After much delay, Marvel's big Phase One Blu-ray set finally comes out this week. Featuring both Iron Man and Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers itself, this box set not only brings together all of Marvel's Phase One films, but does so with the heightened style they deserve (most of them anyway -- I'm looking at you, The Incredible Hulk). To celebrate this incredible box set and the achievement found within, here are some of Marvel Phase One's best moments.
Iron Man - Heart Surgery
Iron Man's first two films are more effective at character comedy than actual action set pieces, but with character comedy this good, that could be considered a compliment.
This scene between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts says it all. It's funny, fast and illustrates their relationship perfectly. A whole movie of these two going back and forth really wouldn't be so bad. If Jon Favreau hadn't nailed this dynamic, perhaps none of these other films would have happened at all.
The Incredible Hulk - Hulk Fights Blonsky
The Incredible Hulk has kind of become the forgotten Marvel Phase One film. And with good reason: it's simply not very good. Out of all the films in the box set, this is the one most likely to become a beer coaster.
But it does have moments -- Tim Roth's fight against the Hulk being one of them. When the army comes down on Hulk on a college campus, Roth's Blonsky goes man-to-man with the creature and, thanks to a lot of sudden, unexpected flipping skills, manages to… actually, he doesn't really do anything. But he lasts a lot longer than any other regular human ever has.
Iron Man 2 - The Monaco Fight
This very brief action sequence gives us probably our best bit of Iron Man action before The Avengers' iteration of the character came along. Most of the time, Iron Man takes on other Iron Men, but here he's up against Mickey Rourke wielding electronic whips that pose a believable danger to Iron Man's suit (until they wrap around his suit and don't really do anything, that is). But on top of all that, we get some great comedy amid the battle.
Iron Man 2 - Tony Pees in His Suit
The Iron Man films have yet to fully confront Tony's drinking problem, but they have had a good time acknowledging that he has one. Iron Man 2 is especially interesting, since its plot revolves around what a jerk Tony Stark can be.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Stark's birthday scene, in which Tony entertains his guests by scratching records, fights Rhodes to "Another One Bites the Dust," and yes, goes to the bathroom in his suit. Who else would even think to do such a thing?
Thor - Thor Gets Mjolnir Back
Pretty much all of Thor leads up to this moment, and say what you will about the awkward Hawkeye stuff and Kenneth Branagh's over reliance on dutch angles, the moment delivers.
Down and out after sacrificing himself against Asgardian weapon the Destroyer (a robot that shoots fire, naturally), Thor finally proves his heroism and wins back Mjolnir. Not only does it give him magical powers, but it lends him a replacement superhero outfit as well.
Thor - Thor Needs a Horse
Of all the Avengers, Thor is the one with the most puffed-up self-seriousness. He is royalty, after all.
Which is why he, rather than the unassuming Captain America, provides the biggest mark for funny fish-out-of-water jokes. And on that score, even Joss Whedon couldn't top this moment. Thor struts into a pet store demanding a horse. If one is not available, he will also accept a dog or cat, so long as it is big enough to ride. The best part is, had they trotted one out, Thor wouldn't have batted an eye before mounting it and getting to business.
Captain America - The Grenade
Part of why so many people speak highly of Captain America is because the film spends so much time establishing Steve Rogers' character as a superhero at heart before turning him into a superhero for real. The best example of this comes in this scene, which convincingly illustrates Rogers' selflessness and bravery all in one go.
Captain America - Red Skull Reveals His Red Skull
Loki is fun, and Thanos will probably be pretty cool, but no Marvel villain has succeeded quite like Captain America's Red Skull.
Red Skull not only looks great and convincing, but he's played extremely well by Hugo Weaving, who uses a fun and effective Werner Herzog vocal impression to make sure we get the most evil German bang for our buck. His revelation scene stands easily among Marvel Phase One's greatest comic-to-movie achievements.
The Avengers - Puny God
The Avengers is basically a series of best moments, so picking just one or two is no easy task. But it is safe to assume they all probably belong to the Hulk.
The rag doll beat down Hulk delivers to villainous Loki in the middle of a condescending bit of pontification might have been the most talked-about moment of last summer. Both in theory and execution, it's just a perfect bit of comedy that made everyone cheer upon seeing it for the first time.
The Avengers - Hulk and Thor
And then there's Hulk's ongoing battle with Thor, which contains many moments of comic book greatness befitting a collusion between Marvel's strongest character with Marvel's strongest hammer.
We have the tense but cool bit when Thor must wait an uncomfortably long time for Mjolnir to fly into his hand. We also have the great moment where Hulk tries but cannot pick the hammer up himself. But the all-time best is this team-up near the end of the film, which terminates with Hulk smashing Thor out of frame just to be a jerk.