So ‘Ant-man officially brings phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to an end, and just before we start to speculate and get excited for phase 3 (because obviously no one’s been doing that since Kevin Feige’s announcement), let’s take a moment to look at what was good and what was not quite as good about Phase 2. This Phase brought the MCU the title of highest grossing film franchise of all time (taking over from the Harry Potter Franchise) and it’s where they achieved a full and global recognition, they’re not just separated Avengers now, they’re heroes in their own right. So let’s rank them in order of worst to best.
6: The Dark World
To be fair to Marvel, when your worst film of the past 5 has been ‘Thor: The Dark World’ then you’re setting fairly high standards. The film sets good standards of action and further expands the Asgardian mythos to please both fans and audiences hoping for a sequel that expands the environment and characters. Hiddleston and Hemsworth are both on top form as well. Where ‘The Dark World’ fails is that it just doesn’t change the game enough, there are developments, but only concerning minor characters that are ultimately unlikely to have an impact on the MCU as a whole, hopefully Ragnorok will solve this though.
5: Iron Man 3
Another thing that works in Marvel’s credit is that they seem to learn from their mistakes, ‘Iron Man 2’ taught them that they have to make the film work on its own as well as hinting at the rest of the universe. ‘Iron Man 3’ taught them that they shouldn’t try too hard to appeal to mainstream audiences. It may have paid off in box office numbers, but fans reacted quite harshly to alterations that were clearly added to widen the films appeal to casual moviegoers such as the Extremis story changes and the Mandarin revelation. However it’s undoubtedly strong in terms of action, it actually has one of Marvel’s best music scores in my opinion, Robert Downey Jr is as witty as ever, and it still makes you go ‘I really want one of those suits’.
As I’ve said multiple times, amid all of their high scale sequels and crossovers Marvel made a smart move by putting ‘Ant-Man’ at the end of this phase as it shows that they are still competent with origin stories (which bodes well for upcoming movies like ‘Doctor Strange’ and ‘Black Panther’) as well as demonstrating an impressive amount of humour, action and drama. Paul Rudd and Micahel Douglas increase the acting pedigree of Marvel and Scott Lang and Hank Pym act as great new character additions.
3: Age of Ultron
The best Marvel movie of 2015 ultimately comes down to personal preference. For all its faults I think it is simply criminal not to admire the scale and ability to balance so many sub-plots and set up so many future movies while concluding four films worth of additional material here, as well as making your own interesting story that has a distinct beginning middle and end AND throwing in some humour at the same time. In short, Joss Whedon is probably still asleep after that ordeal.
2: The Winter Soldier
In a similar vein to 2015, the best Marvel movie of 2014 also comes down to personal preference. You either prefer the high octane, gritty action of ‘The Winter Soldier’ with its gritty and realistic action sequences that are executed perfectly under the Russo Brother’s direction, urban level fighting and excellent characterisations and relationships from Cap and Falcon’s friendship formed on shard experiences to his and Nat’s playful flirtation or the menacing presence of its titular villain, that all ultimately harkens back to the political thrillers of the 1970s. Or you prefer…
1: Guardians of the Galaxy
If any film proves that Marvel is an genuinely amazing storyteller, it’s this film based on a comic book no one read, with the writer of the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake as director, the fat guy from ‘Parks and Recreation’ as its lead and cast its biggest stars of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as a racoon and a talking tree that only says three words. But it was amazing, the script was fantastic, the style was electrifying and the imagination and innovation was unparalleled. It boasted a whole host of quirky and memorable characters. Chris Pratt’s role as Star Lord has rocketed him into stardom, it’s made Blue Swede popular again and could be the most spectacular space opera since ‘A New Hope’. Only one being can sum up just why this film is so great, and I’m quoting directly here. ‘I am Groot’.