The 10 best Marvel movies
At the moviesJuly 29, 2015 | 3,502 views | 3 comments
Now that Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has completed Phase 2 with “Ant-Man,” it’s a great time to look back on everything Marvel’s offered us over the years. Because they were licensed to different studios, properties like “X-Men,” “Ghost Rider,” and even “Blade” were never able to interact with the universe of Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. That will change soon for Spider-Man, but it means we’ve been gifted with wildly different interpretations of what it means to be a superhero.
Here are the best Marvel movies, across the board, both in and out of the MCU:
10. “Thor” -- The MCU was stuck repeating the same story over and over again: a rollicking frat boy (complete with disapproving father figure) defeats a rival villain, learns that being a true hero requires self-sacrifice, and is guided by a woman who sacrifices her own career to temper his moodiness. If you’re going to repeat Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part I” over and over again, you may as well get Kenneth Branagh to direct. How else are you going to get Anthony Hopkins to wear a golden eyepatch in a movie with a rainbow bridge?
9. “Iron Man” -- The original “Iron Man” is a deeply flawed film in the MCU’s canon, but it sets the tone and it gives us some of Robert Downey Jr.’s best work. To think what might have been: Tom Cruise turned the role down before it was offered to Downey.
8. “Ant-Man” -- The newest entry gives us the first MCU superhero who feels truly unique. His powers are incredibly specific: shrinking to the size of a flea and talking to ants. Problems have to be solved creatively when you can’t just fly and hit things for two hours straight. “Ant-Man” balances heist, action, and comedy movies together into an incredibly charming film.
7. “The Avengers” -- The first “Avengers” leans on a cast full of charmers and the winking villainy of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Unlike its over-busy sequel, it remembered to stick a team full of superheroes together and let them talk, fight, bicker, and process their differences face to face. The truth is, we’re just as excited to see the characters take each other to task in their street clothes as we are in their uniforms.
6. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” -- No superhero movie has better handled an ensemble. Throwing two timelines’ worth of casts at each other while introducing a spate of new characters, “Days of Future Past” wove Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” films together with Matthew Vaughn’s “First Class” reboot. It stands as the most ambitious superhero movie ever attempted and it pulls off 90 percent of it brilliantly.
5. “X2: X-Men United” -- “X2” hit on every front a comic book movie could. It handled conspiracy, shifting allegiances, a large ensemble cast, a heaping dose of social commentary, and a number of top-notch action scenes. For better or worse, it also solidified Hugh Jackman as a movie star. Its journey felt epic in a way superhero movies often fail to even when the world’s at stake.
4. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” -- Up until last year, the MCU had remained a very enjoyable, but still somewhat immature universe. Suddenly, it was taking on the National Security Agency, profiling, and defense spending in a ’70s man-on-the-run film. Its fight scenes felt more like “The Dark Knight” than like “Avengers.” It made things personal while putting our faith in corporations and our government on trial.
3. “Guardians of the Galaxy” -- “Guardians” creates an irreverent space opera for a new age. It has epic battles, but its heroic cast of orphans also speaks to loneliness and the nature of finding others to rely upon. At times, there’s real anger and desperation pulsing under the surface, but there’s love, too. “Guardians” is a beautiful film about coping with loss, disguised as a space opera about naughty words and blowing things up.
2. “Blade” -- Back in 1998, vampires didn’t sparkle -- they drank blood, ruled cities from the shadows, and listened to a lot of house music. Doesn’t sound like the Marvel you know? Exactly. The only R-rated film here, “Blade” embraced its comic nature while playing to its exploitative side. A testament to 90s gothic movies, “Blade” got away with things that superhero movies may never get away with again.
1. “Spider-Man 2” -- Unlike the MCU’s cast of wisecracking, ever-charming heroes, Sam Raimi gave us an awkward loner of a boy ill-equipped to handle the everyday responsibilities of adulthood. That boy has a talent he loves, but he struggles with believing in himself. He can’t win his own approval or earn it from those around him. Many of these other films focus on how unique the hero is. “Spider-Man 2” focuses on how similar the hero is to each of us. What Peter Parker struggles with the most isn’t a cosmic force or the ultimate bad guy -- it’s finding the faith and resilience to make it day-to-day. He still engages in his passions despite all the disappointments and shortcomings he encounters in his own life. The MCU still hasn’t made a film as personal as this one.
Gabe Valdez grew up in Chicago, went to college in Massachusetts, is a former news reporter in Floresville, Texas, and worked in politics in Oregon. He writes and directs films when he can find the time. Reviews, views, photos and more can be found at http://basilmarinerchase.wordpress.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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