An Op-Ed by Mario Vargas
So as I listen to one of my favorite podcasts Newcomers, I end up doing the thing where I answer the questions that Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer ask their guests on their show. I am often running through my own history with the MCU, and since they ask the same question to every guest and I keep answering it, I decided to put my thoughts down on paper.
The MCU is pretty much the only thing that I go to the theater for, and I have for the past 7 years, basically since Age of Ultron. I have also been on Marvel Puzzle Quest and currently on day 2,678.
Basically my history with the MCU: I saw Iron Man in theaters – thought it was pretty good. Next one I saw in theaters was Iron Man 2, and I thought it was fine. I didn’t keep up with it at all until I watched Winter Soldier, on a plane. I thought it was an awesome action movie, not just a Marvel superhero movie. It got me hooked. I finished the flight by watching Iron Man 3, then I went to see Ultron in theaters. It did lead to one of the few glaring flaws in the MCU’s idea of one long narrative, where Tony retires one movie but is immediately back the next.
It appears that I am not alone in some of the complaints and inconsistencies of quality both for the Marvel franchise as a whole and per movie. The most frequent negative comments I hear about the MCU are:
A) They are formulaic
B) They end on a CGI mushfest,
C) Nothing of consequence happens, and
D) They exist to make money/the integrity and quality now fall second to making money for the investors.
First, I’d like to share my tier designations consisting of both the MCU movies and the shows.
*Note: I don’t prefer origin stories.
S tier (Superior – The best of the best)
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Avengers Infinity War
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
Guardians of the Galaxy
A tier (Excellent)
Spiderman No Way Home
Captain America Civil War
Spiderman Far from Home
B Tier (Great – I’d watch it again)
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Captain America the First Avenger
Iron Man 3
C Tier (Good, not great)
Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Avengers Age of Ultron
D Tier (Eh, one time is good enough)
Thor the Dark World
Iron Man 2
It was interesting to do this. I noticed that I enjoy the movies the more they are connected and the more the universe is expanded. I feel that they really hit a groove and became their own thing after Ultron. Early on they are a little too generic, following common action movie beats and not embracing the comic bookiness that they now do. Maybe, but it mostly works so I can forgive it.
I think they have done a great job of making these actions scenes work to incorporate great character specific points and use it to enhance the story. In a vacuum I think Shang Chi’s ending works, but I was taken aback at first that it had another run at each other fight. It’s getting muddy with the multiverse allowing characters to revive as variants, but this isn’t a big deal to me. I’m not mad Don Cheadle is still walking.
But one thing that no one can deny is that feeling you get when you walk into a theater on opening weekend, surrounded by fellow super fans ready to experience the movie the way it was made to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if subconsciously the movie theater experience had a positive effect on my opinion of the movie. Regardless of how the timeline, comic books, cinematic universe, series and other digestible media evolve over the coming years, today I am satisfied and always looking forward to what is next for Marvel.
– Mario Vargas
Click here to see the list of the Marvel movies in chronological order.