Category Archives: marvel universe

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I don’t have a huge amount to say about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, which I’d never seen before this morning. I’m not 100% sure why I didn’t go see this one before. It’s possibly because the 2003 Hulk by Ang Lee was so boring, and we didn’t really know that there was a “Marvel Cinematic Universe” yet, and that this film was part of it and the original movie sort of isn’t.

There were two things I really loved about this movie: they take care of all the origin stuff without dialogue in the main titles and pick up five years later, and Liv Tyler and Edward Norton have terrific chemistry together. If anybody ever casts these two in another movie, I’ll probably watch it.

Another great little moment happens before the climactic fight. Tim Blake Nelson plays a scientist who is helping Banner, and who unwisely helps Tim Roth’s character, Emil Blonsky, turn into the Abomination. Some gamma-infected blood drips into an open sore on the scientist’s head, and the last we see of him is his brain growing and swelling. My recall of superheroes’ and villains’ identities is pretty good, so if Marvel gives me a movie with a guy named Emil Blonsky, I know he’ll become the Abomination, or if Marvel gives me a movie with a guy named Ulysses Klaw with two hands, I know he’s going to lose one of them. But I didn’t recognize the name Samuel Sterns, and didn’t realize he’d be turning into the Leader. That’s a plot thread Marvel’s left dangling.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie, but our son thought it was completely great. We had to swap around the schedule and when I told him last night we were moving this movie up, he hit the ceiling and stayed there for about sixteen hours. He was so excited about watching the Hulk because, of course, Hulk is at least briefly every little boy’s favorite superhero. He even fibbed this morning and told me he didn’t sleep last night because he was so ready to watch this.

There are three big “Hulk smash” scenes in the movie, and our son enjoyed each one more than the last. He didn’t quite catch that the villainous monster has a name, and called him “Spinosaurus” instead. Giving the hero the chance to actually say “Hulk smash” was an inspired idea. He’d really been looking forward to that line!

As always, he complained that there were some boring bits, but, even without the humor that’s become a hallmark of the Marvel Universe, I thought these were much more interesting, at least when General Ross wasn’t onscreen. No disrespect to William Hurt, but I loathed Thunderbolt Ross when I read Hulk comics as a kid, I dislike the “military over all” ethic of movies like this enormously, and I can’t believe the jerk wasn’t court-martialed after destroying Harlem… or at least the part of Harlem that Toronto’s Yonge Street, which subbed for New York, runs through!

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Iron Man (2008)

Mainly we watch older movies here at Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time, but we’re going to cycle the Marvel Universe movies into a rotation so that he’ll have the chance to see some of them before next summer. Maybe we’ll see five or six of them before the next Avengers movie? Seven might be a good age to see these on the big screen. He’s pretty mature for his age and very well-behaved in theaters. And if this is any indication, he might just love that Avengers film. He told us at lunch that Iron Man is second only to his beloved Captain Underpants as his all-time favorite movie.

That’s not to say it didn’t baffle him in places. It’s interesting to look back in the series; I’ve seen two of the films twice, and the rest no more than once, in theaters. I’ve been picking these up when I find copies, usually used, at a sensible price. They never seem to be on sale, and Marvel Studios has not released any sensible collected-in-sequence editions to take up less space on fans’ shelves. So I bought some six-disk boxes and wish I had a copy of Photoshop and the talent to make new artwork for them!

It’s amazing how comparatively slow this movie is. It takes a long, long time for Tony Stark to appear in his first suit of armor. The more recent movies, particularly Doctor Strange, work in shorthand compared to this. Iron Man spends a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time, emphasizing how insufferable and arrogant Tony Stark is. It’s all hugely entertaining and I wouldn’t change a minute, I’m just interested in how the later origin films follow the early ones’ template, trusting the audience, once they’ve seen a few of these, to understand the main character from much shorter sketches.

There are lots of reasons I don’t see many modern movies. One of them is that I prefer the comfort of the character actors of the sixties and seventies; I just don’t see enough modern movies and television to really know the actors. Honestly, I’m not kidding, I’ve seen Scarlett Johansson in literally one film that isn’t a Marvel movie. I know her as a singer first, and Black Widow second! I’ve even missed most of Robert Downey Jr.’s career. According to IMDB, I’ve seen him in exactly four roles other than Tony Stark, and I was in high school for two of those. (He was in a movie version of The Singing Detective? There’s a movie version of The Singing Detective?)

Anyway, it’s become standard in blog posts about Marvel movies to praise the casting. These might be the movies’ real genius, because the plots aren’t anything that outrageous. The stories don’t thrill me and CGI special effects don’t make my jaw drop any more, so it’s all about the casting and the humor for me. Iron Man introduces us to Stark, to Gwenyth Paltrow’s long-suffering Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau’s loyal Happy Hogan, and Clark Gregg’s SHIELD agent Coulson. Samuel L. Jackson shows up right at the end as Nick Fury, setting an unhappy precedent of sitting around through a million credits for maybe sixty bonus seconds.

Terrence Howard played James Rhodes in this movie. I’m not sure why, but Don Cheadle took over the part after this one. Blink and you’ll miss Bill Smitrovich (Inspector Cramer in A Nero Wolfe Mystery) as a general. Leslie Bibb plays a reporter and Jeff Bridges – okay, him I’ve seen a fair bit – is the villain. They’re all excellent.

While Bridges is terrific as the villain Obadiah Stane, this story does suffer more than a little from the same malady that infects so many superhero movies: the odd need to have the hero’s and the villain’s stories intertwined. As such, Stane’s betrayal is never even remotely surprising. I was once told that I should have known that immediately, but I wasn’t reading Iron Man comics in the eighties, when it appears that the character was introduced, and never heard of the Iron Monger until they made a piece for him in Heroclix, a collectible combat game I once played.

The business about Stark Industries’ stock prices plummeting was over our son’s head, and he was probably tuned out for about six of this movie’s 120 minutes. But Jon Favreau, who directed the movie as well as playing Happy Hogan, knew how to keep things busy and moving for even the younger viewers. Some of the humor was over his head, but the slapstick of Tony learning to fly had him riveted and guffawing. I like how you just know one of those cars is going to get crushed; place your bets on which one. The action scenes had his eyes popping out of his head. I was just a little worried that Iron Man’s first appearance in the caves would frighten him, but it didn’t. This morning was all talk about Iron Man, and how he can’t wait for the next Marvel movie. Then we rented him the complete Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Races and he might have forgotten about Tony and his friends. (Car # 6, the Army Surplus Special, is his favorite. I like the Gruesome Twosome most myself.)

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