Friday, 19 April 2013

Rank the Films: Marvel Cinematic Universe

As any regular reader of feeling fuzzier will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. We have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of good to bad. 

With Iron Man 3 hitting screens soon, in this instalment we take a look at all of those that have come before it; that is, every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to date (from Iron Man [2008] to The Avengers [2012] and we rate them worst to best. Give it a read and let me know what you think! 

Check back soon to read my review of Iron Man 3.

6th - Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man in action

If we're honest here, Iron Man 2 was a bit of a let-down. After the first film exceeded expectations in 2008, the second entry into the franchise was overly bloated and cluttered. 

Downey Jnr.'s second outing as Tony Stark was a little short on laughs and watching Stark lurch across the screen kind of sucked the fun out of the film. Heart-pounding Monte Carlo set action set-piece aside, Mickey Rourke's electrifying villain Whiplash also wasn't afforded the screen-time he deserved.

Iron Man 2 isn't a totally bad entry into the MCU however; it really whipped fan-boys into a frenzy over it's set-up of The Avengers by introducing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson).

Here's hoping Iron Man 3 sheds the excess that plagued its predecessor. After all, sometimes less is more. Oh, and cut out the cock rock already. Alright, Stark likes AC/DC, we get it. Sheesh.

5th - The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Re-igniting the franchise with an all-over more satisfying take on the not-so jolly green giant than that of Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk, The Incredible Hulk is the only one of these two stand-alone feature films to be considered apart of the MCU canon. 

With Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk certainly had some high-calibre acting talent front and centre and this came through in the films slower, more emotional scenes. This isn't to say the film is without the all-important death and destruction expected of a superhero film; the special effects are great here. 

It doesn't help the fact that, like Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk doesn't feel like its own creature, being preoccupied instead with putting in place the building blocks of the whole franchise. This may have off-put many casual fans that are just there to see 'Hulk smash'. Other singular Marvel films have felt more self-contained and cohesive. 

4th - Thor (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster
(Natalie Portman)
Originally, Thor was my favourite of the 5 'set-up' films that preceded The Avengers. (It took out No. 5 of my Top 5 Films of 2011) Why? I guess I liked the fresh setting and approach on the hardest aspects of the mythology (Asgard, Norse God's, Inter-dimensional travel). It made it work within the same universe as the much more grounded Iron Man and Captain America, which was a big positive.

Let's be honest; trying to introduce a hammer-wielding, cape wearing and weather controlling 'alien' into proceedings could have been a big disaster for Marvel. Instead, director Kenneth Branagh manages to slot it in just fine; "Your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one of the same".

The grand Shakespearean look and feel of the Asgardian first half of the film entertains, as does the 'fish-out-of-water' humour that comes in the Earth-bound second half. At the end of the day though, the climatic finale where Thor throws down against the Destroyer and then Loki is the film's real triumph; who doesn't love to see the God of THUNDAAA spew lightning and storms from his hammer?

It isn't perfect though - Hemsworth and Portman share great chemistry, but their romance is very forced. They literally only spend a long weekend together. She's like the real-life Overly Attached Girlfriend. That, and the Warriors Three aren't given much depth. 

3rd - Captain America - The First Avenger (2011)

Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger
Wonderfully retro in look and feel, you can't help but smile throughout Captain America - The First Avenger

Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) transformation from a small kid with a big heart to a super soldier with biceps the size of Bournemouth is one of the most gleefully enjoyable films Marvel has made.

With Hugo Weaving as Red Skull and Tommy Lee Jones as Cap's Army superior, Captain America also had a fantastic supporting cast to back-up its action and adventure.

There is very little you can fault this film as well; sure, it might be a little overly patriotic for some to stomach at times ('Murica!), it doesn't lack action, thrills, characterisation or wit. You could argue it's cliffhanger ending (designed to set-up the start of The Avengers) means Cap's story lacks closure but overall, this is a solid and entertaining entry into the MCU.

2nd - Iron Man (2008)

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Downey Jnr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Proving the worth of the saying "start as you mean to go on", the first film to be produced by Marvel studios is one of the most critically acclaimed entry's into the whole series.

Iron Man is the story of genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark, a man whose wealth comes from building some big missiles for governments. It isn't until his vulnerability is uncovered that Stark begins to realise the worth of helping others and fighting for those who need a hero.

What works so well about this first Iron Man film is Tony Stark's well-rounded character arc. Each stage is hit spot on, as he transforms from reckless playboy to powerless hostage and finally, Iron Man. Also, what elevates this film above other superhero films is Downey Jnr's likeable on-screen demeanour. It is hard not to love his wisecracks and charm.

Some seriously impressive action (as well as a stellar supporting cast including Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow) add even more layers to a great film.

1st - The Avengers (2012)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

"Take away the suit of armour and what are you?"
It's no secret on this blog that I'm a big fan of The Avengers. In my review last year, I gave it 9 out of 10 saying it was "comic book gold" that "far exceeded expectations"; not only that, but it was included at No. 2 on my Top 5 Films of 2012 list last December.

So it should come as no surprise that The Avengers tops our list of Marvel films to date. It simply is one of those films you will leave you grinning from ear to ear, whooping with joy and clutching your ribs in laughter.

Bringing together the ultimate super-hero film was no mean feat for director Joss Whedon, but somehow it all came together brilliantly. Uniting Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye in the one adventure could have been a huge calamity that would have no doubt ended Marvel Studios.

Instead, The Avengers is sheer brilliance. Each and every member is given their due and feel integral to the story. Sure, Tony Stark pretty much steals every scene he is in ("Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?") but this by no means The Avengers feels like 'Iron Man and Friends".

Where the film works best when focusing on Earth's Mightiest Heroes' mortality and humanity. My only quibble is the Michael Bay-ness of the final third and the slightly forgettable alien foes that Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) commands.

What does everyone reckon? What is your favourite Phase One Marvel film? Are you excited for Iron Man 3? Let me know in the comment section below.

For more info on what to expect from Marvel Studios in the next 3 years, check out my feature on Marvel Phase 2 -
What To Expect From In Marvel Phase 2. 

Rank the Films: #1: Harry Potter, #2: Star Wars, #3 Die Hard. 

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