This is kind of a timely maunder, well…for me anyway. And especially if the movies of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe happen to be your thing. I’m not sure if they are my thing, but with recent viewings of both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, I can finally say that I’ve seen ‘em all.* Considering that I’m nearly a non-movie-goer these days, that’s got to count for something, right?
Well, I’m counting it as something. Something worth rambling about, anyway, because I need to put down these thoughts rattling around in my head somewhere, so, at the very least, my brain will stop being so damn loud. So here’s my offering – my own little reward show, with a few parting words, for each MCU movie since the movie that started it all, 2008’s Iron Man.
This should be…fun? Yeah, fun! Though I’m already sweating a little.
*Except for Spider-Man: Far From Home. Oh fuckin’ well. Close enough.
Iron Man (2008)
Winner: The Number two of my top three favorite Marvel movies award
As far as character development goes, no MCU movies do it as well as Iron Man. And after all the shit that Robert Downey Jr. went through in the 1980s and 1990s, never in a million years did I think I’d be on his side. His interpretation of Tony Stark, and the journey that he took us on through hubris and humbleness, is pretty unforgettable.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Winner: The At least this had William Hurt in it award
I didn’t like this movie, period. Watching the Hulk throw around military equipment was mildly amusing, but save for William Hurt – his remarkable dickish performance (a good thing) is pretty much the only thing I saved to memory – the rest of the cast stunk. I could not have been less interested in Ed Norton and Tim Roth as scientific rivals if I tried.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Winner: The Best pronunciation of the word “bird” award
Though a little weak story-wise, Iron Man 2 had plenty of high points. Though, watching Tony Stark’s Iron Mannishness fly to new levels of arrogance wasn’t nearly as entertaining as witnessing Mickey Rourke’s dedication to his supremely Russian portrayal of Whiplash. That, along the inimitable San Rockwell playing Stark’s underdog/overdog rival, made for a fun time.
Winner: The Needed more Heimdall award
Regretfully, while I remember enjoying Thor at the time, I possess very few strong memories of it, save for Idris Elba as Heimdall. I was very disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of him. And I don’t mean that in a hubba-hubba way (though…I mean…c’mon). He was just a really interesting, seer-like character that I wanted to see included more.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Winner: The Most iconic transformation award
Do you remember the really shitty Captain America movie from…I think it was the late 1970s or early 1980s? Because I do. He was more like Evel Knievel and less like a superhero, that’s for sure. Watching the transformation of Steve Rogers in this movie, however, made me forget all about anything I had ever known about Captain America, which up to that point, was pretty much that shitty movie. He was just too damn cool for school, and a true superhero, besides.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Winner: The Best team-up award
The notion of “getting the gang together” doesn’t always work in movies, and honestly, given what we’d seen of the members of the Avengers up to this point, it probably shouldn’t have worked here, but it totally did. Watching a cast of egos battle it out internally while also trying to work together take down Loki was nothing short of pure entertainment.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Winner: The Too many suits, not enough information award
Sadly, probably, the only lasting images I have of Iron Man 3 are: (1) Tony Stark holed up in some family’s garage while working with a kid to fix the Iron Man suit, and (2) ALL the Iron Man suits at the end. (One of them was used to save Pepper, right?) With the ALL-the-suits scene, I really wished I’d had a cheat sheet.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Winner: The I don’t remember this movie award
Yeah. I get from the unholy Internet that this is among the least favorite MCU movie of many fans, and I can’t even go that far. Other than Natalie Portman’s character ending up on Asgard, I truly don’t recall a thing about it. But I know for a fact that I was present when its images flashed before me on the TV, I guess I just wasn’t present.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Winner: The Most in need of a re-watch award
Among the most lauded of the MCU movies, I suppose that I was not in a very good place – mentally, mostly likely – when first saw The Winter Soldier. It could be that I just didn’t understand the weight of the relationship between Cap and Bucky. And I still don’t. Which is why I should really give this one a re-watch.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Winner: The One I thought I’d hate but didn’t award
When I saw the first trailers for this movie, I just didn’t get it. With no notion of who these individuals were and the general dumb-ness that was portrayed, I didn’t have high hopes going into the movie. Oh how wrong I was. I was swept up into GoG’s grimy charm, enjoyable script, and oddball characters along with everyone else.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Winner: The Least interesting villain award
What exactly was Ultron all about again? Besides hating humanity and all that? Much like with the first Avengers, this movie was, for me, more about the butting of heads and coming to terms than it was fighting a big, metallic villain with plans for the end of the world. I’m sure that Ultron is interesting somewhere, but he wasn’t in this movie.
Winner: The Paul Rudd is incapable of being unenjoyable award
I have to admit that every time I go into a movie starring Paul Rudd, for no discernible reason, I’m prepared to not like it. And then, I’m there watching Paul Rudd be all Paul Rudd-like, and I’m like damn, Paul Rudd is simply not unlikeable! If it wasn’t for Paul Rudd’s damn fine charm, Ant-Man would have probably fallen in the same category as Thor: The Dark World. But instead, Rudd’s take on Hank Pym is perfectly entertaining.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Winner: The Maybe I just don’t get the Captain America movies (except for the first one) award
By the time I reached the end of Civil War, my brain was in shambles. Due to the fact that I had glazed over the events The Winter Soldier, and subsequently didn’t grasp everything Civil War threw onto the table, the magnitude of big showdown between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers was lost on me. I think this movie also gets the Second most in need of a re-watch award. Like, I just need to sit down with The Winter Soldier, Civil War, a big cup of coffee, and zero distractions.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Winner: The Number three of my top three favorite Marvel movies award
I really enjoyed Doctor Strange, and most of my enjoyment came from witnessing The Ancient One put the arrogant Stephen Strange in his place. (Also, all the mysticism and magic. I liked that.) Mr. Mikkelsen, while always very watchable, was mostly very uninteresting as the villain Kaecilius. As such, this also gets the Best movie with Made Mikkelsen in which I didn’t pay much attention to Mads Mikkelsen award.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Winner: The Family vs “family” award
After my Guardians of the Galaxy turnabout, I was ready to kick back and enjoy more spacetime shenanigans with Peter Quill and his crew. Volume 2 delivered, but as far as I was concerned, the story of the Guardians growing together as a family was much more watchable than Quill’s search for and reunion with his father, Ego. Kurt Russell as Ego was just kinda preachy and boring. And…well…it’s possible that I took to watching Rocket “raise” Baby Groot far more than I should have, haha. I mean, c’mon. Who doesn’t like Baby Groot?!
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Winner: The More Michael Keaton, always award
While Tom Holland did an admirable job filling the shoes of our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, here I was captivated by Michael Keaton take on the Vulture. Here was a bad guy who wasn’t fully “bad.” He saw an opportunity make a better life for himself, and he took it. Only then that darned Spider-Man got in the way and ruined everything! Ah, sometimes a classic conflict is the best conflict.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Winner: The Number one of my top three favorite Marvel movies award
I pretty much adore everything about this movie, from the script, to the humor, to the relationship-building, to the high-concept and over-the-top action sequences. Look, I’m a simple person with simple movie demands. Make me like you, and I will like you back. Thor: Ragnarok did that with flying colors. Literally.
Black Panther (2018)
Winner: The I want to live in Wakanda award
Adding to the fact that I’m the world’s worst movie-goer is that fact that when a movie’s story doesn’t resonate with me, I will often acutely focus on some other aspect of said movie that usually doesn’t warrant that much attention. Black Panther was a fine movie, but because I didn’t find the conflict between T’Challa and Killmonger all that interesting, I found myself focusing instead on the world of Wakanda and all its fantastic-ness. Because everything should be just like Wakanda.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Winner: The Josh Brolin is the best Thanos award
I like me some Josh Brolin. And the real driving factor for me to sit through the mess of Infinity War was to see his particular portrayal of one of the universe’s biggest meanies, Thanos. And boy oh boy, was it well worth it. Also, by “mess” of a movie, I mean that literally and figuratively. Infinity War was such a mess of people, action, and drama that it was difficult to follow all the individual story lines. Its events also presented a big mess for the survivors of “the snap.” I must confess that Infinity War marked the moment where my interest in cast of character became to wane, so my reaction to “the snap” was less “HUH??!” than “huh.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Winner: The Forgettable and fun award
Much like with Ant-Man and a couple other movies here, Ant-Man and the Wasp was neither catastrophically bad or good. It’s fine. It’s fun to watch and has some great moments of comedy, along with a few worthy snippets of drama. The X-Con Security guys were stand-outs as far as humor went, Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as the title characters were cute, everything else was, y’know…fine.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Winner: The If only for the Flerken award
While I didn’t outright dislike Captain Marvel, I wished it had had more Goose the Cat/Flerken action. Because when you get right down it, that’s honestly the biggest reason I sat through this movie. Look, I’m a simple person with unsophisticated movie tastes, who also likes cats, and aliens in the shape of cats. Of course I’m going to glaze over the fact that Captain Marvel‘s story was just okay despite some strong performances. The movie was neither captivating nor dull. It was purely medium.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Winner: The Damn Iron Man, you got me award
Hot take – I would have been perfectly okay if, after killing Thanos, they had cut right to the “snap” survivors finding all the Infinity Stones.
If I’ve learned anything about myself after 10 years of Marvel movies, it’s that no matter what the genre, if the movie’s story ain’t there, I ain’t there. Avengers: Endgame made me realize that of all the dozens of characters that the movies brought to us over the years, Iron Man/Tony Stark is really the only one I actually cared about. It made me realize his story was the only one that had left a lasting impression, the only one that had truly resonated. Despite my hot take, Endgame is a solid movie that, while draggy and bombastic, doesn’t feel as long as its run time. The final battle was predictable, messy, and yet loads of fun to witness. It was a suitable ending. But Tony Stark’s funeral was THE ending to end all endings. And boy, I felt it. I welled up not at anything else other than the fact that Stark’s arc had come to a very literal end. It was the right thing to do.