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.

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These are a few of my favourite things (2018)

It’s a new year, so what else to do but write a post about my favourite film, TV show and game of the last year. These aren’t necessarily what I think is the best in terms of technical skills involved or even story, but they’re the pieces of entertainment that I enjoyed the most personally.  I have 4 picks, one for each of the 3 formats, I mentioned above, and then the one thing that I really enjoyed the most.

Favourite TV Show of 2018 – Killing Eve

I had no idea what this show was, right up until the minute I started watching it. A quick read of the synopsis told me it was about a female assassin, but beyond that I was blind going in. The shows brilliant leads Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are equally fantastic in the show, and the dynamic that is developed between the them and the rest of the cast really make this show tick.

It has a little bit of everything I like in a show, and crucially for me, it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is what didn’t work for me in another good show from last year The Bodyguard. The only contender to Killing Eve’s crown was Netflix’s Daredevil season 3, but honestly even that didn’t come close. If you haven’t got round to Killing Eve yet, it’s on BBC iPlayer and im sure its streaming worldwide somewhere, it really is too good to miss out on.

Favourite Game of 2018 – Assassins Creed Odyssey

I have shocked myself with this choice and I am kind of cheating, but I know what my favourite piece of entertainment of the year is and I don’t want to give something 2 spots on this list, so Assassins creed has found its way here. I loved Spiderman, I appreciate the masterful work in Red Dead Redemption 2, I have played more of Fifa and Destiny 2 this year, and Fortnite is a endlessly enjoyable experience, but no game captured my imagination quite like AC: Odyssey did. I chose to play as Kassandra, and within the first hour of the game i was absolutely in on her story and what she was trying to do.

From the first moments on the island of Cephalonia, to the last minutes of the game I was hooked and this game does that by giving you a lot of fun tools, a massive, busy open world with lots of quests, and letting you play your way in it. I had largely given up on Assassins Creed after not enjoying the new style of play in the previous entry AC Origins, but this has brought me back and I still play this occasionally now, after completing the 3 huge main Quests. This was a very tight choice between AC and Spiderman on PS4, but today, I’m picking AC when tomorrow I might pick Spiderman, they’re both that great.

Favourite Film of 2018 – Avengers Infinity War (SHOCKING) 

This is a very tough category for me, with so many great films in 2018 i had a real hard time decidi…. LOL JK it just had to be Infinity War. Yes Spiderverse was amazing, and there are a lot of brilliant drama’s around, but nothing compares to the event that was Infinity War for me. It may require 22 films of homework before you watch it, but the payoff is sublime. A movie of this scale and encompassing so many characters is an achievement never attempted before in cinema history and somehow the Russo Brothers, Marvel and everyone who worked on this film managed to pull it off.

There are moments in this film that make me smile, laugh, well up, and gasp in disbelief. I remember the thought in my head in the final act of “Are they actually going to do it, end it at that iconic point from the comics”. I thought that, and then they went ahead and did exactly that. No spoilers here, but by now everyone has seen it, that moment is one of my favourite movie scenes of 2018.

Favourite Piece of Entertainment in 2018 – GOD OF WAR (PS4)

Sony Santa Monica’s God of War is the single greatest piece of entertainment I have ever consumed. Not just 2018, but in my 25 years on earth. Nothing in video games compares to the feeling of calling the Leviathan Axe back to your hand after throwing it through an enemy. No game I have played looks better than this game, and No game, film or TV show has ever produced a 10-15 hour experience all capture in one, long, uninterrupted camera take.

God of War can be compared to a stage show with its small cast of engaging characters and easy to understand plot, at the same time as being compared to the biggest blockbuster games and movies of all time with its spectacular set pieces and bombastic action. I know a lot of people, older generations in particular, will never see anything part of God of War, and I wish I could change that. God of War for me goes beyond just being a game, it is entertainment and storytelling at its very best.

Thanks for reading my rubbish! Please share if you think anyone else you know might want to waste some of their time reading my thoughts.

ChAzJS

Avengers Infinity War Review (Spoiler Free)

Its been a long time coming but finally Avengers Infinity War is here. Ten years, eighteen films, dozens of characters and a million fan theories have led to this and my excitement for this film was through the roof but with a lot of caveat questions. Could Marvel deliver on a decade of hype and build up? Would Thanos work as a villain? Could all these characters work in one single movie?

We have seen all the heroes in this film in at least one other movie so far, and the majority in 2 or 3, so the avengers, guardians and friends are all familiar to us which is gives the film a fantastic starting point. This is a film that would be simply impossible to attempt without having done what Marvel has, bringing so many characters into the public eye. You don’t necessarily have to see every marvel film that’s been released to this point, but you certainly have to have seen at least the two previous avengers films, Guardians Vol 1, Civil War, and Ragnarok. Going into this film having seen all 18 of marvels offerings is certainly the best preparation though and it definitely aided my enjoyment of the film.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Infinity War is getting to see so many of these characters we have grown to love meet for the first time, whether its Thor and Drax, Tony Stark and Star Lord, or Dr Strange and Spiderman. The Russo Brothers, directing this project, do as great a job as possible to give every character at least one moment, big or small, to shine. The trademark Marvel humour is there in spades and has some great moments that break up the overall serious tone and dire situation that all the characters find themselves in. The tones of so many various movies mix together wonderfully somehow, the comedic light-hearted guardians not feeling out-of-place with the avengers or the “not avengers but kind of are” characters who have had more serious films previously. Nothing in this film quite reaches the comedic fun of Thor Ragnarok, but the consequences of that film do weigh quite heavily on Infinity War and in particular on Thor, who probably gets the most screen time as a hero.

It an incredible achievement that I didn’t feel any character was grossly underused as I can remember a moment for every one of them where they caught the eye. Of course, we always want to see a bit more of every character but in a movie so packed of both characters and development of Thanos it’s impossible to have that without a preposterous run time of something like 4 hours. The two and a half hours of infinity war fly by, and fits in a lot. There may be a bit too much going on for some people, as the film does switch from place to place at speed. I was engaged throughout so didn’t find it too hard to follow what was happening, and each location was noticeably different so I always felt within seconds i knew which storyline we was going to.

I have gotten this far, and praised this film a lot, but the biggest strength of Infinity War is, for the first time in the MCU, the villain. Thanos has been a shadowy figure throughout 18 films, reference with reverence by everyone who knew him and feared by all. Paying off on that is a huge ask and this film manages it. He is the main character of the film, and he is, in my opinion, the best villain the MCU has ever had. He is incredibly powerful on his own, a point which is made abundantly clear in the opening scene, and once he begins collecting more power from the infinity stones he is out to collect, he becomes more and more formidable. That isn’t what makes him great though, the best part is the motivations he has and the reason he is trying to wipe out half the universe. Writing that like that it sounds preposterous, but much like Killmonger in Black Panther, Thanos believes wholeheartedly that what he is doing is the right thing for the entire universe because of his life experiences. We learn about what he’s been through, what he cares for and why he’s so determined to win.

Everything Marvel has done to this date has been in build up to this in some way, you can draw a string from Infinity War to any previous MCU film, which is a completely ludicrous statement. The action, whilst never reaching the height of that airport fight in civil war, is consistently brilliant, among the best use of powers and abilities we have ever seen. Infinity war takes all the best parts of all of marvels decade of films, and combines them into an incredible crescendo that rivals Empire Strikes Back in terms of impact and memorable moments.

Good: The culmination of a decade of work, fans will be blown away by this film. It delivers.

Bad: If you haven’t been keeping up with the MCU, you will not get anywhere near as much out of this film. Prior knowledge being a requirement is rare for films but Infinity War is no place to drop in.

9.5/10 – They did it.