Marvel Movie Reflections: Phase One
About a year ago, to coincide with the release of the final Fox X-Men film, Dark Phoenix, I did a reflection on all of the X-Men movies. It was a ranking of the movies in order from best to worst, as well as a paragraph accompanying each film that gave a brief synopsis of the overall takeaway from each movie. Now, during the quarantine summer of Covid 19 when everyone is still mostly staying indoors, and with Disney Plus streaming every Marvel movie, perhaps it is time to do something with those twenty plus Marvel Films, (although Martin Scorcese might not agree with the use of the word “films,” there.)
Unlike the X-Men retrospective, I will not be putting these in order from best to least. Not in the are where the paragraph synopsis are located anyway. Instead, I will offer that list, and then get into each movie, located in the order of which they were released. That means starting with Iron Man 1, (or just Iron Man, which coincidentally is also my favorite of the bunch.)
- Iron Man
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Avengers: Endgame
- Captain America: Civil War
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Thor: Ragnorak
- Spider Man: Homecoming
- Iron Man 3
One thing worth noting about this list is that all four movies made by the Russo Brothers have s prominent spot on the list. That means the two Captain America sequels (number 2 and 3 on the list,) as well as the two Avengers Infinity Stone – Thanos movies they made, (numbers 6 and 8.) Boy are those guys good.
Now for the chronological order and one paragraph analyzing…
The best of the bunch. Perhaps the best superhero movie ever (a runner up would be Batman Begins, also an origin story.) Iron Man takes origin to the next level. It isn’t just a first half origin kind of thing, but instead nearly the entire movie is about the origin. It’s about figuring out the costume and the idea of why it is necessary. It is about Tony Stark going head to head with his board (also something that happens in Batman Begins,) only here, it is about having a moral awakening and realizing what his weapons are being used for around the world. The best thing about this movie is the way it takes its time to show us every new development in the Iron Man suit. The careful analysis of how they build the first version in a cave, early on in the film, is just the start. On top of that, Jeff Bridges is a fantastic villain and is truly menacing. The stakes might not be end of world domination like some of the other movies, but that’s another reason why this one is so good… it stays grounded and semi-realistic, taking the time to treat its subject seriously. Plus Downey Jr is just perfect in the part.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
A pretty decent action movie, this is one of those movies that starts out with real promise, but then gets worse as it goes on. There are three major action sequences in the movie. The first, through the homes on a mountainside in Brazil, and then in a factory, is the best. That’s where you only see the Hulk in shadows. The next scene, at a University, is okay. Not quite as good as the first, but still entertaining. By the last action sequence, it’s monster fighting monster, and it just doesn’t look or feel very good. The story isn’t all that great either. This is an action movie, plain and simple, and only some of the action is great. Definitely makes it one of the weaker Marvel movies.
IRON MAN 2
Not a bad movie, but not a very good one either. Here’s a Marvel movie that packs way too much into one film. Unlike the two movies that proceeded it, this is the first movie where they really knew that there was going to be a bigger Marvel universe in the future, and so they did everything they could to make this movie setup or try to setup those other films. There are references to Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. And there’s also enough material here for about three Iron Man movies. Two major characters are introduced (Black Widow and War Machine,) we get two villains, a story about a senate hearing, and even a plot line where Tony is dying and needs to create an element to save his life. Most of these stories are interesting, and that’s what really keeps this thing going. But you definitely feel like it’s too much, especially when there’s a severe shortage of action scenes for most of the movie. There’s almost nothing in the entire mid-section of the movie (only Tony vs War Machine at his home,) and then to try and make up for it, the movie ends with about three action scenes all at once. It doesn’t quite fill the void.
Thor is just an okay movie. It’s a movie with a full agenda of what it needs to do and accomplish in order to establish certain things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it does successfully accomplish those things. The movie not only introduces us to Asgard (a new world,) and tons of familial relationships, but establishes how new things work like Thor’s hammer or the bifrost (rainbow bridge.) And it has Thor save both earth and Asgard from destruction in two separate action scenes. The problem is, that’s almost all of the action in the movie. There are basically three action scenes in this one, one in the beginning (against the Frost Giants,) one in the middle (against the cyclops-like laser shooting metal giant,) and one at the end, against Loki. It doesn’t feel like enough. Basically, this movie had a little too much to do, and the material that takes place on earth (about half the movie,) just can’t compete with what happens on Asgard.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
This is Marvel showing that they can make even a period piece work. And it was still early in the days of the studio too, with only Iron Man and Thor as the heroes they came before this. The movie works because it combines historical ideas, like buying bonds to support the troops, with futuristic technology (laser weapons powered by the cosmic cube.) It also isn’t afraid to go into the present, bookending both the beginning and end of the film. All of that makes this one feel relevant and not like it’s trapped for too long in the past. The villain here, The Red Skull, looks fantastic. And the action, with Cap throwing his shield around like a boomerang is a lot of fun. They even managed to get a lineup of stars for supporting roles here, including Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci. Funny enough, this is the weakest of the three Captain America movies, and yet it’s still a pretty good film.