Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
10 years ago, Iron Man released and changed comic book movies forever. It planted the seeds for a series of movies that would sprout into a universe full of classic moments and blockbuster successes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is incredible. It has taken the characters from the books we read as kids and translated them perfectly into excellent live action film after excellent live action film. I started watching and loving these movies when I was a kid, and as an adult, I couldn’t be happier with the fact that I’m still doing the same. With Infinity War closing in, I started a rewatch of the entire MCU. I’ll be talking about each movie from Phase One in this article, comparing my original score with my current one and explaining why the numbers have/haven’t changed. Give it a read!
Original Score: 4.5/5
Rewatch Score: Same
The risk that started it all. Let’s just get it out of the way; Robert Downey Jr. is and always will be inseparable from his role as Tony Stark. It’s remarkable that his performance managed to both re-establish him as a great actor and save Marvel from bankruptcy. RDJ delivers all his lines perfectly, playing off the supporting cast brilliantly and stealing every scene he’s in. I can’t see anyone else ever filling Stark’s shoes as well as he does. Jon Favreau does a great job of directing the movie, and he makes it extremely interesting to watch Tony evolve into a hero. The creation of the first suit with Yinsen makes for a tremendous first act, and the first bit of action in the real suit is particularly memorable. Sure, the movie does have some issues. Obadiah is well-acted, but he’s a pretty good villain at best (and kicked off the trend of origin story villains just being copycats of the hero). Still, these issues mean little in the grand scheme of things. The movie holds up in pretty much every way a decade later, and it’s still a highlight of the MCU.
The Incredible Hulk
Original Score - 3/5
Rewatch Score - Same
In what is by far the most forgettable film in the MCU (even Marvel Studios themselves have tried not to acknowledge it at times), the Hulk is the only Incredible thing to see. This is an extremely average flick, with the writing being consistently bland and Edward Norton never quite embodying Bruce Banner. Abomination is as weak of a villain as they come, with a skilled actor like Tim Roth being wasted on a bland mercenary like Blonsky. The CGI is noticeably weak in comparison to Iron Man. These are just some of the many flaws, but there are still some pretty neat things the movie deserves credit for. Thunderbolt and Betty Ross were both well done, the mid-movie tease of Leader was fun and the Hulk himself was incredibly comic-accurate. Seeing Hulk use moves such as his thunder clap and the car fists were crazy, and easily the highlight of the film. Sure, it’s a shame that Universal is holding the rights to another solo film hostage, but the reality is that only so much can be done with this hero. Hulk can do awesome things without being held back by a so-so story. Being a supporting character in team-up movies is his comfort zone.
Iron Man 2
Original Score: 3/5
Rewatch Score: 3.5/5
Like everyone else, I saw this movie as a huge step down from the original the first two times that I saw it. I carried that mindset for years, always placing Iron Man 2 around the same level (or even lower) than The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Thor: The Dark World. Then, I rewatched it two weeks ago. It’s not as bad as everyone made it out to be. In fact, it’s not even that close! Yes, there are big flaws (Whiplash is a garbage villain), but the strengths greatly outweigh them. RDJ delivers again, bringing a performance that is right there with his first go at the character of Iron Man. Justin Hammer is thoroughly entertaining, with Sam Rockwell playing this wannabe Tony Stark brilliantly. The aspects of Demon in A Bottle, this character’s most widely-appreciated comic book storyline, keep the movie very interesting. It hurts to see Tony’s life fall apart, but Robert Downey Jr. still makes the failures fun to watch. War Machine is great, and Don Cheadle is a big step up from Terrence Howard in the role of Rhodey. The fight between himself and Iron man is well done, as is the short but very sweet payoff fight against the Hammer Drones. Everything in the movie still looks amazing years later. Finally, and most importantly, the way that the movie builds the MCU and pushes things forward towards The Avengers is impressive. No, it’s not perfect and no, it’s not Iron Man 1... but Iron Man 2 is still a damn good movie that gets far too much hate.
Original Score - 3.5/5
Rewatch Score - 3/5
Thor was always the least interesting character to me when I was a kid. I didn’t like his look, or the way he spoke, and his comics never appealed to me. Obviously, that has changed as I’ve grown older, but for a long time I thought that I didn’t appreciate the movie because of misconceptions about the character. Yet, going back now as a fan of Thor, I can see that it has nothing to do with the character; the problem is the movie itself. It doesn’t have much of Thor at all, making the best part of the movie the first twenty minutes when he’s fighting the frost giants. From there comes a lengthy second act where Thor... isn’t really Thor. Most of the film is spent with the movie’s superhero powerless, something that doesn’t work when the character has just been introduced to the audience. Instead of the God of Thunder displaying his strength, we get him building a romance with the unlikable Jane Foster. there’s no chemistry here, and the relationship falls flat. Though the majority of Thor drags on until the titular character regains his power, it’s saved from being bad due to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Anthony Hopkins’ Odin. The action in the movie also works, during the rare times where there is some, and the CGI holds up during these clashes. The Hawkeye cameo is fun, too. Overall though, it’s an okay movie in every sense of the word.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Original Score: 3.5/5
Current Score: 4/5
Aside from Thor, Captain America was the other Marvel character I never grew too attached to when I was younger. I didn’t dislike him, but I wasn’t much of a fan either. He was just “there” to me... but the movies have changed that. Going back to watch The First Avenger after having seen the rest of Captain America’s amazing journey made an impact. The First Avenger didn’t become my favorite MCU movie or anything, but I do like it a bit more than I did on my initial watch. It aged well; Tommy Lee Jones is still humorous in his role, there’s great chemistry between Peggy and Steve and the ending is powerful. The montage of scenes with Cap and the Howling Commandos taking down Hydra (alone with the original versions of the costume and Shield) is great to see. Sure, Red Skull isn’t the greatest villain, but he’s the best he can be for a character that is pure evil. Bucky’s death also feels rushed, as it’s blink and you’ll miss it and doesn’t carry the weight that it should. Overall, though, The First Avenger is awesome. Its greatest success is that it understands who Captain America is. From Steve standing up to the bully to diving on the grenade in boot camp, The First Avenger makes it clear that Captain America was a hero before the super soldier serum. For that, it’s special, and it’s a strong start to the greatest trilogy in the MCU (and superhero movies altogether).
Original Score: 5/5
Rewatch Score: 4.5/5
It was all building to this. Five movies, six very different heroes. Through small missteps like Thor to huge successes like Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had come to its big event. It was worth the wait in every way, as it entertains from beginning to end without a single dull moment in its two-hour runtime. The wonderful interactions between the heroes (like the standoff between Cap and Iron Man) and all the banter with Loki was so fun to watch play out. This is a cinematic achievement for more than just being such a huge crossover event; it’s a genuinely great crossover on top of that. One of the most iconic scores ever backs up the glorious team shot that took half a decade to put together. What follows is an action sequence that may never be topped, with the Battle of New York being fifteen minutes of pure joy for superhero fans everywhere. From Hulk’s “I’m always angry” moment to Iron Man stopping the nuke, the last bit of the movie is literal perfection. Now, looking back The Avengers does lose a tiny bit of steam with the boring, cliché mind control subplot for Hawkeye and Cap’s extremely ugly costume... but who cares? It’s as special as something can be, and it always will be. The Avengers made Marvel’s B-list superheroes cool for everyone, not just nerds and kids. It elevated a universe to new heights, and into something that continues to get stronger and stronger. I will never forget the feeling of seeing all of the Avengers together on screen for the first time. Even though it’s impossible to beat that original experience, the movie will always hold a special place in my heart.
Thanks for reading! That’s all for the first part of this rewatch - check back for my thoughts on Phase 2 tomorrow. How do you feel about the first phase of the MCU? Do you agree with my ratings? Share your own in the comments below!