Category Archives: Iron Man 3

Ranking the Marvel movies

Avengers assemble

Here’s a pointless exercise but maybe a fun one.

I decided to rank, in order of how much I enjoyed them/how good I thought they were, the big-screen Marvel movies.

It’s not too hard to tell that I prefer the official Marvel Cinematic Universe movies over the random Fox and Sony movies, I know.

A few provisos:

I’m not dipping back into pre-history far enough to drag “Howard the Duck” into this. And I haven’t seen it in a couple decades.

And I’m not including the 1994 “Fantastic Four” movie because it wasn’t released – I’ve only seen it on a bootleg DVD bought at a convention – and it doesn’t belong on this list any more than the awful “Captain America” TV movies do. Same for the “Blade” movies, which had their moments but seem as remote as the 1944 “Captain America” serial now.

Be aware, I’ve only glimpsed moments of the “Ghost Rider” movies on TV. And I’ve never seen the “Punisher” movies at all.

Two lists: First, just the “official” Marvel movies, then the list with the non-Marvel-overseen movies mixed in.

The Avengers

Captain America: The First Avenger

Iron Man

Thor

Thor: The Dark World

The Incredible Hulk

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 2

If you add the other post-2000 Marvel movies that aren’t part  of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe into the mix, it’s still weighted pretty heavy toward the official Marvel canon.

The Avengers

Captain America: The First Avenger

Iron Man

Thor

Thor: The Dark World

X-Men 2

Spider-Man 2

X-Men

X-Men: First Class

The Incredible Hulk

Spider-Man

Iron Man 3

The Wolverine

The Amazing Spider-Man

Daredevil

Iron Man 2

X-Men 3

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Spider-Man 3

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hulk

Elektra

Looking at that list, it seems like “Iron Man 3” is way too far down. But maybe not. I need to see it again.

Something tells me my list will see a big shake-up next month, when “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” opens.

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‘Agents of SHIELD’ – Five ways to save it

agents of shield cast

Remember way  back in September, when Marvel’s first modern-era TV production, “Agents of SHIELD,” seemed so exciting?

Sure we were all worried about how Marvel and show creator Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Avengers”) would be able to translate the excitement of the big-screen world onto ABC’s small screen. That ABC was showing it at 8 p.m. Tuesdays was also a concern. Nobody expected tough-and-gritty stories and atmosphere anyway, although we might see that with “Daredevil” and the other shows Marvel is doing for Netflix. An 8 p.m. timeslot all but guaranteed a fairly family-friendly aura.

But we were genuinely excited at the thought of everything that might happen. “SHIELD” would be a weekly dose of the greater Marvel  universe, filled with characters we love, characters that have never been portrayed in live action before. Luke Cage! Moon Knight!

At first, “Agents of SHIELD” seemed like a sure-fire hit. The pilot got very good ratings.

But as the first nine episodes continued to air, audience numbers dropped – and so did our expectations of and faith in the show.

Too many episodes, although they seem “thisclose” to really taking off, somehow fail to. The core team of SHIELD operatives isn’t that interesting. Too much time has been spent teasing the audience about what happened to Phil Coulson after Loki “killed” him. And the roster of comic book characters that have been allowed to make an appearance is lackluster. Graviton? Really?

So here’s what the producers of “Agents of SHIELD” need to do before it’s too late. If it isn’t already too late.

nick fury agents of shield

Give us some well-known characters. When Whedon said a while back that “Agents of SHIELD” gave him a few dozen opportunities to make “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” a little less special when it came out in 2015, he wasn’t joking. Obviously nobody at Marvel or Disney or ABC wants to sate the audience’s interest in Marvel heroes before the movie comes out. And obviously Marvel wants to save some characters for big-screen movies, which is why you won’t see Dr. Strange, I’m guessing. But stop with the one-and-done, wannabes and third-raters. There ware many, many Marvel characters the show could introduce.

Retool the cast. Each of the supporting characters is fine, really, but they’re the type of characters that Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson was in the Marvel movies. In other words, just that: Supporting. I loved episodes of “Buffy” that revolved around that show’s “supporting” cast. Remember “The Zeppo” and Xander as below-the-radar hero? “Agents of SHIELD” hasn’t, so far, been able to do that kind of thing with Fitz or Simmons or May or Skye.

Resolve Phil Coulson’s status now. Or at least take it to the next level. Remember in the final season of “Buffy” when Buffy would make a different version of the “this is gonna be a tough battle” speech what seemed like every week? Jeez, that got old. It seemed like the series was treading water. “SHIELD” seems to have fallen into the same trap with its near-weekly reminder that something is different with Agent Coulson. A while back I suggested they needed to let Coulson – who is blocked from viewing his own medical records – find out he’s a clone or Life Model Decoy or whatever, break ranks with SHIELD and go at least a little rogue. “The good guys versus SHIELD” angle appears to be at least part of the plot of next April’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” so it wouldn’t be totally out of character for the Marvel universe.

aim

Bring on the bad guys. SHIELD’s adversaries in the show so far have been weak to only mildly intriguing. I’m not sure I care a whit about Centipede unless it morphs into HYDRA. How about AIM? Advanced Idea Mechanics was referenced in “Iron Man 3.” In the comics, they were guys in crazy yellow hazmat/beekkeeper outfits. I’m sure the show could come up with an updated uniform.

iron-man-3-after-credits-scene

Give us some star power. Samuel L. Jackson’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in an early episode was fine. But we want more meat. Remember Mark Ruffalo’s appearance at the end of “Iron Man 3?” We want that in “SHIELD,” magnified.

Maybe “Agents of SHIELD” will resolve its problems quickly and, by February, be the kick-ass Marvel TV experience we all want. A couple of upcoming episodes hold promise.

But if not, it’s hard to imagine many of us sticking around.

Late to the party: ‘The Wolverine’ good mutant action

the_wolverine_2013

I didn’t expect to like “The Wolverine” as much as I did.

I grew up loving “The X-Men” and other Marvel comics, although I had mostly exited before Wolverine made his entrance. Of course, the “X-Men” movies put the antagonistic outsider front and center and made him a leading man and household name.

Of course, with the charismatic Hugh Jackman in the role, who could argue that approach?

After “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” though, I wasn’t sure I needed to see another Wolverine movie. Jackman redeemed the character with one line, however, in “X-Men: First Class.”

So with Jackman returning to the screen next summer, with much of the cast from the original “X-Men” trilogy as well as “First Class,” “The Wolverine” seemed like a natural intermediate chapter in the story.

Since the movie came out a couple of weeks ago – and I just got around to seeing it today thanks to vacation time and work demands – I’ll skip most of the plot recitation. Suffice it to say that Wolverine goes to Japan, accompanied by a winsome and deadly young mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) sent to fetch him by a man whom we see Logan saving at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in World War II.

Logan gets an offer: If he’s tired of life – especially life alone – the young Japanese soldier he saved (now grown into Asian tech titan Yashida, played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi) promised he can make him a mortal man.

The rest of the movie finds Logan playing tag with an assortment of mutants and ninja warriors, in an effort to protect Yashia’s granddaughter, played by the lovely Tao Okamoto.

I think the movie benefits from being a fairly straightforward story punctuated by lots of cool action scenes. There’s not a lot of cross-cutting to other locations or storylines. Not even a lot of set-up for future movies (more on that later).

Random observations: I didn’t expect the end-credits scene, or “stinger,” to be so on-the-nose as far as its lead-in into “X-Men Days of Future Past.” (Spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.) The scene takes place two years after the events of “The Wolverine,” and Logan is going through an airport, asking to be patted down rather than setting off ever metal detector in the place. Playing on a TV nearby is a commercial for Trask, the company that created the mutant-hunting robots the Sentinels in the comics and next summer’s movie. As Logan moves through the TSA checkpoint he realizes that coins and other metallic objects are moving around on the security tray. It’s Magneto (Ian McKellen) behind him in line. Wolverine pops his bone claws but Magneto tells him that “dark forces” are brewing and that he needs his help.

Why would I trust you? Logan asks, held in place by Magneto because of the remaining adamantium in his body. Magneto notes that he wouldn’t, but …. at that point, Patrick Stewart rolls up as Charles Xavier. Logan is startled to see Professor X alive. “You’re not the only one with gifts,” Xavier says.

Also about that end credits scene: Has anyone noticed that nobody is waiting until after the credits to play out their super-secret scene anymore? For most of the early Marvel movies, the scene (Nick Fury shows up in Tony Stark’s house, Agent Coulson finds Thor’s hammer in New Mexico) touting the coming of the next movie was after the credits. But beginning with “The Avengers” and the woeful version of DC’s “Green Lantern,” the scene has been partway into the end credits, usually right after the principal credits are done.

A couple of exceptions, of course: “Iron Man 3” and its love letter to the Stark/Banner bromance comes at the very end of the credits. And, as we know, “The Avengers” had two credits scenes.

Maybe filmmakers don’t have much faith that we’ve learned by now to stick around until after the last caterer, effects guy and music credit is listed.

Did anybody keep track of how many times Hugh Jackman gets knifed, sliced, skewered with swords and arrows and otherwise pierced in this movie? Surely that number is out there somewhere, Internet?

The movie revisionists: Everything you know is wrong

man of steel big

Think you know the story of Superman?

Well, maybe not.

When “Man of Steel” comes out June 14,  director Zack Snyder might have a few surprises even for longtime fans of the man of … er, steel.

Most of us don’t know what to expect from “Man of Steel” yet, but it’s certain that a few elements of the Superman mythos will be tweaked at the very least.

That’s not surprising, because most filmmakers like to bring something new to their versions of familiar stories. That’s why “The Amazing Spider-Man” retold the origin of the webslinger only about a decade after we saw it before and tried to infuse new elements – chiefly a mystery about Peter’s parents – into it.

It’s not just superhero stories that get revamped. When director John Carpenter made “The Thing” in 1982, he made the “walking alien carrot” much less of the traditional monster familiar from 1951’s “The Thing from Another World.” the first adaptation of John Campbell’s story. Carpenter made the alien menace a much more paranoia-inducing shapeshifter.

By the way, spoilers ahead for some current movies if you haven’t seen them.

Some fans of the “Iron Man” comics were irritated when this summer’s “Iron Man 3” made huge changes to the character of the Mandarin, the longtime antagonist of Tony Stark.

iron man mandarin comics

The Mandarin went from an Asian menace armed with magic rings …

mandarin iron man 3

To a figurehead, a stalking horse played by a down-at-the-heels British actor.

Sometimes it’s more than changing characters. Sometimes it’s all about changing the background of sets of characters.

khan

The classic 1982 “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” was a sequel to an episode of the original series and emphasized the bad blood and shared history of Khan, the genetically superior warrior, and Jim Kirk.

kirk-khan

In this summer’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” however, there was no history between Kirk and Khan. And I think the movie suffered for that.

With “Man of Steel,” the rumors have been flying about changes Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan might have made.

Does Superman’s Kryptonian birth father, Jor-El, live? Or are the clips of Russell Crowe talking to Henry Cavill just indicative of an amazingly lifelike hologram?

Is Zod (Michael Shannon) sprung from the Phantom Zone or does he arrive in a space ship? Sure looks like a Kryptonian ship in the background to me.

We won’t know the answers for a few days. But we can already guess about fairly interesting cosmetic changes to two longtime characters from the “Superman” stories.

perry white and jimmy olsen

Daily Planet editor Perry White and cub reporter/photographer Jimmy Olsen have been staples of the comics for a half-century.

jenny olsen rebecca buller laurence fishburne

Snyder, interestingly, cast Laurence Fishburne, an African-American actor, to play White, who has traditionally been, well, white. I love Fishburne and I think this is a big win.

But it’s less clear who’s playing Jimmy Olsen in the movie. In fact, it’s becoming more clear that Jimmy Olsen isn’t in the movie. Actress Rebecca Buller seems to be playing Jenny Olsen.

Jimmy_Olsen

Traditional Jimmy.

rebecca-buller-jenny-olsen

New Jenny.

I can live with that.

‘Iron Man 3’ Easter eggs

tony stark AIM shirt iron man 3

“Iron Man 3” for the most part stood on its own, without a lot of overt references to the other Marvel movies – except for that post-credits scene and mentions of the Avengers and Thor.

But the Shane Black movie did have some Marvel Easter eggs, references to the comics and the other movies.

Here they are:

Ho Yinsen, the scientist who helps Tony create the Iron Man armor in the original movie – and dies at the hands of the Ten Rings terrorists – comes up to self-absorbed Tony in the Switzerland flashback scenes in “Iron Man 3.” Actor Shaun Toub played the part in both movies.

Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee almost always has a cameo in big-screen adaptations of the comics. In “Iron Man 3,” he is glimpsed holding up a “10” sign during the Miss Chattanooga pageant.

Strange_Tales_Vol_1_149 AIM

One of the – potentially – most interesting Easter eggs was the inclusion of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) in the movie. In “Iron Man 3,” AIM was an organization founded by bad guy Alrich Killian. In the books, AIM has a long history as one of the most significant criminal and terrorist organizations in the Marvel universe, dating to the 1960s. At the top of this entry, you even see Tony Stark sporting an AIM shirt. Here’s hoping these classic bad guys pop up in other Marvel movies.

In the movie, the character Ellen Brandt is the Extremis guinea pig who throws Tony around a Tennessee town. Various websites note that her character in Marvel comics is an AIM operative with links to Man-Thing and Dr. Strange.

In the movie, Rhodey’s War Machine is renamed Iron Patriot by the president. But in the comics, Iron Patriot was the guise taken by Spider-Man villain Norman Osborn in recent years, particularly when he led a villainous version of the Avengers.

More of an in-joke than an Easter egg: At some point Tony tells a little glasses-wearing kid, “I loved you in ‘A Christmas Story.'” Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in that holiday classic, grew up to be a producer and bit player in “Iron Man.”

mandarin tattoo

And one that puzzles me: Where was Mandarin’s tattoo, as seen in trailers for the movie, of the Captain America shield with an “A” in the center? I’ve only seen the movie once so far but I didn’t catch the tattoo or the shot above, although it’s common for elements from trailers to miss the final cut of a feature film. Producers have said the Mandarin character – and his allies – adopted a variety of evocative images to get their messages across. We saw a lot of such savvy in the Mandarin’s videos. But we didn’t see the tattoo, unless I missed it. Did anyone else notice it?

‘Iron Man 3’ good start – and ending

iron_man_3_poster_cast

I thoroughly enjoyed “Iron Man 3,” although I’m not sure it tops the 2008 original, as some reviews have suggested, and it definitely doesn’t displace “The Avengers” as my favorite Marvel movie.

But “Iron Man 3” manages to do what might have been impossible: Follow a blockbuster, multi-superhero movie with a story that’s smaller in scale and personal for its protagonists. But still loaded with action and humor.

Spoilers ahead, but I’ll warn you when we get to them.

As anyone bothering to read this knows, “Iron Man 3” finds Tony Stark suffering from PTSD after the events of “The Avengers.” Even as he is paralyzed by anxiety attacks, Stark tinkers with a new type of armor and confronts a new enemy, a TV-savvy terrorist known as the Mandarin.

Along the way, we find out about some of the people that pre-Iron Man Tony Stark met and abandoned along the way, as Stark finds that his past can come back to confront him as surely as an invading alien army.

Maybe there was a little too much effort to make “Iron Man 3” a stand-alone. There was a mention of SHIELD and, yes, I enjoyed the references to the events of “The Avengers.” But I think I wished for a little more Marvel movie universe continuity. The post-credits stinger was a pleasant exception, however, to the lack of shared Marvel movie goodness. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Some fans have expressed surprise at the way the movie depicts Mandarin, Iron Man’s best-known enemy from the comics, here played by Ben Kingsley. I don’t have any qualms about the turns of the plot. The comics were the comics and the movie is the movie.

In addition to the new players, Tony’s supporting characters are all here and, for the most part, get good roles. Don Cheadle, who joined the series in “Iron Man 2” as Tony’s longtime friend James Rhodes – known as the armored hero War Machine – has what’s probably the meatiest role. Co-writer/director Shane Black – who wrote the classic action movie “Lethal Weapon,” turns a couple of sequences into a “buddy cop” movie, notably later sequences with Tony and Rhodey out of armor but still taking on the bad guys.

And there’s a lengthy and greatly enjoyable sequence in the middle of the movie when Tony teams up with a youngster played to great effect by young actor Ty Simpkins. Tony’s caustic treatment of the boy more than offsets any hint of treacle.

Random observations:

The movie did fool me (spoiler here) about the fate of Pepper Potts. For a little while.

The end credits, with scenes from all three movies set to a hard-driving tune, seem like the credits for some forgotten 70s “Iron Man” TV show.

And here’s the end-credits spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie yet: Mark Ruffalo does indeed show up as Bruce Banner. It turns out that Tony’s recounting of events that frames the movie is for the benefit of Bruce Banner. The comrades-in-science left together at the end of last year’s “The Avengers” and fans have been wanting more of the pairing. As post-credits stingers go, it was the rare instance that didn’t advance the story toward the next Marvel movie but established, like Marvel Comics always did, that this is a shared Marvel universe.

Related observation: For a comic book fan all grown up, seeing trailers for movies featuring Thor, Wolverine and Superman before an Iron Man movie is more than a little mind-boggling.

In some ways, “Iron Man 3” feels like the finale of the series. It is, in reality, the first movie in Marvel’s planned Phase 2, a series that culminates in the “Avengers” sequel in 2015. There’s a sense of finality about the movie however. If this was the last “Iron Man” movie or the last featuring Downey, it wouldn’t be a bad exit.