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.

Captain Marvel Review

By now we are used to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and this is the 21st movie in the enormous franchise. Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be led by a female character, and only the second superhero movie ever after DC’s Wonder Woman. Could Marvel produce something as good as DC’s best? 

First of all, I have to say I think Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. She’s a top-tier talent and kudos to Marvel for picking such a talent to play the new face of the MCU, and that is certainly what this movie is setting her up to be. She worked hard to do her own fight scenes and does everything she can with what she was given to do. I don’t like to delve into negatives too quickly, but Captain Marvel runs into an issue I was a little concerned by going in.

The issue is one I like to refer to as “The Superman Problem”. This film starts out with Carol Danvers as a powerful and skilled warrior, and ends with her being an even more powerful and skilled warrior. Superman is an indestructible, undeniable solution to almost every problem. In a similar vein, Captain Marvel felt a little too powerful at times in this film, and she is never really threatened by anything she comes up against (spoilers, she doesn’t die in this film).

The problem this movie has is that this new infallible hero isn’t even given a weakness like Superman’s Kryptonite, she is just a force of nature whose solution to all problems is to shoot beams at the problems. There are superb hero moments, but they don’t feel as earned as in some other films we have seen. Think Spiderman Homecoming, when he’s terrified under the crushed building calling for help, in that moment we saw the vulnerability of Spiderman. Captain Marvel has no vulnerability to speak of in this film.

That being said, the beams she is shooting to solve her problems do look cool, and as we have come to expect in an MCU film, all of the action scenes are well done. The stand out for me being ironically one where her beams of light aren’t there as weapons for her, and she has to show her fighting prowess. The other, more spectacularly shot scene is the one we catch a glimpse of in the trailer, with Carol Danvers flying through space blowing up ships.

Good action is expected by now in these movies, what has kept the MCU going for so long is its excellent character development. Nick Fury, played by a de-aged Samuel L Jackson, is brilliant in this film and this showcases everything we love about the character we have seen countless times to date. He has more screen time here than in any other film, and we learn a few things about him that we didn’t know before. Some of this film could spawn some considerable questions about other films in the MCU, and a few of them directly relate to thing Fury has said in movies we have seen.

The 90’s setting that allows for the creation of plot holes in movies we have already seen is an excellent excuse for a lot of references to 90s culture. We see Troll Dolls, hear Nirvana, and get to witness the inside of a Blockbuster for the first time in years. These references are all nice window dressing, but to be honest this could have been set a few days before infinity war and not much would have changed for this actual movie. That being said, they do bring some nostalgia with them, and that plays into some of the funnier moments. 

Aside from Nick Fury, we have Talos played by Ben Mendelsohn and Yonn-Rog played by Jude Law. Both are excellent actors in their own rights, and Law is really solid in his role. Mendelsohn nearly steals the movie for me though, playing an antagonist with a twist, and someone I really hope we see more of in the MCU going forward. I didn’t expect the turns this movie took, and therefore this film provided some of the most interesting world building to date in the MCU. It’s an odd thing but we seem to be reaching a point where Marvel is aware people know the comics, and are going out of their way to do things that will surprise us. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say I thought there were some really smart storytelling choices made in this film.

What I think is difficult to quantify with these films is why it’s any better than say Dr. Strange, or Black Panther, and honestly I am not sure it is. It’s certainly not down with the likes of Thor: The Dark World, but because of the nature of the MCU it’s almost impossible for this to rank in the top echelons of the MCU given how deep in we are and how many characters we have seen combine. Captain Marvel is a return to a true origin story in the MCU, and one that doesn’t fall into the trappings we have seen in previous first outings. The final fight isn’t against a villain with exactly the same powers (Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Black Panther all spring immediately to mind), and there is no really blatant sequel set up.

This film extends the lore of the MCU in a more natural way then we have witnessed before. It gives us insights into characters we have seen before, but from a time before we knew them, and I am not just talking about Fury. Captain Marvel is yet another good film in the Marvel universe, and it got me even more excited for Avengers Endgame. If that was possible. The first end credits scene made me realise just how desperate I am to see that film. I can’t wait. Only a month and a half away.

Good: Excellent Action, Solid acting all round, MCU continues to expand and some great 90s nostalgia. Goose the Cat is awesome, and the Marvel Logo at the start will make you cry.

Bad: Script felt a little empty in some ways, leading to a mildly underdeveloped hero. Superman Problem needs to be addressed in future movies and I didn’t like how Fury lost his eye (Spoilers I guess…)

7/10 – Carol Danvers joins the MCU, and immediately becomes Thanos’ biggest problem.