Guardians of the Galaxy finally hit theaters this week and absolutely no one should be surprised that it’s really good. The first question I was asked this morning was “how does it stack up compared to the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films?” So here’s my shiny new updated list which not only adds Guardians but also mixes things up bit from last time after a recent re-watch of all the movies.
Fair warning: minor spoilers for all the Marvel movies, including Guardians of the Galaxy, to follow.
#10 Iron Man 2
Everything I said last time about Iron Man 2 still applies. It still feels written by committee and because they were trying to please all the big personalities on set and because this was the first real push at a greater continuity they decided “we need to cram as much world building as possible into this”. It’s hard to blame them, it was their first try, but the result is a boring movie in which boring things happen.
Although Sam Rockwell is still awesome and drunk Tony in the suit was funny.
I still wish Thor held up better. I do still like that it holds to the tone of the original comics and that the casting is spot on but the thing that sticks out more and more every time I watch this movie is that it’s boring but also what the hell us up with Chris Hemsworth’s horrible dyed facial hair? Seriously. It makes no sense.
#8 The Incredible Hulk
I can’t think of anything really different to say here than I did last time, so here’s what I wrote last time:
Bruce Banner is an interesting character and really the main problem with this film is that they cast Edward Norton. There’s a lot of potential here that seems to have fallen by the wayside much of which is likely due to squabbling between Edward Norton (who was promised some measure of creative control when he signed on but then his contributions were all but excised from the film), the studio (who reportedly hated everything Norton brought to the table (seriously, there’s apparently something like an hours worth of footage that hit the cutting room floor), and director Louis Leterrier who was trying to keep the peace. In the end the film was ok and like Thor laid the groundwork for the universe to be built on, but Norton was fired (you can read the whole story here).
#7 Thor: The Dark World
Last time around Thor: The Dar World was one spot higher on this list. It’s a fun action movie and the aesthetics of Asgard are pretty much perfect and Thor finally looks right and the extended look at the nine realms is cool but a one note bad guy and the rushed pace and the fact that it leaves so many needless loose ends and never really expands on any of the characters became a little more glaring when rewatching.
That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s actually good! But I don’t think it’s as good now as I did when I first saw it.
#6 Iron Man
It’s funny that last time I did this I said that Iron Man hadn’t held up for me but having recently rewatched all the movies you know what? It totally does. It’s a focused origin story with great character work and a nice villain turn by Jeff Bridges.
Sure, you can totally see the seams of the CGI when you watch it now and there isn’t that much action and what there is isn’t as dynamic or engaging as later efforts but it’s a solid character drama and Robert Downey Jr. owns his role as Tony Stark.
It still doesn’t really stand out among the later, greater efforts however it definitely does stand out against a lot of the other films in this list.
#5 Iron Man Three
This is where we really get into subjective territory. I really like Robert Downey Jr and I really like Shane Black and i really like how this movie is more of a detective story. I also really like how this story directly deals with continuity from The Avengers and there is fallout for Tony Stark. Phase one of the movies had some minor continuity but this was the first time where it became clear that Marvel doesn’t consider Iron Man one franchise and Captain America another and Thor another, they consider all their films part of The Avengers franchise.
This is pretty much where the margin between the films starts to become razor-thin too, because from here on up I start liking the movies pretty equally.
#4 Captain America: The First Avenger
The First Avenger is still the best of the stand alone Phase One Marvel films. Yes, it still montages through what could have been some awesome action sequences but it’s also the first film in the franchise to have any real heart. Chris Evans is still Marvel’s best casting choice (better than RDJ but being given a run for his money by Chris Pratt) and I really like the period setting. It helps that Captain America is my favourite Avenger (even though I’m Canadian) because he’s not just the good guy he’s a good guy period. He’s polite, he’s charming, he always does the right thing. He doesn’t have many character flaws and some people think that makes him boring but Captain America is meant to be an example of what we can be and seeing people who do have flaws be inspired (or at least affected) by that can make for some great storytelling.
And yes, the Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Hugo Weaving “who can get away with the most ridiculous German accent” contest is still awesome.
#3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Last time around I put this one at the top of the list. It’s still a great film (and because it’s not out for home video yet the only one I couldn’t re-watch) but The Avengers has a staying power that The Winter Soldier so far does not for me.
Granted I didn’t get to rematch it (yet) and although it has the balls to build on what came before and then turn all that upside down, and the ongoing “Chris Evans is perfectly cast” thing, not to mention great performances from Scarlet Johansson and Anthony Mackie. There are also some wild twists and turns and an excellent car chase scene featuring Nick Fury, but ultimately it’s not quite good enough to be at the top of this list.
But get ready because I am totally about to cheat.
#s 1 + 2 The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy
Yeah this is a total cheat but at this moment I can’t decide between The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.
In many ways they’re the same movie; A group of different heroes come together (reluctantly at first) to take on a common foe and forge a strong bond of friendship and teamwork by the end. Each brings their own strength to the team (a leader, a tech guy, an assassin, a strong man, and a maniac) and each has just enough back story that we care but not so much as to overwhelm the story. They go up against an overpowered bad guy (who works for a behind the scenes bigger bad guy) who is seemingly immortal and definitely overpowered. They work with a larger military/police force and nearly lose but then they win.
The Avengers has the benefit of fulfilling a pretty much lifetime want to see this kind of thing on-screen. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve asked myself “what movie should I watch today?” and answered “The Avengers”. The first time the helicarrier takes off gives me goosebumps every time. That being said Guardians of the Galaxy is not only hilarious from start to finish but if I were 12 years old again it would probably be my formative Sci Fi experience (as Star Wars was to Simon and Star Trek was to myself).
Both films have snappy dialogue from a strong writer and director, both films are well shot, both films are fun and engaging.
You can see why I am having trouble deciding here, right?
What I will says that I don’t think anything Marvel has done to date has topped the third act of The Avengers but maybe Guardians second act (in which the heroes figure out that working together is better) is a little stronger.
So there you have it: I’m totally copping out. Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers are on equal footing for me right now. Or at least are switching back and forth between #1 and #2 on a near constant basis.
Next spring I’ll be doing a full marathon re-watch of all the movies over the course of a day or two because I am a dork that way. There’ll probably be a live blog and there will certainly be a new ranking after Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In the mean time go see Guardians of the Galaxy because it’s really good.