Countdown to Age of Ultron: The Avengers Revisited

Hey, put down that Daredevil, it's Avengers time! 

Dave and I assembled at his house to watch The Avengers for what was probably the trillionth time for each of us. There are still things I notice for the first time, though, because this movie is GREAT.

Going back to 2012, the excitement for this movie was obviously high. I would say it had reached a fever pitch after the perfection of Captain America: The First Avenger. I remember sitting in the theatre and each time one of the heroes was introduced I would think "oh yeah, he's in this too!!!" 

This movie was a real gift to super hero fans. Here's what we have to say about it three years later.

I hope you like way too many screen caps of Chris Evans!

All the guys!

All the guys!

DH: I’m always still a little baffled that this movie exists. Avengers comics were some of the first comic books I ever owned, and I read them until they fell apart. I don’t think I ever really thought much about the possibility of a movie, because the only way for it to work would be a bunch of solo movies that led to a team movie. And that really did not seem like a realistic prospect, even ten years ago. Yet here we are. And the fact that it’s really, really good isn’t bad either. I sometimes wish these movies had come out when I was much younger, but if they had, I don’t know that I would have appreciated them the way I do now.

RG: It’s surreal. Everything is surreal. I still can’t believe there is a Winter Soldier movie, or that there is a Daredevil series on Netflix. This Avengers movie is now three years old and I still get giddy whenever Iron Man and Captain America are on screen together.

First thoughts: Loki looks horrible in this movie.

Heartthrob.

Heartthrob.

DH: A lot of people look very gross in this movie. Loki is super sweaty and greasy-looking when he first arrives on Earth, and when he mind-controls Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig, they get progressively more disgusting. They get bags under their eyes, they stop shaving, and we can only assume they stop showering and brushing their teeth. I bet they smell terrible.

Worse than usual.

Worse than usual.

RG: Oh my God. Hawkeye and Selvig look SO TERRIBLE. It makes me laugh every time. Like, what special effects person did they piss off?

I should note that I think Loki is fantastic in this movie, he just looks rough. It’s some pretty terrible hair.

But there are plenty of people in this movie who look anything but terrible. Pour example:

I swear I will post some pics that aren't of Chris Evans.

I swear I will post some pics that aren't of Chris Evans.

DH: I was pretty psyched to see “Project Pegasus” name-checked on the outside of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. That run of Marvel Two-In-One is an old favourite of mine.

RG: I love Agent Hill. I was really excited to see her included in these movies. Looking forward to more of her in Age of Ultron.

DH: It’s nice that they included at least one more prominent female character. More still would be nice.

RG: Yes, always. Black Widow's first scene is the best. Very Buffy.

I will never be even 1% as cool as this character.

I will never be even 1% as cool as this character.

DH: Like I was saying about Iron Man 2, ScarJo really sells it. I mean, she beats up three dudes while tied to a chair! In a cocktail dress! She really needs her own movie.

RG: There are two Black Widow-centric movies I would love to see: A Black Widow & Hawkeye backstory movie (he was sent to kill her and instead saved her?! I want to see THAT!), and I would love a Winter Soldier sequel where she goes looking for Bucky. I am VERY concerned that this upcoming Civil War movie isn’t going to devote enough time to that story. Also, I love Black Widow and Bucky as a couple.

I love how they establish Black Widow as being tough as shit, but then completely terrified of The Hulk.

Resisting a Jeremy Renner joke.

Resisting a Jeremy Renner joke.

DH: Ruffalo makes the Banner role his own very quickly, which couldn’t have been easy after the musical chairs of casting that preceded him. I like how easygoing he is, but how he’s always kind of fidgeting with his hands. Did you know Joaquin Phoenix almost got this part? I can’t imagine that at all.

RG: Weird. Wasn’t he also rumoured to be Dr. Strange? Maybe he’ll be Spider-Man.

Banner took some time between The Incredible Hulk and this movie to improve his mind, body, face and personality.

Banner took some time between The Incredible Hulk and this movie to improve his mind, body, face and personality.

I basically based my character entirely on my 10-year-old boy, who has all of the force of nature screaming out of his body while at the same time having everyone around him telling him to fucking control himself.
— Mark Ruffalo, Collider, 2012
I have a question: How come it’s only Harry Dean Stanton that got to see Mark Ruffalo naked?
— Robert Downey Jr., Collider, 2012

RG: Mark Ruffalo is everything I want in a Bruce Banner. And in a life partner. Oddly, he is the only hero we get to see shirtless in this movie. OH my GOD. Something just occurred to me: we haven’t seen Captain America or Thor shirtless in any movies after their first ones, have we? That is just a travesty. I don’t expect you to weigh in on this, Dave, so I’ll move on.

DH: I feel like there was a very gratuitous shirtless Thor in The Dark World, but I’ll guess we’ll know when we revisit that.

RG: Ooo! There's something to look forward to!

I was actually kind of over Iron Man at this point and wasn't looking forward to him in this movie, but he completely won me back. So great in this. When he shows up in Germany, blasting “Shoot to Thrill”, to help Cap stop Loki, I was like “Alright. I love this guy.” And when Iron Man and Captain America are standing next to each other at the end of that scene...so great!

"Thanks for saving my life, Mr Stark. You are human garbage and I hate you."

"Thanks for saving my life, Mr Stark. You are human garbage and I hate you."

DH: It’s one of the things Joss Whedon does very well here--introducing all the characters in scenes that feel like their own individual movies, then bringing them together and it starts to feel like its own thing. The Tony and Pepper scene is very banter-heavy, with kind of a His Girl Friday back-and-forth, the Banner scene has him on the run playing good samaritan in an exotic locale like it’s an episode of the old TV show, Thor and Loki have super Shakespeare-by-way-of-Lee-and-Kirby conversation when they’re on screen together...balancing all of these conflicting tones was the key.

RG: Yes, totally. It was really smart the way they gave us a little bit of each of their solo films before mixing things up. I am really looking forward to more character interactions in Age of Ultron. And, again, it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying to see these characters brought together if they weren’t so well established already. There is so much love and respect for these characters in these movies. So much attention to detail. For example, I love Steve Rogers' old man with a cool jacket wardrobe in this movie.

Dad's going to Red Lobster for his birthday!

Dad's going to Red Lobster for his birthday!

DH: And the fact that he calls Black Widow “ma’am”!

RG: I just love him so much. When he’s like “There’s only one God, ma’am.” Yup, that’s Captain America.

Just want to say real quick: the gym scene with Steve Rogers and Nick Fury at the beginning is one of my favourites. And not just because of the gratuitous Chris Evans ass shots. I mean, Steve’s situation in this movie is extremely messed up, and I like that the movie took as much time as it could afford with that. And we also see a quick shot of Cap being defrosted that really makes me sad.

Sob!

Sob!

Speaking of Chris Evans ass shots, Captain America is almost exclusively shot from behind for this entire movie. Thumbs up, movie!

Doesn't this break, like, the first rule of acting?

Doesn't this break, like, the first rule of acting?

Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, right. Characterization. The glaring exception to the perfect characterization is Hawkeye. Hawkeye should be a lot more fun than this character. Also, Renner looks so gross when Loki is controlling him. Like, worse than usual.

DH: I really hope Joss Whedon can make you like him in Age Of Ultron! Because, man, you really have it in for him.

RG: I will never agree with that casting choice, but I love Hawkeye as a character in the comics so I will try hard to see past it.

Get in that sandwich, Widow!

Get in that sandwich, Widow!

DH: For whatever reason, the first time I saw this, the scene on the Helicarrier where Black Widow introduces Steve Rogers to Bruce Banner was when it finally sunk in that this movie was happening. All I could think of was those old Hostess Fruit Pie ads with the Marvel heroes, and that those guys were all in a movie together now. It was a weird thing to be thinking about, but I guess my brain was just trying to process that through-line of these characters I had been reading about my whole life all colliding in one awesome movie.

RG: They should have had a scene where they ate fruit pies. It should have been one of the snacks Tony is offering around.

I love everything about that first Helicarrier scene. Bruce being all fidgety and Cap extending a hand to him in a completely non-judgemental and fearless way. And then Cap being all impressed by the fancy tech inside the ship.

Adorable!

Adorable!

DH: We got together to watch this the other night, and you kept remarking that Cap is a real dick to Tony in this movie. I was trying to defend Cap, but not doing a very good job at the time. Now I’ve had a chance to think on it for a bit, and my takeaway is that, for Cap, World War II was probably only like, what, a month ago from his perspective? He comes from a time when he had no reason not to trust his army and his government, so the fact that Tony is instantly mistrustful of them and starts hacking their computers is just unthinkable to him. We know from his first scene that he’s aware that the country has sort of lost its way, but they don’t really go into it. But Tony plants that seed of doubt, and it makes him crazy--especially when he does some digging and sees that Tony was right. In a sense, this movie is kind of about Captain America’s loss of innocence (although maybe not in the way that you were hoping for, Rachelle).

Cap has such a visible wig line in this movie. It's super distracting.

Cap has such a visible wig line in this movie. It's super distracting.

RG: Ha. Yeah, I agree with all of that. It was also pointed out to me that Loki’s sceptre is in the room for most of the arguments, and it seems to have the power to make people angry and paranoid, so that explains some of Cap’s dickishness.

I do think Cap shoots first in this ongoing fight with Iron Man. All Tony did was show up in Germany, save Cap’s ass, and then show everyone that he has a lot of interest and knowledge about what’s going on with the Tesseract. In response Cap is basically just like “You’re a punk who is nothing without your fancy suit.” Fancy suit that he BUILT, Steve. And, again, just saved your ass with. I’m just saying Steve should have done a bit of research into Tony Stark before being such an asshole to him.

Get in that sandwich, Banner!

Get in that sandwich, Banner!

DH: Cap vs. Tony is just one of the great hero vs. hero scenes in this movie, even if it’s the only one that doesn’t turn physical (sorry, Rachelle).

RG: That’s ok. I’m more of a Cap/Bucky shipper.

You don’t get these people together and then have a little duke-‘em-out. You get these people together and then you put them through hell.
— Joss Whedon, GQ, 2012

DH: A classic trope of superhero team-ups in comics is that they fight first, through some wacky misunderstanding or other. And everybody gets to fight everyone else before they team up! Thor vs. Iron Man, Thor vs. Hulk, Black Widow vs. (well, gets chased by) Hulk, Black Widow vs. Hawkeye...and all for good reason, none of the usual “I just wanted to make sure you are who you claim to be” stuff that was often the reason in the comics.

RG: I could watch ScarJo smash Renner’s face in all day.

The fight between Thor, Iron Man and Captain America is one of the greatest things I have ever seen on film. It’s just, so, so exciting to see those characters together on screen. And they all are very much themselves in that fight. I live for that moment at when Cap shows up standing on that tree after hitting both Thor and Iron Man with his shield to stop them from fighting.

I'm Canadian and even I get a little patriotic looking at this.

I'm Canadian and even I get a little patriotic looking at this.

There was a script. There just wasn’t a script I was going to film a word of.
— Joss Whedon, GQ, 2012
What impressed me the most about Joss initially was the incredible screenplay we had to work with on Marvel’s The Avengers . Directing this film was a feat in itself, but his screenplay was phenomenal. I’m sure none of us really knew what to expect, but I take my hat off to Joss for that.
— Tom Hiddleston, GamesRadar, 2012
The biggest thing I worried about was making shitty fucking movies. I don’t want to make shitty movies and be contractually obligated to make garbage.
— Chris Evans, The Huffington Post, 2012

DH: Whedon’s script is so tight, He has such a good handle on the characters. I once read a review of an early episode of Community that praised the character writing, and said that you could read any isolated line of dialogue without it being attributed to any one character, and even by that early point in the series, you would know instantly who was speaking. The characters were so clearly defined already that you would never mistake any one character’s dialogue for another. And I feel like that holds true for this movie as well. Whedon is known for quippy dialogue, and this could have easily turned into a bunch of characters cracking the same kinds of jokes for the whole movie, and it would have been excruciating. But they’re all very different, so it makes sense that it takes a while for them to start pulling together. And it’s that much more satisfying when they do.

You know who else is probably sweating like crazy throughout this movie? Samuel L Jackson.

You know who else is probably sweating like crazy throughout this movie? Samuel L Jackson.

RG: I would love to read the original Zak Penn script for this movie. I'll bet it was just awful. Fun fact: Penn is buddies with Jeremy Renner and is the reason he was cast as Hawkeye! Thanks, Zak!

The most satisfying thing about this movie (and pretty much all of the movies in the series, really) is how much respect the scripts have for the characters. Each character individually is perfectly realized (except Hawkeye) and the way they interact with each other in this movie is perfect. I love skittish, schlubby Bruce Banner. I love cocky, quippy, but good-hearted Tony Stark. I love ice cold, but fiercely protective Black Widow. I love Thor, who is clearly devastated about his brother, but is still remarkably fun and friendly. I love Captain America effortlessly taking on the leadership role, despite trying not to have a complete break-down over the fact that he just woke up 70 years in the future. And even this weird-ass version of Hawkeye has some intriguing elements. He at least hints at an interesting backstory.

At the end of the day, 90% of the movie, I’m not the character I signed on to play. I’m literally in there for two minutes, and then all of a sudden… All I could really work on was the physical part of it all, because that didn’t change. That was just the biggest challenge to overcome in playing the guy.
— Jeremy Renner, LA Times, 2012
She's just ridiculously out of his league.

She's just ridiculously out of his league.

DH: On a related note, the story ties them all together so well, using the individual mythologies from their own movies in the larger story of this movie. They need Banner to track the gamma signature from the Tesseract, which Cap is familiar with from his movie, which Loki is after so Thor is in hot pursuit...and Iron Man’s movies made the most money, so him too. I actually can’t remember why they need him other than the fact that he’s a brainiac.

RG: It is a little unclear why they recruit Tony for this since they also mention that he was rejected for the Avengers Initiative. But he is very smart, and maybe they figured Banner could use a friend.

I would watch a whole movie about these two.

I would watch a whole movie about these two.

I think without Tony, we don’t work. He really is the glue in the family. He is the fire, the thing that keeps you coming back. I think, at least for this movie, Cap’s struggling with finding his footing in this modern day – he’s a fish out of water. He’s a little more uncomfortable in his own skin than he normally might be, and he’s not hitting the ground running without the charisma and the leadership and the character that Tony Stark is.
— Chris Evans, Collider, 2012

DH: I can’t get enough of the Thor/Hulk fight. I love how Hulk is such a dummy, especially when he grabs that pilot’s ejection seat, and then he doesn’t know what to do with it so he just throws it away.

RG: That is one of my favourite parts of the whole movie. That poor pilot!

This pilot probably tells this story a lot.

This pilot probably tells this story a lot.

DH: Watching this time, though, it occurred to me--does anyone ever tell Thor that Banner and Hulk are one and the same? He calls him Banner, but they have no prior familiarity. Other than that stupid TV movie from the 1980s!

RG: That is an excellent point. I feel like Thor doesn’t know anything about anything, but he’s so good-natured he just goes with the flow. Really the only person Thor met before is Agent Coulson.

I like the visceral gut instinct that Thor has. There’s a bit of a childlike quality, in the sense that, if he believes something and wants to do something, he does it and says it.
— Chris Hemsworth, Collider, 2012

Let’s talk costumes! I do not like Thor’s costume in this except the choice to go sleeveless. Excellent move.

A+

A+

I actually like Captain America’s costume. I like that they went with bright colours. I can live with his ears being covered, even if it doesn’t really make sense. I like that it has a zipper up the front with some sort of velcro(?) panel. I will say this: that costume looks uncomfortably warm. In this scene all I can think about is how hot Chris Evans is, and for once I am not talking about his good looks:

Somebody please get him a glass of water.

Somebody please get him a glass of water.

My theory is that the costume being very warm is why we get to see my favourite look in the whole movie later: casual Cap:

I would like a movie where Tony takes Steve shopping for clothes.

I would like a movie where Tony takes Steve shopping for clothes.

Under Armour and ridiculous boots! I love it!

Everybody looks incredibly uncomfortable until the cameras are rolling and then we all look f#@king badass. Then “Cut!” and we’re all like, ‘Aarrrgh… God, this thing, get it off me, it’s awful!!’
— Scarlett Johansson, IGN, 2012
Baller.

Baller.

Iron Man looks perfect, and I like Tony’s designer Black Sabbath shirt. Black Widow’s costume is excellent, and never unzipped too far. I love Bruce Banner’s loose-fitting linen clothes, and The Hulk finally looks the way he should on screen.  

He also looks like Mark Ruffalo!!!

He also looks like Mark Ruffalo!!!

One part of this movie that always makes me laugh is when Captain America asks Hawkeye if he has a suit before they head to NYC. It’s funny because Clint’s “suit” is really not that different from what he’s wearing in the scene. Also, Captain America assumes everyone has a fancy fighting outfit.

DH: I really do wish Hawkeye had some kind of headgear, a helmet or something, to make him look at least a bit more like his comic-book counterpart. It would makes sense after all, what with being just a regular human.

RG: It would also hide his face! Zing!

DH: Remember all the hysteria and speculation about the alien invaders in this movie? How everyone thought they were going to be Skrulls, or the Sons of Muspelheim from Simonson’s Thor run, or the Kree? And then they just end up being the Chitauri from The Ultimates, in name only, really. It didn’t really matter in the end, they just needed a faceless army to beat up on.

RG: Yeah, I had no idea who those aliens were supposed to be. I do not read Ultimates comics.

Too much handsome in one screen

Too much handsome in one screen

DH: The final battle in New York is very satisfying. It could have been a confusing fiasco to watch, like a Transformers movie, but it has a very sensible geography to it. You can actually follow the action, and everything everybody does in it makes sense. All of the various fighting styles of the heroes, and how they all start to work together...I love it. Age Of Ultron really does have a lot to live up to. But I feel like most of this climactic battle was kept out of the advertising, and I also feel that we probably haven’t seen much of the sequel’s climactic battle yet either.

As badass as a person can possibly look.

As badass as a person can possibly look.

RG: The New York battle is amazing. There are so many great parts, and actually Hawkeye has some great moments during it. They definitely try to make up for him being a mindless puppet for the first half of the movie. He’s still not everything I want to see in a Hawkeye, but he has some very cool moves.

It takes guts to go sleeveless when you are in a movie with Chris Hemsworth.

It takes guts to go sleeveless when you are in a movie with Chris Hemsworth.

I laughed forever after Thor and Hulk took out that giant monster and Thor looked at Hulk like “Well done, partner!” then Hulk just punches him so hard! And of course Hulk going to town on Loki. I think my favourite part of the New York battle is when Black Widow gets Cap to give her a boost so she can hijack one of the alien speeder things. I think it’s a great character moment for her, showing her as fearless but also kind of fun. And I think Cap becomes at least a little sexually interested in her at that moment. He’d have to, right?

DH: I assume so! As he says in Winter Soldier, “I’m 95, I’m not dead.”

"How do you feel about 90-year-old virgins?"

"How do you feel about 90-year-old virgins?"

RG: Oh, and Tony sacrificing himself to save everyone? Gets me every time. Especially when everyone is so sad around his lifeless body after he falls back to Earth. When Hulk yells in his face to wake him up, and Tony says “What the hell?”...that is solid gold.

Who's the asshole now, Cap?

Who's the asshole now, Cap?

I also love the scene where they are all parting ways. Tony and Steve shaking hands, Tony and Bruce leaving together to go be science bros, Hawkeye looking terrible, Steve taking off on his motorcycle in his dad clothes, Thor and Loki beaming up to Asgard.

Captain America is supposed to be dressed like a dork. What's this guy's excuse?

Captain America is supposed to be dressed like a dork. What's this guy's excuse?

I feel like Bruce Banner should have been in Iron Man 3. That would have made sense, right?

DH:  Well, spoiler alert I guess, but he is, isn’t he? After the credits? Does that count?

RG: No, that's true. And it's probably my favourite end-of-credits scene of all of them.

DH: I can’t believe I didn’t see that Thanos reveal coming. They really do hint heavily that some cosmic baddie is behind everything earlier in the movie (“You would question him? He who put the sceptre in your hand?”), but I was still caught off guard by that mid-credits scene. That reveal was hugely confusing to non-comics fans--my girlfriend Hillary turned to me and asked, “Is that Hellboy?” I thought there would be some vague tease of something, a name we recognized, or a familiar symbol or something...nope, Thanos himself. A pretty big gauntlet to throw down, if you will.

RG: Yeah, that was hard to explain to non-comic fans. It was ballsy for sure. For the normals they included the very excellent shawarma scene at the end of the credits, which is hilarious and perfect. I had my doubt that a shawarma place in midtown Manhattan would still be open after that fight, but you proved me wrong, movie! Shawarma is an excellent food that we have an abundance of here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so it was nice to see it get a little recognition.

I would watch a whole movie where the Avengers are just hanging out doing stuff together. I guess that’s what fanfic is for.

I hope they tipped well.

I hope they tipped well.

Whoosh! That was a lot, and we didn't even get into fun details like Agent Coulson being such a Captain America fanboy, or Nick Fury doing anything! Anyway, we are going to take a few days to watch and digest this new Daredevil series and then we'll be back with our thoughts on Iron Man 3!

Countdown to Age of Ultron: Captain America: The First Avenger Revisited

OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod. It's time to watch Captain America: The First Avenger. ANY EXCUSE to watch this movie!  Dave's and my love for this movie runs deep, so this post is lengthy and, frankly, a little gushy on my part. It also took all of my self control to not just put hundreds of screen caps and gifs into this post.

So let's dive into the story of two perfect looking human beings who fall in love.

"Hi, Rachelle!"

"Hi, Rachelle!"

RG: I like to go into these movies as unspoiled as possible. When I went to see this opening night, I had no idea that the whole thing was set during WWII. I was so, so pleased. Dave and I saw this together with a group opening night and afterwards we were all just buzzing with excitement. I don't think any of us could believe how good this movie was. It took care of a lot of my anxiety that the upcoming Avengers movie might be disappointing.

DH: I felt pretty sure we were in good hands, based on the casting, the trailers, and Joe Johnston directing. At this point, after this movie and The Rocketeer, why would you ever get anyone else to direct your WWII superhero adventure?

This movie earned a lot of good will for me right off the bat with that opening scene in the arctic. As I believe I mentioned in my original LBW review back in 2011, it feels like an homage to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Thing, and Aliens--three of my favourite movies. One of the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys who discovers the crashed airship is even played by an Aliens actor, William Hope (“You always were an asshole, Gorman!”).

You might think this cube isn't going to be all that important...

You might think this cube isn't going to be all that important...

RG: Like Iron Man 2, this movie shows us the villain before it shows us the hero. Unlike Iron Man 2, it's awesome. Hugo Weaving is just great. And his comic book super Nazi technology looks great.

DH: Was it ever confirmed that Weaving based his voice as the Red Skull on Werner Herzog? Either way, he is great. In the last few years, he’s been pretty vocal about the fact that he doesn’t like doing these big special effects blockbusters. It’s a shame, because he does them so well! I really hope Marvel has him locked into at least one more appearance, because I would love to see him come back for the next Cap movie. What I’d really love to see is, in a post-credits scene, to have him show up the way Nick Fury did at the end of Iron Man to start recruiting villains for the Masters Of Evil. But, the villains rarely ever survive these movies, so that’s pretty unlikely.

Also, the scene that introduces him takes place in Tonsberg, Norway, which is where the big battle with the Frost Giants in Thor’s prologue happens. That’s a nice touch. Memo to Odin, though--keep better track of your shit, dude! How did the Tesseract end up on Earth in the first place? If that’s the jewel of your trophy room or whatever, you need to lock that down.

Oh yeah, and the Skull’s line about the Fuhrer digging for trinkets in the desert--am I the only one who heard that as a reference to Raiders Of The Lost Ark?

You know what? I'd still hit it.

You know what? I'd still hit it.

RG: I am still blown away with the movie magic they use to create skinny Steve Rogers. I mean, it's really impressive. As Dave has pointed out on this blog before, in the comics pre-serum Steve is basically a walking skeleton. They do a remarkable job of bringing that to life. I mean, Christian Bale would have just been 90 lbs for the first act and bulked up for the rest, but this works too.

DH: It’s a startling, and convincing, effect. I still can’t believe it works as well as it does.

RG: The scene early on with Steve standing up to the heckler in the movie theatre, and then taking a beating in the alley, is such a fantastic, efficient way to establish his character. Fearless, patriotic, tough, and just generally the best.

I can't even tell you how thrilled I was to see Bucky reimagined as a full-grown, and very attractive, man. His friendship with Steve is just my favourite thing. I love that he is a protective older brother type for Steve, pre-serum, and continues to be protective of him even after Steve becomes a super soldier. Knowing now where Bucky ends up (spoiler alert: Winter Soldier) makes watching this movie so, so heartbreaking. It's somehow sadder than the child version of Bucky falling to his death in the comics.

Seriously every character they chose to put in this movie, and the way they developed those characters, was perfect in this movie. Not one weak link. Steve Rogers, Dr. Erskine, Howard Stark, Bucky, Red Skull, Zola, Peggy Carter, the Howling Commandos, whoever Tommy Lee Jones was playing (Fury not Fury): all perfect. And they use a great blend of big name actors and relative unknowns.

DH: I love Tommy Lee Jones in this. He takes a lot of guff for not having a sense of humour, but I don’t know how you can watch this movie and not see how he’s in on the joke. The Howling Commandoes are rad, too. Neal McDonough looks exactly like Dum Dum Dugan from the comics!

Full disclosure: I started wearing red lipstick a lot after this movie.

Full disclosure: I started wearing red lipstick a lot after this movie.

RG: I could write all day about how much I love Peggy Carter. Agent Carter was the best show ever and I still can't believe they made it. I feel like I have the power to just imagine movies and shows I want to see now and they happen. Fun note: I'm watching this on Hayley Atwell's birthday.

DH: I’ve never seen her in anything where she wasn’t playing Peggy Carter, but she is SO good. I love her scene in Winter Soldier too, and I can’t wait to see how she figures into Age Of Ultron.

Men: throw yourself on a grenade for me or gtfo.

Men: throw yourself on a grenade for me or gtfo.

RG: The scene where Sgt. Not Fury throws the grenade and Steve jumps on it to protect everyone is EVERYTHING. Again, very efficient way to establish character, and make Peggy Carter swoon. This whole movie is basically various characters falling in love with Steve Rogers in one way or another. And that's exactly what Captain America should be: someone who immediately earns admiration and respect.

The problem with Cap’ that I found was that he’s just... he’s such a good guy. There’s nothing that he can’t put on his shoulders. The reason he’s chosen to be Cap’ is because of his ability to say, “I got this. There’s nothing you can throw at me that I can’t handle. I got it.” And as a result it’s hard to find conflict because he’s so good at taking on conflict and handling it as an adult — maturely, rationally, calmly, intelligently — which makes it difficult to find an edge.
— Chris Evans, Moviefone, 2011

DH: One of my least favourite things anyone’s ever done with the Avengers--a property that’s very near and dear to me--is The Ultimates comic series, where everyone, including Cap, has been made into the, er, ultimate badass (or a big joke--those seem to be Mark Millar’s only two answers for how to reimagine a character for a modern audience). But this film really understands how the innate goodness of Steve Rogers, pre-serum, is the key to the character--not how many disarmed opponents he can execute in cold blood or whatever. It’s all in how you present it, and this movie really balances the earnestness of Steve/Cap with a lot of good humour. But of course, he can also still kick everybody’s asses, which is important too.

RG: YES! He really kicks ass, and even more so in Winter Soldier. And, yes, I have always avoided Ultimates comics, but I hate a dark Captain America.

Let me upgrade you.

Let me upgrade you.

Also efficient: the Steve/Erskine exposition scene the night before the procedure. Stanley Tucci is a delight, as usual.

Huge props to the guy that plays the artist painting Skull's portrait. So terrified.

DH: I always want to see that portrait and I’m always disappointed when we don’t, but I love how much red paint that guy is using.

RG: It’s only red paint!!! This movie is seriously really funny.

"Oh my God. He is not talking about dancing."

"Oh my God. He is not talking about dancing."

I'm not crazy, right? In the scene where Steve is in the car with Peggy on the way to the procedure, they are totally talking about how he is still a virgin, right? I mean, really. I think my theory that Captain America is still a virgin, going into Age of Ultron, is solid. Believe me, I have thought a lot about this.

DH: I don’t doubt that you have.

"So, how hot are we talking here...?"

"So, how hot are we talking here...?"

RG: The procedure scene is so well done. Steve trying so hard to mask his fear with bravery and humour. And it's genuinely terrifying. I get stressed out watching it. It was a good choice making Erskine such a sweet, chill dude. Sadly, this is the end of the road for him.

This is what 3D is for.

This is what 3D is for.

Chris Evans looks INSANE when he gets out of that chamber. Like, uncomfortably ripped. I am pretty sure it got an unabashed "damn!" out of me the first time I saw him. And I love that Peggy can barely look at him and almost puts her hand on his chest.

DH: Like his CGI skinniness, it’s pretty startling. It almost blurs the line between reality and special effects--like, is skinny Steve an effect, or bulked-up Steve? Because they’re equally crazy looking.

RG: The first action/chase scene where Steve is getting used to his new body is really awesome. When Steve goes to rescue that kid who is thrown in the water and the kid says "Go get him! I can swim!" I applaud every time.

DH: That kid is the best! And I love that Steve makes it a priority to see that he’s okay before going after the Hydra assassin. Another example of the filmmakers understanding the character’s strengths--saving lives is his top priority, not beating up the bad guys.

RG: And then Steve swims after a submarine, PUNCHES the submarine, and tosses the dude out of the water! And Steve is also wearing a wet, white t-shirt at the end of the scene, so bonus.

He cannot believe how hot he is.

He cannot believe how hot he is.

I ripped off one of my friends — that is what I did. There’s this buddy that I grew up with in Boston named Charlie. The first time I read the character I thought I don’t want to make this guy boring because it seemed on the page that he was someone who is so good, could be boring. Then I thought, you know what? This guy is a lot like my friend Charlie who is just a real good guy. He doesn’t tell a little white lie, he’s just good for the sake of good, he’s not looking for praise or a pat on the back, and he’s just a good man. I think he’s an incredibly complex and dynamic person so I just decided to mirror the character after him.
— Chris Evans, Tribute, 2011

RG: I love Captain America as a character in the comics. But, as you may or may not recall, he fared poorly when I rated him as a super hunk way back when. I was more of a Winter Soldier gal. So why am I so smitten with this screen version? Besides the obvious crazy good looks of Chris Evans, it's the way he plays him, and the way he was written. Movie Cap's sweetness and dry wit do a lot for me. Excellent choice making him so funny. And instead of him being a stoic, righteous grump (love you, comic book Cap, really!), in the movies he's a scrappy kid from Brooklyn who takes no shit. I love him. Really, I will be forever grateful to Chris Evans for this performance. It's immensely satisfying to see a beloved character brought to life so perfectly.

And he draws!!! Thank you, movie, for keeping the character detail of him being an artist!

The character is bigger than any actor. I always saw it as an advantage that Chris Evans wasn’t a household name. When you pick someone not so well known, he’s not bringing a lot of baggage to the role. I cast him in what I seen him do in other projects. He brought a whole other layer to what was on the page, and it’s been great watching him become that character.
— Joe Johnston, Entertainment Weekly, 2011
I love this detail!!!

I love this detail!!!

RG: The USO shows were a BRILLIANT idea. I mean, why else would he have that costume? Fantastic idea. Also, so, so, funny. I love the scene where he's trying to rouse the troops and they just heckle him.

This is the most embarrassed I've ever felt for anyone.

This is the most embarrassed I've ever felt for anyone.

DH: Great song, great montage. One criticism I’ve heard of this movie is that it’s really corny and hokey, and the “Star Spangled Man” musical number is probably a big part of that. But this movie HAS to be corny and hokey! It’s takes place in a simpler time, which is essential to what comes later for the character in The Avengers and the Cap sequels. The whole thing that makes him such a great character is that pathos--he’s a guy trying to do the right thing from a time when good and evil were way more simply defined, thrust into an age that’s defined by a far more murky kind of morality.

RG: (nodding enthusiastically) Yes! Again, they could have set this whole movie in present day. I have nightmares about a version of this movie that is set during the Iraq war or something and he’s not even a man out of time. I am so happy they had the guts to set this whole thing during WWII.

And who are these monsters who criticize this movie? They are clearly Hydra.

I don't think there is a practical reason for him to be wearing this jacket, but I'm glad that didn't stop him.

I don't think there is a practical reason for him to be wearing this jacket, but I'm glad that didn't stop him.

RG: I love how Rocketeer Steve looks in the scene where he's going to rescue Bucky et al.

I don't want to dwell on how damn handsome Evans is in this movie (yes I do), but for real, whoever styled him for this movie really knocked it out of the park.

Men: please use this as your reference point.

Men: please use this as your reference point.

RG: When Steve rescues Bucky from that torture chamber (Bucky!!!), I had my first crazed, hopeful thought that maybe he would become the Winter Soldier in a later movie. Sitting in the theatre back then, it seemed like an insane pipe dream. But between that rescue scene, the establishment of Bucky as an expert sniper, and then when he falls from the train with his arm outstretched...it got me pretty excited, let me tell you. Plus, Sebastian Stan was fantastic as that character, and I really wanted to see more of him.

A lot more.

A lot more.

I have long been...enthusiastic...about Winter Soldier as a character, and I immediately wanted to see Stan as that character. But, again, it seemed like there was no way it would actually happen. I mean, what next, Peggy Carter gets her own show?!

Bucky gets rescued by this new Steve. For all we know, Bucky is on an operating table thinking he might never come out. That he might never again see the light of day. So for him, every time he comes back from war, he’s like, ‘Here’s another chance to think whether it’s worth going back. I’m alive. I’m here for one night. I want to live life.’ I don’t think it’s jealousy so much, but he doesn’t really have much of a choice because I think for him there’s an element of, ‘Okay I’m going to go fight and I will survive this one mission and then I’ll come back and I’ll not go back.’ But the problem is that he has no choice because Steve’s going and he never lets Steve go by himself. So I think the protective nature of a parent or a brother was was always there. It wasn’t like, ‘Steve’s this muscle guy and I want to be him.’ It’s more like, ‘Oh god—he’s grown up and what do I do?’
— Sebastian Stan, BoxOffice, 2011
Peggy is not listening to a word he's saying.

Peggy is not listening to a word he's saying.

When Steve is in his military dress uniform looking at maps with Peggy, and then later at the bar...damn. That guy fills out a uniform.

And then Peggy walks in looking all fantastic in a red dress. And Steve is undressing her with his eyes because he's a super horny virgin.

Get in that sandwich, Peggy!

Get in that sandwich, Peggy!

It is pretty batshit insane that Peggy unloads a gun on Steve when he asks her what she thinks of the new (UNTESTED) shield. I get that she's mad about that Anne Boleyn skank kissing him, but still. That is psychotic.

This is not a man who is experienced with women.

This is not a man who is experienced with women.

I also want to point out that Steve's extremely awkward, stammering conversation with Anne Boleyn lady, followed by an even more awkward kiss, further adds water to my theory that he didn't touch those USO girls and is still a virgin.

DH: Coming in 2017 and 2018: Captain America: The Virgin Soldier and Captain America: Virgin War.

RG: Captain America: Losin’ It!

Huh. Maybe Steve isn't a virgin.

Huh. Maybe Steve isn't a virgin.

RG: So, Bucky's final moments: first of all, he looks so great in that grown-up version of the Bucky costume in the comics. It alludes to his future Winter Soldier costume too. I'm a sucker for those bibbed jackets.

Do you think Chris Evans got cast in Snowpiercer because this scene showed how good he is at walking through train cars?

DH: Well, that and and the fact that he knows what babies taste like.

RG: HA! He is so method.

I am crazy about the prison scene with Tommy Lee Jones and Zola. I am sure Tommy Lee Jones didn't give a shit about this movie but he really rules in every scene. And I love how much his character likes Agent Carter.

A moment that allows all the comic nerds in the audience to make a knowing sound of acknowledgement.

A moment that allows all the comic nerds in the audience to make a knowing sound of acknowledgement.

DH: Toby Jones makes a great toady to the Red Skull in this movie. And his appearance in Winter Soldier is one of my favourite scenes in a movie that is basically all cool scenes.

I love the scene where the Skull is getting in his little gyrocopter and Zola says “Where will I sit?” and there’s a little sad violin on the score, and the Skull gives him his car keys and says, “Not a scratch, Doctor.”

Here's how you can tell this guy is evil...

Here's how you can tell this guy is evil...

RG: I love that too. Real quick: My favourite Skull moment is when, mid-speech, he quietly counts those Nazis he’s about to shoot with his Tesseract laser. So, so funny.

God, when Captain America rolls up to the Hydra base on that motorcycle, wearing the full suit, with the shield in front? SO GREAT! And the fight after really gives you a good feel for the strength of the shield. And that Captain America costume is just spectacular.

DH: Very true. The shield makes a very satisfying BONNGGG! sound when it bounces off a bad guy’s skull. Great sound design.

One of the complaints I’ve heard about this movie is that Cap’s plan at the end doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, and it’s pretty much true. Why did he need to get caught so that the Howling Commandos could then zipline in afterwards? Couldn’t they all have done that at the same time? Ehh, whatever. At least he doesn’t spin the Earth backwards to reverse time (for the record, Superman: The Movie is still one of my favourite superhero movies, which goes to show if I like everything else about a superhero movie, I’m willing to forgive a dubious third act).

RG: Hey, he JUST became Captain America. Cut him some slack, people. It’s not like he went to college.

I’ve had other offers for movies like this and usually turned them down. To me there’s something less interesting about a guy who can fly, and throw tanks around, and stuff like that. The reason I wanted to do this one is he is so relatable. I can relate to him. Maybe it’s every kid’s dream to go into a pod and come out looking like Captain America.
— Joe Johnston, Entertainment Weekly, 2011
Look at these guys!!!!

Look at these guys!!!!

DH: Another criticism is that the second half of this movie is all montages...which is kind of true, but I don’t know how else they would have gotten across the idea of Cap having this legendary career during the war. I mean, I would have been perfectly happy to sit through a whole series of WWII Cap movies, and I think you would have been too, but most moviegoers probably wouldn’t have had our enthusiasm for it.

RG: Again with complaints? What do you people want?! I remember a rumour back in 2011 that the second Captain America movie was going to be set during WWII again and would fill in that montage part. That would have been a pretty weird move, but I agree that I would have watched that very happily. I would also like to see full versions of the propaganda movies Cap shoots within this movie.

RG: When Captain America is fighting Red Skull one on one, I don't think there had ever been two characters on screen who look more like the comic book characters they are portraying. I can't find a good screen cap of it.

The fun comic book details in this movie kill me. From the labeled missiles on Skull's plane to the Hydra soldiers with the flame throwers, just great.

Ack! When he pulls out Peggy's picture so he can look at it while he's talking to her?! SOB!

Ack! When he pulls out Peggy's picture so he can look at it while he's talking to her?! SOB!

The scene where Cap is crashing the plane while talking to Peggy destroys me. He's so brave! I kind of don't understand why he needed to be in the plane, but whatever. Obviously he needs to get frozen somehow so it may as well be heroically.

Poor, poor Peggy. It was so satisfying to see her story continued on Agent Carter. I think technically we should be watching season one of that as well if we want to be completists about this marathon. But that might put us on a slippery slope that forces us to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and no one wants that.

DH: Plus we still have to slot Daredevil in there somewhere when it drops on Netflix later this week!

RG: It’s true. Man, being a comic book blogger is exhausting these days. It’s not like the good ol’ days where there was just a mediocre movie every couple of years. I sound like Captain America.

One thing I have a hard time swallowing is that Steve would wake up after 70 years on ice and instantly know something was wrong because he recognizes twenty seconds of a baseball game being played on the radio. And that S.H.I.E.L.D. would be holding him in a facility that borders Times Square. Did they want to make sure he was extra terrified if he busted out of there? They couldn't put him out in the country somewhere? But, again, whatever.

"Guy Fieri has a restaurant?"

"Guy Fieri has a restaurant?"

DH: The middle of Times Square does not seem like the ideal place to have a super secret spy headquarters.

RG: Final note: best credits ever. And not a shitty rock song in sight. And they end with the Avengers preview which includes that shot of Steve Rogers working that heavy bag from behind. It's very near and dear to me.

DH: Those credits, with all the propaganda posters, are fantastic, and they looked even better in 3D.

RG: The whole movie looked great in 3D. It stands as one of the only times I really enjoyed 3D. And all it took was having Chris Evans all up in my face.

My favourite flavour of Captain America: battle ravaged.

My favourite flavour of Captain America: battle ravaged.

And with that I reluctantly wrap up the Captain America post. Next Dave and I assemble to watch The Avengers! Because we live in an age where we can just watch a movie that has Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury ANY TIME WE WANT!

Countdown to Age of Ultron: Thor Revisited

We are not even at the halfway point, guys. Seriously, ten years ago, would you have ever thought there would be so many great Marvel movies to watch, with so many more on the horizon? It's crazy!

For whatever reason, I did not see Thor on opening night. I think it had actually been in theatres for awhile when I finally got around to seeing it. I really have no idea why. Even more puzzling is the fact that I didn't bother to see the second one in theatres at all. Weird, considering I love Thor as a character, was looking forward to this movie, and both films heavily feature Chris Hemsworth's arms.

Whosoever has these arms, if he be handsome, shall be cast in the role of Thor

Whosoever has these arms, if he be handsome, shall be cast in the role of Thor

Let's get thunderstruck!

RG: The opening is super Lord of the Rings, but I think that's a good call for this movie because Thor is a weird ass character and it's helpful to give audiences a reference point.

Less is more is not a rule that applies in Asgard.

Less is more is not a rule that applies in Asgard.

DH: I like that in the movies, Asgard and its people are basically space aliens who influenced early human civilizations, rather than having them be the actual Norse Gods. I don’t think that’s from the original comics (in fact, it’s a lot closer to Jack Kirby’s Eternals), but honestly, I’ve never been super into Thor’s solo comic adventures--I mostly knew him as one of the Avengers. So it very well could be an older idea, but either way I think it was the right approach.

RG: Yeah, if you read the very first Lee/Kirby Thor comics they are pretty weak. It definitely feels like they realized there was a perfectly good public domain character they could write comics about in a hurry.

"Many women will be surprisingly into you when you grow up, Loki."

"Many women will be surprisingly into you when you grow up, Loki."

Good casting on kid Thor and kid Loki. Those kids look like their adult counterparts. Really everyone in this movie looks perfect. And I was THRILLED to see Renne Russo.

I love Chris Hemsworth's Thor voice so much. It's perfect. In general the guy has a great voice.

Yup. That guy looks like Thor.

Yup. That guy looks like Thor.

DH: Like with RDJ, the casting of the lead could have made or broken this movie, and Hemsworth is pretty much dead on. He is superhumanly huge. He TOWERS over Natalie Portman. He covers all the facets of Thor very well--lusty brawler, arrogant prince, but basically a good dude. He definitely makes you believe that he’s a super viking from space, which is certainly something that most actors couldn’t pull off.

RG: Thor is remarkably chill, like, one day after he falls to Earth. Just joking and flirting with Jane. I guess he's just being cocky because he figures he'll grab the hammer and head home soon.

I think this movie has too many action scenes are are so dimly lit that you can barely see what's happening, but what you can see is pretty awesome.

Did they win? Is that Thor? What's happening?

Did they win? Is that Thor? What's happening?

DH: Had Kenneth Branagh really done anything like this before? I think that, considering he was primarily known for directing Shakespeare adaptations, he did pretty well with all the action and special effects. One thing is certain, he likes his canted camera angles!

RG: Yes! Like every shot is diagonal! I guess that's the only way you can fit Loki's horns into a frame.

I think the attraction for Natalie to a film like this was Kenneth Branagh’s involvement. At that time in my life, I wasn’t in a position to pick and choose who I wanted to work with. I just needed to pay the rent, and I was excited to be involved with something on this scale. I was signed up either way! This is by far the biggest thing I have ever been involved in and there is more anticipation than anything else.
— Chris Hemsworth, Interview Magazine, 2011

DH: I get the sense that these movies are hard on directors (which we’ll get into in more detail when we talk about the sequel). I don’t know if has to do with trying to maintain a specific tone, while trying to keep the studio happy, or what. But they have the most directorial turnover of any series in the MCU to date. I don’t think the third one even has a director yet.

What I was interested in was the family saga. I think everybody was having trouble arriving at the right way to tell the story, and I was fairly clear about wanting to have a significant proportion of it on contemporary Earth.
— Kenneth Branagh, The Hollywood Reporter, 2011
"No one rocks like Asgard!"

"No one rocks like Asgard!"

RG: You get a really good sense of how powerful the hammer is early on. I think they do a good job of that. Apparently the prop had some weight to it to make it more realistic when it was being swung around.

When Odin is ripping parts of Thor's uniform off saying he's unworthy I'm like "Yeah! He's unworthy of his shirt, too!"

I could write, like, nine or ten paragraphs about the scene where Thor is roaming around with no shirt and very low slung jeans.

Ridiculous.

Ridiculous.

DH: I’m a little surprised you haven’t already.

RG: You can refer to my fanfiction trilogy: Thor and the Low Slung Jeans of Destiny.

I remember skyping with Kenneth (Branagh) when he was already in LA working on the film and I was still in London, and he said he wanted me to have a look at two performances. One was Peter O’Toole in the Lion in Winter, he plays Henry II with a degree of emotional volatility that is unpredictable. He’s capable of being incredibly charming and very dangerous in a second, and the second thing he said to take a look at that might seem left field is Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster.
— Tom Hiddleston, Screen Crave, 2011

Obviously we have to talk about what an amazing breakout role for Tom Hiddleston this movie was. He is just perfect as Loki and I am so glad they used him in The Avengers. They did such a great job bringing that character to the screen and making him so layered and sympathetic. I love a complicated villain.

Surprisingly not silly looking.

Surprisingly not silly looking.

DH: It’s weird--I don’t feel like Hiddleston/Loki’s popularity really exploded until The Avengers. Something about the combination of his performance and Joss Whedon’s writing really seemed to click with people.

RG: I’m not one of those ladies who is nuts for Tom Hiddleston, but he seems like a cool guy and he certainly serves face. I mean, ladies talking like he’s hotter than Hemsworth and that is just plain crazy. I mean...

Seriously, what?!

Seriously, what?!

Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins brought a lot of dignity and quality to this movie. Kenneth Branagh classes things up, too.

DH: Hopkins is fine, but it also feels like he stopped trying back in the ‘90s. He pretty much sleepwalks through the sequel. Although frankly, I don’t think this part required a lot from him.

RG: He just had to look cool and be British.

"Do you have any Norse in you? Would you like some?"

"Do you have any Norse in you? Would you like some?"

I was always pretty hard on Natalie Portman in this movie, but honestly she's very sweet and charming as Jane Foster. I mean, it's a weird version of the character that is nothing like the comic book character, but she's enjoyable enough. I think the bigger problem is how boring most of her scenes are, and how forced the romance is.

DH: True, but at least nobody takes her hostage or anything like that, which I suppose is a kind of progress.

RG: That is an excellent point! They take her research hostage instead. She is a legit smart, cool lady.

RG: The first time I saw this I did not at all notice that Hawkeye was in it. I actually remember that you asked me what I thought of Hawkeye in the movie and I was like "huh?" Like, I didn't even notice that it was Jeremy Renner. I do remember thinking "a bow and arrow. That's a weird detail." I am going to blame all of this on my sleep deprivation at the time.

I'm Hawkeye, I guess?

I'm Hawkeye, I guess?

DH: As character introductions go, it is incredibly half-assed.

RG: Also: ugly, short and boring.

In Thor, I had to just stand in a bucket and hold my bow and arrow. What’s the character? I have no idea.
— Jeremy Renner, Collider, 2011

RG: Is Thor controlling the weather in the scene where he goes to retrieve his hammer, or is that just a coincidence? Can he still bring the thunder?

DH: I don’t think so, but I think Kenneth Branagh just instinctively knew you’d enjoy seeing Thor in a wet t-shirt.

RG: I did! And I also appreciated that the inclement weather set up a long and gratuitous mud wrestling scene!

I would like a mud wrestling scene between Thor and Captain America in Age of Ultron, please.

I would like a mud wrestling scene between Thor and Captain America in Age of Ultron, please.

I think for the first time I am appreciating how well directed this movie is. You know what scene is really cool? When Thor is being held by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Loki shows up. It looks very cool, and I love Loki's dapper Earth clothes.

He should magic himself some better hair, though.

He should magic himself some better hair, though.

DH: That is a popular costume at conventions. Pretty inside baseball, but also kind of lazy.

RG: Ha! I would like to see guys at conventions dressed as Thor in that scene where he's serving everyone breakfast. Adorable!

The dishtowel!

The dishtowel!

RG: I always thought it was weird that Selvig orders a couple of Boilermakers when he's hanging at the bar with Thor, but I think it was just a way to get a giant beer stein into Thor's hand, which is what we all wanted to see. Also, those two getting drunk together is magic. I would have liked another 45 minutes of that.

Or a podcast: Drinkin' with Thor and Selvig.

Or a podcast: Drinkin' with Thor and Selvig.

DH: There’s a weird little Hulk reference with Selvig that I had totally forgotten about, where he mentions that he knew a scientist who specialized in gamma radiation that disappeared when S.H.I.E.L.D. showed up. Does he mean Bruce Banner? Do they even have any scenes together in The Avengers?

RG: Yeah, I noticed that reference, but you are right. I don't think they acknowledge each other in The Avengers at all. But that's something to watch for!

Everything about Heimdall is awesome.

Kind of a waste of Idris Elba's handsome, handsome face, though.

Kind of a waste of Idris Elba's handsome, handsome face, though.

DH: Yeah, he’s great. His matching golden eyes and armour are rad, and I love his spooky voice. I really like Sif and the Warriors Three, too. I think it’s weird that they cast Ray Stevenson as Volstagg instead of an actual big fat guy (imagine John Goodman in that part!), but I like that, since he played Frank Castle in Punisher: War Zone, it’s another bit of Marvel crossover casting to drive fanboys nuts (like Chris Evans being both Johnny Storm AND Steve Rogers). I wish Jamie Alexander had more scenes as Sif because she’s totally badass. I think she had a bigger part in the sequel but it got cut down a lot. I guess she’s occasionally on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but let’s face it--no one wants to watch that.

Seriously perfect.

Seriously perfect.

RG: Yes, Sif and the Warriors Three look perfect. They are the Howling Commandos of this movie. I love Sif, but not enough to watch Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. And as far as I am concerned they can cast Chris Evans as every other character in the Marvel universe if they want. Although I am sure if you search this blog hard enough you'll find some ancient post where I think it's weird that they cast Johnny Storm as Captain America. I was WRONG.

I'd also like to note that Loki looks so great in the throne room when he's in full Loki mode.

I'm worried about his neck.

I'm worried about his neck.

RG: I guess the campfire scene with Thor and Jane does a lot to build the romance. I mean, it's not at all hard to see why she would fall instantly in love with him. Believe me, Jane, I get it.

How does she not just burst into flames?

How does she not just burst into flames?

But it seems like kind of a stretch that Thor would be so besotted with her. It's just...he's Thor. And they spend like a few hours together total. I think the movie is just missing a scene that would really sell me on why he's so in love with Jane. Like, she needs to do something more than just give him a lift somewhere. I think the excellent Roger Langridge/Chris Samnee comic series, Thor: The Mighty Avenger may have ruined me for this movie. That is some damn good Thor and Jane storytelling.

"So...do you like thunder?"

"So...do you like thunder?"

RG: I think the middle of this movie is just generally a little hollow. It feels a little rushed and there isn't a whole lot of character development. When I think about Captain America: The First Avenger there's such a huge difference between these movies. In Captain America the characters are so well established so quickly and there are so many memorable scenes. Thor is kind of forgettable, which is weird because it's probably the most visually impressive movie, with fantasy worlds and epic battles. And there are definitely some solid emotional moments, mostly from Loki.

Pretty cool, I guess.

Pretty cool, I guess.

DH: The real world/fantasy elements aren’t always balanced very well. I don’t know what the solution would have been. I sometimes think it might have been cooler if they kept the mystery of whether he really is Thor--or just an especially buff mental patient--going for awhile. With all that prologue stuff, we in the audience know he’s the real deal, but we have to sit through more than half the film with the human characters in the movie trying to figure it out.

RG: I love when Coulson shows up at the end of the Destroyer fight, when Thor is looking all Thor, and says "Donald, I don't think you've been completely honest with me." Coulson as a character really comes into his own in this movie.

DH: Yeah, and Thor immediately calls him “Son of Coul”! I forgot that line. Pretty funny.

"Yeah, so it's on Tuesday nights on ABC. You should check it out!"

"Yeah, so it's on Tuesday nights on ABC. You should check it out!"

RG: I think this movie gets better every time I see it. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments. Like when Thor goes into that pet store and demands a horse, and when he learns they only have cats and dogs asks for one big enough to ride.

I hate that Thor's mom gets knocked out immediately when she tried to defend Odin against the frost giants. I love in the second movie when Frigga totally gets to kick some ass.

I love when Thor puts the hammer on Loki after their fight like a paperweight.

Mondays, am I right, Loki?

Mondays, am I right, Loki?

DH: Me too! He must have done something similar to someone in the comics at some point, but I’d never seen it.

RG: Here is something that we REALLY need to talk about: the garbage Foo Fighters song that plays over the credits. Like, what the hell? Took me right out of it. Thank God they stopped doing that shit for these movies. I'm right about that, right? There isn't, like, a Weezer song that plays over the Avengers credits, right?

DH: No, but there is a very mediocre new Soundgarden song, so you’re kind of in the right ballpark. And for this movie, I’m guessing the rights to “God Of Thunder” by Kiss were too expensive? I mean, they did use Black Sabbath in Iron Man, so it should have been a no-brainer!

RG: There is? Seriously? I don't remember the Soundgarden. Also, “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC was used in Iron Man 2 so that's out, too. Maybe “Lightning Strikes”, or “Knock on Wood”?

DH: It’s also very cool that Walt Simonson got to do a cameo in the banquet scene on Asgard at the end.

RG: I swear to God I remember the opening scene of Captain America, where they find him in the ice, being tagged onto the end of this movie. I guess I am crazy.

DH: The heart wants what it wants, I suppose. And what your heart always wants is more Cap.

RG: ‘tis true!

"I'm going to be so rich!"

"I'm going to be so rich!"

At this point I am super excited to watch/finally write about Captain America: The First Avenger. My love for that movie is INTENSE. I know Dave feels the same way, though probably with a little less lust.

Countdown to Age of Ultron: Iron Man 2 Revisited

Sometimes a great work of art has an intentional flaw so you know it was was made by a human being. Let’s pretend that’s what Marvel Studios was going for with Iron Man 2. A chink in the armor, as it were.

Let’s get this over with!

RG: It’s spring, 2010. I had very recently become a mother and was excited about a night out at the movies. We open on Moscow and I am buzzing with excitement over this new Iron Man movie that is definitely going to be FANTASTIC.

Like The Incredible Hulk, I have only seen Iron Man 2 once. It's the only one I've been dreading re-watching. And now that I have…

Those brief opening minutes when I thought this movie would be good.

Those brief opening minutes when I thought this movie would be good.

RG: I actually like the Stark Expo. It's completely ridiculous but it's very Tony. They should have just filmed it at ComicCon. I also like John Slattery as Howard Stark, even though nothing he does in this movie makes sense. And he looks nothing like Dominic Cooper.

Tony Stark looks ten years older in this movie. Gwyenth Paltrow looks fantastic. Rhodes looks better, too.

I reacted to Garry Shandling's appearance in this movie the same way I reacted when he showed up in The Winter Soldier: spit take. I always forget he's in these movies.

DH: He looks weird in this but not nearly as weird as he does in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he seems to be auditioning for a Henry Kissinger biopic. I can’t tell if he had too much Botox injected into his face, or if he’s just aging strangely, but he looks hideous!

RG: I also forgot that Sam Rockwell is in this movie.

DH: The way Rockwell is used here is very similar to the way Topher Grace is used as Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3--he’s not very close to his comic book counterpart, but instead is basically a smarmy doppelganger of our hero. A good villain provides contrast with the hero, but having a villain who’s only slightly more of an ass than the hero isn’t very interesting to watch.

RG: Yes, that is exactly right. And, actually, everyone in this movie talks like Tony Stark. Justin Hammer is Tony Stark. James Rhodes is Tony Stark. Black Widow is Tony Stark. It's the worst.

The first one changed everything for me and with the second ‘Iron Man’ there were certain aspects that were dissatisfying and disappointing to me but at least they lit me right.
— Robert Downey Jr., Los Angeles Times, 2011
Here we knew that people were going to show up. We just wanted to make sure that everyone who showed up had a good time and that this was going to be fun or more fun than the last party. So it’s a different kind of pressure.
— Jon Favreau, Iron Man 2 Press Conference, 2010

DH: The movie seems to start out from a very odd notion that, somehow, by building a robot suit, Tony Stark seems to have brought about world peace. Every TV news talking head in this movie is always going on about how he protects everyone, and when he’s at the Senate subcommittee hearing Tony is boasting about how he’s responsible for the longest period of uninterrupted peace in years or something. Then later, when things aren’t going so well for Tony, everyone is all like “How will Iron Man protect us?” The script is kind of childishly simple in that respect. One guy in a battle suit = total world peace within two years, a peace that is also completely dependent on the reliability of that one guy. What?

RG: It's beyond dumb.

Will be performing his Mindfreak magic act all month in Vegas.

Will be performing his Mindfreak magic act all month in Vegas.

RG: Whiplash is a terrible choice for a villain, and Mickey Rourke is a terrible choice to play him. And it looks like he refused wardrobe and just wore his own clothes. He also got really involved in choosing the tattoos for his character, and apparently paid for the bird and the gold teeth with his own money. What is with Marvel's obsession with getting very difficult to work with Oscar nominees in these films? It never works, guys! It's like the ice cream machine on Chopped!

DH: I have no idea what that means.

RG: Every time Mickey Rourke is on the screen my brain screams WHO CARES?! Look, he's a perfectly good actor when he wants to be and he really does try hard with this stupid, stupid character, but still...

Question: ‘Can you talk about how much fun it was to play this character, Mickey?’
Rourke: ‘I had a lot of fun.’
— Iron Man 2 Press Conference, 2010

RG: Ok, so let's talk about Black Widow, because this is where she is introduced. Don't remember that? It's completely forgettable. Why was she in the boxing ring with Happy? I mean, seriously, why? And why would she kick his ass? Isn't she supposed to be undercover?

I'm trying to enjoy her more in this movie than I did the first time because now I know where her character ends up. I mean, she is seriously so great in The Avengers and in Winter Soldier. Thank God. I was so depressed after I saw this movie the first time.

I'm so glad they fix her hair in the next movie.

I'm so glad they fix her hair in the next movie.

RG: THE CAR RACING SCENE IS SO BORING AND DUMB!!!

Seriously save it for a movie that doesn't have a guy with a FLYING ROBOT SUIT. Happy driving a car the wrong way on a race track: that is some intense super hero action.

The Iron Man briefcase: cool or ridiculous? Dave?

DH: I’m gonna go with cool. I wish we’d gotten to see more of that red and silver suit, too. Pretty sharp.

"This is my travel-size suit."

"This is my travel-size suit."

RG: Drunk Tony Stark in Iron Man costume DJing: hilarious or horrible? I honestly can't decide.

DH: I kind of snickered and then immediately rolled my eyes. It’s a pretty cheap gag.

RG: THE ORIGIN STORY OF WAR MACHINE: Rhodes puts on a suit to stop drunk Tony from skeet shooting champagne bottles!!! This movie is terrible!!!

I will say this: nothing makes me laugh like an Iron Man suit emoting. Whether it's in these movies or in the comics. Always funny.

I don't wanna wait for our liiiiiiiiiives to be over...

I don't wanna wait for our liiiiiiiiiives to be over...

Also funny: the scene in the donut shop with Fury where Tony is still wearing the suit. It's also the reveal of Black Widow, which I remembered being much later in the movie, so yay!

Can you imagine sitting while wearing that suit? That must feel so weird.

Can you imagine sitting while wearing that suit? That must feel so weird.

DH: Her presence in this movie is badly handled, but I love Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I mean, I know she’s not really kicking those guys’ asses, but for me it’s like Christopher Reeve as Superman: I know he’s not really flying, but he sells it with his performance. He makes you believe it. And she makes you believe she can beat the everloving bejesus about of anyone in the room.

At the end of the day you’ve got some nerd with a pocketful of money calling the shots. You know, Favreau didn’t call the shots. I wish he would have.
— Mickey Rourke, Crave Online, 2011
Bathroom break!

Bathroom break!

RG: I don't like how GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! GUNS! this movie is. It's exactly what I feared these movies would be and it's exactly what they don't do in the excellent movies that come after this one. As I am watching this I am thinking about how great Captain America: The First Avenger is and tears are streaming down my face.

I actually think the climax scene at the Hammer Expo with all the drones and Rhodes being controlled by Venko is pretty good. Not amazing, but a decent Iron Man action scene. Black Widow's action scene at the end is also pretty rad.

DH: It all looks cool and everything, but as I was watching it this time, I found myself asking “What is anyone even trying to accomplish in this scene?” Like, everything’s going fine at the Expo, but then Tony shows up and says “These people are all in danger”, and then Vanko activates the Hammeroids (gotta admit, that one is pretty funny) and all hell breaks loose. What exactly would have happened if Tony hadn’t shown up? What exactly was the plan here?

Don't let this image fool you. This movie is not good.

Don't let this image fool you. This movie is not good.

RG: I do love the botanical garden setting where Tony and Rhodes' fight ends. One of my favourite things about superhero movies is when they place the characters in costume in ridiculous settings.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

But then Whiplash shows up in a stupid robot suit with electrowhips, and Rhodes is not kidding when he says "This isn't going to be good." It is not good at all.

DH: One of the biggest problems with this movie is that it’s a superhero movie with only two (maybe three, if you count the fight between Tony and Rhodey at the party) action scenes--the fight in Monaco, and the fight at the end. Why would you want to watch, or make, a superhero movie with almost no action in it? It’s like when people tell me they like The Ultimates because it’s what superheroes would really be like if they existed. Do people want to read superhero comic books for gritty realism? I read ‘em to ESCAPE gritty realism! And I don’t watch superhero movies to see people arguing about parrots or strawberry allergies or trying to make imaginary elements or whatever! I’ve already compared this movie to Spider-Man 3 (which, for the record again, you and I enjoyed), and it’s also similar to most of the Batman sequels in that it has more than one villain who separately bedevil our hero, then join forces to try and destroy them. But unlike Iron Man 2, those movies have action scenes peppered throughout them. This movie is just tedious.

Oh yeah, and that whole subplot about Tony’s heart slowly killing him is complete nonsense. Howard Stark hid a puzzle inside the Stark Expo, which you can only see using holographic technology that wouldn’t have existed at that point, knowing that his son would have one day built a robot suit and then needed a new artificial heart because the old one was killing him? Is that what happened? I honestly have no idea.

I know, Tony. I know. It's stupid.

I know, Tony. I know. It's stupid.

RG: YES! Oh my GOD that subplot was weak. It's just so low stakes, too. Tony's thingamajig is killing him. Ok, so he'll build a better one. It's just not interesting.

DH: “Well, son, you had a circle and now it’s killing you, so what you REALLY need is a triangle.”

RG: Speaking of not interesting, who doesn't have a custom robot suit in this movie? Almost no one.

So many people are dying all over the city right now.

So many people are dying all over the city right now.

RG: Rhodes providing commentary on Tony and Pepper's kiss is so weird but pretty funny. I do love Don Cheadle. Rhodes probably should have been saving people from those exploding robots, though, instead of lounging on a rooftop watching his friends make out. Again, very little superheroing in this movie.

The Thor tease at the end of the credits is the best part of this movie.

Finally! Something cool!

Finally! Something cool!

Alright! It’s over! I never have to watch that movie again until they produce the very last Marvel movie and Dave and I inevitably watch all seventy of them from the beginning.

We move on now to Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers, which means I will be in a state of constant arousal for several days!

Countdown to Age of Ultron: The Incredible Hulk Revisited

One movie down, nine more to go. Time to wade through some mediocrity before we get to the good stuff! Let’s check out The Incredible Hulk, which is definitely not the strongest Marvel movie there is.

WHAT IS THIS MOVIE???!!!!

WHAT IS THIS MOVIE???!!!!

RG: I have only seen The Incredible Hulk once, and it was opening night in theatres.

I've actually seen the Ang Lee one more, but those were desperate times. This movie came out mere weeks after Iron Man, and before The Dark Knight. For those reasons, I think it was largely forgotten even at the time. Normally this movie would have been a pretty huge release. I remember liking it at the time, but then The Dark Knight hit theatres and I never really thought about poor Hulk again. I also got married in there somewhere.

DH: Yeah, being sandwiched in between Iron Man and The Dark Knight must have really sucked. But if the movie had turned out better than it did, I think it would be remembered better.

RG: I think it's weird that they made this a sequel to the Ang Lee movie, but I'm thankful we didn't have to sit through another origin story.

DH: Is it a sequel to the Ang Lee movie, though? I think the opening credits make it plain that it’s some kind of weird hybrid between the comics and the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno TV show. They certainly hit you over the head with enough references to that series in the first hour--Bixby in The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father on TV, the sad piano music from the end of every episode, Ferrigno’s cameo as a security guard, and the whole “You wouldn’t like me when I’m...hungry” bit. It’s a strange way to go, for sure, and I think the way Hulk was used in The Avengers (where he also seemed to be an updated version of the TV incarnation) definitely showed that this movie was not really necessary. And yet, here it is.

"Look, I don't need this shit. I'm Ed Norton."

"Look, I don't need this shit. I'm Ed Norton."

RG: My favourite thing about this movie is the intensity of feeling your own anger levels rise with Banner's. I love the anger management training sessions, where the teacher is slapping Bruce in the face. I love the tension throughout the movie of not knowing what's going to make him angry enough to Hulk out. He just keeps getting put in situations that are stressful and rage-inducing. I really love the heart rate monitor he wears. It's a great idea.

I actually said ‘no’ to Hulk a couple of times and it was only over a few conversations with Louis and with the Marvel guys when I really started to trust they were at the stage of not just looking for an actor but really looking for an author, in a way. I thought it was a rare opportunity.
— Ed Norton, The Daily Record, 2008

I think this movie does a great job of getting to the root of what makes Banner/Hulk an interesting character. Unlike the other Avengers, he is pure tragedy. All he wants is to be cured. Contrast that against Thor, who really, really loves being Thor. Banner lives in constant fear of himself and that is really heavy.

"Maybe I can somehow transform myself into Mark Ruffalo?"

"Maybe I can somehow transform myself into Mark Ruffalo?"

I think Ed Norton is a great Bruce Banner. I was really disappointed at the time when I learned that he wouldn't be in the Avengers movie, but we all love Mark Ruffalo. It seems like playing Bruce Banner/Hulk in the Avengers movies is a pretty sweet deal. No action scenes, just crack a few jokes, look all disheveled, and then a motion capture actor and voice actor does all the work for you. But I guess Ed Norton hates money. One man's trash is Mark Ruffalo's treasure.

DH: I guess we’ll never know, but I feel like Ruffalo is a better ensemble player than Norton would have been. They definitely have different approaches, and Norton’s is closer to the Banner from the comics, but Ruffalo’s take is much more charming and idiosyncratic. Norton’s Banner is much more in the fugitive loner vein, and I don’t know how well that would have worked in The Avengers.

When people are asking me, because Mark Ruffalo is in this one, who’s the better of the Bruce Banners — both are great; both are fantastic — but I actually wanted to cast Mark Ruffalo as Hulk and Marvel was like ‘No, you should get Edward Norton because he’s more famous.’ So you see what I am saying? They are the ones who wanted Edward — and I was thrilled to meet him and work with him. I wanted Mark Ruffalo. And they were like, ‘No, no, he just does smart, intellectual movies.’
— Louis Leterrier, The Huffington Post, 2013

RG: Ruffalo was a great get for the franchise. Besides generally being the best person on Earth, he is a huge promoter of the movies, seems to really embrace the fans and loves being the Hulk. I doubt Ed Norton would have been as enthusiastic. Well, I guess we know he wouldn't because he didn't do anything to promote this movie because he was all angry at the studio for cutting parts of his script. Yeah, he basically re-wrote the whole script uncredited.

But in this film, Norton does a great job being funny and sad and noble. I actually think Mark Ruffalo would have been a weird casting choice for this particular movie. 

Norton’s small frame works well as a contrast between Banner and Hulk. He really looks like Bruce Banner from the comics quite a bit.

Full Bruce Banner mode.

Full Bruce Banner mode.

When I arrived in Hollywood, [“Incredible Hulk”] was my first Hollywood movie and I really wanted to work with Marvel and I really wanted to do that movie with American actors. And then they were like, “Oh, welcome, welcome. Great news, Louis. We just got a release date. It’s a year from now.” I’m like, “Fantastic, we have to go. Where’s the script?” They said, ‘Actually, that’s the problem, we don’t have a script.’
— Louis Leterrier, The Huffington Post, 2013

Tim Roth was well cast. Liv Tyler is also good as LITERALLY THE ONLY WOMAN WITH A SPEAKING PART IN THIS MOVIE.

DH: Tim Roth was fine, but...why doesn’t he speak with a Russian accent? His name is Emil Blonsky, for crying out loud!

RG: "Born in Russia, raised in England." Ok, movie. Whatever.

DH: And as for the female presence in this movie, I think you’re forgetting all about the key roles of “sexy Brazillian factory worker” and “subordinate who hands General Ross a file or whatever”.

RG: "Anonymous fat lady whose ass is used to measure pants for Hulk levels of stretchiness." Ugh. That joke.

Hey, Martin Starr cameo in this movie!!! Did not remember that.

Yeah!

Yeah!

DH: Me neither! Plus there’s that weird Michael Kenneth Williams cameo during the final battle. I think maybe they were both just big Hulk fans?

"I was crying when I met you, now I'm trying to forget you..."

"I was crying when I met you, now I'm trying to forget you..."

RG: It's kind of weird that Betty Ross is written right out of the Hulk's story after this movie. They really love each other. I actually think this is the strongest romantic pair in any of the Marvel movies.

DH: Moreso than Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter? I’m honestly surprised to hear you say that!

RG: No, you’re right. And actually, Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes probably takes the top spot. BUT...Betty is willing to overlook a LOT with Bruce. I mean, falling in love with Captain frigging America is no chore. Betty’s love is FIERCE.

"Your love is sweet misery..."

"Your love is sweet misery..."

The cave scene with Hulk and Betty is very funny and sweet and has a nice King Kong vibe. And I love everything about the hotel room scenes, especially the aborted sex scene. That heart rate monitor, again, is a great idea. Their relationship is so strong whether he’s Banner or Hulk.

I like how Bruce Banner is completely drained and sick and out of it for quite a while after he stops being the Hulk. It makes for some nice hurt/comfort relationship storytelling.

"I just wanna stay with you In this moment forever, forever and ever..."

"I just wanna stay with you In this moment forever, forever and ever..."

RG: There is some pretty lazy filmmaking in this movie, though. The chase scene in Brazil seems to go back and forth from day to night, and there is at least one scene where it’s pouring rain but clearly very sunny.

I don't care for the Hulk design in this movie. They really nail it in The Avengers. In this movie he is too veiny, a weird colour, and not big enough. The small head is weird too.

DH: He’s way over-rendered in this movie. He looks like a Rob Liefeld drawing. In the Ang Lee movie, he looks way too smooth and not detailed enough, and in this movie it’s like even his veins have veins. The FX guys behind The Avengers really did nail it, I think in part due to their use of motion capture technology.

"Hulk is not much taller than Tim Roth."

"Hulk is not much taller than Tim Roth."

RG: You would think General Ross would see some value in the fact that his daughter seems to be able to control the Hulk. Like, wouldn't that be of use?

I like that General Ross basically turned Tim Roth into Captain America with a few injections. Is General Ross a scientist/doctor?

DH: It’s a nice bit of foreshadowing for what we would see with Cap, for sure, in terms of how he would fight.

I’ve always been very envious of the guys who got to do these kinds of movies — ya know, I’ve always wanted to do one of these Marvel characters; I take my kids to see them all the time. And, finally, they came to me and I was thrilled to do it. So I decided to have fun from beginning to end, and they gave me the room to really invent and play with this character, and to make him a really juicy bad guy. Every day at the office was a good one for me.
— Tim Roth, Moviefone, 2008

RG: Tim Blake Nelson, I'm sorry to say, is playing a very unwelcome character in this movie. His character is something that you would normally find in the worst super hero/sci-fi movies. Just annoying and delivering clunky lines as comic relief that really isn't funny. Lines like: "The mixture could be...an abomination."  Clunk.

DH: Definitely a weird bit of casting, but I am disappointed that we’ll probably never get to see him become The Leader, after they went through all the awkward motions of setting it up.

No.

No.

RG: The final fight between Hulk and Abomination is actually a lot like the final fight in Iron Man. I never understand in any of these movies why the army keep shooting at Hulk when it clearly doesn't do a damn thing, and it only causes more destruction.

DH: I really hate the design of the Abomination in this movie. Why did they jettison a perfectly cool monster design for the weird, generic thing they came up with here? Why even bother making him the Abomination then? And his motivations are basically non-existent beyond “He took a bunch of drugs because he wants to be more of a badass soldier, and he went crazy”. A good, charismatic villain really elevates one of these movies--look at Loki in The Avengers, or the Red Skull in Captain America, for example--and this movie is sorely lacking in that department.

There are things I like about the final battle, but for the most part it feels like watching someone else play a video game--you’re just looking at a bunch of pixels moving across the screen. It’s all in how it’s directed, I guess, which is why you never hear anyone talking about what a great contribution Louis Letterier made to this series of films.

RG: The daylight fight scene in the field near the university was really dull and generic. too. The wide open setting made it pretty low stakes.

I do love the moment in the final fight when a Abomination returns for another round and Hulk looks so sad about it. That was probably an Ed Norton addition to the script.

"Hulk is saddest there is."

"Hulk is saddest there is."

I think I get why they aren't making a new Hulk movie with Ruffalo. The storytelling is just very limited. It's mostly "Will this turn him into the Hulk?" "Will this cure work?" I know people want a Planet Hulk movie but I don't know if I agree with that. For now I like the Hulk as part of a team. Plus, who wants to see Tony Stark shoot Hulk into space? They're science bros!

DH: I think the only way a Planet Hulk movie would work at this point is if they had him meet up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. That could be interesting.

RG: That would be pretty great. And The Inhumans on his way back to Earth. And maybe we can see that awesome fight between Hulk and Black Bolt on film. I guess anything is possible these days. I hope they make that movie and then make a Hercules movie that comes out the same week.

"Roll camera on Hulk! Is magic hour!"

"Roll camera on Hulk! Is magic hour!"

The Incredible Hulk really doesn't factor into the large Marvel Movieverse. You could definitely skip this one and not miss any of the story. The information they give you about Hulk at the beginning of The Avengers is really all you need to know. Nothing that happens in this movie ever comes up again. Even the tag at the end of the movie with Tony Stark doesn't really make any sense in the context of the movies that come later. We never see General Ross again. Why would Tony be telling General Ross about the Avengers? He tells him, re: Abomination, "That super soldier program was put on ice for a reason." Obviously it's supposed to get the film-going audience all riled up about Captain America (mission accomplished, as I recall), but the whole encounter is weird.

Cue card readin'

Cue card readin'

DH: All the teases for what would eventually become known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe are pretty vague and nonsensical, up until Thor’s hammer appears at the end of Iron Man 2. By that point they knew where they were going with the upcoming slate of movies since they were all being written or filmed, but before that it was all “here’s a guy you’ve seen, talking about a thing you’ve heard about”, and that’s about as specific as they could get. Now the teases are way more specific and substantial. Like everything else at this early stage of the MCU, it’s all very hastily sketched in. But really, these guys were pioneering a new type of long-form storytelling--a shared universe of smaller movie franchises that all feed into one mega-franchise--and they pretty much had to make it up as they went. On the other hand, though, it was pretty cool to see RDJ as Tony Stark on the big screen again, so soon after his first appearance as the character.

There are always elements of this movie that I kind of enjoy when I revisit it, but it is a weird anomaly in this whole series. It feels less like a movie and more like a placeholder or something. The pacing is very strange. It’s like watching a few episodes of a TV series, plucked from halfway through a season. It doesn’t really connect to the previous movie, and the connections it does try to make to what comes after it don’t really pan out.

RG: Also, as I mentioned, Betty Ross never even gets mentioned after this movie, and most of this movie was about their relationship. Maybe when they found out Ed Norton wasn't going to continue on as Banner they just dropped all references to this movie. I really did forget what a great love story this movie is.

I don't wanna miss a thing.

I don't wanna miss a thing.

DH: Another bit of fanboy comic whining to get out of the way--it kinda bums me out that none of the Hulk movies have Rick Jones in them. He’s so central to the Hulk’s origin in the comics, and so important to the Avengers, and Captain America, and Captain Marvel, that it seems weird to me that he has no counterpart in the MCU. But, the whole audience surrogate character that he represents is usually the most tedious element of a lot of these kind of movies (like the ordinary guy they introduced for the first Hellboy movie, and immediately abandoned by the time they did another one). But, y’know, it would have been nice. Maybe he can get his own Netflix show?

RG: A Rick Jones Netflix series would be a great idea.

"This download is taking forever. Come on, seed, people!"

"This download is taking forever. Come on, seed, people!"

Alright, that’s it for Hulk. I will add that I checked out some of the 70 MINUTES of deleted scenes from this movie, including the alternate opening scene of Banner trying to kill himself in the Arctic. Not sad it was cut. And the Captain America Easter egg is bullshit.

Up next, Dave and I suffer through Iron Man 2!

Countdown to Age of Ultron – Iron Man Revisited

Are you guys excited about The Avengers: Age of Ultron? WE ARE!!!!

And because we look for basically any excuse to watch any or all of these movies, Dave and I are re-watching all of the Marvel Studios flicks, in order, leading up to the new one.

With the exception of the Thor movies, I think Dave and I saw all of the Avengers-verse films together on opening night, or advance screening night. Now we are watching them separately and sharing our thoughts. I thought it would be fun to compare our thoughts now that we know how huge this Marvel movie thing was going to get to how we felt when the movies were first coming out. We are also going to pull quotes from old interviews with the cast members and directors, just to add a little historical interest.

Some questions we hope to answer: Is Iron Man 2 as bad as we remember? Why am I so lukewarm on the Thor movies? Does The Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton fit in at all? Which is the best movie of the bunch so far? Why is Hawkeye so shitty?

So, starting where it all began, Dave and I watched Iron Man this week.

I’m between two phases right now, pre-Iron Man and post-Iron Man, and the transition can be tricky…It’s not an algorithm anymore. It’s a fixed number. Things have been zeroed out; it’s the beginning of something.
— Robert Downey Jr., Rolling Stone, 2008

RG: I don’t think I’ve watched this movie since like 2009. But I watched it a LOT of times before then. I’m trying to mentally go back to a time before any of these legit Marvel movies had come out.

DH: I’m a few years older than you, so I have even more years of crushed hopes and bitter disappointment with superhero movies (both planned and executed) under my belt. Deals were always being struck with studios and directors for comic movies that never came to pass, and until X-Men, Marvel was basically selling their movie rights for pennies to anyone who asked. Adding insult to injury was the fact that, when a good superhero movie like The Rocketeer came along, nobody went to see it. So Iron Man kind of had a lot riding on it.

Is it too soon to say that Iron Man is going to be the greatest movie of all time? I don’t care. I’m saying it anyway.
— Rachelle Goguen, Living Between Wednesdays, 2007

RG: Ok, it’s early 2008. In the past eight or so years we’ve had three Spider-Man movies (and I like all three of them, haters!), two terrible Fantastic Four movies, a weird Hulk movie, three kind of ok X-Men movies, a Superman movie that I really liked but most people didn’t, and one very promising beginning to a new Batman trilogy.

DH: I like Superman Returns too, and I also like all three Spider-Man movies. I even like the first Fantastic Four movie! Johnny and Ben at least were perfect. And I liked that it didn’t take itself too seriously, a “problem” that the upcoming reboot looks to have “fixed”.

RG: I secretly don’t hate that first Fantastic Four movie either. Any movie where Chris Evans burns all of his clothes off has some redeeming qualities. And it is fun.

I remember hopes being sky high for this Iron Man movie. The trailers looked great, seemed to be perfect casting, and Marvel Studios was actually making it. Most importantly, it looked fun. I also remember a general feeling that it seemed risky to be making an Iron Man movie. If Superman Returns didn’t draw big, how could a movie about a hero who isn’t Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man?

DH: It’s kind of hard to remember that RDJ was NOT one of the biggest stars on the planet before this movie, isn’t it? And that Tony Stark & Iron Man weren’t household names?

RG: Yeah! He was like stunt casting. Recovered alcoholic to play alcoholic super hero.

When I went to see it opening night I was both excited and worried. But the cold open of this movie is genius. It sets the tone and I think I was immediately sold on the whole thing within 60 seconds.

DH: Yep, it packs a lot of character information into a very short amount of time and is super fast paced. By the 45-minute mark, he’s already built the Mark 1 and blasted his way out of Afghanistan. Not bad!

Perfect.

Perfect.

RG: Watching it now I am still blown away by that opening scene. It not only sets the tone for this movie, it sets it for the entire Avengers franchise that is to follow. Robert Downey Jr, obviously, nails the character, and there’s a great blend of humour and real world drama.

Everything just looks perfect in this movie, too. From Tony Stark himself to his Malibu cliffside mansion to Pepper Potts to the suit(s) to Tony’s workshop. And the Robert Altman style dialogue-on-top-of-dialogue is a great idea.

DH: Robert Downey Jr. pretty much steps into this role fully formed, right from his first dialogue. He and Tony are interchangeable--I don’t think Marvel can ever recast this part. This one piece of perfect casting was basically the foundation stone of their entire empire.

There’s no harm in being locked into a potentially lucrative franchise, and that’s why I did it.
— Terrence Howard, The Guardian, 2008

RG: Remember how Terrence Howard was in this movie? They fixed that. Good move.

It's kind of sad when Terrence Howard looks at the new Iron Man suit and says "Next time, baby," because, y'know. Nope. I feel like that (awesome) scene on the plane where Tony and Rhodes are supposed to be drunk and Tony looks really annoyed with him...I don’t think that was acting.

Hate you so much.

Hate you so much.

DH: I’m not sure he was right for the part--he was the first person they cast in this movie, hot off his Oscar nomination for Hustle & Flow, and I’ve heard that because of that, he was actually the highest-paid actor in this movie.

RG: WHAAAAAAATTT??!!

DH: That, combined with rumours of those good old “creative differences”, was reportedly why he was replaced with Don Cheadle. I don’t know that Cheadle is the best fit for the part of Rhodey either, but I’ve always really liked him so I’m fine with it.

RG: Agreed, but I love Don Cheadle and he seems like a very nice person. It’s important to me that they only cast nice people in these movies (even though they totally cast known assholes like Josh Brolin sometimes).

Iron Man could have been a real flag-waving, anti-Muslim, racist garbage movie. I remember being concerned that both this and a Captain America movie could be total propaganda, especially given the political climate at the time they came out. Instead they made Stark a victim of his own arrogance and greed right off the bat. I liked that.

DH: It’s a fine line but they walk it really well. Just that shot of the grenade landing, and sitting there long enough for Stark to see his own company logo on it...pretty sharp.

RG: Watching this movie now, knowing where the franchise ends up and how important a role Tony Stark plays in it, I am kind of extra impressed by how well RDJ nails the character in this first movie. You are very emotionally invested in the character pretty much right away.

Not to get ahead of myself, but I remember being annoyed by Iron Man 2 because Tony Stark gets reduced to an annoying cartoon character and lacks the emotional levels that we see in this first movie and then later in The Avengers and in Iron Man 3. I’ve only seen Iron Man 2 once so I’ll see if I still feel that way when I re-watch it.

DH: Yeah, you’re not far off there--and the Altmanesque style of dialogue that seems so effortless & breezy in the first movie gets tired really quickly in the sequel.

RG: Again, not to get ahead of myself, but the emotional layers that Marvel Studios gave all of the characters (except Hawkeye) in these movies is, I think, a huge part of their success. But the humour keeps them from being overly angsty (Man of Steel).

DH: I feel like they truly are some of the first comic book movies where the filmmakers actually saw the value in the source material and honoured it (even while updating it for a moviegoing audience). As much as I enjoy pretty much every Batman movie ever made (well, maybe not the Shumacher ones), you can tell that the filmmakers in each case really just made the movies they wanted to make and didn’t really look to or care about the comics that spawned them. Even Donner’s Superman--as much as I love Hackman’s Luthor, he’s basically a Bond villain in comic book drag. But Iron Man set the template for how these movies could work if you actually acknowledged that the original comics were on to something. And that they could be fun without being TOO goofy, yet serious without taking themselves TOO seriously.

And maybe one day they’ll get Hawkeye right. He’s one of my all-time favourites in the comics, but I feel like they really missed the opportunity to give us a younger, cockier Hawkeye who had no interest in taking orders from a relic of the second World War. But maybe they’ll actually give him a personality in Age Of Ultron!

My whole thing is that that I saw ‘The Dark Knight’. I feel like I’m dumb because I feel like I don’t get how many things that are so smart. It’s like a Ferrari engine of storytelling and script writing and I’m like, ‘That’s not my idea of what I want to see in a movie.’ I loved ‘The Prestige’ but didn’t understand ‘The Dark Knight’. Didn’t get it, still can’t tell you what happened in the movie, what happened to the character and in the end they need him to be a bad guy. I’m like, ‘I get it. This is so high brow and so f–king smart, I clearly need a college education to understand this movie.’ You know what? F-ck DC comics. That’s all I have to say and that’s where I’m really coming from.
— Robert Downey Jr., Moviehole, 2008

RG: They spend a lot of the first act in the caves, which I think is ballsy but important. I think they could have done an Iron Man movie without a Mach 1 suit, but I’m so glad they took the time to include that. I love how the Mach 1 suit looks. And I love that he immediately gets his arm caught in the wall when he’s wearing it.

Perfect.

Perfect.

DH: That Mach 1 suit really is great. Even watching it again this time, I was struck by how cool it looks--how they obviously modified it and updated it, but how it’s still instantly recognizable as the original armour from the comics. And the fact that it’s largely done with practical effects is the icing on the cake.

They had no script, man…They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.
— Jeff Bridges, In Contention, 2009

RG: Jeff Bridges is so goddamn good in this movie. The scene where he rips the arc reactor out of a paralyzed Tony's chest and holds it in front of his face while he monologues is so badass. He’s a fun choice for a villainous war monger. I don't think I've ever seen a villain quite like him before in a movie. I mean, the seemingly nice but actually evil father figure is nothing new, but he's just so loose and funny. The scene where he brings pizza back from the NYC board meeting is great.

DH: I love that he rides a Segway! That detail is both instantly dated and a dead giveaway that he’s the villain. Who the hell else beside Gob Bluth would be seen on one of those other than an evil bastard? Also, if I can get really nerdy here (and believe me, I can), the whole thing is kind of a reversal of the power dynamic he was a part of way back in the original Tron. This time though, instead of being the hotshot techy whiz kid, he’s the evil corporate dickbag!

Hee!

Hee!

RG: I’m kind of amazed that the tech in this movie doesn’t really look dated. Except the phones. It's weird to see Tony Stark with a regular old cell phone. I'm writing this on my iPad and it kind of makes me feel like Tony Stark. I probably couldn't even fathom an iPad in 2008.

DH: The phones and, again, the Segway.

SHE WAS TOLD TO LOSE 12 LBS FOR THIS ROLE!

SHE WAS TOLD TO LOSE 12 LBS FOR THIS ROLE!

RG: Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr are so great in every scene together. I remember getting really annoyed with them in Iron Man 2, but I love them in this and in Iron Man 3 and The Avengers.

I read one interview with Gwyneth Paltrow where she talks about how she had to lose 12 lbs of “baby fat” to play the role. Like…who told her that? “Listen, Gwyneth, we’d love to have you in the movie, but, y’know, you’d have to deal with this whole situation. I mean, who would ever believe that you could be Robert Downey Jr’s love interest when you are such a fat mess?”

DH: I feel like this movie was a turning point of sorts for non-powered female characters in superhero movies. Previously, the female lead--Vicki Vale, Lois Lane, MJ--was usually just a screamy hostage. But the filmmakers really make Pepper into more of a sidekick. And, for the most part they haven’t really gone back, which is nice.

RG: Yeah, that’s a good point. Enough with the female characters just getting tied up and gagged!

They do a great job introducing the suit. Without dragging it out too much, because we already watched Stark build the Mach 1 suit in the cave, the scenes where he’s working in his lab with the cool 3D blueprints are very fun. That scene where Stark tests the boots for the first time in his workshop and immediately goes flying backward and hits the wall is so damn funny.

DH: The robot stuff in this movie was particularly interesting this time, given where everything is headed with Age Of Ultron.

This is how I want to get dressed in the morning.

This is how I want to get dressed in the morning.

RG: I love how complicated the Iron Man suit is. It “makes sense” the way they present it, with all the intricate pieces being attached to his body by robotic arms. The "inside the helmet" tech view looks really great, too, and allows us to see more of RDJ while he’s in the suit. Jarvis is very well done too.

DH: For sure. But as a longtime Avengers nerd, I really would have loved to have seen human Jarvis in these films (portrayed by the guy who plays Molesley on Downton Abbey, ideally). I mean, I know there’s a human Jarvis on Agent Carter, but one of these days, I just really want to see Jarvis bringing Captain America a cup of tea or something.

"Hey, would you watch a show that's mostly about me and some other agents? It will be set in the Marvel Universe, but with no super heroes..."

"Hey, would you watch a show that's mostly about me and some other agents? It will be set in the Marvel Universe, but with no super heroes..."

RG: I completely forgot that Agent Coulson was in this. Already! Man, what if this movie had somehow failed? Would we have gotten any more?

DH: It’s fascinating to think that somewhere out there in the multiverse there’s a world where this movie flopped, and there are petitions and Kickstarter campaigns to have the rest of the Avengers movies made, while Green Lantern made a billion dollars worldwide and spawned a DC movies dynasty.

RG: Terrifying.

I like that Tony Stark likes his drink, but they don't go full drunk in these movies. I expected, mostly due to RDJ, that they were going to get into Demon in a Bottle territory, but they never do. I much prefer this version of the character to drunken downward spiral Tony. And they kind of are able to use his PTSD in the third movie to tell a similar story.

DH: I don’t know that they could pull off an entire movie about his alcoholism. Would anyone want to watch that? I don’t think I would. It’s an interesting character detail for him to have that he likes his cocktails a bit too much, though--just a nice bit of shading, and a hint at a darker side of his personality.

I think I remember actually applauding this moment in the theatre.

I think I remember actually applauding this moment in the theatre.

RG: The first action scene with the suit is so awesome and fun and funny and also brutal. Stark goes on a crazy killing spree right off the bat. He's also so full of stubborn idealism in the aftermath scene back at his workshop with Pepper, it got me thinking about how his character kind of always was on the path that we now know leads to a 'Civil War' with Captain America.

My husband Matt's comment during the final fight: "I don't understand why the Transformers movie couldn't have looked like this." Exactly. These are some great looking robots.

DH: Whenever a new Transformers movie comes out, I always think of the Hugh Jackman movie Real Steel and think, “Why couldn’t the Transformers looked like the robots in this movie?” Those are some fun and cool robot designs, and the movie’s a lot of fun besides.

I'll bet the family in that car never stops telling people this story.

I'll bet the family in that car never stops telling people this story.

RG: Here is what I am struggling to remember: was the Nick Fury appearance at the end of the credits a total surprise, or did we know to expect it? In my memory it was a total surprise and we all lost our minds. It was early days of social media, so it wasn't as hard to avoid spoilers. But was it a closely guarded secret? Dave?

DH: I remember it being one of those “worst kept secret in Hollywood” kind of things, like Sean Connery’s cameo at the end of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Why else would we all have stuck around through the credits, unless we knew the key grip or the craft services people or something? I had a pretty good idea what we’d see, but the notion of connecting this movie to a planned series of Avengers solo movies, leading up to an Avengers movie...this was pretty impossible to comprehend at the time. I wasn’t really going to believe it until I saw it for myself.

I love Jackson as Fury and I like that scene overall, but I always thought the dialogue in it was a little too on the nose. “You’ve just taken your first step into a larger universe…” Way too nudge-nudge-wink-wink for me. Reportedly that scene was an uncredited Brian Michael Bendis job, and I can believe it. Subtlety is not his strong suit.

RG: Iron Man has a strong suit!

I feel like Iron Man 2 is what it would sound like to live in a Bendis comic. But we’ll get into that later!

RG: Marvel made a rare and very smart move when this movie came out: they re-launched the Invincible Iron Man comic series to align more with what people saw in the movie. This sort of thing is rarely done, for whatever reason. When The Dark Knight came out later this same year, DC killed off Bruce Wayne in the comics for awhile. And now that everyone is interested in Winter Soldier, he's living on the moon. But with this movie Marvel really nailed it with the comic book series. It was just really nice, working at a comic shop at the time, to have a good comic to recommend to people who had been introduced to the character via the movie.

DH: Yeah, the Marvel comics right now are kind of going out of their way right now to have their comics universe be basically unrecognizable to movie fans. Captain America is Sam Wilson, Thor is a woman, Iron Man is evil, and yeah, Winter Soldier lives on the moon. Ballsy, and some good comics (particularly Thor) have come from it, but is it wise? Probably not.

RG: Now that I think of it, the best bet comic for people interested in the film characters is the Black Widow series, which is awesome.

DH: I really feel like Jon Favreau’s part in helping to kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe has kind of been swept under the rug after the first sequel was poorly received. Iron Man 2  is a mess, no doubt, but I don’t know that it can all be blamed on him; the expectations were impossibly high, not just for the movie but for its part in setting up all the other Marvel movies that were still in the planning stages. I also get the sense that Mickey Rourke just kind of did whatever the hell he felt like (another recent Oscar nominee throwing their weight around!).. However, I think he deserves a lot of credit for pulling the first Iron Man off so successfully--I’m not sure anyone else could have.

RG: It’s true! Jon Favreau: Man of the Century!

"No, the whole movie will be about me running a food truck. Do you think people would watch that?"

"No, the whole movie will be about me running a food truck. Do you think people would watch that?"

So next we’ll be watching Ed Norton’s short-lived contribution to the Marvel Movieverse, The Incredible Hulk. Stay tuned!

Everything is for Everybody.

meI’m mad.

Between Gamergate, the horrifying stories about Jian Ghomeshi coming to light here in Canada, and the countless male celebrities who are just get to keep on keeping on after being accused, or even convicted, of rape and sexual assault, I am becoming a ball of rage.

It feels like a war is coming. People are choosing sides, and there have been good people speaking up and identifying themselves as feminists and reminding people who the bad guys are. But the bad guys are banding together. The internet is allowing them to easily find each other, and to form a community. They can convince themselves that they are a persecuted group.

I was born in 1980. Video games were new and exciting when I was growing up, and everyone played them. I don’t recall video games ever being identified as a male pursuit. I would play video games at arcades alongside my female and male friends. I would go to friends’ houses, mostly female, who were lucky enough to have a home computer or an Atari system and play video games endlessly. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an NES, an SNES, and an N64. If I went to someone’s house and they had a Sega Genesis, I would play the hell out of that. When I was babysitting I would play any games they had after the kids were asleep. My parents played our NES as much as we did. I can say with confidence that my mother was addicted to Dr. Mario.

Video games in the 80s and early 90s were like television or movies: a form of entertainment that could be enjoyed by all. And there was such a variety of games out there, it would be ridiculous to say ‘I don’t like video games,’ and even more ridiculous to say ‘video games are for boys.’

Much like today.

But somewhere along the line video games, like comic books and sports, became something that girls aren’t supposed to like. Sure, you can play them, but they are not for you. So if you want to play video games, or read comic books, you just have to accept that they are crazy sexist. Because you’re the weird one for wanting to participate in this fun, fun past time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about when video games crossed over to boy territory and my earliest memory is when Goldeneye came out on N64 (still one of the best games ever). That was 1997. I remember girls in high school calling that game “the boyfriend stealer.” I also remember going to hang out with girls and boys and the girls would watch the boys play Goldeneye. And if they did pick up a controller it was in a really “Ohmygod! What do I do?! You’re just going to kill me! How do I use this thing?” kind of way. It bummed me out then, and now.

I would not call myself a ‘gamer’ but I am a grown-ass woman who can’t stop playing Marvel Puzzle Quest on my phone. Video games have always been in my life as a major source of entertainment. I would say I have spent more time playing video games than watching movies in my life. It’s not a community I belong to, it’s just something I do because video games are fun and EVERYONE PLAYS THEM.

When it comes to gender inequality I would say I was born angry. I have always been drawn to “boy” things: comic books, hockey, action movies, steak, beer, whatever. I have also rejected “girl” things almost my entire life. As a kid I was one of the boys, most of the time. I have a distinct memory of a schoolyard game when I was maybe seven or eight years old. The boys were rounding up girls and putting them in a “prison” (fun!). One of the boys grabbed me and another said “Rachelle doesn’t count. She’s a boy.”

What I am saying is I am the chosen one who will lead us to gender equality.

No, what I am saying is that it is absolutely time to stop compartmentalizing gender and the interests that men and women, boys are girls, are supposed to have.

I have said to others that I am, in some ways, relieved that both of my children are male because it means I don’t have to deal with being buried in pink frilly girl baby clothing and pink frilly girl baby expectations. The truth is, I would have loved to have a daughter. I would love the opportunity to raise a strong, smart woman. But part of me is thankful that I don’t need to watch my daughter face this world. I take the job of raising two respectful, thoughtful, sensitive men very seriously, though. Boys will not “be boys” in my house.

It seems ludicrous for people to be fired up about something as silly as video games. But, of course, that’s not really what people are fired up about. It’s about a privileged group losing a piece of its privilege. It’s about the top of the food chain being asked to share.

I haven’t really written in this blog for years. When I was actively writing it I was one of not too many female comic book bloggers (relatively speaking). Every time I dared to insert a little feminist critique into my posts, I would get emails and comments from horrible monster creeps. I didn’t delete the creepy comments. They are still there. The emails were worse, and I did delete those. It was a heady brew of insults and sexual advances. Nothing like what the poor women involved in Gamergate are going through, though.

I’m just angry and sad to live in a world where people like Anita Sarkeesian are getting death threats, but Chris Brown has a new hit album. Bill Cosby is a beloved icon. Woody Allen still makes a movie every year. Mike Tyson is a cartoon detective or whatever.

I feel that the comic book industry has made great strides in the years since I was writing this blog. It’s not perfect by a long shot, I am blown away by the respect that writers and artists are showing female characters, and by the way that fans are responding (positively). I hope the video game industry will do the same over the next several.

There will always be monsters, but I have to believe that there are more good people than bad in the world, and that we can be louder and stronger and we will come out of top.

At least that’s what comic books and video games have taught me.

What's distracting me from comics this time increment?

So: I wrote something on this blog for the first time in forever the other day (read: several weeks ago). I liked doing it - I enjoy writing in general and writing about comics in particular - so why don't I do that all the time? There really is no good reason, but in thinking about it I realized that there are a whole lot of terrible reasons. Thus, this post.

First, some backstory. I started writing on Paul and John Review, the blog that would eventually be folded into Living Between Wednesdays, in 2006. I had just moved back to Nova Scotia after impulsively moving to BC for a few years. I was broke, single and had a terrible call centre job. I also had an Internet connection and time on my hands. This combination led very naturally to me reading/writing about a lot of silly Silver Age comic books, those being my most frequent Muse.

Eight years have passed. I am chunkier, baldier and beardier. I got hitched, I got a dog (not necessarily in that order). Most critically, I am no longer broke all the time, and I still have that Internet connection, which means that I have an absurd array of interesting things to occupy my time with. No reading silly Silver Age comics precludes writing about silly Silver Age comics.

But! Most of these things are incredibly nerdy, and thus a perfect fit for LBW. Plus, I am woefully out of writing trim, and getting back in practice while simultaneously expanding my horizons is just plain a good idea.

Here's the first thing, and the one that I probably have the least to say about: new comics. There are so dang many good comics coming out right now. And! I'm (temporarily) living far away from Strange Adventures, which means I'm using Comixology - I am basically inundated with the dang things! Oh, the woes that I have to face.

In any case, tune in next time increment for more discussion of the incredible hardship that I face every day. 

10 Things I Love About the Chris Evans Ice Bucket Challenge

We need more fundraisers that involve soaking attractive men with buckets of water.

1. The Halloween buckets;

2. His explanation of how ice water works (he is completely right about this: fresh ice cubes are just gonna fall on the floor. Not impressive);

3. The family house he’s hanging out in that looks like everyone’s family house;

4. The kid who nails him with an extra bucket of water at the end. That’s totally a move my son would use;

5. The people he challenges (Sebastian Stan! Anthony Mackie! Tilda Swinton!);

6. The suit!;

7. The beard;

8. He prepares his own ice water while we watch, and laughs at his inability to flawlessly dump ice out of a bag into buckets;

9. His family looks adorable. Is that other hot dude his brother? If so, well done, Evans parents;

10. A soaking wet Chris Evans.

I’m gonna donate to ALS for this one. Still waiting for Mark Ruffalo’s. Make with the bucket, Mark!