The Avengers: A Look Back at the MCU

It’s finally time.  By the time some of you read this, you may have already seen the MCU defining “Infinity War.” I, myself, am about to head to the theater to see it. Ove the course of the MCU, there have been many small and big moments that led to Thanos crashing the party on Earth. In honor of that, the staff at We Bought a Blog ranked the MCU films from 1st last, and as a result we calculated out our official MCU Rankings! It’s been a fun week or so, but now the tally is in. Below, are the collective ranks of the franchise. We’ve also written special excerpts for the Top 5. We hope you enjoy the piece, and know that we love the MCU as much as you do. Let us hear your disagreements or praises in the comments, and Aaron and I will address them on the next episode of “We Bought a Pod” this weekend.

18. “The Incredible Hulk” – Average Score: 17

17. “Thor: The Dark World” – Average Score: 16

16. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” – Average Score: 15.3

15. “Iron Man 2” – Average Score: 14.5

14. “Thor” – Average Score: 13

13. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” – Average Score: 11

12. “Iron Man 3” – Average Score: 10.5 (tie broken on 3/4 preference)

11. “Captain America Civil War” – Average Score: 10.5 (tie broken on 3/4 preference)

10. “Dr. Strange” – Average Score: 10.3

9. “Ant-Man” – Average Score: 9

8. “Thor: Ragnarok” – Average Score: 8.3

7. “Captain America: The First Avenger” – Average Score: 8

6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – Average Score: 5.3

5) Spider-Man: Homecoming – The Comeback Kid – Average Score: 5 (tie broken on 3/4 preference)

Did you ever wonder what a John Hughes superhero film would look like? Well look no further! That is exactly what “Spider-Man: Homecoming” pledged it would be, and that’s exactly what we got. The star making performance from Tom Holland ground the film in real appropriate emotional stakes for a teenager. To a 16 or 17 year old, being the cool kid at parties and homecoming, can be life shattering. So can meeting the Dad of your first real crush. Spidey’s return to the MCU took these incredibly important high school moments, and elevated them for its hero. The result is one of the most crowd pleasing entries in the MCU.

After years of mediocre Spidey films, Sony finally pulled the trigger and loaned out the hero for Civil War. It was instantly apparent that Marvel just knew how to use Spider-Man in ways that Sony had never dreamt of. It’s important to remember that Holland WAS NOT the first choice of Marvel though. Luckily, Asa Butterfield couldn’t work out the contract, because Holland is simply the best at being Spider-Man as well as the Peter Parker foil. With Holland, we’ve Parker has turned into a bit of a theater kid. Yet that might actually be the best way to perform the easily excited geek fanboy.

Where this film really succeeded is in the creation of a real world around Peter. When we visit Parker’s high school, it’s as diverse, weird, and full of idiots as any high school in America. Parker’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is hilarious. Bully Flash Thompson (Toni Revolori) is the perfect modern high school dick. Michelle (Zendaya) is that weird kid you knew in high school. Of course Spidey’s crush Liz (Laura Harrier) is a kind of shy popular girl. The school feels so real, you probably didn’t even realize that not a single of Pete’s friends is a white kid. Each is at least bi-racial, creating positive representation on screen in the process.

Last, we have to thank Michael Keaton for being one of the best villains in MCU history. As Adrian Toomes, we’re treated to one of the most relatable villains to date. He’s been screwed over and put down repeatedly in his life. Of course, he wants to stick it to Stark and make it rich. He needs to support his family. It’s not only relatable, but Keaton sells the hell out of it. The scene when he drives Peter and Liz to homecoming made the entire theater tense up. It’s one of the most dramatic scenes in the entire MCU, and not a single punch is thrown. That’s power, and that’s one of the reason why “Homecoming” was such a welcomed entry to the MCU. – AJ

4) Black Panther – The New Kid on the Block – Average Score: 5 (tie broken on 3/4 preference)

When you have an established franchise with dozens of beloved characters it’s hard to make any sort of headway as a new character. Black Panther’s first introduction in Captain America: Civil War left quite a bit to be desired, as he was a one-note character almost entirely overshadowed by the larger set pieces and even by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. For the character to succeed within the franchise Black Panther really needed its solo movie to provide some serious character development. The film overachieved. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa is center stage for a truly epic adventure and is allowed the space to truly grow as a character. The supporting cast does an incredible job of providing…support for T’Challa’s journey. The two standouts being Danai Gurira as Nakia, T’Challa’s on-again, off-again love interest and Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s little sister/technology guru. Together both women do a great job of grounding T’Challa and provides important foils to his normally calm and cool personality without being dependent on him to fulfill their own arcs.

While T’Challa’s arc was great and Boseman did a great job showing the internal strife of a young king, but the star of the show was easily Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. In a franchise that has suffered for so long with boring, forgettable villains we finally get one that can rival Ledger’s Joker. Michael B. Jordan brought so much depth to this role that it will be remembered for years to come. They construct the character in such a way that makes it so easy to empathize with their position. All great villains see themselves as the heroes of their own story and nowhere is that more obvious than in this film.  The scene between Killmonger and his dad, dreaming of a day where they can escape the violence of Oakland to the paradise of Wakanda may be the single greatest scene in the MCU, forever solidifying it as one of the best films within the MCU. – Aaron

3) “Iron Man” – The One That Started It All – Average Score 4

I think it’s fair to say that “Iron Man’s” spot on this list is partly because of the role it played setting the stage for the rest of the MCU. When you are the first movie of a large franchise, the franchise lives and dies with you. It’s hard to imagine a world in which Iron Man was a huge flop, where The Incredible Hulk confirms our worst fears, tanking all confidence in the MCU. Where The Avengers is the conclusion of a franchise rather than the jumping off point. Unbeknownst to Jon Favreau, and the rest of the Iron Man team, there was so much riding on this film. Luckily for us when given the chance to set the bar Iron Man went and set it sky high. The film brings the great mix of action, humor, and heart that we now come to expect from all of our MCU movies.

A lot of the credit for the film’s success rightfully goes to Robert Downy Jr for his portrayal of Iron Man. RDJ does such a great job at being Iron Man that people often forget that he kills it as the pompous asshole warmonger at the start of the film. The character arc in this film is still one of the best in the MCU, and RDJ is able to make such a wild and rapid transformation believable. Jeff Bridges plays a pretty great villain opposite Iron Man, possibly the only person able to match the charisma oozing out of RDJ in this film. Bonus points because Bridges has one of the most memorable lines in all of the MCU (Box of Scraps). The final fight at the end is serviceable (if not a bit anti-climactic) but overall the film delivers a great start to an amazing franchise. – Aaron

2) “Marvel’s The Avengers” – The Team-up That Was Promised – Average Score: 3 (2 first place votes)

“The Avengers,” at the time of its release, was considered to be one of the most ambitious projects of all time. The culmination of Phase One of the MCU brought together six different superhero personalities and balanced each of them within a cohesive story. Since then, as the roster has grown, the balancing act so masterfully executed by Joss Whedon has yet to be replicated. Part of what made “The Avengers” so great was that the screenplay managed to keep the tone and personalities of each character so distinct that it really did seem like these were individuals coming together for the first time. In subsequent team-ups, some of that individuality is lost for more general characterizations. The dialogue is just that good.

That dialogue, however, wouldn’t matter as much if the story didn’t matter. At its core, the premise is pretty standard. Stop alien invaders with a group of people who shouldn’t even be in a room together. We’ve seen this in Independence Day, Men in Black, and countless movies since. But that familiarity allows the script to focus instead on the characters rather than on a complicated plot structure as we see in other Marvel films. This is absolutely necessary for the film to be believable. Why would these super-beings come together? Why would it require all of them and not just one or two? We’ve already seen Hulk take on a giant monster on his own, Iron Man defeated hordes of flying menaces, Thor laid waste to an army of other alien beings, Cap led successful recovery missions and defended the innocent. Each of those skills is called upon in the final battle of New York justifying their inclusion within the story, but rather than settle for each member of the team playing their part and going their own way, Whedon’s script allows them to challenge each others’ beliefs and ideals.

Additionally, Whedon’s directing allows for some beautiful fight choreography and the single-cut tracking shot during the final battle is something that has since only been executed once successfully (“Daredevil,” season 1, hallway fight). As a villain, Loki has charisma and menace even if he lacks a true motive. The effects hold up even over half a decade later. Alan Silvestri’s score is Marvel’s last truly memorable one (not including Guardians of the Galaxy and its suburb retro soundtrack). And, least of all, let’s not discount what the film did for nationwide schwarma sales! -Josh

1) “Guardians of the Galaxy” – Hooked on a Feeling – Average Score 2.5 (2 first place votes)

One of the most impactful and surprising successes of the MCU is undoubtedly the “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The only character of the group that had any spot in pop culture was Rocket Racoon, mainly because of his inclusion in “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” in 2011. Beyond that, who knew a film starring Andy (Chris Pratt) from “Parks and Rec,” a green woman (Zoe Saldana), a tank man who speaks in literalisms (Dave Bautista), the aforementioned genetically enhanced, trash talking Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and a tree person (Vin Diesel) would become one of the most successful comic book films of all time?

Looking back six years later, “Guardians” would still be a questionable property. That’s what continues to make it the best overall film in the MCU. It’s vision is singular, and James Gunn is the only one who could have made this film. The freshness that Gunn pumped into this film made the sci-fi/space opera poignant and exciting. This was “Star Trek” on steroids, exploring frontiers we had never imagined. The prison breakout remains one of the 3 or 4 best scenes in the entire MCU. The color schemes and pop music blaring through the speaks made this film bigger and badder than any other in the universe. “Hooked on Feeling” came roaring back into the public consiousness thanks to this film. We got Howard the Duck‘s triumphant return to cinema, as well as an awesome cosmonaut Dog (despite the fact he doesn’t speak, I openly squealed when he showed up). Even the score, Tyler Bates is the most iconic of the MCU to date.

At the heart of the film was a question about belonging. Each of these characters had been beated and bruised. Each had never found its place, and in most cases was running from where they came. Gamora and Drax felt trauma and loss unlike any other character in the MCU to this point. Starlord’s Mother looms large over the film as the music, character name, and even flashbacks to his final moments with her would make you shed a tear. Even Rocket’s “I didn’t ask to be made” moment is breathtaking in its emotion. This was the broadest, most experimental film of the MCU.  Yet Gunn ground the film in an essential question: how do we fit into the world? As the characters come together in the final moments to utter the incredibly cheesy “We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy” line, my theater stood up and cheered. There’s a reason the film went on to outgross established heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. This film’s heart will always be its strength, and will continue to make it an iconic film for decades.  -AJ

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