Ranking the Pre-Infinity War Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Movies: 18-10

In preparation for the release of Marvel: Infinity War this Friday, I have been watching all the Marvel movies in chronological order to prepare. Well, with the exception of Black Panther. I watched Black Panther first at the movies. But chronologically, it’s last before Infinity War. But really, if you’re not first, you’re last. So.

Look, a pony.

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In case you would like to embark on such a cinematic nerdventure, I suggest using this list. This list also outlines the TV shows but ain’t nobody got time for that. And calls Infinity War “Infinite War” at one point. But still, it’s a relatively good outline. The chronological order was:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Iron Man
  3. The Incredible Hulk
  4. Iron Man 2
  5. Thor
  6. The Avengers
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor: The Dark World
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
  12. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Ant-Man
  14. Captain America: Civil War
  15. Doctor Strange
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  17. Thor: Ragnarok
  18. Black Panther

Yeah, 18 movies. Like I said, I kinda had to watch Black Panther first because of the whole being-so-new thing. And this did start as something I was doing with my kids. But they bailed on me before the end. Yeah, even my 10 and 14 year old boys didn’t have the stomach for it. I am a beacon of fortitude. And I like sitting on the couch.

Now that I have watched all of these within a relatively similar timeframe and thus placed them all in a relatively similar mindspace, I thought it might make sense to rank them in order of preference.

Since there are SO MANY movies, maybe I should split them up. I will start here with the bottom 9 and then do my top 9 in my next post.

OK so I dunno….Ranking…Assemble? No, that’s no good.

Whatever. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up, shall we?

#18 – Thor: The Dark World

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“Stay behind me. I’ll go on ahead and upstage you.”

Oh Thor movies with the exception of Ragnarok. Neither of the first two Thor movies crack my top ten. Which is a lot to say considering he is a frickin’ Avenger that has a trilogy. But I don’t know – this movie just feels so much like it’s going through the motions. In the Avengers films and Ragnarok (and in many points in the original Thor), Thor is a pretty fun character. Chris Hemsworth has done a really good job with what could have been a meh character. He is really at his best when either his clueless dumb jock-ness undermines his royal upbringing or when he is just outwardly (and charmingly) arrogant.

This movie is just not nearly as fun as it could have been. There are small comedic moments here and there, but that’s really all you are clinging to in this one. The fight scenes are equally not nearly as fun as they could have been (especially in retrospect after the Led Zeppelin-ity in Ragnarok.)

#17 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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This is the movie that, to me, gave me my first glimpse of what could go wrong in Infinity War. This thing was way too all over the place. I feel like Ultron knew it had to connect some pieces and so it just kind of had this outline of major points it needed to hit and then filled in the rest.

And a lot of that filler just kind of trods along. All the character flash scenes are pretty terrible. This is true. And all the Black Widow/Hulk scenes are also kind of terrible.

But not as terrible as all the “Ma and Pa Hawkeye” scenes. Seriously. What was the pitch for this like?

“OK, so according to our focus groups, Hawkeye is literally the worst Avenger, right?”

“Right!”

“Cool – how do we make him more interesting.”

“He could be a farmer?”

“Brilliant! Let me have another hit of that crack pipe.”

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“New York is where I’d rather be.”

That’s not to say I hate everything about this movie. I actually kind of liked Ultron as a villain. I know a lot don’t, but I like a good monologuing villain and Ultron fit the bill. And I mean Scarlet Witch. She’s way better than Hawkeye. And the fight between Iron Man and Hulk was awesome. But it also reminded me what this movie could have been.

#16 – The Incredible Hulk

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Going into this whole thing, I fully expected this film to be at the very bottom. And I mean, it’s still not far from the bottom, but I looked at it with a different lens this time.

First off, Hulk is such a great character. The unwilling hero. He represents, I think, for a lot of people – hope. Hope that the worst of us can be turned into something good. So I love the character. Of course I do.

And I think Ed Norton does a pretty good job with it here. I think Ruffalo is the better Banner but still, he definitely kicks Eric Bana’s ass. Which is crazy. Since Bana sounds so much like Banner. I mean, it just fit.

The story is pretty standard Hulk stuff. Government bad. Hulk misunderstood. Hulk smash.

But the one thing that always feels off about this one is how easily the Hulk abandons the rage here. Trying to bridle his unbridled rage is such a big part of the later movies, it feels so out of place here how he reacts to Liv Tyler’s character. The humanizing of Hulk in Ragnarok feels so much more real because we have seen how much work has been put into it. Feels sort of slapped on here.

But still. Better than Ang Lee.

#15 – Iron Man 3

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On watching Iron Man 3 this time around, I found myself hating it less than when I first saw it in theaters. But that’s not saying a lot. Because I walked out of that theater, I think, visibly angry by what I just saw.

My big issue with this movie (and coincidentally with Iron Man 2 as well) is how much they waste what they have. Robert Downey Jr. essentially made the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And while he’s still likable enough in this movie, I kept wishing it was more. And I mean – if you have all those suits, why wait until the end to use them? Jeesh.

One thing, though – I remember really hating the whole Mandarin switcheroo when I first saw this movie. Funny thing – on this watch, I found Ben Kingsley to be the best part of this whole movie. Wow, I have really grown. Says the man who devoted nearly two whole days of time over the last couple months watching comic book movies.

#14 – Iron Man 2

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“Hi, nice to meet you. I am Miss Best Part of Iron Man 2”

I really don’t get why most people put this one at the bottom of the Iron Man trilogy. I mean, there aren’t any big surprises here but I think it does the job. At least better than the third installment.

I think Mickey Rourke is a much MUCH better villain than Guy Pearce and Sam Rockwell I wish was in like every movie all the time. The race track scene is great. Robert Downey Jr. continues to be awesome and shows some much-needed vulnerability in this one. I dunno…

I mean, it still suffers from feeling like it could be more but I think it suffers more than the 3rd installment because while part 3 is compared more often to part 2, this film was always going to pale compared to the original.  It’s all optics, man.

Plus, I mean, we meet Black Widow here. And erm. I mean. RAWR.

#13 – Ant-Man

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OK so now we get to the part of the list where the good really starts outweighing the bad. And that’s pretty awesome being that we are at #13 out of an 18-movie list. Remember when a good comic book movie was the exception, not the rule? Marvel really changed things.

I remember when I first heard they were making an Ant-Man. I responded much like John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd did in that SNL skit when they heard about Ant-Man.

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But this movie REALLY surprised me. I love how it’s set up more like a heist movie with a superhero thrown in than a typical superhero movie. This theme will come through a lot in some of the other movies higher up on the list, but I think Marvel has done a really good job making every movie in the MCU seem different. They don’t just follow the same formula.

Paul Rudd is of course awesome. I mean, Brian Fantana. And the supporting actors (including Michael Douglas) are great as well. Though done better in Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s hard to not like a good redemption story. Oh, and it’s super funny.

It scores so low for two reasons. One, it just feels inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. An enjoyable distraction but still, mainly just a distraction. Ant-Man could have also easily been introduced in one of the more ensemble films. And two, Evangeline Lily is just….not great. I remain concerned about Ant-Man and the Wasp. Hopefully, I am proven wrong.

#12 – Thor

I don’t even think I saw Thor in the theater. How about that?

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And I kind of regret it. Remember, none of us had ever been introduced to Hemsworth-as-Thor so from the outside, it looked kind of boring.

But it’s actually a pretty great movie in most parts. I have already talked about it, but Hemsworth is a really likable Thor – goofy, overconfident – and he plays him really well in this one. I think I only saw this after I saw him in The Avengers because I liked the character so much. Look, all I really knew of Thor before all this was that he was the guy the little girl in Adventures in Babysitting mistook the mechanic for.

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And we also get to meet Loki here, who still stands as probably the best villain in all of the MCU? Just as a reluctant here is so captivating, so is a conflicted villain. Loki is that, time and time again. He’s funny. We like him. We get his issues. But he still, like, kills a bunch of people. He’s great.

I will say though – Natalie Portman is not that great in this. Her performance as Jane is meh. Super forgettable. Wait, who was I talking about?

Oh right, Natalie Portman as Jane.

See? THAT forgettable.

#11 – Captain America: The First Avenger

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Being so early on in the MCU, the costume budget was a bit tight. The costume itself, however, was very loose fitting.

Every movie from here on out is legit good. I love Captain America: The First Avenger. This was actually the first time I found myself really understanding what Marvel could do with these movies. As I said back with Ant-Man, Marvel is often changing the game. And they did that with Captain America. It felt to me like no other superhero movie before it.

Set in World War II, fighting Nazis, the whole film has more of an old time feel to it than anything. It felt very Rocketeer-meets-Raiders of the Lost Ark at times. And I LOVED that about it. It’s been done since…ahem cough Wonder Woman ahem cough…but back then, it felt super different to me.  Like a “real” movie.

Chris Evans is a great Cap. And this movie launches what I believe to be the best trilogy in the MCU.  Captain America, to me, has always been the Superman of the Marvel Universe. Necessary, but boring compared to the characters that surround him. These movies, however, have given him so much depth and conflict. He wants to always do the right thing, but oftentimes figuring that out is the bigger challenge.

Red Skull is…fine? He’s ok.  I mean, you can’t beat having a Nazi for a villain obviously. But he should be more terrifying than he is.

#10 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

TRASH PANDA

Definitely ending this post on a high note, Guardians 2 is another one that has me thinking differently about it upon subsequent viewings than I first did walking out of the theater. As you will see in the next post, I LOVE the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  When I left his one, I found myself feeling unsatisfied.

I know part of that was my expectations going in. Nothing was going to make me feel the way Guardians of the Galaxy did the first time I saw it. But I remember thinking in my head, “So what?” after seeing it. Like, feeling like it was just another fun little movie that really had no point.

I was wrong though. I get it now. The first movie was great and introduced us to some amazing characters. But this one showed us who they really are. Outside of mega-ensemble movies like Avengers, Civil War, and the upcoming Infinity War movies, the two Guardians movies are special in that they assemble their own little group. And honestly, a group that is relatively unknown to those outside the lines of comic book fandom.  In fact, even within the boundaries of fandom, this team is completely different from those that appear in the comics.  I mean, Yondu and some other Ravagers are there but yeah, different.

This movie lets us really get to know the Guardians. The movie still retains a good amount of the heart of the original. And it’s still a stupid amount of fun.

Keep an eye out for my next post, which will count down my top 9 Marvel movies. Or don’t. I am gonna write it either way.

2 comments

  1. […] my last post, I started going through a ranking of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies that I watched […]

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  2. […] how can one not love about The Incredibles? I already did a whole ranking of Marvel movies here and here so you know I have an affinity for superhero […]

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