The Marvel Movie Marathon Awards!
Yesterday, Jordan Hoffman and Matt Singer spent 14 hours watching six Marvel movies in one crazy marathon: 'Iron Man,' 'Incredible Hulk,' 'Iron Man 2,' 'Thor,' and 'Captain America' followed by a midnight screening of 'The Avengers.'
When it was all over they felt two things: 1) Like huge nerds and, 2) They ought to use their vast knowledge of these movies to hand out some Marvel Movie Awards, celebrating the best stuff Marvel Studios has done with their cinematic canon so far.
Let's suit up.
Matt Singer - Are we going to have a best fight over this category?
Jordan Hoffman - Absolutely, because my pick is a strange one. While one could argue that the entire second half of 'The Avengers' is the best fight, my favorite is the campus fight in 'The Incredible Hulk.' For one key reason - it is the one that most looks like panels of a comic book.
Those "sonic blasts" or whatever they heck are being beamed around - that's a respect to the drawn-art of this medium that doesn't exist all that much in the rest of these films. I know it is an unpopular pick, one that may make the rest of my choices suspect, but much like Bruce Banner, I just gotta be me.
MS - I can see that. I don't necessarily agree but I can see that. Give me the last act of 'The Avengers.'
Action is not always the strongest part of some of these Marvel movies. 'Thor,' for example, is a much better fantasy film than it is an action film. But the end of 'The Avengers' seems to fulfill all the promise of comic action spectacle. All six characters kicking ass in ways that are variously awesome and hilarious, and best of all, the whole sequence takes place in broad daylight so you can actually see what the hell is going on.
JH - Yeah, the last act of Avengers is just impossibly good. Part of that is that you have 6 heroes, each doing their own thing, each true to their characters/powers and it is all followable. That one (computer generated) long take zipping between them all is pure joy.
MS - Exactly. To me it's the clear-cut favorite.
JH - Do you have a clear winner?
MS - I think we do. But since you were so excited about it you kept leaning over to me during the movie to talk about it, why don't you take our shared award winner.
JH - The best costume in the Marvel Movieverse is NOT one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. . . it is the Red Skull.
MS - (Hail Hydra.)
JH - I mean, hot damn, that long black leather jacket is amazing! With the hydra belt buckle! It's hard to make Nazi fetishism not feel icky, but this movie somehow manages to do it. Not surprising given Joe Johnston's design background.
MS - Yes for a couple of Jewish kids from Jersey to covet the symbol of Nazi evil's swag, it's gotta be pretty cool swag. The costumes in 'Captain America' are really wonderful across the board. The period is perfect, and Cap's WWII uniform is actually way better than his modern one in 'The Avengers.' To the point where he kind of looks silly in the modern one after you've seen him in the old school model.
JH - Absolutely, all the costumes are great. And Hayley Atwell's red dress in that bar scene. Hell-o! Even without the glasses that scene is in 3D!
MS - Don't do that. But kudos to Anna B. Sheppard, the costume designer. You're with me on modern Cap right? That's the *worst* costume in any of the movies, no?
JH - Well...I think the cheesiness of it is somewhat built into the script. Agent Coulson, who apparently is a designer in his spare time, made it a wee bit corny on purpose. But, man, it looks really corny. In one or two moments you just can hardly take him serious. Such rich blue!
MS - I have to go with Red Skull again, because he's the only villain I really enjoy.
JH - I thought you were going to say Mickey Rourke's birds.
MS - They're a strong #2. Most of the other villains in Marvel movies adhere to a similar arc: the friend or mentor to the hero who becomes obsessed with their quest for power and goes mad. Think Stane in 'Iron Man', Sterns in 'Incredible Hulk', Loki in 'Thor', Loki in 'Avengers'...
Granted, The Red Skull's motivation is exactly the same: he's out for power. But at least he doesn't follow the same predictable arc from ally to enemy. He's just flat-out evil from frame one. And Hugo Weaving's performance both in and out of his Red Skull makeup strikes the perfect note of campy horror.
JH - I really think Jeff Bridges' mustache twirling as Obidiah Stane is terrific, but he comes in as the baddie too late. And Hiddleston has such a unique face & demeanor, but I can't really get a bead on what he's so pissed about all the time. Yeah, I hate for this to be one big Red Skull love-in, but he gets my vote, too. Hugo Weaving has the gravitas, the make-up & effects are great and that voice - that wonderful Werner Herzog voice - it makes everything about it click.
MS - Clearly, we're big 'Captain America' fans. Do we have a worst villain choice real quick?
JH - Justin Hammer? I think Sam Rockwell is a hoot, but that character, that whole arc, stinks.
MS - True but you just explained why he's not the worst: Rockwell's great. How can he be the worst villain if he's so much fun to watch? From an efficacy perspective, maybe. But from an enjoyment perspective, no. To me, the clear choice is Abomination in 'Incredible Hulk.'
JH - I guess Blonsky is worst? I laughed at him a lot, but not in a good way.
MS - From frame one that character is miscast and misconceived. He's supposed to be this perfect soldier who's just a little bit over the hill, so the idea of juicing his body with gamma radiation like it's super-hero steroids, appeals to him. But who decided to cast shrimpy Tim Roth as the ultimate badass soldier?
JH - Yeah, I like Tim Roth, but he doesn't bring a lot to that role. It's kinda dumb.
MS - With respect to Tim Roth, that's like casting me as the ultimate sexy woman. His accent in vague (he's from the South and also from England) and when he finally turns into the Abomination the creature design looks like a turd with bones. What a disaster.
JH - It's a better written role than Justin Hammer - Rockwell saves it by being nuts. If Roth or director Louis Letterier put some english on the ball, maybe something good could have come from it.
MS - Maybe.
JH - My opinion of this has *greatly* changed after the marathon. My answer. . . .is Chris Hemsworth as The Mighty Thor.
MS - I said Best Actor, not Best Abs.
JH - Haha. The obvious pick would be Robert Downey Jr., but part of what makes 'Iron Man 2' (mostly) a failure is him. His schtick w/ Pepper Potts gets real annoying real quick. Chris Evans is fantastic as Steve Rogers, and would've been my pick, but yesterday was the first time I "got" Thor. He is a laugh riot. Not just the scene in the diner (bring me more of this drink!) but everything. I think it takes real skill to be that goofy, that heroic and, let's not forget, that handsome. I kneel to thee, Thor!
MS - Yeah Hemsworth may have the most "difficult" role, and you always deserve bonus points for sticking the landing on something like that.
JH - I was surprised at how much real sparkle he had w/ Natalie Portman, too. It's actually rather sweet.
MS - They're cute together, but their attraction is a little too rushed for my taste, Thor's big change falls into place very quickly.
JH - Well, no one claimed the Marvel movies would have good story development, but, somehow, those scenes in the truck, in his lumberjack duds, his fish-out-of-water charm and Godlike power make for some interesting moments.
MS - Yeah, he does a great job with tough stuff. By a slim margin, though, I give my Best Actor award to Chris Evans, not just for 'Captain America' but for 'The Avengers.' Watching 'Cap' for the second time I was even more taken with his performance.
Cap can be one of those characters, like Superman, who's so purely good and altruistic that they can be hard to make interesting or even relatable. And he and Joe Johnston and the writers do such a great job of making you like and root for him as the ultimate underdog. And after he gains his magic muscles, he never loses the character -- as Dr. Erskine tells him, he stays a good man. In "The Avengers" Whedon really respected the character they'd built in 'Cap' and stayed true to his perspective.
JH - The moment when he barks orders to the NYPD - legit chills up the spine each time. Fantastic.
JH - Of the 6 films we have 4 of varying shades of terrific and two that, flatly, suck. One sucks a little less, though. 'Iron Man 2', a mess of a script and a clear example of a director unable to control the ad-libbing of his actors, squeaks by on charm. 'The Incredible Hulk' doesn't have this. It is a bore. And, here's something else: I saw 'Avengers' earlier in the week, before the marathon, so I'd already seen Mark Ruffalo's performance. Going back to Edward Norton again did do this film any favors.
Liv Tyler is dreadful, but the greatest sin is that nothing happens. It's about a guy who goes to get a flash drive, but doesn't get around to actually testing out the science on that flash drive. The motivation at the end, the big battle, is ludicrous. Oh, the whole thing just makes me sad. I liked it when I first saw it, but I was blinded by fanboyism - I fully admit this now.
MS - I'm with you: 'Iron Man 2' is a mess, but at least it is an occasionally entertaining mess. 'Incredible Hulk' is a snooze. Other than some fun with Tim Blake Nelson as The Leader, it is just incredibly dull. I'm no fan of Ang Lee's 'Hulk' -- but I think in making 'Incredible Hulk' they swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. They went from too cerebral to too dopey.
And as you said Norton and Tyler have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. Although I really enjoyed both Ruffalo and Hulk in 'The Avengers" I'm still not entirely convinced that the Hulk is a cinematic comic book. Because you spend the whole movie with this man and then in the climax he's replaced by a big angry special effect who doesn't talk and can't do anything BUT smash.
JH - Hulk is perfect as part of the 'Avengers' team, maybe he can pop up now & again in some of the other movies. But hard to make a movie about the guy, agreed.
JH - This is tough. I really dig all four. I'll say this: 'Avengers,' especially with an audience of fans who love the comics, is the most fun. That is an unshakable fact. Prior to 'Avengers,' 'Iron Man' was the most fun. And yesterday proved again just how zippy and enjoyable it is. But the movie that resonates most is. . .'Captain America: The First Avenger.' Great performances, great script and fantastic blending of WWII movie tropes and fantasy. The ending just kills me. Heck, the beginning and middle kill me, too. It isn't just a great Marvel Movie, it is a "real" movie, one I would recommend to anyone divorced of all this fanboy stuff.
MS - Maybe not too surprising after all the earlier awards -- and I almost want to pick something else just to mix it up -- but I agree. 'Captain America' is the best Marvel movie. Because it's the most "movie" beyond its comic book-ness -- and not just because it's littered with movie references from 'Close Encounters' to 'A Matter of Life and Death.' In my mind it has the best performance, and the best character: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. And not just best -- most human.
I mean here's the clear marker for me. We watched 'Captain America' after, what, 10 hours of movies? And we were about to watch 'The Avengers' that I was looking forward to like few movies in my life. And when I realized 'Captain America' was almost over, I got a little bummed out. I didn't want it to end. THAT'S a good movie.
JH - Yeah, when the plane showed up you leaned over and said, "this is almost over?!?"
MS - I know! I was legitimately upset.
JH - It's also the best love story of the bunch, too, wouldn't you say? Maybe some of that is because of the great special effects of the shrimpy Rogers with Chris Evans' face?
MS - Absolutely, and that's a great point. There are love stories in all the Marvel movies. Tony and Pepper works well in 'Iron Man.' But really the only one that moves beyond cute or funny to legitimately moving love story is Steve and Peggy in 'The Avengers.'
In a way it's kind of a bummer that Captain America has to survive his movie (spoiler alert?) Because if he didn't, the end of his movie would be so beautifully heartbreaking.
JH - I think it came between 'The Incredible Hulk' and 'Iron Man 2,' still relatively early in the proceedings. During the bathroom and Icee break, a very thin kid with messy hair decided that he always wanted to work on a 42nd Street stage. He stood in front of the audience and began reading a lengthy piece of Iron Man fan fiction off of his smart phone.
It was hard to hear over the catcalls and boos, but it was either meant to be Tony Stark's diary entries, or sub-Cracked.com style list of the top 10 reasons Iron Man was better than Batman. At first everyone just ignored him, then came booing. He eventually said, "should I continue?" and one person with a very clear voice shouted "Shut the f--- up!" I kinda felt bad for him. But I also did want him to shut up.
It was embarrassing, but I'm really glad it happened.
MS - It was horribly uncomfortable.
JH - Well, Matt, we did it again! Another idea that took way too long to discuss over IM!
MS - Any final thoughts?
JH - I'm glad we awarded these champions with our Marvel Marathon prizes. I just hope DC can get their act together so we can do something for them some day.
MS - Seriously. I will say: I was actually impressed with the overall quality of the movies. Obviously I'd seen them all, but with the exception of the 'Iron Man' films never more than once.
JH - Yeah - 4 of the 6 are films I will forever stop and watch if I am flipping channels. Sounds like a back-handed compliment, but I swear it isn't.
MS - 'Iron Man' holds up, 'Cap' holds up, 'Thor was better than I thought, and 'The Avengers' is geek nirvana. 4-out-of-6 ain't a bad average. And they're actually fun to watch in a row because they do flow on to the next pretty nicely. With the exception of 'Hulk' which doesn't even flow on its own.
JH - Yeah, it's an amazing piece of showmanship overall. Hail Hydra? Hail Marvel!
MS - And bring on 'Avengers 2.'