Tuesday, 12 April 2016


With the release of Captain America: Civil War fast approaching, I thought it time to jump on the bandwagon release my rankings of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. Get the fondue ready and grab your gargoyles and lets jump in.

No. 12 - IRON MAN 2
WOW, Iron Man 2 is at the bottom of a MCU Movie rankings list? HOW ORIGINAL! Yeah, I know, this is everyone’s least favourite MCU movie, but I feel it’s for damn good reasons.
The story is lazy and nonsensical, the villain (despite being played by a clearly-giving-it-his-all Mickey Rourke and having a couple of memorable lines) is a non-entity and YE GODS is the second act slow. Like, really slow. Slower than an arthritic snail slow. Slower than an old dog dragging its saggy ass across the fresh carpet, slow. Slower than a Sloth DMV slow. It’s the second act, wherein Tony Stark mills about his house, buys some strawberries, bitches at Pepper for a bit and then shoots a laser at a triangle that REALLY drags the film down. The other MCU films have their own problems to be sure, but at least you can’t say they’re BORING, which this film is. I never thought it would possible to make a film about a man in a flying tin can fighting Mister “Whip it Good” boring, but they found a way. The film is surprisingly dour too, with Tony dying of palladium poisoning, there’s a lot of mean-spirited jabbing and the whole affair is really just kind of depressing. Later films, including this film’s sequel, could be grim at times and tackle dark themes, but they always end in satisfying ways and have meaning behind them, which this film does not. It’s like whatever grimdark brain sponge has latched onto the heads of Warner Brothers DCEU division tried to latch onto Kevin Feige first but he was able to get it off just in time.
Additionally, this is the one film in the MCU where the whole “They’re just advertisements for the next movies” criticism really sticks. Yes, the other films may be advertisements, but the point is that they’re funny, exciting and entertaining enough that it doesn’t matter. Y’all don’t get down on The LEGO Movie for being an advertisement for LEGO, or The Dark Knight because it helps move Batman toys or Zootopia because it’s basically a 90-minute deviant art entrance exam do ya’? That’s what I thought.
But in Iron Man 2’s case, the lack of an engaging story and Nick Fury and Black Widow being crammed in for no reason, makes this film’s advertising nature all the more apparent and distracting. I hear that there were a lot of behind the scenes shenanigans that lead to production troubles in this film and they show!
However, despite all of these massive problems…I don’t actually consider this a bad film. It almost dips into bad movie waters, maybe dips a toe in, but it JUST manages to scrape by. Robert Downey Jnr. (when he’s allowed to be Iron Man that is), the action scenes (especially that bit on the Monaco race track), Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer (who I think really deserves a reappearance), Don Cheadle as the War Machine and Scarlett Johansson as, an admittedly pretty shallow, Black Widow save the movie. Ultimately, this film is very mediocre, with huge glaring problems that would sink any other production, but with just enough elements to keep its lips above water. Let’s just say when I go on an MCU marathon, this is one that I don’t mind having the remote handy for.

Guys, why y’all got to be hating? Thor: The Dark World is a film I see on so many people’s hate list, but I have no idea why. In fact, there are very things I think are actually fundamentally wrong with this movie. Chris Hemsworth is…um…

Sorry, I got distracted there. Chris Hemsworth is very charming as Thor, the action and effects are great, the side characters are funny (even Darcy, THERE I SAID IT!) and Loki is, well, he’s Loki! I love how it fully embraces its own campiness (Space Vikings on flying canoes! Woohoo!), and I especially love the designs for everything; Asgard is magnificent, The Dark Elves are effectively creepy and I really dig the design of the Dark Elf’s flagship. It just looks like something out of a Lovecraftian text.

I actually find myself returning to this film fairly often, because it’s just fun to watch a simple movie where an Aussie Thunder Gods smacks things with his hammer.
Having said that, it’s for this exact reason why this film is so low on the list; it’s simple. With the other MCU movies you could at the very least make a case for them having a deeper meaning or character development, but with this one? Thor smack bad guy with hammer. That’s where the film starts and that’s where it ends. It makes for cheap popcorn entertainment, but that’s really it. And by this point, I feel the MCU, if it is to continue to be the premiere giver of superhero cinema, should deliver more than that.
This film does have its fair share of legitimate problems too though. The pacing is off, they fridge Frigga unnecessarily and the jokes revolving around Dr. Selvig feel…weirdly mean. But the absolute worst element of this film is the villain. The MCU has a villain problem, that much cannot be denied. But Malekith is on a whole other level of suckitude. His motivations? I have never seen a more blatant Generic Doomsday Villain!. His personality? He doesn’t have one, not even a generic “Mwah-hah-ha” type. He’s a waste of both Christopher Eccleston’s talent and a glorious character design. No, not his own, his is alright. No, I mean the gloriousness of KURSE!

Look at that beast! He looks like he belongs on a Black Sabbath cover. He looks like he should be battling alongside the Tainted Coil! He looks like a dude that’d make Darth Vader blink! He looks, just, really cool! With just a few lines of dialogue and some body language, Kurse manages to be better, more threatening and more devious a villain than Malekith, who gets whole minutes of screen time. Such a shame.
Still, the film is fun, and I definitely enjoy watching it more than the next film on the list, but its shallowness prevents it from climbing any higher than a number 11 spot. It’s like fairy floss, good while it’s there but quickly forgotten once finished.

Ah! The Incredible Hulk, everyone’s most ‘eh’ MCU movie. Yeah, I don’t really have any strong opinions about this movie. It’s good, to be sure, of a higher quality than the two previous entries, but it’s also just not very memorable. I can quote whole lines and even scenes from other MCU films verbatim, but this one I’m left feeling cold. 
It’s got good elements to be sure. Edward Norton makes for an interesting Bruce Banner, Tim Roth is clearly having a ball hamming it up as The Abomination, The Hulk battles (despite some shoddy CGI, are entertaining) and this film is one of the few recorded instances of William Hurt waking up and actually acting as if he gives a crap about what he’s saying. It’s dark and dramatic and brooding like a good Hulk movie should be, but it lacks something that the other MCU films have. A certain style, a certain flair that makes them stand out. This film feels like it could’ve been made by anyone.
It’s no wonder that this is the MCU film that gets the least amount of call-backs. Aside from Ross appearing in Captain America: Civil War, and some dialogue bits here and there this film seems to have been kind of forgotten by the MCU as a whole. Banner was later recast, The Leader never came to fruition (in the movies anyway) and generally, this movie is treated like the red headed step child of the MCU.
Not a bad film, in fact it’s a pretty decent one, but if you were to ask my total evaluation?

No. 9 – IRON MAN
Okay, now we’re getting good.
What is there to say about Iron Man? It jump-started this whole crazy affair, it’s responsible for almost single handily re-introducing Robert Downey Junior back into the public eye, it’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s everything a good MCU film should be.
However I do think it is…slightly…overrated.

Wait, wait just here me out!
It’s  a good movie, very good, no doubt about it. It’s just...I feel many people look at this film with a nostalgic eye and gloss over some of the film’s shortcomings. At the risk of cribbing from Moviebob, the best part of the film is the first act with Tony in the cave, using his wits and smarts to survive and escape and then the rest of the film just kind of peters off after this. Aside from the first act, Tony Stark’s character arc, the fight in the terrorist village and subsequent fight with the jets, the film is kind of generic. The stuff that is good is really, really good and holds up very, very well (you don’t need me to tell you that Robert Downey Junior and Gwyneth Paltrow are great actors playing great characters, that they have good chemistry, that the Iron Man suit is one the best, most instantly cool piece of sci-fi technology ever put on screen and that that Nick Fury cameo still makes me tingle) but it can’t hide the fact that the rest of the film is just kind of going through the motions.
The film gets all the Grandfather applause for being the flagship of the whole crazy Marvel train, but as a film in of itself, it’s good, solid B+ material. Despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, I still do enjoy flying with this movie.

No. 8 – THOR
Yeah I put Thor above Iron Man, WHAT YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT!?
In all seriousness, I’ve put Thor above Iron Man purely because of structure. True, Iron Man may have better parts but its Thor that I believe is a more cohesive whole. The film moves at a good clip where nothing feels too fast or too slow. People get on this movie’s case, saying that nothing happens for large chunks of it and that it’s set in an old New Mexico town, but that’s kind of why I like it. The juxtaposition of these huge, epic Norse Gods battling it out in the middle of some nowhere village appeals to me. Thor’s journey from petulant spoiled brat to respectful, honest leader feels fulfilling and it helps that Chris Hemsworth…um…

Sorry, I got distracted, won’t happen again. It helps that Chris Hemsworth really sells the transformation. 
Speaking of Thor, you can’t mention the Prince of Asgard without talking about his kingdom.

Ain’t she a beauty. The Asgard from Thor: The Dark World is epic and pretty looking, but it has nothing on the sheer grandeur that Kenneth Branagh injects Asgard with. It really can’t be put to words.
The dynamics between the characters are also really good. Odin (played by ANTHONY HOPKINS) feels authentic, as does Loki; Selvig and Darcy make for good comedic relief and Natalie Portman’s Jane shares really good chemistry with Thor. All in all, Thor is a ridiculously silly movie, but it’s made with such pomp and sincerity that you can’t help but get wrapped up into it.
Oh, and Loki is a good villain too, I guess.

I bet you thought these would be higher didn’t you?
Look, both Avengers 1 & 2 are very good movies. They’re both exciting, very funny and have great characters playing very well off of each other. The reason I put them together is that my opinion of which one is actually better fluctuates. There are things that the first Avengers film does better than the second and vice a versa. The first film flows better, Loki is a superior villain to Ultron, it is not as cramped and is definitely more memorable than the second, but it also takes a while to get going, the Chitauri aren’t that interesting a threat and the 40 minutes spent fixing the Helicarrier’s engines can get tiresome.
In Age of Ultron’s case, it’s got a better story, the climax involving a giant floating city is more visually interesting, Ultron is still a great villain, it’s funnier than the first one, THE VISION, the movie moves a good clip and is never boring, the action is better and I really do love that extended stop in Hawkeye’s farm, where the film is allowed to breathe.  However the second film also has some MAJOR problems; it’s incredibly cramped with so many sub-plots and characters beats that the entire things ends up messy and unfocused. It’s a flawed film but one that I feel has enough good elements to tie it with the first one.
Before I continue, I’ll briefly address the elephant in the room. Black Widow and Hulk’s romance, although rushed and brought in out of nowhere, does feel genuine, and the actors really sell it. However, the scene wherein Black Widow admits “to being a monster” is incredibly tone deaf. No, I don’t think Joss Whedon is a misogynist, or that he thinks women who can’t birth are monsters; it’s just that the scene is edited poorly. It’s still a mark against the film, but it’s not too bad once you stop and think about it, at least that’s what I believe.
Anyway, the real reason that these films are only at the number 6 and 7 spots is that, they’re fan service. Great fan service with characters we love and want to watch kicking bad guy ass but not really anything beyond that however. Both films try to tackle deeper themes and meanings (whether or not the Avengers can work in the first film and what being a hero truly means in the second) but they’re muddled by the fact that both movies are essentially jumped up Power Rangers episodes. Unlike Thor: The Dark World however, the simplicity of these films don’t hold them back, but rather boost them up. They are silly, they are simple but they’re really, really well made.

No. 5 - IRON MAN 3
Hoo boy, this isn’t going to be a controversial decision in any way!
Alright let’s get the main point out of contention out of the way: The Mandarin twist not only doesn’t bother me, I actually think it’s quite brilliant. It’s unexpected, it shakes up the foundation of the movie and the characters, and it allows for some brilliant social commentary in the form of Guy Pierce’s incredibly slimy villain Aldrich Killian (what a name!).
Asides from the big twist, the film just works in ways that the previous two Iron Man films don’t. It deals with the aftermath of Tony’s actions at the end of The Avengers in a smart way, watching Tony Stark be out of his element and playing detective is actually really fun, the film contains one of the best kid characters ever put to film, and that final big blow-out in the oil rig with all those Iron Man suits is not only really cool to watch but it also the most character motivated of all of the MCU films.
Shane Black directed Iron Man 3 and it has his signature slick but cheeky style all over it, which I dig immensely.
Definitely the most over-hated i film, I believe that once you get past the big twist, you’ll find Iron Man 3 to be slick, fast and entertaining.

Cut off one head, two more shall take its place!
This film appears to be a lot of people’s favorite MCU film and I can totally see why. It has the best plot, the relationship between Steve and Bucky is really affecting, Chris Evans and Scarlet Johansson play really well off of each other and Anthony Mackie is a naturally born superhero. It contains the most visceral action of any Marvel film which is appreciated; I love a huge, big, cheesy CGI blowouts as much as the next hot-blooded male, but I also do appreciate actual real life stunt work and choreography.
It’s also probably the least fanciful MCU film with lots of espionage and intrigue and people who could die from a stabbing or a shooting as opposed to space Vikings with magic hammers or space raccoons or tech-geniuses with indestructible suits. If the first film was all about idealism and believing in the best of people and fighting for your country, then this one is all about realism, realizing that your country may have its own bad guys worth fighting. It’s a good bring down after the heights of the first movie.
That having been said, the film does have its flaws: the ending drags on a bit too long and Captain America himself seems lose focus during the climax.
On a more personal level, while this film’s realism is appreciated; keeps the films varied, I do enjoy the fancifulness of the other films a bit more. Maybe I’m just a sap but I prefer my comic book films to be about silly space stuff rather than political commentary.
This film reaches the number 4 spot purely due to good film making and storytelling, and if you were to ask we think what I thought the best film was, it’d probably be this one. I just happen to like the next movies more.

No. 3 – ANT-MAN
Sometimes the best things come in small packages!
Ant-Man is the only MCU film I thought would never work. The character was lame, with a stupid superpower, the film had production troubles out the wazoo and they booted Edgar Wright (EDGAR! WRIGHT!) off of the project and replaced him some nobody. Not in a million years did I think this movie would work.
And yet…
I admit, Ant-Man is this high up the list for a fairly shallow reason; I think it’s funny. Scratch that, I think it is hysterical! Every time I watch this film I laugh hard at every joke. It’s the best kind of comedy, one that inspires near constant laughter except when it needs to quiet down and be dramatic, which it also does fairly well. The relationship between Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne feels genuine and there’s a scene in the middle of this movie where, man, I just break down into tears every time.
The film manages, beyond all reason to make shrinking a cool power! Through the use of some amazing effects, this movie manages to make what seems like a horrible waste of a power seem like the most useful of them all!
It almost feels like a counter point to Fant4stic. Both films had major production problems, but one was able to keep going through sheer passion, whilst the other burnt out and fizzled away!
Oh, and just one quick side note: to everyone who complains about the science in Ant-Man not making sense or being consistent, shut up! It doesn’t matter! Plot holes in bad movies only make them worse, but if a film has good characters, is engaging and entertaining enough then that shouldn’t matter! If you really focus in on the science then you’re letting a perfectly good film get away from you! The science doesn’t make any sense? Oh please tell me how probable the mosquito amber bullcrap from Jurassic Park holds up under any kind of scientific logic! IF THE FILM IS GOOD, THEN PLOT HOLES DON’T MATTER!
Sorry, had to get that off of my chest.
I can’t wait to see what Ant-Man does in Civil War!

I Am Groot.
Do I even need to explain this one?
Everyone loves Guardians of the Galaxy! It has great comedy, great action, great characters with great performances and a great villain (“I WILL CURE IT”). The film is-.
Actually you know what? No, I don’t need to explain this one! It’s like explaining why you like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. It’s one of those films that you don’t need justification for liking, if anything, if you don’t like it (which you are totally fine to do by the way) then you have to be the one explain why!
So there, Guardians of the Galaxy! I love it, you love it (probably) and that’s all that needs to be said!

Through process of elimination, you have probably guessed that my favourite MCU film is Captain America: The First Avenger.
The film works on nearly every level. The main characters are pitch-perfectly casted. Chris Evans rivals even Christopher Reeves in playing an ideal hero, he’s lovable and brave, humble and heroic, warm and kind yet a complete and total badass. Hayley Atwell is awesome as Peggy Carter (no wonder she got her own TV show!). Dominic Cooper is very funny and charismatic as Howard Stark. Tommy Lee Jones is Tommy Lee Jones playing Tommy Lee Jones but he’s very good at it! The Red Skull is the best MCU movie villain outside of Loki; true, he may not have the deepest backstory or motivation but because the film is built like an old fashioned good and evil battle, he suits the film perfectly and is played with a subtle nuance by the fantastic Hugo Weaving. Sometimes you just need a bad guy who is E for evil.
If I had to use one word to describe the film, it would be, “authentic”. Everything feels real. These characters feel like they know and respect each other, that they care for each other; the relationship between Captain America and The Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War only feels as authentic as it does because of the foundation this movie made between Steve Rogers and James "Bucky" Barnes. Every action that they take feels motivated by their character, rather than contrived by a screen play who says they need to do that action in order to get the plot moving.
Oh dear what’s that doing here?
But most of all, this film is at the top of this list not just because of its quality as a film, but because of how it has affected me as a human being. I build my morals and sense of value around this film: be courteous to women, true strength lies within, never be afraid to fight, stand up to bullies no matter where they’re from, try to enjoy your job, don’t be afraid to question authority and most importantly of all, seek to help your friends, don’t seek to harm your enemies. That may sound cheesy, but it’s how I try (emphasis on try) to live my life. If this film can do that for me, then it’s become more than a film, it’s become part of my soul.
The director of this film is Joe Johnston who directed The Rocketeer (one of my favourite films) and he seriously deserves more credit. Aside from the occasional dud such as Jurassic Park III (and even then that film isn’t that bad) the dude has been churning out pretty reliably solid work for the last decade or so, and he deserves much more attention than he gets. If it were up to me, he would’ve been the one behind Man of Steel.
I love this film, I seriously do. It’s not only my favourite MCU film, not only my favourite superhero film, but easily one of my top 5 favourite movies of all time. I would like to end this with my favourite quote from the film.
 “Because the strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows... compassion.

So there we go. Where will Civil War land? Who knows, but it's right around the corner and I just can't wait!

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