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– by Nick Doll

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Oh, how a messy third act can detract from an otherwise well-made and especially emotional film. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is very ambitious with no fear of getting too weird. The film has a lot going for it for the first two acts; beloved characters with complicated relationships, Marvel’s brightest and most eye-popping visuals to date, an upped quotient of the awesomely bizarre, and the strong theme of family. There’s the family drama of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karren Gillan), the daddy issues Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) experiences linked to both Ego (Kurt Russell) and Yondu (Michael Rooker), and the idea of the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves being a family unit, complete with a young child in the form of Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).  Though Kurt Russell as Ego is a great addition to the MCU, as is Stallone as Stakar, this is really Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) movie.

Taking a very Empire Strikes Back approach to his sequel, writer/director James Gunn not only used the father reveal as a plot point, but splits the Guardians into two groups, just as Luke Skywalker went his separate way from Han Solo and Leia in Empire. The result is a decent A-story following Quill and co, with a far more interesting and emotional journey taken by Rocket, Baby Groot, and Yondu. Vol. 2 also contains one of the MCU’s most depressing, yet beautiful scenes, when Yondu is introduced, buttoning up his pants as his robot hooker shuts down and he stares out the window at the cold, white snow with loneliness written all over his face. It’s a shame the finale of the film is a little nonsensical with ridiculous situations arising and several plot holes concerning what Ego is and isn’t capable of. I mean, why are there pillars erupting from the core to give Gamora and Nebula a ride to the surface? I’m sure Gunn could explain it, but sure feels a little too convenient to me.

11. Iron Man (2008)

Why is Iron Man on the lower end of my list? Not even in the Top 10?! Well, when it was released in 2008, Iron Man did set the new standard for the superhero genre, establishing the tone of the entire MCU with the perfect balance of humor and serious situations. It owes a lot to 2002’s Spider-Man in terms of structure and telling an origin story, but it felt fresh enough with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a superhero unlike any we had seen before, both in his personality and decisions he makes. I mean, who would have guessed the movie would end with Stark giving up his secret identity? Who does that?

Iron Man might even be one of Marvel Studios’ cleanest films with very little feeling extraneous and very few scenes or plot points that detract from this well put together little package. I have to knock Iron Man down the list though, because in 2017, it does feel very traditional; a straight-up superhero film that takes almost no risks with the genre. Unlike future, more creative MCU films that tend to combine genres, this is simply a superhero film, something to build on, but not all that creative in retrospect. As good as Iron Man is, I want to honor the Marvel movies that truly break new ground, such as…

10. Ant-Man (2015)

If Iron Man owes a great deal to the first Spider-Man film, then both Ant-Man and Doctor Strange owe their origin movie structure to Iron Man. While Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were less traditional genre stories bucking secret identities and not following the classic structure of an origin film, Ant-Man has the classic structure of man gets powers (or a suit), man learns to use his powers in a series of montages, and then man applies powers to take on a supervillain with a similar power-set to himself.

Yet, Ant-Man still takes larger risks than Iron Man, pushing the superhero genre farther by pairing it with a heist film, complete with that genre’s structure and main-stays. Even more importantly, Ant-Man is damn fun, with Paul Rudd crushing it as Scott Lang, perhaps the most experienced comedic lead in the MCU. Director Peyton Reed has so much fun with the idea of shrinking and changing perspectives, throwing Ant-Man and the frustratingly similar villain, Darren Cross/Yellow Jacket (Corey Stoll), into hilarious settings like a model of a building, a briefcase, and a child’s play area complete with a carpet that acts as a sort of cornfield and Thomas the Tank Engine serving as a battle ground as if it were a real train. Best of all though, is Michael Peña as Luis, who really should run down “Previously on Marvel” at the beginning of every film, with his unique form of storytelling.

9. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Yes, I put Iron Man 3 above the original Iron Man. Again, though Iron Man did establish the MCU and is a great film, it also didn’t push many boundaries. After the disappointing Iron Man 2, writer/director Shane Black throws a few of the franchise’s rules out of the window. It’s far more fascinating watching Tony Stark struggle to survive against powerful foes without his wonderful suits during the second act than letting him have all his toys, especially after two movies of him solving all his problems with said toys.

Shane Black is an absolute superb writer and director, and his finger prints are all over this film just as James Gunn’s style is evident in both Guardians of the Galaxy films. Obviously, this film has a few gaps in logic regarding Extremis, though Extremis does allow for more interesting villains that just other people wearing arc reactors and metal suits. Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian is a stroke of genius, another scientist who has modeled himself after Stark, like Hammer, only to greater effect, following a powerful scene where he contemplates suicide on New Year’s Eve from the roof of the building Stark promised he would meet him. Stark’s demons coming back to haunt him, indeed.


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  • RX178

    Iron Man 2> Iron Man 3. More Justin Hammer! They completely ruined AIM- they should be just as formidable as Hydra!

    • elhonez

      Justin Hammer is the best. Sam Rockwell rules.

  • Kronx

    An opinion cannot be wrong… But all of your opinions are wrong.

    • Nick

      Not all! I think if you did a poll of best MCU films, The Winter Soldier gets first place! Maybe Avengers beats it… maybe.

      • Kronx

        Pound for pound, Guardians of the Galaxy was the best film. It’s a more entertaining, more satisfying experience. I can sit down and watch it again and again. It also had great emotional resonance, deftly laying its seeds early that were harvested at the end (Peter’s mom, We are Groot, etc.)

        It’s packed full of amazing shots that feel like splash pages, brief iconic moments that speak volumes.

        Winter Soldier is a very good film, but, once you know the mystery, it doesn’t quite have the same impact. (Although the “Did you get the flowers?” line is one of my favorite Marvel moments). And the grand scheme of having three death carriers never really feels like a great threat. It’s more of an excuse for things to happen.

        In fact, I think Civil War holds up better because it leaves you questioning whether Cap was a villain in his own movie (which he was).

        And Avengers; Age of Ultron needs to be a bit lower on the list. The dream sequences, Thor running off, I’m a monster, Ultron v. Jarvis all of these scenes disrupt the flow of the film.

  • Victor Roa

    hehe, fun list, although worst still is…. spending a weekend night as a teenager with friends watching Generation X and saying “well, this is closest we are ever going to get a comic book adaption.” and then sighing how Screwed marvel is on filing bankruptcy. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a3d46bd6fc41438b2b3171c81760ae93be6e61da1c1afb8cef39084db25e879b.jpg
    so any MCU film still is a massive step up from 20 years ago before Blade 1 was released.

  • TFCB

    I foresee much flack for this list. Hoo boy.

    • Nick

      Yeah, so did I as I wrote it. But it’s how I actually feel, having seen all them (except Thor: Ragnarok) at least 5 times. Plus, where’s the fun in agreeing with popular opinion? No discussion if I just guess what everyone else wants to read.

  • WTFITBS

    Too early to comprise a list such as this, I think when Marvel/Disney gets to a point where they want to stick to animated or live action shows and steer away from films for awhile, this would be appropriate. Next year we’re getting three more films: Black Panther, Ant-Man and The Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War which will make this list null and void.

    • Nick

      Easy to update! Just add each new release to the list, in it’s proper place!

  • SeanDon

    I’ll be nice…no comment on the list haha

  • axebox

    1. Winter Soldier
    2. Avengers
    3. Iron Man
    4. Guardians of the Galaxy
    5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
    6. Spider-Man Homecoming
    7. Civil War
    8. Ant-Man
    9. Doctor Strange
    10… Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, Thor Dark World, Incredible Hulk

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      Good list. Don’t agree completely, but by and large, your rankings are sound.

  • Mad Barchetta

    I think you’re over-critical of the Thor films, especially in saying there was no humor in The Dark World. Maybe you need to re-watch it because there was a ton of humor in that movie. A lot of of it misplaced, but hardly that dark of a film, beyond Thor watching his mother and adopted brother die. (of course, I think those things actually give the movie some impact and a sense of stakes) In my mind, Ant-Man ranks below both of them, and it generally overrated, although I did enjoy it.

    One thing I am desperately sick of hearing: “Wah, wah! They put in stuff about SHIELD (or whatever) in the story and it seemed like they were just world-building.” Yes! Yes, they were! Suck it up, buttercup. So many people got excited in that very first post-credits scene because it meant that Marvel was possibly working on building upon what they started with Iron Man. “Oh cool,” everyone said, “we’re going to get The Avengers! And SHIELD!!” Then most of them proceed to complain that this expansion of Tony’s world actually took place during the movies. Whn the hell else did you want them to do it???? During commercial breaks?? Keep it all to post credit stings??? Of course movie time would be devoted to this world-building. Frankly, I never found any of it to be a negative. It’s part of a meta-story, of which ALL the movies are a part. That means that’s how it’s going to work. Marvel certainly did a better job of integrating the various parts of its universe than BvS did, when we got a whole scene of Wonder Woman checking out all the logo-labeled MP4’s of heroes to be included in a future film.

    Either come up with a better way to do it, or stop complaining about it! Please. Enough is enough, already!

    • Nick

      Finally, someone besides my friend at work (who ranks it #1) appreciates Ultron! I’ve been getting the most flack for that.

      • Mad Barchetta

        Most people and critics didn’t care for Empire Strikes Back for a while, too. Once people get past their initial reactions, based on expectations of their own that weren’t met, they’ll start to see it for what it is: A movie that is essentially every bit as good as the first but missing the novelty. It explored the way the team had grown but also the darker aspects of each character. It also continued to explore concepts of personal accountability in the world of super heroes; Tony’s ongoing guilt and drive to protect the world, Banner’s guilt and self-loathing over the damage the Hulk could cause, Natasha’s doubts that she can ever get beyond the life of violence she’s lived. The movie has layers, but they apparently weren’t the layers people wanted, so they reacted as so many others do these days: “This isn’t just what I wanted, so it sucks!” We’ll see where it stands 5-10 years from now.

        • Nick

          Finally! Someone who gets it. Ultron may not be as clean and polished on the surface as The Avengers, or other MCU films, but it has layers! I stand by those amazing dream sequences, I think they’re pretty powerful and relate to the personal accountability theme you speak of, as well as reestablishing a heartbreaking image for Rogers.

  • Robobob

    I made a list awhile a year ago using IMDb user ratings, Metacritic’s critics and user scores and Rotten Tomatoes using average ratings from critics and users instead of their percentage system which is basically just a thumbs up or thumbs down. I added the Marvel movies from this year and the ratings from Ragnarok so far. (they most likely will change a few months out) Here’s the rankings I got:

    81.6 Guardians of the Galaxy
    80.8 Iron Man
    79.6 Captain America: Civil War
    79.2 Avengers
    79.0 Captain America: Winter Soldier
    77.6 Thor: Ragnarok
    77.2 Doctor Strange
    76.6 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
    73.2 Ant-man
    71.8 Avengers: Age of Ultron
    70.2 Captain America: First Avenger
    69.8 Iron man 3
    68.2 Thor
    67.4 Thor: Dark World
    67.4 Incredible Hulk
    66.0 Iron Man 2

    Also, if you count only user ratings the top 5 shuffle a little if you don’t feel like giving a handful of critics that much weight against tens of thousands of users.

    85.0 Guardians of the Galaxy
    83.0 Avengers
    83.0 Captain America: Winter Soldier
    82.7 Iron Man
    82.3 Captain America: Civil War

    • Robobob

      Oh and critics alone favored these top 5 in this order.
      Ironman,
      Guardians of the Galaxy,
      Captain America: Civil War,
      Spider-man: Homecoming
      Thor: Ragnarok.

    • Nick

      Very interesting!

  • Kyle

    Jesus Fuck you are retarded.