The Marvel Cinematic Universe is probably the most ambitious idea ever put in movies - take all the complicated mythos of Marvel, all the quirkiness of the comic book format, and apply it to Hollywood, with all the movies adding to a vast, interconnected universe. In fact, I’m calling it. The MCU is probably the best movie franchise ever. We’re already 10 movies in, and no other film series has ever sustained this level of quality throughout it’s entire run. And we’re not even finished!
So, in honour of the recent home video release of most recent entry in the series, Guardians Of The Galaxy, let’s make a top 10 list of, well, everything related to the MCU (Warning, the number 10 should be taken with a huge pinch of salt).
Disclaimer - the lists below are entirely subject to personal opinion. Also, HUGE spoilers.
Top 10 Best Movies
10. The Incredible Hulk
We don’t really think about this movie as a Marvel movie, do we? Not even Marvel does - they’ve basically chosen to forget about it right now. At the bottom of the list, it's by no means a bad movie, it just isn't particularly impressive or memorable. Car gloves still for the win though.
9. Iron Man 2
This is a problematic movie, for sure, but by no means a bad one, again. “I Vant My Burd” is suitably memorable, as is Whiplash himself, and Justin Hammer is thoroughly smarmy. Plus, Tony and Pepper still rock together, and War Machine is cool.
8. Iron Man Three
This movie is extremely divisive. People either consider this the best movie in the MCU, or the worst. There’s hardly ever an in-between. For what it’s worth, it’s incredibly funny, the action scenes are pretty memorable, and Tony Stark is still awesome.
I wish this movie was better than it is. All the Asgard scenes are epic in feel, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor is immensely likable. Idris Elba as Heimdall is an inspired choice. And, of course, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is a revelation, the breakout villain of the MCU, the villain against which all others are judged.
6. Thor 2: The Dark World
I actually consider these two movies pretty close in quality. The editing is so much better, the annoying characters from the previous film all become much more likable, and there’s a substantial amount of world-building going on this time around. Thor might be the more memorable film, but in terms of quality, Thor 2 is much better.
5. Iron Man
The one that started it all. The movie to prove to the world that dark and gritty could be executed alongside fun and lively. Robert Downey Jr. is a complete boss owning every frame he’s in, and the movie itself knows that too, choosing to keep him out of the armor for a long time (of course, this became a staple of all Iron Man movies, but this one justifies it). This movie kicks off the MCU too, and for that it deserves even greater consideration.
4. The Avengers
The Avengers is probably the greatest pure superhero movie of all time. Let’s face it - The Dark Knight was more of a suspense thriller than a superhero movie, and all the movies ranked above this aren’t really superhero movies in the traditional sense anyways. The brilliance of the premise lies in the fact that Joss Whedon took the central question in everyone’s minds (“Would all these wildly different superheroes from tonally different movies even work together on screen?”) and made it part of the central story. With all the memorable character interactions and the amazing climax, there’s no denying it. This movie rocks.
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
I have a soft spot for this movie. With all the morally grey heroes we must see in all of today’s movies, it’s a refreshing change to see a hero that honestly wants to do good. The name itself raises so many eyebrows that it’s refreshing they didn’t make an ironic, snarky hero, but a film very period in aesthetic, that strived to be pure good in every way. Even discounting the captain, there are so many memorable characters in the movie, like Peggy Carter and the Red Skull. I love this movie, and for a long time this was my unapologetic pick for the best Marvel movie, even after the Avengers came out. I had pretty high expectations from it’s sequel. How did that turn out, I wonder?
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Take a force of pure goodness and force him into an age of lies and deceit, and you get an amazing premise that the Russo brothers derive every potentially interesting plot thread out of. This isn’t just an amazing action movie or a suspenseful spy thriller, this is an uncaring, ballsy force that disrupts everything in the MCU, destroying the status quo and still managing to put all of these memorable characters to good use, like the Captain himself, Black Widow and Nick Fury, as well as introducing instantly memorable characters, like the Falcon, Alexander Pierce, and the Winter Soldier himself. It raised the bar even higher for all future Marvel movies…
1. Guardians Of The Galaxy
…which was immediately raised even higher by the 21st century’s answer to Star Wars. I do not make that comparison lightly - this movie is a treasure, a modern space opera movie that pays homage to all it’s previous genre icons, a la Star Wars, while still carving out it’s own unique identity. Immensely memorable and quotable, this is easily the best Marvel movie yet.
Top 10 Action Scenes
Now, it’s time to compare all the action scenes. One action scene per movie.
10. Thor and the dimension hopping fight against Malekith
Let’s face it - Malekith isn’t a terribly interesting villain, and the intersecting universes don’t entirely make a lot of sense, but this scene is pretty sweet. Bonus points for Thor riding the subway and Jane Foster actually being useful for once.
9. Hulk vs Abomination
Tim Roth, you deserved better. But car gloves and Hulk Smashes still make for an enjoyable fight.
8. Iron Man vs Whiplash at the Grand Prix
As hammy as Whiplash was, this is probably the one time he appeared truly scary in the entire movie. Sliced race cars, transforming portable Iron Man armor, and some zippy humor - what’s not to like?
7. Iron Man w/o armor against Extremis soldiers
Shane Black seemed to be trying to prove to us that Iron Man didn’t need a suit to be who he is, and this scene certainly proved it. Tony Stark took various commonplace equipment and improvised makeshift weapons to infiltrate the Mandarin’s base in an incredibly cool sequence.
6. Iron Man vs Taliban stand-ins
Okay, yeah, they’re the Ten Rings, but in the MCU they aren’t really connected to Mandarin, are they? This fight is easily the most cathartic one in the entire movie, and it’s exhilarating to see the Iron Man armor, even in its rudimentary form, blasting away terrorists with glee.
5. Captain America and the WW2 montage
It’s exceedingly disappointing to see the majority of Cap’s work being relegated to a quick montage, but by god, this was an insanely cool montage, I could watch an entire movie derived just off this montage alone.
4. Thor vs Loki at the Rainbow Bridge
OK, again, it’s the Bifrost bridge, but whatever. This scene works so well because of all the plot points in the film that culminate towards this moment - Thor, the brat who has finally learnt selflessness and Loki, the trickster who betrayed his native race for the one he grew up in, finally facing off against each other. Take creative usage of the hammer and some nice character moments and you’ve got an incredibly memorable climax.
3. Nick Fury v/s Hydra agents
The best action sequence in this movie was, surprisingly, given to Nick Fury instead, and it is incredible. From the modern fears of unknown agents enabled by the government to enact a completely public assassination, to the revelation that not even an entire contingent is enough to capture or contain Nick Fury. Inventive, crazy and completely awesome, this is an easy number 3.
2. The Guardians and Ravagers vs the Dark Aster
What’s so great about this battle to propel it to number two? Everything. The Xandarian ships coming together to form a giant net, the battle sequences with so many great and little moments thrown in (Star Lord finally being referred to by his name, Groot playing foosball with soldiers, the ultimate crazy sequence involving Infinity stones and the power of dance), this would have been the strongest climactic battle in the MCU if not for…
1. The Avengers in New York
Take everything that made the previous entry awesome, and put four films’ worth of build-up behind it, and you have an easy contender for the greatest superhero fight ever in movies.
Top 9 Dumbest Moments
Now for the negativity. Let’s do a top 9 dumbest moments in the Marvel Cinematic universe (because I couldn’t find 10).
9. Iron Man is unreachable at this moment
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s climax, the stakes have never been higher. Hydra is poised to eliminate each and every threat in the entire world, and it’s up to Captain America and his team to stop them. Except… why isn’t he calling Tony Stark up? Or Bruce Banner? Hell, wouldn’t the chip-switching gambit be entirely unnecessary once they had the Hulk on their side?
8. Malekith the villain
The character of Malekith is incredibly underwritten, incredibly uninteresting, but that isn’t the main problem. The main problem is him being a villain in Thor 2, a sequel to a movie that birthed the most iconic villain of the MCU. It is precisely that detail that makes him so disappointing to behold.
7. Why the montage?
In Captain America The First Avenger, we’re supposed to see the origin story of the Captain, and we do, but just as we’re about to see how he gained his strategic skills and leadership qualities, the film decides to cut away to a montage. Yes, it’s a very cool montage, to be sure, but it makes the film feel incomplete as a result. When future reference is made towards his activities in WW2, we can’t help but wish we were privy to all of it.
6. Obadiah Stane’s sudden turn as Warmonger
For the record, I found Obadiah’s character pretty great, and his turn towards evil pretty believable. That does not mean his decision to steal and pilot a giant Iron Man suit is believable at all. So you’re telling me, this balding, aged businessman with an insane lust for money would suddenly want to pilot a giant suit and go all murderous?
5. Edward Norton as Hulk
Edward Norton is an amazing actor. He’s just thoroughly unsuited for the Hulk’s role. Don’t get me wrong, he does Bruce Banner pretty decently, but you never feel sold on the latent rage he needed to show. At least, I certainly wasn’t.
4. Why is Loki suddenly so evil?
Loki was an incredibly complex character in Thor and even Thor 2, a man who didn’t explicitly want to do evil, but only wanted approval and recognition. In The Avengers, though, he’s incredibly gleeful, snarky and delights in being evil, murdering human beings en masse because of a superiority complex. Yes, he’s still incredibly entertaining to watch, but a lot of the complexity has been stripped out.
3. Aldrich Killian as The Mandarin
This is just wrong on so many levels. Guy Pearce does not sell any part of his role. Yes, the fake-out of Ben Kingsley being a British actor was extremely funny, but Aldrich Killian does not fit the bill as the real Mandarin. Granted, it’s a persona he was using to further his own goals, but even as a Big Bad, he falls short.
2. All the earth scenes in Thor
Call it a case of early installment weirdness, but the Earth scenes in Thor compare horribly to it’s Asgard scenes. Cringe-inducing dialogue (Mjolnir is “Myuh-myuh”? Seriously?) and the most contrived and unconvincing romance plot in the MCU (Natalie Portman now has something to compare her Star Wars romance to) made me wish the Asgardian parts came as quickly as possible, and that some freak accident quickly killed all these idiotic and pointless extra characters. Thank god for Thor 2.
1. Only Iron Man can control a private weapon of destruction because he’s like totally cool and whatever
The most retarded part of Iron Man 2 is the most retarded part of the MCU. Senator Stern might be an unlikable douche and a Hydra agent, but he does have a point when he says that the Iron Man armor can’t be controlled or owned by one man alone, and Tony can’t ensure that others won’t make armor similar to him. This is swiftly proved right by Whiplash himself. So, what does Tony Stark do to prove this theory wrong? Nothing at all, actually. He coasts by on his own awesomeness and people concede that he’s awesome and totally qualified to control the Iron Man technology just because. At least trying to explain would have been nice (Then again, this movie does seem to to a lot from Atlas Shrugged).
And that wraps up this list, don’t you think?
Top 4 Movie Villains
(All uninteresting villains have been discarded prematurely)
4. Johann Schmidt - The Red Skull
Incredibly hammy, menacing and entertaining, the Red Skull was a blast to watch, and a nice opponent for Captain America’s first feature, being his physical equal while being completely opposite to him in his outlook towards human nature.
3. The Winter Soldier
Is this list going to be predominated by Captain America villains? The Winter Soldier is incredibly powerful, intelligent, ruthless and a worthy opponent to the Captain in every way, as well as having a nice backstory tied in to the Captain’s own.
2. Alexander Pierce
Another Captain America villain? Well, I’d argue that Alexander Pierce is a stronger villain than even the Winter Soldier because of his mix of ruthlessness, determination and conviction in his own ideals. All of his scenes are memorable, especially his last one.
Of course there could be no one else. Despite everything, Loki is an amazing character, played amazingly by Tom Hiddleston, who steals every scene he’s in.
And I think that’s enough for this pretty long post of mine. Disagree with my list, or think I’m too biased towards Captain America? Make your own list then, because I don’t care. Now, on to the excruciating wait for The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.