is the entire government? I guess? Ross' dad is a military general who had Banner working on the super solider serum, with the intention of weaponizing it. I guess he just wants to imprison Banner and recreate the Hulk-ified version of their failed serum. Either way, it's pretty generic and forgettable, and the audience never gets any satisfaction by having him arrested/fired! General Ross runs some more shitty tests on his special boy soldier and ends up creating another monster which Bruce has to fight as Hulk. So in the end, it's entirely the general's fault and he doesn't pay for it in the slightest. As a weird note on top, he works in partner with S.H.I.E.L.D., who Marvel audiences are supposed to see as the good guys (at least at this point in the MCU). It left me very confused, trying to understand what this movie was going for. I mean in the end, Bruce just zips off to the woods to learn to how to control the Hulk, but that's what he started off doing! I guess he's less scared of it now, but they seem to ret-con that by the time we get to The Avengers.
This movie is great if you want to spend a few hours rolling your eyes and watching a bad CGI hulk with anime hair wield car doors as weapons. If you're into it because of plot, or character, or general movie reasons — it's fine to skip this one.
Iron Man 2 (May 7, 2010)
Remember how we spent all that time with Tony Stark in Iron Man, seeing him grow as person and develop as a character? What about his relationship with Pepper that they seemed to be building based on mutual respect for one another?
Yeah? Well toss that garbage out a window because we fired the writers and spent that money on explosions for Iron Man 2. I remember I used to think this movie was solid when I was a kid, but looking back on it now it's arrogant, awkward and just hard to watch. The only character who comes out this movie better than when they started is Rhodes, and that's because they recast him as an actor who knows math.
It's straight-up sad, seeing how they just give Pepper Potts so much shit to deal with, since Tony is just acts like a jackass with a big metal science suit, and then they have her forgive him in the end as the mindless damsel in distress 🙃. Even from the get-go, Stark is back to being an asshole, objectifying woman and being a douche bag to the senate because he's smarter than them. Personally, I don't think it's outrageous for the government to regulate the guy shooting goddamn lasers out of his hand that can saw trees in half, but maybe I'm just crazy.
Poor writing, poor acting, and poor story. Actively didn't enjoy this one. Here are just a few of the issues I had with this movie:
- Why would Stark Industries host a panel where their competitor, Hammer Industries, can just shit on them and unveil their own new goodies?
- Why is that Hammer Industries CEO totally cool with murdering prison guards to break out some guy who just assumes is going to help him? Did he think Whiplash's original plan had a lot of fore-thought and planning?
- Why was there a gun-porn scene, to look at and watch a literal ad for some military weapons?
- Why was Tony so brazen about hiring Natalie for being hot, when he's presumably with Pepper now?
- Why did Tony not apologize to anyone or anything in the movie at all? He just seems to get away with it because they were attacked?
- How many innocent people died in this movie? Bombs went off in crowded areas of attendees and bullets were flying in a public area? Why were so many people attending a military ad show?
- Why did Tony's blood toxicity meter look like a that shitty 24 character cash register screen thing, but he has a glass-table-computer-touchscreen in his gym and holograms all over his place?
- Why did they undermine F1 so badly? Had Tony ever driven a car like that before? Did he expect it to be like driving a sports car? If no one expected him to hijack his own car like that, how did Whiplash prepare with a pitstop outfit to sneak on the track? How did he know Stark would be there?
- The line "Oh don't you 'Ms. Potts' me, I know what you're trying to do".
- Elon Musk is in the MCU.
Thor (May 6, 2011)
While watching Thor, it occurred to me that I remember almost nothing about this movie. Pretty much none of the characters were notable with the exception of Thor, Loki, Heimdall, and Jane. At one point some of Thor's tertiary LARPing friends even introduce themselves as 'The Warriors Three' because the audience wouldn't have remembered their names either. I'm probably being a little too hard on the movie, since they had a lot of ground to cover plot-wise, but seriously, you can summarize most of the supporting cast with two-word stereotypes. "Science uncle" "Spunky intern" "Action woman" "Mysterious Asian" (They even call him "Jackie Chan" at one point, like damn; it's self-aware at this point)
Aside from the characters, I felt the overall story for Thor was pretty good! I definitely felt that Loki had a motive, and his actions seemed to have valid reason behind them, but I kept finding that they purposefully made him act like an idiot to make Thor the hero. Like why did he
/tpto Earth, just to lie in Thor's face about Odin being dead? Or why did those 4 ren-fair workers go against Loki, when he saved their lives by telling Odin (through Heimdall) to save them in Jotunheim? I would have been way happier with the ending if the discount White Walkers actually killed Odin, and Loki embraced his true heritage, because honestly he was right. Odin just took him in as another plundered relic.
As for the film parts of the movie, the soundtrack slapped, and the visuals (framing, shot composition, etc.) were pretty solid, though all those Dutch angles did break my neck. There were a few times where the CGI fell short, but it holds up decently well in the larger action shots (like the ending). I always love when the Destroyer flips around to blast Lady Sif, that's like the only thing was looking forward to when remembering this film. I also think the comedy is top-notch, I loved seeing Thor failing the 'mortal customs' like restaurants, and streets, and basic conversations.
Unfortunately, I gotta dock a bunch of points for having one of this most poorly established relationships in the MCU. Jane, an educated, cunning, driven researcher, falls entirely in love with the hot psychopath that she hit with her car. He's rude, inconsiderate, and focuses solely on himself for most of the movie, constantly spouting off about 'realms' and 'the Bifrost'. I found it so unbelievable that she was smiling and nodding through out this, but then I remembered it's because he's hot, and it's the plot.
Also WTF, I can't believe Norse mythology is canon, I always assumed it wasn't. Does that mean Thor can just like, read his own fan-fiction that ancient humans put together? Shit boggles my gourd.
Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22, 2011)
This movie just plain kicks ass. They do a great job with the 1940s-era set pieces, propaganda and even what I imagine people spoke like. They introduce some well-developed and realistic characters and I think it surprised me with how well it holds up. After stumbling through Iron Man 2 and Thor, I'm glad that they had this movie to set the stage for The Avengers.
To talk a little more in depth about the things I like, lets take a look at these characters. Steve Rogers has an established personality, within the first few minutes of the movie. You can easily see his motivation and drive to become a soldier, even if his skinny body doesn't exactly match the gruff voice (hearing that little boy speak, and Chris Evan's voice come out was fuckin' hilarious). They establish Peggy as a smart, military-minded, compassionate person — showing an affection for Cap's bravery before he was got his 10-pack abs or whatever. Chester Phillips is intro'd as the "no-bullshit army man", but he doesn't stay static like that the entire time. When he sees Cap rescue like 400 prisoners, he doesn't react like the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, he recognizes Steve's abilities and plans entire ops around his strengths. And Red Skull. While he looked kinda looked a bit cosplayer, or like an extra from the Fantastic Four, I did think his consistent motivation to become god-like was pretty solid, and his abandoning the Reich was perfect for the character.
The story was a simple one. Deadly Nazi-adjacent weapon, send in Cap to neutralize the threat and take down Red Skull. I'm not looking for super expansive plots, I just want the actions taken on both sides in attempt to 'win' the conflict to make sense, and I think they really did. Nobody failed on purpose, or had too much plot armour. The only parts that felt a bit contrived were: Natalie Dormer's random introduction to kiss Steve and introduce
d r a m a, and how Red Skull didn't just kill Cap instead of taking him hostage, since he didn't seem to need Cap for the Super Soldier Serum (which I thought would be more important.
Along with those few plot issues, there were also some problems with the pacing. Having a drawn out section of Cap becoming a 'show girl' was definitely funny, but pretty out of character in my opinion. And there was that weird-ass-montage of them destroying every Hydra base in a matter of minutes as soon as Cap got his shield. It felt way too easy, and care-free how they could stomp down all those bases, and it seemed to have no effect on Red Skull's progress (besides him throwing a temper tantrum).
Overall, my issues with the movie are minor, and mostly presentational. The cool canon they introduce (like Howard Stark's character, or Agent Carter) are just awesome and super well done. Not much felt forced, and I actually teared up at the melancholy ending of this movie. It was well-executed, and a total palette cleanser after Thor and Iron Man 2. If it sounds like I didn't like those movies, you should become a detective
The Avengers (May 4, 2012)
The Avengers has to hold a special place in every Marvel fan's heart, just because of how cool it was to see a bunch of heroes collab-ing on the big screen. That alone nets this movie a bunch of points, it was the kick-off of this new generation of superhero movies. They weren't niche boys clubs anymore, they became hype, mainstream, big budget epics.
That being said, it's not a perfect movie, and has a lot of low points. Stuff isn't explained, and plot-wise is super contrived and needless. Loki is suddenly a super evil villain, when his prior motive was just to impress daddy Odin. Now suddenly, Thor can travel to Earth through 'dark forces', which does away with the entire ending of Thor. Even the idea of Dr. Selvig building in a failsafe to the portal device when we never see signs of Loki's spell dissipating before this. Also when did Loki get that spell?
I get that the idea is we ignore those inconsistencies so that we can see Hulk smash stuff and Hawkeye shoot some arrows but even that payoff takes really long! The movie is incredibly long for the lack of substance in it, with a lot of wasted time between story beats. I did enjoy seeing superhero banter, but I really didn't need Loki reciting how he's had this all planned from the beginning, every few minutes.
There was one stand out scene I'd like to recognize for doing an awesome job of this though. When the Avengers start fighting, and discover S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't all rainbows, the dialogue seems to pick up speed naturally, and characters react just how you'd expect — talking over one another and getting louder. The camera even starts turning and doing Dutch angles, which I assume is to convey the unease. Totally worked for me. Sadly it's followed up by Iron Man and Cap's dick measuring contest that seems to pause all other conversations in the room while they bicker, which always bothers me in movies.
I definitely enjoyed it though, and it was nostalgic seeing these characters from 2013 meet for the first time. There were moments that had me giddy (i.e. Mjolnir vs. Cap's Shield, Hulk vs. the Leviathan, Hawkeye with a grappling hook) and I think that's the point. You're not really supposed to dig too deep in these big Avenger's movies, you just gawk at the cool action. I'm not gonna be a contrarian and say it's a bad movie though, there's way worse offenders in the MCU alone. But we'll get there 🙂.
And that concludes Phase 1 of the Infinity Saga. My reviews of each film went a little longer than I'd hoped but I think it'll help justify my rankings once I get through them all. Except they really don't need to be justified since I'm objectively the best movie critic; my word is law. Anyway, stay posted for some ramblings about Phase 2 in the near future.