A review of the MCU
With the release of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now 15 films deep as it works its way through its first decade. I decided it was time to look at the films and make a new definitive ranking.
I watched "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" a second time to make sure I felt the same about it, and then turned my attention to the movie that I am most polarized about, "Captain America: Civil War." Many hail it as among the best of the MCU, but I've always struggled with the film. I decided to watch it with fresh eyes to see if I was being too hard.
In the end, I think I was. But I also still think it's a flawed film. In part because it wants you to be rooting for Captain America (Chris Evans), but I can't. His logic is flawed and his actions are flawed. He's not the hero and I still believe that the film would have been better served with some real stakes at the end — which means that either Captain America or The Winter Soldier needed to die. And they should have.
But profit drives many of these decisions, and profit is up if Evans' Captain America is still around. So, the film pulled its punches at the end. And it left me feeling unsatisfied by the third act. (Something that supposedly won't happen in the third Avengers film.)
But the rest of the film is very good. I like the introduction of characters, the pacing, and the tone. There is so much to love about the film. Up until the third act, it was one of my favorites in the whole MCU. And it still was on second viewing. But then that third act comes, and I can't quite get past it.
So while I'll move it up some, "Civil War" will never be in my Top 10 for the MCU.
An MCU Ranking, in Ascending Order:
15. Ant Man (2015) — The final film in Phase 2, this was a complete miss for me. It was OK, and that's the kindest thing I can think to say about it. I couldn't get into the character or the world it built.
14. The Incredible Hulk (2008) — If ever a film could kill the MCU before it got started, it was this second attempt at turning "The Hulk" into a movie franchise. It was so bad most people have forgotten that The Hulk was replaced before "Avengers," as Mark Ruffalo took over for Edward Norton.
13. Iron Man 3 (2013) — This one started Phase 2, and I wanted to like it. I like Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, and I like Shane Black as a writer/director. This film, too, is OK, but not great. And I just couldn't quite get into it.
12. Thor (2011) — Kenneth Branagh can do a lot of things. Directing super hero movies just isn't really one of them. This movie is OK, and I like some of the visuals, but this one doesn't rise to the level of others.
11. Thor: The Dark World (2013) — This second "Thor" film was better than the first, but still not in the top 10 of the MCU. I do have hopes for "Thor: Ragnarock" later this year.
10. Iron Man 2 (2010) — This second "Iron Man" film is probably a little under-rated. It wasn't as good as the first, nor is it as compelling as some of what came later, but it does a good job of keeping the world going. Remember, this was only the third film in the MCU, and it was a marked improvement from "The Incredible Hulk."
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) — The first Avengers film was such a revelation, the second one was always going to be a bit of a let down. But this film was burdened by carrying too much plot and exposition, and the villain wasn't as compelling as it could have been.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) — Captain America was the last domino to fall into place before "The Avengers" film, and he was worth the wait. The World War II setting was perfect, and this film was a lot of fun.
7. Captain America: Civil War (2016) — I've detailed my issues with this one above. It's three quarters of a great film, and that's not enough.
6. Dr. Stranger (2016) — The other Marvel film released in 2016 was better, and is incredibly under rated. I liked the effects, the ideas, and the world building here. I can see some of the criticisms, I just don't agree.
5. Iron Man (2008) — There is no MCU without this movie, and more importantly without Robert Downey, Jr. This isn't a perfect film, but it's pretty darn enjoyable and a great origin story.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) — Captain America is far from my favorite MCU hero, which is what made this film such a pleasant surprise. I liked Robert Redford in this film, too, and the way it took the MCU is a different, darker direction.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) — This follow up isn't as great as the original, but it's pretty darn close. It confirms why the Guardians are the real heroes of the MCU. Plus, two words: Baby Groot.
2. Avengers (2012) — So much expectation surrounded this film, and it delivered. It's a great team up movie and still one of my favorites.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — When I saw this movie in the summer of 2014, it changed everything. These rascals are incredible and are still the best thing in the MCU.