Is anyone else feeling the Marvel burnout? I love everything Marvel and DC, but I’m not rushing to theaters to catch the latest release like I used to a few years ago. It could also be that I am incredibly broke now, but that’s a topic for my journal and not my work writing. Regardless of Marvel burnout or the movies not being as good as they used to be, I loved the early era of Marvel as the movies slowly emerged. My friends and I would pile into a car and fight over the best seats in the theater. I have good memories of these movies. But I’m specifically ranking Marvel Phase 2 movies this time.
Ranking Marvel Phase 2
Thor’s The Dark World is the weakest movie of Phase 2. I don’t think it’s the worst Marvel anymore, but it is in this specific group of movies. I liked aspects of world-building, but they never really got fleshed out. The Dark World is also the last time Thor is treated as a truly serious character and not a comedic relief for every single down moment like later in the movies. We got to see a much more serious and battle-hardened Asgard. It felt regal and godly, like Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. But Thor The Dark World’s story feels empty of anything meaningful. Thor uses his hammer to electrify the big bad guy, the end.
5. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 is better than Iron Man 2, but it might also have the worst villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seems contradictory to say it’s better and that it has the worst villain in one breath, but the Mandarin is such a cool villain, and they blew it. Marvel eventually reckoned it later on, but it took a few movies. What I loved most about this movie is how much progress Tony Stark made with the Iron Man suit throughout four films. It went from something he needed a whole assembly line to bolt him into the suit to something he could do on the track of a grand prix. We see the evolution throughout all the movies, but this is the first time that Marvel shows us character progression without blatantly stating it.
Ant-Man is probably the first Marvel movie that felt like a blatant money grab. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t something great. It feels like one of those weird sci-fi movies Netflix puts out that no one ever talks about, but most of us have watched it out of pure boredom. Ant-Man opened the Marvel Cinematic Universe to new and exciting universes, which is cool, but the movie never left any impression overall. It came and went. The best thing to come out of Ant-Man is that we got Paul Rudd into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is a win in my book.
Age of Ultron had a lot of hype to live up to. It was the second Avengers movie, and it simultaneously delivered and under-delivered. The premise of the story was great. We’re introduced to Wanda and Vision, some cool characters that start expanding Marvel’s universe. Ultron had some of the hardest lines in all of Marvel. He is one of the coolest villains introduced to Marvel at this point, and I loved every piece of dialogue. The biggest turnoff with Age of Ultron is how formulaic and predictable the plot was. I was guessing the story plot point for the plot point before it all happened. It felt like Marvel was playing it safe, which isn’t bad, but I wish Age of Ultron had some sort of twist.
If Guardians of the Galaxy was in any other phase, it would sit at number one, but sadly, it was in Phase 2. Guardians of the Galaxy is the first time we completely separate ourselves from the established MCU and explore things outside the Avengers. It was a nice break. Guardians has a whole series and is, without a doubt, the best trilogy in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each movie builds on the last and only gets the better from there. The last Guardians of the Galaxy had me ready to go to war on behalf of all animals.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy is also the first time Marvel let some not-so-PG comedy leak into their movie. It wasn’t horrible or raunchy humor, but it wasn’t so cookie-cutter Boy Scouts anymore. It was a nice change of pace and set the tone for what was to come regarding comedy and Thanos’ storyline.
Undoubtedly, it is the single best standalone film in all of Marvel. It is so good. Captain America’s first movie isn’t bad, but it feels like any sort of generic origin story. The Winter Soldier feels like Bucky’s origin story, but we simultaneously discover its dark truth as Cap. Mix in a little Hydra bad guys, an awesome spy theme, and some of the best hand-to-hand combat choreography we have gotten in all of Marvel, and you get my favorite Marvel movie. It’s the first of the Marvel movies that doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. Yes, enhanced humans do superhuman feats, but an alien invasion or the fighting didn’t drive the plot. The fighting was a premium plus to an amazing plot. I do love this movie.
And if you’re curious about some of the better movies outside of our ranking Marvel Phase 2, here is my ranking of Phase 1.