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Saturday
May022015

Observations from the Ultimate Marvel Marathon

So, as those of you who read every post know, I attended the Ultimate Marvel Marathon from Wednesday to Thursday night. The AMC staff was very present and high energy and it was a fairly well run event. The best part was that once you were seated, you got to keep that seat for the duration so if you wanted a sleeping break, you could have it and when you came back your seat was still there for you! Magic.

The only super gross part? How filthy with popcorn and garbage the theater got by the end as their were no cleaning breaks. Here's my Age of Ultron review but if you're curious about the general marathon event. Read on.

Herewith a few casual observations from the Marathon as well as some impromptu lists

THE EVENT SCHEDULE 

6:00pm IRON MAN (2008)
Twas curious to see this again knowing what it spawned, and how confident it was that it would be spawning it since it ends with an Avengers tease (then still 4 years away). It's also alarmingly sexist which I had kind of forgotten with Leslie Bibb in an awful role as a Vanity Fair reporter.


8:25pm 
THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
This was the film I had the vaguest memory of. Tim Roth makes a committed villain but once he's CGI he's no longer special. Edward Norton is like the opposite body type of Mark Ruffalo so that's an interesting casting switcheroo. It was also funny to notice that they used to paint abdominal muscles on the actors as opposed to making them workout for months prior to filming; things changed quickly as superheroes began to dominate pop culture. P.S. Liv Tyler's voice sure is breathy!

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

10:35pm IRON MAN 2 (2010)
...became too sleepy and it's bad anyway. But rather hilariously my friend and I went to a neighborhood dive bar before heading home and they were showing this very movie on the tv screens (with the sound off). A Highly weird coincidence but also filled with LOLZ because Madonna's "Vogue" was playing on the speakers so we were watching Sam Rockwell strike a pose onscreen 

1:00am THOR (2011)
Sleeping Break

3:10am CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)
...tried to wake up for this one (which I love) but only managed to get back for...

5:30am  THE AVENGERS (2012)
Still highly entertaining with The Black Widow the MVP -- the scene where she outwits Loki? Bliss --  but the whole killing Agent Coulson bit has entirely lost its impact since they resurrected him soon thereafter for his own TV show.

8:48am IRON MAN 3 (2013)
Perhaps the most polarizing of the Marvel pictures but I think it's one of the best. It's totally doing its own thing which is fairly risky in that it's basically a Tony Stark picture where Iron Man just gets cameos at least until the overwrought finale.

11:15am THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)
Went to lunch - Do not like this movie at all. Just incomprehensible and Thor is boring outside of the team environment.

1:45pm CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)
Still the best one. Unfortunately for the other films it's brilliantly choreographed action scenes make the other films looks fairly basic in that department.

4:20pm GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
I thought it would be wise to give this a second chance but I am even more convinced that I was right to dislike it the first time. To me it's the new Shrek, a global movie obsession that is just not very good and is going to age so terribly that people will be like "why did everyone like this?" Plus aside from Rocket Raccoon and Groot (who are delightful)  the characters are dull alien copies of The Avengers. Star Lord is Iron Man (cocky snarky ladies man with fun weapons who misses his daddy), Gamora is The Black Widow (deadly female assassin who used to work for the other side), Drax is Thor (who doesn't realize that he's funny in that he's so deadly serious literal and not hip to the linguistics of the others).

7:00pm AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2014)
Review up tonight. It was difficult to separate it from the others having viewed so many back to back. I loved seeing the characters together again (the basic thrill of the team movie) but it is wildly overstuffed.

QUALITY FROM BEST TO WORST (in tiers)

  1. Captain America Winter Soldier (2014)
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  3. The Avengers (2012) 
           
  4. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  5. Iron Man (2008)
  6. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
         
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  8. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  9. Thor (2011)
  10. Thor the Dark World (2013)
  11. Iron Man 2 (2010)

FEMALE TROUBLE FROM BEGINNING TO CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS 
Iron Man, which kicked things off, is outrageously sexist making jokes about slutty women (though Tony Stark's promiscuity is not viewed unfavorably) and even referring to them as "trash" - that's from Pepper Potts who is an undervalued character as she is constantly shown as being highly capable and whipsmart. But she's still the longsuffering girlfriend  who will put up with a ton of shit for her man. But progress: Iron Man 3 (2013) is arguably the least sexist of the films in that it actually passes the Bechdel Test (Gwyneth Paltrow and Rebecca Hall have a conversation...about science!) and Pepper Potts is not just capable but running the company and even rescues Iron Man in the climactic action sequence.

The female problem is curious when you really begin to think about the characters. The girlfriends (Betty Ross, Pepper Potts, Peggy Carter, Jane Foster) are nearly always intelligent and accomplished rather than simply "hot" in that they are professors, scientists, CEOs, actual badass SHIELD agents so you would think that would lend itself to girlpower vibes. But they are often reduced to damsels in distress in their films. The one bright shining exception to the rule is the three dimensional Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). It's too soon to tell whether they'll do right by The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) or reduce her to "the other girl" in the next films.

BEEFCAKE AND CHEESECAKE
Given the months and months of gruelling prep work the actors undergo to get in shape for these movies, there is very little in the way of fleshiness, offset slightly by very very tight costumes with frequent ass shots on everyone. The nudity is nill with the exception of butt shots from Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk) and Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy) and while Captain America and Thor both have memorable 'look at my incredible chest!' scenes in their origin stories their next outings are far more chaste. No female nudity of course though Scarlett Johansson does have memorable cleavage in that helicopter shot in Winter Soldier.

BEST TO WORST VILLAINS (in tiers)

 

  1. Loki (Thor / Thor the Dark World / The Avengers)
  2. Ultron (Age of Ultron)
  3. The Winter Soldier (Winter Soldier)
  4. Zola (The First Avenger / Winter Soldier)
          the only truly memorable ones
  5. Emil Blonsky / The Abomination (Incredible Hulk)
  6. Alexander Pierce (Winter Soldier)
  7. The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
         made worthy antagonists in their own highly specific ways
  8. The Red Skull (First Avenger)
  9. Brock Rumlow (Winter Soldier)
  10. Batrock the Leaper (Winter Soldier)
  11. Nebula (Guardians of the Galaxy)
           maybe if they had more screentime? OR maybe if they had more personality?
  12. Justin Hammer (Iron Man 2)
  13. Raza (Iron Man)
  14. Ultron's Army (Age of Ultron)
  15. The Chitari Army (The Avengers)
            zzzzz
  16. Obadiah Stane (Iron Man)
  17. Killian Aldrich (Iron Man 3)
  18. Whiplash (Iron Man 2)
  19. Malekith (Thor the Dark World)
  20. Ronan the Destroyer (Guardians of the Galaxy)
  21. Thanos (just cameos so far but he'd better step up his game if they're basing the end game of all of these movies around him)
           Really?  You're not even trying!

THE ONLY GOOD FEMALE CHARACTERS (sigh) 

  1. The Black Widow (4 films)
  2. Pepper Potts (4 films)
  3. The Scarlet Witch (1 film... but high hopes)
  4. Agent Peggy Carter (2 films + her tv series)

    If we're stuck with Marvel Studios having two or three films a year,  than we really pray there's a change of heart / upping of skill in getting us female characters worthy of big screen spectacle. Guardians of the Galaxy employed a female screenwriter but even that didn't help much since Gamora was underwhelming (Black Widow without the flirtatious humor and dark past shadings) and Nebula was barely in it. Part of the problem, rarely discussed in articles about this imbalance, is that Marvel Studios doesn't have the rights to the X-Men where a huge portion of their best female characters are housed. On the other hand the X-Men movies over at Fox have hardly done those great characters justice instead just making the whole team supporting sidekicks to Wolverine. The only major frequent female heroines beyond The Scarlet Witch who are well connected to the Avengers mythology (rather than just showing up for a brief spell as a member) are Captain Marvel (joining Marvel's Cinematic Universe in 2018) and The Wasp (who may or may not show up in Ant-Man this summer depending on what they're doing with Evangeline Lilly's character)

That's all for now. After that 24 hour dose I'm good with superhero movies for a long while... though I might check out Ultron again once I have a little distance to check how well it plays outside of the Marvel Mania.

SPOILER I'm fairly sure I'll have a similar reaction: uneven. Needs more Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision. If you don't give new heroes focus they can't come into their own. This is also the problem the X-Men series has wrongly assuming that Wolverine & Magneto are the only characters anyone truly cares about. The last shot in Ultron in which Captain America assembles a new team (War Machine, The Vision, The Scarlet Witch, and The Falcon)  is pleasingly different but because all of the heroes have literally been only sidekicks or sidebar mysteries at most it looks a little B movie spinoffy instead of valid continuation of the "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" franchise. / SPOILER

 

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Reader Comments (16)

Nice write-up. The first two films of Sam Raimi & Christopher Nolan far surpass the greatness in all of these marvel films combined IMO. The Marvel films, with the exception of the Avengers, are very mixed (including the Captain America films which are not that good).


Female Characters - That list/write-up is spot on - especially your connection to how the XMen films are screwing things up royally by putting all the focus on 2-3 characters. That is an even bigger problem with the Marvel films. Some of these films only have 1 well rounded character (the main male hero), a failed attempt at a villain and then they completely under develop and ignore everyone else or just put them in stock roles (including the female characters). I'd also have trouble creating a third list of good male supporting characters (not including villains). So I think the female problem is this problem of complete focus on the hero combined with there being no marvel films with female leads.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Yikes. You could not pay me enough money to sit through a marathon like that.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I've only seen two of these films (Avengers and Guardians) and even though they were quite tonally different I felt that the rhythms were really similar. My question is, do you feel a narrative formula that they all use? Same story beats, same themes/messages?

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Why did you endure this? Reading about it gave me a headache. You should really value your time when viewing content. Because wasting it on Marvel movies brings you so much closer to death.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

San Fran -- yes i should have mentioned that. The themes are fairly consistent and in typical sci-fi fashion the main one is: don't try and play God. The other consistent thread is about trusting democratic rule and freedom even if that means pain and suffering.

May 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oh, the irony: "Don't try to play god" but basically superheroes are modern day gods.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Inhumans will also introduce a pretty big female character in Medusa, who is the queen of the Inhumans. And I hope they make her as important as she is in the comics (And I'm also hoping this is a role they offered Jessica Chastain). I'm also hoping that the whole Inhumans franchise introduces Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel.

But still, that's a very disproportionate number, compared to the men that are going to be introduced.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpaco.

Please don't stick Chastain in a franchise like this. I want her to give us another performance like the one she gave in Zero Dark Thirty.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

"The other consistent thread is about trusting democratic rule..."

And yet whenever democratically-elected representatives question the power of these Marvel heroes they're always told to suck it and expect the audience to nod in agreement.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Hamer

I mean with how much she's working, I'd rather she'd do a Marvel movie than that unnecessary The Huntsman sequel she's already doing.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpaco.

"The first two films of Sam Raimi & Christopher Nolan far surpass the greatness in all of these marvel films combined IMO."

I like some of the Marvel movies more than the Raimi Spiderman films. I like the Spiderman movies but not as much as most people do.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

/3rtful - as previously stated I went because my best friend wanted to see it and I rarely get a chance to enjoy movies with him and I absolutely do not regret it. It was not a waste of time. But then movies rarely are since I've made them my life.

May 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I cannot imagine sitting through something like this. I've binge watched tv series (GoT, NewsroomN Da Vinci's Demons) but only from the comfort of my bed. I couldn't even make it all the way through the first Iron Man!

Are there continuity problems or is someone keeping an eye on the histories?

Bill Bixby is the only Hulk.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

That bottom picture looks like Eva Green and you got me excited thinking of the prospect.

I've also been known to marathon the Craig Bond films and the Bourne films.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Yes, GUARDIANS had a female screenwriter and they they hired macho douchebag James Gunn to direct and he re-wrote most of it. So that's probably why the female character is reduced to basically nothing.

May 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Gow

I could never sit through more than two movies in a row without losing my sanity. You deserve an Oscar yourself.
I miss the red pointy thing on Wanda's head. That epitomizes the Avengers for me. Does she wear it at all?
Thor was so boring that I couldn't even watch it on an airplane. It was more entertaining to stare at the back of the seat in front of me for 14 hours. "Stall tray during takeoff and landing."
It's too bad because I've always felt that Kirby's long Thor run in the sixties was some of his best work.

May 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJes06

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