I Rate the MCU: Phase One
And now for something you really don’t care about! Many on Facebook have endured my occasional bitching about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its glaring shortcomings. While I still enjoy them overall and will continue to see them at least through the “Infinity War” storyline, as a writer and a fan, I am allowed to have my gripes. And if you’ve read my open letter to Marvel, (hardly anyone did so probably not. Oops! Here’s a hyperlink!) you will probably note the consistency in my criticisms as well as my praise because, yes, there is praise as well.
Let’s start the feel-good cavalcade, shall we?
Iron Man- An awesome beginning to a potential movie franchise, this unlikely starting point places an arrogant Tony Stark brilliantly portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. into an international weapons dealing conspiracy and a superhero’s origin story. The performances are top notch, the action is superb and the writing is genuinely compelling. The final line of dialogue still gives me shivers.
The Incredible Hulk- A highly underrated sideways sequel to a forgettable first attempt, Edward Norton is perfectly cast as Bruce Banner and the storyline advances the character and the universe even more effectively than Iron Man did.
Iron Man 2- The only thing that hampers this obviously fast-tracked sequel is the rushed, sub-plot crowded feel of a blatant attempt to set up the next few movies in the franchise. Downey still shines as a now more emotionally troubled Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow is given more to do and be this time around. Also, we get out first glimpse of the Black Widow in action and Thor’s hammer!
Thor- Still one of my favorite first movies in the MCU, Thor mixes Greek-level tragedy with Shakespearean emoting, opulent set designs and good old fish out of water humor. Chris Hemsworth makes an excellent Thor and Natalie Portman, who always seems to think she’s slumming in genre films, is charming and funny in her role as his love interest and helper. The Earth sequences have been criticized for feeling claustrophic but that’s because the big stuff was being saves for later.
Captain America: The First Avenger- Joe Johnston is the best director for WWII era superhero stories, as is evidenced by this film and “The Rocketeer.” I can’t say enough about this film or its vastly superior sequel. This one has it all. A likable lead, the ultimate in high stakes, great dialogue and wonderful character beats. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves, I think, because “Winter Soldier” overshadowed it.
The Avengers- As of this writing, this is Joss Whedon’s magnum opus. Everything he learned working on those TV shows of varying quality and his years writing for Marvel paid off beautifully. This is an almost perfect superhero movie from start to finish from the sets to the action to the music to the dialogue and the performances.
Next up: Phase Two Gets a Little Shaky…