Four Great Marvel Movie Audio Commentaries

Iron Man 3 (Featuring Shane Black and Drew Pearce)

Why Listen: While listening to this track, I forgot I was supposed to be working and taking notes. The Kiss Kiss Bang Bang commentary is one of the funniest commentaries I’ve heard, and the same goes for this track. Any fan of Black’s sense of humor can hear plenty more of it in his commentaries. Making the track even more of a joy is that he’s speaking with his equally funny Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce. They go through all the ins and outs of constructing Iron Man 3’s story, the revisions, and scenes and lines cut from an assembly cut that ran 3 hours and 15 minutes long. With honesty and some laugh-out-loud moments, Black and Pearce cover a lot of the nuances involved in making a satisfying blockbuster with a bit more underneath the hood than most popcorn movies.

What’s Said: While Tony Stark is a man with everything, Black gave him little to fight with except his wits in most of Iron Man 3. The movie has a refreshingly grounded approach to superhero action with its lead always struggling and mostly scraping by. According to Pearce, Black has a unique way of imagining his always playful set pieces:

Shane told me when he imagines action sequences – and Shane sometimes dreams action sequences – in order to feel the most empathy for the people involved, he’ll imagine his dogs instead of humans, which is an idea I really like. If you think about the air force one sequence with dogs, it makes it incredibly poignant and sad.

Black later adds:

I have such a love-hate with action in films. It’s considered important to get to the action, but it’s important to make a unique movie.

More of What’s Said: There’s not a whole lot of day to day talk about what happened on the set since Pearce and Black mostly focus on storytelling and striving to make escapist entertainment with substance. They wanted to aim higher, as John McTiernan did on Die Hard:

One of my favorite directors, John McTiernan, had called me while he was doing Die Hard and had the script in front of him. He said to me, “I just want to run something by you. I think this is the Odysseus myth, Die Hard.” I’m like, “Ok, come again.” He goes, “Well, if you think about it, the King has kidnapped and taken the Queen while Odysseus was off on a journey. He returns home to find his kingdom compromised, his love stolen, and he has to fight to reclaim from the King that which was his.” You totally read that triangle between Hans Gruber, Bruce, and the wife. At the end when he falls, it’s because he releases the symbol of prestige, that watch, and says, “I’m a plodder and I’m a real guy, and you’re just a poser and a rich asshole.” He releases him, he falls, and he reclaims his wife. It really is the Odysseus myth.

Trivia: The documentary Senna inspired the image of Pepper Potts holding the cracked Iron Man helmet to her head.

Thor (Featuring Kenneth Branagh)

Why Listen: The most eloquent commentary of the bunch comes from Sir Kenneth Branagh, who’s done wonders with the English language on the screen and stage. Even when he’s talking about Comic-Con or Chris Hemsworth‘s frame, he does so with panache. Some of the finest of directors fall trap to explaining what’s happening on screen in their commentary tracks, but when Branagh does it, it’s still music to the ears. When he discusses the Foo Fighters, it’s only further proof Branagh would’ve made for a helluva radio show host if, you know, all his award-winning acting, writing, and directing didn’t pan out.

What’s Said: Branagh’s track unsurprisingly features the most actor talk. He goes beyond the typical “oh that actor’s great” praise as well, and instead explains the subtleties of the work on display. Branagh frequently shares info about how he tends to work with actors these days:

When you put these two together [Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston] to do something like this [dramatic scene], I think you are blessed. Tony Hopkins, this was his first day on set, his first scene. I decided I would experiment with something I had been experimenting with as an actor myself, which was to start the day, in a scene like this, by shooting the close-ups first. Normally, you’d start with a wide shot and then you’d move slowly in and might get the close-up after lunch or in the middle of the afternoon. Whatever time we got him on set in the morning, Tony was doing the close-ups for this scene. He was incredibly generous to young Tom, who was incredibly patient and did his close-ups much later in the day or the next day.

A Day on the Job: Branagh’s track is about as funny as the ones for Ant-Man and Iron Man 3. He has a sharp wit and a spot-on Chris Hemsworth impersonation he unleashes when Thor is shirtless – a moment, as I recall, heavily featured in TV spots:

This work evidenced by Chris Hemsworth’s torso was the product of his six-nine months of very intensive work in the gym. I thought that I might risk saying that I had his head pasted on my body here for this sequence, but I feared you wouldn’t believe me, so I guess I’m going to have to tell you it was him. I remember a few days before we shot this saying, rather embarrassingly, “Hey Chris, I want to do this shot. It seems important to me we reveal Thor in this way. Do you mind taking your shirt off?” To which he replied: “[Australian Accent] Do I mind? I’ve been doing this for nine months, mate, of course I’m going to get my shirt off.” I’m glad he did because it’s produced gasps in early screenings. We needed Thor to look like a God, and Chris Hemsworth does.

Trivia: Thursday is named after Thor. In Old English, Thursday means Thor’s day.

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