The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One – A Review


Have you noticed that in recent years every movie you see heavily advertised at the cinema, on TV or on the internet is now a Superhero movie?

Unless you live the Amish lifestyle and avoid such satanic technological devices, then you will have, and if you’re a fan of these types of films then you must be in superhero heaven right now, but if you live with mere mortals, then you may see this trend as the death of original cinema.

But where did this all begin? Some may say Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005), created a darker and edgier Batman; for the first time our superheroes weren’t simply white guys in spandex with supernatural powers.

But really the dominance of superhero movies isn’t due to a DC comic book hero but rather Marvel, specifically the Marvel Cinematic universe created, essentially, by very clever producers and marketing executives of the now multi-billion dollar production company Marvel Studios.

And what they have done is created a ‘universe’ of films, multiple superhero movies and television shows that all live in one place, all tie in together as a whole, and whether you think this is an amazing new medium for cinema or simply an exercise in marketing prowess you can’t deny there isn’t some genius to it.

As a man who enjoys regularly sitting on fences, I really find myself in the middle of the two arguments. I think one argument is true, you can tell they aren’t so much as films as they are a money making scheme, you know the end before you’ve gone into the cinema, the good guy beats the bad guy.

However this doesn’t stop me enjoying watching them. I don’t appreciate them as a great piece of cinema or art but they’re fun, exciting and the universe they’ve created whether is an innovative way of creating movies.

Anyway I am rambling. I have decided as part of my reviews to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe in chronological order by year of release, (not the television shows and short films I’m afraid, I don’t think any human on earth really has the time to watch all of it). I’ve decided in this post to review the Phase One of the universe from Iron Man (2008) to Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) with short reviews of each film. That’s if you got to the bottom of this article without getting bored and clicking the red X.

Iron Man (2008)

Cool guys don't look at explosions

Cool guys don’t look at explosions

So the film that started it all, Iron Man stars Robert Downey Jr as our titular hero, who dons the Iron Man suit for the first time to defeat some terrorists and eventually his business partner Obadiah Stane, (Jeff Bridges), who as it happens also dons a large iron suit. How fitting.

Your opinion of this film really may fall on whether or not you like the character of Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy who grows a conscience when he sees what his weapons manufacturing truly does.

Personally I find him rather annoying, (probably just envious), and mainly an attempt by Marvel to quickly appeal to male teenagers. But to be fair to them it clearly worked.

A fun film with lots of explosions; it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, just like Tony Stark or Robert Downey Jr himself, but it does have its charm and helped spawn the biggest film franchise of all time.

Iron Man: 6/10

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

That feeling you get watching England play football

That feeling you get watching England play football

Out the same year as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (in its only standalone form so far) stars Edward Norton as Hulk, a big green radioactive monster who wreaks havoc in Brazil and eventually in New York alongside another green radioactive monster Abomination, (Tim Roth), who unlike Hulk is an evil green monster as he is English/Russian and is a little bit angrier.

The film features a decent cast, and Norton does a good job of making you ignore the fact you’re watching a film about a character whose catchphrase is ‘Hulk Smash!’

Another fun flick, if you like superhero movies this is an enjoyable watch and allows Hulk to easily fit into the eventual Avengers movie with his own back story, but I’m not surprised Marvel haven’t gone back to doing another Hulk film.

The Incredible Hulk: 5/10

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 - this time there's more Iron

”Iron Man 2 – this time there’s even more iron’

The third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Iron Man 2, with Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow returning as Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, with Iron Man now facing evil Russian Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who has a grudge against Stark for a very loosely explained reason.

This one isn’t quite as fun and original as the first Iron Man, and sadly has more focus on loud explosions and special effects as it does on plot or character development.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff is a welcome addition to men everywhere, but really the film is just an excuse for big robots to fight each other (again), with the fight between Stark and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) bordering on the silly.

Iron Man 2 is only going to be enjoyed by those who love Marvel films, and is okay, but doesn’t really make you want to go back and watch it.

Iron Man 2: 5/10

Thor (2011)

Thor sure does like his lighting

Thor sure does like his lightning

Weirdly the first Marvel film I actually saw at the cinema, Thor I believe is the first film I think that can be enjoyed by casual and general fans of film rather than just those who love Superhero movies.

Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, Thor stars Chris Hemsworth as a Norse God who is cast down to Earth to be taught a lesson by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), due to Thor’s arrogance and willingness for battle.

Due to Brannaghs and Hopkins Shakespearean background this film is very much in that style, mixed wonderfully with the troupes of a comic book movie, and creates a story that flows better than the previous films from Marvel, with characters who, despite being even more outlandish, generally provide more interest and depth.

Although not faultless, I would say Thor is not only a good superhero movie, but just a good film in general.

Thor: 7/10

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America deep in thought

Captain America shielding his most valuable parts

Probably the Marvel film I was most sceptical about watching, (I really can’t stand American patriotism), Captain America stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a skinny weakling in 1940s America whose desire to do his bit for his country means he undergoes a super solider experiment, turning him into the first avenger, Captain America.

Set during WW2, I found this film surprisingly enjoyable. The American flag waving and national anthem singing was more toned down than I expected, and the 1940s setting meant it really stood out compared to the other films in the series.

Hugo Weaving was a welcome addition as the villain Red Skull, managing to make a Nazi with a big red face somehow a believable villain. Hayley Atwell was also well cast as the love interest for Captain America, and the supporting cast including Toby Jones and Stanley Tucci added extra quality to this film.

The real problem this movie has is Captain America is a bit of a wet fish, (I don’t mean Aquaman that’s DC), and it is hard to invest in such a stereotypical character. And Captain America really does sound like the kind of name Donald Trump would give himself.

Horrifying isn't it?

Horrifying isn’t it?

Captain America: 6/10

The Avengers (2012)

I would not want to live in New York with these guys around

I would not want to live in New York with these guys around

And so our Avengers are finally all assembled, and we have the film Marvel was building for four years, The Avengers.

With all the actors reprising their roles, other than Edward Norton being replaced by Mark Ruffalo as Hulk (who does an excellent job by the way), The Avengers is an extremely fun and exciting film, which really gave me the inspiration and desire to do this review and watch the earlier films of the series.

The plot is really inconsequential, it’s basically about a lot of good guys fighting a lot of bad guys, an excuse for superheroes to fight, but you could tell with this film in particular it didn’t take itself too seriously, it was all about the fun and was surprisingly very funny.

Bringing the five characters together in one single movie was handled excellently by director Josh Wheedon, and made sure people would be excited about the next films in the series, in a similar way I think to what Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) has done.

The Avengers: 8/10

So that’s my superhero worthy, epically large review of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with my phase two reviews to come shortly.

And with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) out now, I am sure in a few years’ time I will be doing the same for the DC cinematic universe.


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