12) Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is an example of how Marvel’s studio driven approach to filmmaking doesn’t always work. After the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in the post-credits sequence of Iron Man, Marvel fans were hungry for more shared universe tid-bits. As a result, Marvel saw the need to force the likes of War Machine, Nick Fury and Black Widow into the film, which was already burdened with two underdeveloped villains in Justin Hammer and Whiplash. Iron Man 2 was chock full off hilariously bad moments like Tony peeing in his own suit, offbeat comedic moments and forced pop culture references. It didn’t feel like Iron Man one. It didn’t feel special nor did it feel like something new.
11) Iron Man 3
I really hate Iron Man 3. Some reviewers and Marvel lovers were blinded by the fact that it’s an Iron Man movie with Shane Black at the helm but the film is just plain bad. From it’s ludicrously over powered and undefined Extremis villains to its complete unraveling of the Iron Man character, Iron Man 3 really made me angry. It reduced Tony Stark from a man whose suit relies on him to a man who relies on the suit. The twist regarding the Mandarin fell foul on my ears and all but destroyed Iron Man’s greatest villains. Marvel released a One Shot later that year claiming that the real Mandarin was out there but that did not help me forget the crude and boring Iron Man 3. Despite a few laughs here and there, Iron Man 3 was of little substance.
10) Thor 2: The Dark World
Marvel made a huge mistake positioning the mysterious Dark Elves as Thor’s villains the second time around. Burdened with a non-existent origin and without any solid source material to work off of, Christopher Ecclestone was wasted as Malekith. The chemistry and personalities of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor saved the film from an over abundance of Natalie Portman. The Thor sequel also saw some peculiar character choices. Kat Denning’s Darcy transformed from a competent assistant to a silly sidekick meant for slapstick humour. Whilst the change of location to London was easy on the eye, The Dark World was just a generic Marvel movie with yet another base villain and plain narrative.
9) Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger was once again born out of necessity. You cant have The Avengers without Captain America and you cant have a` Marvel shared universe without the American hero. The First Avenger does include one of the best supporting casts in a Marvel movie to date with the likes of Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Toby Jones and Hayley Atwell appearing alongside Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. In the end, The First Avenger is a competent Marvel origin story. Evans is stoic in the lead role. The comedy is fresh and plays well. The performances are good and the emotion is real. But once again The First Avenger falls prey to a bad villain. Whilst Hugo Weaving delightfully chews the scenery as the Red Skull, he isn’t nearly as intriguing as he could be.
Unlike many audiences, I quite liked the God of Thunder’s first installment. It provided the Marvel cinematic universe with something new; slapstick humour. It also showed Marvel’s power to take unknown actors like Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth and make them into leading material. This is the feature where the villain stands up to par, so much so that Marvel decided to bring back Loki to fight all the Avengers in 2012. Hiddleston had this maniacal yet quirky look to him. He was misguided and evil and damaged. The villain worked because he grew alongside Thor therefore shared similar screen time. Perhaps the biggest mistake made in Thor was the overreliance on physical comedy and the wasteful casting of Idris Elba in a bit part role.
7) The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk is usually seen as the misguided child of the family. Marvel tried to rid our memories of Ang Lee’s artsy Hulk with an installment with Ed Norton as Bruce Banner. For some The Incredible Hulk didn’t feel like a standard Marvel movie nor did it exude Marvel quality but I liked it. I even liked the design of the Hulk even if the redesign is much better. Even though The Incredible Hulk incorporated sum really bad jokes – ‘Don’t make me HUNGRY – it had some really badass moments. The Abomination is also one of the most powerful villains in this Marvel shared universe and I suspect that Marvel has plans for him in the features to come. The Incredible Hulk really isn’t that bad of a film it just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the Marvel cinematic universe.
6) Avengers: Age of Ultron
Unfortunately for the Avengers sequel, it came loaded with a lot of expectation. Casting the extravagant and glorious James Spader as Ultron gave us hope that we would finally have another villain as good as Loki. But alas he was wasted just like the others. Age of Ultron does a lot of things well. The chemistry and dialogue between the Avengers is spot on and at moments hilarious. The introduction and design of The Vision was smart, natural and really well done. Paul Bettany’s casting as the sentient android was genius. The Hulkbuster sequence was majestic. But Age of Ultron made some woeful mistakes. It fell prey to the recent trend of forcing in Chinese characters and subplots to attract the Chinese market. The villain’s birth was rushed and his personality numb. Thor’s inclusion was of no substance at all and the manner in which Marvel wasted Quicksilver was laughably bad. In the end, The Avengers has the possibility of being someone’s favourite film but Age of Ultron has no such chance.
Ant-Man is the Aquaman of the Marvel universe but he is still a central Avenger. The film worked on so many levels. Despite the loss of director Edgar Wright weeks for production started, Peyton Reed managed to shoot a film with gorgeous visuals, a relatable hero and a small family story. It was refreshing to take a break from artificial intelligence and cities falling out of the sky in favour of a story about a father trying to win back his daughter. Paul Rudd, not known for leading action films, buffed up and made the role his own but Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym stole the show. Just like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, I don’t think I can see anyone else in the role of Hank Pym aside from Douglas. Ant-Man wasn’t as funny as Guardians of the Galaxy but it was close. It was a nice change of pace and a better family film that Age of Ultron pretended to be.
4) The Avengers
The Avengers was an unprecedented moment in cinematic history. Sure Universal had a shared monster universe way back when but Marvel’s audacious attempt to bring together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow under one roof was something special. Only nerd king Joss Whedon had the cred and the boldness to play these powerful characters against each other. What resulted was a feature teeming with beautiful sweeping moments sprung from the comic book page, a glorious new hulk and another wanted look at Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. The Avengers is not without its problems. The Chitauri’s sudden succumbing to a nuke bomb to one spaceship, Banner’s ability to control the Hulk and Loki’s apparent return are glaring plot holes but cool outweighs the mistakes in this historic team up feature.
3) Iron Man
We come to where it all started. Jon Favreau was an unusual choice by Marvel to direct Iron Man but his insistence on casting Robert Downey Jr. was even more peculiar. Iron Man was everything it shouldn’t have been; fun, exciting and action packed. Yes its villain was standard, yes it had some really cheesy moments but its chemistry between Tony and Pepper, its visual effects and soundtrack were great. Iron Man would set the tone for the Marvel cinematic universe and what an example others had to follow. The chills hardcore fans must have felt when they saw Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury appear in the post credits sequence is envious. Iron Man is a rocking superhero film with an iconic lead turn by Robert Downey Jr.
2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier was a real genre bender; it took Captain America and the superhero genre and flipped it upside down. The Winter Soldier is more a comment on our increasingly Orwellian society than a super powered action film. The Winter Soldier is armed with terrific grounded Raid-style action and really gives Chris Evans material to stick his teeth into. Evans is powerful and sound as Steve Rogers. The Russo brothers, who honed their art on Community, became Marvel sweethearts after their work on this movie. The Winter Soldier is so fun, so dark, so not-Marvel that it worked on every level.
1) Guardians of the Galaxy
And now the best Marvel cinematic universe installment – Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel took a huge risk handing such a huge budget to James Gunn, especially for an unknown property like Guardians of the Galaxy. No one could have expected a film filled to the brim with so much nostalgia, action and comedy that it was touted as a modern Star Wars. Chris Pratt instantly became a hot Hollywood property after Guardians of the Galaxy. The film gave us a substantial and cool look at Josh Brolin as Thanos. However, it was hit and miss with its choice of villains. Nebula was noteworthy whilst Ronan was just another brute with limp intentions. Guardians of the Galaxy is a classic in every sense of the word – it’s fun, it’s energetic and it’s Marvel to its core.