In the run up to Infinity War, I’ll be taking the time to review and rank all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Starting off with Phase One, I’ll work through them all and eventually culminate in a top ten list. Look back to FPGNews.com for further editions of Ranked!
Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One
6- The Incredible Hulk
Starring Edward Norton instead of Mark Ruffalo who would go on to play the Hulk in the Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok, The Incredible Hulk suffers because the change in actor makes it hard to accept as canon. Technically the second movie in the MCU, Hulk takes place around 6 months after the events of Iron Man, parallel to Thor and Iron Man 2. It’s by no means bad, with the final third being good, loud full on “smash,” but Tim Roth is an unconvincing villain and Norton’s Hulk isn’t anywhere near as engaging as Ruffalo’s.
An ambitious effort by director Kenneth Branagh to balance the fun of the modern superhero movie to the Shakespearian storyline of the two brothers fighting over the throne. With part of the movie playing out in the fantastical world of Asgard and the other a “fish out of water” story of Thor acclimatising to life on Earth, it’s a little bit disjointed at times but still a lot of fun is to be had adding Thor to the Universe. It also sets Loki up as the first “big bad” of the MCU with an after-credits tease for the Avengers.
4- Iron Man 2
Given the roaring success of Iron Man, the sequel sees Tony Stark battling with the very thing that keeps him alive, the arc reactor in his chest. Coupled with trying to find a new power source to keep himself alive, he’s also faced with the threat of Whiplash, the son of a disgraced former colleague of his fathers. The jarring change of Rhodey from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle isn’t a factor now that Cheadle has made himself a part of the MCU in his own right as War Machine, but there’s quite a lot of abject stupidity that weigh this down a little. I’m not sure how the birthday scene isn’t mentioned in the same breath as the infamous Spiderman 3 dancing scene, as I was close to watching through my fingers at moments, but the action sequences are a great pre-cursor to the Iron Man that we see in the two Avengers outings.
3- Captain America
Aside from some rather odd CGI to make a now-ripped Chris Evans look like he weighs 90lbs for the first 30 minutes of the movie, Captain America is a phenomenal look at the origin of the First Avenger. Not only introducing you to characters that are instantly likeable and important to the future of the MCU, it also gives you a great history lesson, introducing you properly to Howard Stark and a nice nod to what would become the Stark Expo. We get to see the stark (no pun intended) differences between Captain America and the Stark family, which will lead to bigger things across Phase Two and arguably presents Cap as the most instantly relatable Avenger that we’ve been introduced to at this point. A fantastic story and great second half set in World War 2 taking on the Nazi sub-group Hydra is exciting and leads to a finale that make it hard to not be invested in Steve Rogers place in the modern world.
2- Avengers Assemble
Cinematically speaking, Avengers Assemble is a bit of a shambles of a movie. The plot is fairly thin and it does little to advance our knowledge of any of the main heroes, but boy, is it everything a superhero movie should be. It’s big, bright and loud, it’s filled with action and brimming with quotable moments. Just seeing these heroes together on screen for the first time is enough on it’s own to put this movie in the upper half of MCU movies and while the formula is now diluted as well as arguably having been done better, the Battle For New York climax is everything you could possibly want it to be. Both Black Widow and Hawkeye are given time to shine and really the only thing that isn’t explained is how Aunt Robin became an Avenger. It’s not Citizen Kane, but it’s never intended to be and is just an absolute thrill ride of adrenaline.
1- Iron Man
The first instalment in the MCU is still among the best, with the origin story of Tony Stark’s Iron Man being not only an exciting superhero jaunt, but it’s also a well written, directed and executed movie. When his convoy is attacked by the very terrorists his weapons are meant to deter, Stark escapes from custody in a makeshift suit of armour, making him obsessed in creating a safer future for the world. While creating a more viable version of his suit, he discovers his father’s company is dealing under the table with the very terrorists that kept him captive. Throughout the movie we see Stark struggle with his conscience and ego, with it getting the better of him in a fantastic final scene in front of the world’s press. Given the fact the MCU rested on the success of this movie, it’s even more incredible to think that it still holds up among the best even compared to the might of bigger budgets and more experienced directors. Jon Favreau creates a sympathetic ego-maniac in Tony Stark, the role that Robert Downey Jr was born to play and quite simply, everything falls into place in the first and best instalment in Phase One of the MCU.
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