The Marvel Phase 1 Movies


It’s a little funny that despite my general indifference toward the majority of the Marvel canon, I’m almost always excited for their next movie (including next weekend’s Iron Man 3). As much as anything else, it probably has a great deal to do with the fact that the studio as planted its flag firmly on every foreseeable first weekend in May. It’s become “Marvel Day,” and I’m OK with that. It feels comfortably familiar.

All signs point to Iron Man 3 joining the upper echelon of this list by the weekend, but if I don’t end up liking the film, it certainly won’t be the first time I’m going against the critical grain for a Marvel film, as you’ll see below.

So check out my ranked list of the Marvel Phase 1 movies. Let me know what you think, and please feel free to share your lists, too!

6.) The Incredible Hulk

The film world’s second crack at Hulk was, somehow, even worse than the first. At least Ang Lee was trying something interesting. Louis Leterrier brought nothing to the table here. Neither, surprisingly, did the promising lead trio of Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, and Tim Roth. No surprise, then, that there hasn’t been a whisper of a sequel, and Norton was ultimately replaced by Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers.

5.) Iron Man 2

A total mess of a plot ruins this one from the start. Mickey Rourke is a solid baddie, but that’s about where my praise for this one ends. I wasn’t too harsh toward it back in 2010, but subsequent viewings haven’t been kind at all. Gaping chasms in logic, as well as an overabundance of Avengers set-up, make this one a pretty tough watch.

4.) Thor

Though Thor is a definite step up from Iron Man 2, which immediately preceded it in the pantheon, the two films are ultimately undone by the same thing: too much time spent setting up future films! It’s incredibly irritating and distracting. Outside of that, this is a pretty solid superhero adventure. The otherworldly stuff feels unique.

3.) The Avengers

The movie that boasts the biggest opening weekend in history was a doozy on the big screen. I recognized some major problems with The Avengers on my first go-around, but the ride was unequivocally one worth taking. On Blu-Ray, The Avengers was a bit of a chore. Everything outside the final 45 minutes fell completely flat. Director Joss Whedon’s inability to pick a side neuters the entire exercise down to something that’s almost impossibly bland. Now, those last 45 minutes are exceptional and nearly save the entire motion picture. But you won’t ever be able to convince me this is a great movie. Sporadically fun, yes, but great? No way.

2.) Captain America: The First Avenger

THIS is a pretty great film and consistently fun throughout its entire running time. Not only is it the Marvel film that best incorporates the big, broad Avengers set-up, but it features the strongest Marvel romance (sorry, Tony and Pepper). Red Skull was a good villain. The back story was intriguing, and the main character’s motivations made sense. It’s simply a well-crafted action-adventure.

1.) Iron Man

Such a freaking easy choice. The movie that kicked it all off is still the best. Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark was this remarkable breath of fresh air that somehow still feels fresh five years later. Though it came out the same summer as, and was ultimately overshadowed by, The Dark Knight, Iron Man is as fun to watch now as it was in the moment that summer. I still love this movie. Ditto the character. And I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.

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