Ranking the Pre-Infinity Wars Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Movies: 9-1

In my last post, I started going through a ranking of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies that I watched (in chronological order…GLAYVIN) in preparation for Avengers: Infinity Wars.

Being that there are a crap-ton of Marvel movies here, I had to split this ranking in half, ranking nine in the last post and nine in this post. The good news in all that is that now we are into the top 9, which means they are all pretty much awesome. At least in my opinion. Which is the only one that matters. Because it’s MY BLOG.

#9 – Captain America: Winter Soldier

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Once again, Marvel really surprised me with this one. I remember when I first saw Winter Solider. I went with the boys and our friends, the Nerdys, to a cinema pub to watch it. I had heard the good reviews before seeing it, but was still not 100% what to expect. It was a solo Captain America movie set in present-day. As I said before I really liked the whole World War II feel of Captain America, so I felt like maybe I would miss that.

But nope, this movie blew me away when I first saw it. Again, Marvel did something different and created sort of a political-thriller/superhero mashup. A sort of Super-Manchurian Candidate film. And it worked. Well.

The introduction of Falcon and inclusion of Black Widow helped support what I still think is one of the better stories in the MCU – the brainwashing of Bucky to be the Winter Soldier. The beginning of another redemption story that was to be played out over the next few Cap films and, I assume, really come to light in the upcoming Infinity War.

And the Winter Soldier is badass. In fact, amidst all the story, there is a ton of badassery in this one.  Nick Fury’s assassination attempt/car chase scene is probably one of my favorite five minutes in all of the MCU.

#8 – Captain America: Civil War

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Like I said, Cap has THE BEST trilogy out of all the characters that got one in the MCU. All three are solid entries. However, I really feel like it’s almost unfair to even call this a Captain America movie. It’s total ensemble – Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, Iron Patriot, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Winter Soldier, Vision, Scarlet Witch. It’s basically a Hulk-less Avengers movie.

And of course, all those characters are a big part of what makes this movie awesome. It was our first glimpse of Tom Holland as Spider-Man, which helped to ease concerns over yet another reboot (but more on Spider-Man later) AND Black Panther.

But somehow, amidst all this, it still feels like a Captain America movie. As you watch this, it does feel like the third act of the Captain America story. We first meet Captain America as all simply “truth, justice, and the American Way” and then we see his black-and-white views minimally challenged in The Avengers and majorly challenged in Winter Soldier. Then, here, he breaks away from not only those trying to control him, but from his friends. He still fights for what he believes in, but his beliefs are shifting.

I have said it already, but this MCU Captain America is a really really interesting spin on who I thought was a relatively boring character. And Civil War is the culmination of all that.

#7 – Thor: Ragnarok

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While Captain America’s trilogy is the most solid, I would have to say Thor’s is the most inconsistent. Dark World is my lowest-scoring of all the MCU movies. His first movie is somewhere in the middle. And Ragnarok scores as one of my favorites. He’s as complex as he is dreamy.

But Ragnarok is amazing. Once again, I like what Thor’s character is capable of – he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with but he balances that with a strong dose of comedy. And this movie is exactly that. This movie is the movie he was supposed to always have.

The opening scene, complete with Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, is both kick-ass and fun (which I think they really WANTED to do in Dark World but never quite got there), and the destruction of Asgard…sorry, ASSgard. Or Assburgh? Heh, Grand Master FTW.

Speaking of the Grand Master though, the supporting cast in Ragnarok is equally good here. Jeff Goldblum is all Jeff Goldblum-y as Grand Master and I swear to God this better not be the last I see of Korg. Of course, Loki is great as always. And Valkyrie was…well Valkyrie was ok I suppose. I actually thought she was the weakest. And Hulk…wait sorry…TALKING HULK…was awesome. Who knew I could like Hulk even more than I already did?

But Hela though.

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A lot of people complain about the “villain problem” in MCU movies. With the exception of Loki, villains in these movies have been regarded as sub-par by many. Well, I mean. Cate Blanchett as Hela though. She is a GREAT villain. Ruthless. Strong. Odin’s sister. All that. I mean, she crushes Mjolnir. Just like, crushes it. I kind of hope she comes back.  My hope was that her whole “Death” thing was an allusion to her being Thanos’ muse (as in the comics, he fights for Death) but eh. Still, bring me more Hela.

#6 – Doctor Strange

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Much like Ant-Man, I always wondered how a character like Doctor Strange would work in the MCU. I mean, we had gods, aliens, scientific experiments, talking raccoons, trees but for some reason, the idea of introducing magic into the universe just didn’t seem to fit.

So I LOVE how much this movie proved me wrong. And broken record alert – this movie felt like no other superhero movie I have ever seen. Even the previews had me really concerned for this one. It just felt much too out there.

And it was. It definitely was out there. But I was ALL IN. Benedict Cumberbatch was such a good choice here. He plays arrogant like no one’s business and I really liked seeing how he grew into becoming Doctor Strange. There was some humor here for sure – I still giggle at the whole “Mister Doctor” exchange when he meets Kaecilius – but this one was VERY story-driven for me with the fight scenes and effects helping to make everything pop.

I’d say this one maybe suffers a little from that whole villain problem. I mean, Kaecilius is ok….but he’s no Hela. Did I mention how awesome Hela is?

Fun fact: Did you know Benedict Cumberbatch also voices Dormammu?

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#5 – Black Panther

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The last movie chronologically set before Infinity War, Black Panther delivered on nearly all accounts in terms of what I want from an MCU movie:

I thought every single member of the cast did an outstanding job playing their parts. Chadwick Boseman was nearly perfect at T’Challa and Danai Gurira steals a ton of scenes as Okoye. But Michael B. Jorden has to be my favorite out of the entire cast. With this film (and Ragnarok and Spider-Man) I have to assume the whole “MCU villain problem” discussion is put to rest.

Beyond that though, the film is beautiful. We have heard hints of Wakanda and expected a big payoff. And this movie DELIVERED. I want to go to there.

It’s probably the most “serious” of all the MCU movies. But again, that feels like the right direction for this one. I think going in, Coogler knew what he had here – a movie that lifts up women and people of color more than any other superhero movie has. That sort of thing deserves a more serious tone than, say a Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy. And once again, Marvel delivered something that felt completely fresh, 18 movies in. That’s quite an accomplishment.

#4 – Iron Man

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And we go from the last of 18 to the first. Iron Man is the movie that opened my eyes to what Marvel could do. Look, I didn’t hate all the earlier Spider-Man movies (though Part 3 may be one of the most awful things I have ever seen.) But remember Daredevil? Fantastic Four? Spider-Man 3?

I know. I already mentioned Spider-Man 3. But man, it was awful. Deserves a second mention.

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UGH

In terms of movies before Iron Man, Marvel properties were not getting much love on film. Aside from X-Men, of course. I mean, X2 still stands as one of the greatest.

And then we heard about Iron Man coming out. A movie about a hero most people knew relatively little about. Directed by the guy who Mikey from Swingers and directed Elf. And starring Robert Downey Jr., who was just coming out of a phase where he was more known for his off-screen run-ins than anything he was doing on-screen.

But I remember walking out of Iron Man feeling like I just saw something I had never seen before. This was even a few months before the Dark Knight came out. I think we were still skeptical of comic book movies, being burned more than we were being satisfied.  And even Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which also stands as an example of what good comic book movies can be, don’t feel like this. While I love them, they never seemed all that…I don’t know…fun?

And Iron Man definitely is fun. Lots of action, lots of humor, a solid origin story, and RDJ brings a whole lot of awesome to the table.

It’s funny actually how both Iron Man and Dark Knight came out in the same year. They are both such similar characters on paper – rich, intelligent, and arrogant alter egos using their means to rise above and do something meaningful. And while both have a degree of inner turmoil, obviously Batman typically drifts towards the darker side of things and Iron Man seems to enjoy himself a lot more.

Both great characters, but I guess I get more why someone might rally around an Iron Man over a Batman. I mean, he’s a good time. He’s also easier to hear. I mean, seriously, Bale – what’s with all the whispering?

Hm, Ben Affleck? I have no recollection.

#3 – Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man ever.

Finally, someone plays Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) how he is SUPPOSED to be played – like an awkward, nerdy high school kid. Seriously, I mean I already loved what he was doing in Civil War and it was just a lot more of that in this movie.

I just love how he played up the whole sense of amazement at everything that was happening around him – having super powers, working with the Avengers, etc.- and how he just wanted to do something, anything, to prove himself. It all felt very real. I would imagine, if I was a kid that was all of a sudden thrust into being Spider-Man in a world where the Avengers exist, I would be doing everything I can to try and be a hero. I mean, at least I hope I would.

And Marvel once again dips into other genres – namely, high school movies – to create something insanely fresh. Which is a lot to say considering this is the third reboot of Spider-Man in the span of 15 years.

And as I mentioned above, the villain problem is nonexistent here. Michael Keaton is incredible as the sympathetic villain, Vulture. The movie even had a twist I really did not see coming. I mean, maybe I should have? But I didn’t. But yeah, I mean, Michael Keaton is the man, obviously.

And so is Tom Holland. The best Spider-man ever.

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#2 – The Avengers

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So, fine – when I talked about Age of Ultron in the last post, I said that movie had me concerned about what Infinity War could be. But the first Avengers? This is what I hope it is.

Obviously, a big part of the joy of watching The Avengers is the whole “getting the band together” feel of it. We had witnessed the build-up of it through the previous 5 movies and we finally got our payoff. With a better Hulk.

And not only did it deliver on the action I wanted but I liked just as much the interplay between the team. You really felt like this was a movie done by a team and a studio that cares about its source material – making sure audiences had a good time watching it but also moving the story along and building on the investment audiences had already made in these characters.

For a long time, THIS was my favorite superhero movie of all-time….

#1 – Guardians of the Galaxy

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…until this movie came along.

From the very first scene of this movie, I remember thinking in the theater – “This is going to be awesome.” Awesome.  As soon as the music started playing, you just knew. It was gonna be a good time.

And I know I have said it before but this one’s number 1. I won’t be saying it again. And I kind of have to say it here.

This movie was yet another different turn for Marvel.

A team made up entirely of anti-heroes. A talking raccoon. A walking tree. A superhero movie soundtrack worth listening to.  Humor. Heart. Action. It was great.

And I mean, people must have thought they were crazy for making this one. No one even knew who these guys were. When this movie was announced as coming out, I largely discounted it and didn’t even know if I was going to see it. It looks far too cutesy and gimmicky for me – very much outside the realm of what I had come to expect from Marvel.

But I was legit blown away when I saw it. I think I smiled the entire time I watched this movie.

Well, except for the “We Are Groot” part – I mean, I have a soul.

I just think this movie is the one (out of every other MCU movie) that can hook those that typically shy away from comic book movies because this one isn’t your typical comic book movie. It definitely has enough to satisfy those that have been following the MCU, but I think this is the one MCU movie that would have the best chance of surviving on its own.

Even Nickie liked it. So, that’s gotta tell you something.

Anyways, seeing Infinity War tomorrow and remaining optimistic despite early mixed reviews. Regardless of what happens, we will always have this…

 

One comment

  1. […] 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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