Marvel has done it. Love the films or hate 'em, they have succesfully built a universe for their characters which each film resides in. Mixing elements from classic stories with elements from the Ultimate line, these five films represent the foundation for which Marvel will continue to build on. Next year brings us The Avengers, quite possibly the most complicated Super hero movie to date, with everyone waiting in anticipation if Whedon will be able to manage Earth's mightiest heroes. The teaser that has just been released does not give any indication one way or the other, but it does offer an exciting glimpse at seeing all of our heroes on screen at once. In that sense it is a great teaser, I really can't wait to see some more footage and see how these characters will interact with each other.....but that's a year away. So for now I want to take a look at the journey we've taken to get here. I will rank each of the films and give a brief commentary on each one.
In order beginning with number 5 on my list.
5. The Incredible Hulk - Louis Leterrier
I liked this film. I thought Leterrier did a great job making an exciting Hulk film. I feel he nailed the action much better than Lee, and as much as I like Bana, I thought Norton was a far better Banner and the best part of the movie. In fact I was really sad that they wouldn't let him continue on in The Avengers. My biggest complaint is that I never felt the movie really took off the way it could have. I enjoyed it, but it didn't have anything spectacular that I walked away in awe of. The story just seemed a little flat and a bit scattered in comparison to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Definitely the weakest of the five films, but a better Hulk film than Lee was able to provide.
4. Iron Man 2 - Jon Favreau
This is an example where individual parts of the film are much better separate than when put together, and ultimately even though this is a good Iron Man flick, it doesn't manage to beat or even reach the status of the first Iron Man. Downey is still pitch perfect as Stark, his interactions with Pepper are incredible to watch. The exchange they have on the racetrack is one of my favorite scenes. I love everything with Rockwell, I love the increased presence of SHIELD, I love Black Widow and Foggy fighting side by side. Now Rourke is badass, but I think his character could've been better. This film is a lot about being at a crossroads and going down different paths, Rourke is that deranged mirror image, and Rockwell is Downeys Ego without talent. I think Rockwell pulled it off but Rourke if given more time couldv'e made Whiplash a classic villain. Cheadle fills Howards shoes, nice to see War Machine. All these pieces of the puzzle are great but put together it doesn't create cinematic bliss like it should. I blame the studio. Favreau insisted he didn't want to be rushed into getting this movie out, but they insisted he meet deadlines. It really shows and takes a toll on the film, given time I know Favs could've delivered something on the level of Spider Man 2 easily. He could've fine tuned the story, spent some more time in the editing room and get the reshoots necessary. As such we still have two good Iron Man films, but only one that reaches greatness. Oh I do love the Devil in a Bottle hints.
3. Thor - Kenneth Branagh
Everything can be found here. But to summarize Branagh brought Thor to life in a way I didn't think was possible. I still say his biggest accomplishment is making it accessible to everyone while still staying true to the comics. Hemsworth and Hiddleton ARE Thor and Loki. Definitely excited for both of them to be back in Avengers. Everything on Asgard is great, the film obviously couldn't pull off that same magic on Earth, but I don't think it stumbles the Earth stuff as much as some critics say. I liked the overwhelming presence of SHIELD, sure this film works The Avengers into the main story more than any others but I dig that. I love the idea of all these films occupying the same universe.
Ok this one I literally just finished writing about HERE.
Evans owns the role....he WILL go on to lead the Avengers. Johnston squashes my fears and makes an enjoyable adventure flick set during WW2. Solid work all around. Wish there was a bit more complexity to the story but ....1. Johnston was able to handle this simple plot well.....2. Cap is a simple guy with simple morals....so ultimately the story fit the characters well. Still hopefully in later installments they'll take some cues from Brubaker and really take Cap to the next level. I love the period stuff but once he gets to the modern age Brubaker shows how intriguing the fish out of water story could be
1. Iron Man - Jon Favreau
The one that started this whole Marvel Universe collective. The beginning of the century saw huge success with comic book properties again and on the Marvel side they just started churning them out. Culminating with Punisher War Zone, Ghost Rider, Spider-man 3 and Hulk. Needless to say they lost their way in the middle of all the excitement. Then Marvel got smart...they regained the cinematic rights to some big name properties including shellhead here and they began producing THEIR own films beginning with Iron Man. The success of this film led to the other five on this list and of course is the reason we are going to see the biggest super hero names together at once next year. Alright ....the film?
Favreau brings heart and sincerity to everything he does. Here he makes a narcissistic war monger a hero. With the help of an inspired performance from Downey, Favreau gives us the Tony Stark we've never dreamed of. They both knock it out of the park with this one. Stark is the modern day hero, full of gadgets and technology and indulgence to Captain America's core values and perseverance. I can't wait to see these two go head to head in The Avengers as the two main leaders of the team. This first Iron Man film is one of the better origin stories I've seen, it hits similar beats such as hero has crisis of consciousness and questions his morals, meets mentor that changes views on life...is reborn as hero, but Favreau and Co do it all with such style and energy that it all feels fresh. It's a shame we won't see Iron Man 3 from Favs but I think we're in good hands with Shane Black. This first film is still a milestone achievement for Marvel. Spider Man 2, X2? Still no....but almost. BTW I haven't mentioned DC adaptations for a reason...but if you must know Begins and The Dark Knight kick all their ass...but you already knew that.
Now we're here and the Avengers are assembling. The first teaser was at the end of Captain America this weekend. I hope you all saw it because it was a great teaser. Taking a completely different approach than The Dark Knight Rises, this one is literally only their to get you amped. Because let's be honest...after that teaser you have no idea about what's happening in the movie at all...only that we look to be getting all our heroes on screen at the same time and DAMNIT that's one of the most exciting things I've ever seen. Pay attention you get a quick glimpse of Maria Hill as played by Colbie Smulders as well as our first "action shot" of Hawkeye in full Hawkeye gear....whats that? doesn't look like Hawkeye?...Go to a comic shop and pick up a copy of Ultimate Avengers. The Dark Knight Rises is still my number one film for 2012 by a long shot....but so far it looks like Whedon has some energy on the screen...let's hope the story backs that up.
Expect more updates as we get closer.
One last thought - if you weren't able to catch the trailer...here's a nice little piece Marvel put up a few days ago....Maria Hill...Hawkeye...new Hulk....rock.