Monday, 20 August 2018

The Marvellous Marvel Marathon

Ooh, we thought, do you know what would be a really, really cool thing to do this summer?

No, we said, what would be a cool thing to do?

Well, we said, first off let's stop talking to ourselves in this really creepy way because people will think we've finally gone nuts.

Then, when we've done that, let's watch all of the Marvel films that have come out in order.

This, we agreed with ourselves before stopping this nonsense, was a cracking idea.

And what made it even better was finding a list that put the films in the correct MCU timeline order.

Now, it should be noted that this is an updated list. The one we found didn't list the TV shows as well, but that gives us something to do next summer when we won't have a World Cup getting in the way of important film geekery goodness...

But that's for another year. For now, we're just doing the movies. Starting with...

Captain America

First, obvs, because he was the first Avenger and all this kicked off with that little spat with Germany that the Americans like to take credit for. The film is every bit as much fun as we remembered, light, frothy, but with cracking action scenes and Haley Atwell as the brilliant Agent Carter. Chris Evans nailed this part from the off, and Red Skull is every bit as bonkers evil as the books made him. 8/10.

Iron Man

Do you realise this film came out 10 years ago? Seems like only yesterday. Or at least a few weeks ago. But then, for us, that'll be because we've only just rewatched it. And it stands up to the test of time. Robert Downey Jnr nailed this role from the get-go, and while the final act was a tad tedious at the time, watching it again it's actually a lot better than we remember. Helps that Jeff Bridges is clearly having a blast. There are loads of cool extras on this one too. 8/10.

The Incredible Hulk

It helps a lot, watching the films in this order, because you've had a couple of crackers before this turkey crash lands and ruins the whole vibe. The first time we tried to watch it we barely made it half way through, the second attempt a couple of years later wasn't any more successful, so this third bash was tough. Now, granted, it's not actually as bad as we remembered, the problems with this film don't improve over time. For a start, Ed Norton is no Banner. Secondly, Liv Tyler's Betty Ross is supposed to be Banner's all time love, and yet there's so little chemistry on screen they should have scrapped the story line all together. Tim Roth and William Hurt are both good value as the bad guys, but the whole thing is leaden, one-paced and dull as all hell. And to make matters worse, Joss Whedon came along and showed us all how Hulk should be done, rendering this film entirely moot. 3/10.

Iron Man 2

It's at this point you realise we're actually quite lucky that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to those in the know) survived these two releases. While not Incredible Hulk bad, this is not the film it could have been. Casting Mickey Rourke as Whiplash was a fine idea, but whoever agreed to set an entire action sequence in Monaco was an idiot. At the time we thought the whole film was a bust, but going back over it now we realise that two thirds of this movie are really good, and Sam Rockwell is great as Hammer (and no one noticed that Don Cheadle was now Rodey, honest). It's the car racing crap that throws this film out of whack. It slows things down, it's a tonal shift in the wrong direction and there were going to be a million better ways to get Whiplash from A (frozen wastes of Russia) to B (where he needed to be for the story) without using this ridiculous device. The extras on the DVD make for interesting viewing too, as no one mentions the lack of Terence Howard and Rourke (a major star again at this point) is conspicuous by his absence. 5/10.


By now the Marvel machine is really starting to pick up the pace, so it came as quite a shock to hear that Lord Kenneth Of Brannagh was directing the Asgardian's debut outing. But when you sit down and watch it, it all makes sense. There's the Norse flavours, the Shakespearian overtones and some fine comic touches, and in the middle of it all Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are playing roles seemingly made just for them. This is as good now as it was then, and while it may be mildly batshit in places... have you read the books? 7/10.

The Avengers

And so we get to the first milestone event in the MCU, and in many ways in the wider cinematic world, as Marvel attempts to create a movie with an ensemble cast so laden with heavyweight stars it should never have been able to take off. And yet take off it did, breaking box office records as it went and giving is The Hulk we'd always dreamed of. And what made it so popular? Basically, the fact it has absolutely everything. The pacing is right, the action is right, the CGI is so good it just blends in with everything else and the laughs still make us guffaw every time we watch it. This is a film with real heart, real passion and a total understanding of what it was trying to achieve. At the time it was pretty much a 10/10 film, but this year that bar got raised... 9/10.

Iron Man 3

So how does Marvel set about following up on it's first major showpiece event? Why, by giving us a Christmas film of course. And not just any Christmas film, oh no, this is one of the all-time classics, up there with The Muppets. It's also the first time Marvel have woven the fabric of previous films into following ones, in this case with Tony Stark suffering PTSD following the destruction of New York and him flying all the way up there in to space n stuff. But this isn't a harsh, stark (no pun intended), downbeat movie. Oh no. Stark befriends a small boy, giving us some great humour to offset all the bad stuff happening, and in The Mandarin one of the best villains they have ever created (and possibly one of Sir Ben Kingsley's finest roles). we also find out The Mandarin is a Liverpool fan. Which is nice. 9/10.

Thor: The Dark World

As the MCU gears itself up for the next big event, it's time to pop back to Asgard and see how things are going there. Last time was fun, wasn't it? So this time should be a hoot too... Or not. Sitting in the cinema, we remember enjoying bits of this movie but essentially being a bit bored. And so we can't say we were looking forward to repeating the experience. But d'ya know what, folks? It's actually really good. Yes, sure, the dark elves story line is nuts and the team didn't really do their research of the London Underground, but small gripes aside this is a tasty little tale. It's dark, it's tragic, it's really funny in places and a lot shorter than it felt on the big screen. This may get watched again willingly.... (You may have noticed that references to the DVD/BluRay extras seem to have all but disappeared — that'll be because Marvel stopped putting any effort in. Seriously, it's got to the stage where you get one or two seven-minute featurettes and a trailer or two if you're lucky. Which is hard enough to swallow, but when you have to put in a second disc for the sake of 15 minutes of "entertainment" you really do wonder why they bothered). 7/10.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

How is it even remotely possible to forget just how good this film is? I mean, we knew it was good, but holy mother even on the umpteenth rewatch we found ourselves holding our breath for most of the film. And this is the one that feels like the game changer. Not yer standard super hero flick, this one (helped in no small part by the casting of that up-and-coming youngster Robert Redford — keep an eye out, he's gonna be a star one day, trust us) is a full-on political thriller. Yes, stuff blows up, yes a man has some kind of jet pack/wings combo, but both of those are really secondary to the plot as Fury is taken out and Cap and Black Widow have to go on the run. This is the film that raised the bar the first time (before the buggers raised it again this year) and it remains a modern classic. Oh, and extras? Yes, glad you asked. One deleted scene and two minutes on Cap's notebook. Nice one Marvel. Really pushed the boat out there. 10/10.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Now this is where Marvel really started to have fun. Jokes come flying at you thick and fast, the music is a character all of its own and in Rocket and Groot two of our now favourite characters are introduced (and it's a measure of a quality of the film that the audience had so much of an emotional connection with CGI creations). The story rips along at a great pace and the action scenes are also up to scratch. Originally planned as throw-away summer stop-gap, as was the case with Ant-Man down the line, Guardians became a massive hit and embedded the five heroes in the MCU. This was the point where you realise the Marvel juggernaut was really picking up speed. The Blu-Ray extras are OK too, if you can get past the really annoying early-Nintendo stylings of the 'making of' feature, but the gag reel just adds further weight to the argument against their inclusion. Actors goofing around and having fun? Wow, not seen that before... 8/10

Guardians Of The Galaxy 2

Yeah, sorry, got distracted by stuff. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, straight on to the sequel — which actually works surprisingly well. What's also interesting is how GOTG2 actually improves over time. It's more mature, more grown-up, the jokes still work but this time it's the themes and story that carry everything along. It also feels shorter and more compact, which is odd but good. It keeps you away from the main MCU for a little bit longer, watching the films in this order, but that's not necessarily a bad thing either. Especially when you know what epics are on the horizon. The extras are OK too, kinda — the 'making of' featurettes are fun, but the gag reels need to stop. Now. 9/10

Avengers: Age Of Ultron 

In tackling the second of the Avengers films, we had cause to look at IMDB. In doing so, one of the choice reviews was listed on the film's page — bearing the headline No One Was More Disappointed In This Film Than Me. Now, two things here: 1) It's not a contest, and 2) NO ONE CARES. A review isn't your chance to tell the world how important you are and how easily hurt your delicate feelings are. You are supposed to be critically analysing the movie, not blubbing into your keyboard. That said, Ultron is not great. The CGI in both the opening and closing scenes is ropey as all hell and the whole film feels like a a collection of set-pieces strung together with a vague plot. Underneath that, however, there's a half-decent film struggling to be heard. If, as we just have, you watch this off the back of Guardians 2, you'll also notice the thematic link (friendship and family) which helps bolster things no end. It'll never be the Avengers film you reach for out of choice, but it's not as bad as we remember.... 6/10


Another one of Marvel's surprise hits, Ant-Man is still one of our favourites — not because of the high drama or the the complex plot, but because it's genuinely funny and has so much heart it's almost smushy. As origin stories go, this one has everything you could want — Marvel history, character history, cameos, romance, a cute kid and a fight on a toy train. Paul Rudd shocked many, us included, when he pulled this off, and the supporting cast only helped to elevate proceedings. It's almost a crime that the DVD extras are simply a trailer for Ultron (which, in this running order, is utterly pointless). I get that they want to sell the higher-price blu-rays, but would a cheeky featurette or two have killed them? No. But hey...
Right, onwards! 9/10

Captain America: Civil War

One of the films I was most looking forward to, given my love for the books, and at the time one of my favourite films I think (I'm old, my memory is like a.... you know..... wortsit....). But watching it again as part of this mega-run of Marvel goodness, the big issue with the film really leaps to the fore. They were aiming for the same tone as Winter Soldier, and for the most part they nailed that — until they turn this into a mini-Avengers film. The big fight is just too much fun in the context of the darker storyline being told, and great as it was to see Spider-Man at the time, in a post-Homecoming world his appearance feels forced. There's something of a 'designed-by-committee' vibe to the lighter moments too, as if someone saw the Ant-Man figures and started yelling 'WE NEED GAGS'. The extras are OK, if you like a bunch of stars goofing around showing you mow much you like each other, but overall this falls a tad short of the stratospherically high bar Marvel has set by this stage. 7/10

Dr Strange

It's still a bit too Inception for its own good, but Dr Strange is a great introduction for the character and Cumberbatch looks like he was born to play the part. It's a tad too long, sure, but the first third is still one of the finest sections of any Marvel film and the car crash STILL has us holding our breath. The lighter moments are excellent too, and McAdams is superb. The extras are also worth a watch, especially when you find out how much work BC put into learning all the wire work. 8/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming

At the time, wee saw no reason for this film existing. A re-boot, albeit back under the Marvel banner, when Andrew Garfield had barely got his feet under the Spidey-table seemed at smidge OTT. But hey, Tom seemed to do the job nicely in Civil War so it might be OK... And the over-lap between the two films is good, well handled doesn't feel shoe-horned. Plus Michale Keaton is seriously brilliant. As for Spidey himself, Tom captures all the teen angst of a 14-year-old boy wrestling with fancying the cool girl while also being left on the sidelines after beating up Captain America.  We'd also forgotten just how much fun this film is. As for the extras, they are actually worth the money. You get to see how much work Tom put in, how much mo-cap and wire work he did to help bring the character to life, and his quips (essential to the character) flow freely and naturally. There's also a really cool 'study' mode, where you can watch the film with little blocks popping up with snippets of cool info about the comic history or the scene (and you'll be amazed with how much you missed). 8/10

Thor Ragnarok

Sure, we all talk fondly about how much fun the third Thor film was. Heads are nodded sagely when the topic comes up. It's the best Thor film yet, people agree. It is a lot of fun. But what you forget is how much FUN it is. Jeff Goldblum is off the charts ridiculous, the chemistry between Hemsworth and Ruffalo is at an all-time high, the whole Dr Strange sequence is hilarious, Cate Blanchett steals every scene she's in by just oozing sexy evilness, Tessa Thompson is brilliant as Valkyrie — hell, even the director puts in a cracking comic turn as Korg. There's not a bad performance in this film. Then there's the actual story. Director Taika Waititi strikes the right balance between the OTT fight scenes and the drama at the heart of the tale, tugging at heart strings while having us grin like idiots. As for the extras, Marvel seems to be stuck in a rut here. Either no one's been looking back at the mini-features or someone believes people actually enjoy a range of five-minute snapshots where everyone tells you that, really, THIS is the most fun they ever had on a film EVER. Honest. We're not saying go all Peter Jackson with this shit, but some actual thought and effort wouldn't go amiss. 9/10

Next up: Black Panther

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