Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe Pt 1: The Bottom Half
Hello there! This week’s post doesn’t have anything to do with the subject matter of The Other Identity. But you already know what’s going on here. Instead, I thought I would familiarize you, our wonderful audience with my own personal experiences with the new pop culture we now exist in, in which superheroes and their stories exist on the collective zeitgeist of pretty much everyone in the world. Comic book movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe specifically, are the new premiere blockbusters. Regardless of how you feel about their place in the modern landscape of cinema, their foothold in the industry is undeniable and almost inescapable.
For more than a decade, Marvel Studios has led that charge. Comic flicks are a commodity because of the work that Kevin Feige and the rest of his team have been able to accomplish. So why are we here today you may ask? What is the purpose of writing this? Well, we are going to rank those movies. And honestly, this is about as definitive as an opinion can get, so buckle up kids. Today we will be covering the first half of my Marvel Cinematic Universe rankings. Let’s get into it.
#23 – The Incredible Hulk
The movie stinks. No two bones about it. In my original endeavor of ranking these films on Letterboxd (follow me there @kevinomo), I didn’t even write a review for this movie. I feel nothing toward it which is an absolute shame because I love the Hulk. I loved the Hulk before he became a lynchpin member of the MCU. But Edward Norton’s portrayal is so bland and forgettable. It’s especially evident when you stack Norton up against what Mark Ruffalo was able to do in his first outing at Bruce Banner. The movie also simply didn’t even need to exist. Ruffalo’s introduction in the Avengers was a much better method of indoctrinating the character into the MCU, and again, just contributes to how forgettable this film is.
#22 – Thor: The Dark World
Imagine what this film could have been if Patty Jenkins stayed on. Honestly, I have a hard time imagining any interpretation of this script being any less boring than it was. There’s no point where The Dark World ropes you in with any kind of tension. Whether the focus is on the main plot with the Dark Elves, or with Thor and Jane’s relationship. Everything comes off as passive and it’s simply unengaging. Thor is a little less uptight in Dark World compared to the first film, which I assume is a lesson learned from The Avengers. Probably the only nice thing I have to say here.
#21 Ant-Man and The Wasp
Ant-Man and The Wasp take all the quirkiness and personality of the first movie and presents it in a much more shallow light. This movie lacks any real soul to it, and it was evident that its release hot off the tail of Infinity War was the main reason people were going to see it. The plot is not engaging, and only serves the purpose of positioning Ant-Man for Avengers: Endgame. There isn’t much of a meaningful story being told here.
Thor’s MCU debut is one of the most puzzling movies in this entire 23 film franchise. While I don’t think the story is all that bad, albeit a bit ambitious at this point in the MCU’s life. However, the direction and choices made give me a headache. There are SO. MANY. DUTCH ANGLES. I wasn’t being figurative. This movie literally gives me a headache. Why are Chris Hemsworth’s eyebrows dyed blonde??? Explain why establishing shots at the beginning of scenes tilted diagonally in almost every single scene!!! Why was this movie made the way it was made??? Just a big missed opportunity to endear people to Thor in the MCU much earlier than they were.
#19 Avengers: Age of Ultron
UH-OH, IT’S HOT TAKE TIME. While Robbie from The Other Identity will disagree until his dying day, this movie is not very good. The theme of these rankings so far is that sequels have not been able to recapture the essence of what made their predecessors successful. The original Avengers film was a cinematic achievement once thought impossible. To be fair to Ultron, it was tasked with following up that impossible film. The issue is the failure to recapture the epic scale of its predecessor.
However, the film definitely feels like a stepping stone toward something greater in the MCU, for better or worse. The characters feel more shallow. Any depth they may have had was sacrificed for the semi-humorous banter that many of come to dislike from the Marvel films. The kind of dialogue that elicits not a full laugh, but a sharp exhale through the nose. That’s pretty much what Ultron is, halfway to a laugh. And that would be fine if this wasn’t an Avengers movie.
To be honest, I thought I would remember this movie more fondly than I did. It does stand out more than I thought it would, in the sense of the film having its own distinct personality. However, in the moments where the film isn’t funny, it comes off as boring. This is due to what appeared to me to be a failure to develop any real tension from an antagonist that the audience was able to care about.
#17 Captain America: The First Avenger
So we’re now in the territory where I pretty much can enjoy watching all the remaining films on this list. Their placement just comes down to how much more I like other movies. This is the biggest reason the first Cap film appears to be so low. I like the idea of a melding the genre of comic book movies and World War 2 movies together. However, for me, I feel like the film does not lean enough into World War 2 elements. The film also does have some pacing issues that make these other problems I have more evident and harder to ignore.
#16 Doctor Strange
Oh yeah. This movie is trippy as hell. Doctor Strange is easily one of the most visually bold and creative Marvel films. Some of the sequences are simply stunning. Other than that, the story loses momentum heading into the final arc. You’ll notice a pattern here in that many Marvel films have trouble creating compelling villains. It’s evident as early as Thor, and it has truly hamstrung some of these movies from achieving greatness. I believe this to be the case with Dr. Strange, as Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely kills it as the namesake character. The outstanding visuals and Cumberbatch’s performance are enough to carry this film 2/3 of the way to the finish line. But Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius fails to inspire any interest in the big final confrontation.
#15 Iron Man 2
Another hot-take, I think? Most online discourse I see surrounding this film refers to it being one of the worst of the Marvel films, but I think I’ve always enjoyed watching this movie. While I think I can understand why people don’t like Iron Man 2, it’s still an incredibly fun, globe-hopping action movie. The issue that people have, that I can understand, is that the characters lack depth. Additionally, when compared to the first Iron Man film, the characters seem to regress from their previous development. But none of that matters! You know what DOES matter? Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. That’s the only thing that matters.
#14 Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is a solid movie. It is not SJW man hatred. Not the liberal agenda gone wild. It’s a fine film. Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m of the belief that this movie could have been much better. I love the additions made to the greater MCU with the Skrulls. Additionally, the 90s setting was incredibly refreshing. I also imagine it was equally as disorienting for Brie Larson to do her role for Avengers Endgame before shooting this film, which may explain why it takes a while for her to find her footing here. Regardless, a fun watch.
#13 Captain America: Civil War
I go back and forth a lot on Civil War. All this time I’ve been on record before saying source material shouldn’t dictate creative decisions in these movies. However, the scale of the Civil War comic was MASSIVE. And in the film version, the conflict feels so much smaller and so much more insignificant. The big conflict in this film isn’t even really a warlike its title would state. It’s much more of violent disagreement.
I can appreciate the longstanding implications the events of this film had on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I can’t help but feel a little let down. The spilling over of the obvious tension we’ve seen between Cap and Tony feels like it should have been a little more grandiose. At the very least, a bigger deal than a fight at an airport in Germany. I just wish I felt like I was watching the Avengers splinter more in the moment, rather than feeling the effects afterward in other movies.
#12 Iron Man 3
I HATE that this movie gets a bad rep. Additionally, the fact that it’s for one tiny minute aspect of the story annoys me even more. I am fully aware that The Mandarin fake-out is the main issue people have with Iron Man 3. Conversely, there are far more positive aspects of this film that should outweigh however disappointed you were by that plot twist. The movie’s characterization of Tony Stark is brilliant, especially to someone like me who loves deconstruction in stories. I promise, watching this movie in a post-Endgame world will provide you a whole new experience. Give it a shot.
#11 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Following, rounding out the first part of the list today is another potentially hot take. Winter Soldier not being in my top 10 is sure to be sacrilege to some of you. There isn’t any actual sleight against this movie, just the way the list shook out. I enjoyed the trend of Cap movies adopting popular movie subgenres, and it’s expertly done here. Winter Soldier is an awesome political thriller/spy movie. It’s a perfect fit for Cap at this point in time. The frame for his character trying to find out how to live in a new world was really compelling for me. The action is exciting, and the performances are excellent. Most importantly, Winter Soldier goes a long way in making the MCU feel like a living breathing place.
And that’s going to do it for the first half! I hope I provided a fair amount of SPICE with my selections for the lower half of the MCU’s filmography. But I wanna know what you all think in response! So tweet your thoughts on the list so far to me on twitter @kevinOMO_ or to @CheckpointXP. And be on the lookout for part 2 featuring the MCU’s top 10 next week. And check out the latest episode of The Other Identity, live now!