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The Road To Infinity War Part 3- Iron Man 2 (2010)

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               The Road to Infinity War

                                  Part 3 

                      Iron Man 2 (2010)

 

Week 3 is here and that can only mean one thing, the first sequel in the MCU, Iron Man 2. For many, this is one of the low points in the franchise as the plot seemed more interested in setting up the future than focusing on the story at hand. It’s also widely considered to have the weakest villain to date in Whiplash. Their is merit to those arguments and while I personally feel that we still get some cool moments, they ultimately don’t elevate the movie as it should have.

 

Following the events of the first film, Ivan Vanko begins to construct his own arc reactor taken from the plans made by Howard Stark and his father, Anton. Their is no plan to take over the world or profit from the technology, he just wants to hurt Stark and show the world that Iron Man isn’t invincible. Tony’s business rival, Justin Hammer, recruits Ivan to strengthen his own brand of armored suits. Black Widow is introduced for some reason and Vanko turns on Hammer. Tony gets his act together, joins up with Rhodey and they save the day. That’s it, story over.

 

I’m being droll here because the overall arc of Iron Man 2 warrants it. Their was a much better story somewhere out there. They touched on Tony’s long battle with alcoholism from the comics which seemingly vanishes from future films. Armor Wars would have been a perfect fit here with Hammer and Ivan more or less using Tony’s armor designs. What we essentially got, however, was a loose mesh of ideas only serving the advancement of the MCU arc. I’m a believer that this is the film that birthed the idea for the endgame with Thanos. As a result, Iron Man 2 serves as a bit of a “course correction” to be able to get there.

 

Not everything here is bland. I’m a huge fan of the silver Centurion armor from the comics and it was fantastic to see a variation of it early in the movie. Even though she was shoehorned in, seeing Black Widow for the first time was pretty great. The iron drone fight at the end was fun, the same can’t be said for the final Whiplash encounter.  

 

I’ve seen Iron Man 2 probably more than the others in the series. My daughter is a huge Black Widow fan and with her being about eight at the time, you can imagine this was being replayed at home quite a bit. I don’t hate the film by any means. I, like a lot of fans, feel that it could have been much more.

 

 

 

HOW IT CONNECTS TO AVENGERS INFINITY WAR: During Tony’s “house arrest” he goes through Howard’s books and a diagram of the Tesseract (Space Stone) can be seen. This of course plays a bigger role in Captain America: The First Avenger.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES vs. I, TONYA

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Over this past week I was able to watch two films that I had been eagerly awaiting to see since their trailers had come out, and they are Battle of the Sexes and I, Tonya. I’m going to be upfront and say I am tennis player, or I used to be one. Although I don’t play two to three hours a day anymore, the game will always hold a dear place in my heart. Needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing Battle of the Sexes a million times more than I, Tonya, but what I came away with after watching I, Tonya last night was that it blew Battle of the Sexes out of the water. To be totally honest, I hadn’t even thought about comparing the two until seeing both so closely together. It then became obvious that these movies had the potential to be very similar.  

The best way I can compare the two is to say that Battle of the Sexes is like having a vanilla milkshake: It’s good, because it’s still a milkshake. I, Tonya, though, is like a Reese’s peanut butter shake: It’s an overwhelming taste sensation and a treat that when it’s gone, makes you wish you ordered the bigger size. Meaning, Battle of the Sexes is disappointing and I, Tonya is so much more than I ever wanted.   

Here’s why Battle of the Sexes fell short of my expectations:

Image Credit: IMDB

Image Credit: IMDB

A story about Billie Jean King shouldn’t feel like another run of the mill film about a significant event in sports history and a legendary player. It’s too easy to make that kind of movie. I’m not going to say that everything about this film was terrible. I’ll give credit where credit is due. The tennis action sequences are excellently done. They make you root for Billie Jean King to demolish Bobby Riggs all over again. Emma Stone and Steve Carell do close to spot on impressions of the two. Although this film may have been a good showcase for Emma Stone and Steve Carell’s acting abilities, I don’t feel it tapped into the full potential a story such as this one contains. The few times when this film does excel is when the focus is on Billie Jean’s struggle to gain the respect for women’s tennis that the sport deserves, or when it is giving us a well-rounded view of Bobby Riggs’ character. As amazing as Steve Carell is at playing Bobby Riggs, I’m not certain we needed his character's whole background story, but overall, Riggs’ story arc is all well and good with me because it feels authentic. It also accomplishes making me pity his character instead of flat out despising him. This leads me to the film’s major flaw and that is that a good chunk of the movie was taken up by lackluster plot lines; the most bothersome of which is the love storyline. Do I feel Billie Jean King’s sexuality, which plays an eventual role in her being a pioneer for LGBT rights, is an important aspect of her life? Absolutely. Am I so sure that it contributed to this particular story as a whole? I’m not convinced, and that may be solely due to that specific plot line feeling forced. The dialogue even sounds generic in these scenes. In a way, it makes the film feel disjointed, as if it isn’t sure which story to tell at times. If these scenes were made to feel natural, maybe I would have been fine with them. It just seems that they could have been cut down or replaced to make room for more valuable ones.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Photo Credit: IMDB

Seeing I, Tonya didn’t help me feel any less let down by Battle of the Sexes. In fact, it only seemed to aggravate my disappointment. Everything that feels plain and forced about the storytelling of Battle of the Sexes is the opposite with I, Tonya. I, Tonya takes a story a large portion of the general public has witnessed in their lifetime and shows a different side of it. Its characters are vivid and even if they are exaggerated, their “larger than life” quality gives us something we can feel, ‘touch', and understand. Instead of simply telling the story in a typical mockumentary form, I, Tonya takes that method of storytelling to a whole new level and uses techniques, I for one haven’t seen before, in the most brilliant, fun, and ingenious ways. Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, and Allison Janney aren’t walking impersonations of the characters they play. They are these characters. In scenes that haven’t been documented in reality and we’re unsure if they actually occurred, are the times when Margot Robbie shines the brightest and brings another dimension to the role. This film accomplishes showing possibly one of the most villainized people in fairly recent American history in a sympathetic light. We don’t know if the narrator is reliable, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. All that matters is we learn Tonya Harding is a human being with a story of her own to tell. 

When it comes down to it, Battle of the Sexes will never stand a chance against I, Tonya. Battle of the Sexes is simple. In many ways it’s a recap of past events. A story shouldn’t be made into a film on the basis of it being a profound moment in history alone. It needs to show us a perspective we haven’t entirely seen already. It needs to make us feel. I, Tonya does, and does so creatively.      

The Road To Infinity War Part 2- The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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            The Road to Infinity War

  

                                       Part 2

  

                    The Incredible Hulk (2008)

 

It’s week 2 and the Road to Infinity War continues with The Incredible Hulk! Released shortly after Iron Man, this iteration of the green goliath stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination, Tim Blake Nelson as Professor Sterns, and William Hurt as General Ross.

 

As I stated last week, these aren’t reviews of the films but general overviews. I will say that I firmly believe that The Incredible Hulk is massively underrated. It has an interesting narrative and it doesn’t waste time with a blown out origin story. When we join Banner, he’s been the Hulk for awhile now and actively trying to cure himself while on the run. Relentlessly pursued by General Ross, Banner is forced to return home when hope of a cure is found.

 

Ross brings on board a special ops team in hopes of capturing Banner and among them is Emil Blonsky, an aging soldier who still prefers to fight rather than sit at a desk. Tim Roth brings such determination in the role and throughout the movie his obsession for matching the strength of the Hulk outpaces even Ross. The Super Soldier program is uncovered here and at first, Blonsky exhibits similar abilities to that of Steve Rogers. With continued exposure and a dose of the blood from Banner, he mutates into the creature known as The Abomination.

 

The climax battle between the two titans is terrific, both trading blows equally. Eventually the Hulk is able to prevail and once again goes into hiding, regretfully leaving behind Betty. Admittedly this is a basic outline of the film, but their are a lot of fun moments in this movie for fans. Aside from the Captain America reference, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stark Industries also play a part. The action scenes are fantastic as well, pretty much anything featuring the Hulk really ramp up the action.

 

Who can really say why The Incredible Hulk didn’t set the box office on fire. It could be that the specter of Ang Lee’s disappointing Hulk film still loomed fresh in peoples minds. No matter what it really was, the Hulk continues to be a great supporting asset to the greater MCU. While certain plot threads still exist unresolved from the film, their are signs that the events from the movie still reverberate today. The Marvel Netflix shows have referenced the Hulk battle in Harlem, Ross himself has resurfaced in Captain America Civil War, and if the rumors are true, yet another character may be showing up in Infinity War or Avengers 4.

 

Their are fans that say you can disregard The Incredible Hulk from your general viewing and I disagree. It’s a fun, engaging movie with lots of Marvel goodies. I would love to see The Abomination again, who knows what the future holds so I remain hopeful.

 

HOW IT CONNECTS TO AVENGERS INFINITY WAR: As with Iron Man, not too much of a connection. We of course have the ending teaser featuring General Ross and Tony Stark with the latter alluding to putting together a team. This scene was later expanded upon (or retconned depending how you look at it) in the Marvel One Shot feature “The Consultant.” In the feature, the World Security Council wanted The Abomination to join the Avengers Initiative. Nick Fury, not wanting Blonsky released, sent Stark to more or less annoy Ross.