In 2008, Marvel took on one of the most ambitious projects in cinematic history by trying to launch a shared universe of superhero films that all built to one massive team up. It took place across several phases of films and is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Recently, Disney+ set up ways to search the films through their respective phases under the Marvel tab. So, this week, I’m ranking the films that make up Phase 1 of the MCU. (Note: “The Incredible Hulk” is not available on Disney+ and won’t be a part of this ranking.)
5. IRON MAN 2
My least favorite film of the entire MCU, “Iron Man 2” had some big shoes to fill following the smashing success of “Iron Man” and it failed to deliver. Most of the film feels like a Michael Bay movie, trading plot development for special effects and big explosions. Justin Hammer is just another crooked businessman looking to overtake Stark Enterprises. He’s a low rent Obadiah Stane. Mickey Rourke seems to be trying to make Whiplash a respectable villain, but it just doesn’t connect for me. This film did introduce the character of Black Widow, but that’s the only good thing I can say about it.
One of my least favorite origin films in the MCU, “Thor” is perfectly fine, but nothing special. Chris Hemsworth plays the role well, but I don’t believe the perceived romantic chemistry Thor is supposed to be having with Jane Foster. I don’t know if there just wasn’t chemistry between Hemsworth and Natalie Portman or what, but I was more connected to the characters played by Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings than I was Jane Foster. It gives us Loki, the god of mischief, so I can’t complain too much, but it doesn’t get me excited.
3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
The antithesis to Tony Stark, Steve Rogers sets up Captain America, very early, as the guy always willing to make the sacrifice and it makes his film a pretty good start. Choosing to make this film a period piece instead of automatically setting it in modern times works better for the character to establish who he is and why he makes the decisions he does. It’s a solid entry, but there are better films.
2. IRON MAN
The film that started the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel took a chance on a lesser known hero and made him the focal point of this shared universe and it worked better than they could’ve possibly imagined. The decision to cast Robert Downey Jr. came with some risk given where his personal life was at the time they were making this film, but it paid off. He got his life right and gave them an iconic character and a very good first film in the series.
The first team up featuring the six heroes introduced during elements of Phase 1 has its flaws, but it delivers exactly as it needed to do. Despite Mark Ruffalo having to replace Edward Norton as the Incredible Hulk, the film shines with Loki’s new plan, the battles between Iron Man and Captain America that would establish their friendship and rivalry that play out over three more “Avengers” films and “Captain America: Civil War.” The success of the entire MCU rode on each of these films and all rose to the occasion, but the “Avengers” is the best.
How would you rank the Phase One films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?