MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE – FILM FRANCHISE RANKING 2018

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(Updated October 2018)

20. Thor: The Dark World
Pretty much a repeat of the first Thor but worse. Instead of Thor battling in space he again returns to earth to swoon over Natalie Portman. Forgettable villain and Loki is wasted in the film. No one looks like they are even trying. At least they got it right the third time around.
D-

19. Thor (2011)
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston deliver good performances as brothers Thor and Loki. But the rest is pretty boring and clichéd. When we should have been given an epic fantasy we got a fish out of water comedy. Asgard was beautifully designed however we are only there for a quarter of the film and we are left in deserted Texas for the rest of the film. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, and Idris Elba deserve better. One of the weaker entries in the Marvel Universe.
D+

18. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
I actually liked Edward Norton as the Hulk. I don’t think he was given a chance to shine in this film. He is one of my favourite actors check out Primal Fear, American History X, and Fight Club. He did a good job however the film feels dated perhaps it’s the special effects or just the bare bones plot. I enjoyed the action in the opening scenes reminiscent of the Jason Bourne films or Fast & Furious 5 when they’re in Rio. The sequence in the University is also a great showcase for the Hulk’s true powers. It’s a good entry in the series but seems to now been forgotten since Mark Ruffalo took over as the Hulk in the Avengers.
C-

17. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Still love Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man and enjoyed Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I also actually enjoyed Mickey Rourke as Whiplash and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. However the film got bogged down with too many setups to future films and seemed a bit aimless. Should have been a stronger sequel to the first-rate original.
C

16. Ant-Man (2016)
Pretty small entry (pun intended) entry in the Marvel Universe. Paul Rudd is great as Scott Lang/Ant-Man with his usual style of laid back humour. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are fine but the stand out is definitely Michael Pena as his con man buddy. Great visuals when he shrinks. Another generic villain. Would’ve loved to see Edgar Wright’s version. Fun entry but definitely in the lower end of the MCU
B-

15. Doctor Strange (2016)
Enjoyable and trippy entry in the MCU. With dashes of Inception and Batman Begins. Benedict Cumberbatch is good as Steven Strange. Overall pretty formulaic origin story though.
B

14. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Underrated entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr is still great as Tony Stark/Iron Man. I love how he has to depend on his wits instead of his suit to solve the crime. Also his chemistry with the little boy really shines. I love Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin and the twist that follows. Also the first Christmas Marvel film. Great action and great performances all around.
B-

13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Enjoyable sequel to the original smash hit. Delves deeper into each characters past and also introduces new enjoyable characters. Lots of daddy issues in this film. Soundtrack and action scenes are great too. Cast is awesome. Very funny and entertaining but doesn’t surpass the original for me.
B-

12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Excellent opening scene featuring great action and fun banter between our favourite team. Also another classic scene is the crew having a chill out party all attempting to lift Thor’s hammer. 🔨 I love James Spader as the titular villain Ultron. However overall it is rather long, formulaic and relies too much on sub-plots to play out in future films.
B-

11. Ant-Man & the Wasp
Another fun adventure with Ant-Man! Great creative action sequences with the micro hero going from large to tiny and the film explored all the possibilities with that concept. Evangeline Lilly also kicked ass as the Wasp creating another bad ass Marvel hero after Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Great sympathetic villain with Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost. The supporting cast were also brilliant again with Michael Pena, Randall Park, Walton Goggins and the cute Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie, Scott Lang’s daughter. MCU knocked it out of the park in 2018.
B+

10. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Really funny third entry in the Thor series. I love the 80s cheesy fantasy vibe. Chris Hemsworth leans into his comedy side we saw from Ghostbusters and SNL. Tessa Thompson is great. The real standout is Korg voiced by director Taika Waititi. Great action and visuals. I was very surprised by this entry.
B+

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Tom Holland is great as the new Spider-Man and I love the 80s high school romantic comedy vibe. Michael Keaton is an excellent villain and Marissa Tomei is cute as Aunt May. The action scenes are pretty average. However I still really enjoyed this one.
B+

8. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers in space! Epic action from start to finish. Lots of surprises and real heart. The consistent fun banter between our heroes is still present and Thanos makes an excellent villain. However I was left wanting more. Seems like the first in a trilogy. Extremely reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings with multiple character arcs, the epic scope and large scale battle sequences.
B+

7. Iron Man (2008)
The introduction to the Marvel Universe. Again perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr as the cocky, sleazy billionaire Tony Stark who loses his heart but gains a soul. Jon Favreau crafted a unique origin story for a character honestly I barely knew about. When I was a kid I was raised on Spider-Man and Batman comics. However Favreau took all the tropes of the 90s comic book films and created something very special and timely dealing with the still at the time war in the Middle East. This was an origin story which was different – quirky, funny, action packed and still had heart. Great introduction to this universe.
A

6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is perfect casting. He brings a physicality and nobility I can’t see any other actor bringing to this role. I also love the supporting cast of Sebastian Stan, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell. I love the WW11 setting and this is a great introduction to my favourite onscreen Marvel character.
A

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Great film. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista turn in excellent performances and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are awesome as the voices of Rocket Racoon and Groot respectively. Really fun space adventure in the groove of the original Star Wars.
A

4. Avengers (2012)
Great ensemble team movie getting the band together. Captain America, Thor, Loki, Iron Man, Black Widow and especially Mark Ruffalo as the new Hulk all knock it out of the park. Great action and funny quips from beginning to end. I miss Joss Whedon’s sensibilities in the Marvel Universe. This was the first true beginning of the Marvel we know today.
A

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Previously my favourite Marvel film. So many epic action sequences including the elevator fight, the car chases and the opening. However it is the chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. Then Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. However especially Chris Evans and his long time friend turned enemy Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers really surprised everyone with their realistic direction and staging of each scene. Chris Evans is perfect in this film as the stoic and noble Captain America.
A+

2. Black Panther (2018)
Strong Marvel film with a diverse cast and a whole new aesthetic to the formulaic Marvel mode which has grown over the years. This is bold, daring and gives the African Americans a true hero to see on screen instead of another white actor named Chris. Only since Blade has their been a strong black superhero lead (not counting Luke Cage on Netflix). Top acting from Chadwick Boseman and especially Michael B. Jordan as the conflicted villain. Brilliant direction from Ryan Coogler (Creed) and beautiful production design. The special effects and action sequences could have been better however the characters and plot overcome those quibbles. Excellent Marvel film and could be the best film of 2018.
A+

1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
My favourite entry in the Marvel Universe thus far. Excellent performances from everyone in the cast especially Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Brilliant action sequences from start to finish and the Airport face off is possibly the best sequence in all of the films. Excellent introductions to Black Panther and Spider-Man (3.0). The Russo Brothers deliver on every level. Also plenty of twists which really changes the characters and their dynamics for future films. Excellent film!
A+

FILM REVIEW: AVENGERS INFINITY WAR (2018)

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Groot: I am Groot.
Steve Rogers: I am Steve Rogers.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Winston Duke, Peter Dinklage and Tom Hiddleston

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

The third entry in the Avengers Trilogy and the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the post credit scene in Iron Man (2008) when we were introduced to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Marvel fans around the world leapt for joy as they knew this was the beginning of a Marvel connected Universe. Over ten years we have been introduced to iconic Marvel Heroes such as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and even deeper cuts such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. Each film is unique in its own way but they have all grown into a similar formula. Regular man whether rich or poor comes across gaining special powers and learns life lessons from friends and villains then eventually saves the day. It is a common trope among all superhero movies however Marvel Studios has perfected the formula through perfect casting, strong directors and heaps of nods to the classic comic books where they all originate.

One thing that has spanned across most of the Marvel films is the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Fans have been waiting for this epic showdown and I’m sure for the fans it does not disappoint. The film opens with a dark and cold introduction of Thanos (brilliantly played by Josh Brolin with menace and ferocity) to show his true power and cruelty. This picks up straight after the previous Marvel film; Thor: Ragnarok. Thor and his team are powerless to his destruction and Thanos begins his quest to find all of the Infinity Stones. He comes to earth to wreak havoc on the streets of New York as Iron Man meets Doctor Strange and Hulk falls from the sky to warn them of what just happened and the threat of Thanos. What ensues for the rest of the film is the team all trying their best to stop Thanos from getting all of the Infinity Stones and ruling the world (or destroying it). The plot is quite simple and there isn’t much time for character development or character arcs except for perhaps between the Guardians of the Galaxy. The characters are still all played to perfection from the cast we know and love including; Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Tom Holland (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther/ T’Challa), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/ Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Bradley Cooper (as the voice of Rocket), Vin Diesel (as the voice of Groot), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), Anthony Mackie (Falcon/ Sam Wilson), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Benedict Wong (Wong), Don Cheadle (War Machine/James Rhodes), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Peter Dinklage ( Eitri) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Although Josh Brolin’s Thanos is perhaps Marvels best villain to date his henchmen – The Black Order are pretty forgettable. Proxima Midnight (Monique Ganderton) brings a tough female villain for the female heroes to battle and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) is chilling, particularly his torture scene with Doctor Strange. However the rest of the villains just reminded me of the Orcs from the Lord of the Rings films, simply fodder for our heroes to punch and kick.

Most of the film is filled with epic battle sequences and it is very fast paced for a 2 and half hour film. It is fun to see all of our heroes together although they eventually split up into three factions. Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man end up on a spaceship trying to uncover the true identity and motives of Thanos. Captain America, Black Widow, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Hulk end up on Wakanda joining Black Panther’s team to help protect the stone in the Vision. Then we have the Guardians of the Galaxy rescuing Thor from space. Thor’s initial meeting with the Guardians is fantastic especially his meeting with Peter Quill provide some great comedic moments. Eventually Thor teams with Rocket and Groot to travel to another planet to find a weapon to kill Thanos and the rest of the Guardians join Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man to stop Thanos from getting the time stone from Doctor Strange.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a real highlight in this film from their opening to the song The Rubberband Man by the Spinners they add comedy to dramatic scenes (especially Drax) but also have really strong heartfelt moments especially between Peter Quill and Gamora. Rocket and Groot teaming with Thor was also a stroke of brilliance.

All of this leads to an epic fight in Wakanda where Thanos tries to get the stone from Vision. I won’t spoil the rest (read below) however the epic scale of this battle is jaw dropping and reminiscent of the end battles of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Overall the film is quite grim for a Marvel movie. There are jokes and fun banter between the heroes but overall this is the darkest Marvel film and it is more similar to a fantasy film in the style of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones rather than the Iron Man or Captain America films.

I enjoyed the film but I did feel it was a bit too overstuffed with characters and overall the plot was quite thin; stop Thanos from getting the Infinity Stones nothing more and nothing less. What was impressive were the incredible epic action scenes from start to finish and just generally catching up with characters we’ve grown to love over these ten years.

B+

Spoilers & Extra Thoughts:
• Gamora was a real highlight in this film. The scene of her backstory was gut-wrenching. Zoe Saldana’s performance was brilliant. Also her death was shocking and heartbreaking. However I have a feeling she may return in either the next Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
• I thought this would be a stand-alone film like the original Avengers and its sequel Age of Ultron. I remember hearing they were going to split it up into two parts like the final Harry Potter and Hunger Games films but Kevin Feige decided against it. However that’s exactly what they did! They ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t enjoy the ending and to be honest I’m still confused as to why some characters began to die/disappear while others didn’t. I guess we’ll find out in the next one.
• I love Drax’s scene watching Peter and Gamora kiss while eating chips stating he has been there for hours and he has perfected the art of being silent and still.
• I loved how Thano’s killed Loki in the opening scene. Loki has been useless since the original Avengers. In hindsight he probably should’ve died in the original Avengers film.
• Speaking of characters dying I am disappointed that (besides Gamora) none of our major heroes died. The scene where Tony Stark got stabbed by Thanos had the crowd in my cinema gasping and I thought this could have been a great end to the character who had been around for ten years and launched the franchise. Marvel could have moved on and created a new path for the series. But they wimped out and let him survive. Most disappointing part of the film for me.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Doubting castle 4: advanced blogging

In order to write a review for the film The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I got information about the film, behind the scenes information, release dates and trailers via my RSS feed from my account on theoldreader.com

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Plot Synopsis: Peter Parker struggles with keeping his promise to the late Police Captain George Stacy to stay away from his daughter, Gwen Stacy, so she can stay out of danger. Peter also deals with the truth behind his parent’s disappearance as a child as well as a new threat in the villains Rhino, Electro and the Green Goblin.

Review:

Reading the plot synopsis above doesn’t quite capture everything going on in the film. I didn’t mention Peter also reunites with his old friend Harry Osborn, who is slowly dying from a mysterious disease and needs Spider-Man’s blood. As well as everything going on in the mysterious corporation Oscorp, and Peter’s Aunt May (Sally Field) and Peter graduating from High School and going to college. As you can see this film is very busy. So much is crammed in that it is hard to grasp everything that is going on. The producers are clearly trying to develop a cinematic universe much like The Avengers which balances sequels and numerous characters with great ease. I find this unfortunately detracts from the film and instead of focusing on a few interesting characters (which this film has many) the film gets lost in its juggling act.

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This is unfortunate because Peter Parker/Spider-Man is such a compelling character. Growing up as a fan of comic books I found the story of Peter Parker balancing his personal life with his superpowers among the best of the genre. In 2002 Sam Raimi directed an excellent adaptation of the comic book which balanced the heart and soul of the characters with the action and spectacle of a blockbuster film franchise. Raimi continued this streak with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and ultimately failed in 2007 with Spider-Man 3. Unfortunately in Spider-Man 3 even Raimi couldn’t juggle the multitude of characters, back stories and villains and tie them up into an interesting film. Spider-Man 3 was the last film in Raimi’s trilogy. In 2012 Sony and Columbia Pictures decided to reboot the franchise with a new director, actors and crew, titled The Amazing Spider-Man. The film went back to basics with Peter Parker discovering his powers, falling in love with Gwen Stacey and fighting one villain. It was a tightly focused, smaller superhero film which I thought worked because of its simplicity, great actors and a darker more realistic vision from director Marc Webb. However just as Sam Raimi before him, he too must now work out how to balance franchise needs, multiple character arcs, giant action sequences and keep fans eager for a sequel. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works better than Spider-Man 3 however while balancing it all we lose some of the heart and soul which made the first two films so great.

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On the positive side Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone both excel in their interpretations of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Their chemistry is real and believable. You feel for these characters and are engaged in their every step. They engage us with their romance and break our hearts with their actions. They are truly the films strongest asset. Also Marc Webb creates multiple action set pieces which defy the laws of gravity and show us things we’ve never seen before in a superhero film. The introduction of Spider-Man taking on some thugs in a busy New York City throws us right back into the wonderful world of Spider-Man. The ending (especially in Imax 3D) is also breathtaking in its vision and scope.

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Where the film suffers is in its multiple storylines and characters. Dane DeHann and Jamie Foxx don’t get enough to flesh out their respective villains. Also Paul Giamatti and Sally Field can’t do much with their limited screen time.

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The score from Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams is interesting in combining orchestral music with dub-step. It really does work in amping up the action and tension.

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As a popcorn blockbuster the two main leads and great set pieces keep this film working. However the multiple storylines let the film down and it can’t reach the heights of the first two Raimi Spider-Man films.

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Rating: 2 Stars

Cast & Crew

  • Director: Marc Webb
  • Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHann, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti
  • Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner
  • Producer: Avi Arad & Matt Tolmach
  • Music: Hans Zimmer & Pharrell Williams
  • Cinematography: Daniel Mindel
  • Editor: Pietro Scalia & Elliot Graham
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment