I think we can all agree that Marvel Studios has conquered the world. All hail our new overlords!
Ten movies in and the studio is more popular than ever, showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, I remember a recent article declaring Marvel Studios the “new Pixar,” meaning that the general movie going audience (in other words, non-geeks) no longer needs to know about or be attached to a certain character before hand for a movie to succeed. Instead, like Pixar, all you need is to see that glorious “Marvel” logo and regardless of what it’s about you know you’ll get a quality movie experience. The recent success of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a movie filled with characters that only the hardcore comic fans knew of is a great example of this.
As a life-long comic book geek who loves seeing these characters conquer the silver screen, I’ve decided to weight in on their slate of movies and give my humble (yet correct) ranking of all the Marvel movies so far, from least to worst.
BEHOLD – THE OFFICIAL NERD ALERT RANKING OF ALL THE MARVEL MOVIES (cue epic music):
**Minor Spoilers for the films to follow. You’ve been warned nerds!**
10. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
I’ve never been a big fan of the Hulk by himself. I love him alongside other characters, but when he’s flying solo I find it hard for him to keep my attention. I thought this movie was much better than the Ang Lee “Hulk” from years back (although that movie did have “Hulk Poodles.”), and the first transformation sequence in the soda plant was pretty cool. Beyond that though, the highest praise I can give it is “meh.” I never bought into Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and while I usually like Ed Norton, this wasn’t his best performance. However, I definitely geeked out when Tony Stark walked in at the end. It was cool to see the beginning of the character crossovers/universe building that we had been promised at the end of the first Iron Man.
9. IRON MAN 2
This movie gets a lot of hate. In re-watching it, while not a perfect movie (or even close), I also don’t think it was so bad that it ruined my life, which is what I can only assumed happened to others based on their online comments. Robert Downey Jr. continue to be the best aspect of the Iron Man franchise by pretty much playing himself and it’s difficult not to enjoy his wit. Sam Rockwell was a great addition as the slimey yet super dorky industrialist Justin Hammer, which added to the humor of the film. Where I feel IM2 stumbles is in the common mistake of attempting to do far too much in a short period of time. The main plot should have just revolved around Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash character seeking revenge on Tony for his father allegedly stealing the idea for the arc reactor. But instead we got that while trying to give ample time to other subplots such as the Stark Expo, Rhodey becoming War Machine, Pepper becoming the new CEO, Tony’s sickness, a mid-life crisis, and Nick Fury showing up to chat. There was too much going on and in the end the film felt bloated and without much substance.
Out of all the proposed “Phase 1” movies, Thor was the biggest question mark. How would they bring to life Asgard and the whole mythology aspect of the character in a way that could co-exist with the techno-realism that Iron Man had given us? And for many, Thor was the least known of the Avengers trinity. How would people react to the idea of a Norse god in the Marvel universe? For the most part, I think they did a great job introducing the character and his world. Asgard looked wonderful and the explanation of it essentially being another planet or realm (making the Asgardians aliens) was creative. Casting wise, Chris Hemsworth was seemingly born to be Thor and I sincerely hope that in his everyday life he speaks with the Thor voice. And we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to “Thor” in that it was our first introduction to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. My biggest complaint is that the majority of the film takes place on earth. I wanted to spend my time exploring Asgard and be more immersed in their world, not traveling some small town on earth in Natalie Portman’s van. Regardless, it was a great introduction to Thor’s story and they did eventually give me more Asgard in the sequel.
7. IRON MAN 3
Once again, this was Downey being Downey and for me, that will never get old. This was also the first “post-Avengers” movie and I enjoyed how it portrayed a world in which superheroes and alien invasions are now a very real thing. While the subplots with Pepper and Maya (the female scientist), didn’t fully connect with me, nor did I fully buy into Aldrich Killian as the villain, there was a lot in the film that I liked. I thought it was awesome that Tony was dealing with PTSD due to the events in “The Avengers.” I felt it was a creative way to inject some realism into such a fantastical world. And I know I’m in the minority here, but I liked the twist with The Mandarin. Nerds have been arguing how it ruins the character, blah blah blah, but I thought it was bold and creative. As someone who is not often surprised in movies, that caught me completely off guard – It definitely was not what I was expecting! Plus, from what I hear the follow up one-shot “All Hail the King” adds a further twist in the developing story of The Mandarin, so calm down already. For what was potentially the last stand alone Iron Man film, I felt it was a strong swan song.
6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
I’ll admit it – I was skeptical of Chris Evans being cast as Cap. I’d seen him in films such as “The Fantastic Four” and “The Losers,” and I assumed that he only played wise-cracking jerk type characters. Cap is supposed to have the gravitas to lead the entire Marvel Universe, so why go with Johnny Storm? It didn’t take long for this movie to convert me into a Chris Evans believer. I loved that it was a period piece that centered on WW2, which is such an important foundation for Cap as a character. I loved Hailey Atwell as Peggy Carter (I’m excited to see her upcoming TV series), loved Tommy Lee Jones and loved The Howling Commandos. I thought the Red Skull was visually a cool villain but Hugo Weaving seemed uninterested in the material and it showed in his performance. Plus, I’m still not really sure what happened to the Skull at the end. Did he die? Was he teleported to a Tesseract based purgatory? Is he working on a new album of Beyonce cover songs? We may never know. Additionally, the Bucky “death” scene was tough to get right for all us power geeks because we know the comic book version involving Baron Zemo so well. It wasn’t bad, but for me it wasn’t as epic as it should have been either. Bottom line, I did really enjoy “First Avenger.” I know some were bothered by some of the “cheese factor” in the movie but to me that added to its charm.
5. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Now this is the Thor movie that I wanted the first time around! Sure, Earth was in there but it wasn’t the primary location. We got to experience more of Asgard alongside other realms and I feel “Dark World” did a great job blending together Thor’s fantasy and science fiction elements. Plus, how cool was Loki in this movie, right? At this point we’re all madly in love with Hiddleston and he didn’t disappoint. Now, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and her friends are entertaining and by no means bad, but I find more often than not that they just get in the way. I’d love to see more of Lady Sif and the Warriors Three. But it is what it is i guess. Lastly, how about that after credit scene? INFINITY STONES?!?!?!? This was the first real confirmation that Marvel is building towards the Infinity Gauntlet. And even though 99% of the theater had no idea what that scene meant, I still audibly flipped out!
4. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
I would have been fine if this film had given me “more of the same.” Instead, “The Winter Soldier” decided to completely change the Marvel cinematic universe with three simple words: “No more SHIELD.” I loved how “Winter Soldier” fell more into the espionage thriller genre. I loved that Black Widow and Nick Fury were given much more screen time and great action sequences. Maybe this will finally lead to a Black Widow solo flick? I was also so excited to see the character of The Winter Soldier come to life (and as I’ve written before) I was not disappointed. But above all, I loved how this movie reminded me that Marvel will often take bold risks that leave you in shock and awe. From destroying SHIELD, to redefining Fury’s role in the universe, to introducing us to Marvel Studios’ potential solution to getting around not being able to have “mutants” in their universe (the after credit scene), “The Winter Soldier” was an all around awesome experience.
3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
I’d like to take a moment and give a very sincere and heartfelt message to my non-nerd friends…I TOLD YOU SO! When the movie was first announced and the world responded with a collective, “who?” I was excited. I’d read the comics and I was already in love with the Guardians. I told countless people, “Trust me. You’re going to love the raccoon with a machine gun and the talking tree,” and was always met with a polite nod as they looked at me as if I were bonkers. Just to state it again— I WAS RIGHT SUCKERS! Marvel’s biggest risk has paid off in a huge way! Chris Pratt and the whole cast was incredible, the soundtrack was spot on, Rocket and Groot are now celebrated parts of mainstream culture, and the film set up the third Avengers film in big ways. And more importantly, Guardians accomplished all of this without a cameo appearance or even a reference to an established Avenger. No door opening with Robert Downey Jr. walking saying, “Did somebody say TONY STARK?” Nothing. Guardians was a huge success and it did it on its own characters and humor. After this, you really do have to wonder what weird or out of left field franchise Marvel will attempt next. Maybe “Power Pack?”
2. THE AVENGERS
“The Avengers” is the movie I had dreamed about as a kid while playing with my action figures. It’s also the movie I was CONVINCED would never happen. If you stop and think about it, it makes no sense that “The Avengers.” exists. In the lightning fast world of Hollywood, the fact that a studio would slowly build a universe with characters far less known than say a Spider-Man over the course of five years through individual movies, all the while hoping that not a single one of those films bombed while leading to a big payoff, well frankly that makes the existence of “The Avengers” a miracle! We’d already been introduced to these characters, so the movie hit the ground running. What threat would unite “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?” Not the traditional cabal of super villains, but a full blown alien invasion that destroys most of New York. And how about the fact that this is the single best Hulk movie we’ve ever gotten? Plus, when all was said and done, what did they put in the middle of the credit? THANOS! They put him in as a clear message that Marvel was just getting started! “The Avengers” was proof that the Marvel strategy works! So much so, that now many other studios are trying to replicate Marvel’s “universe building.”
1. IRON MAN
Why is Iron Man in my top spot? Because there would be no cinematic universe if Iron Man had not succeeded. Iron Man was released at a time in which the future of superhero movies was uncertain. “Spider-Man 3” and “X-Men: The Last Stand” were colossal failures story-wise (they made a ton of money though) that cut deep into our very geeky souls. Add to that the lukewarm at best response to “Watchmen” and you had many critics declaring that the comic movie “fad” was over. In this climate enters Marvel Studios and releases a movie about a somewhat unknown character starring an actor who was best known for his various drug arrests. On paper, IM had “train wreck” written all over it. Instead, Marvel hit a grand slam! We fell in love with Tony Stark. Iron Man all of a sudden became a more popular (and more cool) hero than Superman or The X-Men, and above all Marvel let us into their absolutely insane master plan to bring all the Avengers together in one movie. Remember that this was the very first after-credit scene. And what did we get? Sam Jackson as Nick Fury saying that he wants to talk about the “Avengers Initiative.” HOLY CRAP!
Marvel has since grown into the behemoth we have today and as I’ve written, they excel at producing quality films. Yet, there will never been another “first time” experiencing Downey as Tony Stark. There will never be another “first time” picking up little unexpected easter eggs hidden throughout. There will never be another “first time” seeing Tony suit up in the iconic red and gold. And there will never be another first time hearing the word “Avengers.” Sure, Marvel will give us many other “firsts,” but “Iron Man” will always be my favorite because without it, we surely wouldn’t have the thriving universe we have today.
Well those were my thoughts. What say you, fellow nerd? What’s your favorite Marvel movie? What would your own list look like? Are you upset that I didn’t include “Howard the Duck?” SOUND OFF in the comments!
This has been a NERD ALERT!