Guardians of the Galaxy opens tomorrow, and it looks to most people different enough from Marvel’s past offerings (it has a talking tree in it, for instance) that it could either be a shark jump or a blood transfusion for the studio. After the Edgar Wright/Ant-Man debacle and an increased willingness to work their TV show (which plays on a network owned by their parent company) into the plot of their movies, the big question hanging over everything Marvel does is whether Marvel is going to remain Marvel, the studio that struck out on its own with Iron Man, or whether it will be just another Disney acquisition that becomes a Disney subsidiary, like Pixar seems to have become.
Haha, did I make that all sound really important? Good, because now we’re going to argue about comic book movies! Which ones rule! Which ones are hecka lame! 2/10 would not bang, first first first! If you need an easy shorthand for why you will never trust me again (“Don’t listen to him, brohs, this idiot laiked ___ better than ___!”), this will provide material for years to come.
Oh, and in case you’re delightfully ignorant of the business side of things, this ranking will be limited to the movies produced by Marvel, which will obviously exclude the X-Men/Wolverine (Fox) and the Spider-Man (Sony) universes (universi?).
Now then. Is everyone ready? Let’s do this! KNIVES OUT! (*puffs inhaler*)
10. Iron Man 2
…I know, some people will defend this movie. I am not one of them. It felt more like a collection of random trailer set pieces than a finished film, and the Ivan Vanko plot was about as compelling as it was good at making sense (ie, not). Really? Giant whips? That’s your entire plan? It’s a bummer, because Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell, and a drunk Russian Mickey Rourke yelling at his parrot sounded like a can’t-miss pitch (I nearly started a Kickstarter for that last sentence and donated 10 dollars). Maybe Iron Man 2 was cursed by too-high expectations? I really couldn’t tell you. Mainly because I barely remember anything about this movie, which is part of the problem.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Yes, I’m sure plenty of you are cursing me for this one. I’m not putting it at number nine because I think it’s terrible, it’s just okay (in sort of a boring way). Marvel hasn’t made anything that’s totally bad. Their movies mostly range from C+ to A-. At worst, they’re sort of mediocre and forgettable. And for me, Cap 2 was powerfully, powerfully mediocre. Like mediocrity was infused with super soldier serum.
Stop having the characters diagram your own macguffins and for the love of God no more Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie-ins. The Stan Lee cameos are bad enough.
8. The Incredible Hulk
Serious question: does anyone remember this movie? I can tell you where and with who I saw it, but not who the villain was, which seems like a problem. I remember being bored by the movie but excited about the potential of the character, which I guess is something. I still like the idea of Bruce Banner accidentally hulking out during sex, or when he sees a pretty lady.
7. Captain America: The First Avenger
Chris Evans is great but they need to get better writers or directors for these Cap movies. The origin story part was actually pretty good, but the fact that director Joe Johnston was the visual effects supervisor on Raiders of the Lost Ark really showed in Captain America, since he lifted the entire ending. I know, I know, “Whatever, bro, every plot has been done already!” Fair, but the way this one was used was especially anticlimactic and predictable.
Thor seems like a really bad idea on paper, but the movies actually turned out breezy and fun. I love the idea that Marvel hired Hollywood’s leading Shakespeare proponent Kenneth Branagh to direct the silliest of their superhero movies. I love it when Marvel makes inspired hiring choices and doesn’t just go with some run-of-the-mill action director. No one thought Tim Burton would be a good choice for Batman at the time either. (You’re welcome for that little history lesson).
5. Thor: The Dark World
Marvel picked a director no one knew much about (Alan Taylor) for one of their most difficult projects that most people figured didn’t really need a sequel and somehow it worked out. Whereas Cap 2 was constantly explaining itself, Thor 2 just got more and more ridiculous to the point of slapstick. What can I say, I enjoy Chris Hemsworth’s Viking-out-of-water sitcoms. Thor 2 is the closest Marvel has come to self-parody.
4. Iron Man
Robert Downey, AC/DC, and rocket hands – it’s the movie that put Marvel on the map. And I LOVE the way they handled the flying sequences. That said, Jeff Bridges’ assertion that “they had no script, man!” does occasionally show. Luckily Robert Downey Jr. is like alcohol personified – he can make almost anything fun.
3. The Avengers
I feel like I’ve once again put myself in the situation where I have to defend loving ‘The Avengers’ with a couple reservations to those who will demand an unqualified love. Look, Hitler, The Avengers is great, but you have to admit, the first 20 minutes were pretty boring. And no, I will never forgive a character firing a hand gun at an invading army like ScarJo when there are hundreds of other, better weapons available. I get that you want her character to look neat doing it, but that’s just stupid. My grandpa fired his .45 at some planes when the Japs attacked (his words) Pearl Harbor too. Ask him how well that worked out. Or actually I’ll just tell you because he’s dead: the answer is “not very well.”
2. Iron Man 3
Yeah, I know, there was too much Paltrow and Guy Pearce’s character was dumb and the little kid and blah blah blah, but I don’t care. Combining an Iron Man movie with Shane Black movie was everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s all the little things. The wisecracks. The henchman who says “oh screw this” and bolts in the middle of a climactic scene. The Mandarin reveal. I can accept that it has faults, but not that the good doesn’t vastly outweigh the bad.
A lot of people will cry about this choice as Iron Man 3 remains the most polarizing of the Marvel movies, but this is what I know to be true: If you hate Iron Man 3, you hate Shane Black, and if you hate Shane Black you hate Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the first two Lethal Weapons, and The Last Boy Scout, and by extension, you hate America, apple pie, golden retrievers, and freedom. In conclusion, Iron Man 3 is awesome.
1. Guardians Of The Galaxy
I know what you’re thinking: “Come on, Vince, is Guardians Of The Galaxy really better than Iron Man and The Avengers? and how do you stay so handsome?”
To tell you the truth, I don’t know for certain. For that I’d have to watch all three movies back to back and I can’t be doing that, I’ve got lists to write, and beauty masks to apply. What I can tell you is that as I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I was pretty pumped the entire time, almost like I was watching a sporting event (I mean like an exciting one, not baseball). Not just smiling or excited, but pumped. Guardians is more like The 5th Element than a superhero movie. They mostly ditched the exposition in favor of world building, which is great, because if you do the world building right, you don’t need exposition anyway. I liked the choice of James Gunn to direct, because he’s weird and sort of off the beaten path (my nickname for your mom’s vadge). That said, I don’t think I’ve ever wholeheartedly loved anything Gunn had done before this. Super was certainly interesting, and undoubtedly gave me a strange crush on Ellen Page, but it wasn’t great. Still, Gunn was an odd choice. Even odder, it turns out Guardians isn’t actually that odd. It’s just good. For something like Captain America, sure, maybe you need a weird director to inject some weirdness. But with Guardians of the Galaxy, the concept is already pretty weird, you just need a guy who can make weirdness work. Who can articulate the weird. And it turns out James Gunn fits the bill just about perfectly.
Did I mention they hired Vin Diesel just to say “I am Groot” over and over? Wonderful.
Now then, I guess that settles that. Don’t agree with these rankings?