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Monday, October 19, 2020

Marvel RiffTrax Reviews

I started my Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews with Phase 1. But here’s a surprise! I also bought three RiffTrax “Just the Jokes” commentary tracks for Phase 1 movies!

RiffTrax, for those who don’t know, is the company founded by Mike Nelson, one of the former “human” hosts of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He is joined by other MST3k colleagues, Bill Corbett (the second Crow) and Kevin Murphy (the second Tom Servo) as they make jokes about what’s happening in various movies. For big-name Hollywood movies that they would never be allowed to release modified copies of, they record just an audio track, called “Just the Jokes”, which you sync with the movie by hand or with the aid of their mobile app.

In my personal experience with these commentary tracks, I found that I have to adjust them a tiny bit one way or the other a couple times in the first 20 or 30 minutes to get them right, but afterwards they stay in sync. For manual sync, I do this by keeping one hand on the video remote and one near the computer so that I can pause and unpause whichever one is too far ahead.

This is a review of three of those “Just the Joke” tracks. Full explanation of my ranking system is here. Summary: C is average, A/B is recommended, D is badly made, F is something to avoid.

Iron Man

Rating: B

Like the movie it’s paired with, the Iron Man “Just the Jokes” riff track starts off a bit shaky, and a couple of the jokes seem in poor taste. But starts getting funnier fast, around the time they start making fun of Keanu Reeves. (No, really. Keanu Reeves.) The fake character names they come up with (like “Cheesely”) make me snort every time. I could have done without the decision midway through the movie to make jokes about Gwyneth Paltrow’s character being stupid, though. Despite that, it’s a pretty decent riff track.

Favorite lines:

“That would be handy on the set of ‘The View’.”
“Hardly seems like the time, Whiplash One, but have tried upping your fiber intake?”
“Boy, she’s got a shrill voice.”


Rating: C+

Since the movie doesn’t have much to work with for a while, the jokes take a while to get good. It’s mostly just jokes about the lighting and some pop culture references for a while. The jokes start getting funnier when we get to the horse jokes. After that point, it’s stretches of jokes worth a chuckle or two sprinkled with some funnier bits. Enjoyable, but not necessarily something I’d say people need to hear.

One thing to remember about Marvel RiffTrax tracks: just as MCU movies have scenes after the credits, RiffTrax has jokes to match. Don’t quit early even if the track is silent or, as in this one, a robot is screeching a song (which turns out to be one of the funniest bits about this track.)

Favorite lines:

“Ah yes, the traditional Asgardian ‘stop and get off your horse 100 yards before you’re there’.”
“TV’s ‘My Two Dads’ soars across the big screen!”

Captain America: The First Avenger

Rating: B+

Starts off much better than the previous two, with more laugh-out-loud lines early on that keep coming faster and faster as the movie continues. If you want to try a RiffTrax track for an MCU movie, but can only afford one, this is the one you should get. (Well, of the first three. Haven’t bought others.)

Favorite lines:

“Thank you! Who’s ready for some… Puppetry of the Penis?”
“Thanks to the serum, any excrement inside him will be far greater than any before!”
“Blu-Ray technology was deadly back in the early days!”
“Years later, the villagers below would talk of the day a delicious meat sauce rained from the sky.”

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  1. I've been a fan of MST3K since 1991 and RiffTrax since it began. I'll admit, I've not downloaded just the riffs for movies. Not sure I could watch them riff a movie I enjoy.

    1. It's actually not too bad... but I had to come to terms with that when they did This Island Earth for MST3k The Movie. That was a movie I loved as a kid.

      But I forgave them.