Report Card - The Marvel Cinematic Universe (Phase 1)
On 'Report Card' I choose a director or film franchise; usually one that has released a movie recently and grade them on an "A+" to "F" scale. All of the film grades will be averaged for one final score. It should be noted that this is my opinion and it's just for fun. If you agree or disagree, please comment below and I would love to have a conversation.
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man was such an unexpected treat when it first came out and had the best tease for what was yet to come if it managed to be a success. Well, it was a success, and here we are today with 13 films released within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and many more yet to come. Iron Man was perfectly paced and introduced the world to a reinvigorated Robert Downey Jr. as the now iconic Tony Stark. Despite having an iffy villain; Iron man delivered in almost every other department. The film had great action, an undeniable sense of humor and is responsible for setting the stage for everything to come.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Louis Leterreir's The Incredible Hulk is underrated, let me just get that out there. That being said, it is by no means perfect either, The Incredible Hulk definitely has its problems. The CGI fight at the end is a little too long and contradicts the very down-to-earth nature of the film that came before it. Granted, that brawl at the end is a feast for action junkies looking for some good Hulk-on-Abomination action. Edward Norton does a great job playing the timid and nervous Bruce Banner and in my opinion, sells the inner conflict of being afflicted better than Mark Ruffalo does. Louis Leterrier directed a chase movie, and that's what keeps this film going where the Ang Lee version faltered. The Hulk is constantly on the move and there are a few set-pieces in this film that are quite stunning to behold; take the college campus action sequence for instance. Give The Incredible Hulk another chance; it's better than you remember.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
This isn't a bad film by any means, but it's incredibly slow for a movie about Iron Man. This film is actively un-engaging when it should be zippy and fun. Downey Jr. still does a great job as Tony Stark/Iron Man here, but his inner turmoil makes him not quite as fun to watch and somehow less compelling. The villain, Whiplash, is also one of the MCU's worst, and that's really saying something. There are a few fun sequences here and there, but a lot of them happen at night and you can't see everything that's going on. The garden sequence with War Machine is quite cool though.
Thor is another film that has a soft spot in my heart. Kenneth Branagh brought his theater background into this film and it suits all of the larger-than-life characters in the film perfectly. Chris Hemsworth is an excellent choice for the mighty Thor, and Tom Hiddleston is arguably the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. Patrick Doyle turned in one of the best scores for a Marvel film yet, and I find it baffling that they didn't keep him on for the sequel. Sure, there are flaws, chiefly Thor's character arc which sees a complete change in character over the course of a couple of days. Overall, Thor is an fun movie with some great effects and characters that have stood the test of time.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
I really enjoyed Joe Johnston's Captain America film, probably more than anyone else did. The film has a very appealing retro look and feel and it's a mix of WWII action with that Indiana Jones film that we never got. Chris Evans assumes the role of Steve Rogers perfectly. I never would have thought the actor who played the Human Torch would be so much better-suited (pun) to play the Star-spangled-man-with-a-plan.
Most people's complaints about this film revolve around Red Skull being another weak villain and the inclusion of multiple montages within the film. I actually enjoyed both of those aspects. Red Skull, I feel, is one of the better Marvel villains and the costume and make-up work on him is absolutely phenomenal. Then we have the fight montage, which I LOVED. I felt like it was a good way to show Captain America's many accomplishments over the course of the war; and who can't deny the sheer awesome-ness of the moment where he jumps from that massive exploding tank. Also, we get the introduction to Peggy Carter, arguably one of the strongest and best love interests in the MCU to date, so much so that she even got her own show. Captain America: The First Avenger remains one of my favorite Marvel solo outings to date.
Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers was the biggest question mark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. I think many were just as nervous as they were excited about how this team-up would turn out. As evidenced by its record-breaking cinematic run, and glowing critic and audience reception, I think it's safe to say it was a success.
Joss Whedon took on the herculean task of uniting Marvel's established heroes, and managed to deliver one of the best, most well-rounded big-budget cinematic experiences in a long time. The movie capitalizes perfectly on how this team would interact and the banter is perfect. The action is also staged very well, with the helicarrier sequence being a personal highlight. In addition to this, every hero gets their moment, though the weight is a little heavier on Iron man and Captain America's shoulders.
The first time I watched this film I wasn't quite blown away and I think the hype got to me a little too much. I grew to appreciate the excellence of the film every time I came back to watch it, which was at least four times in the theater. Marvel's The Avengers now stands as one of my favorite super hero films of all time and is one of the most re-watchable films around.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe got off to an unprecedented start which lit the fire under just about every other film studio. Yes, there were bumps in the road (Iron Man 2), but nothing enough to slow Marvel's unstoppable drive. Every hero in each solo film is represented well and treated with respect. Then, like some sort of miracle, The Avengers actually worked. Phase 1 will go down in history as one of the best series of films.
Check back in soon for the follow-up where I grade Phase 2 (plus Civil War) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also, if you like these report cards, you can check out the other ones I've done: James Wan and Todd Phillips.