A Throwback Thursday look at the less loved MUC entries..
1: THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Ruffalo is a great Banner/Hulk. But Ed Norton was just as good and I think it’s a shame we never got his take in the Avengers. This 2008 gem would have hit bigger had they released it later, waiting even a year? It launched the extended universe with a Tony Stark cameo at the end. And here was the proof you could do a soft reboot without over-labouring the origin again.
There is a tribute to every iteration of the mythology here, with nods to the tv show, cartoons, comics and even hints toward the 2003 iteration. A lovey cameo from the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno. A tender romance is thrown in for good measure and the whole film has some Jason Bourne level techno-thriller man on the run action vibes. ‘Did’ the whole geo-political super-soldier serum gone wrong idea years before Falcon and Winter Soldier and imho, Hulk does it better, too.
Great score, too, from Craig Armstrong. One of William Hurt’s turning point performances, having shunned the blockbuster genre for too long until this movie. I love it!
2: IRON MAN 2
Why oh why is this so hated? Sure, they rushed it but then, demand was high at the time and nobody foresaw quite how big the first film would be. Yes, there is a clumsy mix and match merger of comic book storylines, including Demon in a Bottle. Fine, the set-up of the wider cinematic universe is a tad overdone. But the improv quality is part of the fun here. Downey and Paltrow are on their ‘A Game’: you believe the ups and downs of a budding romance here.
The aesthetic is consistent with the first Iron Man, as are editing /pace /tone. It’s devoid of the loftier, meta-textual pretensions of Iron Man 3. But there is still some weight to the stakes in play, as Tony faces his legacy.
Rockwell and Rourke are both funny and scary as baddies. And THAT Monaco set-piece with the suit of armour in a case as Stark takes on his nemesis amidst a sea of glamour and excitement: priceless.
This is a personal favourite and I revisit it, often. I even accept the minor contrivance of the Dad subplots and Tony thereby inventing a ‘new element’ ex machina. Seriously, give it an other go!
3: THOR: THE DARK WORLD
This movie earns its title. Some seriously ‘dark’ stuff happens here and the camera is allowed to linger and breathe. The tragedy is never undermined, whilst the generally upbeat tone remains intact. Is it disposable and inconsequential? Sure. Are there some glaring plot holes: absolutely! But never to the extent that enjoyment of the whole is compromised.
Humour is deployed, strategically to punctuate pace and purpose. Loki is hilarious here as indeed, too, is Thor, himself. KAT DENNINGS!!! Epic score from Brian Tyler, too and Marvel agreed as they retained his services for some subsequent super-hero entries. By no means unmissable but I genuinely see this effort neither as a superior nor inferior to Waititi’s Ragnarok.
4: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Even I gave this one a thumbs down at the time of its first release. But it grew on me in time.
Yes, Pepper Potts’ absence hurts proceedings. Sure, there is a step down in the magic feel-good factor from the first movie. There is a dash of smugness and the whole thing drags a tad in places. Hawkeye is an irritant here imho, as are the ‘twins’. Don’t get me started on what they do with Black Widow in this script.
But the action, visuals and themes of tech gone wrong are still first rate and the movie is an immersive experience.
5: THOR / CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (JOINT 2011 OFFERINGS)
These are not so much ‘underrated’ as neglected. Thor’s first adventure is one of Ken Branagh’s best films since Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare meets Marvel via dash of He-Man and Viking Sci-Fi. This is how Marvel made the more outright fantasy elements of their universe match with the worldly lifestyle aesthetic of Iron Man, readying up the Avengers. It launched Chris Hemsworth! And Patrick Doyle provides a crackingly majestic score.
Captain America’s first outing has equal merit. Pace jars on occasion, ok. There is a bizarre evasion of using actual Nazis, instead focusing on HYDRA. But for all that, it’s not a million miles from Indiana Jones level action adventure heroics and romantic charm. Great support from Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell. The whole film has warmth, heart and purpose. Shame its sequels became so over-praised that the launch-point has been overlooked.
Feel free to disagree, as always. Just do so, nicely, please. All film is subjective. Plus, I am right 😉
Happy Thursday. x