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Avengers April: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2

Life has gotten in the way of my updates, which is why I’m quite behind. We’ve got 11 days until Avengers: Age of Ultron and after this, I still have six movies to go. We’ll see how close I can get.

So we return to the world of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. This time, Tony has apparently made the world a safer man, due to his Iron Man technology. But alas, the government wants to get its hands in the cookie jar. Led by Senator Sterns (who we will lately learn a nasty secret about), the federal government wants Stark to turn the suits and the technology over to the military. And they succeed, more or less, and the slimy Justin Hammer gets his slimy hands on the tech (Hammer Industries got the military’s weapons contract after Stark Industries stopped selling weapons).

Tony is able to keep the government at bay, because as I said, he’s making the world a safer place.

“I’ve successfully privatized world peace!”
-Tony Stark

However, It turns out that there are outside forces working to unravel things. Long ago, Howard Stark invented the Arc Reactor along with the his friend and partner Anton Vanko. But when Vanko tried to sell the technology, Howard had him deported. Now Anton has died, and his own son, Ivan Vanko, is out for revenge. He designed his own Arc Reactor and used it to cause havoc at an Indy race in Monaco. Iron Man managed to defeat him, but Hammer arranged for Ivan to escape incarceration so that he can design tech to upstage Tony at the Stark Expo. Hmm… trusting someone who is hellbent on another’s destruction. What could possibly go wrong?

Another plot is that while Iron Man is protecting the world, the tech is slowly killing him. The core that powers his Arc Reactor that keeps him alive is slowly poisoning his blood. Of course, no other known element can simultaneously power the Arc Reactor and not kill him, so Tony starts acting quite erratic (in his mind, he’s a dead man walking, so he might as well go out with a bang). However, Tony discovers the blueprints for a new element hidden in the design for a Land of the Future designed by his father. Tony is able to synthesize the element, power the Arc Reactor, and not kill himself. Yeah, dad!

In the film’s climax, Ivan remotely takes over the drones he designed, as well as the Mark II suit that Hammer had acquired (with Stark friend and Air Force Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes helplessly inside), using them to attack Iron Man. With careful maneuvering and help from Natasha Romanoff, Iron Man defeats the drones and gives Rhodes control of his suit again. But like a video game, winning the boss battle leads to the final boss, as Ivan attacks on a special hybrid of the Iron Man suit and the electric whips he used in Monaco. Iron Man and War Machine (Rhodes’ suit isn’t referred as this in the movie) combine their powers to defeat Ivan and save the girl.

In the post-credits stinger, Agent Coulson had been reassigned from Stark duty to investigate an 0-8-4 in New Mexico… Thor’s Hammer.

Avengers April

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Avengers April: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hunk

Back with another installment of Avengers April, in anticipation for Avengers: Age of Ultron, today we look at the only standalone movie dedicated to the Hulk, titled The Incredible Hulk. Starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and the big green guy you won’t like when he’s angry, this film was seen as a correction for the mess that was Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003).

The film was not an origin story, as most people already know that story, due to the popular live-action television show The Incredible Show, which starred Lou Ferrigno as Hulk (but not Banner). As a nod to that cultural icon, Ferrigno voiced the Hulk in his few lines (in fact, I can only remember one… “Hulk Smash!”) and had an additional guest role as a security guard. The film instead picks up five years after the failed gamma ray experiment, with a Banner on the run and in hiding. For the uninitiated, the opening credits montage did recap the origin story.

You can’t talk about this film without talking about Edward Norton’s decision to not reprise the character in The Avengers. It’s a shame, because Norton is a Hulk fan who actually rewrote the script to fit his vision. Yet when casting was underway for The Avengers, Norton declined, and the role was given to Mark Ruffalo. I don’t think anyone but Norton really knows why. Maybe it was money, or lack of control. Maybe he didn’t like Hulk’s part in the film. Norton once she that being in The Avengers would keep him from pursuing other smaller films in the meanwhile, but considering Ruffalo’s ability to still do exactly that, that was an exaggeration.

Ultimately, I think Ruffalo is a better choice anyway. While I did enjoy Norton’s take on the character, I liked Ruffalo’s fit as Banner. I just get more of a “genius scientist” vibe with him. No offense to Norton.

The film centers on the U.S. Military’s efforts to capture Hulk. The commander for these missions, General Thaddeus Ross, was involved in the ill-fated experiment that turned Banner into the Hulk in the first place. Now he wants to capture Banner so he can weaponize the Hulk for military purposes. How exactly he intends to use this weapon, I have no idea. Does he intend to make a bunch of tamed Hulks that he can send out onto the battlefield? Does he want to refine the original experiment in order to continue to pursue the original Super Soldier serum?

To that end, Ross employs British marine Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth. Blonsky starts as the good marine who is shocked by the emergence of the Hulk, and even more surprised that Hulk and Banner are one in the same. To help even the playing field, he agrees to receive a serum that gives him increased speed, strength, agility, and apparently healing power. While it’s not quite the Super Soldier serum, it shows a clear improvement on Blonsky’s abilities. However, it also makes him mad, so that he eventually demands an infusion of Banner’s blood and turns into the Abomination.

In the film’s climax, Hulk and the Abomination battle through the streets and rooftops of Manhattan, with the Hulk eventually subduing Blonsky. He was going to kill him, but was stopped by the pleas of Betty Ross, Banner’s former colleague and girlfriend. While the film doesn’t go out and say so, I assume that Blonsky’s transformation may have put to rest Ross’s pursuit of weaponized the Hulk.

The film was one of the few (if not the only) MCU movie to not feature a mid- or post-credits stinger, instead slapping the final scene before the credits. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, who approached a downtrodden Ross in a bar and tells him that “we’re putting a team together.” While everyone assumes that Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. are inquiring about having Hulk in the Avengers, this was not actually so. In the comics that fill in the gaps between the MCU films, it’s revealed that the World Security Council wants the Abomination for the Avengers Initiative. Knowing that’s a crazy idea, Nick Fury seeks to sabotage the WSC’s efforts. So while he still is required to inquire about the Abomination, S.H.I.E.L.D. intentionally used Stark as its pitch man. Well, Stark succeeds as thoroughly pissing Ross up to the point that there is no way in hell the General will allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to get anywhere near the Abomination. Mission accomplished. Thanks, Tony.

Avengers April

Avengers April: Iron Man (2008)

iron-man-banner

I didn’t see Iron Man until shortly before seeing The Avengers (expect to see this statement a lot), so I don’t know if anyone knew that this was the first movie in a massive cinematic universe. As far as I know, there wasn’t any real hint to this until the post-credits stinger with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Speaking of which, we were taught early on to not leave a Marvel movie until the lights turned on in the theater (Joss Whedon says that there will be only one mid-credits stinger in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Personally, I don’t believe him. Stay till the lights come on, just in case.).

“I am Iron Man.”

Such a cool statement. Tony Stark has saved the day, and there is every opportunity to disavow involvement. But Stark likes the spotlight, so why not?

There was a running gag in the movie when Agent Phil Coulson would introduce himself as part of the Strategic Homeland Intervention… and he didn’t get much farther than that. Pepper Potts and Tony would make a joke about the length of the name. Then at the end, Potts starts making another joke, and Coulson says, “Just call us S.H.I.E.L.D.” So were they trying to act like Coulson just created the acronym on the fly, because it’s well established by now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been around a lot longer than Coulson has? Or did Coulson just like hearing the full name?

So this Iron Man movie didn’t really have a lot of Iron Man in it. The crude armor didn’t make its appearance until more than 30 minutes in. The full armor waited an hour. Once all the testing is done, Tony takes a joyride in the suit, saves the Middle Eastern village, and shows up for the finale battle. That’s it.

By the way, Stark has got J.A.R.V.I.S. running his home and his suit, but it seems that Tony could have benefited from a simple home security alarm. Obadiah Stane breaks in undetected and paralyses Tony, and later Fury makes his entrance. Stark, go ahead and give Brinks a call.

Now while I’m making jokes, I do want to stress that I enjoyed this movie. Robert Downey Jr. is the PERFECT Tony Stark. Terrance Howard is a fun Rhodey. There was a great nod to War Machine when Rhodes looks at an extra suit, thinks about it, and then says, “Next time.”

I close out this installment of Avengers April with the post-credits stinger, as Fury finished with, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger initiative (Holy shit!).”

Avengers April

 

Avengers April: The Day(s) S.H.I.E.L.D. fell

Mack and Morse

S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Alfonso “Mack” Mackenzie and Bobbi Morse on the Day S.H.I.E.L.D. fell

It’s April, so we start with our first installment of Avengers April, in anticipation for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. But before we get into the movies, let’s take a look at the current ABC television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The show had a rocky start to its run. Some of the characters weren’t particularly likeable at first. The episodes appeared disjointed, with a different mission each week. There were a lot of complaints about the pacing.

All that changed with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It would make sense that a movie about the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. (at Hydra’s hands) would have an impact on the TV show about S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and it did. From that point on, the reminder of that first season dealt with the remnants of Agent Phil Coulson’s team battling against a Hydra cell led by former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent John Garrett (played by Bill Paxton in a multi-episode guest role). One of Coulson’s agents is outed as a Hydra operative (although more loyal to Garrett than Hydra). In the end of the season, Coulson’s team defeats that cell, kills Garrett, and captured the mole. In a guest spot on the season finale, presumed dead director Nick Fury shows up long enough to help take out Garrett and tasked Coulson with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. from the ground up as its new director. He even gives Coulson a nifty gizmo (it’s called the Toolbox, and it’s about the size and shape of an alphabet block) with all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets and intel.

Speaking of presumed dead, let me rewind for anyone who is saying, “What? Coulson is alive? I saw him die in The Avengers. OK, here’s the back story. Prior to his death, Fury had put Coulson in charge of Project T.A.H.I.T.I., which was designed to revive a fallen Avenger using a serum created from Kree blood. The test subjects went insane, so the project was scrapped, or so Coulson thought. Once he was killed by Loki, Fury had the serum administered on Coulson, selectively wiping his memory to hopefully keep Coulson was losing his mind. Unfortunately, it didn’t work completely, and at the end of Season 1 and into Season 2, Coulson found himself carving strange symbols into the wall as the new S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, nicknamed The Playground.

The start of Season 2 deals with S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to uncover the meaning behind the symbols. Over time, it is revealed that the symbols were a map to an ancient Kree city, hidden underneath Old San Juan.

Unfortunately, Coulson and Co. aren’t the only ones searching for the Kree city. Hydra is still a threat, and is interested in using these Kree technologies to create terrible weapons. And while Coulson is trying to recruit old agents for the new S.H.I.E.L.D., so is Hydra and its U.S. leader, Daniel Whitehall (a former Nazi who utilized some of this technology to reverse the aging effect). The difference is that Whitehall is using brainwashing to turn loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into loyal Hydra agents.

Let me rewind one more time (trying to sum up nearly two seasons of a TV show takes time). In the first episode of the series, we were introduced to a several new characters, including a hacker known only as Skye. I say “know only” because she had no idea who were her parents were, what her last name was, or even if “Skye” was really her name (it wasn’t). Skye ended up working with S.H.I.E.L.D., and then right before its’ fall, works for S.H.I.E.L.D. We learn enough about her backstory to know it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, she was identified at an early age of a 0-8-4, a S.H.I.E.L.D. designation for an object of unknown origin. In the second season, we discover that she reacts differently to Kree technology than everyone else does (one particular 0-8-4 is a strange obelisk than instantly kills most people who touch it; Skye just makes it light up). Clearly, she’s special.

At the end of the first season, we learn that Skye’s father is alive. In the start of the second season, he manipulates Whitehall by leading Hydra to the Kree city, all to show his daughter just how special she is. His manipulations ultimately lead to Whitehall dead and Skye in the Kree city being subjected to the Terrigen Mists. It would appear that Skye, who is revealed as Daisy Johnson, is an Inhuman.

So at this point, we’re halfway through Season 2. The second half of the season deals with the (probably not permanent) defeat of Hydra, as Coulson manipulates the remaining Hydra cells to destroy each other until only the remnants of Whitehall’s cell remain (and Coulson has Whitehall’s successor imprisoned). So we’re probably not going to be seeing a whole lot of Hydra anytime soon. So if you don’t see Hydra’s presence in Age of Ultron, now you know why (and if they do have a presence in the movie, attribute it to the evil organization’s mantra of “Cut off one head, and two more grow in its place”).

We also deal with the ramifications of Skye’s transformation. Once discovered, it’s clear that her comrades-in-arms are afraid of her. She can’t control her powers, which makes her dangerous. She is essentially banished to a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe-house/retreat for safekeeping, until she is contacted by a fellow Inhuman named Gordon, who teleports her away. Presumably, she has been taken to a place where fellow Inhumans live and learn to control their abilities. Sadly, this facility will not be run by a certain Professor Charles Xavier (wouldn’t that have been awesome?)

Finally, we are now dealing with some type of civil war within S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson had had to deal with a lot of outside forces since assuming control of S.H.I.E.L.D. Not only Hydra, but early on in Season 2, the U.S. Government regarded S.H.I.E.L.D. as a terrorist organization (when a significantly portion of your organization turned out to be Hydra, it apparently leads to a lot of doubt about how trustworthy the rest of them are). Over time, Coulson is able to convince Brigadier General Glenn Talbot (played by Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar) of his team’s sincerity , so that problem is fixed. But now there is a new problem.

Robert Gonzales

Robert Gonzales, one of the leaders of the organization that considers itself the legitimate S.H.I.E.L.D.

As I said, when S.H.I.E.L.D. first fell, Fury named Coulson as the new director. The problem is that everyone else thinks that Fury is dead. Meanwhile, when an aircraft carrier S.H.I.E.L.D. base was taken by Hydra, a small group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) and Alphonso “Mack” McKenzie, rescue the base’s commander, Robert Gonzales (played by Edward James Olmos). The group attempt to follow through on a final order from Fury to destroy the carrier (to keep its secrets from falling into Hydra’s hands), but when considering the collateral damage following the order would create (there is still a fair number of loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents battling Hydra throughout the carrier), they defy the order and instead succeed at retaking the carrier. Thus, a new faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. is born, which they refer to as “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.” Embracing transparency instead of Fury’s secretive compartmentalization, they doubt the legitimacy of Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D., especially since they consider Coulson compromised due to the effects of Project T.A.H.I.T.I. The “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” plant Morse and Mack as operatives inside Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D., until finally attacking The Playground, stealing the Toolbox, and captured much of Coulson’s team.

So where are we now? Coulson is in hiding, joined by Lance Hunter, a former mercenary and now S.H.I.E.L.D. agent loyal to Coulson (and Morse’s ex-husband). Skye is with the Inhumans. Morse and Mack are with the “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” The rest of Coulson’s team, right-hand (wo)man Melinda May (nicknamed “The Cavalry”), weapons engineer Leo Fitz, and biochemist Jemma Simmons, have been captured. Hydra is back in the shadows.

So what now? Who are the bad guys? Are there bad guys? Both sides view themselves as the legitimate S.H.I.E.L.D. There are a few possibilities. Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. could defeat Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. could get absorbed into Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. could get absorbed into Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. (Would Coulson be able to return to being just an agent?)

I finish with a simple question. What was Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. up to while Coulson’s team was battling and taking out Hydra? How do you claim to be S.H.I.E.L.D. while sitting on the sidelines while Hydra is a threat?

Avengers April