From Iron Man to Infinity War: Trivial Musings from a Marathon Viewing

Like most of the world, I saw Avengers: Infinity War on opening weekend, in a crowded theater with an audience energized by expectations, curiosity, and love of a spectacle. And as much as I wanted to stay up into the wee hours of the morning discussing it with my own assembled group of friends, we all realized that there’d be time enough for that later, particularly after sleeping off maybe one Widow’s Sting too many.

Let’s talk about John Brolin! And did the #nospoilers pleas make us expect an ending different from the comics? What about that Gamora arc? And Thor & Rabbit! Ultimately, most opinions and observations were met with the concession that, well, we’re going to have to see it again.

My girlfriend was a bit surprised (despite being among at least two people who had already seen it a second time, this being Friday and all) and confirmed with me, “You really want to see it again?” When I responded in the affirmative, and asked if she’d be down, her response was, “Okay, but not until we watch all the movies in order first.”

Prior to getting together four years ago, my girlfriend says that she “thinks” she “probably saw” one or two of those Marvel movies when they came out. In the time since, of course, she has been a willing and eager student in my mildly exhausting course on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At this point she had seen all eighteen movies leading up to Infinity War, but likely not in order, certainly not close together, and with an admittedly limited amount of attention paid to certain installments. That was all about to change.

We did this over a two-and-a-half week span, but the idea was inspired by one of our friends who sat in the theater for a 28-hour stretch during Alamo’s continuously running MCU marathon. By now maybe you’ve seen one or more viewing diaries from pretentious film critics who have self-righteously subjected themselves to these types of marathons despite professing to abhor the genre. Oh what witty observations about farty upholstery and snoring men in Deadpool shirts do abound! If anything, it proves that being an obnoxious dick on the Internet isn’t limited to comment posts and Twitter feeds.

Anyway… this is not that kind of viewing log. And as much as I would have loved to take a day off work to join one my pals for the overnight marathon, I relished the opportunity to take this in at a more managed pace, allowing my girlfriend to watch Kevin Feige’s ten-year epic unfold from the comfort of our couch. And because I had already seen each of these movies several times (many several, in the case of Avengers), I was curious as to whether or not I would pick up on anything new while watching them in succession over a short period of time. Plus, as soon as we were done, I would get to see Infinity War again.

So what follows are some truly inane bits of trivia, digressions, and realizations. Take it for what it’s worth.

Iron Man (2008)
No revelations in this repeat viewing, other than being ordinarily put off by the number of times Jeff Bridges smacks his lips before speaking. For that I blame djlazybear, who drew my attention to that cottonmouthed fucker’s penchant for puckering a few years ago. Also… RDJ sure does look young! Ten years is an impressive stretch, yeah?

The Incredible Hulk (2008)
This still isn’t good. I’d forgotten that Marvel tried setting up The Leader (I’ll wager Marvel was counting on us forgetting this) for some future sequel or tie-in. Best revelation: during the climactic brawl in Harlem, there’s a Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) cameo! Apparently he had a minor part that included some lines, but none of that made the final cut.

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Didn’t enjoy much of this repeat viewing, but I was delighted to pick up on a little bon mot: there are two cameos, within five minutes of each other, featuring actresses who will later go on to play Marvel superheroes in non-MCU movies. After the Stark Expo, Olivia Munn briefly comes onscreen as reporter Chess Roberts. Munn goes on to star as Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse. Minutes later, Kate Mara appears as a U.S. Marshal serving a subpoena to Tony Stark. Mara, of course, goes on to waste her talents as Sue Storm in yet another gawdawful Fantastic Four flick.

Thor (2011)
This was better than I remembered. As my girlfriend pointed out, it also featured a break from the formulaic plot machinations that drove the first three MCU movies: superhero’s nemesis attempts to replicate hero’s ability/shtick; climactic battle rages with superhero coming out on top. She appreciated a lot of the character development in this movie as well, which she felt was absent, in large part, in the prior movies. She also really likes Thor, so I think that had a lot to do with her enthusiasm.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
I still love this movie. My brother and I had been in the midst of a Civil War-inspired conflict at the time this came out, so he naturally assumed my glowing reviews of First Avenger were seeded with an anti-Iron Man bias. But watching it again… I’m more convinced that this was the best MCU movie up to this point.

Hugo Weaving is fantastic as the Red Skull; Hayley Atwell is luminous as Peggy Carter; and Chris Evans was genetically crafted to play this role. I also hadn’t realized that Natalie Dormer, Queen of Seduction, played the slutty Army secretary that makes out with Steve. There are also, in my mind, the first inklings of those connected universe feelings to which those of us who grew up with comics had long been accustomed. Moviegoers not used to the idea should truly feel the weight of Fury’s “bigger universe” bombshell.

Watching the post-credits scene reminds me that, at the time, this movie received flak from many of my friends as being nothing more than set-up for Avengers. And, since that post-credits scene really is just a trailer for the next movie… I can see where that sentiment might have originated. Ignore that “Assemble” propaganda, however, and I’m ever more resolute that this and The Avengers are the two best Phase 1 movies of the MCU.

The Avengers (2012)
I’ve seen this movie quite a few times. And, despite not being eight years old (seemingly the peak age for infinite re-watch capacity, based on my own history with the first Star Wars and my kids’ with Toy Story), I feel like I would have no problem seeing it many more times. It’s everything a teenage me would’ve wanted in the blockbuster big-screen adaptation of his favorite comic book.

No fresh takeaways during this viewing, but I am consistently impressed with the villainy of Loki and the surprising endearment of Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson.

Iron Man 3 (2013)
Still lukewarm on this. Am I supposed to like this because Shane Black wrote and directed it? Ben Kingsley is entertaining as the fake Mandarin, but there’s a tone of almost mocking satire draped over the entire militant terrorism angle that, particularly given the eventual plot reveal, seems rather off-putting. Even more so, in fact, just five years after this film’s release. Marvel comics and its precursors have rarely shied away from engaging in contemporaneous social and political issues (recall Hitler getting his mug racked in the first Captain America), but using fake zealotry as a blind for yet another tired Tony Stark-esque tech villain feels dry and, frankly, a little inappropriate. Shut up and watch the movie, MMDG. Yeah. Still don’t love it.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)
So I still have some mixed feelings and unresolved reactions to Iron Man 3… but Dark World is simply just tough to sit through. Its lousy plot is to blame more than anything, but the sole bright spot might be in the performance of Tom Hiddleston. Loki, I realized while watching this movie, might be the most underrated character — from his characterization to his development — in the MCU. Also, I can now appreciate how closely this movie ties in to Ragnarok.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
I loved this movie the first time I saw it, and appreciated it even more during this viewing, especially given the contrast between Winter Soldier‘s treatment of current events and the modern surveillance state with Iron Man 3‘s poorly informed gloss. Also — never fully appreciated how great the action sequences are in this flick until now.

Two more little items: the ship hijacked by Batroc and his crew in the film’s opening is named The Lemurian Star. Lemuria, of course, being another Atlantis-type lost continent is no big deal, but given the fact that in the comics this happens to be the sunken kingdom of the Deviants could mean that Kevin Feige had been ruminating on bringing The Eternals into the MCU for some time. Also! That Doctor Strange name drop! Timelines making sense!

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
As with Avengers, I’d already seen this a good number of times, and the brilliance of this expansion into Marvel’s cosmic universe still makes me smile. I’d recently re-read Kirby’s Eternals and Roy Thomas’s Celestials saga, so it was fun to be able to identify the Celestial in The Collector’s storytime as Eson the Searcher. But… being reminded as to what he does with the Power stone is certainly off-putting.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
A bit of a letdown after Guardians, and still not a great movie, there was value in watching this again with my girlfriend in the marathon format. The threads tying together infinity hints from the past with the future are more interesting than the artificial intelligence morality play emceed by James Spader. Also — hadn’t realized until now that the Korean doctor in this movie is Helen Cho, mother of “Totally Awesome” Amadeus in the comics. And there’s a cute line in which Ultron talks about humans creating the things they dread: “Invaders create Avengers.” We’ve seen the Phineas T. Horton/Android Torch Easter egg in First Avenger; is this the second hint that Namor gets explored at some point in the future?

Ant-Man (2015
Watching this again made me slightly more excited to see Ant Man & The Wasp, but I still can’t help thinking what this movie would have looked like if Edgar Wright had stuck around. Also, Googling during the movie, I was horrified to discover that bullet ants and crazy ants really exist. Also, this idiot exists:

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Such a good movie. And the Russo Bros. knack for action gets ramped up even further. Fun realization: Alfre Woodard, who has the small part in the beginning of the movie, playing the part of the mother whose college-age son is killed in Sokovia, also plays Mariah Dillard in Netflix’s Luke Cage series. Is she the only actor or actress to play two different roles in the MCU?

Doctor Strange (2016)
Still a big fan of this movie, and I love Cumberbatch as Strange. My only regret, and something I realized during this viewing, is that we never saw this in 3D. I’ve been generally against 3D viewings, feeling like they detract too much from the film and rarely add anything to the experience, but I think this would have been fun. Reminded of this, I made sure to get 3D IMAX tickets for this weekend’s Ant-Man & The Wasp. I’m preparing for Disneyland/Rick Moranis flashbacks.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Although I enjoyed GotG2 when I first saw it, I wasn’t overly impressed, and I couldn’t understand why so many people were lauding it as superior to the first movie. I thought, at the time, and since reinforced during my re-watch and the recollection of Eson’s cameo in GotG, that making Ego and Star-Lord Celestials was lazy shorthand, and discounted some real potential in the full mining of Marvel’s cosmic treasure trove. I also feel like the “daddy issues” theme is a little overblown. And now that I learn that the Adam Warlock teaser at the end probably has little to do with the Infinity Wars storyline, I’m even more disappointed.

What I did appreciate, and didn’t fully realize the first time I saw this movie, was the full fleshing out of the Guardians roster via those Ravagers cameos. I didn’t care for the revisions to Yondu’s character in the first movie, but grew to enjoy Michael Rooker’s rendition. Hoping I can do the same for Charlie 27, Martinex, et al. (although Stallone is going to take some convincing).

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
No dramatic new realizations here: still think this movie is fantastic, and Michael Keaton’s Vulture is up there with Hiddleston’s Loki as best villain performance in the MCU. I again appreciated how we didn’t get an origin movie but… I am now a little surprised, in retrospect, as to how far the MCU has advanced the Spider-tech aspect over the course of the character’s three film appearances. During this marathon viewing, and with the Infinity Wars costume still fresh in my mind, I thought about how disappointing it might be if the Spider-Man films just turned into an Iron Man Jr. series.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
My favorite film of Phase 3 and, no, it’s not too goofy. It’s the right amount of goofy. And the right amount of Kirby homage, the right amount of action, the right amount of 80’s reverberation, the right amount of Easter eggs (that’s the Night-Crawler!) and the absolute perfect casting from Grandmaster to Valkyrie. What I didn’t fully appreciate the first two times I saw this movie was the extra layer of 80’s vibe that comes in the form of the getting-geared-up montage on Asgard when Valkyrie suits up in battle gear. Looove it.

Black Panther (2018)
One little nugget I hadn’t picked up on the first time. In the film’s opening, in the 90’s Oakland flashback scene, one of the little kids playing basketball name drops “Tim Hardaway!” Attaboy, Ryan Coogler. More Bay Area love.

Eighteen movies, and then off to see Infinity War again. And my girlfriend? Not superhero fatigued in the slightest. In fact, she wanted to know what marathon we could do next. Something else like the Marvel movies? Something where all these stories intertwine so effectively and the characters are so well developed and endearing? Hate to break it to you, sweetheart. There is nothing else like this. So in the meantime… let me give you some reading homework on Captain Marvel…