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Ordering the Marvel Universe: Television and Film(Part 2 of 2)

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With the release of Spider-man: Homecoming  the time has come to rank all current Marvel Cinematic Universe films from this reviewer’s subjective ‘worst’ to ‘best.’ If you want a look back at picks 21-11 then proceed to here!

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The MCU Ranking List (From 10-1)

10 – Spiderman: Homecoming

The newest member of the MCU is a beautifully self-contained action comedy with wonderful coming-of-age themes. It has its flaws, but is a strong enough stand-alone entry to enter the top ten MCU films in and of itself. Tom Holland plays a perfect Peter Parker, struggling for self-expression in a world of adult heroes who doubt his true abilities. Robert Downey Jr. shows up briefly in a mentoring role, and there are plenty of Spiderman and Avengers easter eggs to keep fans occupied. While Michael Keaton plays a terrific Vulture ‘birdman’ villain. Yet at its heart, Homecoming is a wonderfully down-to-earth adventure focused around a teenager looking for love, friendship and acceptance while struggling with the responsibilities that his powers bestow upon him. And that is the essence of who Spiderman is.

Read our review of Spiderman Homecoming here!

9 – Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is one of the trippiest, oddest characters in the Marvel Universe altogether. He is the Sorcerer Supreme, a man of intellect and magic. The casting of Benedict Cumberbatch does seem, therefore, somewhat odd initially – until you start to watch the film and recognise that the star-studded cast work brilliantly with the exploration and expansion of the multiverse. The ‘magic’ of Doctor Strange is exposited as a form of astral-science, the ability to tap into the energy of other words and universes and use this for the benefit of the ‘sorcerer.’ Some might frown at the inclusion of magic in the Marvel Universe, however with some brilliant and unique special effects that are Inception-esque, and a deep thematic heart, Doctor Strange is a beautifully constructed film and the third-best origin film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

8 – Luke Cage

Luke Cage is both an origin story, and a timely television show in an era of the Black Lives Matter movement. The casting is poignant and well-executed, with Mike Colter serving as the bullet-proof Luke in the midst of political movements and schemes that serve to try to bring down the world around him. Luke is a passive and reluctant hero, a guy only drawn into war and conflict by those who seek to create it. The one let down with Luke Cage is its methodical pacing and the treatment of the show’s best villain – Cornell Cottonmouth as played by the charismatic Mahershala Ali. Yet, for a smaller-focused superhero hit, Luke Cage is the hero for hire to focus on.

7- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier is the film many viewers consider the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has all the twists of a pulsating spy action-thriller, and a well-executed rendition of one of the best comic book story arcs. However, for all the fanfare the film does suffer from minor plotting and pacing issues that in this reviewer’s eyes prevent it from being the best Marvel film. It is a more-serious film, yet serious does not equal better here as it lacks the balanced tone between serious themes and humour that its predecessors possess. Which, for this reviewer, is why it falls behind other films on this list.

6- Iron Man

After so many years, Iron Man is still one of the best films in the franchise and the second-best origin story. Robert Downey Jr. inhabits the role of Tony Stark like no one else could, selling his charisma with charming persuasion. It is a film which, although it now lacks the visual ‘wow’ factor, and impact of later films, still has one of the most complete stand-alone character arcs. The villain is impressive, if somewhat underused – essentially serving as a representative of the dangers of ruthless capitalism. For all its fun and games, this is a film with plenty of heart and a worthy entry point to an entire universe.

5 – Daredevil

Daredevil with its two seasons is the first of Marvel’s forays onto the Netflix streaming screen. Despite being a visually violent show in places, Daredevil’s brilliance lies in its exploration of deep moral themes and its villains. Season One focuses on Wilson Fisk – Kingpin and his control of the New York mafia gangs – and Season Two introduces The Punisher and The Hand. While Season One is far superior – one of the finest pieces of television available, despite some gore-filled moments with Kingpin and a car door – Season Two is acceptable in its own right, if a touch slower-paced and less momentous and memorable with its action sequences and overall plotting. Regardless, Daredevil is the television show of choice for this reviewer, and builds a strong desire and anticipation for August’s The Defenders. 

Daredevil is the best of the Netflix shows to date, although its second season drags it down the list

4 – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a terrific film, one of the best released this year in fact. The film’s first third struggles with its pacing compared to other entries in the Marvel Comic Universe, and although the second two thirds are brilliant – the overall film often sacrifices quality moments and thematic expression for comedy. The villain is a clever play upon the ‘daddy issues’ of the protagonist, with his plans mimicking his very identity as Ego. Indeed, what Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 does well, it does very well – turning one of the odder villains in the comic books into a clever adaptation, while also providing a new and modern take on Star Lord’s parentage that is well-developed.

Groot steals the show…again. But Rocket steals everything.

3 – Marvel’s The Avengers

The Avengers – the moment comic book lovers had been waiting years for. And still one of the best films in the entire Marvel Universe. A movie born from the combination of years of previous films and the uniting of characters so different that this film should not have worked. Yet with a clever, straightforward script from Joss Whedon and direction that allows each character to shine, The Avengers became the standard all other films in the franchise needed to look up to. Fortunately other films did hold to this standard and began introducing the multiverse, magic and a few extra infinity stones. And some films even outshone this particular film.

One of the films of 2012 and the MCU 5 years later

2 – The Guardians of the Galaxy

The best origin story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As many reviewers note, Marvel took a film about a space racoon, a talking tree, alien assassins and a space traveller from Earth and turned it into a smash hit. Chris Pratt (fresh from his role as the chubby comedy relief in Parks and Recreation) displays his perfect comedy timing in the key role of Star Lord, while Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper deliver their voices surprisingly well to Groot and Rocket. However, the stars of the show are Dave Bautista in the role of Drax and Zoe Saldana in the role of Gamora as the deadly alien warriors. Drax in particular, with his lack of understanding of literal and metaphorical words, is a brilliant comedy gem of a character.

Guardians of the Galaxy? Or just another bunch of idiots?

1- Captain America: Civil War

Sitting here at number 1 is Captain America: Civil War, a film that is essentially Avengers 2.5 and is more of a spiritual successor to The Avengers than any other film since. It is a film which introduces both Spiderman and Black Panther to the world of the Avengers. Yet this is an incredibly fine tuned and balanced film, finding screen time for a variety of different characters from Hawkeye through to Black Widow, also maintaining a focus on the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are at their best in this film – a film which is both an incredible action film, and a political, thematic thriller, with a villain who works through scheming and manipulating rather than brute force. Civil War is the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of one reason however: it effectively combines all that has come before it into one film, while also staying true to the core roots of the comic book franchises that birthed it, and leaving room for future films to stand upon its shoulders.

 

Civil War is Marvel’s best film so far

If you enjoyed this list or would like to debate any part of it, please comment, share or subscribe. There will be and is plenty more for you to read, and you could even submit your own piece for publication!

 

The following are Unranked Until Their Release Dates at this point

Agent Carter (2015-2016)

The Defenders (2017-)

Marvel’s Inhumans (2017-)

Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (2017-)

Marvel’s Runaways (2017-)

Marvel’s The Punisher (2017? -)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Black Panther (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Untitled Avengers film (2019)

Untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel (2019)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2019?)

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