Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part 3

Welcome back! I had a little hiatus with working so much overtime, but now I’m here today. I’ve got a chunk of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to cover and this part is really great because it’s when the universe starts expanding outside just the movies and the four Avengers solo movies we’ve seen so far.

Avengers Assemble!
The Avengers
We start out with Nick Fury arriving at a SHIELD base to find out that the Tesseract (remember that mystery cube from Captain America and the post-credit scene from Thor?) is misbehaving. It ends up opening a portal letting Loki through and he proceeds to brainwash Dr. Erik Selvig and Clint Barton/Hawkeye with his staff. Fury and Agent Hill manage to escape and they finally decide that it’s time to reactivate the Avengers Initiative. It starts as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow escapes from a hostage situation (which she had completely under control) to recruit Bruce Banner/Hulk. Meanwhile, Agent Coulsen is recruiting Tony Stark/Iron Man to the cause and Fury is getting Steve Rogers/Captain America to help.

Once Cap and Banner are on the Helicarrier, Banner is able to track the gamma radiation from the Tesseract to Germany, where Captain America and Black Widow take on Loki and captures him with the help of Iron Man. While still in transit, Thor drops out of the sky, causing a raucous before they can convince him to help them get the Tesseract before hauling his brother back to Asgard. However, as SHIELD’s secret plans for the Tesseract start to come out (thank you, Tony Stark) the Helicarrier gets attacked, which leaves Iron Man and Cap busy trying to repair damages to the ship. Meanwhile, Banner has turned into the Hulk and starts fighting Thor and Black Widow.  Hulk ends up falling to the earth below while Black Widow is able to knock some sense into Hawkeye (literally). After Loki gets out of his cell, Coulsen attempts to stop him from escaping, only to have the Chitauri scepter stabbed through his heart.

By the end of the fight, the only ones left on the Helicarrier are Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. They realize that Loki is opening a portal for the Chitauri warriors to come through in NYC. These four rendezvous with Thor and Banner (who willing turns into the Hulk) and take on the invasion. Easily the team is overwhelmed (though they do an amazing job) and it’s about this time that Iron Man gets a bit distracted, having to intercept a nuclear missile, which he throws into the wormhole as Black Widow destroys the portal. With everyone alive, though worn out and ready for some shawarma, the Avengers apprehend Loki and he’s taken back to Asgard. They part ways, but we know they’ll be back together again soon.

Random Trivia/Connections:
  • Coulsen mentions the Destroyer in New Mexico, having witnesses Thor’s battle with it in the movie “Thor”.
  • Loki mentions all the dark energy that Odin would have had to use to send Thor to Earth, since the bifrost was destroyed.

Black Widow’s interrogation scene is one of my favorites. Just how easily she takes everyone down and how nonchalantly she handles getting a call while everyone else is just so confused. Funniest thing! I swear! Right up there with Darcy, Jane Foster’s quirky intern. I think it’s just how seriously she DOESN’T take her captors. She knows she has the upper hand and she ends up proving it.
Apart from Black Widow, there are plenty of other great moments. It’s hard to beat the team shot with all of the Avengers in New York City. Before I’d seen it, some people had made it sound like this movie was just a bunch of hitting stuff and things blowing up, but in reality there is great character building and the development of the Avengers team feels so natural. It’s the perfect culmination of the Marvel movies to this point and it set the precedent for lots of other great things that we would see in the future (including Avengers 2, Civil War, etc.).

Iron Man 3
After "the Mandarin" attacked Tony's house,
Pepper was left to believe he was dead.
Sometime after the events of “The Avengers”, Tony is having some post-traumatic stress after falling out of the wormhole. The stress keeps him from sleeping, so he’s now made dozens of Iron Man suits. Meanwhile, a terrorist called “the Mandarin” is causing bombings all over the country, one of which injures Tony’s bodyguard, Happy Hogan. Tony makes the impulsive decision to call out the Mandarin and basically invites him to bomb his house. Thankfully, Pepper makes it out and, while he seems to perish, Tony escapes as well thanks to the Iron Man suit and JARVIS.

After crash landing in Tennessee, Tony starts to track down some missing pieces of the Mandarin case with the help of Harley. Tony discovers that Extremis is unstable. So after fighting off a couple of Mandarin agents, he rushes off to Florida to confront the Mandarin, only to find out that he’s an actor. Turns out the real terrorist is Killian, a rival of Stark Industry, who has kidnapped Pepper and he’s injected her with Extremis to turn her against him.

So after Tony escapes captivity, he rescues Rhodey and the two of them work together to save President Ellis from an attack… but he gets kidnapped anyway. They go after Killian, securing the President, and rescuing Pepper using all of the Iron Man suits that Tony has made since the Battle of New York. Plot twist: Pepper is the one who ends up killing Kilian with his own Extremis formula. In the aftermath of the fight, Pepper is cured of Extremis and Tony finally gets that shrapnel out of his chest. At the very end, we find out that Tony was telling this whole story to Bruce Banner, who fell asleep at the very beginning.

Random Trivia/Connections:
  • The Extremis chemical is later used as part of Project CENTIPEDE in Agents of SHIELD.
  • We see many flashbacks of Tony’s fight during the Battle of New York, from the Avengers. As well, the movie gets referenced many times.
  • Thor is referenced when Killian talks about when the “bigguy fell out of the sky.”
  • There is evidence that there is another "Mandarin" who is not pleased that Killian's actor-for-hire used his name. That story is told in "All Hail the King".

This was my favorite Iron Man movie. Maybe it’s just because of the difficult things that I’ve been through (some my fault and some not) that have caused me grief (for some reason I feel like trauma is too strong a word here), but for once I feel like I can relate to Tony. Usually with his arrogance and rudeness, I can’t relate, even though I enjoy his funny moments. However, in this movie, he seems to go through some intense development (not sure where that development went in later movies, but whatever). It was also very nice to see him fight someone who wasn’t in a metal suit. Just refreshing compared to Whiplash and Iron Monger.

In "Pilot", before offering her a job, Coulsen interrogates
Skye, who they have captured after she hacked in.
Agents of SHIELD: Season 1 (Episodes 1-7)
Agents of SHIELD brings together a group of misfit SHIELD agents (as well as a hacker who should be their enemy) to track down and handle supernatural and potentially alien phenomenon across the globe. The team is led by Agent Phil Coulsen, who we saw die in “The Avengers”, but was somehow revived (we’ll get to that in the second chunk of SHIELD episodes). This series incorporates the action of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the action of “Thor: The Dark World” (which I’ll highlight in the next MCU post) and “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (which we’ll look at another time). For now, here’s a little summary of each episode in this segment.
  1. Pilot: A synthetically super-powered man, Mike Peterson, is approached by a freedom-fighter hacker known as Skye. Before she knows it, Skye is enlisted as a consultant for a specialized SHIELD team, put together by Agent Hill and Agent Coulsen. The team consists of Agent Melinda May (kick-butt fighter and expert pilot), Agent Grant Ward (tactical specialist without many people skills), Agent Leo Fitz (SHIELD engineer), and Agent Jemma Simmons (medical specialist). Skye helps the team track down Mike Peterson, who has been a subject for Project Centipede, and they’re able to sedate him before he causes too much damage.
  2. 0-8-4: The SHIELD team and Skye fly to Peru to investigate an 0-8-4 (an object of unknown origin). They track the 0-8-4 to a pre-Incan temple. However, after they get the 0-8-4 into the air and out of Peru, their supposed allies turn on them and they nearly blast themselves out of the sky to keep the dangerous device safe.
  3. The Asset: Dr. Hall, a SHIELD scientist, gets captured and Coulsen’s team is sent to Malta to track down Ian Quinn, who is the prime suspect in the capture. So Skye sneaks into his home during a party to help Ward and Coulsen to get in to rescue Hall, who unfortunately has been persuaded otherwise by Quinn. By the end of it, Hall has been sucked in by his own experiment and Quinn has escaped.
  4. Eye-Spy: In Stockholm, Akela Amador, a former SHIELD agent, steals diamonds from some masked men. The SHIELD team comes after her. After Akela trades the diamonds, the team discovers a video feed coming straight from Akela's eye, making them realize that she's doing someone else's work. May and Coulsen capture Akela and the team manages to take over the signal in her eye, in order to keep her handler from killing her. Ward (with the hijacked signal) goes to Akela's destination, while Fitz and Simmons remove the mechanical eye. With Akela safe and in SHIELD's hands, the team moves on.
  5. Girl in the Flower Dress: A pyrokinetic named Chan Ho Yin is approached by a mysterious woman called Raina. As Chan was on the Index, the SHIELD team gets involved and they suspect that Skye leaked his location. Skye tries to win their trust back by tracking down who really leaked the information, leading to Miles, an old flame. Turns out that Miles leaked the information for some money that Raina promised him, leading them to Project Centipede. Raina manipulates Chan into helping them stabilize the Extremis in the Centipede Serum, by making him think he's becoming a super hero. SHIELD breaks into Centipede to rescue Chan, but he rejects their help and ends up burning the place.
  6. FZZT: The team is brought to the site of a scout leader’s floating dead body. During the investigation, another dead body ends up floating, after an electro-magnetic disturbance. Skye discovers that both men helped after the Chitauri attack on New York. Finding a potential third victim, the team discovers that they are dealing with an alien sickness, spread by a souvenir Chitauri helmet, but not before Simmons is infected while on the Bus. Having been unable to develop a cure, Simmons jumps out of the plane to save the rest of the team, just as Fitz finds a cure. So Ward jumps after her and saves her.
  7. The Hub: After an exciting mission, the team goes to The Hub for a briefing on a new mission that Ward and Fitz have been assigned to by Victoria Hand. While Fitz and Ward are gone, Simmons and Skye get panicky about their friends, leading them to hack in and find out that there’s no extraction plan, meaning their friends are set to die. While Fitz and Ward continue their mission, Coulsen leads his own rogue extraction team to get their team members, just as Hand had predicted.
In "FZZT", this is about where I
started shipping Fitzsimmons
Random Trivia/Connections:
  • Multiple characters from Marvel movies appear in the series. In this portion of the series we see Phil Coulsen, Maria Hill, Nick Fury, and Agent Sitwell.
  • The events of “The Avengers” is referenced multiple times, including references to Coulsen’s death, the Chitauri invasion, and the Battle of New York.
  • Centipede uses Extremis, last seen in Iron Man 3.
  • Thor’s hammer is referred to as a previous 0-8-4.
  • It is established that SHIELD has a list of enhanced individuals, called the Index.
  • We are told that Coulsen, after his miraculous recovery, spent time in Tahiti.

Agents of SHIELD had a slow start. These first few episodes definitely built characters, more than plot. Multiple episodes, including “0-8-4” and “The Hub”, show the team growing closer together and learning to work together. As a mismatched group of people, this really proves important later on in the season, especially after Captain America: Winter Soldier. If you want to watch these episodes (which I definitely recommend), just binge them. I was “fortunate” to watch the first two seasons of Agents of SHIELD over two grave shifts, so I got through them fast enough to appreciate them, but I can see how they’d drag on if you watched them one at a time. As we draw closer to Winter Soldier, it starts to get a bit more exciting, but I’ll save that for next time.

What were your favorite Agents of SHIELD moments? Who’s your favorite agent? I’ll definitely admit that I’ve got a crush on Skye, so she’s my favorite (though not technically an agent at this point). I liked Ward for a while, until stuff happened (spoilers). Come back for another post next week. I’m thinking either Classic Doctor Who or something random.

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