Written by J.T. Johnson
Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began in 2008 with the release of “Iron Man”, there have been 21 amazing films that help tell a story that will come to a conclusion of sorts when “Avengers: Endgame” is released on April 26. Until then, I wanted to take a look at what I think are the best moments found within each film in the MCU up to this point. This will be a multi-part article and today, I take a look the films that make up Phase One of the MCU!
IRON MAN (2008)
Iron Man Saves the Village!
During the first part of “Iron Man”, we are shown how Tony Stark was captured by terrorists from the Ten Rings. We soon find out how Stark built a machine that allowed him to escape, but it wasn’t perfect. The next part of the movie shows us Tony perfecting his suit of armor.
One night, after learning that his weapons are still being sold to terrorists, Tony has had enough. Skip to a small Middle Eastern village. The families there are being rounded up by the terrorists with the men separated from their wives and children in order to be executed. This is further established by showing a father trying to sneak away with his family. After the terrorists discover the man, they prepare to execute him in front of his own family, but they soon stop when they hear a noise in the sky and suddenly…
BAM! Iron Man slams onto the ground ready for battle! The terrorist try in vain to attack, but they are overpowered by Iron Man’s vastly superior armor and weapons. When terrorists threaten to shoot some of the women and try to use them as shields, Iron Man efficiently takes them out with target guided bullets. He then pulls the leader of this particular band of terrorists through a wall (“RoboCop” style) and leaves him at the mercy of the villagers he threatened. “He’s all yours,” Iron Man coldly says as he flies off to take care of further business, such as taking out a tank that just shot him out of the sky!
This is a truly brilliant premiere for Iron Man and shows Tony as a man that’s trying to make things right that he had unwittingly help set in motion. Watching it 11 years later, the scene still has the proper impact and it is easily the most memorable moment in the entire film!
HONORABLE MENTIONS: For this film, there are two honorable mentions. The first is Tony’s escape in the cave, foreshadowing what’s to come while also giving us a successful tribute to Iron Man’s original look in the comic books.
The second is the now famous post-credit sequence that not only sets up a tradition of post-credit sequences but also gives us our first glimpse that this is a far bigger universe as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury proposes the “Avenger Initiative”.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
Hulk vs. Abomination
Through most of “The Incredible Hulk”, Bruce Banner is trying not to Hulk out and is even trying to cure himself. By the end of the film, though, he sees the Abomination running rampant through Harlem and knows that the Hulk is the only thing that can stop him. Their ultimate battle alone makes up for the atrocity that was all of Ang Lees’ “Hulk” from 2003.
The battle still holds up pretty well today and it was good to see elements such as Hulk declaring “Hulk Smash!” as he finally overcomes the deadly Abomination! The film itself is pretty good, but Hulks fight with Abomination easily tops the film’s biggest moments.
HONORABLE MENTION: Only one here and that’s Robert Downey, Jr.’s cameo at the end of the film, once again establishing Marvel’s plans to create a shared universe. That’s also not to mention that there are hints of super soldier serums and a few behind-the-scenes mentions of Stark Industries and S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the film.
IRON MAN 2 (2010)
Iron Man and War Machine United at Last!
In “Iron Man 2”, Tony has a few down moments due to the fact that his arc reactor is poisoning his body. At this time, his best bud James Rhodes takes one of his suits and has it teched out. Unfortunately, it was upgraded by Justin Hammer, so main baddie Whiplash is initially able to take control of the suit. Thanks to Black Widows interference though, Rhodes soon takes back control of the suit.
Trapped in an indoor arboretum, both Iron Man and War Machine must take out Whiplash’s drone army and they do so in a spectacular fashion. We had wanted to see War Machine since he was teased in the original film and now we got what we wanted. It was fun seeing both characters rip through the machines with every gun they had, culminating with Iron Man using his one-off lasers contained in his gauntlets.
HONORABLE MENTION: When Tony is building what appears to be a mini-collider in his basement, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson visits to check on his progress. He picks up a partially built shield with an indistinguishable star and red and blue stripes. Tony brushes it off and uses it to make his machine perfectly level, but this is yet another hint about another superhero that we were about to meet. It also was the first sign that Tony’s father helped in bringing Captain America to life.
When Thor Becomes Truly Worthy!
In “Thor”, the title character is an arrogant warrior that is full of himself and not ready to rule. After nearly starting a war with the Frost Giants, Odin banishes Thor to Midgard (Earth) and takes away his powers. He sends Mjölnir to Earth and when Thor is worthy, he will be able to pick the hammer back up and return to Asgard.
Near the end of the movie, Thor’s power hungry brother Loki sends the Destroyer to take out Thor. When Thor realizes that the Destroyer will lay waste to the small town he is in, so he willingly sacrifices himself to save the people of Earth. This is when Mjölnir suddenly burst back to life and returns to its rightful owner, bringing Thor back from the dead and back to full power as he successfully destroys the Destroyer!
HONORABLE MENTION: The power of the Rainbow Bridge, the thing Asgardians use to travel to other realms, is about to be used to destroy the realm of the Frost Giants. Knowing that this will prevent him from being able to return to Earth and Jane Foster, Thor uses Mjölnir and destroys the bridge. This act once again shows that Thor will protect all the realms, even the one he set out to destroy at the beginning of the movie.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)
A Super Soldier is Born!
When we are first introduced to Steve Rogers, he’s a skinny, frail man that can’t go to war due to his list of ailments. He has all the bravery and decency of a good soldier, but not the body. This changes when he takes the experimental super soldier serum and emerges as the Captain America that we all know and love.
Unfortunately, a Hydra spy is in attendance and kills the good doctor that transformed Steve and the newly formed super soldier heads off in hot pursuit. It is a great showcase of Steve’s new abilities and the first Avenger is officially born!
HONORABLE MENTIONS: There are many things consistent about Steve, but none more so than his courage to sacrifice himself if the need arises. Onboard a ship carrying bombs destined for the U.S., Steve knows that he must take the plane down, with himself onboard. After a heartfelt goodbye to his true love, Peggy Carter, Steve crashes the plane.
All is not lost, though, as this leads to Steve’s reawakening in the present day, setting him up perfectly for his appearance in “The Avengers”.
THE AVENGERS (2012)
It takes a moment for the Avengers to initially get along with one another. However, Thor’s brother Loki and his army of aliens do a pretty good job of finally bringing our heroes together. In the climactic Battle of New York, our heroes finally become a team through a trial by fire.
This is shown in full effect when director Joss Whedon gives us one hell of a moment. In a single take, we follow each member of the Avengers as they work together to battle Loki’s forces. We start with Black Widow commandeering one of the Chitari ships, followed closely behind Iron Man who provides an assist and takes out her chasers.
We then follow Iron Man has he flies down to briefly assist Captain America, even using Cap’s shield to deflect an arc blast to take out multiple enemies. Soon, though, Iron Man is back in the air and he flies past Hawkeye who is effortlessly taking out aliens with his bow and arrow.
We then follow one of his arrows as it flies past the camera and crashes into one of the mammoth ships. Here, the Hulk is fighting off aliens on top of the living craft and he eventually tears off a piece of the ship and stabs it into the ship’s head. Thor then provides the killing blow with Mjölnir and sends the craft crashing down into Central Station.
The effect is still mind-blowing today and it is easily the most memorable moment in a film filled with many memorable moments!
HONORABLE MENTION: A very close second is the introduction of Thanos in the mid-credits sequence. This one moment introduced who would become the Big Bad of the franchise and whose story will be completed when “Endgame” hits theaters next month!
That’s it for part one of my look at the best moments in the MCU! Join me again next week as I take a look at some of the films from Phase Two!