The Merry Marvel Money-Making Society
I have a correction, and if what my girlfriend says about me admitting my mistakes is right then this is momentous indeed. Last week I said something about Captain America: The Winter Soldier being the first Marvel Studios sequel to not be denoted by a number. That was wrong, and I am stupid. Goodbye credibility…Anyway, despite my gaffe The Winter Soldier went on to make a bajillion dollars (okay, $96 million) its opening weekend.
You might be thinking enough with talking about Marvel Studios already. But I can’t. There’s a reason these are, to me, the crown jewel of nerdom at the moment. Think about this. ONE studio, focused on ONE niche genre has produced NINE movies released since 2008. Nine movies in six years. And they’ve all been blockbusters, many of which have found a place in the top-grossing movies of all time.
They all might be superhero movies, but they are different unto themselves. Cap is good example. The first one is a period piece set during the 1940’s, while the new one is in modern day and harkens back to political thrillers of the 70’s. None of the Iron Man flicks are the same. They all have a distinct tone to them. These movies find ways to keep things fresh while maintaining continuity.
Marvel Studios is hoping that keeps their babies going for a long time to come. There are currently MCU flicks scheduled for release through the year 2017. A few of them have not been announced, but I’m guessing we’ll see something later this year. Recently, Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios head honcho and nerdy super-producer) mentioned he’d seen the latest list of what plans are, and they extend all the way to 2028. I’m not one for counting chickens as the saying goes, but the ones that have hatched so far would lead me to believe that plan is pretty viable right about now.
So in honor of Cap kicking Hydra booty, and Marvel Studios planning flicks into my fifties, here’s a ranking of the chicks so far. A few things go into the ranking system- my personal favorites, measured by a more subjective look at the craft that went into them, and consideration for what they mean/how they affect the larger MCU. Feel free to give your list in the comments. I like comments.
1. Iron Man
This deserves the top spot above even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, because if this had not worked we wouldn’t be talking any of it. The (mis)adventures of Tony Stark started not just a franchise, but with a little added sequence at the end of the credits began one of the biggest and most important sagas in cinematic history. I know Robert Downey, Jr. is thanking his lucky stars, and to those of us who thought he was perfect from the get go we can all say “told ya” to the people who doubted the casting (which was oddly a lot of people).
2. The Avengers
How this isn’t at the top, or second from the top, of anyone’s list is beyond me. Marvel did what nerds have clamored for for decades, and achieved something that competitor DC hasn’t even been able to get it up for. One movie merging multiple characters and franchises to bring together Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and the supporting characters fans have loved and come to love over the course of half a decade on the silver screen, and much longer in the comics. Add in one of the most prominent writer/directors in nerd culture, and you have the biggest comic book movie of all time.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I might be accused of favoring this one so high just because it’s the newest entry to the MCU pantheon, but I don’t care. I’ll admit there might be some rose-colored glasses going on here, but look at this movie on its own and in the context of the others, and tell me this isn’t The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight of the Marvel movies. Each Phase Two flick has been darker than the predecessors, and I’m going to guess it only gets darker. I not only want to see what comes in the next Avengers because of this, but the promise of Steve going after Bucky is almost (almost) more enticing right now.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
Maybe I’m just jonesing for Cap right now, or maybe his movies just seem to be the most unique among the MCU. This flick brought to mind old favorites like The Rocketeer (by the same director), and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not bad company for a movie like this. All the Marvel movies are about redemption and becoming a better person in some fashion, but where Iron Man and Thor and Hulk focused on the metal of a hero, this summed up perfectly the mettle of a man.
5. Iron Man 3
Spoiler alert- the Mandarin is a flimsy British actor full of booze and drugs. And I’m fine with that. Sure I was a little disappointed that the spooky Ben Kingsley of the trailers was a trick, but if you’ve seen the one shot All Hail the King, you know the Mandarin is not something to be dismissed as a serious role for a goofy actor. Plus, I’m all for not doing literal translations right from the books. IM3 started the “darker” trend of Phase Two, and tested the waters for a political message in these movies. If it ends up being the last solo Iron Man movie (at least with RDJ), they ended it in a good place for it to be over there, and to pick up the pieces in Avengers movies.
6. Thor: The Dark World
The darker Phase Two movie that even says so in the title. Watching this and then going back to the first one, you’ll notice how vastly improved everything is. The director, who came from a background that includes Game of Thrones, brought it a more epic look, and made it feel more visceral at the same time. Plus Thor isn’t a bleached out mess who looks like he has a plastic beard. Just saying.
7. The Incredible Hulk
The Mark Ruffalo Bruce Banner of the Avengers might feel more interesting, and his Hulk more fun, but this early entry into the MCU was far superior in tone, and much closer to what fans are looking for from the Jolly Green Goliath, than Ang Lee’s cerebral mess earlier in the decade. Closer to Bill Bixby’s television version, this flick provided us with a Hulk that acknowledged the original sort of, but only enough to continue the story. And as the second Marvel Studios movie, it helped to cement the shared universe idea at its conclusion (though I still think that should have been at the end of the credits). The only drawback to this one is all the threads that have been left to wonder about. Though recently there were passing mentions made of the Leader and Blonsky on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. I’d like to see them back on the big screen, however.
This movie might have had the second most difficult job of all these movies after bringing together the Avengers. This one had to believably introduce and include a mythological GOD into the canon that, despite the science-fictiony elements of the other characters, was largely grounded in reality. It was pulled off by taking the “what you call magic is just another kind of science” route. And it worked. Yippee!
9. Iron Man 2
Being the last on the list is usually bad, and unfortunately something had to be at the bottom. But it’s not for any negative reason the first MCU sequel goes here. Iron Man 2 might have been rushed, might seem a little too much like the first one in the final battle, and seem more of a SHIELD commercial/Avengers precursor, but it’s still fun as heck. When their worst movie is still awesome, you know they’re doing something right. All I wish is they’d had more Mickey Rourke. And bring Justin Hammer back, already!
Now it’s only fair to do a little preview of what’s to come in the MCU. These are not in any order of most looked forward to, or relevance. Just chronological order of release. I’m guessing by the track record of the flicks so far I’m going to enjoy them, so they’ll get their place on the list when the time comes.
- Guardians of the Galaxy – This damn movie looks like so much fun. That is all.
- The Avengers: Age of Ultron – The sequel to the most successful comic book movie ever going to darker places after the Earth (universe?) shattering events of the four movies preceding it? Helmed by the same master as the first one, who excels more the darker the material gets? Just wondering if we can make it 2015 already.
- Ant-Man – Edgar Wright started the process of making this movie before the first Iron Man. It finally gets its day in Phase Three of the Marvel Universe. Test footage of the character in action, and the casting of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas have this shaping up to be a great entry about a character who is possibly one of the hardest to sell to a general audience thus far.
- Captain America 3 – Much hoo has been ballied about this going toe-to-toe with a Man of Steel 2/Batman vs. Superman/Justice League sequel. From where Winter Soldier left off, I’m inclined to go with this over that winning any showdown.
- Doctor Strange – He was mentioned in The Winter Soldier! Marvel mastermind Feige has said the other Steve’s movie is closer than ever. Phase Three or beyond, it should be good.
Where do rank these movies, and which ones are you most looking forward to?
So what I’m saying, if I’m saying anything at all…is that I’m going to discontinue using that phrase. It’s starting to annoy me. However, we are going to retire it with a contest. Name the Marvel movie in which that phrase is said, and who said it, and you will receive a neat little trinket from yours truly. Comment here or on the Facebook post sharing this story.