I guess you’d have to be living under a rock or really not interested in Hollywood movies to be unaware that Marvel’s magnum opus Avengers: Endgame opens next week around the world. I was surprised to read that Disney has spent a record $200 million worldwide on marketing the film; I assumed that fan fever and natural media coverage would suffice, along with the ‘normal’ levels of marketing spend for summer blockbusters (say $100-150 million). But I guess Disney doesn’t want to leave anything to chance and wants to pack in as many people as possible into the opening week, because it’s the early weeks of release for which the studio gets the largest share of the box office gross.
No praise is too high for Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios’ uber-geek producer who has shepherded a franchise of 23 films (including Endgame and July’s Spider-Man: Far from Home) totaling more than 60 hours of viewing and melding the creative sensibilities of 17 different directors. The films cover a spectrum of action and sci-fi sub-genres including space opera (Guardians of the Galaxy), conspiracy thriller (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), first contact (Thor), road movie (Thor: Ragnarok), alien invasion (The Avengers) and heist film (Ant Man). The themes range from the prosaic (global terrorism in Iron Man 3 and urban crime in Spider-Man: Homecoming) to the esoteric (Afrofuturism in Black Panther and mysticism in Doctor Strange). Check out this recent interview with Kevin Feige by Variety for more about how he created this amazing success story.
In anticipation of watching Avengers: Endgame next week, I decided to look back and list out my most enjoyable moments from the 21-movie journey so far. I have no idea how this list is going to turn out, as there are some movies in which I have several favourite scenes and others where I will struggle to come up with one. Nevertheless, here goes!
Iron Man (May 2008)
We see the Mark 1 suit in action for the first time, as he breaks out of the cave where he is held prisoner by the Ten Rings terrorist group. The dim lighting and claustrophobic setting makes the entire sequence feel so real.
The Incredible Hulk (Jun 2008)
I really thought hard about this one and even checked out some clips online to jog my memory. An obvious candidate was the extended military attack sequence on the grounds of Culver University and the other option was the final battle between Hulk and The Abomination. But frankly, the video-game type Hulk CGI just didn’t work for me. In later films, the CGI improved and also the switch to Mark Ruffalo made a big difference in making the character relatable.
Iron Man 2 (May 2010)
Ivan Vanko/Whiplash attacks Tony Stark during the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. The car with Happy and Pepper Potts is cut in two. Tony Stark activates the “Football”, aka the Mark V suitcase armor. This was a scene in which there was real dramatic tension. Mickey Rourke was so menacing as Ivan Vanko, he made the viewer believe that Happy and Pepper’s lives were in danger.
Thor (May 2011)
There are many fun moments involving Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Dr. Jane Foster’s feisty intern. Here, in an interesting addition to the ‘first contact’ cinematic trope, she takes down the mighty Thor with a taser!
Captain America: The First Avenger (Jul 2011)
Nothings beats the thrill of watching Steve Rogers transform into the world’s first super-soldier. The action scene that follows immediately afterwards is the perfect way to showcase the transformation.
The Avengers (May 2012)
There are many memorable moments throughout this movie (including the reveal of the Helicarrier), but it’s interesting that my top 2 involve the same character:-
- At the height of the Battle of New York, Bruce Banner says “That’s my secret Cap, I’m always angry”.
- And a short while later as Hulk, he delivers the classic repartee to Loki’s delusions of grandeur with “Puny god!”.
Iron Man 3 (May 2013)
Tony Stark invokes the “House Party” protocol, using J.A.R.V.I.S. to activate every Iron Man suit remotely. Very cool scene. And for the geeks out there, here’s a visual of every Iron Man suit from 2008-18.
Thor: The Dark World (Jul 2013)
This is a visually stunning film, but honestly I can hardly remember anything from it, except the scene where Loki changes form while walking and chatting with Thor, thereby giving Chris Evans an opportunity to cameo as Captain America
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Apr 2014)
Elevator fight sequence. ‘Nuff said!
Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug 2014)
The escape from Kyln prison is the first time we see Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Drax and Groot work together as a team.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 2015)
My top two scenes happen one after the other and are absolute opposites in terms of pacing and intensity:-
- The “Duel of Johannesburg” fight sequence between Iron Man and the Hulk is pretty awesome. In fact, Bruce Banner and Tony Stark jointly designed the Hulk containment system (code-named “Veronica”), comprising the metal shell and the Hulkbuster (Mark XLIV) armor deployed from a space satellite, for just such a situation.
- And this is followed by a most unexpected scene. Hawkeye takes the Avengers to a “safe house” – a ranch in the middle of nowhere – where they are amazed to find that he has a wife and two kids (with a third on the way). It’s a wonderful and much-needed change of pace after the intense action and destruction in Johannesburg. Linda Cardellini (recently seen in Green Book) steals the scene as Hawkeye’s wife Laura.
Ant-Man (Jul 2015)
Michael Pena as Luis, Scott Lang’s former cellmate, steals the scene every single time with his comic timing and unique storytelling style. I love this one where he explains to Scott how his friend Ignacio knows a “crazy stupid fine chick” who’s a guerrilla journalist and is connected to the Avengers. Great job by Danny Vasquez as Ignacio and Anna Akana as the journalist.
Captain America: Civil War (May 2016)
For sheer spectacle, nothing beats the airport fight scene. And in that fight scene, nothing beats the moment when Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man. I realized what was going to happen just seconds before he did it; what a thrill! I’ve watched the sequence many times and it still gives me goosebumps.
Doctor Strange (Nov 2016)
We saw this sort of “reality bending” first in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but it’s still pretty impressive to behold when Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) battle Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) and his zealots in the Mirror Dimension of New York. I can’t even begin to imagine how the special effects team storyboarded this sequence.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 2017)
Yondu gets a new fin fixed and he’s now able to control his Yaka Arrow again. He proceeds to take out Taserface and his entire mutinous crew in glorious slow-mo, to the tune of the song “Come a Little Bit Closer” by 60’s pop-rock group Jay and the Americans. Baby Groot and Rocket Racoon are approving observers to the carnage.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jul 2017)
Peter Parker goes to Liz’s place to pick her up for the homecoming dance. The door opens and he is shocked to see that Adrian Toomes, aka his arch-nemesis The Vulture, is Liz’s dad. Michael Keaton exudes a scary vibe, even when he’s being nice.
Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 2017)
It drew big laughs when it was teased in the trailers and it’s one of the highlights of the most entertaining film in the Thor series; I’m talking about the Thor vs. Hulk in the Contest of Champions on the garbage planet of Sakaar. Loki’s reactions are priceless, especially when you know what happened the last time he tangled with Hulk in the Avengers.
Black Panther (Feb 2018)
In a blink-and-you-miss-it scene in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther’s security chief Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba) tells Black Widow “Move, or you will be moved”. This was our first glimpse of how fierce and unflappable his Dora Milaje personal guards could be. In the Black Panther movie, the Dora Milaje head General Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) steals every scene she’s in; I love this one in which she stops a charging rhino.
Avengers: Infinity War (Apr 2018)
It’s tough to come up with a memorable scene (i.e. one with happy memories) in a movie where our heroes are on the receiving end pretty much all the way through. When Thor, Groot and Rocket arrived in the midst of the Battle of Wakanda, I really thought there was hope for the Avengers. It lasts just a few seconds before Thanos arrived as well.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (Jul 2018)
There are lots of fun set-piece action scenes in this sequel, especially now that we know that Hank Pym’s tech can also make people/things bigger. The kitchen fight scene gives Evangeline Lilly a chance to show her moves as The Wasp.
Captain Marvel (Mar 2019)
As much as I enjoyed the movie, there are no specific scenes that stand out in my mind. I’ll probably have to watch it another time. For the moment, I’ll make do with the scene when Nick Fury meets Goose, the Flerken.
Well, that’s it. I’m sure that in a few days’ time, I’ll have at least one or two memorable scenes from Avengers: Endgame to add to this list. Hopefully the entire movie will be emotionally satisfying and will bring an appropriate closure to an 11 year journey…and sets us up for the next phase of the MCU.