The definitive, can’t be argued with, fuck you if you don’t agree, RANKINGS OF THE MCU
Some of you who have been following my column may be coming here expecting a review for X-Men: Apocalypse. Well, I haven’t seen the movie so I won’t be doing that today. It looks shit, if you love the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, go see it, or don’t. Make your own decision! Quit being so damn codependent! Instead, I’ve elected to take this time to write about movies that actually matter: the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In 2005, Marvel was on the brink of bankruptcy. Following the comic book crash of the mid 1990’s, Marvel had watched its comic book sales drop to an almost insurmountable low. In order to stay in business, Marvel licensed many of its more widely known comic book properties, Blade, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men, to various movie studios in deals that were unfavorable to Marvel to say the least. The company was desperate and the sharks in Hollywood could smell their blood. After realizing that these deals would ultimately lead to their end, Marvel decided to start their own studio and create the movies for their iconic characters on their own. Using their intellectual properties as collateral, they went to Merrill-Lynch and secured a $500 million dollar loan, and began constructing something movie goers had never experienced; a movie universe that more closely resemble the comic book universe in scale, aesthetic and rhythm. Had the first Iron Man failed, the company would have dissolved. Fortunately, they not only succeeded, they built one of the strongest film franchises we have ever seen. There have been 13 films since this launch, and in this column I will rank them for you in order of their greatness.
13. The Incredible Hulk
Hulk just can’t catch a break in his solo films. I don’t really understand why they haven’t been able to make a good one, the juxtaposition of the mild mannered Bruce Banner and the rage crazed Hulk has always been fascinating in the comics, but they just have yet to be able to translate this onto the big screen, at least in a solo effort. This movie is easily the least re-watchable of any of the MCU films. Brought down by poor CGI work and lackluster performances from Liv Tyler and Edward Norton, this movie almost derailed the MCU before it even really started. Luckily, Edward Norton would cry that he wasn’t paid enough, leaving the door open for the original casting choice for Bruce Banner, the much more believable and likeable Mark Ruffalo. If you’ve never watched this movie, do yourself a favor and don’t bother.
12. Iron Man 2
What a let down this movie was. After flying high with Iron Man, this movie felt rushed and poorly thought out. You could feel the studio telling Favreau to finish the damn thing in order to appease their greed. The villain has poor motivations, the sub plot with Tony Stark is amateurish, and the CGI is choppy and shoddy. The only two things that make this movie watchable are the scene with the Iron Man suit in the brief case (probably my favorite Iron Man suit) and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, but Rockwell is amazing in just about every movie he is in. I hope we get to see Hammer again as I would hate to see his character wasted on such a pathetic excuse for a film. With Iron Man, they showed us they knew how to make a superhero franchise, with this movie they showed us that they are capable of fucking it up.
11. Iron Man 3
Another Iron Man movie? We haven’t even reached single digits in this countdown! The ranking of these two movies may seem blasphemous to RDJ fan boys, but trust me, it’s justified. This part of the universe started off with so much promise, only to ultimately disappoint. Iron Man 3 brought in Shane Black to take over the director’s chair for Jon Favreau, and that was a mistake. I like Shane Black quite a bit, but the end result of his involvement is a movie that feels less like an Iron Man film and more like a buddy cop movie. There are some cool parts in this movie, particularly Tony Stark infiltrating the Mandarin’s base and some parts of the final fight sequence. However, Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian is another forgettable Marvel villain and Tony Stark without his Iron Man suit for ¾ of the movie made a majority of the film rather boring. They tried to include a storyline about Tony Stark having PTSD after the events of the Avengers, but that storyline ends in a way that is both unsatisfying and insulting to people who suffer from that disorder. Above all else this movie is ranked so low because of its complete mishandling of the Mandarin character. To take Iron Man’s greatest adversary and turn him into a drunken buffoon is an insult to anyone that enjoyed the Iron Man comics and a disservice to the universe as a whole.
10. Thor: The Dark World
We’re beginning to turn a corner with the quality of these films. Thor: The Dark World is a fine movie, but ultimately forgettable. So much so that I don’t think I’ve watched it since I first saw it in theaters. It has action, and quite a bit of comedy. The romantic chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman is once again believable and Hemsworth is locked into his role as the God of Thunder. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is of course the character that steals the show in this film. He is able to play the character with the right amount of evil and complexity that makes you outwardly despise him, but somewhere deep inside hope he succeeds. This movie isn’t bad, it just failed to show anything new and instead gave us what we have come to expect from a Marvel film, not that that’s a bad thing.
When Marvel said they were going to introduce Thor in the MCU, many people laughed at them. How would you introduce a Nordic God of Thunder to a modern day viewing audience and have it seem anything besides cheesy. They not only did that with the first Thor, they made a comic book audience long since tired of the character care about Thor once again. The fish out of water elements of Thor on Earth played very well and Chris Hemsworth is the only person that I could imagine playing the titular character. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki was a revelation. By far the most complex villain that has appeared in the MCU, the character was so well written that the viewing audience almost refuses to accept him as all bad, touting him as an anti-hero, even though he is obviously a villain. Thor also accomplished introducing the viewing audience to the cosmic side of the MCU, a feat the more grounded films of the universe couldn’t have pulled off.
When Ant-Man originally went into development, it was supposed to be one of the first movies of the MCU. Plans changed however as the studio took what was intended to be a film that was most independent of the larger universe and shaped it to fit in with the rest of the universe. While movie studios getting involved generally spells doom for the quality of a film, this movie still had a lot of potential. Edgar Wright was signed on to direct with Paul Rudd signed on to play the titular hero. Then, after disputes with the studio over the vision for the film, Edgar Wright left. Then we got news of script rewrites. I liked Ant-Man, it was a solid film. The action was fun, it had a lot of good jokes, and they portrayed the shrinking powers of Ant-Man very well. However, this film had the potential to be so much more than another average Marvel film. The studio has a formula that has proven to work very well, but most of us were left with the longing of what could have been had Wright stayed on and been able to direct his vision for the film.
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The hype surround Age of Ultron was astounding. Many people went in expecting this to be the greatest super hero movie of all time, and with expectations that high, many people left the cinema disappointed. While this film definitely has its flaws, it is also infinitely more re-watchable than the movies that are beneath it on this list. This film is packed with non stop action and flawless CGI. The banter between the characters is believable and feels natural. It is a little cluttered, and I still don’t know what the hell Thor was doing in the pool, but it introduced new characters in a way that made me want to see more of them, plus it made me give a shit about Hawkeye, and that in itself is a major accomplishment. The cluttered storyline and an end fight scene that feels like a repeat of the battle of New York keep Age of Ultron from being higher on this list, but it is still a better film than some reviewers painted it to be.
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
I was never a Captain America growing up. He had some comic book runs that I was a fan of, but he never grabbed me as the good old fashioned American hero. With this in mind if you had told me that I would enjoy his solo film as much as I did I would have called you a damn liar. While this movie may have moved a little too slowly for some comic book fans, I really enjoyed it. The way they portrayed small, skinny Steve Rodgers, and were able to show his bravery and courage despite his diminutive stature made me that much more invested in him as a character and made me want to see him gain his super soldier powers. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is also one of the best villains in the MCU. He is truly evil and frightening and is the perfect opposite to the wholesome and honest Steve Rodgers. They made you highly invested in the surrounding characters as well, so much so that these characters have a major impact when they appear in other incarnations of the MCU. The First Avenger was mainly a set up movie for the larger happenings in the MCU, but it was still a very fun enjoyable set up.
5. Iron Man
The movie that started it all! Iron Man was the biggest gamble in Marvel’s history and I don’t think they even could have predicted how much it would pay off. What some more casual fans of the MCU probably don’t realize is that Iron Man was originally a B character. He never had his own cartoon, often appearing as a side character in more popular character’s TV shows. Hell, during marketing for the movie Marvel had to explain that Iron Man wasn’t a robot. This all changed when Robert Downey Jr. signed on to star and turned Iron Man into a cultural icon through sheer force of his charisma. RBJ encapsulated and owned this role so much that comic book fans forgot that Iron Man was a surly, angry drunk in the original comic book runs. Marvel even completely changed the character so that now when you read an Iron Man comic or watch The Avengers cartoon, he is essentially RBJ. The CGI and action in this film felt more comic book on the big screen than any super hero movie before it. Iron Man follows a lot of the same formula as many of the later Marvel films, but it also wrote the damn formula.
4. The Avengers
When it was announced that Marvel’s first round of movies would result in a superhero team up film the likes of which we had never seen my heart was filled with excitement and trepidation. The prospect of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk all sharing the big screen was enticing, but Marvel’s Phase 1 was a mixed bag in terms of quality and having those heroes together in a way that made sense and gave each of them ample screen time was no easy task. Luckily, Marvel hired Joss Wheadon and gave him full reign over the script and the movie’s characters. The end result was one of the most fun and entertaining movies that Marvel has released. The action is fast and exciting, the CGI is generally flawless, and the actors each know their characters extremely well and their place in this world. The comedy is on point and there’s even some heart wrenching moments even though Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D ruined Colson’s death for me and for that it will never be forgiven. Fuck you, ABC. The only thing that keeps The Avengers from entering the top 3 is the plot is formulaic and predictable. Not that predictable is always bad, but I knew exactly what was going to happen in this film long before I saw it and that diminished the experience slightly in comparison to the next three movies.
3. Captain America: Winter Soldier
If you had told me in 2008 that Captain America would have two of my top three Marvel movies, I would have probably told you to pass whatever you were smoking. This movie is a great example of the director’s impact on a film. The Russo Brothers did an outstanding job not only bringing Captain America into the modern age, but making a movie that transcends the super hero genre. Captain America: Winter Soldier is a nod to the great espionage movies of old, filled with conspiracy, double crosses and intrigue. The fight scenes are not only some of the best hand to hand combat you’ll see in a Marvel movie, but the best you’ll see in any movie. The twists and turns are compelling and both Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan own their roles. Showing the Winter Soldier as both an unstoppable menace and a sympathetic character is not an easy task to pull of but the Russo’s do it perfectly. This is a more serious movie in tone than its predecessors, but it is also full of laughs particularly the interplay and chemistry between Black Widow and Captain America. If you have a friend that loves action movies, but scoffs at the idea of characters in tights and masks, have them watch Winter Soldier.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
The biggest surprise of the Marvel movies has to be 2014’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy. I’ve been reading comics since I was 5 years old and even I barely knew who the hell these guys were. To be honest, there’s no greater example of the weight that Marvel’s name carries than the fact that they made a space opera with a talking raccoon and tree and made a ton of money. What helped this, I suppose, is the movie is fucking awesome. This movie out Star Warsed Star Wars. The humor is some of the best you’ll see in any movie. The action is fun and believable. The characters are amazing and their interplay is sublime, especially considering they were most likely talking to a tennis ball during most of the scenes. There’s even touching moments, go ahead, sit there and act like you didn’t cry when Groot said “we are Groot”. You’re lying to me and to yourself, let your emotions out, I wont judge. The soundtrack has become iconic and is so flawlessly entrenched in the film that you couldn’t imagine watching it without it. The re-watchablity is off the charts and it has become my go to movie for my children whenever I get tired of cartoons. This movie should be the first one you pull out when you’re trying to get someone interested in the MCU. My wife loves Guardians of the Galaxy, my kids love Guardians of the Galaxy, hell my 72 year old Grandma loves Guardians of the Galaxy and so do I. If I had done this list a year ago, Guardians of the Galaxy would have been my number 1 that was until I saw:
***1. Captain America: Civil War***
I can already read your mind, Recency Bias! Let the movie sit before ranking it number 1! I was afraid of making that mistake when I compiled this list, so I watched the movie again, then a third time. To be honest I don’t know what else anyone would want out of a superhero movie. Does it have interesting characters with unique power sets that are played off of each other in a meaningful way? Check. Does it have a good balance between large scale action and smaller more grounded fight scenes? Check. Does it have an interesting antagonist who is devout in his beliefs and not just a one dimensional bad guy hell bent on world domination? Check. This movie is the pinnacle of what Marvel has been hoping to achieve. The MCU feels more like a real world that all of these superheroes live in than any movie that has come before it. The CGI is outstanding, and the Russo Brothers show that they can handle large complex fighting scenes and have made me that much more excited and confident in Avengers: Infinity War. The twists are very well done and the movie seems brisk and face paced, even with an over 2 and a half hour runtime. Evan’s is perfect as Captain America, as he always is, and I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man as much as I have since the first Iron Man film. The supporting cast is believable and no one mails in there performance. They also introduced Spider-Man to the MCU and his fifteen or so minutes of screen time was the most enjoyable version of Spider-Man since the second Sam Raimi movie. This movie literally has everything a fan boy could want, and might be my favorite super hero movie ever.
Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @reimeras or the Fantasy Life App @mrmeseeks. Come back next week, same Clock Dodger Time, same Clock Dodger Channel.