Four years in the making, Marvel Entertainment has been building up to their Avengers movie. Ever since Sam Jackson appeared in a scene after the credits in Iron Man, fanboys have been salivating in anticipation of the eventual Avengers movie. Five movies later, the fans have gotten what they were waiting for.
On May 4, 2012, Marvel Studios unleashed The Avengers to the movie going public, to a record breaking $207 million opening weekend box office. The day before the opening, AMC Theaters did what they called “The Ultimate Marvel Marathon,” a showing of each of the movies leading up to The Avengers followed by a midnight showing of the eagerly anticipated film. Of course, i had to attend the marathon as an experience in movie going.
Upon arriving to the theater a half hour early, I received a laminate to commemorate the event, a comic book, and a pair of 3D glasses created for the event. There were four different glasses to choose from – Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor – based on the movies we were seeing that day. Normally, a half hour early would be early enough to guarantee a good seat, but the theater was already packed (as I can assume the other of the two theaters showing the marathon was) when I arrived and was lucky enough to find a good seat on an aisle. When the lights went down at 11:30am, we were greeting by Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, as he would be introducing each movie with in character monologues that were filmed exclusively for this marathon.
The first film was the 2008 movie that started the whole Avengers storyline, Iron Man. Although it has only been four years, with the way technology and political landscapes change, it is as if it was released a lifetime ago. The only thing truly feeling dated about the movie was a MySpace reference. Overall, this is still my favorite of the Marvel movies, with Robert Downey Jr. taking the movie and making it his own. An entertaining film that captures the essence of the character without ever getting boring. The Avengers truly kicks off after the credits, when Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury appears to recruit Tony Stark to The Avengers Initiative.
The second film was The Incredible Hulk, a movie that was poorly received when it was released. Unfortunately, time has not helped the film. The first 30-45 minutes is a well done character piece with Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt and Tim Roth putting in excellent performances. After that, it becomes a cartoon about two monsters battling each other and destroying Harlem. Too bad they couldn’t do the movie about Bruce Banner instead of his alter ego The Hulk. The final scene of the movie has William Hurt as General Ross get approached by Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative, but we don’t see General Ross again in the movie series.
After The Incredible Hulk, we return to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. Although Mickey Rourke as Whiplash is a bit silly, especially in his initial showdown with Iron Man at the race track. This is balanced out by Downey and the interplay he has with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes aka War Machine, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. The movie is just fun and the final battle with the assorted drones and armored combatants is fun in a cartoony way that works, as opposed to Hulk’s big battle. It was also cool to see Mad Men’s John Slattery as Tony’s father Howard in a cameo. After the credits, we see Agent Coulson arrive in New Mexico to find Thor’s hammer in an impact crater after its fall from Asgard, and a direct lead-in to our next movie.
In a film full of Asgardian Gods, we have Thor. Thor not only introduces us to Chris Hemsworth as the mighty Thor, but we first meet The Avengers’ antagonist in Tom Hiddleston as Loki. The directing by Kenneth Branagh and his dramatic background is quite evident in many of the dramatic scenes and interpersonal relationships in the movie. Unfortunately, it comes across as a bit dry, including scenes that should show the romantic relationship between Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, and the movie suffers for it, especially compared the lighthearted tones of the other movies, even with some comic relief from Kat Dennings. After the credits, we see scientist Erik Selvig, played by Stellan Skarsgard, approached by Nick Fury to examine a cosmic cube (the MacGuffin from Captain America) and implications that Loki may have survived his final confrontation with Thor.
The final solo movie is Captain America: The First Avenger. Chris Evans plays the super soldier in the 1940s and his battles in World War II. A mix of pulp and science fiction that feels like it wants to be more like Indiana Jones at times. Although a fun movie, I would love to have seen more of Cap’s adventures with the Howling Commandos rather than the montage that we are treated to in the middle of the movie. Unfortunately, John Slattery is replaced by Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark in the series, but he does a good job with the role. We end after the credits with Captain America waking up in modern day New York, in a warehouse that is somehow in running distance to Times Square (something that can only happen in a movie).
And at midnight, all that was left was some trailers, the final Agent Coulson introduction and The Avengers. While the above movies are one to four years old, I won’t spoil anything from a movie that has only been in theaters for a few days, but I will say it exceeded all expectations built up over the last four years and then some. The wit and sense of action that Joss Whedon showed through his tv series worked completely with the Avengers and was a complete crowd pleaser, including the extra scene in the middle of the credits and the second coda at the end of the credits.
Even with breaks between the movies, 15 hours in a movie theater is a true test of movie going endurance. The most common question I get, besides how I was able to sit in a movie theater that long, is my preference of the movies. From my favorite to least, they are: Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Iron Man 2, Thor and Incredible Hulk. While I don’t know if I would do this marathon again (or any of this length), it was quite an experience and a lot of fun to do.