Next up on my Marvel blog-a-thon project are a sequel and an origin story: “Iron Man 2” and “Thor.” I kind of wish “Thor” had actually ended up on the same week as “Captain America: The First Avenger,” since they’re both somewhat similar origin stories that were released very close to each other. But I’m supposed to be watching these movies in order, and this is how it worked out. 😉
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Although “Iron Man 2” is a Marvel film that doesn’t always get a lot of love from fans, I have to admit that I actually quite enjoy this one (don’t judge me!) 😉 The first time I watched this movie (it was actually the first Marvel movie I saw in theaters) I remember feeling a little bit disappointed because it wasn’t as good as the first “Iron Man,” which ranks among the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. However, once I accepted it for what it was, it’s a fun sequel.
First off, I do understand why this one is criticized. The first Iron Man film felt fresh and exciting; Robert Downey Jr. was a surprise hit and perfect fit as Tony Stark, and the film offered hints about the larger-scale plans Marvel had for its movies, to culminate in “The Avengers.” “Iron Man 2” perhaps tries a bit too hard to ride the wave of the first film’s success (love it or hate it, “Iron Man 3” at least has a discernably different tone than the first two movies). The primary villain, Mickey Rourke’s “Ivan Vanko,” isn’t fully developed or utilized, and the final battle features the villain in an Iron Man-like suit, too similar to the finale of the first Iron Man movie.
Still, there are some good moments in the sequel. Scarlett Johansson makes her first appearance as Black Widow, a female superhero who holds her own and isn’t just a “love interest” for another character. I love Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson’s banter as Tony Stark and Nick Fury (“I’m going to have to ask you to exit the doughnut” is a favorite and often-quoted Marvel line among my friends). It’s also nice to see an expanded role for Tony’s friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes, who gets a suit of his own.
Like I said, this movie doesn’t rank in the top half of the Marvel films for me, but it’s my favorite of the more under-appreciated Marvel films. Captain America holds the award for best Marvel sequel, but “Iron Man 2” is stronger than Thor’s sequel, “The Dark World.”
Although “Iron Man” kick-started the journey to “The Avengers,” the release of “Thor” was another important milestone for Marvel. Were people starting to recognize the Marvel brand and believe in it enough to pay to see movies starring relatively unknown actors and featuring superheroes with far less notoriety than “big names” such as Batman and Spider-Man? The answer, apparently, was yes. “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” were both hits in 2011, and set Marvel up for its mega-hit, “The Avengers,” in 2012.
I love how all the Marvel movies have a similar tone and feel like they fit into the same universe, but still have their own unique touches. “Thor” features a blend of fantasy and sci-fi elements, with a touch of regal nobility thanks to director Kenneth Branagh. As I watched it again, I also forgot what a great soundtrack the movie had; it’s probably one of my favorite Marvel soundtracks.
Much of the movie’s fun comes from its “fish out of water” scenario, as the proud and vain Thor is banished to Earth, where he’s forced to learn humility by living among mortals. Chris Hemsworth is a perfect choice to play Thor, which reminds me of another thing I really like about the MCU: the casting. I might not have originally picked Hemsworth to play Thor, or Chris Evans to play Captain America, but now I can’t imagine anyone else playing these roles. The actors all seem to be having fun in these movies, and I’ve really grown to love all these characters. Even the weaker Marvel movies — which feature what seems to be Marvel’s Achilles’ heel, underdeveloped villains — are still fun because the main characters are great.
Speaking of villains, Thor introduces the character who is arguably the best of the Marvel villains: Loki. He’s played by Tom Hiddleston, who is undeniably a Marvel treasure. 😉 Hiddleston’s Loki is cunning and vindictive but also conflicted. He’s bad but you can’t hate him. Also, I’d forgotten about the fun Hawkeye cameo in this movie, introducing us to another Avenger.
I really enjoyed my re-watch of “Thor” and I’m thinking it will move up a few points on my final Marvel ranking. Next up are “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers.” Please feel free to leave your own comments and tell me what you thought of “Iron Man 2” and “Thor”!