Thursday, September 17, 2015

Top 12 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies: Part 1

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for short, continues to expand with the addition of Age of Ultron and Ant-Man earlier this year, so it is time again to rank all of the MCU movies from worst to first!
Marvel has revolutionized the film industry with the concept of a shared universe with characters from one film appearing in another, to the point where supporting even received their own television series! Ever since The Avengers swept the planet with its success, every other studio rushed to make their own cinematic universe and no other franchise is even close to Marvel's financial and critical success. In fact, the idea of a shared universe is essentially bringing the idea of the comics to the film medium. One key factor in the MCU's success is that there has yet to be a truly bad film. Not all of them have been great, but with two exceptions, the MCU is consistently high quality. The films establish these characters and the various films allow the audience to watch them grow and change throughout the course of several films. Now, without further ado, let's get this started.

Note: If you read my previous list, my thoughts on the films released before Age of Ultron are essentially the same.

12: The Incredible Hulk
The black sheep of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk has faded into obscurity almost to the point where it is barely considered canon. Sure, it is occasionally referred, but many aspects of the film just do not fit with the rest of the MCU. Part of this is due to Edward Norton not returning in The Avengers, which led to Mark Ruffalo redefining the film version of the Hulk/Banner to astounding success.

As for the film itself, The Incredible Hulk is a fun film. Nothing about it is remarkable, but it tells a classic Hulk story of Banner running from them military. For the type of on-the-run Banner that the film required, Edward Norton did a fine job in the role. Unfortunately, the film starts to fall apart towards end with the introduction of Major Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination. The final battle between the two is entertaining for some CGI Hulk smashing, but that is about it. The other issue is that the budget and technology at the time could not create a Hulk comparable to the one in the comics. Overall though, it is a solid comic book flick.

11: Iron Man 2
Receiving more hate that it ever deserved, Iron Man 2 is very much a mixed bag. Certain elements are fantastic, while other aspects disappoint. The film tries to use the palladium poisoning as a substitute for Stark's alcoholism arc from the comics. While a few parts of that story as Tony tries to discover what is truly important is effective, it is ultimately buried by uneven pacing and too many subplots. Thankfully, Robert Downey jr. being himself is always a pleasure to watch, and his ad libbed banter keeps things interesting. 

The most notable criticism is that Iron Man 2 tries to be the bridge that sets up for The Avengers, and at the time, the executives at Marvel still had yet to figure out exactly how everything would come together, which is apparent in the film. The building blocks are there, but it is not integrated with the any form of subtlety like later the films. However, it is a necessary evil of sorts for use to get us to the ultimate payoff that is The Avengers. Oddly enough, I basically agreed with the majority that it was a disappointment upon my first viewing of the film (before I became a critic). However, after multiple viewing, its importance in the overall road to The Avengers and Downey's innate charm made me like the movie so much more the second and third times around, despite the messy narrative and apparent flaws.

10: Thor
Of all the Phase 1 films, Thor had the most potential for disaster! In fact, before watching the film, I feared that there would be no way that a Thor film could work in live-action. Thankfully, to my surprise, Thor turned out to be one of the films in a long line of Marvel productions that defy expectations against all odds.

Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean background lent itself well to the film's theatrical family drama and archaic dialogue, which were one of the film's strongest aspects. The "fish-out-of-water" comedy with Thor is full of unforgettable lines that I still quote today, and the Final Act brought Thor’s character arc full circle. Branagh did use a few too many dutch angles for some reason. But as a whole, he managed to capture Thor and the world of Asgard in a satisfying manor!

9: Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger is distinctly different than the other Marvel films in both tone and style. Director, Joe Johnston, gave the film a retro period look that is reminiscent of older serials, while still being serious. The blend of styles works for the most part. However, the standout is Chris Evans as Captain America himself. As a Captain America fan since childhood, there was no character that I wanted to see done right on the big screen more. However, when Evans was cast, I was confused. He was a decent funny guy in Fantastic Four, but could he play Cap? And the answer was an astounding yes! The First Avenger was far from his best work as the character, but he really nailed the physicality and heroic personality that the character required.

In retrospect, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter turned out to be pitch perfect casting with her spinoff series, Agent Carter, being one of Marvel's best works to date. Actually, if I were to rank Agent Carter versus the films, it would probably be number five (unless Daredevil counts).

8: Thor: The Dark World
Despite Thor being the titular character, we all know that The Dark World is the Tom Hiddleston show, as he steals every second of his screentime. Sure, his screentime may be limited to the first two Acts, but he eats it up.

However, of all the MCU movies, I have the least to say about The Dark World. There is nothing controversial or world shattering; it is a straightforward and entertaining adventure. The best aspect is the brotherly interaction between Thor and Loki, and visually interesting Asgardian world. I would say that it is about tied with Captain America and Thor on the list with Hiddleston's performance being the thing that barely edges the other two out, although could change upon later viewings. The Dark World place in the grand scheme of the Marvel universe has yet to be seen with the film's final twist setting up for Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.

7: Iron Man 3
Easily the most divisive of Marvel films, Iron Man 3 continues to leave the community split. Some continue to say that the film is a failure, while others, like myself, say that it is an excellent character study of Tony Stark, despite a few nagging issues.

However, the main point of contention is the big twist *Major Spoilers* that the Mandarin is a fake. Many viewers were sorely disappointed that Ben Kingsley's long anticipated role was all just a facade created by the trailers. For me, and a few others, the deception is one the best twists that I have seen in cinema. Right up until the release, the whole thing was kept underwraps; it is a real feat in today's world of trailers that spoil major plot points (*coughTerminatorcough*). For the first time, I was truly shocked by the turn of events, and for someone that often predicts what is going to happen next, it was a real pleasure to be genuinely surprised.

However, the Third Act suffers from a lack of a great antagonist. A better way to do the twist would have been to replace Guy Pearce with a Chinese actor, so that when he says "I am the Mandarin" the dragon tattoos and other things all make sense. However, considering the latest Marvel One-Shot about the Mandarin, there is a real one out there that we might see in the future. *End Spoilers*

As for the movie itself, Shane Black's witty script and Downey’s brilliant delivery make for an exceptional combination. Even if the plot is not as well crafted as the first film, the interaction, character development, and pure entertainment make it one of the most fun Marvel films to watch.

Thanks for reading this first part everyone! Check back soon for the second and final part.

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  1. Awww I think Thor did better than number 10, even if there was a lack of bad guys after the frost giants. Of course it is your list, but I would have moved Captain America and Thor to 6 and 7.

  2. Cool list! :) It will be interesting to see where you put Age of Ultron.
    I also thought the Thor films were awesome and Iron Man 3 is definitely my favorite of that trilogy! :)

  3. I don't have much to argue with you about here. I do like Thor slightly better than Captain America... but I also like Thor better than Cap as characters, so that's part of why.


One rule: No strong profanity. If you want to link to one of your posts, please do; I am always interested in other reviews and such.

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