4/ IRON MAN. DIR: JON FAVREAU.
For the longest time, the original remained the best. Of all the films in Phase One this is the only one I believe to be a great, solid film. Yes, the ending is a little disappointing and it moves a little slower than most of what followed. It’s also tightly written, keenly directed and superbly acted. It’s fun to see this film now and see how the series has changed from these beginnings. While Iron Man is not perfect and is certainly not as good as The Dark Knight, released the exact same year, it did help save a subgenre that many had written off, thanks to dud after dud.
Robert Downey Jr could not have been cast better. This film is a phoenix story – about rising from the ashes of an unfortunate old life and starting afresh. It’s a perfect story for Tony Stark. It’s also exactly what was happen to Downey Jr at the time, after fighting drug abuse for years. In just one film a mans career and a whole subgenre was saved. Imagine what the world of cinema now would be if it weren’t for Iron Man – for better and worse. Having recently just watched it again, I’m very surprised with how well it has aged. The effects are still fantastic, even better than any of the other Phase One films. The story still works, even in a changing world.
You can blame Iron Man all you want for what it started. But the fact that it started something this huge is something to applaud. I can still put it on today and have a good time. Yes, I’m very sick of superhero film and wish that they would just stop making them now. I guess, though, that if more were like this, brushing greatness, then I wouldn’t complain about them nearly as much as I do.
3/ THOR: RAGNAROK. DIR: TAIKA WAITITI.
How do you save the Thor series? You hire one of the best comedy directors of all time to pull you out of the mud. The look and feel of this film is very different to those that came before. It feels more like Big Trouble in Little China than it does Thor. Everything from the colourful and quirky world to the John Carpenter-esc techno soundtrack. It’s definitely the better for it. Not only does this fix almost all issues that could be had with the previous Thor film, it stands out among the whole MCU.
Hemsworth has always been more suited to comedies than dramatic action roles. Here he’s playing to that strength. Cate Blanchett delightfully hams it up as the villain and Jeff Goldblum steals the show as The Grand Master. Hulk is used well here, ironically making this the best Hulk film made yet. Normally when an independent director moves to a big-budget the transition isn’t smooth. Waititi does not have this issue. He knows how to apply a big-budget to his distinct style, while still making it lovely to look at and fun.
I don’t think I’ve laughed so much at a superhero film before. It’s the closest a superhero film has been to hilarious for me. Thor meeting with the fire giant Sutr at the beginning never fails to make me laugh. It’s one of the only Marvel films that I will watch more than once in a year. It’s not perfect, but I love every minute of it. From the silliness of the beginning to the excitement of the climax – both of which feature the Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin – Thor Ragnarok is a blast.
2/ CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. DIR: ANTHONY AND JOE RUSSO.
When I hear people talking about how mature, complex and thrilling Civil War is I always have to say that we already got that in Winter Soldier. And better! Once again, it doesn’t feel like a Marvel film. This time we take on the spy thriller genre. I guess as a spy story the plot’s pretty basic – that chess nut about names on a memory card that the bad-guys want. But it does add some nice twists in it here and there that keep it fresh.
While the action does feature a little too much shaky-cam at times, it’s mostly tight and thrilling. Some of the action in this is easily the best of the whole series. This is the film that made Captain America cool. They work magic with him. It’s a little fish out of water, but it demonstrates the differences between time periods. We have the better technology and the likes of social media – but what will that cost us, so we feel safe. It’s a good debate on when do we draw the line? What’s too little security and what’s too much? Should we give up our privacy so that crime will be stopped quicker? It’s a debate that is handled far better and with much more maturity than in Civil War.
The cast does a great job. Robert Redford gets overlooked for his performance as the films villain. It takes it’s time, but never gets boring. It’s heavy, but with humour and fun action that lightens the mood. The Winter Soldier himself is a very intimidating force. Evans and Johansson have excellent chemistry. When the twist involving Hydra was first given to me I was flawed. I couldn’t believe that Marvel had given us something so mature and contemporary in a crowd-pleasing action film. I’m still impressed with this film today. It’s the closest we got to a flawless MCU film.