Thursday, October 29, 2015

Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked: Phase I + II

Just over seven years ago, Marvel Studios took a huge gamble by creating what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Superhero movies were nothing new at that point, but creating a universe like this on this big of a scale hadn't been done before. This huge risk payed huge dividends as through 12 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned a phenomenal $9.1 billion worldwide. That's an average of $755 million per movie. When you are making that much money per movie, you know they're not even close to being done. Marvel already has 14 movies on schedule through 2020. There hasn't been official word on when Phase III will officially end and Phase IV will start, but I've decided that at the end of each phase from here on out, I will be ranking these movies. Whether I decide to rank all the movies together or each individual phase on its own will be decided later, but now that we're done with Phase II, I will be ranking the first two phases in this post. This was a hard list to create because Marvel hasn't yet made a bad movie in my opinion. But after much thinking, I feel comfortable with my list. After you read this, I would love to see your own list, because I know it's different from mine. So let's begin!

12- The Incredible Hulk

Many people say that this Edward Norton version of the Hulk is a bad movie. I disagree. I like Edward Norton and Liv Tyler in the lead roles. I think this is a great story with great acting and a great villain. I really like this movie. So why am I putting it dead last? Because it's the one movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is now completely irrelevant. For a few different reasons, Edward Norton did not return as the Hulk after this movie. Insert Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, who totally blew it out of the park in The Avengers. And not only is Mark Ruffalo a much better Hulk, but his version of the Hulk is actually a different Hulk. They did more than just recast. They rebooted. Thus I personally sometimes forget that this Edward Norton Hulk movie ever existed.

11- Iron Man 2

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is what started this whole thing. That first movie is a universally loved movie and will most likely be towards the top of everyone's lists. That's no different for me. I'll get into why that movie is so great later, but first up from the Iron Man trilogy on this list is the very underwhelming second chapter. Once again, this is not a bad movie. A lot of good things happen... during the first two-thirds of the movie. But that ending. Ouch. We have this huge build up, then the final battle lasts like two seconds. It's very anti-climatic. Speaking of final battle, the main villain that they do battle is easily the dumbest marvel villain. You'll notice a theme with this list. In general, the movies with sub-par villains are the movies that end up towards the bottom for me.

10- Thor: The Dark World

Not much love given to the sequels towards the start of this list. This was almost the first bad Marvel movie for me. The first Thor was very light-hearted and fun with great characters. They attempted to go dark with the sequel, as is stated in the title, but they were too scared to go completely dark, so they threw in a bunch of humor and this time around nothing landed, thus the whole tone of the movie felt off. Most of our main Avengers have great character arcs throughout the movies. Thor in this movie? Nada. He's just Thor. And did you know that Christopher Eccleston made an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Yeah, neither did anyone else because the Dark Elves in this are pretty forgettable villains. So why do I have this so high with all these horrible things I have to say about this? Loki. He is such an interesting character and single-handedly saves this movie. In fact, Loki is the only reason for this being a good movie.

9- Captain America: The First Avenger

I really like Captain America as a character and I really like the dynamic between him and Bucky. He also has great chemistry with Peggy Carter, which makes the finale of this movie absolutely tragic. The beginning is also really interesting as we see wimpy Steve Rodgers get transformed into this super soldier. But sadly that's all I got for this one. A lot of people loved the unique 40's style World War II movie that this offered, but for me I found it a bit boring. In fact, the first three times that I watched this movie, I actually fell asleep. All three times. Even when I finally saw it all the way through, it didn't do a lot to keep my attention. And I'm going to say this a third straight time. It's becoming a broken record at this point. Red Skull? Come one, Marvel. You can do better than that. Rumor has it he might make a return. Let's hope not.

8- Thor

There's a huge jump in quality for me between Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, thus you'll see that I get a bit more wordy from here on out. Remember everything that I said about Thor: The Dark World? Yeah, flip that for this movie. I love the unique world that this movie introduces. I love all the characters here. The duel between Loki and Thor is brilliant, especially on the side of Loki. You really feel bad for the guy as you watch this movie, which is why he makes such a good villain throughout this universe. While Thor didn't experience much of a character arc in the second movie, the one he goes through in this first one is great. He starts out as a stuck-up, self-centered jerk and thus is exiled to Earth because of it. He has to learn to be more humble and caring so he can actually be deserving of the throne that his father wants to give him. And dang is this movie hilarious. Watching this god have to work his way around Earth for the first time is fantastic. The chemistry between him and the group of people that take him in is also pretty great. Except for that romance. That was rushed. But outside that, this is a great film that I wanted to put higher. But I couldn't. In this case, that speaks less to the quality of this particular movie and more to the quality of the other movies that I have yet to mention.

7- Avengers: Age of Ultron

When I first saw this movie a few months ago, my reaction was that this movie was 141 minutes of pure entertainment. I stand by that. This Avengers sequel is blast. But when it comes to ranking these movies, I have to be a bit nit-picky and the 141 minutes of pure entertainment is more popcorn entertainment as some would put it. This isn't epic. It's not deep. It's not that emotional. It's just a whole lot of fun. This group of Avengers has amazing chemistry and it's just a blast watching them on film together fighting baddies and joking among themselves, even if what's going on around them isn't that great. If I'm being honest, Ultron himself seemed epic based on the trailers but was a bit underwhelming. Tony Stark created him and for almost no reason he just decides he's going to kill the Avengers. Oh. Okay. Let's go! And AGE of Ultron? More like WEEK of Ultron. He was just a filler villain as we continue to set up for the big villain of Thanos. Also, this movie was way too focused on setting up other movies in the universe that it almost felt like they forgot to focus on this movie. Like I said, this movie is a blast. But if I were to compare it to a season of a TV show, this would be the monster-of-the-week episode. 

6- Guardians of the Galaxy

Oh man, I'm going to get heat for this one. No matter how you look at it, this is the best reviewed Marvel movie to date by fans and critics alike. Most people have this at least in their top two or three and the fact that I don't have it in my top five is going to make it so I have to hide in my closet for a week while people seek to have my head on a platter. So let me be absolutely clear. I love this movie. It had me laughing from beginning to end. Such a fun, unique Marvel movie based on a bunch of characters that no one knew about, which makes what they pulled off even more impressive. And it has the rewatchability factor, meaning it gets even funnier the more you watch it. So why don't I have it as high as other people have it? Two reasons. Because these characters were unknown, the movie suffered a bit from what I call origin-story-itis. Instead of cutting to the chase, we were forced to spend a lot of time getting to know the character. Also, I've said it once and I've said it four times now. The villain! Ronan is NOT a good villain! He's not bad, but he's just pretty forgettable. And there's a few weird things that happen at the end for this group to defeat him that made me raise my eyebrow a bit. But that's it. Still a very fun ride, but these few things make me think the sequel is going to be an improvement.

5- Ant-Man

Ant-Man?!?! Most people were thinking that this was going to be Marvel's first slip-up. They thought it would be a financial disaster and an outright awful movie. I was in the minority. I was excited for Ant-Man. I spent months defending it. In Marvel we trust, guys! And Ant-Man's abilities are totally boss! Plus it had a great cast. But even I was shocked at how amazing this movie was. Michael Pena and Paul Rudd know how to do comedy and they were at the top of their game with this one because this movie was a blast. I laughed harder here than I did with Guardians of the Galaxy. This also wasn't an origin story. It was a passing of the torch story. Hank Pym was already established as Ant-Man and he just needed to teach Scott Lang how to work the suit after he convinced him to take it. That shrinking aspect of the movie made the action scenes way awesome. And the movie was surprisingly emotional, specifically with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne. And guess what? Corey Stoll as Yellowjacket was a great villain. Best of all, this was a small movie. Pun mostly not intended there because that's the best word to describe it. It felt like an indie superhero movie as Marvel didn't try to one-up their previous films.

4- Iron Man

We went through eight movies and only mentioned one of the Iron Man movies. You probably wondered when they were going to come. Now they are here. One of the hardest parts of this list was trying to figure out which Iron Man movie I liked best, the first or the third. I went back and forth so many times, thus you can guess which movie is coming it at number three. I'll explain why I give the slight edge to Iron Man 3 here in a second, but first I have to give major props to the movie that started it all off. Speaking of a risky move, before Iron Man came out, no one really knew much about Iron Man. But Robert Downey Jr. did such a good job with this role that he made Iron Man the Batman of the Marvel universe. Iron Man became everyone's new favorite superhero from the Marvel universe. The humor is genius. Tony Stark is quick and witty in every single movie he shows up in and it never gets old. The super genius aspect of his character is also done perfectly. It's a lot of fun just watching him think and come up with these amazing ideas on the fly. He's been in five of these movies so far and his progression throughout is fantastic. With Civil War coming up, it's not even done yet. Specifically with this first movie, this is the start of his journey. It's an origin story that you can watch over and over and not get sick of, which is impressive.

3- Iron Man 3

Now we continue to talk about Tony Stark's incredible journey. Like I just said, choosing between Iron Man and Iron Man 3 was very tough for me but what put Iron Man 3 over the top for me was how psychological this movie is. Tony Stark is not a super soldier. He is not a god. He doesn't turn into a huge green monster when he gets angry. He was not given any super powers. He was not born with super powers. He is just a man. A very smart man who built a suit and thus turned himself into a superhero. Thus I love how messed up he is in this movie after what happened in The Avengers. Gods? Aliens? A huge fight in New York City where he was almost killed? This was way too much for his normal human brain to handle and thus he became messed up in the head. Superhero movies rarely dive into this psychological aspect of their main characters, which would probably happen more often than not if these situations played out in real life. Tony Stark made a lot of dumb mistakes. He said stupid things that got his house destroyed. If you mentioned New York to him, he lost it. He didn't even want to go out on his own, so he created a lot self-operated Iron Man suits to fight for him and that failed in many aspects. I'm a sucker for psychological movies in general and since this is really the only psychological movie in the Marvel Universe, that's why it's this high. This aspect of the movie made it so I was able to easily overlook some of the other shortcomings of the movie.

2- Marvel's The Avengers

I'm as shocked as you are right now that this movie is not number one on this list. Five movies and four years of build up to the ultimate payoff of watching them all come together for the first time was incredible. I got extremely giddy every time I watched that trailer in the months leading up to this movie. It was coming. Then I saw the movie and I was in heaven. It was better than I could've ever imagined. It was so good that I saw it five or six times in theaters and I was super excited each time. I still get very happy every time I put the movie in. Sometimes the way I cope with life is by watching The Avengers. Unlike it's sequel, this isn't just a popcorn flick. We have a group of superheroes, most of whom are used to being the lead person. Yet they get slowly introduced and they have to learn how to work together as a team and for much of the movie it isn't working out. But watching them finally come together as a team is a beautiful process. Then we add the amazing villain from Thor and the amazing weapon from Captain America: The First Avenger, put those together and unleash an army of aliens on New York and spend the whole second half of the movie watching our newly formed team fight off this threat. That's one of the best, if not the best final battle in superhero movie history. I never thought there would be a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would like more. But the more and more I think about it, there is one that is better. And I'm about to tell you why.

1- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So much to say about this movie. I'll do my best to keep it simple. I've known ever since I watched this movie that it was in my top two and that it was definitely the best solo Avengers movie. It took me a long time to realize that I do in fact think this is the best movie that Marvel has put out in their cinematic universe. I came to that conclusion after watching this movie and The Avengers back to back a month or so ago. Even if I didn't like the first movie as much, I did like the character of Captain America in that. However, this is the movie that elevated him to Superman status. It's also the movie that transformed Black Widow from a cool sidekick to possibly my favorite Avenger. Add Falcon to the mix and the three of them are the best trio of fighters in this universe. And the story. It's deep. It's emotional. It's tragic. It's fun. It's epic. All at the same time. We watch Steve Rodgers visit an old Peggy. We then watch him learn that he sacrificed 70 years of his life for nothing. Then we watch him learn that this Winter Soldier that they are fighting is his best friend. And of course on top of all this is the most interesting story in all the Marvel Universe thus far. The rise of Hydra from the midst of S.H.I.E.L.D. And I'm just scratching the surface with this movie. All in all, this movie has everything you want from a superhero movie and is the most deep and emotional movie that Marvel has put out yet. That's why it tops The Avengers for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment