Over the past month I’ve been in a Marvel binge. Mainly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s super popular right now, and part of me feels like all these movies that are being made just for me are being sullied by all these other millions of people watching and enjoying them.
I mean, they’re mine. I get to enjoy them, not other people.
Regardless, they’re out there now and part of me doesn’t want to like them anymore. Whatever, I can like popular things.
The point of all this is that phase II is almost complete. And as such, I feel like it’s time for me to weigh in on the MCU by ranking the movies. Yay.
Understand that I’m specifically discussing the movies produced by Marvel/Disney, so there isn’t going to be any X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, or other, older iterations of movies here (Like the myriad of Punisher films, Daredevil, Elektra, Howard the Duck, the Ang Lee version of the Hulk, etc).
Without Further Ado, here they are, ranked:
10) The Incredible Hulk – This says a lot to me that I went as the Hulk for Halloween every year of my life (That I bothered to dress up). Well, there was the year I went as a punk rocker, but that was my first year going to a party instead of trick-or-treating, I thought I was supposed to dress as something more sophisticated. Turns out I was just dressing as a woman, a sophisticated woman, but still… where was I? Oh yes, So it says a lot to me that my dream of actually one day becoming the Hulk, that his rage fueled outbursts were my ideal of the perfect hero, means that I am biased to like this movie more than it has any right to be liked.
Turns out, I do like it. It’s just the least among equals. Or to put it another way, it’s not as good as the rest of the Marvel movies. Ed Norton played Banner without the charisma that Ruffalo did in the Avengers, and the fx was pretty cool, but the showdown between the Hulk and Abomination descended a bit into a cartoon fight after a nice beginning. Nice, not memorable.
I'd read that once Marvel got the rights back to the Hulk, they hired the director (I forget his name) and told him that the release date was in one year. There was no script ready, so they had to go into production as it was being written. In the end I think they movie suffered for it. I worry that Marvel learned the wrong lesson here (which is, 'people don't want the Hulk', not, 'make sure you have a great story to tell')
9) Iron Man 2 – watched this a few weeks ago, I was looking for my copy of Iron Man, but it disappeared at some point. It’s one of the only Marvel movies I have on DVD, and a few years ago I decided to start keeping the Blu-ray movies separate from the DVD movies. I’ve neglected the DVD selection and the kids have moved stuff, people have borrowed things, it’s been lost. But good ‘ol Iron Man 2 was sitting right where it was supposed to be on the Blu-ray shelf, so I picked it up and realized I hadn’t seen it in a few years. I remembered it fondly so I thought I could live with seeing it again.
Like The Hulk movie above, this one has its moments. But also like the Hulk movie, I’m not sure I was on board with the climax. Really, the thing about Tony building an amusement park in honor of his father seemed weird to me. The development of the transuranic element to cure the palladium ailment was cool as an idea, but didn’t work for me narratively. Still, the first 2/3rds of this movie are pretty great. dug the introduction of the Black Widow, and am happy that Emily Blunt (whom I love) had to drop out of the role at the last minute.
8) Thor 2: The Dark World – By the time this movie came out, I’d already been seeing trailers for Captain America 2 (I think), and had had a hard time focusing on this as anything but a distraction. Despite this movie being perfectly cast, and finally, Thor not looking like a dope with his long hair (it just worked in this movie), I enjoyed this, but couldn’t find anything about it that elevated it beyond what I subtitled this section as: Fun.
And this character was probably my third hero worshiped character in comics (after Superman, then The Hulk – If comics serve as wish fulfillment, then I clearly have a god complex). I never dressed up as him for Halloween, but I probably drew more made up comics with him as the star than any other heroes.
This movie’s villain really let me down, the first movie had Loki, and although I like Chris Eccleston (It’s easy to forget his short run as the Doctor) this might have been the weakest villain of any of the Marvel movies. And the Aether was a poorly defined artifact, I think. I don’t know. I remind you that I liked it, more than either of the previous movies on this list. It didn’t quite give me what I needed to feel like it lived up to its potential.
7) Thor – Huh, didn’t mean to put this one next, but I don’t know what else I would put below it. But I do think there is a bit of a separation from Thor 2 and the first one. This one had Loki as the villain, and a better plot. The destroyer battle at the end was so lackluster that I feel like either they’d run out of money for fx, or the director was so bored with the thought of more action that he just said, ‘take 30 seconds and do whatever the hell you want’ to the fx house.
Still, emotionally, this one hit all the right marks. I think it was really good.
6) Iron Man 3 – This one is where I started to believe that Marvel was making an effort to just not repeat itself with its movies. This was a… what? A spy movie? No, but it didn’t feel like a typical superhero tale either.
This was, for me, a very enjoyable flick, a good one. I know some people have taken issue with the misuse of the Mandarin. It didn't really bother me, I tend not to be too precious about things as long as I enjoy the movie. In this case, Marvel did throw a bone to the upset contingent of fans over the Mandrin thing by offering the Marvel One-Shot that dealt with that thorny issue rather well. If you've got 15 minutes and you haven't seen it, I just did you a HUGE favor by pasting it below. You're welcome.
But back to the movie, look, it wasn't perfect. It felt like it was just a tad too long, but damn. It was better than the second Iron Man movie by miles.
5) Captain America - I feel like there is another big step in quality here. The thing about this movie, for me, is that when I first saw it at the theater, I liked it, but didn't find it that special. It was months later, sitting at home, and enjoying it on my telly that I realized its brilliance. I have no explanation for that. Sometimes movies just grow on you. Now I probably pop this bad boy in and watch it about once every two months or so.
Funny that, as a character, I always struggled with trying to figure out how you tell the story of the ultimate boy scout. I mean, he has no flaws, or if he does, it's that he cares too much, tries too hard, and loves too strongly. But, again, someone figured it out. Chris Evans owns the character so much that I feel like the versions I see of him in the comic are no longer the real 'cap' but instead, the movie versions are.
Also, I did have plenty of Captain America comics in my collection as a kid, but it wasn't a monthly read for me. Still, within the Marvel Universe, he is venerated by all the other heroes, and everyone looks to him for leadership when the chips are down. I'd follow this guy into battle too (as long as by 'Battle' you mean Pizza Hut or something, it's not like I have a death wish). The movie captures it perfectly.
I feel like of all the heroes Marvel has brought to screen though, they've struggled the most with his uniform. I liked the one he ended up with through the latter half of the movie. Don't know why they didn't keep that costume for the Avengers movie (where the one they went with looked ridiculously stupid).
4) Iron Man - The truth is that I probably had less than 5 issues of Iron Man as a kid. I did have the Demon in the Bottle issue, and a two parter where he fought the Hulk. Other than that, I only read him if he crossed over with other titles I read. But I was pretty familiar with him. I did read the Avengers comic every month, and he was always there. A lot of my love for this movie has to do with the casting of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, as soon as I heard about it I thought it was perfect, and then I saw the movie and realized it was better than I thought.
Dump trucks of money for that guy. No one else can ever be him. Also, the movie was pretty good. I liked John Favreau as a director, and think he made the perfect movie as an introduction to the MCU.
3) The Avengers - Hard to believe that earlier this year I might have picked this as the best comic book movie ever made. Now it's only #3 on the list of Marvel films.
That's not to detract from this movie though. It took all these characters that were the leads in their own films and made this giant ensemble out of it. Yes, Captain America's costume became super stupid looking, and Hawkeye did sorta get shafted, and yes, the aliens were a little generic. But this movie worked. And it worked really well.
Like Captain America, I watch this one every couple of months. And when I do, I get all giddy. True story here. When I was a kid, I used to lay in bed at night and imagine what a live action Avengers movie might be like. I tried to envision what actors and actresses could fill the iconic roles.*
Aside from the atrociously disgusting Captain America costume, this thing is, literally, the movie I dreamed about as a child. It didn't disappoint. I nearly wept watching it, and can't sit down to watch it without dreaming of a time-travel device that can transport me back in time to show young me this movie.
See what I mean about that costume Cap wears?
2) The Guardians of the Galaxy - I waffled on whether or not this should be number 1 on this list, but the fact is that I don't really know about how I feel about a movie, really, until it's here in my house and I can watch it any time I want to. After multiple viewings, do the little nitpicky things really start to bother me, or do I just fall more and more deeply in love with it?
Only time will tell, but like the Avengers, this is a group effort, and proof that Marvel is being as smart as they can about who they let direct their films. I know Edgar Wright, one of my favorite directors, dropped out of Ant-Man, but I can't really gauge how big a blunder than might be until I see the movie. All I know is what I've already seen, and on this, I think Marvel's midas touch is about letting directors make a movie that they want to make. And hopefully learning that lesson from the Hulk movie that wasn't so good.
Chris Pratt was one of my favorite guys from Parks and Recreation, and putting him in this role was brilliant. It's tone was so different than the Captain America film from a few months earlier. My wife said she spent the movie alternating between laughter and weeping. I can't really comment on the details of the movie, as they all blur together for me right now. But I'm looking forward to watching it repeatedly after it's December release on Blu-ray.
1) Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Almost a perfect movie. Period. I'd heard somewhere that Marvel is bringing in people who want to make a 'type' of movie, and then letting them use the Marvel characters to tell that story. I don't know how much truth there is to that, but clearly, this was a conspiracy thriller. It could have been told with almost anyone, jamming it into the Cap story was just brilliant.
It had some of the best action scenes I've seen on film, the violence had emotional beats, and the characters where put through Hell. My only complain is that, again, Cap's uniform wasn't quite right. I liked the muted, combat costume he wore early on, but for some reason, stealing his WWII costume from the museum for the final conflict didn't work as well for me. Maybe because the bright colors didn't mesh with the earthy tones the rest of the flick had.
Also, his shield seemed to disappear and reappear throughout the movie, but was always painted to match his costume. I found that weird.
And like a few other of the Marvel movies, the best action sequences took place earlier in the movie. From Nick Fury's street chase, Cap's escape from Shield, or the brawl with The Winter Soldier in downtown... all of them were better than the final fight he had on the helicarrier. The Falcon's part was awesome, as was The Black Widow's... only Cap was a bit of a letdown, although only a bit, it still had high emotional stakes.
Quibbles though. I've watched this movie more times in the past month than I think I've seen any movie since I was in my early twenties. I watched it while on vacation. I've seen it on my phone twice, I watched it at least six times on my television. I just can't get enough of it.
And there you have it. A long, rambly post filled with my opinions of stuff that doesn't matter. Hope someone else got something out it. I did have fun writing it.
*In case you just have to know, circa 1985 I would have chosen for the movie version of the Avengers: The Hulk/Banner - Lou Ferrigno/Michael J Fox Thor - Arnold Schwarzenegger Captain America - Rob Lowe Iron Man - Steve Guttenberg Black Widow - Demi Moore Hawkeye - Bill Murray (because I wanted him in EVERY movie at the time)