I am a student at Georgia Tech. Last I heard, we have the longest academic calendar in the state of Georgia, maybe the country. I’m not sure, but just know it is something demoralizing. This makes finals week hard for me when I see high school friends already enjoying the spoils of beautiful summer. However, there is one thing that I love about this academic calendar. We always seem to get an amazing movie premiere on the Thursday night of finals week. I have attended one such premiere each semester I have attended Tech, except last semester, because Christmas blockbuster releases were pretty scarce. I have lucked out the other semesters and always had my last final on Thursday, leaving my schedule completely clear for a fanboy celebration that night. I am not going to admit to scheduling my classes at the beginning of semesters to prepare for this, but it has been a strong influence when stuck between two shitty time slots for an Intro to HR class.
This semester is no different, and either the gods of academia or Marvel (or maybe both) have blessed me with the upcoming release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I haven’t done a whole lot of writing about this movie in a while, because the closer it gets the more blind (seems more insensitive in the wake of Daredevil, sorry Matt) I become to any criticism of the massive undertaking that is this film. I get that, and fanboy “journalism” probably isn’t the most groundbreaking stuff to our audience. Alas, here we are, and no premiere can be entered flippantly. Over the next two weeks I will be offering myself two hour study breaks to watch each Marvel movie in the current universe, so that my expectations for this movie could not be more lofty and unfair. I am starting now so that you can follow along, and to try to maintain companions in this endeavor for as long as possible (we started with about 10 Saturday, praying for just 1 by Guardians of the Galaxy).
The journey began beautifully. First on the docket was Iron-Man, which is definitely the best solo movie within this universe, and after my first viewing in a few years, I am inclined to say it can tango with Avengers and Guardians (if you’re new to my writing, know that my obsession with Guardians is real and strong). I learned a lot more about the character of Iron-Man in this screening, and even now you can begin to see the thoughts and motivations that are leading towards Civil War. It’s beautiful. The origin is brilliantly weaved, Obadiah Stain as the Iron Monger is an excellent villain, and if they had set up this dude who got his face burned off to be Mandarin, everything would have been perfect. I mean, we didn’t see him die, and he seemed to be running the 10 Rings–the organization that we see is the front for the Extremis operations in Iron-Man 3. His whole group was destroyed via Iron-Man and Iron Monger. He turns to someone with a power he doesn’t understand, and becomes a pawn for a bit to rebuild forces. We see in the Marvel one-shot “Hail the King” that the real Mandarin is still out there. That continuity would be dope! All of this was devised while watching Iron-Man on Saturday night, and my hopes are very high.
Even if Marvel decides to neglect this genius plan, this movie is still great, a ton of fun, and changed the tone of superhero movies significantly. Fun no longer meant campy. Bad-ass no longer meant dark. Woman no longer meant incapable bargaining chip (shout out to my girl, Pepper; you da real MVP). To understand the phenomena of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you have to come back to this movie and realize that its perfection is the only reason that we were able to make it to the Avengers, which was otherwise preceded by a bunch strange or outright sloppy foundation pieces.
There is no better way to lead in to our project for Sunday night, The Incredible Hulk, the sloppiest of the slop. What went wrong here? The amazing success of Batman Begins followed by the promise of an upcoming Iron-Man project must have caused a serious stir in Hollywood, because they landed about as hopeful of a cast you could ask for. Iron-Man was composed of a kind of ragtag group of Downey Jr., Paltrow, Bridges, and Howard that worked surprisingly well. Imagine what they could do with the far more renowned talents of Edward Norton, Tim Roth, and Liv Tyler. Not a whole lot apparently, as Marvel quickly learned that pulling the A-list talent doesn’t always equate to critical or box-office success.
The Incredible Hulk, a movie I haven’t watched since it first came out, actually starts with a lot of promise. You get a type of origin story without the creation of Banner’s other side. This is actually pretty refreshing amidst the origins of Iron-Man, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and several other comic characters around the time this movie was released. They montage their way through the creating of the Hulk and we pick up in a Brazilian favela, which seems like the last place anyone with a temper issue would want to go. It really only goes downhill from there. People dribbled into this viewing throughout the night, asked us to catch them up, and the only thing I felt was necessary was pointing to Edward Norton and saying, “That dude is the Hulk.” The lack of character development in this movie is just sad to watch. The worst part is the entire story is just a big green skeleton of the Iron-Man plot.
(Totally real meeting notes when planning Marvel’s phase one)
Boss: What can Iron-Man fight?
Travis: An even bigger Iron-Man.
Boss: That’s dope. What about Hulk?
Devin: This is all about the inner struggle, right? Don’t you think teasing Ross is enough and just let the inner turmo…
Travis: I KNOW!!! A BIGGER HULK!!!!!!!!
Boss: You’re doing great work here, Travis.
I’m not saying Abomination isn’t a good villain, but it just seems derivative after Iron-Man coming out the same year. Really, the best part of the movie is just knowing how much better it gets in The Avengers. Did you know that the director really wanted to go with Mark Ruffalo for this movie? But Marvel told him to go with Norton. Why the difference of opinion? All because Lou Ferrigno had seen Fight Club!!!
This movie posits more craziness than just Lou Ferrigno as a casting expert, but I am just going to take solace in the fact that this can be a forgotten chapter in the Marvel cinematic lore. As the movie draws to a close, we see Banner hidden in the forest somewhere beginning to learn how to control the beast. This is about the only thing you really need to take from this movie in order to understand the progression of his character from here on out.
Check back in tomorrow as we take a look at Iron-Man 2 and continue our march towards the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron.