Marvel Cinematic Universe-Phase One

*Please note I have not reviewed all of the movies from Phase One. I’m still missing: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor.

Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Haley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones

Steve Rogers (Evans) is short and scrawny, but he is determined to enlist in World War II. He tries to enlist four different times using false information but is rejected each time due to his stature and asthma. On his fifth attempt, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Tucci) allows him to enlist as part of an experiment to create a “super-soldier”. Steve agrees because he will do anything to fight for his country. In front of a panel of scientists and war officials, Steve is hooked up and injected with some special serums and “vita-rays”. Steve emerges insanely muscular and with extraordinary abilities like: super strength, running fast, and swimming underwater. Steve becomes the model soldier and is branded the name “Captain America”. Captain America is the symbol for the all-American soldier saving his country. Captain America teams up with Agent Peggy Carter (Atwell) and Colonel Phillips (Jones) to defeat the HYDRA organization.

The HYDRA organization is led by Johann Schmidt (Weaving), aka “Red Skull”. Schmidt along with his side-kick Dr.Zola (Toby Jones) have stolen a magical cube containing enough energy to destroy mass quantities of people. Schmidt’s goal is to take over the war like Hitler has and destroy numerous American cities by the energy he uses from the cube. Captain America invades Schmidt’s fortress and rescues numerous soldiers that have been held captive. They battle Schmidt’s army, but Schmidt and Dr. Zola escape. Captain America figures out where they are headed next. He gathers the troop one more time to finish Schmidt off and save America.

Captain America: The First Avenger
is the last of the four comic book movies to come out this summer. At the end of the movie, Samuel L. Jackson has a cameo as Nick Fury, who has had appearances in some of the other Marvel comic book movies. The filmmakers also included that Captain America will return next summer in The Avengers. Chris Evans is wonderful as a super-hero. He has the look and sense of humor included with being a good super hero. Tommy Lee Jones plays Colonel Phillips exactly the way you would expect him too. He’s your standard Tommy Lee Jones type of character with well delivered one-liners. Of the four superhero movies releases this summer, I would rank this second behind X-Men: First Class .

Rating: **** (4 of out 5 stars)

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr.,Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston

Going into Marvel’s The Avengers you know you are in for one wild ride. It feels like one big party with all your best friends. A magical blue cube called The Tesseract is being housed in a research facility. It contains an energy source of unknown power as well as a portal to another universe. After the cube starts giving off extra activity, Nick Fury (Jackson) is flown in to assess the situation. He is the head of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, aka S.H.I.E.L.D. A portal door opens and Loki (Hiddleston), a god from the realm Asgard, appears in hopes to steal the Tesseract. He wants to use it for ultimate universal domination. Loki is Thor’s brother and feels burdened with a glorious purpose and wants a world without freedom. He uses mind control over Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Avenger Hawkeye (Renner) to use them in his plan with the Tesseract. Loki escapes with Selvig, Hawkeye, and the Tesseract leaving the research facility crumbling to the ground after a massive explosion. Nick Fury is able to escape in the nick of time and knows the world is in trouble. He calls upon the Avengers Initiative to try to track down Loki and the Tesseract.

The Avengers Initiative is the idea behind bringing in the best of the best heroes to make up one big team. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Ruffalo), Steven Rogers/Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Renner), and Black Widow (Johansson) are the chosen ones. Naturally, a room full of superheroes leads to a room full of big egos. They don’t all know each other so there isn’t a chummy bromance between any of them. Tempers easily flare, names are spewed at each other, and some teasing occurs. Iron Man and Thor have a fantastic battle in the forest which Captain America ends up breaking apart. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark do the initial research on where the Tesseract could be and what Loki’s ultimate plan of action entitles. They realize that S.H.I.E.L.D is using the Tesseract’s energy to build weapons of mass destruction which does not promote a peaceful environment that they seem to be promoting. After some jabs at each other, they join together and capture Loki, but the Tesseract is nowhere to be found. Capturing Loki is only the first step in defeating him.

There have been many movies adapted from comic books recently. Some have been more successful than others. Some of the Marvel movies with the Avengers characters themselves are hit or miss. The movie does not take it self too seriously that people not knowing the Avengers history could not follow or understand. It has a fairly simple plot that leaves enough room for all of the characters to shine throughout the movie. I’ve seen too many ensemble movies where there are too many characters used and none of them get their deserved screen time. Joss Whedon wrote and directed this smart and exciting adaptation. Being a comic book fan himself, he is a smart choice to take on such a challenging daunting task of assembling such characters together. The script is full of sharp wit with strong writing for each character. Many of the characters come from different time frames or planets, and the writing caters to the atmosphere and region they come from. Tony Stark’s dialogue can be hysterically funny when he is being super cocky and arrogant. All but one of the actors has previously played their superheroes in other movies leading up to this one. Mark Ruffalo is the only actor new to his character. Eric Bana and Edward Norton have previously played the Hulk/Bruce Banner role in other movies. Ruffalo makes a fantastic Banner who plays the two sides to his character extremely well. It is a treat to see the CGI Hulk used well and not feel like a computerized monster. There is a humanity and sense of humor to the Hulk which we have not in the other two movies. Tom Hiddleston is another stand-out as Loki.

The ending is one hell of a treat. It is a huge epic finale bigger than most battle endings. I’ve seen too many action scenes were the camera work and editing is far too fast and muddled leaving you with a jerky feeling. Whedon and team have a way of making the action sequences clean, crisp, and easy to watch. The 3D seems to really pop in the finale as well. When you have smart writing, terrific character acting, and sharp action sequences, a comic-book movie transcends your normal standards of the genre and elevates the expectations for any Marvel or DC movie to come next.

RATING: ****1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)