Joseph LiMandri, Contributing Writer
This week’s release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” adds yet another movie to the increasingly impressive Marvel canon. The ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe brings with it a wide range of actors, directors and quality films. The end of the second phase of Marvel’s movie universe is fast approaching, and it seems a fitting time to rank the many films that make up the series. For the sake of clarity, this list only includes the Disney-produced Marvel movies, not the Fox-owned X-Men franchise or Sony’s Spider-Man movies.
9) Iron Man 3: The Shane Black-directed threequel was plagued by odd pacing, ridiculous villains, an unfortunate twist and a largely defunct Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.’s charm as Tony Stark can only carry a movie so far.
8) Thor: The Dark World: Even exuberant star Chris Hemsworth couldn’t muscle together a good movie with an uninspired story and all-too-familiar comic-book elements.
7) The Incredible Hulk: The Edward Norton Hulk was a definite step up from Eric Bana’s previous disaster, but the movie itself was an already-dated CGI explosion that lacked in story and substance.
6) Iron Man 2: The sequel had a lot going for it, including Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke as the villainous leads, but it suffered from the “Spiderman 3” problem: It had way too much going on. Director Jon Favreau struggled to hold the movie together with a plot that jutted out in too many directions.
5) Captain America: The First Avenger: Director Joe Johnston (October Sky) brought a great old-fashioned feel to this WWII action fest, and Chris Evans gave an earnest performance as the title character.
4) Thor: The Branagh-helmed “Thor” is half Shakespeare-in-space, half comic-book silliness. Nevertheless, it remains an entertaining movie with enthusiastic performances by Chris Hemsworth as Thor and fan-favorite Tom Hiddleston as Loki.
3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Marvel changes up the formula this time around with a spy/espionage thriller that never lets up on the gas. It also espouses a culturally relevant theme of freedom in NSA-era America, giving the movie a little more weight than is usual for a comic-book film.
2) Iron Man: The movie that started it all marked the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a new standard for superhero films and a resurgence of Robert Downey Jr.’s fame. Even in the overcrowded comic-movie market, this movie is still awesome. It’s filled with exciting performances, has a thrilling origin story and, most of all, it’s just plain fun.
1) The Avengers: Where the directors of “Fantastic Four,” “Batman and Robin” and most of the X-Men movies has failed, Joss Whedon shone when he managed to take an ensemble cast and build an incredible spectacle of a movie around them. The gang of superheroes fighting off hordes of aliens in a crumbling NYC is truly epic material. It’s not often that a movie comes along and reminds you of the awesome power of cinema, but “The Avengers” did just that.