I've talked about world building before on this blog and I may do some blogs about world building in the coming weeks. In the spirit of that, I want to also do a post on shared worlds, especially the shared world that I think is maybe the best right now: The Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, I'm not going to get into nuts and bolts of shared worlds and world building right now, I'm going to talk about the quality ranking of these movies and discuss why I like them. I started this over on Facebook and got some interesting comments, so I thought I'd give it a go here. So here goes, in reverse order. (NOTE: I have not seen Age of Ultron, so I have nothing to say here about that. I will amend when I finally get to see it.)
10. IRON MAN 2: I've only caught bits and pieces of this movie because I think it's a mess. It does give us Black Widow (more on that later), but it just didn't work for me and maybe fit worse in the concept of "shared world" than any of the other movies on this list. (More on that later.)
9. THE INCREDIBLE HULK: Vastly better than the 2003 movie, I actually think this movie was a good concept but terrible execution, most notably by Edward Norton. Norton is an amazing actor, but he ruined the movie. The thing about the Hulk is that he's a lot like Batman in that it's not the Hulk/Batman that matters but their alter ego that is vastly more important. Edward Norton wasn't a believable Bruce Banner...Mark Ruffalo is vastly better, the right balance of restrained anger, rumpled genius and twitchiness. The other problem is that the Hulk is supposed to be "fun" on some level (more on that later) and there is nothing fun about this movie.
NOTE: If this were a race, 9 & 10 would be way behind.
8. THOR: If you read my blog, you know I love a well-executed genre mash up and this was the first attempt at it by Marvel because they began to recognize that's what there movies needed to be. They weren't superhero movies but genre action movies that featured superheroes. THOR isn't a bad movie. It's actually pretty good. And it has Natalie Portman. Mmmm, Natalie Portman. It's enjoyable and kind of fun that had some real "meh" parts and some real WOW parts.
7. IRON MAN 3: I caught a lot of flak for my ranking of this movie, but I thought it was the most adult of the three movies. I loved the Extremis plot line and all the suits were freaking cool as hell. Tony's PTSD over New York was well done and his ultimate decision at the end was a fitting touch. Giving Pepper something to do was a nice touch as well.
NOTE: If this were the same race as the previous note, 7 & 8 would be way ahead of 9 & 10 and a little behind the rest. 2-6 would be tightly packed.
6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER: I believe that when io9 reviewed this movie they called it "a war movie with a super hero in it" and that was accurate. It was a great mash up of genres that began setting up the pins for the shared world Marvel was delicately building. This wasn't end of credit or mid credit scenes, this was a whole movie setting up what would happen next. Chris Evans is riveting as Cap/Steve Rogers and making it a period piece works perfectly. Plus it gave us Agent Carter....mmmm, Agent Carter.
5.THE AVENGERS: I'll probably catch some heat over this one. I loved the movie, but I think other MCU movies did what they did better than what this movie did. There are glaring flaws (just what we need a white sausagefest saving the world.) But one of the things it did really well was that it was fun despite the raised stakes of what was happening (more on this later). From the little character moments: Banner's frumpy-ness, Black Widow's blase attitude about everything, Cap's confusion over his place in the world, Tony's ego, etc to the broad sweeping action moments. But the topper for me is Cap giving orders to everyone of what to do and he looks at Hulk and says, "Hulk...smash" and Hulk grins. They did more with the Hulk in that one ensemble piece than the entire movie did.
4. IRON MAN: The movie that started it all, setting up the pieces for everything else that came after it. Smartly done, mixing just enough comic book material with their own spin on the story. And it was wildly entertaining....so much so my genre disliking wife enjoyed it thoroughly.
3. THOR: THE DARK WORLD: Genre mash-up at perhaps its best. Epic fantasy mixed with scifi in just the right doses. I've said in the past that I'm trying to capture that aesthetic in one of my fantasy series. It just works. And while it is a little darker in tone than say the Avengers or GOTG (more on that later) it still has an element of fun and adventure. Plus...more Natalie Portman.
2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Another one I'm sure I'll take some heat for, but God I loved this movie. One of my buddies on Facebook felt it didn't hold up on rewatch and I respectfully disagree. Another said it relied too much on jokes and flash to cover up plot holes. So did another movie that I loved: Star Wars. Watch it. There are plot holes you could fly the Millennium Falcon through, but that didn't make the movie any less brilliant. When I first saw GOTG I described it as "Star Wars and Spaceballs had a baby that was raised by Firefly" and I stand by that. (There's a part of me that wants to write about Spaceballs and my desire to write something like it, but that another post!) GOTG brought back space opera by bringing it to the MCU and doesn't feel much like it's part of the comic book world, but there enough call backs for us to recognize it as part of the shared world. I've said before, in my post about epic being fun that GOTG is my argument that an epic story can be fun. Because they can be.
NOTE: I think the next one is at least two lengths ahead of the pack. If this were a race.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: I firmly believe that Marvel elevated their game with TWS. Forget it being a good superhero movie....it's a great movie. The directors made no secret that they were attempting to recreate the political thrillers of the 70s and they succeeded. Robert Redford (take a minute to let that sink in) took a secondary role in a superhero movie because he'd never been in a movie like this and his presence alone brings a gravitas to the project. It's a serious movie that asks serious questions, taking it's components from all kinds of places and combines them into a very satisfying gumbo. It gets Black Widow right (where I've heard AGE OF ULTRON gets her all wrong) in so many ways. It violates one of the great rules of comic books: "The only people that stay dead in comic books are Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben." (NOTE: know 2 of the 3 have been undone, but that's for another discussion.) There is little flaw I can find in this movie and it is the gold standard which all superhero movies should be compared.