MARVEL METRICS: Ranking the MCU – Episode 2: The Mighty

The journey continues! Welcome to the middle tier of Marvel Metrics, The Mighty! Whereas I would describe all the entries in Episode 1 as “good,” these are the ones that stand out as being great. Don’t worry, there are plenty of hot takes for you to disagree with here. Again, be wary, there are spoilers throughout!

24. Loki: Season 1 (2021)

In many ways, Loki seems to be the nucleus of whatever direction the post-Thanos Marvel films are headed. The series is very multiverse-focused, introduces the “Sacred Timeline,” and reveals Kang (or an alternate of Kang or something, I’m still not sure), who is likely to be the new Big Bad. Loki’s journey from villain to hero here is believable and impactful because of Hiddleston’s charm as the lead character. I’ve never been one of those Hot Topic princesses who think Loki is the greatest part of the MCU, but he does really shine in his own series. The choice to have him fall in love with a version of himself is also a top-notch creative choice.

Most marvelous: Alligator Loki

Least marvelous: A single line of throwaway dialogue being considered queer representation.

23. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Please don’t cancel me. I know Thor 2 is generally considered the worst MCU film by the fandom, but the space opera aesthetic really works for me! Maybe I’m just a sucker for Rene Russo, but the costumed melodrama on Asgard is moving. Now, I do agree with some of the criticisms that get thrown at this movie. Malekith is one of the series’ weakest villains and Natalie Portman very obviously does not want to be here. There is something very enjoyable, though, especially on a rewatch, about the film taking itself seriously! Loki offers a lot of comedic relief throughout, but the movie never feels like its bending over backwards to punctuate every line with a laugh (see, Thor 4).

Most marvelous: Loki really is the star of The Dark World, especially in his scenes with Frigga.

Least marvelous: Relegating the great Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje to a supporting villain who is mostly a rock-ram.

22. Ms. Marvel: Series (2022)

Iman Vellani was born to play Kamala Khan. She perfectly captures the character’s innocence, enthusiasm, and struggle to find balance between familial tradition and personal identity. The show’s first few episodes are some of the most refreshing hours of the MCU, enhanced by the visual flares used to bring digital communication to life. Unfortunately, the show loses a bit of steam as it moves forward. The series’ detour in far heavier subject matter feels a bit disjointed with the effervescent beginning, and the final confrontation between two characters with the same powers in different colors is getting tired. However, the performances are great and it’s an exciting introduction for one of the best-cast superheroes yet.

Most marvelous: The first episode is one of the best single episodes in the Disney+ catalog.  

Least marvelous: Please stop giving me mutant teases, and just bring me a damn X-man.

21. Iron Man (2008)

The movie that started the whole hoopla is a wonderful, relatively self-contained origin story featuring the introduction of RDJ as Tony Stark, one of the MCU’s greatest performances to date. Iron Man also remains one of the most thematically interesting, as Tony must grapple with what it means to be a hero who profits from war. The film, and Jon Favreau, basically set the tone for every movie moving forward (excluding Incredible Hulk), so credit is due for establishing the entire MCU’s basic aesthetic. Even though the film drags a bit in the second act, the beginning and end are fantastic.  

Most marvelous: The introduction of the MCU’s infamous “look, another famous person!” post-credits scene.

Least marvelous: Remembering Don Cheadle doesn’t play Rhodes yet.  

20. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

If you’ve seen all the other different Spider-Man movies, this movie is a lot of fun. I cannot imagine someone would enjoy this, though, if they’ve only ever seen the Holland films. Rather than a complete narrative, this movie is more about big “Look! Look!” moments. “Look! It’s the bad guy from that good Spider-Man!” “Look! It’s the bad guy from that bad Spider-Man!” “Look! It’s another Spider-man!” Fortunately, these moments are super exciting for friends of the franchise, so it pays off for most audiences. Tom Holland continues his reign as the best Peter Parker yet, and the increased presence of Zendaya is, of course, welcome.

Most marvelous: The live-action adaptation of Titus Andromedon’s “2 Many Spider-Men” song.

Least marvelous: The multiverse/spell logic that only brings certain characters into the film.

19. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

The MCU’s second Spider-Man shines brightest when Peter Parker and his buddies are just on a school trip. The characters are funny, sweet, and full of heart. The superhero elements actually weigh the film down a bit, though Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is an exciting presence, even if the whole “we’re disgruntled employees” twist is a bit weak. At this point, I am absolutely convinced Tom Holland was made in a Marvel Studios lab to create the perfect Spider-Man.

Most marvelous: The “Mysterio’s Illusions” sequences are stunning and honor the Mysterio character’s comic counterpart (which if we remember, I know because of the Marvel Encyclopedias).

Least marvelous: The reveal that Nick Fury wasn’t Nick Fury the whole time.

18. Iron Man 2 (2010)

You’re wrong, Iron Man 2 is the best Iron Man movie. Don Cheadle replacing Terence Howard? Love it. Black Widow’s kicky hallway fight? Amazing. Tony grappling with mortality? Deep. Mickey Rourke repeatedly saying “Bird” in a Gru accent? Hilarious. The Iron Man + War Machine team-up at the end? Thrilling. Iron Man 2 is the kind of frenetic, action-packed blockbuster the big screen was made for.

Most marvelous: RDJ’s screen charisma.

Least marvelous: Some of the suit effects are surprisingly dated already.

17. Moon Knight: Series (2022)

Moon Knight is notable for being one of the MCU properties where the costumed version of the titular hero is rarely present. Rather Oscar Isaac spends most of his time in the show costume-less, which allows the series to really focus on fleshing out his character(s). Because Isaac is spectacular to watch in anything, this formula really works. Moon Knight is also one of the two 2022 entries that embraces the horror genre (albeit, still at a kid-friendly level), which is an exciting new direction for the franchise. The series is also notable for expanding the Marvel universe’s depiction of the afterlife and grappling with mental illness without coded metaphor.

Most marvelous: Um, the gentle-natured Hippo goddess, obviously.

Least marvelous: All the Gods believing the evil-looking Ethan Hawke isn’t evil just based on him being, like, “I’m not evil, I promise.”

16. Hawkeye: Season 1 (2021)

Hawkeye never got the praise it deserved living in the Christmas release shadow of Spider-Man 3 but also 8. Unlike Black Widow, Hawkeye offers a grounded portrait of what it means to be a non-powered superhero when all the Spice Girls aren’t together. The show also cleverly deals with Hawkeye’s lower-tier status without ever verging into ridiculous, fan-service territory. Of the many young Avengers presumably being set up to be the next Avengers crew, Kate Bishop is the standout so far.

Most marvelous: The one-two punch of Florence Pugh returning as Yelena in more than a cameo and Vincent D’Onofrio’s unexpected return as Kingpin.

Least marvelous: Kingpin’s lack of screen time.

15. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)

If it’s not obvious yet, I am the rare cinephile who generally prefers a sequel. Even if Guardians 2 is a bit messy in tying all its elements together, it is one of the MCU’s funniest films. I would categorize this movie as a comedy before any other genre, and I was genuinely surprised how often I full on cackled during my rewatch. Drax and Mantis are both hilarious on their own and even more hilarious together.

Most marvelous: Baby Groot, of course.

Least marvelous: The Yondu redemption arc doesn’t really land.

14. The Avengers (2012)

Most MCU rankings would certainly list The Avengers in the top five, but have you watched it recently? It’s still incredibly awesome, don’t get me wrong, but wow does it take a while to get all the pieces together for the epic conclusion. Call me a heretic, but I cannot help but roll my eyes at the Avengers finally coming together to avenge the death of Phil Coulson, a random agent most of them have very little connection to. Once the film gets into its final hour-long battle scene, it moves at breakneck speed from awe-inspiring to jaw-dropping moment.

Most marvelous: The famous 360-degree pan on all the heroes is goosebump-inducing.

Least marvelous: The easily undoable mind control plot device.

13. Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Multiverse of Madness is one of the more divisive entries in the MCU catalog, but whether or not you fully enjoy it, you have to respect its ambition. This is Marvel’s first big-screen horror film, and though it does take a good chunk of time to build up to the terror, it is surprisingly effective—and gruesome—when it arrives. Sam Raimi is one of the few directors who has really left their mark on their Marvel adventure. Benedict Cumberbatch has never been better as Dr. Strange, and Elisabeth Olsen is incredible at maneuvering all the tonal jumps she must do as Scarlet Witch. Speaking of, Scarlet Witch’s depiction is one of the most controversial elements of the movie. Yes, having her immediately revert to evil after the events of WandaVision is clunky franchise-planning, but it is great to finally see her depicted at the powerful entity she is. Dr. Strange 2 also makes use of the multiverse in a great way, offering a bunch of “Look! Look!” moments and cameos.

Most marvelous: Olsen’s performance when she is reunited with her kids.

Least marvelous: I’m down with Wanda killing all the Illuminati except Prof. X. That was one step too far.

Tune in next week for Episode 3 – The Invincible [featuring 12-1]!

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