Greetings! With Ant-Man currently in theaters, it seems like the right time to do my first list on The Balcony Is Closed, with my ranking of all twelve Marvel Cinematic Universe films (including the aforementioned Ant-Man). Keep in mind that these are my opinions. Alright, let’s get right to it.
Thor is a surprisingly dull movie, considering it’s about the Norse god of thunder. The film tries to show ambition by focusing on the humanity of Thor, briefly punctuated by underwhelming action scenes (including a robot blowing up a 7-11) and feeble attempts at wit. The “man behind the mask” shtick may have worked for Spider-Man, but is certainly doesn’t work for Thor. However, Thor carries a strong villain in Loki, and fine performances in stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Tom Hiddleston, but the film just seems off.
- Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 is certainly not a bad movie. It has its moments, just not enough of them. You can always count on an Iron Man film to have a stellar performance by Robert Downey Jr. as the titular hero, to showcase fun action and some cool Iron Man tech. Iron Man 3 does these things. Just not as well as its two predecessors. Well, except for the Iron Man tech. The new suits are sights to behold. And by the way, Iron Man 3 contains one of the worst plot twists in a long time.
10: The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk is definitely one of Marvel’s least memorable films, but it’s a blast while you’re watching it. The movie stars the great Oscar-nominated actor Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. The film jumps in without showcasing an origin story, which is a nice touch. The Incredible Hulk has what Ang Lee’s Hulk was missing: some good old-fashioned smashing. I couldn’t tell you much about The Incredible Hulk, except that Norton turns in a good performance, and the end smashfest with The Abomination is incredibly done. Marvel had to wait until 2012 to get the Hulk right, but this was a step in the right direction.
9: Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is one of the most underrated films of Marvel’s oeuvre. That being said, Iron Man 2 is not perfect; the villain Whiplash (portrayed by Mickey Rourke) is lackluster, and the pacing can be pretty slow. However, the film expands on the MCU, showing the new War Machine piloted by James Rhodey (this time played by Don Cheadle), and the badass Black Widow (played by the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson). And of course Downey Jr. is great, it’s to be expected, and so is an epic finale. Oh, and Tony Stark and Nick Fury out for donuts? Who could refuse?
- Thor: The Dark World
Now this is more like it. Thor: The Dark World is a far superior film to its predecessor; a large-scale rip-roaring adventure filled with non-stop action and a brilliant performance from Tom Hiddleston as the funny, intense, and scene-stealing Loki. Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman are back as Thor and Jane Foster, respectively, with each giving strong performances. The movie is packed with intense action moments, from the destruction of the godly city Asgard, to one of the biggest reasons I wanted to visit Greenwich on my vacation to London. No matter how you look at it, Thor: The Dark World is a fun movie, and deserves to bear the name of Thor.
Ant-Man does not disappoint. Transitioning right from the huge Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man seems very lightweight. And that’s not a bad thing. As Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, as Captain America: The First Avenger is a war movie, Ant-Man is Marvel’s heist film. Helmed by a charming and funny turn by Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, who is recruited by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas in a genius return to form) to stop Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from abusing a formula used to shrink and enlarge living things. This movie just works not only the level of Iron Man but also The Italian Job and the Ocean’s films. The seemingly silly concept is used in a clever, almost tongue-in-cheek way as the complicated and slick heist turns into a high-octane battle in one of the strangest settings for a fight in an action movie. A lot of the mechanics, such as the controlling of ants, are used in very original ways. Overall, Ant-Man is funny, clever, and action-packed, and it proves that Marvel can do good with almost anything you give to them.
- Captain America: The First Avenger
An incredibly different path to go down after the large fantasy Thor, but once again Marvel knows what they are doing. War was one of the last genres to be expected to be taken on, but Captain America: The First Avenger feels natural, like they’ve been making World War II movies for a long time. Cap is portrayed by Chris Evans, whom Marvel fans know as the Human Torch (but Captain America is much better than Fantastic 4), and his sidekick Bucky is played by Once Upon A Time’s Sebastian Stan. Together, they must take down the Nazi/HYDRA agent known as Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) from harnessing the power of the Cube, a source for unlimited energy. Hayley Atwell also stars as Peggy Carter, Cap’s comrade, and now is the focus of the incredible new show Agent Carter. The atmosphere is just right, tricking us into thinking we are watching a normal, albeit great, war film, instead of a Captain America movie. Great action scenes, fantastic portrayals of fantastic characters (especially Weaving as the maniacal Red Skull), and a great premise makes Captain America: The First Avenger one of Marvel’s most original films yet.
- Iron Man
Iron Man has several reasons to place my #5 spot. It could be because it innovated the superhero genre. It could be because it started the blockbuster franchise known as the MCU. But I placed it here on this list because it is a smart, fun, visually stunning, well-acted, and overall original film. Iron Man is the first film that features Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and what a great performance as the self-proclaimed genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. It truly cements Downey Jr. in people’s minds as a superhero, as well as a hilariously charming human character. In the film, it shows how weapons manufacturer Tony Stark became the hero known as Iron Man, and how he must face Obadiah Stane, who is connected to a terrorist organization called The Ten Rings. This is such an influential movie, that it introduces us to the modern superhero picture, and it feels appropriate that it is such a fun flick to boot.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
And I thought that a Captain America film couldn’t get any more original and fun. I was very wrong. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, like The First Avenger, not only a superhero flick, but also a movie placed in a new and exciting genre. And while The First Avenger is a war film, The Winter Soldier is an espionage thriller with a political edge. The film reaches its place in the MCU by introducing characters like the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Alexander Pierce of HYDRA (Robert Redford). The film also smartly utilizes Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (the ever great Samuel L. Jackson). The film also feeds into the TV show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, cleverly expanding the universe. The action, humor, and politics blend so well, that it makes this flick one of the best of 2014.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron was the most excited I’ve been for a superhero film, after The Avengers itself. I think it is fair to say that I left wholly satisfied. The film is two and a half hours, and every second was a blast. Avengers: Age of Ultron is simply The Avengers with more of everything: more action, more heroes, and more destruction. However, this also means more flaws, but I would be nitpicking if I went into detail. James Spader made for a sarcastic but menacing Ultron, and Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen redeemed themselves from their chemistry in Godzilla. In the end, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a giant action film, and nobody is complaining.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel can do anything. Give them an old comic book that nobody read, and they’ll make one of the best comic book movies ever out of it. Give them goofy characters, including a talking raccoon, and they’ll make a film with great action, humor, and emotion. Nothing proves that more than Guardians of the Galaxy. Being a diehard Marvel fan, I knew who the Guardians of the Galaxy were when I first heard of the film. But a lot of people did not. How it became one of the most popular films of the year is unbeknownst to me. Maybe it has to do something with the fact that it holds likable characters played by talented actors, including Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and future Bond henchman Dave Bautista. Maybe also the fun action, cool 70s soundtrack, and incredible special effects have to do with it. Maybe also the fact that it is one of the best and most fun films of the year. Yeah, that’s probably it.
- The Avengers
What else? The Avengers is everything we want in a Marvel movie, and then some. At the time, the wow factor of having all these characters in a film together was off the charts, and it is still impressive. Every part of The Avengers is fun and smart. While Tom Hiddleston makes for an incredibly evil villain, the action is mind-blowing (the battle at the end is incredible every time), the best part of The Avengers is the chemistry between the heroes. The fact that all these different actors from other movies could work together so well is incredible. All in all, Joss Whedon crafted an action film that is not only the best MCU film, but also one of the most satisfying, and watchable, films of all time. What are your picks? Let me know in the comments! Excelsior!