THE SCI-FI PODCAST EP 6: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 1

TSFP MCU Phase 1Welcome to The SciFi Podcasta wretched hive of scum and villainy a podcast focused on in-depth discussion of all things Science Fiction. The SciFi Podcast features three hosts—Mattroid, Solo, and Station!—and frequent guests. Each episode we look at a science fiction theme or franchise and take the discussion where no show has gone before.

On this episode of The SciFi Podcast, SpaceWolf returns for a Considering the Sequels style show to discuss the entire first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s right, we’re bringing you mini-reviews of Iron Man (2008) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010) and Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and The Avengers (2012) — right here, right now!

And that’s just the beginning! Come back next week for our discussion of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with special guest Wildman Willis Wheeler, as well as reviews for the two latest MCU films Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Ant-Man (2015)!

Theme music courtesy of I Hear Sirens, featuring Matt on bass and Liz on keyboard. Hear more of I Hear Sirens ethereal, instrumental, post-rock at BandCamp. Podcast production and art by SpaceWolf.

Show notes after the jump.
MrSaxon MCU Phase 1Minimalist MCU Poster by “Mr. Saxon” via Deviant Art


I. Introduction
— Welcome back our Producer, SpaceWolf of Movie Stream Cast
— The CTS format and our reviews of the Marvel Cinematic Universe


[ 00:03:28 ] II. Mini Review: IRON MAN (2008)
Station: 7.5 ( Buy it )
Mattroid: 9.5 ( Buy it )
SpaceWolf: 9 ( Buy it )
Solo: 10 ( No recommendation )

[ 00:17:54 ] III. Mini Review: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
Mattroid: 6.5 ( Buy it )
Solo: 5.5 ( No recommendation )
Station: 4 ( Eh, whatever … )

[ 00:33:35 ] IV. Mini Review: IRON MAN 2 (2010)
SpaceWolf: 6 ( Fans could rent it, but it could be skipped )
Solo: 6.5 ( No recommendation )
Mattroid: 6.5 ( Collectors should buy it, but it could be skipped )
Station: 6 ( Rent it, worth seeing once )

[ 00:44:37 ] V. Mini Review: THOR (2011)
Station: 7 ( Buy it )
Mattroid: 8 (Buy it)
SpaceWolf: 7 ( Rent it )
Solo: 6 ( No recommendation )

[ 00:59:45 ] VI. Mini Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)
SpaceWolf: 8.5 ( Buy it )
Mattroid: 9 ( Buy it! Must own! )
Solo: 9 ( No recommendation )
Station: 8 ( Buy it! Must own! )

[ 1:18:08 ] VII. Mini Review: THE AVENGERS (2012)
Solo: 10 ( No recommendation )
SpaceWolf: 8 ( Must see! Buy it! )
Station: 9 ( Buy it! Must own! )
Mattroid: 9 ( Buy it! Must own! )

photo (5)Matt and Liz own this but hate mighty lines.

CHECK OUT BIZARRO ANDY HOWELL’S: The Science of the Avengers Part 1” and “The Science of The Avengers Part 2” via Ain’t It Cool News

CHECK OUT MORE OF BIZARRO ANDY’S The Science of …” articles

Join us next week for our the continuation of our Marvel Cinematic Universe coverage which will include feature reviews of the two most recent MCU films, Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Ant-Man (2015).


64 thoughts on “THE SCI-FI PODCAST EP 6: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 1

  1. Awesome episode! I actually liked Edward Nortons Hulk the best….Ruffalo is too beefcake to be a brainy scientist. But hey, what do I know…

    • And I think I would put Captain America: Winter Soldier as my favorite to date. I just think Captain America is the most ‘real’ (cause, ya know, this is all real) of the superheros. I hate Thor’s fake armor, Iron Man is getting too out there unbelievably capable/prepared, Black Widow is Scalett Johansson, and Hawkeye has a freakin’ bow and arrow…

      • Alright, one thing I hated about Avengers, the only thing that ruined it all for me….Black Widow is interviewing Loki and uses the term “red in my ledger”. And he’s like “oh, yeah, I know what that is, we use that term all the time back in ‘ol Asgaard!” He should have been like, “What the hell are you talking about? What’s a ledger?” I hate that entire conversation.

          • I think the reason it bugs me so bad is that the phrase is never used, like not even once, it just comes out of the blue and we’re all supposed to know what that means, even an alien who could probably could not care less about her ledger. I feel like it’s a forced part of the conversation to give background to Black Widow and it is completely out of context with what’s happening in the scene. How does that part of the conversation link in any way to the “Loki is here to destroy everything by pissing off the Hulk” primary goal? I think I tend to let the huge plot holes slide and zero in on minute details more than most. But that’s really the only part that got on my nerves about Avengers, oh and listening to Colby Smoulders choke on the phrase Thermonuclear Astrophysics, I got the feeling she had to say that line more than once…

  2. Random side note: did you know SOLO was the alias for Gary McKinnon, one of the most dangerous hackers of all time. Apparently he infiltrated nearly 100 U.S. government and military servers in 2001 looking for files containing evidence of extraterrestrial life, which he claims to have found.

    So, even though Star Wars is really fantasy, I guess SOLO is still a relevant podcast handle for The Sci-Fi Podcast… or, should I say, The Sci-Fact Podcast.


  3. This episode was extremely entertaining to listen to but for once I have very little of my own obnoxious commentary to add. mainly because I’ve barely seen any of these films. I think I saw one of the “Hulk” ones and hated it and I kind of half-watched an “Iron Man”. I feel like an Andy Howell here but I swear I don’t inherently dislike superheroes/comicbook movies. I just find the OTT CGI aesthetic of the action in these marvel flicks kind of unappealing. And I’m probably the only person ever to have this opinion but I’m really not a big Robert Downey Jr. fan. I know that whole smug playboy thing is part of his shtick but it just grates on me.

    Tar-and-feathering commence!

    • I hate you, your face and your opinion.

      And of course I’m kidding.

      I grew up believing I WAS these characters. I had the comics. I had the toys. Seeing them in any non-Michael Bay form is like a dream come true.

      I can definitely see why people wouldn’t be drawn to them, like them or find points to grumble about. I’m just glad I’m not on of them. 🙂

      The dislike RDJr, on the other hand, I don’t get. I have my own actors, movies and music I don’t like that most others do, so I can empathize, it he’s just too charming.

      • Incidentally, Mattroid, I hope I didn’t come off as a hater. Yes, I had a few bones to pick, but I generally and genuinely enjoy these films. I actually cut out a huge section of me critiquing Scarlett Johanssen because it was getting to be a bit much with the negativity. Also, I wish I had praised Captain America: The First Avenger more, because I actually REALLY love that movie and I hate being the guys who won’t stop dumping on something that another person deeply loves. Just applying a little too much criticism without mentioning all the good as well.

  4. And Brain, I get it. The line is very Mamet-esque, Whedon-esque as well, which is why it’s both ambiguous (red = blood? criminal activity? uniforms? Russian?) and open for people to interpret.

    It’s what is being alluded to that matters, and while it might not be cut and dry it’s pretty easy to either assign a meaning to or disregard it completely.

    I get why you’re bugged.

    • exactly, I feel like without further context the phrase has no real meaning or reason for us to care, it just sidetracks the goal of the conversation and I find it takes me out of the movie every time.

      • Thanks dude.

        Interestingly enough, when I first ordered it the case was metal–not plastic as it actually is–and it had a larger, more durable handle. But Marvel didn’t sanction the design or idea so it was shut down.

        Months later I received an email stating that 1000 preorders meant that those 1000 would get a Marvel approved version at the same cost, but no other orders would be allowed.

        So it’s not as cool as it could have been, but I’ve also got a sweet collectors item that less than 1000 others have. Neat.

  5. Here’s some more minutia drivel from the mind of an ocd. Why, in Thor, does Thor break in to the S.H.I.E.L.D base around the hammer to try and take it back? At the end of the movie mjolnir comes to him! Supposedly this is still before he knows he can’t pick it up and we’re supposed to witness the fall from greatness where the hammer won’t respond to his touch anymore, but seriously, if the hammer can come to him why doesn’t he just stick out his hand and ‘accio hammer’ it back to him. Then when it doesn’t come he can be all mopey and “boo hoo my dad said I can’t have my hammer anymore”. He has no reason to break in to the base and try to pick it up if the thing just flys to him wherever he is. This meaningless rant brought to you by the council for caffiene; Caffiene. Make everyone you know to think your insane.

        • I’m sure you’re joking, Brain, but budget cuts on some of the most successful movies ever made?! An episode of Game of Thrones (for example) costs about $6million, so it should AT LEAST look as organic and lived in as that if they can’t give me Ben Hur. Thor’s budget was $150million, for cripe’s sake. That’s more than Gladiator and all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Come on, guys!

          • I imagine they blew the whole thing on plastic armor costuming…
            Then one day a grip came across this old Xanadu set and was like “Hey, here’s something!”

    • I think the point of that scene was to illustrate Thor’s arrogance. Even after being stripped of his powers, in his mind, he was still the greatest warrior that ever lived and he was out to prove everyone wrong by sheer force. It wasn’t until after he couldn’t lift the hammer that he realized he wasn’t as strong as he thought. That event broke him and even humbled him for the rest of the movie.

      I dont’ know, I thought it worked.

  6. I just want to state publicly that I don’t like that line from The Avengers BECAUSE it says a version of the title, but because Tony Stark is so fired-up in that moment. I think he sounds like a total badass and that’s a totally punk rock line. Just a big F@*$ YOU, MOTHERF*#^&$! We’re not scared of you!

  7. I started watching “Captain America: The First Avenger” last night because I love all that war-time pulpy stuff with evil Nazi’s. Unfortunately I fell asleep before the end (because it was so late, not because I was bored) but I was actually really enjoying it. It did have that fun Boy’s Own/Indiana Jones/Rocketeer kind of flavour which is totally my cup of tea.

  8. Having rewatched these over the past week with our 11 year-old daughter, I can say that I still love Thor but I’d have to knock it down a full point after really studying the sets.

    I was wrong.

    That said, it’s all about Cap in this life anyway, so balls to Thor.

  9. This was a fun episode. I enjoyed the semi-rapid-fire discussion of all the phase I films. I think that’s a good way to break up the MCU discussion, and I can’t wait until the phase II discussion (when is that planned?).

    Juan, Geek Cast Ry and I discussed the MCU a few weeks ago over at MPW when they did their ANT-MAN review. Here were my ratings and rankings taken from over there (including both phases I and II)…

    2. IRON MAN – 9.5/10
    4. THE AVENGERS – 8.5/10
    5. ANT-MAN – 8.5/10
    7. IRON MAN 3 – 8/10
    9. THOR – 7.5/10
    10. IRON MAN 2 – 7/10

    Two caveats: I’ve seen THE INCREDIBLE HULK, but too long ago for me to rate and rank it fairly; and, I still have yet to see THOR: THE DARK WORLD (but that’s phase II, so I guess I’m still good for this conversation).

    I wonder if my opinion of ANT-MAN is helped by the post-movie glow of having seen it most recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if time drags it down to a 7.5 or 8, which would likely bump it down below IRON MAN 3 (but definitely above ULTRON).

    Anyway, there it is.

    • Nice. I don’t fully agree, but I respect your list.

      Thursday will be the second part, Phase II of Marvel.

      Also, Station and I will be guests on two upcoming HMP episodes, one that is very special with lots of excellent network friends. Stay tuned!

    • Well, since Dino selfishly failed at posting my ratings, here they are in all their glory for you to judge:

      1. Iron Man – 10
      2. The Avengers – 10
      3. Guardians of the Galaxy – 10
      4. Captain America: Winter Soldier – 9.5
      5. Thor – 9
      6. Iron Man 3 – 9
      7. Ant-Man – 8.5
      8. Avengers: Age of Ultron – 8.5
      9. Captain America: The First Avenger – 8.5
      10. Thor: The Dark World – 7.5
      11. Iron Man 2 – 7
      12. The Incredible Hulk – 7

      And by the way, I loved Ang Lee’s Hulk. I think it’s underrated, misunderstood, and full of potential. Mark Ruffalo is, in my opinion, the best Hulk/Banner combo we’ve gotten so far BUT I prefer Eric Banna’s interpretation of Bruce Banner. Mattroid nailed it when he said that his performance was more of a tormented soul. That not only does more justice to the character in the comics, but it’s way more appealing to me. Ang Lee’s Hulk is a 7.5 for me and I think it’s better than The Incredible Hulk even if it has some crazy looking dogs from hell straight from a Tex Avery cartoon :/

  10. Re: Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, I’m a big fan of his performance in the Avengers films. I think he does tortured vulnerability really well. I just wish he wasn’t so beefy. I’d much rather Bruce Banner be slight and maybe even a little sickly. I’m not familiar with the comics so this might be completely off cannon, but I don’t care. I think it would be a great juxtaposition between the huge, hulking Hulk. Plus, it would add to the suffering aspect of his character. Maybe have the look of Ed Norton, but make everything else Ruffalo.

    • I quite like Ruffalo’s Hulk, less-so his Banner. Best Banner was Norton, in many ways, although I have a bizarre love of Bana’s take. Unique, stronger physically but also mentally fragile, brilliant in a more pedestrian, academia way, which isn’t preferred but interesting none the less.

  11. What are your thoughts on the “Marvel’s villain problem” discussion? I’m sure we’re all familiar, but here’s a good article that touches on it for reference >>

    I think there’s definitely something there. Of course, it doesn’t seem to have been a real problem up to this point since the movies have been doing well both financially and critically (for the most part). That said, it might be an issue moving into phase III. At the very least, I think the movies could be made that much better and more interesting if they did more to develop the bad guys.

    As for villain talk, who have your favorites been so far? Mine have been Loki (a common answer, I’m sure) and Whiplash, although I think Whiplash could have been so much better. It’s frustrating when I think of what they could have made of him, especially having someone like Mickey Rooney (er, Rourke) at their disposal. I also loved the character design of the faux-Mandarin, but that’s phase II….

    • I read that too. One issue is that the vast majority of audience goes for the hero, who could fight a ham sandwich, and they’d still turn in huge box office numbers.

      Also, most Marvel movies contain heavy elements of “a man is his own villain,” which makes an argument for a less threatening villain to take the stage.

      That said, I feel like the primary weak spot in Marvel’s movies is most often filled by the villain. IronMan 3 had a chance to knock it out of the park with the Mandrin, but failed by using Guy Pierce instead. I believe Kingsly is the real Mandrin, and we will find out later, and if so…mega points for this.

      Best villains so far?
      Kingpin (Daredevil tv show)
      Winter Soldier
      Red Skull/Zola

  12. Also, looking ahead, which phase III films are you looking forward to the most? My 3 most anticipated are:


    • As a massive fan of the Civil War story in the comics, I’m by far most interested in that one.

      Next would be spidey, and any hulk-related movie. They are all interesting, but I’m more excited about what I already like than what I might like. Save maybe Strange.

  13. After years of ignoring them, this weekend I finally sat down and (Thus far) watched the complete Phase 1 of the MCU. Up to this weekend, I hadn’t watched anything from the official MCU. I’m not someone who watches a lot of superhero movies, so it seems as if my rankings are different than the rest of yours.

    MCU Phase 1 Rankings

    1. The Avengers – 8.5
    2. Iron Man 2 – 8.5
    3. Iron Man – 8
    4. Thor – 7.5
    5. The Incredible Hulk – 6.5
    6. Captain America: The First Avenger – 5.5

    Iron Man (2008)
    I certainly enjoyed myself, which was highly necessarily to cause me to watch any more of the MCU films past the first one. The draw back to this first Iron Man film is that it was the Robert Downey Jr show. He was carrying the film on his own and unlike in the other films with him in Phase 1, he didn’t have another great counterpart to rely on.

    The Incredible Hulk (2008)
    This had a bit of the opposite problem from Iron Man. I dug the basic story more, since it was basically just a twist on the old The Wolf Man story with a man trying to cope with becoming a monster and the struggle of finding a cure. The problem is that none of the actors did much to stand out. The CGI Hulk looked awful especially with his emo style haircut. I did like how quickly they summed up the Hulk character in the opening credits rather than make us watch his origin story that most people would have otherwise already known. That allowed the pacing to go along well. A cool character ultimately wasn’t enough to carry this movie, but it did prevent it from becoming a dud. If you’re going to skip one MCU Phase 1 film, you can likely get away with skipping The Incredible Hulk.

    Iron Man 2 (2010)
    Apparently I have a very different opinion of this film from everyone else. This was an awesome watch and seemed to hit on all cylinders. I loved Whiplash, especially the original Whiplash during the race and not the mega Whiplash that we see later in the movie. It’s a total bad ass that had a different look and feel from it’s hero, which is something the previous two films didn’t try to do. The debut of War Machine and Black Widow added more fun that allowed RDJ to share some of the spotlight this time around.

    Thor (2011)
    The first big plus of this film is that it felt different from the rest due to all of the scenes in Asgard. I had fun spending time on a new planet and getting to know about some of their issues with the Frost Giants. It did feel as if the film struggled at trying to tell two stories at once. The one was a space journey with two waring planets and the other was about an alien coming to earth and learning to interact with everyone in his attempts to get home. To mash those two stories together for one film didn’t click all of the way. As a result, the earth scenes just couldn’t compare to the ones in space. Loki joins Whiplash as my other MCU Phase 1 favorite villains. There’s some great depth with Loki where he’s evil, but boy is he a total headache that needs years of therapy to work through all of his issues.

    Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
    Besides Iron Man 2, this is the film where my opinion seems to be most different from the rest. I could not get into this film. Once Rogers became Captain America, I just wanted to see him in present day. Instead, we don’t get that. Is it fair to hate on a movie just because I expected something different from what they were presenting? No, but it’s my review, so I’ll allow it. Since I watched this just after the Twitter movement to try and get Captain America a boyfriend, it did make me look at Steve and Bucky’s friendship a different way. There’s some serious guy love going on to the point where Captain America will go to the ends of the world to get his Bucky back, but he can’t give Natalie Dormer any attention and his interest that he showed Hayley Atwell did not seem sincere at all. Granted, I’m just a guy who only watched two movies with Captain America and zero comics, but going off of JUST that, I can totally see potential for some love between Capt and Bucky. Seeing Howard Stark so much didn’t help my enjoyment either. All it did was make me miss seeing Tony Stark. The important thing is that I did like Chris Evans as Captain America, he just needed to jump to present day.

    The Avengers (2012)
    Well, Phase 1 of the MCU wrapped up with the best film. One of the things that stood out to me the most was that it corrected a couple of the problems I had before. The Hulk CGI was a massive improvement. He no longer had that stupid haircut or that weird human-ish CGI face that didn’t work for me. While we did miss out on the Wolf Man-like story, we did get to see The Hulk just going around and smashing everything. I had heard that The Hulk had stolen the show for this first Avengers movie and I would not disagree. Another improvement was Captain America. He’s now in the present day and everything is clicking for me now. Much like Thor, Rogers stands out due to being from another “World” where customs and beliefs were not quite the same as they are now. His involvement in this film has me looking forward to seeing Captain America 2. Without having their own individual movies, we spent enough time on Hawkeye and Black Widow for them to feel important and not just be Avengers filler. If I had a criticism, it’s that the film dragged on just a bit for me. With the movie length being a half hour than the rest of the movies up to this point, that feeling should not be unexpected though. The nice thing though is that it began to drag just before the two hour mark, which is just when the giant battle in NYC began. Once that fight began, I was back into the movie. I am going back and forth on whether someone should have died. On one hand, it’s a big time movie with a ton of characters. So in theory, it would have been the right time to kill someone. On the other hand, who do you kill? Thor and Captain America have only had one movie and still have unfinished business. Hawkeye and Black Widow would feel like a cheap kill since neither character have had as much time dedicated to them as the rest of the Avengers. Do you really want to kill The Hulk when he was the best part of the movie? The only real option seemed to be Tony Stark. We already saw two films with him, so length wise, he probably could have been killed off. At the same time, RDJ is far too entertaining for his own good. I do think The Avengers was missing something big though. For how much Joss Whedon had to handle, he pulled things off beautifully.

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