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.
|< < Previous||1||2||3||4||Next > >|