Trilogy Thursday: Avengers Initiative Phase 1A
Hi everyone, Max from Impassionedcinema and Terrence from TheFocusedFilmographer are here to talk about a new trilogy for this week’s installment of Trilogy Thursday. This time we’re taking the first three films in the Avengers Initiative (Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2) and analyzing them. Keep an eye open for the second set of three movies (Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers) to be featured in the upcoming few weeks.
Max: I never really considered Iron Man a top-tier superhero. Other than War Machine, I could never name any other character involved with the series. Although I just seem to know that when they cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, they had done an ideal casting; he just fit the part so well. Even outside the movies Robert Downey Jr. acts like he is Tony Stark! His tremendous portrayal helped Iron Man become one of the best superhero origin stories ever.
Tony “Billionaire Philanthropist” Stark is in the Middle East selling one of the latest inventions from Stark Industries. This weapon is capable of some incredible damage and there are other factions throughout the world that would love to get their hands on it. In a bloody kidnapping, Stark gets large amounts of shrapnel in his chest. Without some quick handiwork, Stark would lose his life.
Thus, Iron Man is born. Using a crude iron suit prototype, Stark escapes and makes it out alive. The whole catastrophe has led to his greatest invention yet, the arc reactor, capable of keeping him alive against the shrapnel penetrating his heart. His business associate, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), hoped Stark wouldn’t make it out of the Middle East alive, but now he wants the arc reactor for his own purposes.
This was the first movie that Marvel had complete control over. They created their own studio brand and decided that Iron Man would be the first part in a larger goal. Gwyneth Paltrow played the love interest Pepper Potts, while Clark Gregg represented the face of the organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Iron Man is probably the best singular character story to come from Marvel Studios thus far; there’s nothing like setting the bar high, Marvel.
T: “And the two became one.” Both and Iron Man became synonymous household names with Marvel’s introduction to the world of what would later be known as “The Avengers Initiative.” 2008’s Iron Man was met with great success (given the fact that DC’s The Dark Knight released just two months later) and kept Marvel in the spotlight amid surrounding disappointing additional Marvel movies such as X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four 2, and Ghost Rider. This modernized origin story of the man with resolve (or stubbornness) as tough as iron proved to be a huge success.
Aside from great writing, action, special effects, and an AWESOME suit, the greatest aspect of this film is its director and strong cast choices. Directed by Jon Favreau (whose biggest claim to directing fame prior to that was 2003’s Elf) Iron Man seemingly took a page from Christopher Nolan’s playbook and assembled a great cast to tell its story. Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, and the now-even-more famous Clark Gregg all played their integral parts naturally which allowed the story of Tony Stark and his journey to truly be the focal point of the film. I think it is fair to say that no one has benefited from receiving accolades and opportunities more so Robert Downey, Jr. (and well-deserved). No one else (in my opinion) can succeed in pulling off Tony Stark/Iron Man as well as Downey, Jr. I mean, he was born for the part, and now he is as big of a rockstar as the character he portrayed!
Iron Man is more than just an amazing origin story retold though. It is a successful first attempt at Marvel Studios producing a film on their own…and boy, what a way to come out of the gate! Before Iron Man, kids mainly ran around with Spider-Man masks, Wolverine claws, and Hulk hands, but this film created a powerful icon in the hearts and minds of comic book movie fans all over the world. A delivery of a realistic, plausible, and action-packed superhero film allowed Favreau and team to see success worthy of the name “Tony Stark.”
Of course, one cannot talk about Iron Man without mentioning the constant subtle mentions of the S.trategic H.omeland I.ntervention E.nforcement and L.ogistics D.ivision (S.H.I.E.L.D.) and the amazing tease at the end of the credits. Already being such an amazing film, Marvel takes full advantage of the opportunity to reward those who stayed all the way through the credits to introduce an all-too-important character and underlying plotline: Nick Fury (reinvented in the image/likeness/acting of the great Samuel L. Jackson) and his “Avengers Initiative!” I remember so many chills running through my body at that moment and the fanboy wonder and theorizing began all over again in anticipation for whatever Marvel had planned. No one was 100% sure, but I was sure of ONE thing: It would be INCREDIBLE!
The Incredible Hulk
Max: Hesitant would be the word to describe my feelings towards The Incredible Hulk. The character had an unsuccessful debut a few years earlier with Eric Bana as the big green guy. Marvel needed to reboot the character to fit into the Marvel universe better and this time they placed their bets with Edward Norton.
Thankfully, they made the right decision. Norton really understood what was at the heart of the Hulk story; his Bruce Banner is in constant fear of his surroundings, realizing wherever he is he can be found.
The Incredible Hulk didn’t play like a typical origin story and, hopefully, it will be used as a prototype for when other actors step into superhero roles. They offer a quick flashback of how exactly Bruce Banner became the Hulk; that’s the extent of the origin story. It’s a shame The Amazing Spider-Man couldn’t have learned from this approach.
The relationship between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler feels a bit flat. It feels as though their passion goes from 0 to 10 in a flash. In one of the funnier scenes of the movie, Bruce and Elizabeth have an intimate moment that he has to stop, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to control the transformation. I doubt that scene would’ve made it into the movie had Disney owned Marvel then, but it was a funny scene that shows their quick passion.
There’s not much of a story here, other than Bruce Banner looking for a cure and the government wanting him as their test subject. General Ross (William Hurt) and soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) will stop at nothing to bring Banner in. Watching Blonsky consistently fighting Hulk out-lives its welcome by the end of the film. If there is one thing the fights excel at, its sound design. It makes me wonder who was the team was that was involved in this movie and where have they been for the other Marvel films. There are moments in this movie that will make your sound system cry for mercy. It’s a shame the sound design for this movie isn’t mentioned more often.
While Marvel and Edward Norton couldn’t settle their differences after The Incredible Hulk, it remains a good attempt at bringing the character to audiences. Norton did a fine job as Hulk. Of course Marvel had bigger plans for the character and he was also going to get a visit from S.H.I.E.L.D.
T: It wasn’t very long after May 2, 2008’s release of the successful Iron Man launch that June 13, 2008 rolled around, and with it, came the next in the “pre-Avengers’ films: The Incredible Hulk. Though, nowhere near as successful as Marvel’s Iron Man, this film met with greater reception than its predecessor directed by Ang Lee. Though some argued that Ed Norton was not a great choice for Dr. Bruce Banner, I argued that he was better (to me) than Eric Bana. The Incredible Hulk left an good impression as an “apology” if you will for the previous Hulk movie that only a minority in the world enjoys.
There are several parts of this film that I appreciated:
(1) The fact that it wasn’t the “origin story all over again.”
-Marvel opted not to eliminate the first Hulk movie from memory altogether, but utilizes the film to help pace the movie by picking up where the previous one left off. Telling the origin story through the title sequence (loaded, by the way with teasing mentions of important names in the Marvel universe such as “Steve Rogers” a.k.a. Captain America).
(2) Ed Norton and Tim Roth
-The acting of these two in their respective roles added a sense of authenticity to some of the lesser believable story lines and characters. Roth (overshadowed a bit by Norton) always ends up underrated yet usually performs impressively in the roles given. This movie is no exception.
(3) Action! Action!! ACTION!!!
-With tons of over-the-top action of a Hulk-level proportion, this film gave our powerful green hero something even greater to fight than just the United States Army: Abomination. The fight scenes that transpire onscreen between the two of them in the middle of Harlem set up precedence for 2012’s The Avengers‘ version of The Hulk and what to bring to the film.
While some aspects of the film remain less than stellar (i.e. Liv Tyler, and the fact that fans often comment on this version of the Hulk being the “California Surfer Hulk”), it is nice to see how Marvel ends the film placing The Hulk in self-imposed solitude…EXACTLY how we find him the next time that Dr. Banner makes an appearance in The Avengers.
Of course, once again, an after-credits scene bears importance to the aforementioned underlying theme. Although The Incredible Hulk contains no presence of Agent Coulson (S.H.I.E.L.D.) or Nick Fury, we see a recently new superstar in the Marvel universe re-emerge to keep the continuation of The Avengers Initiative alive in the minds of fans around the world. Enter: Iron Man‘s Tony Stark in a quick tease of a scene reminding you that he is still there, still awesome, still right (along with a “I told you so” about keeping the supersoldier formula on ice), and working on assembling a team (assuredly with Nick Fury)
See? Marvel wove such a web of stories all around each other in such a fashion that leads up amazingly towards The Avengers!