Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.

Antman & The Wasp Review

The first Antman was an enjoyable, smaller (pun intended) story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that did a great job introducing the character without really amazing much beyond its clever visuals. This sequel has the unenviable job of trying to follow up on the epic Avengers Infinity War. Could this film avoid the feeling of being an undercard to the next part of the Infinity War story?

I have to say going into the film I was struggling to really feel excited for this one, whilst I was intrigued to see what Antman was doing during the avengers, I was not sure a film away from that main story would engage me enough to keep me in the film. I needn’t have worried, Marvel are masters of setting up a film fast and keeping you on your toes. This can be felt if you go back and watch superhero movies from the early 2000s, they feel slow and drag along compared to the fun filled action films that the MCU is now known for.

This film once again is a much smaller story than previously, and although it may end up having major ramifications in the wider MCU storyline, this film never tries too hard to connect itself to the other films. It has its story, an interesting one at that, and its focused on telling it. The antagonist’s in the film are there more as obstacles for our hero’s plans than the normal “Hero is here to stop the villain” plot we’ve grown used to. This time round Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly) work together much more, as to be expected from the title of the movie, and for me Hope Pym/Wasp steals the show.

Evangeline Lilly is absolutely awesome as the Wasp, and cements herself as a powerhouse superhero in this universe. She has an interesting journey in the film, and I really enjoyed the chemistry between her, Wasp’s Father Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd’s Antman. The pair are proving themselves to be one of the more believable romances in the MCU. As for the man who never ages, Paul Rudd, he is excellent in this role, his mix of charm and perfect comedic timing adding that layer of humour to what would be an otherwise run of the mill superhero flick.

Michael Douglas returns as Hank Pym, doing more of the same solid work we have seen before. Michael Pena, T.I and David Dastmalchain as Scott Langs business partners are hilarious, and despite being used quite sparingly they stand out with their comedy moments. Walton Goggins comes in being very Walton Goggins-y, playing a character who I felt like I knew straight away, as I have seen this type of thing from him before. I didn’t dislike him at all, but it was exactly what I expected years ago when he was cast in the film. Randall Park plays the policeman charged with keeping tabs on Paul Rudd whilst he is under house arrest, and I found him to be a bit jarring. Park’s character feels like he doesn’t quite fit into the world with everyone else, and his supposedly funny moments fell flat to me.

Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, is an interesting antagonist in that, as mentioned earlier, she isn’t an evil threat our villains have to stop. Her story is personal, and its collision course with our heroes is more through bad timing. I did feel that every action scene with her, whilst looking stunning, could have been avoided with a simple conversation. Speaking of the action scenes, for me they go above and beyond what we saw from the first Antman and use the shrinking/expanding technology in unique and at times funny ways. Ghost’s powers up against Wasp and Antman make for some great hand to hand combat, and one scene in the hotel involving Wasp is up there with my favourite action scenes in the entire MCU.

Antman and the Wasp delivers more of the jokes and clever action we got in the first one, but doesn’t have the novelty the first had with the stunning visuals. They still look just as  great as before, but we’ve seen them a few times now so they don’t lend as much to the film as the first time round. I liked the majority of the comedy, and the action is great fun. My point about some of the action scenes being avoidable if they just have a conversation did weigh on my mind throughout the film, and I would have been intrigued to see them approach the Ghost character in that way. I think there was enough drama to be created from Walton Goggins characters involvement to give us enough action to satisfy the superhero movie audience.

Good: Rudd and Lilly are great to watch, some genuinely laugh out loud moments (the entire school scene had me holding my stomach laughing) and great action. absolutely awesome mid-credit scene. Ghost’s outfit is great.

Bad: Some unfunny characters don’t fit in the film, and struggled to believe the motivation for the main antagonist to fight rather than just talk.

7/10 – Another day, another solid MCU film