Property Review: Iron Man

The first coming of Tony Stark is one of the best MCU origin stories

Iron Man
Marvel Studios, 2008

The one that started them all. The metaphorical start of Robert Downey Jr.’s comic book-like redemption arc. The birthplace of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The beginning of the beginning. All of these titles are appropriate for Iron Man, the 2008 origin story of veteran Avenger Tony Stark. Another title to throw in there? Magnificent.

It’s not just the tight story telling or excellent acting chops of the main cast. It’s also seeing Stark make his turn into the Avenger we all know and love. Stark starts out super hedonistic and self-serving. Through his wounding and subsequent capture by the Ten Rings organization, little by little, you see Stark have the needed epiphany that he was, in fact, War Machine, not Iron Man. Half of its fun ride comes from this need to see him come to that realization. The other half is, of course, learning that Stark can apply his genius for good and productive ways while still being the billionaire philanthropic playboy he declares himself to be to Steve Rogers in the later Avengers film.

Where Iron Man particularly succeeds, however, is the parallel Stark shares with perfect portrayer Robert Downey Jr. What most new generation Marvel fans don’t realize is, is when Iron Man was casted, Downey Jr. was not the bankable star that he is now. The man’s past is well known to older fans and caused several — including himself — to pause.

But the single most compelling thing about Downey Jr. is his will to better himself, work every day like most others to redeem himself and grow. That indomitable will shows in every second that Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron Man. He is Iron Man. He is the living embodiment of the character who struggled to redeem himself and be a team player. Downey Jr. is such perfect casting that there is no one else that could ever step into the role. He became the character.

And for all that Iron Man succeeds in doing bombastically, it quietly sets up the rest of the cinematic universe perfectly. Iron Man in its stumbling glory is what we now know as the standard for a Marvel movie. It makes Stark relatable, tells his superhero origin story and sets up future films with a deftness that reminds us that there is, in fact, a plan for all of this. Now that we’ve seen that plan unfold, we can come back and praise the beginning for all that it is. The heart and soul of the MCU lives on.

Like the comics: 8

Acting: 8.5

Story: 8

Total: 24.5/30 or 8

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Property Review: Avengers Endgame

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Assembled greatness completed

Avengers: Endgame
Marvel Studios, 2019

“We’re in the endgame now.” Dr. Strange was and always has been prescient about the situation at hand. Whether it’s his own battles with the likes of Dormammu or Shuma Gorath or facing off against Thanos, the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth is always planning and stark about the reality of whatever happens to be going on. In this instance, in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Strange was the most grounded and gave the most sobering assessment of all: The Avengers were going to lose before they won.

Based on Strange’s assessment in Infinity War, you’d think Endgame would be some bleak tale of revenge and that’s it. Technically, Endgame does begin as that, but it morphs into something more. It’s a tale of loss, hard choices, joy and survival. And, yes, revenge. It’s a do-over on some levels also. See, here, the Avengers who survived “the snappening” in Infinity War have to go on. They’re living day to day without their comrades, friends, loved ones and mentors/mentees. Life is bleak, with monuments to those lost when Thanos took out half of the universe’s population with a flick of his wrist and a twitch in his gauntlet. Time has, at once, stood still and moved on for those still around. They’re finding ways to cope and that’s the meat of the first third. It’s a brilliantly deconstructed look at the world in which the Avengers did not win. The visceral raw emotion of Avengers coping, and the world at large is beautiful and simultaneously heartbreaking. Of all the Avengers, Thor and Hawkeye are depicted as having the most pain with Black Widow a close second. It’s the train wreck that you can’t look away from and feel in your soul.

From that wreck, however, in the second act rises the phoenix of the Avengers and their allies. The most genius among them — Scott Lang, Hulk and Tony Stark — figure out a way to effect time travel. They engineer a way to travel to different points on their established timeline to retrieve the Infinity stones and bring everyone back. This makes for great comedy and revisits of some of the cinematic universe’s most memorable moments. Pop culture bits (such as America’s Ass for Captain America/America’s sweetheart Chris Evans and “Hail Hydra,” also for Cap) even make their way in, lightening the mood a bit. But alas, as you make one stride forward, there will always be another that takes you back. Hard choices must be made in order to see some gain, or so Marvel would have you believe. So, yes, you’re going to say goodbye to some fan favorites and yes, this is signifying that their time with the franchise is coming to an end. However, it’s handled well, and it invokes emotion so much so that young children will cry at the thought of losing their favorite superhero.

And, for a minute, let the editor just step back and reminisce about the experience of seeing the current crop of Avengers gathered together for likely the last time. When there was a pivotal death, at the most pivotal moment — yes, THAT death — there was not a dry eye in the house. A young child, no older than 6 probably, cried her eyes out. Adults around us, including the editor, sniffled and cried as though we had lost a beloved family member. THAT is how you do a proper sendoff to a beloved character and that is how you wrap up a story, one of redemption and selflessness for the character and the actor in real life.

Every beat hit and every note cleanly marked is the hallmark of these Avengers movies and Endgame was no exception. Threads from the early days were neatly wrapped and character investment paid off for nearly everyone. It was enough that when the lights came back up, the movie received a standing ovation and nearly everyone waited for a mid-credits scene that would never come. THAT is how you wrap 11 years and 22 movies into a neat package and remind everyone that you’re the master of the genre. That is how you thank your fans for taking the time to care and get to know your ensemble cast through individual movies and properties.

That’s Marvel, baby.

Like the comics?: 6
Casting: 10
Writing: 10

Overall score: 26 out of 30 or 8.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Property review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War
Marvel Studios, 2016

A civil war worth fighting

No, this isn’t the “Late Unpleasantness,” but Captain America: Civil War is a bitter battle waged between brothers in arms. And it’s a fascinating look at that battle that has moral complications and implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large.

Civil War starts out shortly after the end of the excellent Winter Soldier (editor’s note: Read our review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 4Q2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The titular assassin is shown in a flashback to a pivotal event in an Avenger’s history and is, in the present, on the loose after rescuing Captain America from the murky depths of the Potomac River. Also, the Avengers have been bolstered by the additions of new recruits with a few losses in the lineup because of events in Age of Ultron. They’re on a mission to stop Crossbones (also new after the Winter Soldier) when everything planned goes horribly awry. The aftermath is swift: The Avengers are called on the carpet and told to shape up, join the government’s version of oversight or be hunted and thrown in jail with no foreseeable release. Sides are chosen and the lines are drawn as to who is going to remain with no oversight and who will work with the government’s registration act.

We have to acknowledge the powerful secondary tale that springs up among the Winter Soldier, Captain America and Iron Man. The civil war really comes down to the layered conflict between Cap and Iron Man. This is what’s really driving the overall arching fight between teams, but on a personal level, these two friends are hurting on different levels because of each other. Tony can’t understand why Cap doesn’t get the need for oversight and he feels jealous because of the relationship between Cap and the Winter Soldier. Not to mention, a plot twist late in the game brings the latter relationship to the forefront and is essentially the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Tony. Cap can’t understand why Tony doesn’t want to operate as is, given that Tony is a past weapons manufacturer and operates well without someone standing over his shoulder and the follies that were S.H.I.E.L.D and Hydra. Civil War’s excellent and tight writing basically boils down a conflict between best friends whose visions have grown apart.

Despite Civil War being one of the longer films in the MCU, it never feels like it. The pacing is excellent from the beginning to end, and you’re drawn into the action quickly and efficiently, which there’s plenty of. The flow of story to action is great, the humor is deftly weaved in with a lot of inside jokes and nods to past events and easter eggs, and it’s the perfect mix to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next. The fight scenes alone are worth watching just to see the choreography and stylish nuance found in recreating the ensemble’s various super powers and abilities. Every fight scene — from the brawl at government headquarters, to the chase at the Winter Soldier’s apartment and the giant brawl at the airport — is worth watching repeatedly.

Character development is also handled extremely well. New superheroes are introduced and older characters are further developed, which makes the characterization easy and natural and their interaction believable. You grow to care about the new characters, which is relatively hard to do with a large ensemble such as Civil War. You also get a sense that you would immediately know what each Avenger would decide to do because you already know these characters, and the ones you don’t know, you learn who they are and why they make their personal choices.

There are several additions to the cast that make Civil War stand out. The first is Black Panther, who becomes an Avenger at a later point in the comics. Here, the character’s introduction was handled so well that we’re eagerly awaiting the announced spinoff film for him. The second is Spider-Man. Yes, the web crawler’s recent film outings have been done to death, but it’s his introduction here that is nicely done. It serves two purposes: to finally bring him home to the Marvel brand once again and set him up correctly within the MCU.

The story, by itself, is an interesting tale of freedom and choices. We understood why both sides chose their positions in the Civil War, and we could easily empathize with both sides. While the comic version of this story is similar in forcing a stance on issues related to freedom and responsibility, the change made to the incident that causes the conflict between superheroes in the film is a welcome one and more relatable.

Where the MCU goes from here is debatable because of the many angles that can be taken in Infinity War, but it’s a going to be a great ride thanks to the fantastic build up in previous films such as Civil War.

Like the comics?: 6
Casting: 10
Storyline: 10

Score: 26/30 or 8.6

HOW WE GRADE
We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in cases of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of the max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Top 5 on The Strip: Marvel supers edition

Cable-Time Flip

Cable, “Time Flip”

Cable is game-breaking. Cable is top tier. Cable is one of the few characters that can counteract himself in the game’s tier rankings. So, when his least usable super is shouted, you’re probably going to be shocked enough to get hit by it. Time Flip is useless, but it looks cool. Also, it’s taken 13 years to figure out if he’s saying time slip or time flip. We’ve settled mostly on flip. And nothing is more cool than watching Cable shake his fist angrily when he misses with the move and wastes super meter. We hate Cable.

 Spiral-Hyper Metamorphose

Spiral, “Metamorphose”

Amazingly, this super isn’t used that much if you’re fighting a lot of Spiral players. And you will, because she’s a popular girl. And by popular, we mean just about anyone who has any knowledge about tiers in MvC2 will know that she’s worth using. The Dance isn’t used that widely because why use it when you can throw a wall of Dancing Swords? But we digress. The move still looks cool as hell as she morphs into all of the Marvel roster. Protip: The move always ends with her kicking you in the face as Cyclops.

 Blackheart-Heart of Darkness

Blackheart, “Heart of Darkness”

Once upon a time, there was a team nicknamed Team Giggles. The trio was composed of Blackheart, M. Bison and Dr. Doom. Blackheart, of the demented group, seems to do the most giggling and it’s mostly because of this super. For a dude who’s the spawn of the lead demon in Marvel’s Hell, he sure seems to have a lot to laugh about. And, no doubt, if you’re able to connect this after trapping someone with a previous Inferno and watching your little demon friends come out do massive damage, you’re probably going to giggle a bit, too.

 Iron Man-Proton Cannon

Iron Man, “Proton Cannon”

It was hard to choose between Iron Man’s version or War Machine’s version of the big beam super. We love the simplicity with Iron Man’s move, but we also love War Machine throwing out that random “It’s my Sunday best!” in Marvel vs. Capcom, too. It was too cool to attempt to figure out what War Machine was getting at the first time around. And that giant super beam of doom? Good luck blocking that thing if Iron Man decides to use it. At least he isn’t using the Iron Man infinite.

 Rogue-Goodnight Sugah

Rogue, “Good Night Sugah”

Rogue doesn’t have much to go on here, but the one super she has is cute. Sure, it’s pretty obvious that she’s going to do it. And you’re going to have try to get around the crazy concept of blocking that your opponent has. But, hey, once you launch that rush and you connect with your kiss of attribute thievery, you’re well on your way. And the fact that the theft of an attribute happens is pretty amazing. You have to love this particular brand of Southern charm.