Let's Talk About... The Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Let's Talk About The Marvel Cinematic Universe!
That’s A Whole Lotta Marvel
Since 2008, Marvel Studios has created something that is rather unprecedented with their success in what is known today as the MCU, Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kicking off exceptionally strong with their first hit being Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, continuing all the way to the present in the culmination of all their films in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. For eleven years we have all watched this franchise sprout from being a neat idea to works of art that some never believed were possible to make it to the big screen. At least, I didn’t believe that half of this series would ever see the light of day outside of a comic book. It’s an impressive effort and clearly no easy feat to accomplish, yet Marvel Studios seemingly found a way.
As commendable and incredible as it is to see how far the MCU has come along over the course of these eleven years, not every single entry was necessarily a winner. Some were relative duds in comparison to what the rest of the MCU had to offer, overall though I would argue that even the worst installment in the franchise still manages to redeem itself with at least halfway decent entertainment value. Not everyone would agree with that assessment, but at the same time a lot of those people probably have never seen an actual bad film before in their lives. In my opinion, the worst quality that a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick has ever reached was simply ‘okay’. Not terrible, not great, just ‘okay’. That’s quite astonishing when you think about how this is a series of films that contains twenty-two installments to date, yet the worst movie in there is still totally fine as a form of entertainment. I give two thumbs up to that right there!
Why I’m Here Today
Speaking of the twenty-two entries in the MCU, that is why I’m technically here. Seeing how a lot of storylines found their close in this latest Marvel blockbuster of Avengers: Endgame, I thought I would sit down and talk about ALL that Marvel had to offer in the last decade with their universe building franchise. Ranking all of the films, starting from what I believe to be the worst in the series, all the way to the best that Marvel has to offer. In this list I will NOT be including anything that involves television programs, animated features, or anything that falls outside of the continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that was started in 2008; apologies for anyone hoping to see any of the Sony Spider-Man and Fox X-Men movies or the Netflix shows pop up, I’m strictly going to be tackling the theatrically released feature length motion pictures within the MCU officially. And yes, I know that episode of Marvel’s Inhumans was shown in theaters… One; that wasn’t a film, it was a television pilot that the producers gave a Fathom screening for. And two; no one cares, the show died quickly.
I should also probably put the disclaimer that this is going to be a less than firmly objective list, I will not deny that this is more or less going to be totally subjective to my own personal tastes. If I were to rank these completely in the order of what is objectively the best and worst then it would be a somewhat different list entirely. I think that it’s more fun to order them in my own perspective rather than the rest of the world’s. Apologies if your favorite is down low while your most hated is up high on the list, it’s my point of view on the matter and if you would like to discuss the subject with me then comment down below where I will be more than happy to chat with you about it!
With all that said, let’s get started!
22) Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Plot: Some time has passed since the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has spent the last two years in search of the Infinity Stones. As well as facing off against the dangers that threaten his home world, Asgard, during the interim. Now Thor, after preventing Ragnarok (a prophecy that predicts the destruction of Asgard), discovers his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and secretly ruling the kingdom in his place. Immediately thwarting Loki’s schemes, Thor takes his brother in search of his father who reveals to his sons that Thor’s true sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) will be arriving upon Odin’s passing to take control over Asgard. Creating a whole heap of trouble for our heroes who wind up lost on another planet that is ruled by an evil Jeff Goldblum and they must find their way back home to save their world.
My Thoughts: For a lot of people Ragnarok likely ranks way higher on the list of favorites, at least higher than the last place spot that I put it in. Most general audiences really enjoyed this Guardians of the Galaxy-esque sci-fi romp and I can certainly see why. The tone is far more jovial this time around for Thor, there is a significant amount of comedy inserted within the dialog, and the visuals at times are rather gorgeous with the CG effects work. I’m sorry though, I did not like this film nearly as much as the rest of the world. Story wise, it is completely fine. In fact, structurally speaking, it is probably the most ambitious sequel in terms of the screenplay.
However, the overabundance of jokes shoved into practically every single scene was a bit much for me. It would be one thing if I thought that the jokes were funny, some of which are, but the majority fall flat. Particularly because a bulk of the jokes are placed in the most inopportune moments during the narrative. An important lead character from the previous films would die only to be followed up by a slew of groan-worthy adlibbing or the actors would go on and on telling joke after joke within a single scene, getting real old real fast. A lot of the time it doesn’t even feel like it is necessarily the characters that are saying these jokes, it’s specifically the actors who come up with them and it makes for an constant inconsistency in their personas. I honestly was not much of a fan. There is the occasional joke that gets a chuckle out of me, Jeff Goldblum easily steals the show, and the story can sometimes pick the momentum back up. For the most part though I tend to not revisit Ragnarok.
21) Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Plot: Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) romantic interest, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), has found herself cursed with an ancient and powerful entity that a genocidal alien species is on the hunt for. These murderous beings are known as Dark Elves who are led by an evil Christopher Eccleston, it is up to Thor to save his lady love maker and all of the universe from total destruction.
My Thoughts: At this point I’m kind of wondering if anyone reading thinks that I just don’t like the character of Thor since this is the second movie of his in a row that I’ve put at the very bottom of the list. Now I want to reiterate that I don’t believe that either one of these films are necessarily bad, or any of the MCU flicks for that matter, I simply am under the impression that the rest of the bunch have a bit more going for them over the Thor sequels. The Dark World is a simply generic superhero flick, especially in comparison to the other Marvel movies. Narratively speaking, there’s nothing special about it that sets itself apart from anything else within the genre. Good guy has to stop bad guy from destroying the world and he has to rescue his damsel in distress along the way. Not much more to it than that.
The villain played by Eccleston is your run-of-the-mill baddie that we’ve seen countless times over and the comic relief of Darcy (Kat Dennings) becomes fairly grating with her annoying schtick. It’s not all negative though; Chris Hemsworth as the lead is just as charismatic as he was in the first film and his other subsequent adventures in the Avengers installments, his chemistry with Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston is charming to watch, Tom Hiddleston himself is seemingly having a decent time in his performance. Aside from that, it’s just a tad on the bland side is all. Not terrible, there’s still enough in there to carry me through if I ever decide to watch it again. I also put this over Ragnarok because at least in The Dark World it feels more genuine with everyone’s performances as they stay true to their individual characters, while in Ragnarok, not so much.
20) The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Plot: Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a scientist who had the misfortune of being caught in an experiment gone wrong, infecting him with a massive amount of gamma radiation. This radiation causes a reaction within his DNA to transform his body into an all-out raging, green monster that destroys everything in his path any time Bruce’s heartrate escalates too radically. After several years of hiding in South America, the U.S. government has discovered Bruce’s location and plans to retrieve the property they have lost and put an end to his life so they may perform experiments. Bruce now needs to figure out a way to cure himself once and for all so he may finally be free from this monster inside of him.
My Thoughts: I actually seem to like this movie more than most people. I don’t think that it’s great, but it’s fun enough and I enjoy some of the ideas that The Incredible Hulk has going for it. I enjoyed the aspect of making his ability to transform into the Hulk based on his heartrate rather than him simply just being angry, it made sense to me how that worked and it resulted in some entertaining and interesting scenes with Banner attempting to keep his heartrate in check throughout the picture. The CGI is hit or miss, for the most part it’s fine though and the action set pieces are pretty decent. The pacing is pretty slow and not in any particularly engaging way, it drags a bit when I feel that this should be far more of a thrilling adventure. Edward Norton did a pretty good job at being a likable and sympathetic lead and Tim Roth does a fantastic job at being intimidating in the role of the antagonist, at least until the end when he’s replaced with a CGI creation sadly. Lastly, the third act battle is fine, but it’s nothing special and is pretty much the end of Iron Man with the villain that obtains mirroring abilities of the protagonist as they duke it out. Meh. It’s been done before. Overall, it’s a fine flick. There’s nothing abhorrently wrong with it really, it’s simply passable.
19) Ant-Man (2015)
Plot: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recently released from prison and is trying to put his life back together by having a real relationship with his young daughter and starting new in society. Unfortunately, society isn’t so easy for giving Lang his second chance so he eventually resorts to an act of crime in order to get by. Only this time he finds himself becoming the apprentice of a Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who was formerly a superhero known as Ant-Man. Pym hands the mantle down to Scott in order to pull off a heist that will save the world.
My Thoughts: Again, I feel as though I’m not winning any fans over with putting Ant-Man so down low on the totem poll… I still like it though if that helps my case any? Please don’t hurt me, I’m fragile. Seriously though, I do like Ant-Man. It is a fun and perfectly entertaining action flick. The characters are all likable, there’s a fair amount of comedy that lands, Paul Rudd and the villain played by Corey Stoll is clearly having a good time here. Story wise, it just doesn’t set itself too much apart from any other origin story. Especially within the MCU; the protagonist’s character arc centers on a guy with a largely sarcastic personality, has a history of thinking selfishly and initially doing the wrong thing, now is given the opportunity to do more and redeem himself by becoming the selfless hero that everyone needs in order to save the day. We’ve seen that before time and time again, this isn’t even the last account of this happening either. This is the point where Marvel Studios was teetering slightly and resorting to repeating themselves, which I didn’t much care for. Not to mention one of the supporting characters, played by Michael Pena, bordered on annoyance for most of his screen time. Aside from that, like I said, it’s still a decent ride. And the action sequences that take advantage of the size-manipulation that revolves around Ant-Man was pretty great to watch. Not the worst, but definitely not the best. Still fun enough to watch from time to time.
18) Iron Man 2 (2010)
Plot: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has spent some time in the limelight after revealing to the entire world at the end of 2008’s Iron Man that he was in fact Iron Man. Now Tony finds himself overwhelmed between discovering that the device integrated in his chest that keeps him alive is also killing him with infection, a vengeful rival with a personal vendetta against the Stark name is threatening all that he holds dear, all while there is a quirky corporate tycoon attempting to recreate Stark’s Iron Man suit to capitalize on. It’s up to Tony to overcome everyone trying to kill him, including himself, and hopefully save the day once more.
My Thoughts: Here’s another entry that I’m in disagreement on from the rest of the world. Only this time instead of disliking this movie more than everyone else, I actually like it seemingly more than the rest of the Marvel fans. Yes, it has its fair share of problems; the screenplay is over bloated with way too many subplots going on between Tony dying, everything happening with the Ivan Vanko character (Mickey Rourke) as he’s attempting to exact his revenge on Tony Stark and collaborate with Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) to make another Iron Man suit, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) being promoted as the owner of Stark Industries, Rhodey (Don Cheadle) is trying to help his pal Tony while also being stuck between a rock and a hard place since he still works for the U.S. government who wants to take Tony’s suit away, then on top of that we have Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) talking to Tony about maybe or maybe not joining the Avengers.
It’s all over the place… I’d be lying, however, if I said that I weren’t easily entertained by Iron Man 2. I like the movie, it has a bit much going on, but it’s still a fun ride. I appreciate the fact that it tried going a little darker in some aspects and that Robert Downey Jr. was allowed to get into some pretty complicated emotions with his performance as his character was being overwhelmed with so much going on at once. I liked that about this sequel. I won’t say it’s as good as the first Iron Man, but it’s not bad by any means either. It’s flawed, but enjoyable.
Side Note: I remember when I saw this in the theater with my family, I was 18 years-old at the time with a girlfriend that was continuously texting me throughout the whole movie and thinking that I was dead because I refused to respond for the two hour runtime. We temporarily broke up in result of my decision… Worth it.
17) Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Plot: The Avengers have finally seemed to put an end to the evil organization, Hydra, and ceased the search for Loki’s missing scepter from the first Avengers movie. Tony (Robert Downey Jr.), however, has an idea to use the power from Loki’s scepter to possibly create a peacekeeping program called Ultron in order to keep the world safe from another violent space invasion like in 2012. Bruce Banner (Mark Raffalo) helps Stark with his idea, which surprisingly goes wrong as the Ultron program (James Spader) becomes sentient and analyzes that the world is flawed, in need of serious correction. Ultron now determined for total destruction of the planet, it’s up to the Avengers to put an end to his diabolical plans before it’s too late.
My Thoughts: This time, I’m actually not all that familiar with the general consensus on Age of Ultron. All I know is that I have a good time and it’s a fun popcorn flick. It’s not perfect as there are some plot contrivances that occur sporadically here and there. Tony’s idea for this highly questionable program to be put into action was obviously going to go wrong, but at least it is keeping in-line with his character so I understand how and why it happens. There are some characters and subplots that are introduced that sadly don’t go much of anywhere.
On the other hand, it’s good seeing the Avengers all back together as their chemistry is always a ton of fun to see their personalities bounce off of one another. I could probably watch that scene where all the members of the Avengers take turns trying to lift up Thor’s hammer over and over again. James Spader as Ultron is equal parts intimidating and hilarious, as per usual. Overall, it’s a good time so I’m not going to dump all over it. It doesn’t deserve that type of flack since it succeeds at being solid entertainment. There are others in the MCU that I like more than this, but I don’t dislike this movie either. It’s mindless fun that I don’t mind seeing again every so often.
16) Doctor Strange (2016)
Plot: Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a wildly talented and successful neurosurgeon who succumbs to a terrible car accident that renders his hands permanently inflicted with tremors that keeps them shaking. Unable to find a solution to his problems, he seeks refuge in a secret society that holds knowledge of mysticism and alternate dimensions. After Doctor Strange learns the magical ways from his instructor, The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), it becomes apparent that an old apprentice of the Ancient One (Mads Mikkelsen) is threatening the world by bringing a cosmic dark force that will destroy everything. It’s up to Doctor Strange to overcome his personal obstacles and save the day.
My Thoughts: As I mentioned previously, the Marvel formula of ‘selfish, sarcastic protagonist must learn the error of his ways in order to be the selfless savior the world needs in its time of need’ is in full effect here. Also incorporating the standard love interest that doesn’t add too much and the villain’s only goal being to destroy the world. As basic as the plot and character arcs are here, the action sequences are anything but ordinary. Which is a major reason as to why I give this film such a huge pass, the action set pieces and visuals are so imaginative and cool to watch unfold. Some scenes are like watching a sequence straight out of Christopher Nolan’s Inception through a kaleidoscope lens, it’s pretty awesome.
None of the characters, nor the story, are necessarily bad. They’re just extremely familiar archetypes that we’ve seen before in the MCU with similar narrative beats from other films prior. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job at being the likable asshole and Mads Mikkelsen does what he can with what little material he has to work with. The action really is what saves this film from being generic and supplying enough of a re-watchability factor. Doctor Strange is a good time, despite everything familiar about its story.
Side Note: In 2017 I ended up seeing this film twice in the theater; the first time in a 2-D screening and the second in 3-D. For whatever reason, the 3-D screening must have mixed up the reels because they were playing the 2-D version instead. Immediately noticing it, I was understandably irritated since I payed the extra money for me and my family to see it in 3-D. Plus, I was personally excited to see those remarkable action sequences in 3-D as well. Apparently I was literally the only one in the theater that noticed or even cared that it was a 2-D copy playing since the rest of the audience members all firmly sat in their seats with the shaded glasses that remained on their faces as they watched that crisp 2-Dimensional plain with their totally useful sunglasses in that dark theater. After getting the mix-up resolved, the film had to be restarted by about ten minutes which resulted in the whole theater groaning… Worth it.
15) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Plot: Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is your average teenage high schooler that lives a double life of being an arachnid superhero that fights crime after school. During his afternoon crime thwarting, he comes across a mysterious criminal gang that are performing dangerous heists and selling weapons that use the power from equipment that once belonged to the alien invaders from the climax of 2012’s The Avengers. It’s up to Peter Parker’s alter ego, Spider-Man, to rise to the occasion and prove that he is up the task of taking down the Vulture (Michael Keaton) along with his criminal lackeys.
My Thoughts: This is it, after so many years under the ownership of Sony Studios, Spider-Man is back with his original home Marvel after Sony finally made a deal with Marvel Studios to lend back the character. Was it worth it? Is he back and better than ever? Some would argue that, yes, he is. I wouldn’t disagree, nor would I say that this is my favorite Spider-Man film either. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. This particular installment feels far more like the modern, typical MCU product rather than the darker and more personal character driven narrative that I prefer with Spider-Man/Peter Parker.
Setting all that aside, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a likable superhero flick that feels like a combination of a John Hughes teen comedy with a Marvel comic book movie. That, to me, is pretty cool. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture was terrifying as he showed himself to be a competent antagonist with an extremely relatable motive of simply trying to provide for his family. Also, the relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark is completely charming; their chemistry really is the heart and soul of Homecoming. The action is exciting, the dialog is humorous, it’s all-around a solid film.
14) Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Plot: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been sentenced to house-arrest as a result of the events from Captain America: Civil War. However his responsibilities as Ant-Man have not ceased as Doctor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his romantic interest, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), need Lang’s help once more as they have to face off against a mysterious assassin simply called Ghost in order to save Hope’s mother from the quantum realm.
My Thoughts: Ant-Man and the Wasp is a sequel that I believe works even better than its predecessor, and I still think that the first Ant-Man movie is good. This story though feels far more original and unpredictable than the formulaic structure that we were given before, while still retaining the excitement and creativity in the action sequences that involve the size manipulation again; a premise that is expanded upon even further with this sequel and it’s all the better for it. The three leads played by Rudd, Douglas, and Lilly share terrific chemistry with each other as this makeshift family unit.
I really thought that the villain of the ‘Ghost’ (Hannah John-Kamen) is probably one of the most underrated villains of the MCU thus far; her motives were clear and easy to sympathize with while still being downright creepy in some parts. Personally, I rank this as one of the most entertaining out of the whole franchise. Which was a much needed cinematic relief at the time in 2018, seeing how it was the first Marvel flick to come out after Avengers: Infinity War, which if you’ve seen that then you know how much of a stone cold bummer that film’s ending is.
13) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Plot: The Guardians have been a busy bunch, being hired on to help societies all across the galaxy. Whether it be for hire or out of morality, they’ve been doing their best to support those in need. Unfortunately that has weaned on our heroes for the last few years as they are now becoming less content with each other’s company. During a job gone wrong, the Guardians are stranded while coming across a man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father. Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) accompany Ego to his home planet to learn more about Quill’s heritage. Not far behind though is Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his men, as well as Queen Ayesha’s (Elizabeth Debicki) army, slowly close in on Quill and his friends for diabolical purposes.
My Thoughts: Opinions seem to be all over the map with this sequel; some people prefer this one over its 2014 predecessor, some are vice versa on the matter, and others claim that they are both on-par. In some regards, I’d say that this film achieves about the same level of quality as the first film. The pacing is about perfect as before as it always feels like we are moving along in the story with the character’s hilarious dialog at just the right speed. There never seems to be a dull moment or a lull in the plot development. Most of the characters are provided a fair amount of screen time that incorporate decent character arcs, with the exception of Drax and Groot (Vin Diesel) as they remain pretty consistent. One department that I would say is actually an improvement over the 2014 film is the villain, who has far more personality and is way more memorable than Ronin (Lee Pace) from the first movie.
The only reason I rank this so low on the list is simply because there are some minor nitpicks that I have with the film; I particularly wished that there was more development and screen time devoted on the relationship between Yondu and Peter Quill, there is a revelation revealed about the villain at the end that brings his character down quite a bit and he somewhat turns into a stock baddie of the week. Other than that the effects are fantastic, the action is pretty awesome, the characters are all lovable, the comedy hits almost as well as the first movie with every character sharing fantastic chemistry and pitch perfect delivery and timing. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is one I go back to a lot as I have such an enjoyable ride being on.
12) Iron Man 3 (2013)
Plot: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is back again with a whole new rival this time around, a terrorist that goes by the name of the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). The Mandarin is a terrorist that has been setting off a slew of bombs throughout the world that is putting everyone on edge, eventually setting his sights on Tony. Amidst all of the chaos going on, Tony is suffering from PTSD after the incidents that transpired in 2012’s The Avengers and must figure out a way to overcome his severe anxiety in order to save the day once more.
My Thoughts: Yes. I know. What they did to the Mandarin was “an atrocity of the character and Marvel should be strung up by their toes and flogged for the crimes that they have committed”. An actual quote that I came across back in 2013 when Iron Man 3 came out. I’m sorry, but I don’t give a sh*t. I really dig this movie. Admittedly I am a huge fan of Shane Black, the guy who co-wrote and directed this movie, so I found this third Iron Man entry to be a blast. Also, in terms of what they did with the Mandarin’s character, I didn’t mind. I thought it kept the narrative line interesting and brought humor to the film that I felt worked.
No, I’m not all that familiar with the comic books so of course I’m not going to take adaptation changes like that to heart. However, I still argue that a film should be mostly based solely on its own merits and not that of what came before it. Sometimes there are definitely examples that warrant that response, but I don’t believe that Iron Man 3 warrants it. A major factor about Iron Man 3 that I admire is that Tony Stark feels far more vulnerable this time around because a lot of the runtime revolves around his character not being able to easily access his Iron Man suit, as a result, he has to rely mostly on his own intellect and think on the fly in order to get out of certain sticky situations. That and with it being a Shane Black movie, of course it’s set during Christmas time, which gives the movie a fun and cool aesthetic as well.
Side Note: This was in fact the very last film I got to see with my dad in the theater. We were big fans of the Marvel movies, especially the Iron Man installments since we absolutely adore Robert Downey Jr.’s work. We saw it, as a family, opening weekend I believe because I recall the theater being completely packed. And he loved it, it was probably his favorite of the Marvel flicks because it has a lot of the signature Shane Black humor that we both dig so much. For me and him, it was kind of like watching a superhero Lethal Weapon and we had a great time. He laughed and grinned through most of that movie. I miss him and I hope he’s still having a great time, wherever he is. I’m sure he’d say… Worth it.
11) The Avengers (2012)
Plot: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back, this time causing more mayhem than ever as he threatens planet Earth to bring an alien army to invade and concur everyone who inhabits it. It is up to Earth’s mightiest heroes to join forces so they may fight Loki and his army, defend the world from total enslavement, and maybe pick up some shawarma along the way. But it’s not as simple as they may think as it is difficult for all the members to work as a team when they are so used to flying solo on their world saving escapades. Can the Avengers truly assemble before it’s too late? Will they finally eat shawarma?! … Yes.
My Thoughts: This was it for a lot of Marvel fans. Four years in the making, from the little teases at the very tail end of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk films that the Avengers would in fact be assembling. At the time, I remember being extremely excited over the idea yet in the back of my mind thinking, “that is never going to happen”. I’ve seen it done in the past with other films alluding to something grander in the making, only to be wrapped up in development hell and never see the light of day. Somehow, I don’t know how, I guess some executives at Marvel sucked the right d*cks or made a deal with the devil because it surprisingly panned out with a product that didn’t disappoint either. It was rather astonishing to witness The Avengers in the theater, twice, seeing all of these awesome characters I grew to love fighting alongside and sometimes against one another. It was cool, it is a cool and fun flick.
I think what helps it work is the combination of different genres that the film used in a balanced blend to make up a thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick; we see comedy, action, sci-fi, fantasy, even the slightest hints of horror with the character of the Hulk and somehow it all flows together naturally. I’m imagining that some readers may be confused as to, if I’m praising the movie so much, why is it not in the top ten? At this point of the list, for me, it gets extremely difficult to rank the remaining dozen or so entries. So I’m trying to be a tad bit more objective when it comes to the last ten slots open. In terms of entertainment value, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is solid. When it comes to storytelling, character arcs, themes, technical quality of filmmaking, etc.; I feel that the remaining ten films have a little bit more meat to their bones in comparison. Doesn’t mean I think this to be any lesser of a product, I am just trying to be as objective as I can here.
10) Black Panther (2018)
Plot: T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), now the new heir to the throne of Wakanda, has to face against an outsider named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who threatens everything his family has built for this kingdom. The only problem is that this is no ordinary trespasser, for this man’s rightful place was to be alongside the royal family. Killmonger’s birthright was wrongfully taken from him by T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, now T’Challa has to make up for his father’s mistakes while still attempting to do what’s best for his nation.
My Thoughts: Ryan Coogler directed what is probably one of the more thought-provoking entries in the entire MCU; having the hero question whether to follow the old ways of his ancestors so he may keep his own people safe or is it wrong of him to keep Wakanda’s advanced technology out of foreign hands of people that desperately need it? At what capacity is one nation responsible for aiding foreign territories? And when is supplying support going too far? These are some the questions that Black Panther intelligently asks its audience, all while tightly packed within an action adventure with plenty of likable protagonists going up against one of the MCU’s most enthralling antagonists at that.
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger is a captivating villain from start to finish; his motives are easily understandable from where he is coming from in the situation and it is one hell of a tragedy honestly. Jordan pulls his performance off flawlessly as he feels like a formidable foe that the Black Panther may be incapable of defeating. Killmonger is an intelligent baddie that knows exactly what he’s doing and the reasons that he has resorted to such horrible crimes are sadly justified by his past. He grew up in a time and place where he needed the people of Wakanda and they turned their backs on him, so he’s there to make sure that never happens to a kid growing up the way he did ever again. Unfortunately the tactic that Killmonger goes about his version of foreign aid, may be too radical. Which makes it a complex story about who is truly in the right in this debate.
Aside from a script perspective; most of the special effects are gorgeous and visually creative with building the world of Wakanda, although the CGI admittedly gets relatively cartoonish in parts. Especially in the third act. There are a couple of supporting characters that don’t get a whole lot of development, making me forget certain relationships that weren’t firmly established at times. Overall, it’s one solidly epic superhero flick that is a bit smarter than your average Marvel romp.
- Let's Talk About the 2019 Oscar Nominees!
The 2019 Oscar nominees have been announced not too long ago so I figured I would discuss my thoughts on the matter.
9) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Plot: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is your average American boy living in the 1940s during World War II. Steve is what one would call too scrawny and has about a dozen health issues, but contains a heart of gold that is willing to fight for what is right. Which isn’t nearly enough to the military to take him in, however when a Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees the potential that Rogers possesses, that is when Steve’s whole life changes. Steve agrees to undergoing an experiment by the doctor if it means giving America the chance to win the battle against the Nazis. Although Nazis aren’t the only threat they have to worry about as there is another foe, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who is forming his own diabolical alliance called Hydra. It’s up to Steve Rogers to become Captain America to represent all that is good to fight all that wishes to destroy it.
My Thoughts: America. F*ck yeah. I’m kidding, that’s not all I have to say on the matter. Captain America: The First Avenger is just a crazy fun adventure reminiscent of Joe Johnston’s previous feature, The Rocketeer. They are both 1940s period pieces that absolutely thrive on being set in the era that they’re in. The luscious noir scenery, the epically grand scale action set pieces, the delightfully over-the-top Nazi villains, the hilarious war propaganda that is used with Captain America himself is great satire, the lead is such a good at heart guy that one can’t help but root for, it’s simply a fantastic film. On the negative half, I do have to say that not all of the special effects hold up, especially the CGI used on Chris Evans to superimpose his head on a skinny actor’s body… it’s a little off. Other than that, this movie is pretty solid. The ending to this movie still always gets me as it is fairly emotion with what happens to our hero. Captain America’s first outing was one hell of a triumph and certainly glad to say that it wasn’t the last.
8) Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Plot: Thanos (Josh Brolin) has finally come to collect all six Infinity Stones so he may accomplish his mission of what he believes to be the universe’s only option to survive; wipe out exactly half of all living creatures, which is only possible through the power of all stones together. It’s up to the Avengers to put a stop to this genocidal titan’s plans and keep the stones from him at all costs. But can they before it’s too late?
My Thoughts: *SPOILER ALERT* No, they can’t. That’s right, this is one of the rare occasions where the villain technically won. Even considering everything that happens in the second half of this tale, Endgame, Thanos did achieve his goal by eliminating half of all living beings in Infinity War. And it is one hell of a punch to the gut when Thanos snaps his fingers to do it. I’m positive at this point most people have seen Infinity War so I wasn’t too worried about being cautious with spoilers, although apologies for anyone who hasn’t seen it… I did say spoiler alert.
Moving on, the concept of the Infinity Stones and Thanos were built up within the MCU for six whole years at the point of release for Infinity War. Six years, how it paid off so magnificently is beyond me. I was worried for quite some time that the character of Thanos would honestly disappoint as villains in the MCU, for a long time, weren’t Marvel’s strong suit. Then a few entries from Marvel came out with vast improvements in that department just before Infinity War, then we eventually did get a taste of what Thanos had to offer and it was terrific. Josh Brolin nailed every second of his performance while the writing of the character provided a decent amount of development so we can understand exactly what this maniac is trying to do and why.
By the end of the film, I 100% get what Thanos’s motives are and where his mindset is at. While I don’t agree with his methods by any means, I at least understand and dear God do I fear him for it. He proves himself to be insane yet intelligent, powerful, strong, intimidating, and above all a totally fleshed out character with actual emotions. To me, this is one of Marvel’s biggest accomplishments; the fully developed villain. Now to actually touch on the rest of the movie; the whole cast does a great job, the action sequences are epic for sure, most of the effects work is close to perfect, the story’s structure does feel somewhat disjointed at times and there is the rare occasion that tone suffers from whiplash. With all of its faults, this is still a standout picture that does a great job leading into my next pick.
7) Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Plot: Since Endgame is literally only a week old at this point after release, I’m not going to go too far into the plot as it has been relatively hidden in all of the marketing. Just know that the Avengers set out to rectify or avenge their fallen members from the events of Infinity War.
My Thoughts: I’m also not going to go too in-depth with my thoughts here, if you want to know a bit more on my feelings about Endgame then I will leave my review down below. With that said, Endgame was a satisfying conclusion to most of the plot threads that have been laid out over the years. I will admit that there is a couple of things that I was hoping this movie would do that it didn’t; one being to delve more into the psyche of Thanos after everything what went down in Infinity War. Sadly it greatly overlooked those details. The tone, again, got messy from time to time. Setting the flaws aside, Endgame was still an immensely fun and at times very emotional experience. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t choked up at a couple points. I’ve been watching some of these characters for eleven years now, it’s hard not to fall in love with them. This is a comic book epic that fires on all cylinders, if you’re game then go for it. Keep in mind that this is three FULL hours long.
- 'Avengers: Endgame' (2019) Movie Review
It's the big one! Here I am, back for an official review for the first time in a month. As per usual, late with my thoughts, but whatever. You already saw the movie opening night anyways.
6) Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Plot: In light of a terrorist attack that Captain America’s team barely obstructed, the entire world and their governments have come to the conclusion that the Avengers need to be kept in check. Instead of running by their own rules, the governments want to sanction when they should be appointed to certain high crisis situations. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) immediately do not see eye to eye on the subject, breaking into an all out civil war between the Avengers.
My Thoughts: Strangely enough, Civil War was released the very same year as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which also tackled surprisingly similar themes of whether or not super powered beings like these should be left to their own devices to handle devastation as they personally see fit or should the government have some sort of authority over the highly capable individuals in order to avoid more casualties? While Batman v Superman was a colossal mess onscreen, Civil War delves deep into the matter and it doesn’t provide all that easy of an answer.
In this case, there doesn’t seem to be a truly clear cut case that is the correct choice. Both sides of the argument have their fair share of positive and negative aspects about them, which makes the whole theme open to interpretation on whether Steve Rogers or Tony Stark is in the right. However, this is not all simply a talk about politics, at the end of the day this is still also an action movie and there is some pretty awesome action sequences going on here. Some of these fight scenes rival that of anything in all of the Avengers installments quite frankly, they are that well-choreographed as well as that emotionally impacting in terms of the character writing involved with each fight. Captain America: Civil War is a smart, blood pumping thrill ride to say the least.
5) Captain Marvel (2019)
Plot: Vers (Brie Larson) is a space cop suffering from amnesia, enlisted in a small group of soldiers that fight for the Kree Empire. While the Kree are in the midst of an all-out war with shape-shifting alien baddies, led by Ben Mendelsohn. Vers and her team of Jude Law and Djimon Hounsou awesomeness are assigned to a rescue mission gone awry. Resulting in Vers stranded on planet Earth in the mid-1990s, so post-grunge but pre-Britney Spears. Upon her quest to find a scientist that her enemies are looking for, Vers stumbles across a young special-agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. ‘Mother-F*cking’ Jackson), realizing that working together is the only way they can save the galaxy.
My Thoughts: I am probably the only dude in the world that would put Captain Marvel in his top five MCU flicks, especially coming ahead of all the Avengers titles, I have no regrets. I loved this movie. I was serious in my initial review that I enjoyed the f*ck out of this flick and after two months later, I still love it. This is one of my favorites to come out of the MCU. The comedy is on point, the pacing always keeps the narrative going with lively characters, a villainous role to come out of Ben Mendelsohn that actually feels refreshing from what he’s recently been type cast as, the action is slick, the visual aesthetic is straight out of a Jerry Bruckheimer/Tony Scott/Michael Bay flick from the late 1980s – early 1990s, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel is badass and charismatic, this movie rocks! I don’t care what anyone says with the whole stupid controversy that went on during its release, Captain Marvel kicks ass and I’m buying it the second it’s out on Blu-Ray.
Side Note: Putting Captain Marvel in my top five… Worth It.
- 'Captain Marvel' (2019) A Space-Cop Movie Review
Vers is a space cop with amnesia and she has to take on shape-shifting aliens with the help of Nick Fury to save the galaxy!
4) Thor (2011)
Plot: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is the God of thunder. Not to mention, also the God of arrogance as his ego gets in the way of what is truly right and wrong occasionally. Getting him into a heap of trouble when he single handedly starts a war between the people of Asgard against a world inhabited by Frost Giants. For his crimes he is banished to planet Earth where he must live out the rest of his days with present day humans as a human himself. During Thor’s absence, treachery lies within the kingdom of Asgard, putting everyone at risk. Can Thor prove himself worthy so he may be welcomed back to the world of Asgard, or is there something more about being human that makes him forget all about yearning for his powers again?
My Thoughts: Yes, Thor is about as true to the MCU formula as these movies can get; an arrogant smartass must learn the error of his ways to become the hero that the world needs in their greatest time of danger. On top of that, it’s also a ‘fish out of water’ story as well with Thor having to get used to a whole new environment to him while entirely familiar to us the viewer… somehow that all works to where we get a real genuine and insanely charming film. I credit this working so well largely due to Kenneth Branagh’s direction, who always supplies such epic and lush spectacles which adds wonders to Thor.
Another major component that helps this movie work is the cast, everyone gives a charismatic and/or captivating performance. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is about as perfect casting as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, you could not find a better match. Hemsworth oozes charisma in every frame and handles the action like a total badass. Tom Hiddelston as Loki is on that very same level of perfection as Hemsworth, only in an opposite effect as his performance lends itself to be far more complex and intense. The character of Loki isn’t just a ‘cookie-cutter’, 2-Dimensional, bland baddie of the week; he comes across as an actual troubled soul simply trying to figure out his place in the world, sadly succumbing to mischievous means to accomplish his goals.
The relationship Thor builds between Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) is a very cute makeshift family unit they start together. Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas) are equal parts hilarious and kickass. In all honesty, I’m rather disappointed in how the Thor sequels handled these four characters, particularly Ragnarok that quickly disposes of them within literal seconds. That, to me, is particularly insulting. Anyways, I love Thor. Narratively speaking, it is about as basic and predictable as one could get with the Marvel films. However, in this case I think the story works extremely well and serves as a lovable entry within the MCU.
3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Plot: Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), has been trying to figure out how to be a fellow aid in modern society while also putting his own life together. Unfortunately Rogers has to put all that on hold when an assassin named the Winter Soldier comes to tear down S.H.I.E.L.D., leaving Steve needing to team up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to investigate what’s really going on and how to stop the Winter Soldier.
My Thoughts: Wow! Way to shift gears on us Marvel; not only crafting possibly the MCU’s most mature entry thus far, but quite the intelligent and suspenseful political thriller. This is not your average superhero flick where simply Captain America beats up some bad guys and the day is automatically saved. There is a legitimate mystery going on amongst the S.H.I.E.L.D agency and with the Winter Solder that effortlessly entangles the viewer within its curious web. Also while providing some of the most incredible fight sequences from the Marvel movies during a narrative that delves into themes about how far should a government go before impeding on the freedoms of civilians. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is on a league all of its own that severely departs from what we had seen before and was thankfully continued in Civil War.
Aside from all that, the friendship that develops between Steve and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff was fantastically performed here with the two actors’ great chemistry and the smart writing that doesn’t attempt to go for any romantic beats at all. The Winter Soldier himself is scary as hell in some scenes, practically like a Terminator that is only determined to kill and very efficiently at that. The effects are damn near flawless and the humor is handled very well within its more mature tone. It’s no mystery as to why The Winter Soldier ranks so high on this list.
2) Iron Man (2008)
Plot: Raised in wealth and gifted with a remarkable mind, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a weapons industry dealing inventor that finds himself held captive inside an Afghan cave. With Stark’s high intellect and the assistance of another prisoner, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), they construct a weaponized suit of armor in order to make their escape by fighting off the men that have imprisoned them. Then Tony slowly learns the true possibilities of this high tech suit of armor that could be what the world truly needs to be safe.
My Thoughts: Jon Favreau launched something very special in 2008 that the world hadn’t seen before; at our present point in the MCU though, Iron Man does contain the very formula that we’ve all grown accustomed to for Marvel with the smartass that learns to have a heart of gold from the mistakes in his past and by the end has to save the day against a villain who obtains similar capabilities as our hero. This is the movie that practically started those very tropes. Instead of being only the familiar formulaic story that we all could recite in our sleep, this spends a great deal of time devoted to building up character while also probably being much grittier than most people tend to remember.
We witness the character of Tony Stark really progress from being this self-centered ass to still being an ass, but an ass that cares once he goes through hell to grow as a person. We see how the consequences of his actions really affects him and progresses his character arc throughout the plot. This is a proper origin story that takes its time in developing its protagonist and lets the audience tag along on this personal odyssey that Tony goes through. Yes, there is plenty of action and laughs to be had, but it’s smart about it and it takes some time showing the repercussions of war in general.
Robert Downey Jr. has always been an incredible actor in every role that he’s performed in, he was born to play Tony Stark though. This really was the perfect casting made in heaven, there could not have been a more appropriate choice in the world for this specific role. If and when the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man is recast whenever Marvel eventually reboots its franchise, the next actor will have some massive shoes to fill. There is no doubt about that.
Iron Man became a classic hit and propelled this series to unbelievable heights before we could even register what was happening. Iron Man was huge in an instant. Before the film had released I’m not entirely sure as to how aware the public was to the character, but he was immediately a big household name right away and still remains as one of the most popular Marvel characters known all around. It’s hard to top greatness and this certainly is one of the greatest comic book films ever made.
Side Note: I touch on the impact Iron Man had on me and my family back in 2008 with my Avengers: Endgame review, so if you’d like to read about that I’ll leave the link down below. Just know that it was a pretty special movie to us at the time and I still love Iron Man to this day.
1) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Plot: When a group of intergalactic criminals cross paths, they realize that they have to band together to survive a ruthless megalomaniac named Ronin (Lee Pace) and put an end to his tyranny before he destroys all life across the galaxy.
My Thoughts: Am I going to get heckled for placing Guardians of the Galaxy in my number one spot? Meh. Whatever. I love this movie, it is my favorite flick from the MCU. James Gunn brings in his own unique flavor in the directing and writing chairs for Marvel here and it pays off exceptionally. The dialog is lightning fast with hysterical quips and perfect one-liners, every character is exceedingly vibrant in their very own personalities along with very attentive character arcs that each one goes through, the action is stimulating to behold with some rather beautiful special effects work going on. There is almost never a dull moment as the pacing of the story is always on the go. Emotionally speaking, Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the film that affects me the most; especially when it comes to Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) backstory involving his mother, that opens and concludes in such a raw display of sadness. Peter Quill’s character, as a whole, really stands out for me. Not only giving Chris Pratt a chance to show off his acting range, but giving us one of the most lovably buffoonish, badass heroes to date. All of the members of the Guardians are fully developed, 3-Dimensional characters. For me, Quill is the most relatable out of the bunch and retains the most emotional arc; which Pratt pulls off superbly.
Unfortunately the only fault that Guardians of the Galaxy has for me, and it is a significant one, is the villain of Ronin (Lee Pace). Ronin is quite possibly the most bland, stereotypical, Saturday morning cartoon bad guy that any single one of these MCU flicks have ever had. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a lesser and more uninteresting antagonist that Marvel has come up with since the start of their cinematic universe. The writing is generic, ‘I want to kill everyone because I’m EVIL’ with almost no sufficient motivation in sight. Even the performance is boring beyond all recognition. It’s sadly a black eye on what is otherwise a fantastic film. It’s the one I’ve watched the most in the last five years, it’s the absolute most fun and emotionally driven ride I’ve had in the MCU, it is some of the most laughs I’ve received from any movie in general. Guardians of the Galaxy is a glorious space opera with an unbelievable visual and writing flare, not to mention the kickin’ soundtrack, that all lit a fire back into the MCU when it needed it the most. All of this is why I list it as my favorite of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe line-up.
Side Note: I played hooky from my school at the time, the Art Institute, to go check out Guardians of the Galaxy with a buddy of mine. We both adored the movie. But we had to go through a bit of hell getting back to the school. We had to park in the closest paid parking garage we could find, which wasn’t all that close to the theater, in order to see the movie. After leaving the theater and walking all the way back to the garage we realized we had forgotten to validate our ticket, but we basically said “f*ck it” and figured we’d just pay to get out of there and head to school as soon as possible since there was a fairly restricted time limit I was on.
We walked all the way up to where he parked and finally pull up to the machine to pay, there was no attendant, and my buddy apparently had no money so I offered to take care of it. Only thing I had on me was my debit card though, for whatever reason it refused to accept my card. We had to find a spot back in the garage to park the car. Walk all the way down and back to the theater, validate our ticket, walk all the way back to the garage and up to the spot we parked in, pull up to the machine yet again which thankfully accepts our validated ticket rather than our money… okay.
However, we weren’t quick enough; for when I arrived back to the school, my fiancé at the time was sitting right in the parking lot waiting to pick me up from class since I didn’t have my own car. I tried to explain where I was and what I was actually doing, she didn’t believe me and accused me of cheating. We temporarily broke up… Worth. It. B*tch.
What's Your Favorite MCU Flick?
What is your favorite movie out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Apologies To Whom It May Concern...
It has recently come to my attention that this article is slightly outdated as I am missing one film from the roster, that being Spider-Man: Far From Home. So with that I would like to apologize to anyone who might care about this missing element and when I have a little more time on my hands I will rework the list to include the missing Spider-Man entry. For now though, I will be including a link to my review to Spider-Man: Far From Home directly down below for anyone curious about my thoughts on the movie. Please enjoy!
- 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' (2019) A Webberific Movie Review
It's another Marvel movie again this year, will it also be good like most of the other Marvel movies that come out? Why don't ya click yourselves on in here and find out!
That’s All Folks!
Well, wasn’t that quite the mouthful! What did you all think though? Did you like or dislike my list? Agree or disagree? Think that I should be flogged for not putting your favorite MCU movie in the number one spot? Comment down below and let me know! If you did so happen to enjoy my article then please do me a favor and share this around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a… MARVELOUS DAY! ….. I hate myself.
© 2019 John Plocar