As I did with Phase 1, I’ll be ranking Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Below that I’ll list all the MCU films from least to most favorite.
Iron Man 3
The only film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I generally didn’t like. It starts out with a deadly serious tone, superheroes dealing with real world issues/international terrorism. This part was great, but then half way through the tone switches to outright goofiness. Plus Tony’s house get’s blown up but he’s still able to make an army of suits? Ok
Perhaps Marvel’s greatest risk. In my opinion Ant Man was even more of a risk than Guardians of the Galaxy. The basic concept is pretty off the wall, yet they still managed to pull it off by doing what they do best, having great character relationships and mixing in some humor. Still, it doesn’t quite feel like the heist film it was billed to be. Oddly enough, Ant Man is the one film I’m more interested in seeing a prequel for than a sequel.
Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marvel’s take on Star Wars took the world by storm last year by giving us a talking raccoon and made “I am Groot” part of the global vernacular. This movie opens up the MCU like no other film before it, giving us a glimpse of the wide range of alien races that exist out in MCU space. Still, there’s always that thing in the back of my mind of why/how do all these aliens speak English, and why do so many of them just look like humans?
Avengers: Age of Ultron
This Avengers film hits the ground running with action right away. Hugely ambitious, globe spanning, it introduces new characters while still taking the time to explore those we already know. The highlight of the film is not the action, but the break during the second act, where we see tension and secrets among the team members. Black Widow’s dark revelation about her past is truly heart breaking, and perhaps the MCU’s most haunting moment.
Ultron is one of the best MCU villains we’ve seen so far, with his child like curiosity of the world around him. His not knowing his own strength and his puzzlement over finances are laugh out loud moments, but Ultron still manages to convey a chillingly creepy presence.
Still, this movie takes on a lot. It mostly manages to keep all its plates spinning, but, like the last Avenger’s film, Thor’s role in figuring out what was going on seemed to come out of nowhere, and in this case was just about literally dues ex machina.
Thor: The Dark World
Perhaps unprecedentedly merging Star Trek with Lord of the Rings, Thor blends fantasy and science fiction while still maintaining tropes of a sequel. An ancient enemy returns in an adventure that gives us more of a glimpse of the 9 realms of Asgardian mythology while further exploring the relationship between Thor and Loki. The Dark World has real consequences as actual characters die (Looking at you Iron Man 3). Also noteworthy is that Thor legitimately couldn’t defeat the villain without the help of his human friends. If Thor 3 is anywhere close to being this good, than this might be the best trilogy of the MCU.
Captain America: Winter Soldier:
The best film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Winter Soldier exemplifies the strength of the MCU. It is, first and foremost, a political thriller. Timely and topical with its theme of privacy vs safety, Winter Soldier gives us the best action scenes of the series, expands the political side of the MCU, brings back characters from the last film in ingenious ways, and gives us a bombshell that shakes the entire MCU. Winter Soldier is also noteworthy for having an impact on the up to then rather boring first season of Agents of Shield.
Rankings of the MCU as a whole.
12. Iron Man 3
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Iron Man 2
6. Captain America
4. Avengers Age of Ultron
3. Thor the Dark World
2. Iron Man
1. Captain America: Winter Soldier
Having praised Winter Soldier, I still have to say that the best single unit of storytelling from the MCU is still Netflix’s Daredevil.