With Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron upon us – bringing an end to “Phase Two” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the process – I figured now is a good time to compile a top ten list of the currently released movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s my ranking of the ten movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s phases one and two from least to greatest. Here they are.
*Caution: Some spoilers ahead!*
10: Iron Man 3
A lot of people seem to think the Marvel movies can do no wrong, but Iron Man 3 is proof of the contrary. Iron Man 3 is a pretty terrible movie. Yeah, that’s my opinion, but it’s also the truth.
There’s just so much that falls apart in Iron Man 3. The movie tries to add a new depth to Tony Stark by giving him a case of PASD (Post Avengers Stress Disorder), but it comes at the expense of all the character’s fun qualities. But then halfway through the movie Tony Stark inexplicably recovers from his trauma and goes back to his old ways.
Then there’s the whole villain scenario. Now, unlike most people who complain about Iron Man 3’s interpretation of The Mandarin, I actually don’t mind that he’s different from the comic book character who inspired him. It might have something to do with the fact that I’ve read a grand total of zero Iron Man comics, but I don’t have much of a problem when filmmakers *gasp!* take some creative liberties with the source material.
That is, when those creative liberties aren’t utter nonsense. Unfortunately, Iron Man 3’s Mandarin is utter nonsense. The movie actually had a good thing going for it with its villain at first, with the Mandarin not being a super villain at all, but a terrorist. The mass destruction he was able to cause without super powers is what made him interesting. Combine the terrorist villain with its PTSD-suffering hero, and Iron Man 3 seemed to be evoking some real world themes.
But then the plot twist happened, and the Mandarin is revealed to be the most cliched super villain possible, with the lamest motivation imaginable (“Tony Stark didn’t talk to me that one time!”) and the movie as a whole implodes into the most generic super hero movie the MCU has yet produced.
The finale is more ridiculous than exciting, Pepper Potts getting super powers is probably the most shoehorned ‘girl power’ moment ever, and don’t get me started on why Tony Stark chooses to continue risking his life as Iron Man when he can do more good for the world controlling an army of Iron Men from the safety of his home. It’s a mess.
9: Thor: The Dark World
Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe really got off to a rough start. First was Iron Man 3, followed by the “more tolerable” Thor: The Dark World, a movie whose best quality is that its title brings to mind The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
That’s not to say it’s all bad, but it is entirely forgettable. It’s basically an obligatory chapter in the saga, with the characters simply going through the motions so that they can get back to the Avengers. As part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it serves as a nice, really long commercial for the next Avengers movie, but it’s hard to enjoy very much on its own merits.
Thor is still doing his Thor thing, seemingly not learning a thing from the events of the first movie or The Avengers. Jane Foster is still awkwardly portrayed by Natalie Portman, and the comic relief characters are taken to new levels of ridiculous. The plot is convoluted gobbledygook, and then there’s the villain, Malekith, who is the definition of a forgettable antagonist. Worst of all, we still have yet to see what a Bildshnipe looks like.
Thank heavens for Loki, who’s still one of the MCU’s most lively characters even when the movie around him his lifeless. If it weren’t for Loki, Thor: The Dark World may have taken Iron Man 3’s spot at the very bottom of this list.
8: The Incredible Hulk
I know most people feel a bit iffy about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, but I don’t know, I enjoyed it alright. It was considerably better than the 2003 Hulk movie anyway. Hulk actually smashed stuff in this one!
The fact of the matter is it’s hard to make a standalone Hulk film. Sure, when Bruce Banner is the Hulk it makes for obvious action movie material. But given the nature of the character, every time Bruce Banner is Bruce Banner, you are just left waiting for him to become the Hulk. It’s a hard balancing act between building character development for Bruce Banner so that we actually care about the man, and delivering the mindless Hulk smashing that everyone wants to see. It isn’t too surprising that Marvel still seems skeptical to make another Hulk solo film even after seven years.
But, as far as Hulk movies go, this is arguably as good as you’re going to get. You get to see Hulk destroy a lot of stuff, the movie throws in a worthy monster for him to fight, and even does its best to make Bruce Banner interesting, despite Edward Norton’s sleep-inducing take on the character.
Sure, it’s far from great. But, y’know, Hulk smash!
7: Iron Man 2
First of all, yes, I like Iron Man 2 more than Iron Man 3. It’s not a popular opinion (even with the divisive nature of Iron Man 3), but I stand by it since Iron Man 2 at least runs with its ridiculous qualities from the get-go, instead of melting away promising attributes in favor of stupidity.
Case in point: Iron Man 2 proudly features moments such as this.
That’s right, Tony Stark eating doughnuts while sitting inside of a giant doughnut as if it were his throne. The point is Iron Man 3 needed more doughnuts.
In all seriousness, Iron Man 2 hits some bumps in the road: Its super villain, Ivan Vanko, is actually a much better foe than he gets credit for, but he is horribly underutilized. The final action scene feels a bit sloppy (what is it with Iron Man and finales?), and overall it can feel a bit like a rehash of the first Iron Man.
But Iron Man 2 has its redeeming qualities too: Robert Downey Jr. continues to make Tony Stark one of the more entertaining super heroes, the majority of action scenes work just fine, and we get a humorous businessman baddie in Justin Hammer.
Iron Man 2 is better than its reputation suggests, even if it isn’t all that remarkable.
Here’s where things get considerably better…
In a lot of ways, Thor is the most ridiculous movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Its hero throws a hammer like a boomerang, travels to Earth through a device that looks like the final stage of Super Mario Kart, and the movie features a number of characters who regularly use magic, but refuse to call it magic.
But it’s a lot of fun largely for these reasons. While Iron Man and (to a lesser degree) The Incredible Hulk tried to make their movies as grounded as humanly possible with the source material, Thor basically said ‘screw it’ and decided to do whatever it wanted, no matter how outlandish.
It works for the most part. Yeah, the movie’s a bit formulaic, but Thor is made into an appropriately larger-than-life hero, Loki gets high marks as an over-the-top villain, and its interesting to see a brotherly relationship between said hero and villain.
And of course there’s the whole “visitor from another world who had a grudge match that leveled a small town” aspect going for it.