Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
The second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was filled with some of the highest highs and lowest lows of all the movies. The “weak villain” problem became an epidemic here, infecting the majority of the phase. Still, the MCU persisted, and it’s here that Kevin Feige and the rest of the minds behind the universe began to take risks and establish their style. Today, I’m taking a look at each movie in Phase 2. Why not join me?
Iron Man 3
Original Score - 4/5
Rewatch Score - 3.5/5
This is one movie that has dropped down on my list a bit since release. Originally, I was a huge fan of Iron Man 3. It was great to see the Extremis storyline, the relationship between Tony and Harley was strong and everything with Tony’s PTSD was excellent. It was nice to see him react to all of the wild things that happened in The Avengers, particularly his brush with death, like a human. Even someone as brilliant as Tony Stark couldn’t escape fear and anxiety, something that makes him relatable and more than entertaining. It also succeeds in its goal of proving that Tony is more than just his suits, and that he is Iron Man. Even now, all of this still holds up and works brilliantly. Over the years though, the flaws have started to shine more and more brightly. Given that this is very likely the last solo movie RDJ’s Iron Man will get, the Mandarin twist is incredibly frustrating. I used to be indifferent to it, but seeing him fight the real Mandarin would have been incredible, and it’ll always be a missed opportunity. Plot holes such as “threatening a terrorist” and wearing prototype armor without weaponry are annoying. The final fight is forgettable, and what would have been a cool conclusion with the suit trap is damaged by Pepper powering up and delivering a boring killing blow. Even with these flaws, it’s a good movie... but I think it’s my least favorite in the Iron Man trilogy.
Thor: The Dark World
Original Score: 3/5
Rewatch Score: 2.5/5
This is it, the MCUs worst. Without putting in much thought, this can be a fun, dumb action movie to enjoy. I can’t turn my brain off, though; I care about this stuff. It’s hard to care about this movie, though. As opposed to Iron Man 2 (and the rest of the MCU, for that matter), this sequel fails to expand the universe and add anything important. All that fans need to know is that the Aether, or Reality Stone, shows up and is given to The Collector in the post credits scene. There’s some decent action, Loki fakes his death, and a lot of the humor doesn’t land. It’s just painfully forgettable and uneventful. Speaking of forgettable, Malekith is the worst villain in the MCU. Even after this recent rewatch I can’t remember this villain saying or doing anything interesting. Like the first movie, the performances save it from being a complete failure. The Captain America cameo is hilarious and Chris Hemsworth fills the role well this time around... he just doesn’t have much to work with. It’s certainly watchable and isn’t outright awful, but this movie doesn’t meet the MCU standard and is the definition of mediocre.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Original Score: 4.5/5
Rewatch Score: Same
This movie is widely considered the best entry in the MCU, and I understand why. By being a political thriller, it tackles a genre that was previously untouched by Marvel. The action is incredible, with the fights between Captain American and The Winter Soldier being perfectly choreographed (as well as that spectacular elevator battle). The plot is interesting, and has a huge impact on the MCU as a whole. Black Widow is at her best here, and feels like more than a weak link. Her role is integral to the story, and she’s not just there to kick ass. The moment between Peggy and Steve is touching, and the final clash between Cap and Bucky brings about a level of emotion that is hard to compare with. The true villain is good, and gets the job done, even if he isn’t quite as strong as everything else in the movie. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the “Apple Store guy” in the undercover moment, but that’s such a small gripe that it’s barely worth mentioning. This is one of the MCU’s best, after all, and arguably one of the best action movies of the past decade. It deserves all the praise that it gets, and then some.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Original Score: 4.5/5
Current Score: Same
Guardians of the Galaxy is awesome. The heroes are all charismatic and memorable, the action sequences are fun, the CGI and practical effects are some of the MCU’s best and the music is one of the biggest strengths of the movie. Star-Lord and his crew went from characters I didn’t know existed to some of my favorites thanks to this film, and I’d imagine that was the case for many others. The opening moments with Peter and his mom are heartbreaking, and immediately make him into a likable character. Add the great dance sequence during the intro, and he becomes a lovable character. The prison sequence is extremely satisfying (particularly Rocket’s “I need that guy’s arm” gag), as is the team’s banter for the rest of the film. The final act is strong too, and this movie is almost perfect to me. Almost. Ronan is right there with Malekith in terms of throwaway villains, and the Guardians never get a real battle with him before the “dance-off”. His motivations are lackluster, and he’s enough of a weak link to hold this movie back a bit. Still, it does a whole lot right, and it’s still amazing that Marvel mare such obscure characters into household names.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Original Score: 5/5
Current Score: 3.5/5
Yeah, yeah. I jumped the gun big time on this one. I came out of the theater blown away, and was confident that it was better than the original Avengers. I was very wrong. The movie has its fair shares of flaws that extend far beyond Scarlet Witch’s fluctuating accent. SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen this movie in the past five years, for some reason; Quicksilver dies. It’s a move that makes no sense given that the character has like, five scenes, and was probably only done because of the same speedster existing in the FOX-Marvel universe. It’s a huge shame. The pacing is a bit messy, and while I do like Ultron as a confused Tony Stark-bot, he’s too inconsistent. The humorous version of Ultron we get doesn’t match the creepy, “No Strings On Me” version from the house party, and he suffers as a villain because of that. Still, his flawed logic is interesting and James Spader was some of the most inspired casting in the MCU. He crushes every line he delivers, especially in his final conversation with Vision. The Black Widow/Hulk relationship gets too much hate, and I actually enjoyed their moment at Hawkeye’s home. Speaking of Hawkeye, he actually gets some great scenes here as opposed to being a mind-controlled puppet like in the original. The action doesn’t reach Battle of New York levels of greatness, but it’s still awesome throughout... especially the fight with the Hulkbuster. The humor is on point in this movie as well, and it has what is probably the most iconic of Marvel’s post-credits scenes. Age of Ultron isn’t the first Avengers movie, and it’s not even a close fight. I’m still a big fan though, and it’s still a blast to watch.
Original Score: 3.5/5
Rewatch Score: Same
Have you ever heard of something that is so underrated it becomes overrated? To me, this is how people have approached Ant-Man. Fans thought it was good and reviewers thought it was good. No more, no less. There is nothing wrong with that. It has some good humor, an awesome fight with an Avenger, cool action and a strong supporting cast. Placing Hank Pym in the mentorship rule was a great move, and seeing the flashback with him as the original Ant-Man (with the original Wasp, no less) is my favorite part of the movie. It’s simply the story itself that is bland and by-the-books, and it holds the movie back from being anything extraordinary. Yellow Jacket is yet another victim of the MCU villain problem, and fails to be anything more than “bad, bald Ant-Man”. The movie embraces its campy comic book roots more than the rest of the MCU, and that’s cool... but it fails to get the basic elements of a strong movie right. Whenever I think of Ant-Man, the first thing that comes to mind is Edgar Wright stepping away from the project. The idea of what could have been sticks with me more than the film itself, and for me, that says a lot.
Thanks for reading! Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on the final phase (for now) and an overall ranking for each film in the MCU. Be sure to leave your thoughts on the Phase 2 movies in the comics, too!