Friday, May 15, 2015

Ranking Marvel Studios' Phase I, II films (Part 1)

Marvel Studios will wrap up its Phase II of film releases this summer.

Once "Ant-Man" is released July 17, Phase II will be complete. And then I'll have to tweak this list ranking the 11 films in Phases I and II. …

The following is how Cary's Comics Craze ranks each movie.

Here's how it works: Starting in reverse chronological order (i.e. No. 11 down to Numero Uno) are strong, effective, influential each film is, as well as they stand the test of time. You'll notice the movies' rankings have nothing to do with box-office returns. Keep in mind aside from Nos. 11 and 10, the middle group of movies equally good in many ways, so their order could be modified slightly without too many protests from yours truly.
Edward Norton plays Dr. Bruce Banner
in "The Incredible Hulk."

Click on each film title for a link to my initial review — some of which are on the original home of CCC. Following the title is no more than a four-sentence re-review and in parenthesis is the release date and worldwide gross. I end each recap with new grades.

So without further ado, here are Nos. 11 through 6. (But if you want to cheat and know what my top 5 are, go here; just make sure you come back here.) Be sure to check each movie title and if there's a hyperlink, that will lead you to the original CCC review.

Let the arguments and heated discussions — plus an occasional "Amens!" — begin!

11) "The Incredible Hulk" (June 13, 2008; $263 million): Admittedly, I'm only including this because Marvel has deemed it part of the Phase I group of movies. CCC contributor David Hudson and I agree there is one huuuuge shortcoming that dooms this not-so "Incredible Hulk," which directly relates to the second one — and that would be Edward "Snorin'" Norton (above) as Dr. Bruce Banner and his non-existent chemistry with the smokin'-hot Liv Tyler, who plays Betsy Ross.

While Norton is just plain "blah" as Banner (therefore, my nickname for him!), the CGI Hulk is much more viable than the one in the somewhat related and more creatively daring "Hulk" (released nearly five years to the day beforehand). Just like the Green Goliath, "The Incredible Hulk" embodies all braun (action and flash), but not enough brains. Grade: C-

10) "Guardians of the Galaxy" (Aug. 1, 2014; $774.176 million): Kudos Marvel for daring to take a big risk with 1) making an interstellar romp, 2) creating/starting its outer space adventures ad 3) doing it all based on an ensemble of virtually unknown misfits (at least to comic book fans who aren't in their 20s and the general public). The comedy-heavy sci-fi film has a killer soundtrack of 1970s pop tunes and is a lot fun. Sadly, it doesn't retain its initial magic on repeated viewings. Grade: B-

9) "Iron Man 3" (May 3, 2013; $1.215 billion): The last installment of the "Iron Man" trilogy addresses how fighting alien species (in "Marvel's The Avengers") and nearly dying gives even the most brilliant mind post-traumatic stress disorder. Guy Pearce's performance as the baddie goes too broad and "comic book-y" for my tastes as the film progresses and I, for one, dig the surprising yet controversial take on The Mandarin aka Trevor Slatterly (brilliantly portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley).

As he does throughout the trilogy, Robert Downey Jr. shines as Tony Stark, who gets more screen time out of the Iron Man armor. Stark's Iron Legion (as he later dubs them in "Avengers: Age of Ultron") and his autonomous Iron Man nicely foreshadow his co-creation of the homicidal robot Ultron. Grade: B

8) "Thor: The Dark World" (Nov. 8, 2013; $645 million): Tom Hiddleston's Loki and Chris Hemsworth's Thor complement each other whenever the half-brothers are onscreen together, adeptly revealing just how complicated their relationship is. The sequel introduces more science-fiction elements with the baddies' warships, has a slightly darker tone than the original film and gives Thor fans as much thrilling action as they can handle. By the end, we once again wonder what kind of havoc Loki will cause next. Grade: B
Image courtesy of

7) "Thor" (May 6, 2011; $449 million): Having Kenneth Branagh direct the first live-action take on the God of Thunder is so obvious it borders on being too "on the nose." The cinematography is gorgeous. Hemsworth screams charisma among a high-quality cast. Grade: B+

And to wrap up Part 1 …

6) "Iron Man" (May 2, 2008; $585 million): Downey's portrayal of Stark is so influential he instantly joins a small, elite list of actors of legendary superhero actors. Now it's hard to imagine a time when when billionaire inventor wasn't a smart-ass snarkmeister — a characterization that has found its way into comics and animated projects.

Like "Batman Begins," director Jon Favreau (whom I had the honor of interviewing online as he was in pre-production with "Iron Man"!) gets us to care about the main character before he ever becomes a superhero (a label Stark poorly attempts to avoid in the closing minutes).

With "Iron Man," Marvel sets a resoundingly high precedence with a balanced blend of character study, intriguing action, humor, drama and brilliant, spot-on ensemble casting (aside from a somewhat weak casting of primadonna Terrence Howard as Col. Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes). The results: Marvel executives prove to the world they kick ass at masterminding their own films and establish the previously lesser-known Iron Man as a high-profile, A-list superhero. Grade: A

Next up: Cary's Comics Craze's Top 5 Marvel Studios movies -- What flick is No. 1?

I sure hope this list generates some discuss. Go for it in the comment section below! 

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