Now that Marvel has put a nice ribbon on Phase 3 of their Cinematic Leviathan, I thought it would be prudent to go back and relive all the highs and lows of the journey that brought us here. We have grown so much from our humble beginnings crawling out of that cave with Tony. Now we look back at how difficult it was for Iron Man to learn to fly with laughter while we flash our time travel watches that Tony invented in one day after one single trial. And maybe, just maybe, we have learned a little something about ourselves along the way.
In the beginning, the Lord gave us our core Avengers… and it was good. This was a simple time. A time without Disney or Spider-Man. I know it is hard to remember now, but this was the time before the MCU was a safe bet. Oh, how the times have changed.
High Point – Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man is where it all began. It came out the same year as “The Dark Knight” and somehow managed to standout. Considering how difficult it seems to be to consistently make solid origin films, this shouldn’t go unrecognized. “The Avengers” is also a noteworthy addition but without “Iron Man”, we would have nothing!
Low Point – The Incredible Hulk (2008)
You know it is a low point when the lead actor doesn’t return and they never make another Hulk movie again. How many of you remember any other character’s name besides Bruce Banner without giving the old Google machine a visit? Marvel is trying its very best to pretend this film never happened, which is fine because most of us forget about it anyway.
Underrated Film – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
It is really not great. Stacked up against the entire franchise’s library, it is in the lower tiers. But the Red Skull is a very interesting villain that somehow still exists currently at the end of Phase 3, and we are introduced to our first Infinity Stone. Also, beating the shit out of Nazis is always a positive thing to be celebrated. Phase 1 is pretty bottom-heavy but this one is the most ok of the bunch.
Best Villain – Loki (“Thor” and “The Avengers”)
Loki is the MCU’s first reoccurring villain and certainly the first one that has become a true fan-favorite. With a mix of charming British pipes, luscious flowing locks, and a dubious smirk that will make you melt, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is an MCU character that has undergone multiple arcs and is as important to the franchise as any of the core Avengers.
Best Moment – “I am Iron Man” (Iron Man)
This moment was so impactful that it ended up being recreated for the singular climax for the entire Infinity Saga. It started it all and it ended it all. Nothing more needs to be said.
Now we are up to the middle child. This is the one no one loves because it is not the classics that make us feel safe from the ever-changing world, and it is not the modern, most ambitious group. It is a sad in-between to find yourself in but there are some real diamonds in the rough here. Let’s take the time to fully appreciate what Phase 2 has to offer.
High Point – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) / Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Yeah, I know it is lazy to have a tie but this is my world and I make the rules. “The Winter Soldier” is just an incredibly solid spy/thriller that is one of the finest films in the entire franchise. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was such an unexpected surprise, blending science fiction, comedy, and adventure in such a perfect way. Both of these films deserve to be mentioned here.
Low Point – Thor: The Dark World (2013)
This will forever be known as the film where Natalie Portman phoned it in, but this goes beyond that. I saw this one once and then never felt the need to revisit it ever again. It is a boring blob of dull grays and browns with one of the least interesting villains the human mind could conceive of. I don’t think I have ever met a person who thinks this film is a positive entry in the franchise.
Underrated Film – Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
It feels sacrilegious to say an Avengers film is underrated but here we are. “Age of Ultron” is definitely the runt of the Avengers litter, and because of that, fans sometimes think it is a bad film. But it is a competently made film with lasting consequences in the franchise and a charismatic villain to go with it. Maybe it is not the best ever, but it is far from a bad film.
Best Villain – Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
After looking at the pool to choose from, I realize Phase 2 is lacking in quality villains. Ultron is actually really fun to watch, and James Spader does not get enough credit for giving a hive-minded android a personality. Bucky could be here but he is really part of HYDRA and they have become irrelevant in recent films so that’s a no-go from me.
Best Moment – The Dance Off (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Tell me I am wrong. The best moment of Phase 2 is easily when Ronan: The Accuser was defeated by the power of 80s dancing. I really shouldn’t need to defend this because it is so obviously correct.
This is where Marvel really puts it all together and kicks it into high gear. Phase 3 is the largest phase in the franchise and the one that delivers the most consistent quality. The truest testament to it is that this is where the MCU leapfrogged Star Wars in the all-time rankings. “Which rankings?” you might be asking yourself. My rankings, of course. Those are the only ones that matter.
High Point – Avengers: Infinity War (2018) / Avengers: Endgame (2019)
This one doesn’t feel as cheap as the last tie because this is basically Part I and Part II to the same story; the Infinity Saga. These films have the most consequences that Marvel has ever put in their films. They were willing to push boundaries that they were afraid of earlier on and created possibly the greatest cinematic experience ever.
Low Point – None
Fight me. There are no bad films in Phase 3. Look at all of them and tell me I am wrong. If you say “Ant-Man and the Wasp” then you clearly have not seen it and I simply do not respect you as a person. Even at its lowest, Phase 3 is still in the good-great range, and I will not slander a movie that is quality just to have an answer to this question.
Underrated Film – Doctor Strange (2016)
Again, none of the films are bad so ipso-facto they are all good, and it seems disingenuous to say that any of them are underrated. But “Doctor Strange” is trippy and for that, I put it on here. The visuals in this film can explode a lesser person’s mind. The character Doctor Strange is among the most powerful introduced in the entire franchise and having Benedict Cumberbatch is something I will not take for granted.
Best Villain – Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War / Avengers: Endgame)
I mean, duh… Thanos went from a random comic book villain to a legitimate cultural icon. He destroyed half of all life and actually won. This is no contest to the farthest extent. I should mention that Dormamu, Ego, and Hela are also crazy powerful and if any of them teamed up even one time, there isn’t an army of superheroes who could do anything about it. Killmonger and Zemo were good, intimate villains too, but you’re out of your damn mind if you think anybody but Thanos takes this.
Best Moment – The Snaps (Avengers: Infinity War / Avengers: Endgame)
The moment that Thanos instantaneously wiped out half of all life in the universe then got away might have been the singular biggest gut-punch in any superhero film. We would have to wait over a year, and over 5 years of in-universe time, to see how a loss of this magnitude could ever be redeemed. Little did we know that it would permanently cost the lives of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff. When Professor Hulk reversed the snap to undo the decimation and Tony used the Infinity Stones to defeat Thanos, it was the ultimate victory for our heroes that we spent over 10 years growing with. Their sacrifice is their legacy, and it is one that will likely never be topped.
So now you have heard my mighty opinions, but I would love to hear yours! What were your highlights and lowlights of each of Marvel’s Phases? Did I miss anything significant to you? Let’s discuss!