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Phase Two of the MCU: Alright Films and One Masterpiece
Ten days away from the release of Black Widow and we are in the midst of a rewatch to prepare for a discussion with members from the Minnesota Comic Exchange. Now, let’s rank Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
6) Thor: The Dark World (2013) Directed by Alan Taylor
This may be the weakest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that being said its very enjoyable. The chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston creates some great moments in this film. Also it was nice to spend more time in Asgard with Jane Foster having to be saved. Thor: The Dark World is funnier than I remember and with the films that came afterwards, the film has redeemable moments like Loki shape shifting into Captain America will always be funny.
Why is this at the bottom of the list? Two reasons, the first being the terrible characterization of Malekith and the Dark elves. To be the villains of a superhero film, you need to be memorable and even just watching Thor: The Dark World I cannot recall any great moments from Malekith. The second reason is Jane Foster. I love Natalie Portman as Jane Foster and look forward to her coming back for Thor: Love and Thunder but feel like this film played too much into the damsel in distress trope.
5) Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) Directed by Joss Whedon
This film should be higher on this list, but it may be the most troublesome film of the whole MCU. Let’s focus on the positives before diving into why this is my least liked Avengers film. The introduction of Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision are all highlights in this film, with both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany crafting memorable performances as Scarlet Witch and Vision. Age of Ultron gave Jeremy Renner an opportunity to shine as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, which redeems the character after The Avengers. Also James Spader is great voicing the homicidal artificial intelligence Ultron and a great tease of Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue.
The worst part of this film is how Natasha is treated in this film. Looking at the films that followed this and even another film in phase two, Natasha looks weak in this film opposed to the badass that we know her as. The very awkward relationship between Natasha and Bruce is hard to watch at moments, luckily two talented actors were able to deliver the lines with emotion, otherwise it could had killed the film. The climax of the film could have been better as well, despite the awesome image of Sokovia floating in the sky, Ultron ends up looking weak.
4) Iron Man 3 (2013) Directed by Shane Black
This movie is a lot better than I remembered even despite the Mandarin twist. I mean we got to see Ben Kingsley act as a villain and a comedic role in the same movie. This is a very well acted film that feels like the Lethal Weapon of the MCU, which would make sense with Shane Black directing it. Harley Kenner is a nice additional to the MCU as he was created for this film and provided a glimpse of the mentorship role Tony would take on in later films.
If this was the finale to Iron Man’s story, it would have been higher on the list but it feels like this film is just there to complete a trilogy of films for Iron Man. Guy Pearce is alright as Aldrich Killian, taking a backseat to Kingsley’s Mandarin and with the twist of being the villain of the story is a little disappointing. Besides that though, this film is fun with some awesome moments.
3) Ant-Man (2015) Directed by Peyton Reed
Fun and funny, are two words that can perfectly describe this pint sized film. It’s a film that should not work because how could a film that is based on Ant-Man work? Well a script featuring Edgar Wright and directed by Peyton Reed makes the character work and does it extremely well. A perfectly casted film with Paul Rudd being great as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and Evangeline Lily as Hope Van Dyne. But the best part of this film is Michael Pena as Luis, who becomes a fan favorite within seconds of being on screen.
Its a film that features a very weak villain in Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (a very cliche performance by Corey Stoll). When Cassie saids “It’s so ugly, I love it.” that perfectly captures this film, it is not perfect but damn is it fun. Great teases with the mid credit scene and the Falcon cameo.
2) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Directed by James Gunn
Much like Ant-Man, this film should not work and it became one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Great special effects, action, characters with amazing humor. This film has it all with a star making performance by Dave Bautista, who steals the film from more seasoned actors as Drax The Destroyer. The only negative thing about this film is the weak villain in Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), which doesn’t impact the story one bit as watching this film, the coming together as a team is more important.
While rewatching this, I forgot how emotional the start of the film was. It is very much like that of Up or Bambi with the death of Peter’s mom. Chris Pratt was born to play the role of Peter Quill/Star-Lord. James Gunn’s vision of Guardians of the Galaxy is so hard not to love, its one of the best films of Phase two with one of the best soundtracks in any superhero film.
1)Captain America: Winter Solider (2014) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
This may be the greatest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not only in Phase Two. This film is just perfect with every character having moments and legendary actor, Robert Redford, in an evil role. Sebastian Stan is great as the Winter Soldier, so much so that I remember the first time watching this, I did not realize that he was the same actor from Captain America: The First Avenger. A marvel film that has zero negatives, just a great film.
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/The Falcon is a great introduction to the character and the film teases the partnership and chemistry between Sam and Steve. The hand to hand combat makes the action feel real and it is hard to take your eyes off the screen. Despite the film having a political espionage feel to it, the film has great comedy moments with Natasha and Steve. Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider makes Phase Two a lot more enjoyable than Phase One.