If you haven’t already heard, this week was the release of Marvel’s Phase One Box Set, which included Blu-Ray versions of all of the films, deleted scenes and footage never seen before. It’s been long awaited, and if you must know, I’m seething with jealousy over every single individual who’s been lucky enough to purchase this gift. With Iron Man 3 officially less than a month away, rumors of a teaser trailer for Thor: The Dark World coming soon, and concept art for almost every soon to be Marvel film of Phase Two, it’s an exciting time to be a fan of Marvel and superhero mania.
So, why not go through some of Phase One’s most memorable moments?
Marvel is a supremely competent studio, so narrowing it to ten was difficult. I can let you all down gently now and say that nothing from The Incredible Hulk will be appearing on the list–it’s not even that bad to be fair but it doesn’t touch the quality of the rest of their repertoire. For your sakes only, I have put away my blatant Tony Stark bias and have created a more diverse list. I had to ignore some of the sweeter moments, some of the flashier scenes, and create ten moments that solidified your fan status.
10. Explosive Personalities
One of the biggest questions before the release and imminent success of The Avengers was how Joss Whedon was going to accomplish combining six strong personalities in one scene? (Obviously, those people hadn’t seen any of Whedon’s previous work.) Well, he had them butt heads of course. Thor believes that Loki should be on his watch and looks down at the rest of them, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are as far from compatible personalities on the spectrum as possible, and Bruce Banner is one misplaced remark away from letting his alter-ego take over. Once these tempers reach their boiling point, it’s perfectly scripted and wonderfully cinematic: watching all of these larger than life characters–some in leather spandex suits, some with capes, some dressed in an American flag–bicker like riled up and angsty teenagers works perfectly and allows for the scene later where they’re seen working harmoniously and like a team to be all the more satisfying.
9. Black Widow Kicks Ass
The way that Black Widow and subsequently Scarlett Johansson was used in Iron Man 2 was abysmal. She was regulated to strutting about, pouting and posing mid fight scene. By nature Johansson is a freakishly stunning woman but that doesn’t mean that the studio must forgo character development and instead once again exploit a woman’s sexuality. (The treatment of female superheros is a topic for another essay for another day.) The Avengers just about reversed all of the ill will that IM2 had created, with her first scene in the film showcasing a brutal fighter with a smart mouth. No longer was she a waif like fighter, but she was suited up and ready to go, never taking anyone’s attitudes and given her own characterization. Watching her outwit and out-arm her captors while tied to a chair perfectly set the tone for the rest of the movie.
8. Iron Man on the Race Track
We’ve all done the Iron Man 2 dance: it was a huge failure–no it really wasn’t that bad if they had taken his drinking seriously it would have been okay (but in reality, who doesn’t stop on it when it’s on FX for the thousandth time?)–but what everyone seems to irreversibly agree on is that Iron Man’s fight on the race track in Monaco was the highlight of the film. Tony’s beaten and battered, and with Pepper and Happy Hogan’s help, managing to suit up just in time in order to defeat his adversary is a phenomenal sequence. This is mainly due to seeing the suitcase armor in action, watching as Tony disassembles and reassembles until it’s perfectly molded to his body.
7. Thor Gets His Sneak On
Thor’s lost his hammer, and he wants to get it back. Oh hey, look at Marvel wonderfully and effortlessly introducing Hawkeye’s character much to fans’ delight and surprise. Granted, I found much of the Thor to be gratuitously silly–it’s hard for a movie with a rainbow bridge not to be–but this scene demonstrated two things integral to the forward movement of the films. One, Thor’s struggle with his abilities and his rights to hold the hammer and Chris Hemsworth’s fantastic physicality of the character. It would be easy for a character such as Thor to be hammed up and ridiculously overacted, and yet Hemsworth, particularly in this scene, showcases Thor Ss a demi-god with a real dilemma and personal issues that need working out.
6. Loki Learns His Parentage
Tom Hiddleston and his portrayal of trickster Loki was one the most commended and revelatory parts about Thor. His theater-like presence brought empathy to a character that plays the major villain for two of Marvel’s big films. In particular was his scene where his thought-to-be father tells him his true linage–the enemies they’ve been fighting–which sends his self-doubt and debilitating envy of Thor into a tailspin. It’s wonderfully played and easy to discern why Loki’s become such a popular character in the universe. It brought gravity to a villain–the first time a Marvel movie has done so.
5. Aircraft Hulk Out
Everyone is clearly in the mindset that Bruce Banner and Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the character was one of the best things about The Avengers and his first transformation into the Other Guy was a sight for cinephiles and fans alike to see. Gone were the badly photo-shopped purple shorts (sorry, Ang Lee) and the green swamp monster appearance. This version of the Hulk was simultaneously menacing and heartbreaking–accomplished skillfully with the art of motion capture. I dare any of you to claim that you weren’t holding your breath as Black Widow ran and hid for her life in small, contained spaces as an angry and confused Hulk chased after her. Banner’s transformation was spellbinding, another step in the medium and showed off exactly what well-executed movies can do.
4. Steve Jumps on the Grenade
I’ve got to admit, while Tony Stark steals my heart I’ve got a major soft-spot for Captain America and his do-gooder mindset. It’s his earnestness, his quiet, old fashioned charm, it’s Chris Evans’ dashing good looks and undervalued portrayal-he’s a winning character. In Captain America we hear a lot about how selfless and pure hearted Steve is but the scene that best demonstrates this is when trying to prove a point, a grenade is thrown into a party of soldiers, and as all of the soldiers scatter in panic Steve is the only one who jumps over it to try and contain the impending blast. It’s the first time where officials and audiences alike see a potential hero, despite being labeled as the “little guy.” Also good-to-note reasons to love Peggy Carter? She also moved towards, not away from the explosive.
3. Tony Builds His Suit
The reason why Iron Man works so well compared to other superhero films–and also probably why it’s so often compared/contrasted with the Christopher Nolan Batman series–is that we see Tony Stark building his “superhero power.” His talent and his super skill is his brain. He isn’t super strong, he wasn’t injected with any serum nor did he get affected by any gamma rays. His power is his suit, and he’s such a deadly opponent when he’s in it because of his own intellect and knowledge. In the first film, the start of it all, we see him tinkering and tailoring, going through test runs to see what works and what doesn’t. Not only does this entire sequence showcase just why Robert Downey Jr. was tailor-made for this part, it also shows why Stark is such an interesting superhero at all. He doesn’t fit the norm, but he’s all the more powerful because of it. When he first gets the suit made, painted, and to his liking and takes it on his first mission, it’s exciting because we as an audience got to see the work that went into it rather than it happening overnight–it was the best type of origin story and the reason why Iron Man is the backbone of the series.
2. Peggy and Steve Make a Date
If you’d told me before getting into the Marvel series that I would get weepy at a scene in a superhero movie, I would have rolled my eyes and said something condescending and very likely rude. But that was before I saw Captain America and Steve and Peggy’s ill-fated romance. They weren’t the most expanded upon Marvel couples (that title goes to Tony and Pepper), but they were sweet and tentatively falling for each other and never really got the right time to explore it. So at the end of the movie, after Steve’s beaten the Red Skull and he’s driving the plane down into the middle of a frozen ocean to try and save as many people as he can, all the while talking with Peggy, it’s surprisingly tender and heartbreaking. Our sturdy, tough girl Peggy is tearing up as she makes a date that will never come, as Steven promises a dance that will never be. And when the plane crashes, it’s sad to see that such a little thing will never play out. Marvel is so well loved because they show the hope in superheroes and the good and valiant, so when something doesn’t go right for a hero we’re rooting for, it’s effective. All the more so when Steve finally wakes up, seventy years late, to realize that it was too late.
1. The Team Comes Full Circle
Remember that thing about working harmoniously up above? Yeah, this is it. They’ve pissed each other off, they’ve yelled, stomped their feet, but now they’ve licked their wounds, gotten their acts together and are ready to defend their planet from possible doom. They’re suited up, and the circle crane shot of the group in action fulfills just about every fan’s dream. It proved that Joss Whedon accomplished what many people thought was impossible. The sequence of the team spread out throughout the city, yet all working together, is expertly shot, making sure to keep them linked but still fighting in their own signature styles: Tony’s pragmatic yet reckless, Steven’s hands on and brutal, Black Widow and Hawkeye with a killer’s eye, and Thor and Hulk with fierce brute strength. It got the characters, it got them on our screen, and it was one of the most cheer inducing moments that any Marvel film has accomplished up to date.
Now that that’s done, who’s ready for Phase Two?
Iron Man 3 hits theaters May 3rd.