“As always sir, a great pleasure watching you work.”

Iron Man 3

Draws on what happened in The Avengers.  Ben Kinglsey (Nizam in Prince of Persia, he appeared in The Last Legion and Schindler’s List.  There is also a video of him singing “Shall We Dance” with Julie Andrews from The King and I) is added to the cast as Trevor Slattery.  Miguel Ferrer (Assistant Director Granger from NCIS:LA; he sadly passed away in 2017) appears as the Vice President.

Tony voice-overs the opening of the film, stating “we create our own demons.”  And with I’m Blue playing, we flashback to New Year’s Eve of 1999 in Bern, Switzerland.  Tony, accompanied by a mullet-wearing Happy, had made a presentation and is thoroughly enjoying the after party, even bumping into Yensen (a callback to the first Iron Man movie).  Then he comes across a pretty girl who asks questions about research.  They move the party upstairs, though Tony is briefly approached by Aldrich Killian, who has a proposal for a think tank, named AIM.  Tony is briefly intrigued, but moves on to going over the pretty girl’s research, which examines the healing center of the brain, and she calls the project Extremis.  Extremis has explosive results.  Getting so caught up in the research, Tony forgets to meet Killian.

Fast forward to the present, post Battle of New York world, Tony is working on more suits.  The latest is the Mark 42, which is supposed to come to him piece by piece, guided by chips implanted in his arm.  There are a few errors, but then Tony has been awake 72 hours.  But the world doesn’t rest; the Ten Rings have reappeared and taken over the airways, with their leader, the Mandarin calling out Americans and warning “you’ll never see me coming.”  The President immediately announces that Captain Rhodes will be handling the situation as the Iron Patriot.  Tony has to meet his friend afterwards, but Rhodey is worried about Tony; he’s showing signs of PTSD, having panic attacks and flashbacks.  Tony tries to laugh them off in public and flies off before he has to deal with it.

In the meantime, Pepper is still CEO of Stark Industries, with Happy as her chief of security, which he takes seriously.  And he gets bad vibes from her meeting with Aldrich Killian and his bodyguard, and reports such to Tony.  Pepper wisely turns down Killian’s proposal on Extremis, feeling it is too weaponizable.  When she returns home, she finds Tony in his workshop and he’s trying to make this relationship work, admitting he’s a hot mess.  He loves her and just wants to protect her; that’s why there’s multiple suits; he can’t live without her.  Pepper gives him a chance, until he has nightmares in bed and unconsciously calls his suit to him, scaring Pepper.

Happy follows his hunch and follows the bodyguard, who’s doing some sort of deal.  Happy pockets something, then gets in a fight with the guard until the other man heats up and explodes.  Happy is gravely injured and Tony takes a place by his side, informing the nurse to ensure that everyone is wearing their security badge, something Happy is a stickler about.  Oh, and Happy thinks Downton Abbey is romantic, so keep him playing.  Tony is greeted by reporters outside the hospital [one of whom is Kim Holderness, who has a YouTube channel with her husband with funny skits now].  The Mandarin has already claimed the attack (and the videos are a bit terrifying).  Tony has a response; he’s not afraid of the Mandarin and he’s coming for him, good old-fashioned revenge.  He even gives the Mandarin his home address.

Once home, Tony has JARVIS compile a Mandarin database and examine the attacks associated with the terrorist.  There are several bombs that have detonated, like the one at the Chinese Theatre with high heat, but no bomb parts found.  Happy, in his last conscious moments, pointed to a clue for Tony and JARIVS finds a similar case in Tennessee.  Until there is a woman at the door; Maya.  Pepper, of course, wants to leave.  Their discussion is interrupted by helicopters outside that shoot missiles into Tony’s home.  Tony calls the suit, but has it cover Pepper, and in turn, she protects Tony, until he gets her to safety and calls the suit to him.  Tony manages to take out the helicopters as the house crumbles around him and he drops into the water.  He manages to shoot out of the water, but no one seems him.  He passes out and wakes up as he crashes in Tennessee.  The suit is low on power and JARVIS shuts off, so Tony drags the suit behind him until he finds a pay phone to leave Pepper a message.  Then he finds a seemingly deserted shed.  Turns out, not so deserted, it’s got a kid, Harley.  Tony convinces Harley to help him (cause what kid is going to turn down the chance to help Iron Man?)

Meanwhile, Pepper talks to Maya about why she came to the house (she did get Tony’s message and knows he’s alive, but let’s the media say he’s presumed dead).  Maya thinks her boss, Aldrich Killian, works for the Mandarin.  When they find a hotel, Aldrich shows up and captures Pepper.  Maya indeed works for Killian and yes, she went to Tony for help.  She needs him to fix the glitch in Extremis.

Tony investigates the explosion site in Tennessee, though Harley pesters him with questions about the Avengers and New York and causes Tony to have another panic attack.  Tony visits the victim mom, assuring her that her son was innocent, until another woman tries to arrest him.  He battles her; she’s another one that will glow, as well as Killian’s bodyguard.  He tires to take Harley prisoner, but Harley uses Tony’s bully defense sparkler to get away.  Tony’s got the information he wanted and instructs Harley to guard the Iron Man suit.  Tony realizes that AIM, Killian’s company is behind this, with the Extremis program, and calls Rhodey.  Rhodey’s a little busy, being Iron Patriot all over the Middle East, looking for the Mandarin, who put out another video, threatening to execute a man.  Even though the President called, the Mandarin still shot him (we don’t actually see that part).  Iron Patriot is taken down in one of the buildings he’s investigating.

This causes Tony to have another panic attack, and luckily, JARVIS is running enough to help him out, with some assistance from Harley.  JARVIS’s system is showing the Mandarin’s messages originating in Miami.  Harley suggests that Tony builds something, since he’s a mechanic.  So Tony showcases his genius again in making an arsenal out of what he can find at a hardware store (recalling that “box of scraps” comment from the first movie).  He enters the compound in Miami and finds the set of the Mandarin videos.  And that the Mandarin is actually just an actor hired to play a role.  And yes, Killian was behind it; a custom-made terror threat.  The bodyguard enters and captures Tony.  Tony sees Maya again, who reveals that Tony had jotted down an equation all those years ago and hence why she thought Tony could help.  But Tony doesn’t remember the equation and tries to appeal to Maya.  Killian enters and credits Tony with creating him; leaving him on the roof in Switzerland made him desperate and he decided to rule from behind.  He gave evil a face and a target in creating the Mandarin.  He’s planning on opening the Iron Patriot suit and he will own the war on terror, creating supply and demand.  Oh, and he’s given Pepper Extremis.  Maya threatens to kill herself to protect her work; Killian shoots her anyway.

The clock is ticking.  Tony calls the suit to him (which is hilariously delayed), but he still takes out the guards and makes his way back through the compound (one guard easily gives up; he’s had enough weird) to find Rhodey.  They have to find the President, who is now on Air Force One with someone he thinks is Iron Patriot.  Iron Man arrives in time to rescue the people falling from the plane [pretty cool].  Then he’s hit by a truck; it’s not actually Tony in the suit, he’s controlling it from a distance.  They continue to make their way to the shipping yard where Killian is staging the murder of the President.  Rhodey is no slouch in sneaking on and taking out guards, with Tony backing him out.  Then Tony’s other suits arrive, all controlled by JARVIS and the action really begins.  Tony uses this as a chance to find Pepper, who is trapped.  He almost has her, then she falls into a fire.  Rhodey, in the meantime, rescues the President.  Tony goes after Killian, switching suits as he needs to (because Tony cannot go against Killian as Extremis in just his human form; the suits come in handy and he can take on more dangerous enemies).  Killian mocks Tony, that Killian was trying to improve Pepper.  Tony retorts that no, he didn’t deserve her, and she was already perfect.  Tony gets Killian in one of the suits and blows it up.  It does not stop Killian, though he admits to the Mandarin plot.  Just as Killian is about to deal the final blow, Pepper to the rescue!  She knocks Killian out, then takes on the suit and blows up Killian.  Her comment at the end?  “That was really violent.”  Now she’s the hot mess.  Tony quips, it’s still debatable; she’s in a relationship with him.  He promises to fix her; he almost had it while he was drunk years ago, and this is what he does, he fixes things.  He then has JARVIS blow all the suits.

The story wraps up with Rhodey arresting the Vice President, who was in on the kidnapping of the President since his daughter would have benefitted from Extremis.  Tony got Pepper sorted out, then has surgery to finally remove the shrapnel from his chest and remove the arc reactor.  And Happy wakes up and Harley gets an updated lab.  Tony theorizes that his armor and tools can be taken away, but no one can take away the fact that “I am Iron Man.”  And this is all revealed to be Tony talking to Bruce (who fell asleep).

This is not my favorite Marvel movie, or Iron Man movie; there’s just too many things going on at the same time.  However, I do like seeing more of Tony Stary, rather than just an Iron Man suit.  While the suit is helpful, he’s no slouch outside of it.  There are a few things that I don’t get why the character had to do; like why did Tony have to destroy all of his suits?  He just proved how helpful they are and he doesn’t have to be in them all the time.  And while I think it’s great that Tony no longer has the shrapnel in his chest, I was a bit sad to see the arc reactor just thrown in the ocean.  And kind of missed seeing the other Avengers.  I get that these are their individual movies again, but some crossover would have been nice.  For instance, when Pepper is standing in the ruined mansion, alone.  No one came to check on her?  Or attempt to find Tony?

Up Next: We circle around to Thor: Dark World

“Doth mother know, you weareth her drapes?”

The Avengers

The big crossover movie for Marvel.  The big stars are back, though Edward Norton is notably replaced by Mark Ruffalo (I think the only other film I had seen him in before this was 13 Going on 30) to play Bruce Banner; this casting sticks for the rest of the MCU.  Cobie Smulders joins as Agent Maria Hill, a new character.  The film is also notably directed by Joss Whedon (responsible for Firefly and its movie Serenity, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel.  He wrote several other MCU stories, as well as Toy Story, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and 2017’s Justice League).

This film quickly became iconic.  There are so many bits and scenes that remain popular and funny.  And the theme is totally awesome for this movie.

It opens with a deep voice announcing “the Tesseract has awakened;” reporting to a leader.  Their ally is handed a staff to lead an army against another world.  The universe will be handed to this leader and the humans will burn.  Next, we’re at S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in the midst of evacuation, with Director Fury arriving on the scene (with the first strains of the theme playing) to find out that the Tesseract is “behaving” as Selvig puts it.  Fury directs Agent Maria Hill to give priority to the mysterious Phase Two, because “until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.”  It’s Barton, from his nest who points out to Fury that the Tesseract is a door to space, and doors open from both sides; meaning this energy spike is from somewhere in space.  Then the Tesseract creates a portal and Loki emerges, holding a scepter and wearing a manic grin [note the condition that Loki is in at this point; he’s not at peak form].  He soon attacks the agents, but finds that Barton has heart.  So he uses the scepter to turn Barton, while Fury takes the Tesseract.  Loki announces himself, proclaiming he is “burdened with glorious purpose.”  He comes with “glad tidings, of a world made free…of freedom.  Freedom is life’s great lie, once you accept that in your heart, you will know peace.”  He turns Selvig (who perks up at the mention of Asgard and realizes that Loki is Thor’s brother.)  Barton picks up that Fury is stalling, then shoots him in order to take the Tesseract.  Loki and his new followers leave and are almost free until Fury alerts Hill that Barton has turned. 

This starts a car chase, made more dangerous by the facility collapsing.  Fury gets out and takes a helicopter after Loki, who just shoots it out of the sky with his scepter.  Fury jumps out, Hill barely manages to keep from getting smashed and Coulson is with the last truckload of people.  Fury immediately begins coordinating S.H.I.E.L.D.; they are now at war.  Cue the title card and more of the theme.

We check in on Natasha as the Black Widow next, tied to a chair being interrogated.  Until a phone rings; it’s for her and she’s actually interrogating the men.  She has to end it quickly because Coulson informs her that Barton has been compromised.  Coulson holds while Natasha beats up the guys, even still attached to the chair, until she breaks it and uses it as a weapon.  In stocking feet and a dress.  This woman is badass.  She’s sent to India to collect the “big guy,” and no, it’s not Stark.  It’s Bruce Banner; Fury wants his help tracking the Tesseract, which is emitting levels of gamma radiation.

Meanwhile, Fury is meeting with a shadowy council, doing his best to make them understand that a threat has landed on Earth.  He has put together a response team; which one man retorts “you’re going to leave the fate of the world to a handful of freaks.”  Fury firmly believes that this group will be the response team the world needs with the right push.  When they call him out on sentimentality, Fury confirms that wars are won by soldiers.  So we’re back in the gym with Steve, getting his orders to save the world from Fury.  Steve recognizes the Tesseract as Hydra’s secret weapon.  Fury reveals that Howard Stark was the one to retrieve the cube from the ocean and was the first to make the argument that it is the key to unlimited, sustainable energy…hence SHIELD investigating it.  Steve retorts they should have left it in the ocean.

And speaking of energy…Stark is pulling his new building from the power grid, demonstrating self-sustaining clean energy and celebrating with Pepper.  Coulson interrupts their moment (or, 12% of  moment) and gives Tony homework with files on the Avengers Initiative and Tony recognizes the blue Tesseract cube, (which Howard had made notes on as we saw in Iron Man 2).  Coulson next brings Steve to Natasha and Bruce aboard an aircraft carrier.  Except it’s not a true aircraft carrier, it’s a helicarrier and it can fly, and disappear using reflective panels.  Steve gives Fury ten bucks as payoff on a bet about how the world has gotten stranger.

Meanwhile, Selvig is set up in a new lab and Loki is receiving orders [again note, Loki is not the one behind this attack and he still does not look like he’s at peak performance], trying to prove his worth to the alien spokesperson.  They “rescued” Loki from his defeat.  They care not for his desire to rule for they look to worlds that will be revealed by the Tesseract.  He warns Loki that if he fails “there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he can’t find you.  You think you know pain?  He will make you long for something as sweet as pain.”  Barton helps set up their next mission in Stuttgart, Germany…he’ll need an eyeball.  Loki attends a museum gala, then attacks the curator and uses a device to read his retina. Barton uses the data to enter a vault and steal iridium.  Loki enjoys the chaos, uses magic to transform his garb, and makes the crowd kneel outside.  “Is this not your natural state?  It is the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation.  The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity.  You were made to be ruled.  In the end, you will always kneel.”  [This is the voice that delivers Shakespeare’s speeches with perfection.]  One old man rises and stands up to Loki, saying they will not kneel to men like Loki.  Just as Loki is about to make an example of the man (who is canonically a Holocaust survivor), Captain America shows up, quipping the last time he was in Germany and a man was standing above everyone else, they ended up disagreeing.  The two trade shots back and forth and are interrupted by Shoot to Thrill and the arrival of Iron Man.  He manages to knock down Loki, who surrenders, transforming his clothing once again to something subtler than a cape and a helmet with gold horns.

Natasha pilots the Quinjet to bring Tony, Steve, and Loki back to the helicarrier; they hit a storm.  Loki is a bit nervous, which Steve picks up on.  Loki is “not overly fond of what follows” lightning.  Cue Thor’s entrance into the Quinjet and grabbing Loki.  Tony immediately grabs the helmet to his suit, to which Steve cautions they need a plan of attack.  Tony has a plan, attack.  Natasha suggests that Steve sits that bout out; they’re basically gods, she cautions.  Steve retorts that there’s only one God, and he doesn’t look like that, hiking up a parachute.  Thor attempts to reason with Loki, demanding where the Tesseract is.  Loki quips that Thor should be glad because now he has a reason to be sent to Earth by Odin.  Thor is not in a gaming mood, he plainly states he thought Loki dead and yes, he mourned for him [you can make out the relief image of Loki’s helmet embossed on his vambraces later], as did their father.  Loki cuts Thor off; Odin is not his father, or did he not inform Thor of Loki’s true parentage.  It doesn’t matter to Thor; Loki is his brother; they were raised together, played together, fought together.  Loki once again cuts off his brother; all he remembers is being in the shadow of Thor’s greatness, blaming him for falling off the Bifrost [you can hear ravens briefly; a sign maybe Odin is listening?].  Loki chuckles when Thor claims the Earth is under his protection; “you’re doing a marvelous job of that.  The humans slaughter each other in droves, while you idly fret.  I mean to rule them.”  Yes, he believes himself to be above humans.  Thor gently chides Loki that he misses the point of ruling, “the throne would suit you ill.”  Loki lashes out at Thor again; he’s seen the truth of the Tesseract in his exile; which Thor picks up as someone is behind Loki’s scheme.  He demands who is behind the would-be king and begs Loki to come home.  For a second, Loki is serious, then grins; he’s sent the Tesseract away, he knows not where.  Thor urges Loki to listen, but his next statement is cut off when Iron Man tackles him.  Loki simply stands there, “I’m listening,” then watches the two face off below.

Tony demands Thor return Loki, at least until they get the Tesseract and then he’s all Asgard’s.  When Tony quips “tourist,” Thor throws Mjölnir.  The two start pummeling each other, though when Iron Man gets hit by Thor’s lightning, his suit is now at 400% power, interesting.  Steve drops in to break up the fight, but when he asks Thor to put down his hammer, Tony tries to warn him.  Thor puts down the hammer, on Captain America’s vibranium shield, which causes a blast wave and more damage to the forest.  See, it’s funny here when superheroes fight because they’re all men who are used to leading and others following, and they haven’t sat down and made peace yet (it’s later on, down the road that we dislike them fighting).  And it does answer the question of what would happen if Thor’s hammer met Steve’s shield.

They settle down and bring Loki in; Fury sticks him in an impenetrable glass capsule.  Our leads start discussing the real issue.  Thor informs them of Loki’s plan to lead the Chitauri army in return for the Tesseract, which Bruce surmises he needs to make another portal, but there are some science barriers he has to overcome, which Tony picks up on.  Yes, he became an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics overnight, because he’s that good.  Oh, and he plants something on Fury’s computer.  Bruce makes a crack about the crazy on Loki and Thor defends his brother.  Natasha points out “he killed 80 people in two days.”  Well…he’s adopted.  Tony bonds with Bruce over science, which just confuses everyone else.  Steve points out that Loki’s scepter works an awful lot like Hydra weapons and Fury confirms it is powered by the Tesseract and he’d like to know “how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys.”  Thor may not understand that reference, but Steve does.  He’s proud, cause there’s a lot of references he doesn’t get in this modern world.

Tony and Bruce work together well and Tony invites Bruce to Stark Industries in New York for research and development.  Bruce declines, since the last time he was in New York, he kind of broke Harlem.  Steve walks in when Tony pokes Bruce, reprimanding him for putting people at risk because he wants to see if Bruce will Hulk out.  No, this is Tony not being afraid of Bruce and recognizing that there is a man behind the monster.  Also, Bruce wouldn’t have come aboard if he couldn’t handle a few prods.  Tony continues to say that he doesn’t trust Fury; Bruce concurs that there is something fishy going on because why is S.H.I.E.L.D. in the energy field and why didn’t they bring Tony onboard earlier?  (And the blueberry bit is Robert Downey Jr keeping snacks on set and sharing).  It does make Steve suspicious, so he goes snooping.

Natasha goes to speak to Loki, hoping to get information out of him about Barton; she owes him a debt for making a different call when he was sent to kill her years ago.  Loki points out that she is bargaining for one man when the fate of the world hangs in the balance.  “Regimes fall every day, I tend not to weep over that, I’m Russian,” she quips.  Oh, but Loki knows about the Black Widow, thanks to Barton.  Loki won’t touch Barton, until he kills Natasha in every way she fears, and then, when he sees what he’s done, he’ll split his skull (and calls Natasha a word that Frigga would not approve of).  At his monster quip, Natasha infers that he means to release the Hulk.

Everyone ends up in the scepter room, Fury angry about Tony hacking his system.  Steve reveals that Phase 2 is S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the cube to make weapons, like Hydra did.  Fury blames that move on Thor.  S.H.I.E.L.D. learned that not only are we not alone, we are hopelessly and hilariously outgunned.  Thor argues back that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s work with the Tesseract is what drew attention; it is a signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war.  Tony argues that a nuclear deterrent never works and Steve gets a crack in.  Thor quips that he thought humans were higher evolved than this bickering.  It devolves into everyone speaking over each other, though there is a crack in there about Captain America is really on a threat watchlist?  Steve and Tony really rub each other wrong; Steve quips that they’ll go around when Tony puts on the suit, because under that suit, what is Tony.  He retorts he’s a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.  Thor watches this and chuckles; “you people are so petty.  And tiny.”  Then attention turns to Bruce when he calls Fury out on the capsule as a way to kill the Hulk if necessary.  But no one can; Bruce has tried (and watch everyone’s faces react).  He got really low once and wanted to end everything.  The “other guy” spit out the bullet.  As he gets worked up, he grabs the scepter.  When Steve calls him on it, he puts it down.  Just as they get a location on the Tesseract, there is an explosion.

While the heroes were fighting, Barton leads a team against the Helicarrier, locked in on the scepter.  Now Tony complies when Steve tells him to put on the suit.  Barton knocks out of the helicarrier’s engines.  Tony and Steve go to fix that, Steve keeping bad guys off of Tony’s tail while Tony does repairs midflight.  The explosion sent Natasha, Bruce, and Thor through the floor.  Bruce Hulks out near Natasha and chases her around the lower levels.  Thor tackles the Hulk and gets some hits in with Mjölnir.  Fury sends a pilot as a distraction before the Hulk can tear the carrier apart.  It works, for a minute, but the shots make the target angry and Hulk leaps at the plane.  He eventually pulls the pilot out and flings him away (chute opening safely) and the plane crashes, flinging the Hulk another direction.  Thor then goes to confront Loki, who uses his duplicating skill to trick his brother.  “Are you ever not going to fall for that?”  Loki sends Thor hurtling towards the ground in the capsule.  Barton is aboard and one of his arrows takes down S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system and the helicarrier begins to fall to the earth as well.  Fury sends Natasha after Barton, then directs someone to turn the helicarrier around so they’re over water.  They protest that navigation is down.  “Is the sun coming up?  Then put it on the left [proving that sometimes, the old ways are still best.]”  Clint and Natasha know each other’s moves well enough to dodge some.  They’re at an impasse until Natasha bites Barton, flips over him, and runs him into a pipe.  And a second time for good measure.

Coulson goes after Loki, but he uses his duplication again and stabs Coulson from behind.  Coulson predicts Loki will lose.  Fury finds Coulson as his associate argues about his belief in the team.  Loki has escaped with the scepter, though Barton is now onboard.  Steve and Tony managed to work together, Tony getting the last guy shooting who had Steve pinned down (after pinging around the engine for a minute like a pin ball).  Fury throws bloody Captain America trading cards at the ones left.  Fury admits that yes, an arsenal was in the works, but he was betting on the Avengers Initiative, to fight the battles that humans couldn’t.  But, it’s obvious now that the team couldn’t get along; maybe his idea was an old-fashioned notion.

Steve and Tony visit where Coulson died, Tony remarking that the man was an idiot for not waiting for back-up; he was obviously no match for Loki.  Neither of them trust Fury and come to the point that Loki was making this battle personal.  He’s a diva, Tony points out, and wants his name in lights.  Which means, he’s going after Stark’s tower.  He repairs his suit, Steve finds the suit Coulson designed, Natasha speaks to Clint and they agree to accompany Steve as they steal a Quinjet.  A security guard finds Bruce and gives him some words of wisdom. 

Everyone begins to make their way to Stark Tower, where Erik is set up to make another portal with the Tesseract.  Tony arrives first and trades barbs with Loki, pointing out that he managed to piss off the Avengers, “Earth’s mightiest heroes and all that.”  Made up of a demi-god, a super solider, a man with breath-taking anger management issues, and a couple master assassins.  Loki quips, “I have an Army.”  Tony comes back with “we have a Hulk,” and there is no version where Loki will come out on top, because even if they can’t protect the Earth, they will make damn sure they’ll avenge it.  Loki attempts to control Tony, but his reactor protects him, so Loki chucks him out the window.  Tony’s newest suit manages to catch up with him before he goes splat.

Selvig gets the portal open and the Chitauri army begins to fly through.  Thor arrives in his full armor and trades strikes with Loki.  After Loki fires at the Quinjet, Thor tries once more to reason with his brother, pointing out the madness going on around them.  Loki states it’s too late to stop them.   Thor pleads that they can stop it, together.  We think for a minute Loki will join his brother; instead, he stabs him, murmuring sentiment.  Thor ups the ante and throws Loki around, who eventually rolls off the tower and into his army.

When Steve, Natasha, and Clint crash, they immediately set to helping the civilians fleeing the scene.  Steve tries to give orders to the police, who question who he is until he smacks down a few aliens.  Natasha and Clint fall into helping each other, Natasha quipping about Budapest.  She and Clint remember that very differently, he cracks.  Steve soon joins them again, along with Thor and Bruce arrives.  Tony is pleased and tells Bruce to suit up, he’s bringing the party to them, meaning a whale-like creature.  Natasha is not sure how that’s a party, but they gear up.  Steve tells Bruce it may be time to get angry, to Hulk out.  Bruce’s secret is actually that he’s always angry, to which he transforms and punches the whale (and the theme gears up).  Our heroes circle up (iconic image) as the Chitauri yell at them.  Tony tells Cap to give the orders.  Thor is use bottleneck the portal, use lightning,  Tony is on perimeter; turn it back or turn it to ash.  Barton is up high, calling out patterns; Tony gives him a lift.  Steve and Natasha will remain on the ground, keeping fighting on them.  And Hulk…smash.  Which he does with glee.

Natasha eventually figures they need to close the portal, and has Steve give her a boost up so she can commandeer a ride from a Chitauri.  Selvig had been hit with a blast at some point and now realizes that there is a safeguard he built in.  You can close the portal with the scepter.  Hulk leaps into Stark Tower to confront Loki.  “Enough!” Loki shouts, calling Hulk a dull creature.  “I am a god, and I will not be bullied…”  Hulk grabs Loki and smashes him several times into the floor.  Loki wheezes from the crater and Hulk calls him “puny god.”  [Just about the funniest scene in the film.]  Everyone fights together (there’s a great tracking shot where we see everyone and all the action in one continuous shot), Steve and Thor both throwing and retrieving their weapons, Hulk even helping Thor – though he punches him as payback for the carrier fight.  Clint calls out patterns to Tony. 

In the meantime, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Council calls Fury and order him to release a nuclear bomb on New York City in order to stop the army.  Fury recognizes that “the Council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.”  [One of the best lines from the film].  He won’t release a bomb until he’s sure that the Avengers can’t handle it.  The Council goes behind his back and orders a pilot to takeover.  Fury manages to stop that plane, but not the back up.  He calls Tony to tell him on the incoming nuke.  Tony breaks away and flies as fast as he can to intercept it and shoots straight into the portal.  As he does that, the rest of the team is starting to fray.  Clint has to leap off the roof before he’s blown up, crashing into a window and landing painfully on his quiver.  Steve is shot a few times and even Thor is lagging a bit.  The Hulk is overwhelmed by fire, then Natasha says she can close the portal.  Tony has them wait long enough to take the nuke through.  As he enters space, his suit shuts down and he begins falling.  He’s awake long enough to see the missile hit and the ship explode.  Back in the city, the army falls down.  When the team on the ground can see the explosion, Steve makes the call for Natasha to close the portal.  Iron Man falls through at the last second, free from the explosion that gets trapped in space.  Agents cheer from the carrier, though Fury is downturned, knowing what it cost to rid the city of the nuke. 

The Avengers are happy to see Iron Man, but Thor quickly realizes he’s not slowing down his fall.  He swings his hammer, ready to retrieve his teammate, but Hulk catches him from midair.  He lays him down, but Tony is not breathing, as far as they can tell in the suit, whose reactor is growing dim.  Hulk yells and that startles Tony awake.  He’s exhausted and tells everyone they should try shawarma.  Well, first, they have to deal with something.  Loki has crawled out of the crater and asks Tony for that drink he offered earlier, while the whole team is standing around him, Clint’s arrow aimed directly at him.

The team does have to break apart; Thor takes Loki in a gag back to Asgard with the Tesseract.  Bruce accompanies Tony.  Natasha and Clint leave together.  Steve rides away on his bike.  Fury speaks to the Council, informing them that no, he’s not tracking the team’s whereabouts; they’ve earned a leave of absence.  And while that was not his call to make, he didn’t argue with the god who did.  Fury speaks to Maria Hill afterwards, that he trusts them to return because at some point, they’ll need them.  We see Tony working on new plans for the tower (and there are specialized floors laid out for each team member) and as the camera pans away, the only letter left out of Stark is the “A.”

There are two credit scenes; the first being a report on the invasion.  The reporter tells his ruler that to challenge the unruly humans is to court death.  A purple face turns towards the screen (that now all audiences know is Thanos, but only those who read the comics knew when the film first came out).  The second scene is simply the team eating shawarma silently after the battle; everyone exhausted [and trying not to laugh.  And Chris Evans’ hand is in front of his face to hide a beard he grew for his next role].

I will take a minute to say that the theme is very cool, with the strings keeping a rhythm that pushes the tempo a little, building excitement.  Then there’s a fanfare that’s perfect for a superhero movie.  Then it repeats a little more sedately which works well for the background of scenes.  It’s quickly become iconic; we hear this and know that heroes are banding together.  It’s positive.  It’s a full orchestra score compared to the electric guitar heavy Iron Man theme, or the brass fanfare of Captain America.

And let’s not forget the bloopers!  They play the theme from Smokey and the Bandit due to a crack from Robert Downey Jr.  It’s four minutes of fun I’ll play if I need something “fluffy” or funny.  Actors crack up and can’t set props down, or get a parachute on.  Cobie is a little more dramatic about Coulson’s death and Tom Hiddleston is dead on with an Alan Rickman impersonation (there’s a twinge of sadness knowing that beloved actor has passed now).  He also cracks up when he’s supposed to be moaning on the floor and even director Joss Whedon gets in on the argument, yelling for everyone to stop fighting.  Chris Hemsworth occasionally struggles to catch his hammer; Chris Evans catches his shield and keeps going.  Also, check out Tom Hiddleston’s appearance at Comic Con the following year as Loki, mimicking his speech from the movie.  The crowd goes nuts and Tom basks in it.  They chant “Loki!  Loki!  Loki!” but go silent when he puts his finger to his lips.  At the end, he has the crowd say his name, which they gladly do.  He now has his army.  The fact that he gets the entire Hall H (one of the bigger halls at the convention from what I’ve heard) to cheer for the villain…it’s a testament to the actor.  It is amazing and this is why we love him!

This film has just become iconic.  It’s one of the major crossovers in cinema, pulling superheroes that had their own films into one.  Black Widow eventually got her own movie and Hawkeye got his own show (neither of which I have seen yet).  As opposed to say X-Men that was always written as a team.  There wasn’t much development of some major characters on an individual basis.  It’s well written in the way that we remember a lot of the dialogue from the film.  The action is engaging and everyone seemed to get their moment.  True, the MCU only gets bigger from here, but I do recall it being a big deal when it came out and we shouldn’t forget that.  After this film released, there was so much speculation on what direction the universe would go (and fans went wild!)  It’s definitely a movie I recommend.

Up Next: Iron Man 3

“What happened to you?” “I joined the Army.”

Captain America: The First Avenger

Ho boy, there are a lot of familiar faces in this movie.  Chris Evans (he was recently Ransom Drysdale in Knives Out, we saw him as Johnny Storm the Human Torch in 2005’s Fantastic Four, and was opposite Scarlett Johansson in the rom com The Nanny Diaries) leads the film as Steve Rogers, the titular Captain America.  Sebastian Stan (he was in a couple episodes of the first season of Once Upon a Time) is his best friend, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.  Hayley Atwell (she’s Evelyn Robin, Christopher Robin’s wife in the 2018 Christopher Robin film starring Ewan McGregor, Ella’s mother in the live-action Cinderella, briefly appears in Testament of Youth [I mentioned it, oh gosh, a few years back as a movie I watched because Kit Harington is in it], and was the best friend to Keira Knightley’s character in The Duchess) is the capable Agent Peggy Carter [they proceeded to give her her own show…that I have not finished watching yet].

Tommy Lee Jones was in another superhero film before he played Colonel Phillips, as Harvey Two-Face Dent in Batman Forever.  Hugo Weaving (brilliant as Lord Elrond in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and the villain Smith in Matrix, as well as voicing Megatron in the Transformer films) faces off as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, aided by Toby Jones (he was in one episode of BBC’s Sherlock, and Dr. Who, as well as The Hunger Games franchise.  He voices Dobby in the Harry Potter series and is a stooge of sorts in Ever After [fun note, he’s in Pale Blue Eyes, which stars Christian Bale and was filmed at a university about half an hour from where I live]) as Dr. Zola.

Richard Armitage (Guy Gisbourne in BBC’s Robin Hood, dashing as John Thornton in North and South.  He made an appearance in Ocean’s Eight, but most well-known for starring as Thorin in the Hobbit trilogy) makes an early appearance as Heinz Kruger.  Stanley Tucci (he was in Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games, and Maestro Cadenza in the live-action Beauty and the Beast; all in the last twenty years) is Dr. Abraham Erskine.  And Dominic Cooper is a young Howard Stark (he reprises the role in Agent Carter, and also appeared in The Duchess, as Charles Grey.  He sings a bit in Mamma Mia with Amanda Seyfried).  A few other familiar faces: Natalie Dormer (the sultry Anne Boleyn in The Tudors, a little sweeter as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones.  She also had a role in The Hunger Games franchise) is Lorraine, and the old man in Norway is David Bradley, whom many of us know as Argus Filch in Harry Potter.

The film opens with discovering a crash site in the Artic; a huge plane.  And in that plane is a bright red and blue shield (we can guess what this means, even for non-comic-literate viewers).  We jump back to 1942 to an attack in Norway (note that this is the same town that was referenced in the beginning of Thor where the Frost Giants attacked).  A bit like Last Crusade, Nazis are attempting to uncover a knight’s tomb in search of a relic.  Their leader enters and easily knocks the stone cover to the floor and removes a bluish cube, commenting that some superstitions are actually science.  He names the cube as the Tesseract, the jewel of Odin’s treasure room [considering the mythos of the MCU, this may tie the two movies together, that Odin sent the Tesseract to Midgard (Earth) for safe keeping and left it where there was an established human presence that worshiped the Asgardians as gods and thus would keep their relics hidden and safe].  Then smashes it, knowing it is not the real Tesseract, but it must be close by.  He surmises it is in the carving of Yggdrasil, the Tree of the World; a guardian of wisdom and fate.  The actual Tesseract glows blue.  While the Fuhrer digs for trinkets in the desert (referencing Indiana Jones a bit, I feel like), this man has uncovered something more.  The old man guarding the cube remarks that the other is a fool and cannot control the power that he holds.  He will burn.  The Nazi leader comments he already has and destroys the village.

Meanwhile, in New York, a scrawny man, Steve Rogers, is attempting to enlist in the Army, but his list of health issues bar him from being a solider.  When Steve is watching a film later, he tells off a rude man in the theatre, which leads the rude man to beating Steve up in a back alley.  Steve never gives up, quipping “I can do this all day,” but it is a good thing that his friend, James “Bucky” Barnes comes along and helps out.  James is in uniform, ready to deploy with the 107th in the morning.  However, on his last night, he drags Steve with him on a double date to a science expo.  Howard Stark, Tony’s father, is there, showing off his latest design, just like his son will sixty-odd years later.  Bucky and Steve argue outside a recruiting station; Bucky doesn’t want Steve to get sent to the war, home will be safer.  But Steve feels like he can’t do less than any other man.  Steve meets Dr. Erskine, who is part of the Strategic Scientific Reserve and the doctor offers Steve a chance.

Steve reports for basic training and Colonel Phillips is not impressed by this scrawny man, but Steve certainly gives it his all.  The point of their program is to create the best Army, by making super soldiers.  On a run, their instructor challenges the men to get a flag and simply jumping up the pole doesn’t work.  Steve instead uses his noggin and unpins the pole, letting the flag fall over.  He gets a ride back to camp.  Agent Peggy Carter watches all of this.  Erskine argues that he is looking for qualities beyond the physical; then Steve impresses everyone by jumping on a grenade that Phillips throws, while everyone else dives for cover.  Luckily, it’s a dud.  And Steve is accepted as the candidate for Erskine’s experiment, a formula that enhances a man.  Not just physically, but in that good traits become great and bad ones become worst.  His first subject was Johann Schmidt, the head of Hitler’s research division (the man that claimed the Tesseract in Norway), code-named Hydra.  Like Hitler, Schmidt has a passion for occult power and Teutonic myth, but truly believes that these myths are not fantasy, they’re real.  There is a great power in the earth.  Which Erskine doesn’t know, but Schmidt found.  After seeing the result in Schmidt, Erskine defected and is now searching for a worthy man.  For a weak man knows the value of strength and also knows compassion, he comments to Steve, and has him promise “to stay who you are.”  A good man, not a perfect soldier.

Back in Europe, a Dr. Zola is experimenting on the Tesseract with Schmidt in order to get energy.  Schmidt knows what Erskine is up to and has to stop him.  He must take away Erskine’s power from the Allies in order to secure a victory for Hydra.

Peggy leads Steve into the secret lab for the experiment, which is aided by Howard Stark.  Military and government brass are on hand to witness the event, which Erskine remarks is the first step on the path to peace.  His serum will start the process, then Steve will be hit by Vita-Rays to complete the transformation.  Steve steps into the capsule and as a bright light threatens to blind everyone, he shouts.  Peggy wants it shut down, thinking there is trouble, but Steve insists he can continue.  Stark dials it all the way up, then things start sparking.  The capsule opens and an impressively muscled Steve Rogers steps out.  Peggy is impressed and a bit taken aback (as are many female viewers).  But the State Department representative leaves a device in the viewing room, that he blows up in order to create a distraction to steal the last vial of serum and shoot Erskine.  Steve goes to his mentor while Peggy goes after the German.  She faces off against a car, and Steve saves her from getting run over, then chases after the car.  It’s a neighborhood he knows, so he finds a shortcut, but still ends up facing off against the spy.  He uses a car door as a shield for a moment until the spy kidnaps a child.  He throws him in the water and the kid happily shouts he can swim, so Steve can dive after the spy in the sub.  But once they’re on land, the spy bites down on a cyanide capsule, his last words being “Hail Hydra.”  The serum was smashed in the scuffle, so they now must rely on Steve’s blood to unlock the secret.

Schmidt faces off against other Nazi officers, who want to shut Hydra down, reminding the man that he serves at the Fuhrer’s pleasure.  The Red Skull has been indulged long enough, they comment.  Schmidt states that he has harnessed the power of the gods.  That just makes them think he’s mad.  And his response is to use one of his new weapons to vaporize all the officers.  “Hail Hydra,” he remarks.

Stark has to admit he is impressed by the Hydra technology; he’s nowhere close to them.  The SSR has decided to take the fight to Hydra.  But Steve is not going.  They need him in a lab so they can create more super soldiers.  A senator offers Steve another option, being the front man for morale.  He goes on tours across the U.S. in a show, boosting war bond sales, as the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan.  Comics start appearing about him.  That’s fairly fine and dandy until he appears in front of soldiers on the front who are not impressed.  Peggy finds him, commenting that he was meant for more; his only options are not lab rat or dancing monkey.  Then he finds out that the 107th was badly hit in an attack, most either dead or captured.  He asks Colonel Phillips about Bucky and is again told there is nothing he can do.

Well, Steve comes up with a plan, grabbing a helmet and a shield, and Peggy convinces Howard to help fly them into enemy territory.  Steve drops in and finds the Hydra facility where hundreds of prisoners are being held.  He gathers some evidence and frees the prisoners, then goes after Bucky.  He spots Zola, who is escaping with Schmidt, but is more concerned with Bucky at that moment.  Bucky is glad for a rescue, but remembers Steve being shorter.  Steve faces off against Schmidt, who rigged the facility to blow.  Schmidt reveals that he truly has become the Red Skull, pulling the skin off his face.  He gladly pronounces that he has left humanity behind and that Steve should do the same and embrace that feeling.  Steve would rather not.  Zola and Schmidt escape, and Bucky begins to make his way to the other side.  Steve has to jump.

Phillips pens a note, declaring Captain Steve Rogers killed in action and reprimanding Peggy Carter.  There is a commotion at camp: Captain Rogers leads the prisoners, closely followed by Sergeant Barnes and several other men who fell together while locked up.  Steve is willing to hand himself over for military discipline, but Phillips is forced to admit that won’t be necessary.  Bucky leads the cheers for Captain America.  Now Steve can lead missions.  He caught a glimpse of a map of Hydra’s facilities and plans to wipe them out.  He puts together a team of those who first followed him (who go on to become the Howling Commandos).  Bucky will follow Steve, not Captain America; the little guy who was too dumb to run away from a fight.  Peggy enters in a red dress, stopping all commotion.  She and Steve carry on a conversation and Bucky remarks that he is turning into Steve; now he’s the invisible one.

Stark continues to investigate the glowing sample Steve brought back and a blonde flirts with Steve, resulting in a kiss, which Peggy sees.  When Stark shows Steve some new ideas for a shield, Steve picks up the simple vibranium design.  When he holds it up, Peggy shoots at him.  Stark is a bit impressed and comes clean to Steve that he is not romantically involved with Peggy.

Next are clips of Steve’s missions, with lots of action and shield-throwing and punching.  Schmidt yells “You are failing!”  He cannot advance is plan to take over the world if a simpleton with a shield keeps destroying his factories.  The Commandos and Steve come to a train mission, intent on capturing Zola.  Bucky accompanies Steve to the train and they have to take on a few Hydra soldiers; then a hole is blown in the side of a car and Bucky goes through.  Steve tries to grab him, but Bucky falls into a canyon.  The mission is ultimately a success, but Peggy finds Steve later, drinking.  With his boosted metabolism due to the serum, he cannot get drunk.  Phillips interrogates Zola on information on Schmidt and they begin to plan their final assault. 

Steve heads in on a souped-up motorcycle first and lets himself get captured at the end, to be brought before Schmidt.  The rest of the task force crashes in and Steve heads after Schmidt when the Red Skull runs.  He has a plane waiting, ready to bomb major American cities.  The plane is just too fast for Steve to run after, but Phillips and Peggy bring a car.  Peggy gives Steve a kiss before he jumps onto the plane, Phillips declines.  Steve takes out what pilots he can and a few bombers, then faces off against Schmidt in the cockpit.  They hit the Tesseract housing and Schmidt picks out the cube, which showcases the swirling universe.  Then he evaporates, or disintegrates.  Steve is left to finish the mission.  He has to put the plane down, now, before it gets too close to New York; it will save the most people.  He gets Peggy on the radio and Phillips discreetly leaves.  Peggy tries to talk Steve out of it, but Steve Rogers is Captain America for a reason.  So they plan a dance date, to keep things light, until the line goes dead.

This is how there is a crash site in the Artic and indeed the shield they found is Captain America’s.  Stark is shown to find the Tesseract in the ocean, after it melted through the floor of the plane; he’s searching for Steve and will continue to do so.  The Commandos solemnly celebrate V-E Day.  Furthermore, Steve wakes up in a hospital room, with the radio playing a ball game.  A uniformed woman enters, but Steve picks up on the deception.  The ball game on the radio is from 1941; he knows because he was there.  He smashes through a wall and runs out into the streets…of modern-day New York City.  He stops and is surrounded in Times Square and Nick Fury steps out of a car.  He tells the soldier that he has been asleep for almost seventy years.

The credits note that Captain America will return in the Avengers.  The after-credits scene is Fury approaching Steve in a gym, after he destroys a punching bag.  He has a mission for Steve, to save the world.  And there is a trailer mentioning Some Assembly Required.

I’m noticing that as I re-watch these first few movies in the MCU, I’m recalling that hey, I actually like these movies.  Because they’re fun, like superhero movies should be.  Yes, there should be some sort of danger that they have to overcome and obstacles and such; that all makes a good story.  But these are fun movies to watch that you’re not trying to recall details from three movies ago.  For instance, I watched Iron Man and remember, yeah, Iron Man is cool and fun and this is a good story.  Then I watch Thor and oh yeah, this is definitely cool with the mythology and everything.  And now I watch Captain America and yes, again, this is cool, it’s a good superhero for World War II and introduced other characters that I want to read stories about.  And gearing up for Avengers…I miss some of that excitement.  I’m sure I will go into more detail as we continue through the MCU.

And on a personal note, I have to comment that I felt a bit like Steve Rogers entering Times Square for my first time.  And I even said that, since it was after this movie came out.  I have been to New York City once, on a college choir trip (we got to premiere a piece at Carnegie Hall, which yes, is very cool) and our first night in the city, my group trouped to Times Square and mind you, this is like nine or ten o’clock at night and Times Square is as bright as day with all the signs.  We hit a few stores, including the Disney store because we are millennials.  Later, I did get to check out Central Park and later ate at an Irish pub a few blocks from Times Square.  Sadly, we were there over a holiday weekend and the New York Public Library was not open for me to peruse its shelves.  But yes, I distinctly recall thinking I was a bit like Steve Rogers in Times Square.

Up Next: Avengers  

“Do me a favor, and don’t be dead.”


The fourth movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and boy does it have a cast!  First, you have Kenneth Branagh, who in addition to acting (he’s appeared in three movies he’s directed, is well known amongst a certain generation as Gilderoy Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets, and has appeared in several performances of Shakespeare, including the titular Hamlet and Henry V), has directed both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, as well as the 2015 live action Disney Cinderella, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  On top of that, Chris Hemsworth (before this, in 2009, he played George Kirk in Star Trek, and was the Huntsman in both Huntsman films with Kristen Stewart) stars as Thor, Natalie Portman (well-known for playing Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy [so you kind of have the joke that in this movie you have James Kirk’s dad and Luke Skywalker’s mom, who are now a couple], and Anne Boleyn in the movie adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl) is Jane Foster, and Tom Hiddleston (has gone on to star in several films and even has a scene in Muppets Most Wanted, though I adore him in The Hollow Crown as Prince Hal/Henry V, and he appeared in War Horse alongside Benedict Cumberbatch [and a whole host of other British actors]) is Loki.  [Tom originally auditioned to play Thor, but was cast as Loki instead and these roles became star-making roles for both Hemsworth and Hiddleston…and I still need to watch that Loki show on Disney+.] 

Stellan Skarsgård (he was in both Mamma Mia films and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, along with being Cerdic in King Arthur in 2004 and the Grand Duke in the live-action Cinderella) is Erik Selvig, Anthony Hopkins (known for being Hannibal Lecter in several films, he was Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro in The Mask of Zorro; this actor has a list of credits that goes back to the 60s) is Odin, and Idris Elba (stars in the show Luther on television, was Krall in Star Trek Beyond, and dozens of other appearances [and there were brief rumors that he could be the next James Bond, but he has come out and said he will not]) is Heimdall.  Josh Dallas (I know him better as David Nolan/Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time) is Fandral, Ray Stevenson (he was Porthos in the 2011 Three Musketeers) is Volstagg, and Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson and has a bit more to do in this film.

The film opens in New Mexico (tying it in to comments made in the previous Iron Man 2), with a group of astrophysicists (well, Darcy is not one, but she was the only applicant for the assistant position) investigating atmospheric disturbances.  They drive towards weird lights in the sky, then something hits the earth.  As Jane insists they get closer, they run into…something.  They rush out of the truck and discover it’s a person.

Odin narrates a tale of yesteryear, how the Asgardians, led by Odin, beat back the Frost Giants when they tried to freeze the mortal realm, revealing that there are several realms and mortals believed at that time that these realms held some of their gods [this film gave me an interest in Norse mythology; I had already been interested in Vikings due to their ties to Britain, but I still have a lot of research left to do, hopefully to tie elements into my own fantasy book series].  They may now be relegated to man’s myths and legends, but it was Asgard that brought peace to the universe.  The scene pans to Asgard, a shining realm and Odin is telling this tale to his two sons.  One day, one of them will have to defend that peace.  Young Thor dreams of battle and Odin cautions him that “a wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.”  Both boys are eager and Odin once again curbs their enthusiasm, stating only one may ascend the throne of Asgard, yet both were born to be kings (a bit of foreshadowing). 

It appears that years have passed and there is now a great celebration going on [I love the inclusion of knotwork in the design, especially on Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir…there is a historical link between the Norse and the Celts, considering that the Vikings harried the Scottish northern coast for centuries].  While Thor is egging on the crowd, Odin is serious; this is the coronation of his heir and firstborn, who wields the hammer, Mjölnir, whose power is no equal, “it is a weapon to destroy or as a tool to build.”  It is a fit companion for a king.  He asks Thor to swear to guard the Nine Realms, preserve the peace, and cast aside all selfish ambition and pledge himself to the good of the realm.  Before Odin can proclaim Thor king, he senses a security breach in the sacred vault; Frost Giants have broken in and attempt to steal back their glowing blue casket that is the source of their power.  But a silver guard, the Destroyer, stops them.  When Odin, Thor, and Loki investigate, Thor immediately wants to march into Jotunheim for answers, and to knock a few heads.  Odin snaps that Thor is not king yet, and thus the decision is not his to make.  Thor throws a tantrum in his chambers and Loki attempts to calm his brother, something that he has undoubtedly had to do in the past.  He’s not entirely helpful since he tells Thor he’s right and they should go ask questions, but that would mean defying father.  Thor thinks it is an excellent idea and drags his brother and his friends to visit Heimdall, who guards the Bifrost, the magical transport between realms.

Heimdall wants to know how these giants gained access because he sees all, except them.  So he allows Thor and his friends through.  Thor does not negotiate well with Laufey, who sees that this young prince only craves battle.  Thor does not know what his actions will unleash, Laufey warns, as well as declaring that the House of Odin is full of traitors.  Loki takes over negotiations and they are almost home free until Laufey insults Thor, who is ready to smash things with his hammer.  A fight ensues, and Volstagg [who reminds me of a Tolkien-esque dwarf…probably on purpose considering that Tolkien’s inspiration for the Dwarves were from the Norse sagas…more on that when we reach the Hobbit movies] warns his friends not to be touched by the Frost Giants; their touch burns.  Yet, when Loki is grabbed by one, his skin turns blue, then back to normal.  But no time to ponder that because Laufey has released a large beast that chases Thor’s friend while they attempt to retreat after Fandral has been wounded.  Thor continues to take out giants, then runs his hammer through the beast’s mouth, killing him.  But they’re still surrounded, until Odin arrives on an eight-legged horse [Sleipnir, according to legend.  And also according to legend, Loki’s son…not sure how that works out in the MCU].  Thor cheers, figuring his father is there to lead the battle.  Odin silences him and treats with Laufey; these were the actions of a boy (not a man, not a prince, not a would-be king), treat them as such.  And Laufey still fears Odin at this moment, so the Asgardians return home, under the threat of war.  Odin dismisses Thor’s friends and speaks to Thor.  Thor insists that the Jotun must learn to fear him, just as they feared Odin.  Odin retorts, “that is pride and vanity speaking, not leadership.”  Thor tries to argue back, that their status as fallen because of peace, Odin interrupts, “you are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!”  “And you are an old man and a fool!” Thor shouts back.  Odin takes a moment, yes, he was a fool, for thinking Thor was ready.  Loki attempts to intercede on Thor’s behalf, but Odin dismisses him with a growl [which actually startled Tom, since it was not in the script.  This is stunning acting on Anthony Hopkins’ part.]  Odin declares Thor unworthy, of the realms, of his title, and of the loved ones he has betrayed (and note how the camera turns to Loki at that moment).  Odin strips his son of his cloak, and of Mjölnir and his power.  He casts Thor out.  Then commands the hammer “whosoever hold this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” and sends it after his son.

These brings us back to Jane and her friends hitting Thor, who is very confused and yelling strange things at the sky, like hammer and Heimdall.  Darcy is freaked out and tases Thor (which is a bit hilarious).  Jane is distracted by the markings in the dirt, but Erik talks her in to taking the strange young man to the hospital.  (They don’t see the hammer crash down a little way away.)  When Thor initially wakes up, he tries to wreak havoc, until he’s tranquilized and strapped down.  Jane and her friends attempt to analyze the pictures of what they saw last night, mentioning an Einstein-Rosen bridge; essentially a wormhole.  She realizes she’s looking at another dimension and that the strange man is her best piece of evidence, so they have to find him.  He’s escaped the hospital, but not far, because she manages to back into him.  They clothe Thor [and we admire a shirtless Chris Hemsworth] and get him food; though his manners leave a bit to be desired.  At the same time, the hammer has created a crater that some townsmen have found and decided to see who can pull it out of the ground (a la the sword in the stone situation…hmmm…) (and our Stan Lee cameo).

Meanwhile, in Asgard, Thor’s friends and Loki discuss current events.  Loki reveals that he was the one who had ordered a guard to go to Odin, but obviously he was late, because the plan was to never arrive at Jotunheim.  And he never dreamed that Odin would banish Thor, and he loves his brother more dearly that the others.  Nevertheless, Thor is reckless and dangerous.  Loki storms out.  Sif comments that Loki speaks of love, but he’s always been jealous of Thor, and they begin thinking Loki may be responsible; he’s prone to mischief.  Loki finds the Jotun’s blue casket and it begins to turn him blue again.  Odin discovers him and Loki demands answers.  Is he cursed?  No.  What am I?  He is Odin’s son.  What more?  The casket was not the only thing Odin took from Jotunheim that day.  No; when Odin entered the temple, he found an abandoned baby, small for a giant’s offspring; and we see the babe change its appearance to mimic Odin’s.  Laufey’s son, incidentally.  Loki doesn’t believe that Odin brought him home simply because he was an innocent child, not when he’s the same monster that parents warn their children of; or was it to be held prisoner until Odin has use of him?  Yes, Odin had a purpose: he wanted a permanent alliance with Laufey and though Loki could be that bridge, but it doesn’t matter now, not after what Thor has started.  Loki resents that Odin never told him; too hurt to realize that Odin viewed him as a son, he simply remembers not being as good as Thor, feeling that Odin had always favored Thor and this must be the reason why [a superb performance by Tom…this is why we love him].  Odin protests that Loki is twisting Odin’s words, then collapses.  Loki calls for help.  Later, while Odin is sleeping, he questions his mother why he was never told.  She reiterates that they always viewed Loki as their son and simply wanted to love and protect him.  And there has always been a purpose to what Odin has done.  Loki is taking on the mantle of king and denies his friends’ plea to bring Thor back.  His first command cannot be to undo Odin’s last.  (We don’t believe that and neither do his friends.)

Back on Earth, the feds show up at the crater and lock it down.  Jane, Thor, Darcy, and Erik hear about it, after Thor demands more coffee by throwing down his mug.  Thor realizes that the crater holds his hammer and he must retrieve it.  Jane wants to follow, but Erik warns her off.  They shortly discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. is at their lab, confiscating her research.  So Jane finds Thor, who makes the deal that once he has his hammer, he will get Jane’s things back.  Thor enters the compound as a storm brews (he is the god of thunder, after all).  He easily takes on any guards that are sent his way, though he doesn’t kill him.  When the last one steps in front of him, he comments, “you’re big.  Fought bigger.”  Coulson calls from someone to get up high and keep on eye on their intruder.  A man, Barton, we hear, grabs a bow, then drawls to Coulson that he’s starting to root for their intruder as he takes out guards.  But Coulson holds on his call, wanting to see what Thor does when he finds the hammer.  Thor pulls on the handle and the hammer doesn’t budge.  He shouts to the raining sky and sinks to the mud.  He’s docile as he’s taken into custody and Jane quietly calls for Erik to pick her up.  She persuades Erik to go get Thor, arguing that while Thor may speak of magic, magic has been called a precursor to science.  Erik has heard of S.H.I.E.L.D. through a colleague and knows they’re not to be trifled with, but he will help Jane.  And get Thor to leave.

Coulson questions Thor, believing him to be a mercenary, but Thor doesn’t answer.  When Coulson steps away, Loki appears.  Then lies to his brother, saying that Odin is dead and their mother has forbidden Thor’s return.  Thor is broken-hearted and does not fight.  Loki makes his own attempt to lift the hammer and fails, though he maintains his illusion so no mortals spot him.  This is when Erik picks up Thor, then takes him drinking in hopes of getting Thor to leave.  Thor willingly drinks with the man, then has to carry him back to Jane’s place.  “He drank, he fought, he made his ancestors proud,” Thor proclaims, then spends a quiet evening with Jane.  He brought her notebook back and encourages her to continue her research; it’s right.  There are other realms out there.  Nine, according to Thor, who explains the Yggdrasill, the World’s Tree, that connects all of them.

Loki is still plotting in Asgard; he visits Jotunheim and promises Laufey that he will sneak him in and he will be able to slay Odin while he sleeps.  And yes, it was Loki who had snuck the few Frost Giants in to ruin Thor’s big day.  It was his way of protecting the realm from Thor’s rule.  Meanwhile, Thor’s friends decide to come get Thor and Heimdall helps, simply by not being the one to open the Bifrost.  He’s been keeping an eye on Thor.  Loki realizes what is going on and sends the Destroyer to keep Thor from returning.  Thor is thrilled to see his friends (Sif and the Warriors Three…which a SHIELD agent comments that they look like they came from a Renaissance Faire…he’s got a point [considering I have friends who have dressed up as various Avengers and attended faire as a group, “Thor” even threw his mug down and demanded another]), but argues he cannot come home.  Then he discovers Loki’s lies.  S.H.I.E.L.D. briefly wonders if the Destroyer is one of Stark’s until is blasts them.  Thor will stay with Jane to help evacuate the town; he does not have the power to help his friends, so they will be the distraction (which involves tossing the “dwarf”).  Sif runs the Destroyer through with a spear and all is well for a moment, until it turns its entire body and continues blasting.

Back in Asgard, Loki freezes Heimdall so he can get the Frost Giants in.  Heimdall realizes that Loki has found secret paths that Heimdall cannot see and that is how he has arranged his plot.  Thor, to stop the carnage, faces the Destroyer alone and speaks to his brother, apologizing for whatever wrong he has done.  He offers his life instead.  The Destroyer smacks Thor, sending him flying.  Jane rushes to him and believe our hero has died.  Until Odin’s words echo: whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.  The hammer flies to Thor and he regains his armor and power.  And yes, Jane, Oh. My. God, is correct.  The battle is short after that, Thor plowing the hammer through the Destroyer.  But he and his friends must rush back to Asgard to stop Loki, though he promises to return for Jane.  She pulls him in for a kiss before he goes, not settling for one of his kisses to her knuckles.  Thor also got Coulson to return Jane’s things; they are all on the same side and she’ll need it to continue her research.

Heimdall breaks the freeze so he can get Thor and his friends back and Thor flies to the palace.  Frigga, Odin’s wife, stands ready to defend her sleeping husband against the Frost Giants, though they knock her away after she takes out one.  Laufey is eager to kill Odin, saying “your death comes at the hand of Laufey.”  Loki blasts the king of the Frost Giants, and declares “and yours came by the son of Odin.”  Frigga is thrilled to see Thor when he enters, then he reveals Loki’s treachery.  They take their fight to the Bifrost, which Loki plans to use to destroy Jotunheim.  Thor’s view has changed and he wants to stop Loki.  He initially doesn’t wish to fight his brother, but Loki eggs him on until they begin exchanging blows.  Loki accuses Thor of becoming weak, thanks to human Jane.  He says he never wanted the throne, he just wanted to prove himself a worthy son to Odin, the equal of Thor.  Thor declares this madness.  “Is it?” Loki wonders (again, superb acting).  Thor throws Loki on to the bridge, then places his hammer on him while he figures out what to do.  Loki mocks, what can he do now with all his strength?  Well, there is something Thor can do.  He uses the hammer to smash the rainbow bridge to the Bifrost, destroying it, despite Loki’s protests that Thor will never be able to see Jane again.  But it will save the realms.  The blast knocks them both off the bridge; Thor grabs Loki and Odin grabs Thor.  Loki pleads with their father, “I could have done it, father.  For you.”  Odin sadly says “no,” (not sure why, or what he’s referring to), but Loki lets go of Thor, who cries after his brother.  Loki disappears into the swirling vortex.

Sif comments to Frigga later that Thor mourns his brother, and misses Jane.  Thor speaks to Odin, saying that one day, he may make his father proud, but he still has a lot to learn.  There has been no wiser king, nor better father than Odin, he says.  Odin returns that Thor has already made him proud.  Heimdall consoles his prince that Earth is not wholly lost to them, there is always hope.  We see Jane continuing her research, no doubt trying to bring Thor to her.

The after credits scene is Erik meeting Fury, who shows him a glowing blue cube that combines legend and history.  It is power and Fury wants Erik to study it.  In the background, there is Loki, who is intrigued by this cube as well.

My feelings on this movie?  If it’s not already apparent, I have a definite interest.  I have learned that Marvel played a little fast and loose with typical Norse mythology; not that anyone would be surprised, considering the water downed version of Greek mythology Disney gave us in Hercules.  Truly, the acting is superb, very emotional performances by the main cast.  Anthony Hopkins shows us his range, from angry father, to worried king.  His is a flawed character, to be expected from what little I’ve gleaned of mythology, evident when he tries to talk to Loki.  Thor started as a truly arrogant warrior prince.  Of course he can take on an army of Jotuns with just his four friends and younger brother.  Even if you just take into account this film, Odin clearly saw enough of war and realized that peace was best for the Nine Realms and he is in charge of that.  So for his oldest son to threaten that, to flounce the lessons he tried to instill.  And Thor did grow.  We can see that in how he treated Jane and her friends.  At first, they are simply mortal servants.  Then he helps make breakfast and will let his friends have the glorious battle while he gets innocent people to safety.  He argues Sif away from death in battle; live and tell those stories yourself, he encourages her.  He became worthy of his title and strength; a great message.  And we get some funny scenes of Thor not being so mighty, like getting tased.

And yes, I’ve grown to love Loki, partly because Tom Hiddleston is an adorable human being from what we’ve seen.  He comes across as a cool operator, showing one face while thinking or plotting something else, but in the presence of those he loves, he will breakdown.  He demands the truth from his father and then battles for what he feels is his rightful place that was denied him with his stronger older brother. He doesn’t truly begin to outright lie until later in the movie.  He may manipulate and as Fandral comments, he’s been one for mischief, but not treason.  As most villains go, he’s fine until he reaches a breaking point.  And that was discovering his ancestry.  Yet, he still wants to be a hero.  He wants to save his father and this is all about proving himself to Odin.  He delayed Thor’s coronation because he felt Thor is not right for the kingdom and if he shows their father Thor sneaking to Jotunheim, Thor will be demoted and Loki will ascend.  His final words before he falls is he was doing it all for Odin.  Odin may have said no because he feels that Loki did this all for Loki, but we do witness later that Loki and Thor were honest brothers.  There was no question as they were children.  There was love and happiness at one time.

Again, I applaud the performances.  As I saw commented somewhere, most likely Pintrest, Thor beautifully balanced magic in the real world.  They exist separately, but this one brings them together without jarring.  (Which is something I am striving for as I work on my fantasy series.)  The arcs are great in this movie, but we can tell that they are really starting to build to something else.

I can make the recommendation to read The Witch’s Heart by new author Genevieve Gornichec (a fairly local woman that I heard about through the faire grapevine), which involves Loki. I will hold off on fanfic recommendation until we’re further into the universe since they all start melding together.

Next Time: Captain America: The First Avenger

“Sir! I’m going to have to ask you to exit the donut!”

Iron Man 2

Our core cast returns, though Rhodey is now played by Don Cheadle (and keeps the gig for the rest of the MCU), and Scarlett Johansson joins as Natalie Rushman/Agent Romanoff.  Tony’s father, Howard makes brief appearances, played by John Slattery.  We pick up essentially where we left off in the previous Iron Man film, at Tony Stark’s press conference where he reveals he’s Iron Man.  There is an old man in Russia watching, who calls his son, Ivan to him.  He has knowledge to share, then passes away.  Ivan then finds Stark blueprints to the Arc Reactor which also bear the name, Anton Vanko.  With the wall of clippings about Stark and Iron Man, we can guess where this is going.  And then Ivan is successful.

Time jump to six months later and Iron Man leaps from a plane, dodges explosions, to land at his dazzling Stark Expo to AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill.  His opening address, he insists, is not about him, but about a legacy; what gets left behind for future generations and that is why for the next year, the expo will host the best and brightest from all nations to pool their resources in hopes of a better future.  Then he shows a video of his father at the last Expo, who claims that technology is the way to better living and the possibility of world peace.  Backstage, Tony is testing his blood toxicity level.  Afterwards, Tony is ordered to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Rival Justin Hammer is called in, as is Rhodey to attempt to give testimony against Tony, but Rhodey knows what game the committee is playing.  They want Tony to hand over the Iron Man suit to the military, or as Senator Stern puts it “to the American people.”  Tony refuses.  They attempt to show evidence of other copy cats out there, including Hammer, and then Tony shows them all failing.  He is confident that he is the only one with the knowledge to make that kind of suit.  He is America’s nuclear deterrent and has successfully privatized world peace.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Ivan is still working and adding whips to his arc reactor.  And back in California, JARVIS informs us that Tony has palladium poisoning, as it is the core of the arc reactor.  The thing that is keeping Tony alive is killing him.  Together they have tried every known element, but nothing is a suitable replacement for the palladium.  Pepper comes down and tries to get answers out of Tony about the company, which he evades, until he flat out tells her he wants her to run the company, to be CEO.  And he’s given it thought, he can name his own successor.  While Tony is boxing with Happy later, Pepper brings in Natalie Rushman from legal for the transfer.  Tony is obviously taken by the pretty young woman, who can then flip Happy.  He wants her as his new assistant.

Tony’s next stunt is to take over driving his racecar in the Grand Prix in Monaco.  Which is where Ivan Vanko shows up with his laser whips and begins taking out cars on the loop in an effort to get to Tony.  Happy and Pepper dash in with a suitcase that turns into a suit (Happy ramming Ivan a few times) and Tony can take on Ivan.  He then convinces the French police (and no, Robert Downey Jr cannot speak French), to let him interrogate Ivan for five minutes alone.  He muses to Ivan why he didn’t attempt to sell his device on the black market.  Ivan snaps back that the Stark family is full of thieves and butchers and reveals his father was Anton Vanko.  Ivan declares “when you make God bleed, people cease to believe.”  He also knows that the palladium is killing Tony.  Tony leaves.

Hammer then arranges for Ivan to be broken out of prison; he had seen his attack on Tony and instead of being horrified, enjoyed seeing someone try to take Tony down a peg.  He recruits Ivan to build him suits like Tony’s.  Back in California, Pepper knows Tony is hiding something from her, but he won’t outright admit it, so she goes on damage control with Natalie.  Rhodey goes to check on Tony and discovers that Tony is not feeling well, but again, Tony won’t say anything.  Rhodey insists he doesn’t have to do this alone.  Tony retorts that “contrary to popular believe, I know exactly what I’m doing.”  JARVIS also helps Tony research Anton and Ivan Vanko, but they don’t glean a lot of information.  Tony goes through with his birthday party, acting like the masses expect an eccentric billionaire to act.  Rhodey steps in, in another suit to get Tony to stop while Tony has the DJ play Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.  Rhodey knocks Tony out and flies the new suit to an Air Force base.  The Air Force calls Hammer in to weaponize the suit, where he makes a ridiculous weapons’ demonstration.  Hammer is thrilled to be working with Stark tech, considering that Ivan is now making his suits drones.

This is where S.H.I.E.L.D. steps in; Nick Fury talks sense into Tony and reveals that Natalie Rushman is Agent Romanoff, stationed at Stark Industries to keep on eye on Tony.  They can get him back to working with an injection, but it’s not a cure.  Nick further reveals that he knew Howard Stark, who was actually a founding member of S.H.E.I.L.D.; yes, Anton Vanko used to work with Howard, but saw the arc reactor as a weapon, not energy, and was in it for the money.  Howard is the reason Anton was sent to Siberia and his life declined.  Furthermore, Howard once told Nick that Tony was the hope of the future.  Tony doesn’t quite agree with this; he remembers his father as cold and never said he liked him.  Nevertheless, Fury has other problems to be dealing with and leaves Agent Coulson in charge.  “I got my eye on you,” he warns Tony.  Tony does as he’s instructed and goes through Howard’s notebook and watches the reels that are left, mainly of outtakes of his Expo introduction [which honestly remind me of videos I have seen of Walt Disney introducing Disney World…not wholly ironic, considering that Disney now owns Marvel].  At the end of the reel is a message that Howard leaves for Tony; all of what he was building was for Tony; it is the key to the future, he says.  And above all, his greatest creation was Tony [there exists a version where Howard is holding a young sleeping Tony as he says this; apparently available with the Infinity boxed set…or on YouTube].  So Tony takes a quick trip in to Stark Industries, in attempt to apologize to Pepper and maybe explain.  But it comes out wrong and she sends him home.  Though on the way out, he catches sight of the old Stark Expo models.  And they give him an idea.  At home he makes a digital model he can manipulate and the layout is actually the atom of a new element.  Coulson stops in long enough to say he’s heading to New Mexico, after using a shield to prop up the coils Tony is using.  Of course Tony makes his own system to synthesize the new element after JARVIS tells him it’s impossible.  And it works, with a few mishaps.

Hammer is not happy with Ivan, who doesn’t deliver on what he said he would.  His drones will only be suitable for presentation, not demonstration.  Hammer is mollified since he has a new suit to kick things off with, but he sets guards on Ivan while he heads out to the Expo.  (Really dude, you didn’t think this ex-convict would try to double cross you?  Are you that dumb?)  After Ivan takes care of his guards, he calls Tony and Tony realizes what Hammer has been up to and the danger that is looming.  Tests will have to wait on the new care (which is a new shape as well), he shoves it in and suits up.  Tony arrives in the middle of Hammer’s military presentation and manages to warn Rhodey before the new suit shuts Rhodey out and the drones actually open fire.  Tony flies off to draw fire away from civilians and evades what he can.  [SPOILER: the kid that has an Iron Man mask on, that Tony saves, is a young Peter Parker, confirmed by Tom Holland and Marvel studios, which a lot of fans theorized for years.]   Pepper confronts Hammer behind the scenes and Natalie heads to his headquarters with Happy.  Happy keeps one guard busy while Agent Romanoff kicks butt.  But Ivan has escaped, though she manages to override his code to Rhodey’s suit so the friends can take on the rest of the drones, and dropping the bomb that Tony had been dying, freaking Pepper out momentarily.  Their last opponent is Ivan in a new suit with larger whips.  The blast from their two hands manages to take him out, yet he had rigged the drones to blow, so Tony races off to rescue Pepper.

Their argument on the rooftop results in a kiss, interrupted by Rhodey.  Afterwards, Tony meets with Fury and while he is not recommended for the Avengers Initiative at this time, they would like him to be a consultant.  The film closes out on a presentation for Rhodey and Tony by Senator Sterns to Highway to Hell by AC/DC, and the after credits scene is Coulson’s arrival to New Mexico (the license plate confirming it is the Land of Enchantment as Tony joked).  There is a carter holding a hammer and Coulson remarks “we found it.”

Overall, I still enjoy this film.  Does Tony act like an idiot at times?  Yes.  Do we forgive him a little considering he was dying?  A bit.  On the one hand, it looks like he doesn’t trust those who truly care about him, but in reality, he does.  He trusts Pepper to run him company.  He trusts Rhodey to have a suit, because he certainly could have made it impossible for Rhodey to take one if he really wanted.  He is looking out for the future and what mess he’ll leave behind and he’d rather be remembered as that crazy billionaire who went out in a bang.  He’s just bad at actually having serious conversations with those closest to him.

Next Time: Thor

Connections Start Appearing

The Incredible Hulk

There are several Hulk movies, but this one from 2008 is considered part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though funny enough, not offered on Disney+.  This film features Edward Norton (most recently he was Miles Bron in Glass Onion) as Bruce Banner, Tim Roth (the antagonist in The Musketeer and he faces off against Liam Neeson in Rob Roy) as Emil Blonsky, Liv Tyler (Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) as Betty Ross.  William Hurt plays General Ross (this character will show up throughout the MCU; though the actor played William Marshal [one of the advisors] in 2010’s Robin Hood), and Ty Burrell (I recognize him from the commercials for Modern Family) makes an appearance as Leonard.

The film opens with flashes of the infamous gamma radiation experiment that Banner ran on himself.  People were hurt and he fled (and we catch a glimpse of “Stark Industries” and “Nick Fury SHIELD Command”).  Banner is now trying to control his condition and hiding out in Brazil.  He works at a bottling factory and his boss even remarks he is too smart for the work that he is doing and wants to put him on the payroll.  Bruce declines, but then he scratches himself and blood drops to the belt below.  He cleans it up, however, he missed a bit that went into one bottle.  That Stan Lee then drinks and that incident alerts General Ross, who gathers a team to track Banner down and bring him back to the US Army.  That team includes Emil Blonsky and they’re just told that Bruce “stole military secrets” and responsible for several deaths.  A chase ensues once the team finds Bruce (though you can’t tell much part of the time because the scenes are so dark).  Bruce has to monitor his heart rate and once it gets too fast, he “hulks out.” 

Emil survives the first chase, but is intrigued.  He convinces General Ross to give him more details, which Ross explains they were trying to recreate the super solider serum, but Banner didn’t know his research would be turned into a weapon.  Ross considers Bruce’s body property of the US Army since he did the test on himself.  Blonsky is willing to go after Bruce again, but would benefit from a younger body.  So Ross gives him a small dose of the serum they developed.

In the meantime, Bruce manages to make his way to Culver University, where a Dr. Elizabeth Ross is teaching.  He stays out of her way once he sees she has a new boyfriend, but she eventually catches sight of him and immediately begins to help him.  But Bruce is found on campus and General Ross decides to send the Army to the campus to apprehend him (how does he get away with this?).  Blonsky does well for a bit, until the Hulk throws him into a tree.  The Hulk also protects Betty, which is why the boyfriend won’t help the General further (her father).  Bruce calms down and plans to go on the run with Betty.  He wants rid of his condition and he’s been in contact with a “Mr. Blue,” as to how to go about it.  He needs to get to New York City.

Blonsky manages to recover, thanks to the dose he already has, but he wants more and the general gives it to him.  They manage to track Bruce to New York, but he meets Dr. Stearns first.  Stearns is excited by all the possibilities that Bruce’s research and blood offers, but he doesn’t realize the destruction that can come.  They run an experiment and believe they have cured Bruce.  And that’s when the military strikes again.  Betty is furious with her father and sits with Bruce as they’re taken away.  Blonsky stays behind and wants Bruce’s blood from Stearns, which turns him into an Abomination.  Then he goes on a rampage of Harlem.

Bruce orders the helicopter turned around and hopes he’ll be able to hulk out again and take on Blonsky.  It takes a minute, but it does work, though it’s a tough fight.  The helicopter with the general and Betty crash, though they survive.  The Abomination tells the Hulk that he doesn’t deserve this power and asks him for his last words.  “Hulk…smash!”  The Hulk subdues the Abomination, though Betty shouts for him to not kill the creature.  Yet Bruce still has to run at the end of the film.  This time, he’s in British Colombia.

Our final scene is General Ross getting drunk at a bar and Tony Stark walks in.  He warns Ross that the super solider serum was put on ice for a reason, though he’s putting together a team.  (I question part of this; I get what it’s setting up, but why did Tony think it was a good idea to approach Ross?  Also, why did Blonksy want Ross dead during the attack on New York?)

Overall, not a film I terribly enjoy.  Not one I really intend to watch again.  Questions are raised and not really answered and some of the scenes with the body morphing are a bit disturbing.  Now, Betty and Bruce are sweet together and you can see why they make a good couple.  At the end of the day, I’m more excited to continue on with the rest of the universe.

Up Next: Iron Man 2

“I thought you said supernova was bad?”

Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer

These two particular films came out in 2005 and 2007, right when superhero movies were starting to take off.  They re-did Fantastic Four in 2015 and appears they are trying again in 2024…I don’t know why they think they need re-done that often; these weren’t too bad.  Not mind-blowing, but not bad.  These particular films star Ioan Gruffudd (again, I adore him in Amazing Grace and my brother knows him from the miniseries Horatio Hornblower based on the novel series; he also briefly appeared in Titanic, was Lancelot in the King Arthur movie with Keira Knightley, and star of the short run Forever show on ABC) as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Chris Evans (we’ll be seeing him in the MCU as Captain America soon) as Johnny Storm, Michael Chiklis (this guy reminds me of Mike Holmes from HGTV) as Ben Grimm, and Julian McMahon (I know him best as Cole Turner in Charmed [the early 2000’s version, not the remake that CW has decided to do…seriously, has TV run out of completely new ideas?) as Victor Von Doom.

The film opens with Reed and Ben going to Von Doom Industries to secure funding for a project Reed has in mind.  Victor agrees, mainly because he wants the satisfaction of Reed Richards begging for his help after making him feel inferior in M.I.T., and to show off that Reed’s old girlfriend, Sue Storm, works for Victor now.  And there is a history between Ben and Sue’s brother, Johnny, going back to NASA.  Doom also wants the research from Reed’s trip because it will boost his own company.  And Reed of course, has to utter “what’s the worst that can happen?” when talking to Ben about the trip.  Well, the worst that can happen is that the cloud accelerates and they have to get Ben inside before it hits.  Sue leaves Victor in the middle of his proposal so she can help.

The team returns to Von Doom’s medical facility on Earth.  Everything seems fine at first (and Reed gets a small scene to showcase that he remembers special things about his former girlfriend, when he instructs a nurse to move the orchids away since she’s allergic and instead, put the sunflowers closer to her since they’re her favorite…and Sue hears him, but doesn’t let on).  Johnny heads out with a nurse to go skiing and discovers that he can light himself on fire.  Sue manages to turn invisible during a conversation with Reed and he quickly discovers his new ability to stretch himself.  They run to check on Ben, who got hit with more of a direct blast, but he’s run off to check on his wife.  His wife is now terrified of him because his skin has turned rocklike.  (The way the cloud hit them teases what kind of powers they received, which is cool).  So he sits on a bridge to think about his life and tries to save a suicide jumper, only to cause a traffic jam for his trouble.  But when a fire engine starts to fall off the bridge, the team leaps into action.  Johnny protects a little girl from an explosion, Ben pulls the truck back on to the bridge, Reed stretches to save a falling firefighter, and Sue can project an energy shield which holds back the fire.  The crowd applauds their actions and the four are deemed superheroes.

Reed suggests everyone stays at his apartment in the Baxter Building while he theorizes what happened, mainly, the cloud fundamentally altered their DNA.”  [And cameo by Stan Lee; I think I watched this film before I ever watched X-Men, since I like Ioan Gruffudd, so this was the first time I saw him in a superhero film.]  Victor was not unaffected by the cloud, but hides his symptoms, like controlling electricity.  He orders Reed to figure out what went on, but is also secretly plotting.  He’s not pleased that the investors drop out of his company and is desperate to get his wealth and good name back.  And win Sue back; only to get back at Reed, as he admits to his assistant.  Victor is also turning into metal and kills his doctor when it’s suggested they inform the CDC.  That begins his power trip; he next targets the head of the board.

Reed vows to Ben that he will fix his friend.  Along the way, Ben meets a blind woman who is not scared of him (played by Kerry Washington).  Johnny’s had enough of being cooped up, so he enters into an extreme motorcycle competition, which leads to a public argument between the four.  Victor, who has cameras in Reed’s apartment, learns that Reed is working on a cure, by re-creating the cloud in a hope to reverse the wave.  And Victor knows he needs to take Ben out first, as the strongest and most loyal to Reed.  He points out to Ben that Reed and Sue are getting cozy again and that is delaying the cure.  Which leads to Ben and Reed fighting.  And then Reed tests the machine on himself because he’s willing to risk his life to make sure the machine is perfect for his friend.  And they think it works for a minute, until Reed melts.  Victor brings Ben back to the Baxter Building and uses his power to increase the output from the machine so Ben becomes human again.  Which leaves Ben vulnerable and gives Victor more power.  He then electrocutes Reed and drags him back to Von Doom Industries, hooked up to freezing spray.  Victor uses a heat-seeking missile to try to take out Johnny, who luckily learns to fly at that point divert the missile.

Sue sneaks in invisibly to rescue Reed and tries to take on Victor, who asks his ex-girlfriend: “do you really think fate turns us into gods so we could refuse these gifts?”  Not the first time Victor thought he was a god, according to Sue.  Ben also realizes he needs his new powers in order to save his friends, and uses the machine again, clobbering Victor to save Sue and Reed.  The battle ends up outside and Reed uses science to take down Doom, now masked in a metal mask from his home country of Latveria (like Doom was doing to Reed).  Reed has Johnny superheat Doom, then has Ben spray a fire hydrant on the guy: “what happens when you rapidly cool hot metal?”  The heroes are victorious and Victor is now due to be shipped back to Latveria.  There’s a cheerful party at the end, Ben now dating the blind Angela and happier with his lot in life.  And Reed finally proposes to Sue (using a gasket from the space station because he’s a dork).  Everyone is happy for the couple and Jonny lights a flaming “4” in the sky to celebrate, and to escape Ben.

Rise of the Silver Surfer picks up with the team a few years later, with Reed and Sue attempting to get married; but apparently the ceremony keeps getting postponed.  However, there is a strange shooting star flying over the earth (which wakes up Von Doom in Latveria) and the military wants Reed to help track it.  He initially turns them down because he wants to be a good husband-to-be and focus on his upcoming wedding.  But of course, he actually does work on the tracking system and Ben drags him away an hour before the ceremony.  Sue is a little nervous about getting married since she wants a normal life and family and that’s impossible as a superhero.  Their wedding begins beautifully, until an alarm goes off on Reed’s PDA, then a cosmic entity descends on NYC and disrupts the ceremony.  Johnny flies after the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne; Morpheus from The Matrix), then gets choked and dropped.  Now, when he touches one of his teammates, they switch powers.  Johnny also overhears Reed promise Sue that, after this mission, they can quit the team and have a quiet, normal life.

The team figures out that the next crater will appear in London, so they try to stop him.  But Johnny flies into Reed and switches powers, which almost puts the mission at risk.  At the same time, Victor is back and has spoken to the Surfer, but tells the military that he wants to help.  The key is that the Surfer’s power comes from his board, so they need to enlist Reed again to figure out how to get the two apart.  But Victor secretly works on his own plan.  Reed manages to stand up to the general, highlighting that he is one of the greatest minds in the twentieth century and it’s the general who came to him, asking for help.

Sue meets the Surfer and tries to have a conversation, until the military takes over and fires a missile.  The Surfer protects Sue, but they still have to use Reed’s device to get the board so they can talk to the Surfer, which the military takes over.  Doom shows his true colors when he takes the board and uses his enhanced powers to kill the general.  Sue sneaks in to speak to the Surfer, who admits that he is acting as a beacon to Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, in order to save his own world.  The Fantastic Four break the Surfer out in order to take on Galactus, after they get the board off of Doom.  They use Reed’s new jet, which can also split apart, to track down Doom.  But it’s too late, the Devourer has arrived.  Sue protects the Surfer from a spear that Doom throws, getting impaled in the process.  Johnny offers to take on all four powers to take on Victor and Ben even follows him.  The Surfer gives Sue some of his life force, when it appears she’s died, Reed cradling her body.  With his board back, he flies up into Galactus, with a bit of a push from Johnny.  A bright light explodes and the cloud disperses.

Hugs all around at the end, Sue is not dead, and now Johnny has his own powers back and no switching.  Reed and Sue decide to keep the team together because that’s the best way to save the world.  They have one more wedding and both agree to cut it short when they get another alert.  Sue tosses the bouquet, but Johnny burns it when it looks like his new girlfriend might catch it.  They hop back in their new jet and make another “4” in the sky.

As I already commented, these are not the most epic of superhero movies, but they’re a pleasant watch.  Victor von Doom doesn’t really have much of a reason to be a villain aside from the general “I want power,” spiel.  It’s fun to watch the four interact and know that there is already a backstory to them; it’s not just a new team.  Yes, I agree that Chris Evans makes a better Captain America than Human Torch, because he’s just immature and a jerk part of the time.  (And apparently, Michael B. Jordan was the Human Torch in the 2015 remake, before getting cast as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther; so there’s a joke that those who are Human Torches get better roles in the MCU).  So, overall, the films are OK.  I’ll still probably watch them because I like a few of the actors, but they’re not favorites. I never got into them as much as I got into the newer X-Men or as much as the MCU.

Up Next: For me, taking a break to work on some plotting and worldbuilding, but come the new year, I’ll hop back in with the MCU, starting with Iron Man.

“Those with the greatest power…protect those without.”

X-Men: Apocalypse

The final X-Men movie I will cover (and really the last one I’ve watched; I’m aware Dark Phoenix came out afterwards and continues the story, but it definitely looks like it is not a fun story, and there are several other Logan/Wolverine movies that also look depressing…superhero movies should have a good dose of fun).  Sophie Turner (equally famous for her portrayal of Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, and is now married to Joe Jonas) joins the cast as Jean Grey, and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Prince John in Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood) is the lead antagonist, En Sabah Nur.

Charles’ voice opens the film, saying that mutants are still searching for guidance.  Their gifts can be a curse and when they are given “the greatest gift of all, powers beyond imagination, they may think they are meant to rule the world.”  We go way back in history, to 3600 BCE and the Nile valley.  There is a ceremony going on in ancient Egypt, the crowd chanting “En Sabah Nur.”  There is to be a transference between an ancient mutant and another mutant.  But the guards betray En Sabah Nur and collapse the pyramid, though a few mutants remain loyal and protect their leader or god.  Now, we’re in 1983 and a high school class in Ohio is learning about mutants being “discovered” at the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.  One of the students is Scott Summers, who discovers his powers that day.

At the same time, in East Berlin, there are cage fights between mutants, with Angel as the reigning champion, now to face Nightcrawler.  Raven is in the audience and knocks out a guard in order to overload the electric fencing, so the mutants can escape.  She takes Nightcrawler and is going to get him set up with a new identity.  Meanwhile, Erik is living fairly peacefully in Poland, with a wife and young daughter.  Nina shows an affinity with animals (and is rather adorable).  Note: he has to live like a human in order to survive, but it’s good to see him happy.

Alex picks his brother up and brings him to Xavier’s school (Charles is already teaching The Once and Future King, like we see in a later/earlier movie…boy, that’s confusing).  They meet a young Jean Grey and Hank is still at the school.  Scott unfortunately destroys Charles’ favorite tree, but the professor is excited to help him nonetheless.  Across the globe, Moira McTaggert is investigating in Egypt and discovers a group chanting “En Sabah Nur” again.  Sunlight touches the capstone of the pyramid and makes its way into the Earth, awakening the ancient mutant.  This causes an earthquake across the world.  In Poland, Erik saves a coworker at the factory, then hopes he wasn’t spotted.  In the mansion, the earthquake is just the precursor to Jean’s terrifying nightmares that Charles attempts to comfort her.  When he puts on Cerebro later, he comes across Moira and the next day, has Alex take him to the CIA to see her.

The group was part of a cult that views mutants as a sign of god and actually believe that the first mutant lived thousands of years prior, in contrast to the popular held belief that mutants only evolved in the twentieth century.  Wherever this god that was raised went, destruction followed, and he always had four key supporters; like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  The way this god lived so long, before being buried, was by transferring his consciousness from body to body and thus, gaining more powers.  And now this god is out and about in Egypt.  He discovers a young mutant thief, we know to be Storm by her powers.  She leads him back to her hiding spot, where there is a poster of Mystique, her hero.  En Sabah Nur touches her television screen and begins to soak up the world news.  He sees the clip of Magneto at the White House and calls the nuclear weapons and state of the world false gods and idols.  When finished, he declares to young Storm his intent to take over and rule the world as he did in days of old.  He calls it “saving” the world, but really means “cleansing.”  He makes Storm his first follower and her hair turns its’ signature white.

Back in Poland, Erik’s actions were noted and reported to the police; men he viewed as friends.  Erik is trying to run, but has to collect his daughter from the woods, where the police are holding her.  They point-blank ask if he’s Magneto.  All Erik wants is for them to release his daughter; he even offers to come quietly.  But when they’re traded, Nina reaches for her father, like young Erik did decades ago, pleading that she will not let the men take her father away, like his parents were taken.  The animals react to her distress and scare the policemen.  One accidentally released his drawn arrow, instantly killing Nina and her mother.  Erik cradles his babies, then uses Nina’s locket to eliminate the guards.  “Is this what I am!” he shouts to the sky. 

News quickly spreads.  Raven discovers it from her informant and has Nightcrawler/ Kurt Wagner take her back to the mansion.  Charles is still out, so she talks to Hank, while Kurt befriends Scott, Jean, and their friend Jubilee.  The teens escape to visit a mall and see a movie [Return of the Jedi and they have a humorous discussion about movie trilogies].  Hank tries to persuade Raven to stay; start the X-Men like they talked about years ago.  Charles is still hopeful for the world, but Hank is a little more realistic; they should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  Raven just wants to find Erik.  En Sabah Nur and Storm recruit more mutants, gathering Angel, with new wings, and a woman with a laser sword.  Then they come upon Erik at the factory, ready to make the men who betrayed him pay (to which Erik asks the intruders, “who the fuck are you?”  He gets the swear word this film).  En Sabah Nur easily takes care of that, then takes Erik back to Auschwitz to teach him to pull metal directly from the earth.  (Note that he picks mutants who are angry with the world.)

Charles is pleased to see Raven, though disappointed she’s only there to find Erik and to argue the point that Charles should be teaching his students to fight.  Mutants in the outside world still live in fear; they’re not accepted, people just have to be polite to them now.  Charles reaches out with Cerebro to speak to Erik, which En Sabah Nur senses.  He then turns that conversation on Charles and takes him over; “thank you for letting me in.”  He uses Charles to release all the nuclear weapons straight up, and destroy them.  “No more weapons!  No more systems!  No more superpowers!”  [If the music sounds familiar, it is Beethoven’s Allegretto.]  Charles gets ahold of himself long enough to ask Alex to destroy Cerebro; “wreak havoc,” is his order.  Alex does so, but once they have the professor safe, En Sabah Nur and his followers arrive at the mansion.  Alex is still enough of a hot head, he charges the god while Erik pulls Charles to him by his wheelchair; Alex lets loose a blast, but the horsemen escape and the blast creates a chain reaction.

Peter Maximoff has seen the news on Erik and plans to track him down, so he goes the mansion.  Just in time to rescue everyone from the blast (rather hilariously too).  Well, almost everyone.  Scott instantly notes when he arrives, that Alex is missing.  He was closest to the blast and already gone before Peter arrived.  Scott, Jean, and Kurt separate off from the rest of the group, Scott grieving for his brother, when the military arrives.  They blast the mutants unconscious, and Stryker collects Raven, Moira, Hank, and Peter.  The other three follow, intent on rescuing their leaders.  Stryker wants Charles, but no one knows where he is at.  There are barriers in place to prevent the teens from entering, and Peter reveals to Raven that he is Erik’s son.

En Sabah Nur brings his horsemen and Charles to Egypt.  His plan is to wipe the face of the earth and rebuild it as he remembers, ruling as god.  And now, with Charles, he can control every mind on earth.  Charles, of course, tries to reason with Erik, but his old friend is still too hurt, too angry.  En Sabah Nur’s message that Charles passes along is to warn the world of his plan.  That the strongest among you, those with the greatest power, the earth will be yours.  Charles also manages to send a secret message to Jean, letting her know where they are.  And Charles changes the message at the last second, telling those with the greatest power…protect those without.  That is Charles’ message.  And that has always been and will always be Charles Xavier’s message to the world.  (And we love him for it).  En Sabah Nur’s not happy with the change, but his plan is not over yet.

The trio find Wolverine (because that apparently needed rehashed again), who goes on a rampage.  Jean manages to set him free and gives him “Logan.”  And no Scott, that is not the last you’ll see of him.  But they manage to free Hank, Raven, Peter, and Moira.  And find a plane to take to Egypt.  Raven speaks to the teens, telling them about her first mission and tells them that Havok was brave.  Raven doesn’t feel like a hero because she couldn’t save everyone.  But the teens still view her as a hero, so she will lead them.  Their objective is to rescue Charles.  Raven and Peter will try to get Erik.

En Sabah Nur’s final plan is to transfer into Charles; then he gains Charles’ power, but not his morality.  The transference is how Charles loses his hair.  The teens take on the horsemen, and Kurt manages to get inside the pyramid and get Charles out.  But their plane is caught before they can escape, so he has to get everyone out at once.  They hide, Scott and Hank taking on the other horsemen.  Raven tells Erik she’s going to go save her family and gives him the choice (and he recalls moments from First Class).  Peter uses his speed to punch the ancient mutant, until his leg is caught and broken.  Then Raven disguises herself as one of his horsemen to get close and uses the blade to slice him.  But he chokes her.  Storm watches as mutants fight mutants and the god she is following attempts to kill her hero.  Yet, En Sabah Nur and Charles are still connected.  Charles wants to save his sister and uses that connection to distract En Sabah Nur.  In his mind, he gets a few good punches in, until En Sabah Nur grows and beats Charles up.  Erik puts a metal X between En Sabah Nur and his friends.  He will no longer betray them.  Hank and Scott rescue Peter and Raven, then Scott uses his powers in conjunction with Erik’s to take on their opponent.  Charles asks for Jean’s help, telling her to let go.  Unleash her power without fear.  She walks into mid-air and flames erupt, in the shape of a phoenix.  Her powers pull back the ancient mutant’s armor, giving the men an opening.  But he tries to get away.  Until Storm electrocutes him.

Everyone is safe.  Charles gives Moira her memories back; she later has Stryker arrested for kidnapping her.  Peter and Storm decide to stay at the rebuilt mansion, courtesy of Erik and Jean working together.  And Raven has decided to stay to train the new batch of X-Men.  Erik and Charles have a conversation outside the simulation room, Charles now looking like his older counterpart with the bald head.  Charles was right about Erik and he was right about Raven.  There is still hope for the world.  But Erik cautions him, “doesn’t it ever wake you up in the middle of the night?  The feeling that one day they’ll come for you and your children?”  Charles responds: “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble.”  [I love that this is a call back to the last scene of the first X-Men movie!]

Overall, I prefer the prequel trilogy of the X-men franchise to the original trilogy, but the stories get a little wonky.  Honestly, the time jumps between the three newer films almost get in the way of the characters.  Sure, the ones who were introduced in First Class are still around twenty years later, but realistically, they shouldn’t be the same actors, as much as we love them.  If the studio wants to keep the same actors, great, just don’t show the same person looking the same twenty years later.  Also, while I love that Raven is Charles’ sister and that dynamic, this doesn’t work fully in retrospect: our Mystique could have never poisoned Charles like Mystique did in the first X-Men movie.  I’m sure the executives would explain that with the time travel, the future that was the original X-men films changed…ultimately boiling down to alternate universes in combination with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.

Up Next: The two Fantastic Four films with Chris Evans; then I’ll be taking a bit of a break to work on some other writing, mainly the fantasy epic I have intentions of writing.  I figure this is a good place to pause, before jumping into the twenty-or-so Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

“All those years wasted, fighting each other, Charles, to have a precious few of them back.”

X-Men: Days of Future Past

This unites the older cast with the newer cast, with Bryan Singer back at the helm.  Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, Eitri the Dwarf in Avengers: Infinity War, Trumpkin the Dwarf in Prince Caspian, and the lead in the recent Cyrano movie) joins as Dr. Bolivar Trask, Evan Peters is Peter/ Quicksilver (yes, he appeared in WandaVision and SPOILER [in case you’re even later than me watching the show]: he plays the other version of Pietro…I just laughed when I saw in on the show and really wish more had been done because, he’s Peter, just the other one).  Booboo Stewart (he’s Seth in the Twilight movies and Jay in the Disney Descendants movies [haven’t seen those]) is another mutant, named Warpath.

We open in a dark future, ruled by Sentinels, machines that hunt down and kill mutants and any humans who try to help.  But there is a ray of hope left, for what’s left of the X-men are making for a hideout to meet with a few fighters, including familiar faces Bobby and Kitty.  Professor Xavier (yep, he’s alive, not sure how, but it’s X-men, we’re not really going to ask) has a crazy idea, have Kitty send him back in time to 1973 to prevent Raven/Mystique from killing Trask and thus causing the Sentinels to be built.  (Another quick question, how does Kitty have time travel abilities?  She phases through walls.)  Unfortunately, Xavier would not physically be able to withstand a trip that far.  So Logan volunteers and has to meet a very different Charles and Erik, and convince them to work together when they couldn’t be further apart.

The time travel works and Logan tracks down the Professor, only to find the mansion run down, with only Hank McCoy as a companion.  Oh, and he can walk.  But, the tradeoff is he doesn’t have his powers.  And wants nothing to do with Logan or his hope for the future; he’s a broken man, leave him alone.  However…he relents and will do it for Raven.  He still cares for her and will save her if he can.  Except they’re going to need some more help, particularly to get Erik out of…wherever he’s being kept.  Logan happens to know a mutant who is a teenager in the seventies: Peter Maximoff.  He gets to break in and get Erik out of prison in the Pentagon; Erik was arrested for killing JFK.  Peter is in fact very helpful, rescuing the men for a rain of bullets (Charles does get to hit Erik, then insist on no killing).

We see a brief glimpse of Havok in Vietnam, though Mystique impersonates a Colonel to rescue the mutants before they’re shipped off to Trask Industries under a young Stryker.  She’s taken Erik’s lesson on one-track mind to heart.  She later sneaks into Trask’s office and finds the reports on the dead mutants Trask has experimented on.  And gets the clue to head to Paris, for the Peace Accords.  There, she seduces a Vietnamese general and impersonates him to get into the meeting.

It’s a very tense plane ride for Charles, Hank, Erik, and Logan.  Charles and Erik finally confront each other; it’s a wonderful scene and hints at the mental headspace that Charles was in following First Class.  “You took her away and you abandoned me!” Charles shouts at Erik.  Erik’s comeback is that Charles abandoned all the other mutants; “we were supposed to protect them.”  Charles storms away and Erik levels the plane.  Logan points out that Erik has always been an arse.

Erik later offers a game of chess to Charles as a peace offering.  They discuss Raven, a woman they both love, in different ways.  Charles remains concerned for her.  Erik also admits he didn’t kill JFK, the bullet curved because he was trying to save him, because he was a mutant.  The friendship starts to mend, but it has a long way to go, so Charles starts the game.

Action comes to a head at the Trask meeting, who is trying to convince foreign governments now of his machines since the American government shut him down (some members didn’t like the idea of targeting Americans who are living peacefully).  Raven reveals herself and is briefly taken down by Stryker, but our heroes arrive.  Logan glimpses Stryker and loses control for a moment, not remembering any timeline.  Charles hilariously tries to pass it off as a bad acid trip, until Logan comes back.  Raven is genuinely happy to see her brother, until Erik picks up the gun and is willing to kill her to prevent Trask from getting his hands on her and her DNA and thus wiping out all mutants.  Raven tries to escape, but is nicked in the leg.  Erik pursues her, and Beast jumps after him.  Mind you, all of this is caught on camera when they land outside and use their powers.  Trask escapes, but manages to get his hands on a small blood sample.  Trask next meets with President Nixon himself and offers his machines once again as a response to the “mutant problem.”  (And that’s apparently what the deleted recording was about.)

Raven is patched up, then catches up with Erik and demands answers.  Erik attempts to persuade her to work with him to strike while they have the upper hand.  But Raven draws a line.  She’ll kill Trask because of what he’s done to her friends.  But this won’t become genocide.  Meanwhile, Logan convinces Charles to stop taking the serum, so that his powers will come back.  They need Cerebro in order to find Raven and prevent the murder she is still planning.  But Cerebro overloads since Charles is rusty.  So Logan has young Charles read his mind into the future and talk to older Charles (another brilliant scene).  Older Charles counsels his younger self that the pain Charles feels and fears will make his stronger if he embraces it.  His greatest gift is to bear their pain without breaking.  And that is born of hope.  Charles needs to get his hope back; only then will the future change.  Energized, Charles uses his powers to talk to Raven through others at the airport.  She’s still set on her path and dislikes that Charles is trying to make a decision for her.

Everyone manages to meet up again in D.C., where the President is making an announcement with Trask to showcase the Sentinels that will protect Americans.  Erik breaks into the Pentagon to retrieve his helmet to keep Charles out.  He’s also put metal inside the Sentinels so he has control, which he has go off on the crowd at the White House.  At the same time, the Sentinels of the future have found the hidden X-men.  Young Erik wraps metal into Logan and sends him off to drown, then uses the cameras to speak to hidden mutants, calling for them to unite and fight for their rights.  Raven duplicates the President as an offer to Erik, then shoots him.  Charles, pinned under a structure, uses his powers to convince Raven to choose a different path.  She can show the world that not all mutants need to be feared.  She puts the gun down (which erases the future, one where everyone was on the brink of being destroyed), and Trask lives.  But his program is scrapped and Stryker gives information to the President that Trask was selling secrets to foreign governments.  Raven takes the helmet off Erik so that Charles can use him to free himself.  He lets Erik fly off and lets Raven walk away.  Though she appears to impersonate Stryker to rescue Logan.

And Logan is in the new future now.  The mansion is full of students, Bobby and Rogue make a brief appearance.  Hank McCoy is teaching, and even Scott and Jean are back.  Logan needs a bit of help from the Professor, clearing up with the new history is after 1973.

Where we started with Patrick Stewart’s Charles asking if we’re destined to destroy ourselves, or can we change our fate.  Is the future truly set?  We end with James McAvoy’s Charles giving us hope that the past is “a world of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes.  Countless choices define our fate: each choice, each moment, a moment in the ripple of time.  Enough ripple, and you change the tide” and answering that “the future is never truly set.”

I adore that they brought familiar faces back and it’s wonderful to see on the same screen the differences between their younger and older selves.  The greatest scene is watching James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart play the same character at two different points in life in the same shot.  Patrick Stewart always gives us hope for humanity.  I continue to enjoy the sibling relationship that they developed between Raven and Charles.  They still care for each other, but Raven has grown.  She wants to please her brother deep down, but now she’s own person.  And she realized that Erik wasn’t going to lead her where she wanted, so she struck out on her own.  And becomes the badass woman we love.  Charles ultimately lets go and has faith, but he’ll pull himself out of a hole in order to save her.  Work alongside the man who let him down in order to save her.  And of course, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are adorable alongside each other; there’s a funny blooper where Ian spouts some BS line and Patrick looks at him with “what did you just say?” on his face.

Really wish Erik would stop trying to rule the world!  You’ve gotten your revenge, leave it alone.  There are better ways to fight for mutant rights than reverting to killing all humans.  Also, we want you to settle down with Charles…hey, older versions of them are friends again, we want to see them come around.  Again, I encourage you to read Rumor Has It on either fanfiction.net or AO3.

Overall, this movie tends to give me a bit of a headache trying to keep timelines straight and I get that this re-writes a lot of what happened in the original trilogy and I like the happy ending, but it’s not always one I want to re-watch.

Up Next: X-Men Apocalypse

Mutant. And Proud

X-Men: First Class

The start of the prequel-ish series and brings in James McAvoy (I adore him in Becoming Jane and he’s Tumnus the Faun in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to play Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender (he’s the reason I went to watch the Jane Eyre movie that came out around the same time and led me to actually reading the book [that sometimes works]) to play Erik Lensherr.  Oliver Platt (Porthos in the 90’s Three Musketeers) is simply “Man in Black Suit,” though Kevin Bacon (star of Footloose) brings dimension to Sebastian Shaw.  Jennifer Lawrence (this came out a year before the first Hunger Games film, where her fame skyrocketed.  She has since won a Golden Globe for American Hustle and an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook [no, I have not watched those, but I love her in this role]) is Raven, while Nicholas Hoult (now you see him all the time for ads for The Great, and he’s remarkable in Tolkien) is Hank McCoy, and Lucas Till (the new MacGyver) is Alex Summers.  A few older adults are familiar; Rade Serbedzija (Prince Kragin in the first Downton Abbey movie and Gregorvitch in Deathly Hallows, and Emile de Becque in the TV movie of South Pacific with Glenn Close) is the Russian general, Glenn Morshower (he shows up in a bunch of TV shows, usually as someone in charge) is General Hendry, and the senior William Stryker is played by Don Creech (yep, that’s Mr. Sweeney from Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide).

The film begins the same as the first X-Men film, in Poland in 1944.  But this time, we see someone watching young Erik Lensherr pull down the gates.  This man is known as Klaus Schmidt and he’s very interested in discovering Erik’s abilities.  The Nazis are only partially correct in their idea of genes unlocking a new age, but Schmidt is focused on latent abilities.  He offers Erik chocolate to move a metal coin.  When that fails, he brings in Erik’s mother and threatens to shoot her after the count of three, unless Erik can move the coin.  Sadly, the teenager cannot move the coin, and Schmidt shoots Mrs. Lensherr.  Erik goes on a rampage, destroying everything else metal in the room, to Schmidt’s great delight.  As a “reward,” he gives Erik the coin at the end, noting that he can unlock the boy’s gift with rage and pain (that does not bode well).  At the same time, in Westchester, New York, a young Charles Xavier discovers a young Raven in his kitchen.  At first, she morphs into Mrs. Xavier, but Charles quickly realizes she’s a fake since his mother has never stepped foot in the kitchen and has never offered to make him hot chocolate.  But when Charles realizes it’s another mutant, he’s excited, as is Raven.

Eighteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, Erik tracks down a former Nazi banker to make him give up the location of Klaus Schmidt.  He’s sent to Argentina, where he notices a photo of Schmidt aboard a ship based out of Miami.  Erik kills the men, after remarking that he is Frankenstein’s monster, and he’s looking for his creator [this sequence highlights Michael Fassbender’s talent with languages].  At the same time, Charles is finishing his degree at Oxford University and hitting on girls in pubs, while his “sister” Raven watches on.  While Charles praises pretty girls for their “mutations,” such as two-colored eyes and brown hair, Raven has to hide her true form in order to fit in.  She mocks a girl for saying “mutant and proud,” but the relationship between Charles and Raven is very sweet: Charles is very much a brother by saying that the overall concept of his sister dating is that “any man would be lucky to have you,” while the actual thought is, “you’re my sister, I don’t think of you that way.”  And he genuinely fears Raven slipping up and what the consequences would be.  [And excellent editing, playing Charles’ thesis over the scene where Erik walks into the bank, stating “the mutated human species meant the extinction of its less-evolved kin.”]

In the States, CIA agent Moira McTaggert is investigating the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas, discovering several officials and important people are all meeting, including General Hendry, so she sneaks in.  And overhears Shaw pressuring the general to put nuclear missiles in Turkey, extremely close to Russia and almost certainly a declaration of war.  But some of his mutant companions help sway the general.  When her report is not believed, she sets out to find an expert in genetic mutation.  Which leads her to Charles, who initially tries to flirt with her, until he discovers that there is something more interesting going on.  So, Charles and Raven accompany Moira back to the CIA headquarters, where Charles gives his presentation, but isn’t taken seriously, until he uses his abilities.  Of course, they think he’s a spy, until Raven transforms into Styrker.  They’re still not trusted, so the man in the back ground [Oliver Platt] offers to house them in his facility, since it’s secure and off-premises.  Then a lead comes in about Shaw’s whereabouts, and Charles persuades Moira to take him.

Erik has caught up to Shaw (who is in fact Klaus Schmidt) after Shaw has killed Hendry by demonstrating his mutant power: he absorbs energy and can redistribute it, which also keeps him young.  Erik is knocked off the boat by Shaw’s associates, then uses the anchor to begin tearing the ship apart.  Emma Frost and Shaw escape into their submarine, which Erik attempts to stop using his powers.  But the U.S. Coast Guard is also on the scene, with Charles on board.  Charles senses Erik in the water, after mentally running into Emma, who is also a telepath.  Charles urges Erik to stop and let the sub go; he’ll drown.  When the man doesn’t listen to him, Charles jumps into the water himself and calms the man down.  “You’re not alone.”

Charles brings Erik back to the “Covert CIA Research Base,” where they investigate the application of paranormal powers in a military setting.  Or as Charles jokingly calls them, the “mutant division.”  They meet young Hank McCoy, who on top of being extremely intelligent, has abnormal feet.  Charles accidentally outed Hank, but Raven is pleased to meet the young man.  It’s someone else who has a physical mutation.  Hank has developed a supersonic plane [looks an awful lot like the SR-71 Blackbird], (which appears in the other X-Men films).  When the two teens talk afterwards, Hank wants some of Raven’s blood in order to develop a serum that will mask their physical mutations, but not their actual powers.  Erik walks by in time to stop a kiss, but also points out they shouldn’t have to hide.  Erik is still bent on revenge, but Charles stops him before he leaves.  Charles wants to help Erik, and stresses that Erik has a chance to be a part of something bigger.  Erik in fact, stays, but they find out that the missiles have been placed in Turkey and Shaw is on his way to Russia.  He also has a helmet that blocks a telepath’s ability to read his mind.

It’s time for Charles and Erik to gather mutants of their own.  Hank developed a transmitter, he calls Cerebro, that can amplify Charles’ brainwaves and abilities, so Charles can locate other mutants.  Hank suggests shaving Charles so the helmet would fit closer, to which Charles definitively says “don’t touch my hair.”  They first find a club dancer whose tattoos are actually wings; then there’s a cab driver, then Alex Summers who is in solitary confinement.  Next, there’s a teenaged boy on a date, but he can drive fish away.  They find Wolverine in a bar, but all he says is “go fuck yourself,” and they leave.  The teens get to know one another and show off their powers and decide on nicknames.  The club dancer is Angel, the cab driver is Darwin, because he adapts to survive.  Raven becomes Mystique and the red-headed boy is Sean and he goes by Banshee because of his sonic blast.  Alex becomes Havok due to his laser blasts.  Erik and Charles are trying to plan their next step and are disappointed to find the kids having a party and goofing off (and destroying part of the building).  Raven does manage to tell them their nicknames; Charles is Professor X and Erik is Magneto.  The adults head off for Russia to hopefully head Shaw off, but he doesn’t show, Emma is leading the meeting with the Russian general.  Erik is determined to take her instead, so Charles chases after him.  Erik wraps Emma in metal hard enough to crack her diamond form, which allows Charles to read her mind for Shaw’s plan: place U.S. missiles in Turkey, place Russian missiles in Cuba and then make a nuclear war happen.  “Radiation gave birth to mutants; what will kill the humans will only make us stronger,” and Shaw can take over the world.

Shaw, in the meantime, has discovered that Erik and Charles are recruiting, so he heads for Virginia to find them.  His minions accompany him and start ripping the agents apart.  The agents attempt to protect the kids, even though some of them were teasing them not too long ago.  Until the last guy is very eager to hand the mutant teenagers over to the psychopath.  Shaw only wants to make an offer to the kids, saying that the humans will eventually rise against the mutants and they need to pick their sides now: either wait to be enslaved, or rise up to rule.  Angel willingly goes with Shaw.  Darwin starts to go with Shaw, then signals for Alex to let loose a laser, hoping to take out the bad guy.  Unfortunately, they did not realize that Shaw would absorb the power, then feed it to Darwin.  Shaw, Angel, and his minions leave.  When Erik and Charles return, Charles initially wants to send the kids home, but they point out it’s too late for that.  Erik convinces Charles to train the teenagers.  And Charles knows where.

At the mansion, Charles teaches each teenager that they need to control their powers, not let their powers control them (we see this lesson repeated in the previous trilogy).  Seeing Sean learn to fly is humorous, just the way he falls into the bush, and then Erik simply pushing him when Charles tries to let him out of trying.  It’s Erik who points out to Raven that she is splitting half of her attention in order to look normal.  She wants society to accept her, but she won’t accept herself.  And Charles and Erik work together, Charles showing Erik that he doesn’t need to use anger to fuel his power; that true focus lies between rage and serenity.  Charles feels the good in Erik.  Hank finishes the serum and shows Raven, but she’s realized the truth in Erik’s words and it doesn’t help that Hank calls the serum a cure.  She’s finally mutant and proud.  When Hank tries the serum, it initially works, but then goes the wrong way.  Meanwhile, Erik and Charles are playing chess and discussing the mutant issue, fundamentally on opposing sides, but for the moment acting like gentlemen.  Raven sneaks into Erik’s room to wait for him and even tries her older form, but he doesn’t say “perfection,” until she’s in her natural blue form.  She confronts Charles afterwards and he struggles to see her point.

The team heads out to try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, using the plane that Hank developed.  He’s now blue and furry, thanks to his serum, but he’s now become Beast.  When they reach the embargo line, Charles makes the Russians fire on their own ship, so the Americans won’t have to fire and then start the war.  They figure Shaw is nearby, perhaps underwater, so they use Sean as sonar (and he stays away from Erik, so he won’t get pushed out).  Shaw is indeed on site and plans to become the weapon, draining the nuclear reactor of his sub.  But Erik manages to lift the sub out of the water and crash it on the beach.  The plan crashes shortly after.  Erik heads for the sub, and Beast, Havok, and Banshee take on Angel, Riptide, and Azazel.  Erik realizes that smashing the mirrored walls of the reactor will allow Charles telepathy to work, so he can freeze Shaw.  Shaw attempts to win Erik over to his side, and Erik admits that Shaw made him into a weapon.  Then Erik puts on the helmet so Charles can’t stop him from using the coin to pierce Shaw’s head in final retaliation for killing his mother.  [Excellent editing, following the path of the coin and overlaying Charles’ face occasionally, indicating that he feels what Erik is doing.]

Stryker is causing problems and orders both sides to hit the mutants on the beach.  This just adds fuel to Erik’s argument that the humans are against the mutants and they all need to band together.  Charles still holds hope that there are some good humans out there.  Erik manages to stop the missiles and turns them back to the ships, but Charles tackles him, breaking his concentration so the missiles start exploding in midair.  The two men wrestle, then Moira starts shooting at Erik.  He deflects the bullets, but one lands in Charles’ back.  Erik retaliates by cradling his friend and strangling Moira.  Charles points out this was Erik’s doing.  He releases Moira, but pleads with Charles that he needs the man by his side; they’re brothers, they want the same thing.  No, my friend, we do not (and we’re hit by James/Charles’ piercing blue eyes).  Erik leaves Charles, makes one last plead to gain allies.  Raven steps towards him, though she detours to her brother, who gives her permission.  “Mutant and proud,” are her parting words.  The rest of the team swarm their leader and Charles can only say he can’t feel his legs.

They’re back at the mansion, formalizing plans to make it a school.  And Charles has to protect the anonymity of his students, so with a kiss, he wipes Moira’s memory.  Erik breaks Emma Frost out of prison, now wearing the repainted helmet and a cape and going by Magneto.

This has become my favorite X-Men film, because it’s a story that can really stand on its own.  They make it fit well into the Cuban Missile Crisis, so we wonder, could this really have happened?  There’s also more energy to the movie.  It’s nice to see older Charles and Erik get along on occasion, but it’s even better to see how they started.  Yes, some continuity snarls show up, but since none of the movies were exactly planned out years in advance to fit together, it still works.  And I probably allow much more leeway since I have never read the comics.  It’s also not as dark as many of the previous movies were.  Several mistakes were made by characters in complete innocence.  The soundtrack also heightens the energy of the film, with the electric guitar and steady pace.

And yes, I totally subscribe to the theory that Charles and Erik are a couple. And utterly adore the new fact that Charles and Raven are siblings. These people need more hugs!

Fanfiction Recommendations:

I love blueink3’s Rumor Has It, which picks up where this film left off and adds an unknown child of Charles’ to the mix.

Up Next: Days of Future Past