When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as of this writing there has been fourteen films. The franchise came out the gate roaring with the very first Iron Man movie. But something the franchise seems to always brush aside unless absolutely necessary is the second film in the franchise. That would be The Incredible Hulk. Directed by Louis Letterier and starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, the movie is very divisive. But I frankly love it and think it is one of the better MCU films. So it shouldn’t be treated so wishy washy.
The story is very familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Hulk. Bruce Banner is on the run as he is being hunted by very morally dubious General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Banner worked with Ross on a project years ago that Banner believed was one thing but actually another. After testing it on himself, Banner became the Hulk and indirectly hurt Ross as well as Ross’ daughter, Betty who just happened to be involved with Banner. After a chain of events leads Ross learning Banner’s whereabouts, he enlists a special operative to help capture him. Enter: Emil Blonsky. An aged soldier who only knows how to fight and is uncomfortable with being older. This leads to Banner reuniting with Betty in an attempt to rid himself of the Hulk as Ross begins experimenting on Blonsky and turns him into another Hulk-like creature: The Abomination.
The main theme in the film is really different from most superhero films. Banner does NOT want to be a hero. He was just a simple scientist wanting to make the world a better place through science before tragedy struck. When we meet him, he is willingly isolated. He has a beautiful neighbor who is obviously interested in him but he willingly chooses not to reciprocate. All he has for companionship is a stray dog and an internet buddy named Mr. Blue. The only thing he dreams of is ridding himself of the Hulk. The struggle for Banner to accept that he cannot get rid of the Hulk and just embrace it is a running theme that carries through the movie. The first time he turns into the Hulk is to protect himself from thugs, the second is because Ross wants to bring it out him and by the final time, Banner willingly throws himself out of a helicopter to stop his opposite. By the final shot of the movie, it ends with him intentionally triggering a transformation.
The supporting cast are standouts. William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross is the standout. Ross is always a complicated character in the comics and this carries into the movie. We see him as a General that commands respect and for reason. We also see a fanatic who is obsessed to an unhealthy degree with Banner/Hulk. It is clear that he loves his daughter but it is also clear that he will let his obsessions override his more empathetic feelings. Tim Roth as Blonsky is also one of the few standout villains in the MCU. Blonsky is just an old soldier who can’t accept that his body is failing him. It is mentioned that with his record that he can be a high ranking officer but he turns it down just so he can be in the fight. This self loathing and seeing the power of the Hulk also drives him into obsession and experimenting on himself to achieve said power. Liv Tyler as Betty Ross is a bit more of a mixed bag. She’s never been the strongest actress but she is serviceable as Betty Ross. She is much more actively involved in the origin of the Hulk and helping Banner embrace the Hulk side of himself.
Louis Letterier is a solid director but you can tell that this film is plagued by behind the scenes drama. Edward Norton is notorious for being something of a control freak and difficult to work with. Though I do love Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, I still would have loved to see Norton return to the role. His Banner is soft and beaten down and Norton conveys that perfectly. When watching the blu-ray, there are many deleted scenes that give more character interactions. There is a particular one between Banner and Betty’s new boyfriend, therapist Doctor Samson. It is a relatively short scene so the only reason I can see it being cut is that it would be considered too “heady” for a summer blockbuster film. If this film was made after The Dark Knight, I think the scene would have been left in. There is also a longer scene between Ross and Blonsky that explains their frustration with the military complex focusing more on tech than people.
This film also has one of the best fight scenes in the MCU film. The climax is battle between the Hulk and Abomination in Harlem. It really is two brutes going at it and trashing the city while they’re at it. The standout bit is when Hulk crushes a car to form makeshift boxing gloves out of them to help even the odds between he and Abomination. This makes sense because Letterier is an action director so it would make sense that the action scenes are top notch. Especially when compared to the earlier Iron Man which were so choppy.
The Incredible Hulk is not a perfect film. There are some scenes with some odd editing which knocks the wind out from the scenes. There are also the earlier backstage issues that are kinda obvious. But does it deserve to be treated like it does in the MCU? No. There are many reasons why as the film was a minor success and the whole distribution rights to the Hulk are a mess. At first they tended to shy away from the film other than little references here and there. With the return of William Hurt as Ross in Captain America: Civil War, it seems that more things are being integrated. There are rumors that Liv Tyler will be returning as Betty Ross. But Marvel Studios should embrace this film more than it does. It is a far better film than Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 2 which they proudly display.
I make no secret that I am not the biggest fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Liked the first one but really didn’t get the hype and not really excited about the upcoming Vol. 2. I love Spider-Man but with Spider-Man: Homecoming, this will be the sixth Spider-Man film and the trailers are cool but nothing really too exciting for me. Before Marvel Studios struck a deal with Sony to integrate Spider-Man into the MCU, Black Panther was scheduled to be released in 2017 and thus my most anticipated MCU film. But with that being delayed due to Spider-Man, my most anticipated MCU has become Thor: Ragnarok.
Thor was originally my favorite superhero in the MCU until Captain America slowly but surely supplanted that spot. As the movies continued, Thor continued to slide down the list of my favorites as they seemingly did not know what to do with the character. Since Thor is probably the most powerful Avenger, you have to take him out of most of the action scenes in those movies as he could seemingly end the conflict before it begins. The second Thor movie is just a case of mediocrity. So when Thor 3 became Thor: Ragnarok, my interest was piqued once again.
Thor’s Got His Helmet (Finally)
Other than a quick shot in the first Thor, Thor has never worn his iconic helmet. I knew it was because of the studio wanting to show off Chris Hemsworth and his face but it makes no logical sense. They even had old Anthony Hopkins wearing Odin’s helmet more than Thor himself. If Thor is a warrior with long flowing hair, it would be best to keep his hair in check as it can be used against him. I don’t know how much Thor will be wearing his helmet but the fact that it’s featured in a lot of the promo imagery, hopefully a good chunk.
You don’t get an actress like Cate Blanchett and just have her do nothing. This has been the biggest problems when it comes to the villains in the MCU. Great talent that is ultimately squandered. This does not seem to be the case with Hela in this movie as we frequently see her in the midst of doing something interesting. Whether it’s her destroying Mjolnir and taking on the armies of Asgard, it looks like she will be a villain who leads from the front. She will also be the first main big bad who is a woman which is a welcome change for the MCU. There are rumors she might stick around for future movies but she has already left an impression from the trailers…plus she wears Hela’s iconic and bizarre helmet.
Hey you know Idris Elba has been in three MCU films? No? Can’t blame you if you didn’t because he’s something of an afterthought. That looks to be changing with this one as we see more of Idris Elba as Heimdall doing more than guarding something. He is also sporting some fancy new hair and look. This does lead me to believe that there might be some sort of time jump within the movie.
All the major returning characters also seemingly have new looks.
There is also someone who has a new look but we’ll get to him next.
We all knew it was coming and we finally got it. The Incredible Hulk in gladiator attire. The movie somewhat adapts elements from the popular Planet Hulk storyline. The biggest question is how in the world did Hulk get there? The last we saw of him, he was in a quinjet going who knows where. A line in Captain America: Civil War seemed to indicate that he was still on Earth. So a big question the movie will have to answer is how Dr. Bruce Banner got there and how long has he been there?
Thor and Hulk Going Buckwild
The biggest thing about Thor and Hulk is that they are two most powerful Avengers. So usually the fight scenes between the two of them have had to be limited. Either no one is really strong enough to take them on or the destruction they would cause would be too great. So what’s the best solution? Take both of them off world to face opponents equally as strong as they are. Also there looks to be a rematch between Thor and Hulk from The Avengers, a fight that was a bit underwhelming. So it looks like this movie will be taking full advantage of their new locales and new technologies available to them.
Are you excited for Thor: Ragnarok? You can already tell that I am.
Thor: Ragnarok is pegged to be one of the most important films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the film that is supposed to have the strongest ties to the formerly titled Avengers: Infinity War 1 & 2. But Thor has to deal with Ragnarok aka The Twilight of the Gods. It has always been known that Hela would be the main antagonist. But it was revealed at San Diego Comic Con 2016 that she would not be alone. Two more villains were revealed and that was the Fenris Wolf and Surtur. Surtur is very important as Ragnarok has been depicted in the comics and Surtur is usually the cause of these events.
Though nothing was released the public, audiences inside of Marvel’s conference revealed that two pieces of concept art were shown. Thor (with a shorter haircut) will be facing off with the Fenris Wolf while Hulk will be squaring off with Surtur. Since Ragnarok is supposed to be the end of the Asgardian gods, it is no surprise that they would not take this lying down. Though exactly how the Hulk enters the fray is still a mystery, it is no surprise that he is in the movie. Thor will definitely need help in dealing with these events as he cannot call on the rest of the Avengers because despite them being warriors, they are still mortals. Though Hulk is a mortal, he is much more than that, sometimes equated to rage incarnate.
Thor and Hulk were excluded from the events of Captain America: Civil War because they are the two most powerful characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced. So where would they go? Only to an extinction level event brings the two together along with the Asgardian forces. Since Hulk cannot have a solo movie, his villains are trickier to introduce. So what’s the next best thing? Have him in Thor’s movie where it is filled with gods, demons and monsters.
Though the movie seems to be filled with villains, who knows how much of an actual role Surtur and the Fenris Wolf have? Hela still looks to be the driving force and the main antagonist. Cate Blanchett is playing the character and there is no way they are going to shaft the Academy Award winning actress. More and more details about Thor: Ragnarok is bound to come out in the months coming out. The movie has only been filming for about a week. Either way, the movie is shaping up to be an exciting movie. Is this the end of the Asgardians? We will see.
Today, July 4th, filming has officially begun on Thor: Ragnarok. This will be the third film in the Thor saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What makes this movie interesting is the role it will play in the MCU. Kevin Feige, who runs Marvel Studios, has said that Ragnarok will be a very important movie in the franchise. It will have key elements that will play into the two part Avengers: Infinity War (which will have name changes) so this is a movie worth keeping an eye out for.
Since it was only the first day of filming, it is really hard to say what they have shot. However there are some interesting behind the scene pictures that have come online. Some of them include a short haired Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor. This is interesting because there have been rumors that Thor will lose his traditionally long hair in a key moment of the film. They could be shooting these scenes first so Hemsworth can film all of his long haired scenes later.
Mark Ruffalo is also there on the first day. Ruffalo is the newest addition as he brings his character Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk into the Thor franchise. No one knows how much Banner or his alter ego are in the movie but it’s reason to say he will be an important part. Also interesting to note is that he also has shorter hair. His version of Banner has also sported shaggier hair so it will be interesting to see if this is a story element or just them doing something different with Banner.
Some set designs have been shown. The movie is being filmed in Australia and is the first MCU film to not be extensively filmed within North America or the United Kingdom. Will this film take advantage of Australia’s unique landscape? That’s yet to be seen but definitely would not rule it out. These sets do have echoes of The Middle Earth saga. Either way Thor: Ragnarok will turn out to be an interesting film. Eyes will certainly be on this film as filming continues and more actors come to set.
12. Thor: The Dark World
My biggest issue with this movie is a lack of clear direction. The tones of this movie are all over the place as there will be a very serious moment and then a sudden burst of comedy that mostly falls flat. Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman are certainly phoning in their performances. The villain is forgettable. The only saving grace is the relationship between Thor and Loki.
11. Iron Man 2
The sequel to the unexpected hit that was Iron Man but instead of hitting the ground running with this one, it hits the ground stumbling. The movie was rushed into production as returning director Jon Favreau wanted more time and one can tell. The film has to serve too many masters and it is the films undoing. On one hand it has to be a sequel to Iron Man which it fails with but also has to set up the concept of the Avengers which it also fails at. Tony Stark is also very unlikable in the film as he has gotten worse from his first appearance and there is little character development.
10. Iron Man 3
There is definitely nothing wrong with this film. It is certainly an improvement over Iron Man 2. However that is faint praise. It is the first film to happen post Avengers and supposedly throughout the film Tony Stark is suffering from some sort of PTSD. However, besides a few panic attacks, it is treated mostly as an afterthought and it is seemingly cured from a few words from a child. Once again the villain is lackluster as there are twists to the villain that think it’s more clever than it actually is. What is probably a bigger problem is that the film could have been wrapped up within the first 40 minutes.
This film is good but not great. It is a solid film. The film is basically a retread of the first Iron Man film which is a detriment. The main thing that elevates it though is its main character played by Paul Rudd. Rudd’s excitement of being in the movie carries over which helps cover its basic plot and once again another lackluster villain. There are interesting action scenes which come with the fact that the main character has the ability to shrink. The best thing about the movie is the potential for more as you can see where they can go with a sequel.
The first Thor film had the biggest challenge of a Marvel Cinematic Universe film at that point. It had to introduce the Asgardians who are some sort of alien gods and link them to the rest of the MCU. It is backed by a likable lead of Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor as a somewhat spoiled and ego driven prince who has to learn humility. He is backed by the Tom Hiddleston as his conniving brother Loki who has very understandable but twisted reasons for his actions. The rest of the supporting cast is all likable and there is a sense of wonder that comes with Asgard and exploring other worlds.
7. The Incredible Hulk
The redheaded stepchild of the MCU. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in this film which was the second MCU film. It has a unique tone as it is very much a ‘Fugitive’ type of film. Banner is on the run as he thinks of himself as a monster and with good reason but he is being pursued by people who are bigger monsters than he will ever be. This film would certainly rank higher as it does leave something to be desired. There are many deleted scenes which if weren’t cut would have fleshed out the movie more. It is unfortunate Norton did not continue to play the character but the show must go on.
6. Iron Man
The first film in the MCU that set the tone for the films to come. Robert Downey Jr. shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The director Jon Favreau does an impressive job with a character that was obscure and launched the character and the universes into the stratosphere. The supporting cast is also excellent. The biggest issue with the film is the sudden shift in the third act where the villain goes from subtle to complete insane with no clear plan and an underwhelming final action scene. However, the strong first two acts more than make up for the faults.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Arguably the biggest risk of the MCU. This film took a property that was even unfamiliar to most comic book fans. That is probably where the film prospers the most as it works from a blank slate, more or less. A common reoccurring issue is the villain are lackluster and Ronan the Accuser is no exception. However the stellar cast and chemistry help smooth over some of the rougher edges in the movie. It is also very subtly a very important factor in setting up the MCU mythology.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
The film that introduces Captain America to the MCU takes a step back into the past of World War 2. The main thing with this film is introducing the future leader of the Avengers and explaining as to why he will be. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers shines as he goes from a sickly underdeveloped man to the peak of human perfection but that is not what makes him special. How small beginnings helped shape a hero and though he may come from a “simpler”time, there is nothing simple about him. Special mention goes to Hugh Weaving as The Red Skull who is probably one of the only standout villains that is not named Loki.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The sequel to the first Avengers film is a solid film. The biggest thing that keeps it from being up to par with the first film is that it is more of the same. The action is better than the first but there are certain things that hamper the film. The humor in the film is very off as so many characters are filled with quips as no character really has a distinct voice. The main villain Ultron is filled with potential but comes off as all over the place and never really scary or intimidating. One of the highlights is The Vision played by Paul Bettany. There is an interesting conversation between the character and Ultron towards the end of the film that is very poignant and unexpected in a summer blockbuster.
2. The Avengers
The conclusion to the unprecedented buildup in the MCU. After five solo films; Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow come together under Nick Fury to form The Avengers. It also features the return of Loki who is the main villain but there is a bigger bad in the background with huge implications for the films following this one. What makes this film work is putting all of the characters who have never met one another and seeing how they mix and don’t mix together. The plot is thin but one thing that keeps the film going is how fun it is. Nothing will ever top the feeling of seeing all of these heroes together for the first time.
- Captain America: The Winter Solider
Arguably the best movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film firmly solidifies Captain America as the focal point within the universe. Showing that a character who many consider to be a “goody two shoes” and “out of time” still has plenty to say and do within the modern era. This film has had the biggest repercussions within the MCU but even though it is an action film, it is still all about the characters. Chris Evans shines and carries the film and finds his footing as Steve Rogers. It is worthy to note that the legendary Robert Redford plays the a major role in the film which only helps to solidify that this is not just some superhero film. This is one of the true triumphs within the superhero genre.
As of today, there is only a few more weeks to go until “Captain America: Civil War” is released into theaters. It is also the official kick off to “Phase 3”. So before the movie drops, I figured it would be best to rank my favorite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall the MCU is a solid one. I only feel that there is only one film that is so-so and two that are bad. So here is the ranking:
- Captain America: The Winter Solider
- The Avengers
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Iron Man
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2
- Iron Man 3
- Thor: The Dark World