Following on from my Ant-Man review and ‘Marvel Needs Women‘, I am planning post-Summer of Lovecraft to do a season of Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews. Before that, however, I thought I might as well do the almost obligatory ‘ranking the MCU’ post.
Ranking the MCU Movies
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- The Avengers
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Iron Man
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Iron Man 3
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Thor: The Dark World
- Iron Man 2
- The Incredible Hulk
The Captain America movies blindsided me; mind you, so did the first Iron Man. Although very much the experimental precursor to the MCU proper, Iron Man gets a place in the top five on the basis of its achievement at the time, which was to essentially do exactly what the title is supposed to do; take an utterly hateable character and make you feel for him, even like him. In spite of this, I still expected nothing of The First Avenger. Cap is on the surface a relict of 1930s propaganda, a ludicrous pantomime hero even by the standards of comic books and one who has had a few poor interpretations over the years, but The First Avenger dug into the heart of him and found something not just great, but relevant.
Similarly to Iron Man, The Avengers scores big because it had such expectations to meet and damn near exceeded all of them. Finally, Thor is there because I like the very different style of the grand Asgard sequences, and its treatment of another character who could easily be off-putting and impossible to relate to.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a big risk, and one that paid off, which is why it’s ahead of Iron Man 3, which was a decent film but more or less a lock for the studio. Likewise, Ant-Man could have been nothing and was very appealing, hence appearing above the technically excellent but overfull Age of Ultron. The Dark World felt not-quite fully realised to me, despite some excellent scenes, while Iron Man 2 was too much the same again but turned up to 11.
The Incredible Hulk makes rock bottom for a number of reasons. One is that it’s tough to make a Hulk movie and this doesn’t overcome some of the challenges (in particular, convincing us that somehow this car-crushing monster has never killed anyone,) but the big one is Liv Tyler, whom I have never really liked in anything. She and Norton failed to drum up the necessary chemistry between Betty and Bruce, and the result was a film lacking in heart.
Ranking the One-Shots
- ‘Agent Carter’
- ‘All Hail the King’
- ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer’
- ‘Item 47’
- ‘The Consultant’
I like the Marvel one-shots which appear on the Blu-Ray releases of various MCU movies, and I’m sorry they haven’t carried on with them.
‘Agent Carter’ is easily the best of these, which is why it got its own series. Actually, that’s not quite fair, as the first three – ‘The Consultant’, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer’ and ‘Item 47’ all fed into Agents of SHIELD, but not so directly. ‘All Hail the King’ is quite lovely for what it is, although the fact that there is an actual Mandarin is divisive.
Ranking the MCU Shows
- Agent Carter
- Agents of SHIELD
Okay, this is written without having finished Agent Carter yet, and it scores free points with me for the 1940s, noirish setting. Agents of SHIELD is a very hit or miss affair, but Daredevil – after a slightly rocky start – is excellent, and explores a part of the MCU otherwise only really touched on in Ant-Man and the very early stages of The First Avenger, to whit the streets. It’s very low key, very personal, despite the hints at cosmic malarkey with Stick and drug smuggling from ‘much further’ than China.
Future projects in very loose order of enthusiasm
- Captain America: Civil War
- Doctor Strange
- Captain Marvel
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2
- Jessica Jones
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Untitled Spider-Man film
- Black Panther
- Avengers: Infinity War – Parts 1 & 2
- Luke Cage
- Iron Fist
Civil War rates high because it’s the next movie, and because I’m eager to see what they do with it (which is much, much more positive than when it was first announced,) and I’ve been excited about Doctor Strange since the name was slipped into Winter Soldier. I’m curious to see what they do with actual magic in a universe that has previously been skeptical of clairvoyance.
Captain Marvel would be higher, but the MCU’s first female headliner fills me with trepidation as much as enthusiasm, because I know that if the futz this up through failure to get the character (or from pro-Widow backlash wanting to know where her movie got to) then it will seriously impede the chances of other female headlined movies. Black Panther is similarly low on the list because of the possibilities of getting the project wrong, especially taking a character from the era when all black superheroes were ‘Black Something’. Conversely, it’s settling for White Spiderman that niggles me for his MCU debut, and the fear that we’re going to have to see Uncle Ben die again, because apparently for some people that never gets old. A different take, a different origin, would have made a change.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Ragnarok have a lot of potential to go wrong, and in particular I find Thor’s tendency to bounce back and forth between Earth and Asgard – especially since he seems to end every Thor movie heading for Earth and then getting sent back every Avengers movie – makes for an uneven narrative.
The various Defenders series aren’t generating much enthusiasm, largely because I don’t know the characters. If I knew what Iron Fist’s deal was, I’d be more into it, although I do know he’s linked to the not-Chinese gangster in Daredevil. Defenders itself rates high (higher than any except Jessica Jones, because Agent Carter gives me hope that they can certainly turn around a female lead on TV) because I do love me some superteams.
And yet Infinity War scores low. Why? Well, basically because at this point, I don’t even know who’s in it, and because Thanos has done his cred no favours by being in the background so long. And Inhumans? Well, mostly it’s hurt by associations with characters I’m not very interested in in Agents of SHIELD.
All of these are subject to change – I’m a human, not a computer – and in particular it should be noted that I’m pretty keen for even the lowest-ranked forthcoming projects, and I like even the lowest-ranked of the existing titles. I like superhero movies.