We find ourselves yet again at the end of one phase and the beginning of another in the MCU. With the transition into Phase 3 well under way, I thought it might be fun to recap and rank the highs and lows of Marvel's Phase 2.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
You have to give major credit to James Gunn for taking a virtually unknown set of outer space misfits and turning their story into a phenomenal piece of cinema. He also managed to do it with something major working to his disadvantage: the two biggest stars of the film, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, merely supplied vocal talent. And lets not forget that Vin Diesel only had three lines the entire film. Yet, GOTG managed to become the top film of the summer in North America last year; not too shabby!
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Just about everything about Captain America: The Winter Soldier screamed "AWESOME!" In fact, the bar was set so high after this came out that when the second Avengers installment finally hit theaters, I was a little letdown. The Russo Brothers are incredible at what they do, and it shows. If you were into political thrillers, you enjoyed this movie. If you were into action flicks, you enjoyed this movie. If you were a superhero fan, you most definitely enjoyed this movie! The Winter Soldier boldly cross-pollinates multiple cinematic genres without missing a beat. Everything from the story-line to the acting and cinematography, all the moving parts were beautifully interwoven to create a fulfilling and seat-grabbing experience. Not only was the movie itself an incredible experience; this was the first film that had its climax truly set the pace for Marvel's small screen success, Marvel's: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. Thor the Dark World
Thor: The Dark World received fairly mixed reviews, but I found it to be a vast improvement on the original. One of my favorite parts was that the film managed to explore the various dimensions of Loki. Even though his selfishness ultimately wins out in the end, he does manage to actually show traces of nobility. That alone is worth seeing and, in my opinion, is a large part of what makes the movie what it is. If nothing else, you have to give the filmmakers credit for tying the events of The Dark World to both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Let me start by saying that I thought Avengers: Age of Ultron was a very solid film. Sadly, it some major things working against it. The most noticeable, in my opinion? Shoehorning several Easter-eggs in for future films was one major issue. Introducing tertiary characters (only to murder one of them) was a second. Honestly, I still don't know why Scarlet Witch was a necessary addition to the MCU. Couldn't Tony have conjured up Ultron from his own egotistical inner machinations? What we also have to realize is that this film didn't really introduce anything groundbreaking. The Avengers was unprecedented because it was the first of its kind. Age of Ultron was the second, and anything that comes second just isn't going to be quite as impressive. I guess that means the writers in the DCCU will have to really pull out the big guns for the Justice League film!
5. Iron Man 3
I had really high hopes for this movie. The trailer built up the Mandarin to be this dark, imposing monster of a villain, but we later found out he was a mere pawn of Aldrich Killian. I feel like I speak for many of the American public when I say that I felt lied to. While there were some truly wonderful high points for Iron Man 3, the massive liberties the writers took in making Iron Man's nemesis a joke was enough to sour the whole movie. Not to mention the fact that this movie totally butchered the Extremis storyline, which if you had read or watched the graphic novels in their entirety, would have you completely drenched in awesome sauce. Oh, and another thing...is it just me, or does this movie not connect into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe in any way? Yeah, Tony had PTSD from falling through a worm hole, and there was that pointless scene with Bruce Banner in the credits, but that's about it. Methinks this third Iron Man installment was Marvel's cash cow. Ironically, the first installment of phase two is the lowest point of the totem pole.
But that's my opinion.