Marvel brews some strange magic

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The Marvel hit factory started off by telling us stories of modern science being used to both create and overcome evil, with Iron Man in 2008 and Captain America in 2011. Our world then had to deal with alien visitors when Thor and some unwelcome Asgardians came to visit in 2011. More aliens, all unwelcome, came through a portal in the sky in The Avengers in 2012. Soon after, we were taken on an intergalactic adventure (yes, Xandar the homeworld of the Nova Corps. is in the neighboring Andromeda galaxy) in Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. Now, producer Kevin Feige and team open a new door and take us into the mystical world of spells and astral planes with their latest product Doctor Strange.

Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, who is superbly cast in the lead role, this is a welcome expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Doctor Strange’s character has been teased previously in a couple of MCU movies and the connection is made very clear early on when a shot of NYC shows the Avengers building nestling among the cluster of Manhattan skyscrapers.

This is one of Marvel’s most expensive movies, with a production cost of $ 165 million, the highest for an origin story of a newly introduced character, but of course a safe bet when you consider that this is the 14th film in the MCU. The previous 13 have collectively grossed $ 10 billion across the world and by now, Marvel fans will probably come out to watch even a reboot of the much-maligned Howard the Duck movie.

The film is mainly set in NYC, the home of brilliant but oh-so-charmingly-arrogant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange. But the action moves from Nepal to London to Hong Kong during the course of the movie.

Given that we’ve had a profusion of fantasy and magic related movies in the past decade and a half, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that there are some familiar tropes being recycled here. For example, Strange’s semi-sentient Cloak of Levitation behaves like something out of a Harry Potter film, a cross between that crotchety sorting hat and the invisibility cloak. Likewise, the evil being Dormammu’s representation is reminiscent of Sauron’s eye in the Lord of the Rings films. Some of the reality distortion in the city fight scenes will also seem familiar to anyone who has watched Christopher Nolan’s Inception, although I have to say I was completely immersed in the experience and found myself involuntarily tilting my body in response to some of the changes in perspective.

Having said that, the whole is greater than the sum of its recycled parts and it was beautifully topped off by the Hong Kong fight sequence set-piece. It uses some of the most inventive reality-bending concepts seen on screen since The Matrix; latching on to objects moving backwards in time and using them as vehicles and weapons is a pretty neat trick!

Much has been written about the ‘whitewashing’ of a key character; The Ancient One ended up becoming this bald white woman instead of this ancient Asian man. But when actually watching the movie, I was so taken up by Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of the character that she didn’t seem out of place.

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What did dissatisfy me was the portrayal of Kamar-Taj, the hidden retreat where the Ancient One lives. It seemed too easy to find and it had too many trainees going through standard kung fu moves to fit the description of an exclusive hideout of powerful sorcerers. Likewise, the ease with which Stephen Strange picks up his sorcery skills didn’t sit right with me. It seemed like he had been at Kamal-Taj for just a few weeks. In comparison, Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins goes through a seemingly more arduous and long drawn training regimen in Ra’s al Ghul’s Himalayan hideout and therefore his eventual transformation to Batman is far more believable.

When the Doctor Strange project was greenlit by Marvel Studios and the casting for the title character was on, I was secretly praying that Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen would be chosen for the role. I don’t know why this particular actor came to mind, but his strong facial features and ability to play stoic characters, seemed like the perfect fit for the confident/ arrogant Stephen Strange. Even though he didn’t get that part, I was thrilled at the irony and coincidence of him getting picked the chief villain Kaecilius. But of course, in blockbuster movie bad guy roles like this, there is little opportunity for actors like Mikkelsen to show their range, beyond the usual bombastic bad guy proclamations. As with all Marvel films, humour is used very effectively as a counterpoint to the action and the tension; pretty much all the characters, including even Kaecilius get at least one humourous line at they all work.

Marvel movies aren’t known for great music soundtracks, nothing like the iconic stuff that John Williams created in the 1970s for Star Wars and Superman. I do like Alan Silvestri’s OST for The Avengers and I have to say, Oscar winner and long-time Disney Pixar composer Michael Giacchino has done some good work here for Doctor Strange. While most of it is generic, the Master of the Mystic end credits sounds like it should be THE Doctor Strange theme and has this wonderful throwback feel like something from those 1970s British scifi TV shows, Doctor Who or Sapphire and Steel.

Speaking of which, as usual, do stay through to watch the mid- and end-credits. You’ll know which MCU movie Doctor Strange will have a guest appearance in next and you’ll also know who will be his next adversary.


The best and worst Marvel villains

Marvel Studios started leasing its characters out to studios in the late 1990’s starting with New Line’s R-rated Blade series. We then saw Fox releasing X-Men in 2000, a franchise that is going strong to this day with the upcoming release of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Emboldened by this success, Fox also tried its hand with Daredevil and the Fantastic Four. Sony got into the act with the Spider-Man franchise in 2002, now rebooted and with 4 more movies staked out till 2018. Sony also produced two Ghost Rider films with Nicolas Cage. Meanwhile, Universal released a couple of Hulk movies in 2003/ 2008 and Lions Gate jumped in with two R-rated Punisher films in 2004/ 2008.  By 2008, Marvel was producing its own films with the first two Iron Man films plus Thor and Captain America being distributed by Paramount before Marvel was bought by Disney.

In all these years, I’ve never known Marvel to make a movie with a really lame villain, until now.

Of course, this observation excludes duds like Daredevil in which every aspect of the movie is so laughable that it hardly matters whether Colin Farrell’s Bullseye and Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin are more ridiculous than the superhero or not. Ang Lee’s Hulk also came very close. The military led by potential father-in-law General Ross was Bruce Banner’s primary adversary and produced some great action set-pieces, but other than that, the big guy had to fight three mutant dogs (shouldn’t they leave that for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?) and his own dad who becomes a big err…energy thing at the end. While the Weapon XI/ Deadpool hybrid character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was certainly a powerful foe, I thought ‘pretty boy’ Ryan Reynolds was the wrong choice to play him, not to mention the incredible conceit of bastardising Deadpool into a multi-powered character called Weapon XI just to set up a climactic fight scene with Wolverine. I had also mentioned recently that The Winter Soldier in the recent Captain America sequel looked pretty tame. Luckily, the audience had all the SHIELD/ HYDRA intrigue going on to keep them on the edge of their seats.

But none of these misadventures can compare with the ultimate ‘loser villain’ that I just saw on the big screen last week in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Jamie Foxx was completely miscast as Electro, looking bloated and middle-aged (he is 46 and looks cooler in real life) and nothing like the sleek super-villain from the comics or Disney’s Ultimate Spider-Man animation series. The script writers, the director and casting director must all take the blame for this mess. Having taken so much time to set up Max Dillon’s character as an introverted and socially insecure engineer (complete with comb-over), the film-makers just could not change that personality overnight once he gained his powers. Fortunately, with the film so packed with villains, we had Dane DeHaan to save the day…equally disturbing as both Harry Osborn and the Green Goblin.

But as I said at the beginning, Marvel is better known for getting it right than getting it wrong. That brings me then to my top villains in the Marvel cinematic universe thus far, in chronological order of appearance in movies over the years:-

  1. Magneto/ Erik Lensherr – No one can match the evil mutant for his ultimate combination of brains and mutant brawn, not to mention a genuine belief that he is fighting for the future of humankind. His tragic experience in the Warsaw camp (depicted first in X-Men and in greater detail in X-Men: First Class) only add to the pathos of the character. Brilliantly played first by Sir Ian McKellan and then by Michael Fassbender, I can’t wait to see them both in the same film in a couple of weeks’ time.
  2. Green Goblin/ Norman Osborn – Willem Dafoe is one of the busiest actors in the industry, but he rarely signs up for the kind of meaty lead character roles he had in PlatoonThe Last Temptation of Christ and Mississippi Burning in the mid-80s, having switched to interesting supporting roles instead. In his Oscar-nominated turn as Max Schreck in Shadow of the Vampire (2000), he showed how well he could play ‘scary’. Two years later, he showcased this talent to a much wider audience as Norman Osborn in Spider-Man. My favourite scene – the Thanksgiving lunch at Peter’s place when he gives Aunt May a murderous look after she slaps his hand for reaching out for the food.
  3. Doctor Octopus/ Otto Octavius – As played by the incredibly talented Alfred Molina in Spider-Man 2, Doc Ock is the most tragic of Marvel’s cinematic villains. The loss of his wife during that fateful experiment and his own self-sacrifice and redemption at the end of the film certainly elevate him above the typical evil super-villain.
  4. Loki – Everyone’s favourite bad guy has now graced three Marvel films – Thor, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. Loki has the perfect mix of brains and brawn, with charming good looks and a sense of humour thrown in. Played by 33-year-old Londoner Tom Hiddleston, there is little doubt that he will return in future Marvel films. He even gets the best CGI scenes – who can forget the pummeling he receives from the Hulk (“Puny God!”) in The Avengers or his switch to Captain America in The Dark World!
  5. Sebastian Shaw/ Dr. Klaus Schmidt – Kevin Bacon is absolutely hateful as the cruel and slightly mad Dr. Klaus Schmidt in the Warsaw concentration camp scenes of X-Men: First Class. Later in the film, he re-emerges as the suave Sebastian Shaw. Only an actor of Kevin Bacon’s caliber could pull off the transformation believably.
  6. Green Goblin/ Harry Osborn – Like father, like son. In the just released The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Hollywood’s new ‘disturbed young man’ Dane DeHaan is truly creepy as Harry Osborn aka Green Goblin. Who wouldn’t be with a dad like Norman Osborn (played equally creepily by Chris Cooper)? I actually thought he was scarier as Harry than after the transformation to Goblin!

I am hoping that in a couple of weeks I will be adding Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask to this list. Fingers crossed that X-Men: Days of Future Past will not disappoint.

Previewing the ‘Super Summer of 2015’: Part 1

Studios always block out their launch weekends 2-3 years in advance, partly as a signal to other studios to ‘get out of the way’. This also creates a lot of buzz in advance which is always good for the studios. After all, it’s never too early to get excited about upcoming movies; and observers are certainly getting worked up about the ‘Super Summer of 2015’. The period from March to July will feature 4 superhero films, a creepy new film from Tim Burton, new entries in the Jurassic Park, Terminator and Star Wars franchises, a live-action re-telling of an animated classic and a risky sequel to a mega-hit after a gap of 20 years. As was the case with this summer, with so many big names ready to duke it out at the multiplexes, there will surely be some high-profile casualties.

I’ve decided to break this down by studio, just to get a sense of how each of them is managing its portfolio for that summer. Part 1 will have the Disney releases and Part 2 will have all the rest.


There is no such thing as a sure thing in the movie industry, but at the moment, the smart money is on Disney winning the summer crown in 2015, having clearly emerged as THE industry powerhouse over the past few years. Their current status can trace its roots back to their acquisition of Pixar in 2006, followed by Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm last year. This breadth of product has allowed them to take big risks and win big; this also means Disney can bear the impact of big budget failures like John Carter and Lone Ranger in the last 2 summers.

2015 is the year when it all comes together with each of their divisions having something big to flaunt.

Disney’s summer begins very early; in fact it begins in early spring with the release of their big budget live action remake of Cinderella, directed by Shakespeare thesp turned director Kenneth Branagh. This would be Disney’s 2nd live action remake/ update of an animation classic in two years. In 2014, the Mouse House releases Maleficent with Angelina Jolie in the title role as Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis. Both Maleficent and Cinderella are being put together as tentpole family entertainment films (market research executives would say that they tick ‘all four quadrants’ – male, female, under- and over-25); both lead and supporting roles are filled with actors who have both box-office drawing power and acting chops. For example, Cinderella features Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. Sparks will certainly fly!

The summer then really kicks off with the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which brings back all the big Marvel superheroes, this time fighting the criminally insane, sentient robot Utron, voiced by James Spader. Joss Whedon is back in the director’s chair and I am excited to see 2 new superheroes, Magneto’s twin children Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Disney started building this franchise in 2008 by creating an unexpected monster hit with Iron Man, who was essentially a Tier 2 character in the Marvel universe. Their magic formula consisted of the following ingredients – the superhero is played by a charismatic actor who can also act, the heavy action is leavened with doses of humour, the smart but low-key female love interest is played by an accomplished actress who generates lots of chemistry with the hero and finally, the fanboys are kept happy with cameos and post-credit sequences that give them glimpses into the larger Marvel universe. After Iron Man’s success, this formula was successfully replicated from 2010 to 2013 and looks set to continue for the next couple of years into 2015, which will mark the culmination of their ‘Phase 2’ movies.

The summer will also end with a Marvel-Disney release, this one being the launch of potential new franchise with Ant-Man. This character is one of the more complex superheroes in the Marvel Universe. In the original comics, Ant-Man is the alter ego of a brilliant scientist named Henry Pym, who figures out how to shrink himself and use a special helmet to communicate with ants. He is one of the founding members of the Avengers group. The same technology allows him to increase his size and become the superhero Giant-Man/ Goliath. He later suffers a nervous breakdown and takes on a new insect-themed identity – Yellowjacket – with no memory of his association with the Avengers. He is also the creator of Ultron (yes, he is clearly as disturbed as he is brilliant). Clearly, the comic book continuity is going to be thrown aside in the movie world, as Ultron will have a different origin earlier in the summer before Ant-Man is introduced to audiences. I am really curious to see how Ant-Man is brought to life on the big screen, as the movie is being directed and co-written by Edgar Wright, who is better known as the man behind bizarro-comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and this year’s The World’s End. Marvel is taking a calculated risk by working with Mr. Wright, but why not? They will need to bring in some variety of characterization and tone into their movie portfolio if they don’t want to bore audiences with a sea of sameness. The industry is expecting casting announcements for Ant-Man to be made soon.

But the real jewel in Disney’s 2015 summer crown, the film which is expected to top the box office, is J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII. Naturally, speculation has been rife about the storyline of the next installment, but it is a given that it will include the next generation of Jedi in the Skywalker family, as well as feature the return of actors Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher to reprise their roles. Although the second trilogy released from 1999-2005 made lots of moolah, it is commonly considered to be a critical disappointment for several reasons – overuse of digital backgrounds and props, poor casting choices, generally wooden acting and the lack of chemistry between Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman. However, there is hope for the new trilogy. Lucasfilm is now headed by Kathleen Kennedy, who for years has been the producing partner behind all Steven Spielberg’s successful films, besides working with other giants like Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood (she has been co-nominated for 8 Best Picture Oscars, including ET, The Sixth Sense and Lincoln). Mr. Abrams certainly knows how to keep the action going and how to generate lots of tension among the characters. He works with elaborate sets, so no fake-looking digital landscapes hopefully. However, I we will have to put up with lens flare.

inside outIn mid-June, we get to see an interesting new project from Pixar called Inside Out. This is the story of the 5 personified emotions (Fear, Sadness, Joy, Disgust and Anger) that live inside the head of a 11-year old girl. Pixar released this concept art last month.

There was to have been a 6th Disney blockbuster that summer, but thankfully they have pushed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 to 2016 or beyond.

The other 4 studios are releasing 7-8 big movies between them and hoping that they can survive the Disney onslaught. I will cover those in Part 2.

Marvel line-up: 2013-2015

With the announcement yesterday of Fantastic Four getting the reboot treatment from Fox Studios, we have now probably got the full line-up of Marvel films for the next 3 years:-


Next year, the action begins in early May with Disney’s release of Iron Man 3, this time directed by powerhouse screenwriter Shane Black, who made his name in the 1980’s and early ‘90s writing the screenplays for the Lethal Weapon series. Of course, he lost his way a bit in the mid-90s with duds like Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight, but in 2005 he made a welcome return with the critically acclaimed crime caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That film also featured welcome returns by a couple of ‘washed out’ actors, namely Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. So, there was a sense of symmetry when it was announced that Mr. Black would be reunited with Mr. Downey Jr. in the 3rd solo adventure for the billionaire super-hero.

In July 2013, Fox extends its X-Men franchise with Hugh Jackman coming back after a 4-year gap to play the indestructible mutant Wolverine (not counting his cameo in X-Men: First Class last summer). Mr. Jackman soared to stardom 12 years ago playing Logan in the first X-Men movie, which can be considered as the launch pad for the vast and intricately linked Marvel movie universe of today. The new movie, titled The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold, who helmed the outstanding Sylvester Stallone crime drama Copland in 1997, helped Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon win Oscars for Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line respectively and directed the critically praised remake of 3:10 to Yuma in 2007. His only real misstep has been the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz ‘comedy’ Knight and Day and so he must be looking forward to getting back on to the critics’ love list with The Wolverine. Likewise, Jackman’s last outing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is considered a bit of a mess, so he’ll be keen to get it right this time around. Expectations are high among fanboys because the storyline is based on the famous 1982 comic series set in Japan.

It’s rare to see a Marvel release outside of the summer blockbuster season; next November will see another Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Norse god in Disney’s Thor: The Dark World, directed by Game of Thrones alumnus Alan Taylor. The choice of director clearly indicates that the story will stay primarily in the fantasy realm of the Nine Worlds. It will be interesting to see how this film fares commercially…no doubt Chris Hemsworth has a major fan following and the first Thor film collected nearly $200 million in the US, but Thor is the sort of character better suited to an ensemble piece like The Avengers and may have difficulty sustaining a solo career.


Chris Evans gets things going early in with a spring release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, also released by Disney. This is likely to be darker in tone that the first film, with the character of Bucky Barnes returning brainwashed as a Soviet assassin, code named Winter Soldier. Back in 1969, Marvel introduced the first ever African-American hero, The Falcon as a crime-fighting partner for Captain America and now we will get to see the superhero team-up featured on the big screen with Anthony Mackie playing the NYC-based birdman. I also see super-villain Crossbones listed in the movie credits, so one automatically thinks of the Civil War comic book storyline which features Crossbones assisting in the assassination of Captain America…I wonder if that’s how the movie is going to end. Of course, in the Marvel Universe, no one stays dead for very long and Cap will have to be back for the Avengers sequel.

A few weeks later, Andrew Garfield is back as Spider-Man with Marc Webb once again directing the sequel to this summer’s Sony Pictures reboot. This time around, it looks like we are going to have a love triangle with the introduction of Mary Jane Watson’s character to vie with Gwen Stacy for Peter Parker’s affections. The excitement peaked a few days ago with the announcement that Jamie Foxx will play super-villain Electro (as hinted in the post-credits sequence this summer) and Dane DeHaan selected to play Pete’s friend (and closet psychopath) Harry Osborn. DeHaan made quite a splash playing a super-powered psychopath in this year’s found-footage sleeper hit Chronicle and so I can see why the casting director has made this call, as Osborn eventually follows his father’s footsteps and becomes the Green Goblin.

Towards the end of the summer, we have a very exciting team-up arriving on the big screen with X-Men: Days of Future Past from Fox Studios. This is big for several reasons…Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men films in 2000 and 2003, returns as director. This film is the sequel to X-Men: First Class (produced by Singer), which is one of the smartest and most fun films in the Marvel universe. Next year’s sequel features a powerhouse combo of the cast from the original X-Men movies (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) and the actors playing their younger selves from First Class (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender). And last, but not least, the eponymous storyline is considered to be one of the most famous in X-Men comics canon, featuring time travel. I’m just hoping that audiences are not suffering from Marvel fatigue, with this being the 3rd Marvel film in as many months.

Two weeks later, Disney launches a new franchise in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a real wild card for Marvel and I myself have never read any of these comic books. It is difficult to picture how this film will fit into the Marvel cinematic universe; one of the links will be the villain Thanos, who appeared in the post-credits sequence to this summer’s The Avengers. But, other than that, the film is unlikely to connect with any of the other Marvel characters or even set on Earth. You see, the Guardians are a 5-member team which includes an anthropomorphic raccoon (named Rocket Raccoon) and a plant monster named Groot. You get the picture…this is starting look more and more like a CGI-heavy space-adventure film that will appeal primarily to kids.


The marvelous fun in 2015 begins with the just-announced reboot of Fantastic Four. It would be ten years since the first Fox film hit the screens in what was a reasonably enjoyable origin story, in spite of its low budget and lack of spectacular effects. In fact, that was the film that made current Captain America actor Chris Evans famous, playing the brash smart-mouthed Human Torch. Now Fox has brought on board young director Josh Trank to helm the reboot and casting news is sure to follow in the next few months. Trank is a fantastic (pun intended!) choice since he directed the critically and commercially successful found-footage movie Chronicle earlier this year, which featured 3 college kids who gain super-powers and then struggle to deal with the physical and emotional changes.

In May, Disney will release The Avengers 2, the much anticipated follow-up to this summer’s megahit. The entire gang is back – director Joss Whedon and all the actors – and the villain will be Thanos, who comes from an evolutionary offshoot of humans called The Eternals. We are likely to see large scale action once again, similar to the attack on NYC featured in the climax of The Avengers. The trick will be to maintain the inter-character dynamics and light banter which made this year’s film such a breakout hit beyond the hard core fans.

Finally, we have yet another rare November release, with the introduction of the long-gestating Ant-Man into the Marvel cinematic universe. British director Edgar Wright rose to fame with the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead and the cop comedy Hot Fuzz, so one wonders what the tone of Ant-Man will be. Mr. Wright has been working on this script for many years now, but it was only this year that the movie was officially announced, although casting has not yet been finalized. The script has been through several iterations and as I understand the latest version of the story will have both the original Ant-Man Dr. Henry Pym and his successor Scott Lang.

So that’s it; we can look forward to 10 films over the next 3 years. Broadly, the movies are now clustered at 3 studios –the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters are at Fox, Sony has the Spider-Man franchise and the Avengers characters are all at Disney, which owns Marvel. Plus, any new character that enters the big screen henceforth will be through Disney (Black Panther and Dr. Strange appear to be closest to making the jump). For the next 3 years, Joss Whedon is at Disney to ensure that the different Avengers universe films maintain internal consistency and continuity. All of this is overseen of course by Kevin Feige, the President of Production and Marvel Studios. Mark Millar, the award winning Scottish comic book writer has been hired by Fox to do a similar job over there with their movies…in fact, it will be interesting to see if Millar engineers any crossovers between the forthcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four films.

Overall, the Marvel universe is in a good place. Over at rival comic book owner DC Comics, they are trying to get their act together; their Batman franchise has ended, the Green Lantern movie was a disaster, but they are expecting a successful reboot of Superman next year with Man of Steel. The big question though is if they can put together a Justice League ensemble film and replicate the success of Marvel’s The Avengers. Current rumours suggest that DC and Warner Bros. are targeting a 2015 release date for just such a movie.

My Top 10 Avengers moments (lots of spoilers here)

Director Joss Whedon has had only one previous theatrical release, the 2005 ‘space opera Western’ Serenity which grossed US$ 38 million worldwide. By the end of its first week, his new movie The Avengers would have made back its US$ 220 million production budget at the box office. From then on, it’s gravy.

The movie has an exciting blend of snappy dialogue and action set pieces. The script works hard to set up the relationships and dynamic between the different characters. The only disappointment is Maria Hill who comes off looking like Nick Fury’s secretary, rather than the character who will become interim Director of SHIELD.

I’m not going to review the film; there will be plenty of good reviews online. I just want to post my Top 10 favorite moments from the film…there are spoilers here, but even so, I have tried not to reveal too much for those who haven’t seen the film, but can’t stop themselves from reading ahead!

10. Tony Stark – Pepper Potts – Agent Coulson banter; Stark doesn’t seem to appreciate Potts being on a first name basis with “Phil” 🙂

9. Dr. Banner ‘Hulks Out’ for the first time; the Black Widow is in the way.

8. The villain for Avengers 2 appears.

7. Agent Coulson fires a gun and then checks out.

6. Hulk grabs a falling Iron Man.

5. SHIELD research facility implodes.

4. Dr. Banner says “I’m always angry” then turns to face the Chitauri creature.

3. Capt. America and David Banner think the SHIELD aircraft carrier is going to submerge…but we know better, don’t we?

2. Black Widow vs. her Russian interrogators…many uses for a chair.

1. Hulk vs. Loki on the roof of the Stark Tower. Soon after, Hulk says “Puny God”.

The last scene was the most satisfying; I think everyone in the audience felt that way and we could have happily sat through a few more seconds of that.

I think it’s pretty certain that The Avengers will overtake Spider-Man (US$ 403 million) as the top grossing Marvel film at the US Box Office and Spider-Man 3 (US$ 890 million) as the top grossing Marvel film worldwide.