Sunday, April 29, 2018

My 10 Favourite MCU Films

Now that 10 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe is culminating with Avengers: Infinity War, I decided to take this opportunity to come up with another list of my own—My 10 Favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe Films.

For this list I’m sticking with the ones produced solely by Marvel Studios. This excluded the Spiderman movies, which Sony Pictures still owns and has final creative control over the films. (As an aside, I prefer Tom Holland as Spiderman over Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.)

Note too that I said “favourite” which means that while excellence in film craft factors in my ranking, I also take into account a movie’s over-all impact—how much did I like it? And reasons for liking a movie can go beyond filmmaking brilliance.

One last caveat: I also excluded Infinity War because: (1) I feel it’s too soon; and (2) it doesn’t feel like a stand-alone movie. It feels like the first of a two-parter. So I’m holding off on ranking it until Avengers 4 comes out.

With that, let’s begin:

[10] Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

7 out of 10 movies in my list are the “origin” movies. I think I have a soft spot for the movies that are tasked with setting things up. This isn’t one of them. Ragnarok’s achievement is in infusing new life into what seems to be a boring, problematic Marvel character. Thor started out as a Shakespearean-sounding god who, despite having a complex family backstory, is more interested in fighting, drinking, and whoring—in that order. With Ragnarok and Infinity War, Thor has evolved into a funny but tragic figure, his pride and arrogance his double shield against everything that the Fates have thrown against him. No wonder his latest solo caper was so hilarious—he really could use some levity.

[9] Thor (2011)

This movie starts with the grandeur that is Asgard, and quickly reveals the drama underneath all that pomp and circumstance. And from a Shakespearean tragedy, this movie shifts into a tale of a fish-out-of-water who finds love against impossible odds. This story of how the God of Thunder grows up to deserve his hammer also has the distinction of showing Thor shirtless and in jeans. No CGI can hold a candle to Chris Hemsworth’s most special effect.

[8] Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers assemble for the first time to fight off Loki and Chitauri. It takes a while to get everyone on the same side (Agent Coulson’s fake death galvanises them), and the final battle in New York, on hindsight, now feels smaller and more lightweight. But the way the characters play off one another is still a joy to watch (the “Puny god!” scene of Loki and the Hulk is as hilarious as ever). And after pulling off that kind of assembly, the possibilities for the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed endless.

[7] Ant-Man (2015)

Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and this origin movie proves that many small joys put together can equally pack a huge wallop. A hilarious script, great casting (to me, Paul Rudd is the most “I didn’t expect him but it works!” actor working for Marvel), and the best dubsmash storytelling sequences all make this a huge personal favourite.

[6] Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Of all the Marvel characters introduced in the movies, the Guardians were the ones I had absolutely no clue whatsoever. I mean, I knew of Black Panther even though I never read any of his books. But the Guardians? Who were they? What were they? But that cool trailer (using “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Suede) was just a preview of the seriously hilarious mayhem that’s present from beginning to end in their origins movie. Hooga-chaka, hooga, hooga!

[5] Black Panther (2018)

When I first saw this groundbreaking film in the moviehouse, I didn’t have any inkling of the cultural impact that this movie was about to make. I was just in awe of the world-building skills of the filmmakers in pulling off a living, breathing Wakanda. I did take note the many strong females of colour, which was refreshing to watch (Shuri is surely one of the biggest breakout characters from the film, and I can imagine her and Okoye as having a spin-off of their own). I was actually not that impressed by the men in this movie (while Killmonger’s motives make for a compelling case, the way he and T’Challa duke it out in the falls was so-so for me). But the more I watched the movie and read/watched the audience reactions (especially among African-Americans), the more I realised that this is a Hollywood game-changer.

[4] Iron Man (2008)

The movie that started it all. I have no idea if Kevin Feige, Robert Downey, Jr., Jon Favreau, and company realised or were aware that they were creating what would become the winning formula of an MCU blockbuster: awesome effects, kick-ass characters (preferably with complications but not too much that they end up navel-gazing), and healthy doses of humour. What I liked most about the origin story is that Tony Stark uses his own ingenuity to defeat the weapons his own company makes. When Iron Man swoops down on an Afghanistan village and defeats the bad guys armed with Stark Industry weapons, Iron Man makes me want to be Tony.

[3] Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America begins as a simple all-American goody-two-shoes soldier who is ever-loyal to his government and his country. Throughout his three stand-alone films, the Captain transforms into a lone wolf who’s distrustful of the very government that created him. Winter Soldier marks the beginning of Captain’s transformation into an “it’s complicated” hero. Magnificent set pieces, a more-complex-than-the-usual-superhero-movie story line, and awesome SFXs elevates the superhero movie into something akin to a spy movie.

[2] Doctor Strange (2016)

Here is where the caveat “favourite” kicks in—I am a sucker for the mystical arts, and for huge, flowing cloaks. I love its visuals; this is the kind of movie that’s perfect for IMAX 3D. Benedict Cumberbatch is also one of my favourite actors, so to have him play the Sorcerer Supreme is a major plus for this film. The plot and the characterisation of the main villain aren’t as sharp as in the other MCU movies, but the moment those rings appear on the Doctor’s wrists, I’m so there.

[1] Captain America: Civil War (2016)

The best Avenger movie that’s not an Avenger movie. I love it that there are no bad guys; just friends who are on opposite sides of the issues. Both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have personal tragedies that inform their choices in this film. When it is revealed that Bucky a.k.a. the Winter Soldier was responsible for Stark’s parents’ deaths, the stakes become very personal even to us viewers. Civil War succeeds in mixing blockbuster spectacle with moral complexities that are not usually present in Hollywood big-budget movies. This is The Dark Knight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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What are your Top 10?

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