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Avengers April: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

I have to admit, this is probably the movie I was most looking to watching again in this whole Avengers April, which leads up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I imagine this is due to watching the TV show Marvel’s Agent Carter during Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s winter hiatus.

Agent Carter was really a direct sequel to First Avenger, as we get to look into the lives of Peggy Carter and Howard Stark after the disappearance of Captain Rogers. We learn that Carter is having a very difficult time adjusting to the loss of her love, along with life in the post-war SSR. We learn that Howard Stark’s biggest regret is that he was never able to bring Rogers back to Carter, as it’s that regret that almost spells doom for New York City on the first anniversary of V-E Day.

It’s worth pointing out that in chronological order, Captain America: The First Avenger was the last Phase I movie before The Avengers. In fact, I think the the post-credits stinger is lifted straight out of The Avengers. Following the stinger, there is a condensed teaser for The Avengers.

However, this is not my last Phase I movie I’m reviewing before The Avengers, and the reason is simple – the Tesseract. The McGuffin of The Avengers is introduced in this film, but then makes another appearance in Thor, which perfectly leads right into the plot of the The Avengers.

It’s said that when Kevin Feige was supervising casting, he wanted an unknown to play Captain America. So of course, he picked the guy who had previously played the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies. Although to be honest, I had forgotten myself.

So the plot is basically this. Steve Rogers is a little weakling with an enormous heart who gets selected for Professor Erskine’s Super Solider Serum experience. The serum is a resounding success, as Rogers instantly bulks up and gains impressive abilities. But Erskine is immediately assassinated by Hydra, dooming the Super Soldier experiments to decades of failure, and eventually leading to Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk.

With only one super soldier, Rogers is instead utilized as a propaganda piece, used to help sell war bones and get people on the pro-war side. His routine doesn’t work for a group of soldiers in Europe, however, and Rogers learned that he is visiting the very regiment that his childhood friend, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, recently went missing in. Rogers single-handedly infiltrates enemy lines to rescue Bucky and the rest of the captured 107th.

After that, Rogers is accepted as a member of the 107th, which takes the fight to Hydra, destroying their bases throughout the region. On one mission, they capture Hydra scientist Arnim Zola, although lose Bucky to his apparent death. Finally, they take down Hydra’s main base, and Rogers follows Hydra leader Johann Schmidt (aka Red Skull) onto a plane bound for New York. In the ensuing battle, Schmidt is banished or killed or something by the Tesseract, which burns its way out of the plane and to the ocean floor. Rogers is forced to crash the plane into the Atlantic to save New York City from the deadly weapons on board the plane, but not before a tearful goodbye to Carter onto a radio.

In present day, Rogers is found and revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. An attempt to break the news gently goes very wrong, and Nick Fury to forced to bluntly explain to Rogers while the Captain gawks at present day Times Square.

The movie ended with a few open-ended questions, some which will be answered in later movies, and some which have not. We later learn that Zola gets imprisoned and then brought into S.H.I.E.L.D., where he covertly rebuilds Hydra. The final scene from Agent Carter gives a hint of this, as you can see below (FYI, the only prisoner is Dr. Johann Fennhoff, aka Doctor Faustus, a master of mind control):

The Tesseract is actually found in the end of First Avenger, and apparently sits for 70 years before S.H.I.E.L.D. starts experimenting with it, leading to the events of The Avengers. Carter moves on after Rogers in her own show. Stark expands his empire, and has a son, Tony.

But there are two characters that we don’t know the rest of their story. Colonel Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is initially an obstacle for Rogers, but ended up as a major ally. I would assume he will eventually retire and pass away, but I would love to see him in a potential second season of Agent Carter (although unlikely, given the news of an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff).

And then there is Red Skull. Touching an Infinity Stone like the Tesseract has proven deadly, and it certainly looked like that’s what was happening. Then he basically disintegrated into a stream of light to the sky, which didn’t look all that different than when Thor and Loki later teleport across realms. I think we have to assume that Schmidt is alive somewhere, and I wonder when he would return. Avengers: Infinity War, perhaps?

Avengers April

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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

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