Considering that “Avengers: Infinity War” is not only the 10th anniversary of the Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe, but could change the series’ landscape going forward, now seems like a good time to do a full retrospective on the franchise and rank all of the movies that have been released since 2008. Now, keep in mind for this section, the films are ranked relatively. I didn’t find any of these films hard to sit through, just not as enjoyable as others.
18. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
After a decade and nearly 20 films, “Thor: The Dark World” remains the worst Marvel film. Was it the worst movie that year? No. But, so much of it was average and forgettable.
This was mainly because of the supporting characters. Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard are wasted here in lame comic-relief roles. Thor’s friends, known as the Warriors Three, meanwhile, have little in terms of character depth when compared to side characters like James Rhodes from the “Iron Man” series. The weakest character, though, was Malekith, the film’s villain. The character was so stock and Christopher Eccleston offered nothing to enhance the villain’s screen presence.
The three leads in the film, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston were fine, and there was a neat climactic battle that utilized traveling through portals to make things unique. However, the writing and many of the characters just didn’t work.
17. Thor (2011)
I was quite underwhelmed with the original “Thor” film. The first thing I noticed about it was how it felt somewhat small in scale. The first two “Iron Man” films and “The Incredible Hulk,” had a few different locations, whereas this took place in just a small, random town. I get what it was going for, having Thor learn to be a bit more humble in small town, but I do feel like Thor could have been more epic by taking place in some other locations, which could have raised the stakes.
The film also had a poor introduction to the Warriors Three, offering them very little personality besides archetypes and the romance between Thor and Jane was never quite believable. Plus, Thor’s story of becoming more humble seemed a bit rushed. Everything here seemed shallow.
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Oh, “Iron Man 2.” The hype on this picture was incredible, it was the first sequel in the Marvel universe, the secret agency SHIELD would be more prominently featured, it could be a game changer. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The simple fact is that “Iron Man 2” bit off way more than it was able to chew. It wanted to cover Tony Stark’s arc reactor affecting his health, but it didn’t have enough time to dig into the issue. The same could be said about Stark’s alcoholism, SHIELD’s plan for the Avengers and corporate espionage with the character Justin Hammer.
This sequel tries to juggle all of these, but it’s apparent that it’s too much. With that said, there’s still enough to push it over the “Thor” pictures. For example, talented performers are brought back with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Plus, new great actors and actresses are featured, including Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell.
15. Iron Man 3 (2013)
It’s the biggest deal maker or breaker in the film so let’s just get it out of the way. So, spoilers for this part. The Mandarin twist, in my opinion, doesn’t work. Not only does it ruin what could have been a great villain in Ben Kingsley, it also completely wastes the opportunity for a great opponent for Iron Man to fight. The actual Mandarin from the comics is supposed to have 10 rings with magic powers. That would be perfect, magic vs Iron Man’s tech, a new issue to overcome.
But nope, instead the Mandarin turns out to be an actor, pretending to be a terrorist, all because Aldrich Killian (played by Guy Pearce) is upset that Tony Stark forgot to listen to his science presentation, a la Edward Nygma from “Batman Forever.” The film also has maybe the biggest plot hole, as Iron Man dares a terrorist to attack his house, but doesn’t send out his army of suits to protect his home, or call an Avenger.
Plus, the movie seems to slow way down when Tony meets a young kid who has to help him repair his suit.
Downey Jr., Paltrow and Cheadle are all fine, and the special effects are especially impressive. I remember in my initial review giving credit to how well the final battle sequence looks, showing off all the moving parts in Tony’s suits. There are good things here, and as a whole, it’s better than “Iron Man 2,” but only just so.
14. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Things start off well enough in “Age of Ultron.” The opening battle does a good job in showing that the team is now well organized and quite competent in their operation. The same can be said where they’re interacting at a party.
However, the film starts to struggle as the story becomes unfocused and convoluted. This is because on top of its main tale it’s trying to tell, the movie also has to make room to introduce Skarlet Witch and QuickSilver, showcase how Vision is created and follow Thor’s sidequest in investigating the Infinity Stones.
Additionally, I felt the stakes were a bit low here, and that may have been because the humor was kept up in a lot of scenes, even with the more serious moments. When the Hulk is fighting Iron Man in the Hulkbuster suit, Tony Stark spends a bunch of time making jokes, despite their being potential casualties all around. The same can be said about the villain Ultron himself. I thought James Spader did a fantastic job with the voice, but they made him joke around too much. I don’t mind some comedy, but this over did it.
Still, the film did have some entertaining moments, and the picture is benefited by the chemistry of the team.
13. Ant-Man (2015)
So, for “Age of Ultron,” I wanted the comedy a bit dialed back. However, here in “Ant-Man,” it worked. This was a very self aware movie, the filmmakers knew the premise was a bit silly, and decided to run with that.
This is accomplished both with a fun cast of characters and some great moments of using unconventional battlefields (such as a miniature train track), which really pushes the entertainment value. The movie also works by incorporating a heist concept.
Some of the detriments, though, is an underdeveloped, shallow villain and a rushed romance.
12. Doctor Strange (2016)
I’m going to get the negative out of the way first. “Doctor Strange” is a bit rushed. It felt like Strange went from being a rich doctor, to being depressed because of his injuries to learning mystical arts, very fast. The first act just was a bit too quick for my liking and the movie also had very noticeable similarities to the first “Iron Man.”
With that said, once the pace starts slowing down a bit in the second half, things improve, and watching the protagonist develop is compelling. The film really catches its stride in having Cumberbatch being perfectly cast as Strange as well as giving an audience a visually amazing experience.
Plus, the film has one of the best climaxes in any Marvel Studio film. Instead of going with a typical action filled sequence, the movie has Strange come up with an interesting concept to defeat the big bad without throwing a punch.
That’s the first few, next up is 11-6!