Marvel Studios’ films ranked

2016/10/12

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So, after months and months, I’ve finally come back to this blog for this bit of unfinished business: How the Marvel Studios movies stack up in my opinion.

 

13. The Incredible Hulk [2008]

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Though at the bottom of my rankings, I still find this to be a fun, fun film, and one that establishes the easy vibe that is an MCU movie. Every Marvel Studios film must meet this standard at minimum. So far, so good.

Low moment: Leader tease. Too, too in-joke and never went anywhere.

Fave moment: Banner and Betty in bed. It showed how much the Hulk was really a curse.

———

12. Iron Man 3 [2013]

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This is an odd movie among the rest. Being the first followup to the monstrously successful Avengers, it’s really a character piece about Stark’s PTSD from the events of that story.

Low moment: The Mandarin switch / the moment you realize the air rescue was the climax

Fave moment: -tie- the Mandarin’s attack / Air rescue.

———

11. Captain America: The First Avenger [2011]

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I was not hugely impressed by this one upon its release, but its homey charm has grown on me considerably. Making it a period piece was absolutely the right call.

Low moment: Cheesy Bucky fall. Really bad effects in that shot.

Fave moment: When shirtless Rogers is chasing the Nazi spy and he pauses a moment when a boy falls in the water during the chase. But the boy, between age 8 and 11, says, “Get him! I can swim.” Just a perfect moment that captures the period.

———

10. Iron Man 2 [2010]

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Many fans dislike this film more than I do. I find it hugely entertaining. It certainly has its problems — more on that below — but it’s my jam.

Low moment: Random Nick Fury appearance in the middle of the movie. This is the pivot point for the entire narrative, and it hinges on a character we’ve seen NO HINT of in the entire film… one who hasn’t even been named except in the hidden scene you didn’t know you had to stick around to see TWO YEARS AGO in the first Iron Man film.

Fave moment: Black Widow hallway fight. This was a low-key first look at the future of Marvel Studios movie marvelousness. (Though that curly-headed wig still looks all kinds of wrong.)

———

9. Avengers: Age of Ultron [2015]

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This film’s signature moment comes very early during the lead-in to the title card. We see that the driven Stark is still haunted by the PTSD seen in his previous appearance in Iron Man 3. Sure, he’s being manipulated by Wanda Maximoff, but the point stands. The movie that follows doesn’t quite live up to the promise. It’s fun to watch, but mostly sound and fury and Whedonism.

Low moment: Ultron vs. Klaue sums up my issues with the villain. In the scene, the robotic villain has an all-too-human, almost funny encounter with the gun runner that doesn’t seem at all right for an A.I. planning genocide. Too often, Ultron felt like a Whedon villain, which is normally great but here it was so off.

Fave moment: “If you walk out that door, you are an Avenger.” I thought Hawkeye had great moments in the first film, but he tops here. This scene made the clumsy turns of the twins from super-heels to heroes worth it.

———

8.Thor [2011]

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I still love how this film goes from epic Shakespearean family drama mixed with ice giant fights to a fish-out-of-water screwball romcom with equal aplomb. Some fans weren’t thrilled with the shift, but I loved it — and love this movie. Kat Dennings made it.

Low moment: Clint Barton goes to a weapon rack for a rifle, pauses, then picks a bow instead. These kinds of Easter eggs can be a bit too on the nose sometimes.

Fave moment: Thor’s moment with Jane, after he’s truly been humbled by his failure to lift his hammer and learned of his father’s (supposed) death.

———

7. Thor: The Dark World [2012]

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Honestly, this film and its predecessor switch spots all the time. Sequel gets the edge for its mid-film tragedy that threatens to turn on the waterworks.

Also, more Kat Dennings.

Low moment: Having to wait for the very end of the credits for the happy reunion I’d wanted.

Fave moment: Thor and Loki fighting together one last time. I’m one of two brothers so this theme always gets me in the feels.

———

6. Ant-Man [2015]

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An-Man takes what could have been an incredibly silly -looking concept and makes it heroic and heart-filled from jump, even if it doesn’t play quite as well for me on repeat viewing (which kept it from the top five). It’s also notable as one of the only MCU movies to sport a recognizable musical theme for its hero.

Low moment: There wasn’t really one for me.

Fave moment: That great Avengers cameo.

———

5. Guardians of the Galaxy [2014]

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I said over and over back then that I liked this movie but didn’t love it. But it’s aging better than a lot of the others on this list because so much of what works emotionally is done in minimal fashion, in the margins. It never beats you in the head and simply trusts that you got it. So Guardians grabs — at least for now — a spot in my top five. It’s well-deserved.

Low moment: There really needed to be a moment to sell us on the idea that Star-Lord or Gamora could survive in the vacuum of space. The filmmakers did other exposition well enough.

Fave moment: “It would not go ‘over my head.’ I would catch it. My reflexes are too fast.”

———

4. Iron Man [2008]

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It set the standard for what a Marvel Studios movie could and would be. It’s full of wit — thanks, Robert Downey Jr., for taking the role — and just enough action to whet our appetites.

Low moment: He’s capable, sure. But from the beginning, Terrence Howard felt miscast as James Rhodes. He was a case of “Let’s get the ‘Name black actor who’s not Denzel Washington’ for this role.”

Fave moment: It’s hard to pick one. But it’s probably the last line. It feels earned.

———

3. Captain America: Civil War [2016]

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What the DC films tried to do with its second outing in “BvS,” Marvel Studios built up to across a dozen movies, and the difference in quality shows in this romp. It’s great fun and still brings the pathos. One can see the POV of both camps and it really stings when our favorites get chin-checked.

Low moment: Occasionally the characters do things that are just a little bit TOO superhuman. (Only your ARM is super-strong, Bucky.) Yes, there are nods to reasons why, but…

Fave moment: Just about every moment featuring T’Challa, the Black Panther.

———

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier [2014]

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The best of all the MCU movies, it’s a political spy movie in superhero drag. The pacing and action are pitch perfect and Chris Evans has truly settled into the role.

Low moment: Like too many MCU films, the score is forgettable to an extreme.

Fave moment: The elevator scene.

———

1. Marvel’s Avengers [2012]

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From its opening scenes, this culmination of MCU Phase One was something special, something way greater than the sum of its previous parts. Director Joss Whedon really brought it with his trademark wit and willingness to go where the movie needed him to go. I was astounded, listening to the commentary, at the number of great moments and transitions in the film that were more or less happy accidents.

But the fact that each character gets his or her moment(s), sometimes in the same scenes, those were no accidents.

Low moment: None. It’s not the best MCU film, but it’s the most fun by far and has no false note.

Fave moment: “I’m always angry.” Followed by that signature group shot and that music — one of the few times score has made an impression in these films.

———

In a few weeks, this baker’s dozen will expand to 14 cinematic offerings with the inclusion of Dr. Strange on Nov. 4. So far, Marvel Studios simply hasn’t made a bad film. But like Guardians and Ant-Man before it, this one doesn’t look like a sure thing, and the Iron Man sequels and Age of Ultron all show weaknesses in each phase of the MCU. So we’ll see if the magic continues.

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