Now That Tony Stark Is Dead, Maybe the MCU Can Get Progressive

Maybe Tony Stark died at the exact right moment. Maybe the spring of 2019 was the last time it was safe out there for a billionaire, and if he had survived into the current Democratic primary, which has made billionaires as much a target as President Trump, he would have come to understand Harvey Dent’s famous quote in The Dark Knight.

It’s almost hard to remember a time when Iron Man was a C-list superhero, but he was. He was essentially a runner-up, a superhero whose best known storyline was the one where he was too much of a drunk to keep being a superhero. But the vagaries of Hollywood are what they are, and Marvel Studios ended up with only the rights to their B and C-list heroes, and so they made an Iron Man movie. The rest, as they say, is history.

But it’s a weird history, one warped by the fact that Tony Stark is the founding member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That doesn’t reflect his status in the comics (or at least it didn’t, until recently) and it has led to a strange and unforeseen – and, I think, largely unacknowledged – imbalance in the MCU. One that, now that Tony is dead, can finally be corrected.

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AVENGERS ENDGAME: More Event Than Movie

This contains spoilers for Avengers Endgame.

When is a movie not movie? This isn’t some kind of riddle, but rather an attempt to figure out how to approach a film like Avengers Endgame, which feels not quite like a motion picture as we define them and more like an event. It’s an experience first and foremost, a movie second… and I wonder how much that matters. How much does it matter that the ending works more as fan service than as logic? How much does it matter that the movie completely betrays Steve Rogers’ character to get to a teary-eyed smile at the end?

Thinking about Endgame I find myself thinking about It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World, the epic blockbuster comedy from Stanley Kramer. It’s stuffed to the gills with superstars, and it was originally bladder-shatteringly long (197 minutes! A comedy!). In terms of things like ‘plot’ and ‘structure’ it isn’t strong, but it makes up for all of that with the charm of Milton Berle and Buddy Hackett and Ethel Merman and Phil Silver. It features a stunning parade of cameos, including Jack Benny, ZaSu Pitts and Buster Keaton It’s not nuanced or subtle, and it’s hugeness and broadness is part of the point; it’s a big screen comedy released at a time when the movies were feeling TV nipping at their heels. 

It’s all really familiar. 

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IRON MAN 2 ReReview

A wise man once noted that it’s a fine line between clever and stupid. There is also a fine line between fun and irritating, between banter and bickering. Iron Man 2 crosses all of those lines, in the process creating the most egregious misstep in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Yes, more so than Thor: The Dark World, which for all its problems still has really good chemistry between Thor and Loki. Iron Man 2 loses not only plot coherence and villain quality, it completely throws away the good chemistry between its leads in favor of sniping, unpleasantness and a manic quality that makes it feel like a cocaine movie from the 70s.

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IRON MAN (2008) Re-Review

It all started so innocently.

I’m not sure if many of the young fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe today can truly understand the ways in which Iron Man was a surprise. Every indicator was aligned against it at the time. Marvel Studios was a non-entity at the time, and Marvel Comics had only recently found success on the big screen. Ten years ago the DC characters – specifically the decades-spanning iterations of Batman and Superman – were the titans of comic book adaptations. Spider-Man and the X-Men had done well, but they were Marvel’s two biggest properties. Blade had been a surprise success (kicking off the modern age of comic book movies in its own weird way), but few outside hardcore fandom realized he was a Marvel Universe character.

And then a new studio made a movie about a C-list hero starring a washed-up old partyboy… and everything changed.

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