I’m not entirely sure is the recent release of Avengers: Age of Ultron marked the end of Marvel studios’ ‘Phase 2’ or if the upcoming Ant-Man is also officially included in it. Reports I’ve seen state that Ant-Man is the final Phase 2 movie but I also recall Avengers 2 being announced as the culmination of it. Anyway I’ve been writing about Marvel all week and thought now was a good time to try and rank all of their films so far.
11: Iron Man 2
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that a while back the prospect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t interest me a great deal, and this film was primarily responsible for that. In retrospect it seems odd for Marvel have opted for a second Iron Man film before introducing any new avengers but I suppose it was a finance-minded decision after the popularity of the first. A lot of Iron Man 2 feels to be rushed, and many accused it of just being a feature-length commercial for The Avengers (it did mark Black Widow’s first appearance). I don’t think that’s entirely fair but it’s a rare sub-par film from Marvel that I’m sure fans hope will never lose its place at the bottom of the Marvel pile for now.
10: The Incredible Hulk
Ah The Incredible Hulk, or ‘the one we don’t talk about any more’, I’ve even seen it excluded from daunting ‘Marvel Marathon’ programs in the lead up to Avengers 2. The Incredible Hulk isn’t a terrible film but aside from the Tony Stark cameo that effectively confirmed the shared universe it’s the one that feels most distant from the others. The Hulk is, it seems a tough character to get right on film, and while this straight-forward effort improved on Ang Lee’s arty 2003 film, it wasn’t until The Avengers that the big green monster got a chance to truly shine. Not as successful as Iron Man, Marvel opted not to make a sequel, instead replacing star Edward Norton with Mark Ruffalo who’s reprised the role 2 more times. They seem happy to keep him as a supporting character now and maybe that’s for the best, we’re not likely to see another Hulk movie anytime soon. The Incredible Hulk is one of the lesser Marvel films, but it doesn’t deserve to be completely shut-out.
09: Iron Man
Iron Man had an unenviable job to do back in 2008; kick off the MCU, tone-setting and establishing a world to be built upon and doing it with a then B-list superhero most of the general public weren’t familiar with. For all intents and purposes it did a stellar job, making almost $600 million and endearing the character to audiences worldwide. Truth be told though, Iron Man is a very standard and formulaic superhero origin story, leading to an underwhelming third act. The only thing that really elevates it is the spot-on casting of Robert Downey Jr, who’s now become so ingrained to the public’s perception of the character that it’s tough to imagine any other actor playing him.
08: Thor: The Dark World
Thor’s second outing scaled everything up from his debut, giving us the more elaborate fantasy landscapes found in the MCU. It follows a fairly familiar sequel template but is a decent enough follow-up with plenty of good action beats, though it suffers from an awful villain and cringe-worth comic relief side characters. Its need to include Loki prominently again also ends up feeling more like fan service than in aid of an improved story. My Original Review
07: Avengers: Age of Ultron
The biggest film of the MCU yet, Age of Ultron valiantly tries to wrangle its expansive cast into a coherent whole but its over-emphasis on giant robot battles over character and humour leave it feeling like an overblown disappointment. My Review.
Marvel hit another triumphant casting choice in selecting little-known Australian actor Chris Hemsworth to play Thor. His winning portrayal of the Norse god provides a good deal of humour in his first outing. The film also gave us the MCU’s only decent villain in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, whose tormented relationship with his brother adds more depth. It’s let down a little by an unremarkable action finale but this was the point when I started becoming interested in this series.
05: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Similar to Thor: The Dark World, Marvel ramped everything up a notch for Cap’s second adventure. The film commendably attempts to add a spy movie vibe to a superhero one and for a lot of the time it works, also in being almost a co-headlining movie for Cap and Black Widow. Unfortunately all the good material is undermined a little by The Winter Soldier serving to further emphasise some of the problems with these films’ insistence on similar climactic battles and fake-out character non-deaths. Positions 5-6 are the ones I could most easily swap here I think. My Original Review.
04: Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 was the first film to hit after The Avengers and successfully managed to improve considerably on both its predecessors. A lot of this had to do with its honest examination of Tony Stark’s condition after the New York battle, but also due to writer/director Shane Black managing to insert some excellent, witty dialogue and one of the funniest characters the MCU has seen. My Original Review
03: Guardians of the Galaxy
This would have probably been number one on this list had I made it after one viewing. The hugely entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy gave us a whole new team of unique characters and expanded the Marvel world far further than ever before, and did it while boasting an eclectic, retro soundtrack and a keen sense of humour. It was only on second viewing that the film felt somewhat empty if extremely fun, and again suffers from a rubbish villain, familiar finale and cop-out non–death that undermines its most affecting moment. My Original Review
02: Captain America: The First Avenger
Before I saw this film, I couldn’t care about Captain America. His name alone was off-putting. I’d tried reading the acclaimed recent comics run but only made it a few issues. I was rather dubious about this movie but it completely won me over. For starters, the fact that it’s set almost entirely in World War II distinguishes it from not just the other MCU movies, but all the current batch of superhero films. It provides a background to the character that makes perfect sense of every ridiculous aspect of him, even packing in a musical number. Conversely to Guardians, I felt this film was even better the second time I saw it, it’s very well directed by Joe Johnston, and features another ideal casting choice in Chris Evans. I’d have to say that so far, it stands as the best solo movie Marvel have made and I strongly considered it for number 1.
01: The Avengers
The Avengers was attempting something that no big movie had ever really done before, bringing disparate characters from five previous movies together for a team-up. It’s a minor wonder that it not only achieved this but did it so successfully. It takes a little while to get going but The Avengers is a blast of pure blockbuster entertainment that ultimately sent Marvel studios to the top. It just had to come in first. My Original Review.