After watching the kickoff of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cash cow, I resurrected a list of mine I was playing with on how the first 22 movies fall out. It’s not easy. I don’t know how a sports writer can rank 32 teams. Usually the top few are either obvious or bubble up, and the same with the bottom few bubbling down. But the middle 20+? I suppose they do it the way I did…start plugging in a somewhat rational order and then bounce each off of the higher and lower adjacent movies. Most of them have huge script problems…okay, almost all. Yes, these are comic book movies and I need to alter my expectations. And yes, the second time through they tend to fare a little better with me… I can’t help that my mind recoils at the materializing of suits and masks out of nothing. Or ordinary human bodies taking killing punishment and getting up for more. Or…ordinary humans processing unrealistic amounts of data and reacting with unrealistic, if sometimes augmented, reflexes.
Anyway, starting with the bottom of the proverbial barrel…
#22 Captain America Civil War (2016) – Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. had no hope of saving this one. Nor the host of extras. The Russos blew it. I don’t care if this sort of mirrored the comics; the entire premise and visualization was more than stupid and so much of the action was logically inconsistent within the framework of the universe presented. Since the first viewing, the worst of the canon decreased more with the second viewing.
#21 Avengers Infinity War (2018) – So this one beat out Ultron on the dumb scale; scrotum chin and his “solution” might be the stupidest things ever presented in the MCU; The conversion of Red Hands with little explanation was weird, like some things were left out. And what’s with the finger (um, glove?) snapping? Seriously?
#20 Avengers Age of Ultron (2015) – Oh my, but when Joss Whedon fails, he fails epically! This was a mess of a film. James Spader was his typically intense self, but he had crap to work with and unfortunately, as bad and incoherent as his scenes were, they were the best of a dismal offering. It easily could be last, …except for that pair of wars.
#19 Iron Man 3 (2013) – Okay, please bring RDJ back. I so disliked what they turned him into in this cluster. Plus the suit evolutions got extremely absurd. CGI for the sake of CGI. The implausibility factor breaks the scale much in too many of these – and I am talking about the implausibility within the framework of the universe they have crafted. Too much of a reach.
#18 Thor: The Dark World (2013) – I kept “remembering” this as being the worst (until Civil War) but it was not as bad as I misremembered. Of course, it was also not that good.
Kat Dennings played a fun character and the humor was so welcome, but all in all, …
#17 Captain America Winter Soldier (2014) – The Russos joined the MCU with this one and of their four, it was the best. And yet, their best landed in the number 17 spot. The complete infiltration of Hydra bit and the destruction of DC…
Oh well…it’s a comic book.
#16 Avengers Endgame (2019) – Big hype. Big box office. That was a painfully long four hour movie (oh, come on…that first hour slothed like two hours and was excruciatingly drawn out). The invincibility of the chin guy was one of the more logically inconsistent elements in the canon. The distinction of being only the second MCU movie I did not fall asleep to in the theater (nor did I have to interrupt to, um, break…) I number among a statistically nil data set who did not think it was a good ending to the long game arc. Now, I’ve only seen it once and I almost always have to see something twice for the BS detector to hibernate. I might change my mind on its place in this list.
#15 Black Panther (2018) – Probably the biggest disappointment on this list. It had potential, but plummeted severely because they diminished what might have been a decent screenplay by thugging up a guy who went to MIT. They’re the ones who framed the picture, and they’re the ones who went all street on the audience. Probably unnoticed by most of the demographic. Throw in a suit materializing from a necklace, and the embarrassing grunting of the Jabari tribe, it actually was worse the second viewing.
#14 Iron Man 2 (2010) – Single word description? Incoherent. And Micky Rourke could have forced this down further…he was such a bad caricature… but there were too many worse than even this. It should probably have been apparent by now that I don’t read the comics…haven’t since I was maybe 13. So the Iron Man junior of “War Machine” was just another puzzle.
#13 The Incredible Hulk (2008) – This was the only one of the 22 I never saw in the theater (so it, one may deduce, didn’t put me to sleep…in the theater). And it wasn’t as bad as its reputation. Norton did okay, but Ruffalo fit the direction better, as did the animation. Given its general panning, you could ask “Why almost in the top half?” Because of the rest of the bottom half.
#12 Spider-Man Homecoming (2016) – Michael Keaton is a fantastic actor and didn’t get enough screen time. I’m not enamored of the new MJ, but at least this incarnation of Peter Parker wasn’t a total wimp. RDJ was good…and I like Favreau as Happy. Framing Parker as a 15 year old is bothersome, but what’s done is done.
#11 Captain Marvel (2019) – This probably should be lower, but this is the first Marvel movie I did not fall asleep to in the theater. And it is the only MCU movie with Samuel L. Jackson where the Nick Fury character was not a detriment – unfortunately, he’s in a lot of them. The other movie I’ve only seen once.
#10 Doctor Strange (2016) – So, I tend to like Cumberbatch in his hero or semi anti-hero roles and this is pretty good for the most part. Cumberbatch is quite good in this character; nice bits of humor woven in and the Inception CGi was pretty cool, but…there’s always a “but”, right?… the circle hands are really annoying.
#9 Ant-Man and Wasp (2018) – Rudd is still good, and an increase in screen time for Lilly helped, but Michael Peña as Luis steals the show, pushing this into the top half of the list. This might have ranked higher except for that “Quantum Realm” thing. Too comic book-y for me. Fishburne plays his part well, but the Ghost interference was a distraction.
#8 Thor (2011) – When I first saw the trailers, I wondered what Anthony Hopkins was doing slumming in a Marvel film, but I got over it eventually, not that my opinion matters in the least! Hemsworth has good comedic timing – the coffee scene! – and Tom Hiddleston’s character is brilliantly mischievous, setting up a good arc through the rest of the appearances.
#7 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – The first time through, this was bad – really did not like it. The baby Groot opening was fun, but the end sequence disappointed. Except the Yondu part; well not the worst part of the Yondu part. I like Kurt Russell, but the writers comic booked this one down to a rather dumb level.
#6 Iron Man (2008) – RDJ.
…needs no other reason.
Okay…one more reason: AC/DC.
#5 Avengers (2012) – I have all of the soundtracks to the Marvel films (Iron Man 2 is odd…just AC/DC) and the best theme is the Avengers theme – I sometimes have it on a loop in my head, which can be a pain but for this one…not as much. RDJ is pretty good and Hiddleston as Loki? Puny God…priceless!Whedon could have made it smarter, but then he’d have lost half his demographic.
#4 Captain America The First Avenger (2011)– Cap… why are we still talking about this? Evans is great, the effects great, the story better than average. The alternate universe Hydra stuff wasn’t even as problem!
#3 Ant-Man (2015) – If the order of this list doesn’t hint at a reat fun, and Paul Rudd a very good addition to the Universe. The anti-aging of Douglas was pretty good, CGI also pretty good and Luis? Totally funny. Love it. Corey Stoll is a good foil and drips psychotic.
#2 Thor Ragnarok (2017) – narrowly loses to Guardians; fun for the most part and a refreshing treatment. Jeff Goldblum was wonderful, Hemsworth’s comic abilities again shone. Kate Blanchet played her part with comic irony quite well. Most excellent choice in The Immigrant Song, which I now tongue-in-cheek call “The Thor Song” (apologies to Led Zeppelin.)
#1 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – It wins top honors because it is just plain fun, even after several viewings. Chris Pratt is great in this, as is the raccoon, and the guy with reflexes so fast nothing goes over his head. The bad guy is weird, but for there to be heroes, there have to be the opposites.
So…my opinions, my list; it’s not as easy as you’d think. They aren’t all great (once upon a time 90% of the Navy’s officers were in the top 10%), and even if they were there has to be a stratification. As to Phase 4, I’d park that first entry between 13 and 14 on this list and get blasted for it!