Ranking a Decade of Marvel Movies: The Also Rans

We did it people. By giving Marvel our hard earned cash to see almost 20 movies over the last decade, featuring all the superheroes that we love and several that we had no clue existed, we aided and abetted the creation of an unstoppable juggernaut. With Avengers: Infinity War being released in a few short days after a decade of building towards Thanos’ showdown with the galaxy’s mightiest heroes, that train is not slowing down anytime soon.

But it hasn’t all been the smoothest journey through this shared universe. There are more than a few stops along the way that, if not for having the Marvel Studios banner safeguarding them from irrelevance, would’ve been immediately cast out and forgotten. I suppose that’s understandable. When you have 18 at-bats, you’re probably not going to knock it out of the park each time. Part three of this post will feature the eight Marvel films that I consider to be home runs, so by baseball standards the MCU has been more than cleaning up at the plate.

However, we still have to talk about the times when they struck out, grounded into a double play or popped out to the catcher (which as a former little leaguer, I always hated more than striking out). To be clear, I’m not referring to this first group of films as “The Also Rans” because I think they suck. While there will be a couple of rants and plenty of criticism, you can still watch most of these movies and be entertained. I just never feel a strong desire to do so outside of taking on another marathon of all the MCU films (which is getting very long, by the way) and one of them just happens to be the next one on the list.

But since these are my opinions and I may very well just be a cynical bastard, I’m including some feedback from both Kevin and my girlfriend, Natalie. If I’m being too hard on any of these films, they’ll let you know about it.

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Let’s Talk About X-Men: Part 2

Alright peeps. Seeing as Logan is Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as Wolverine, it seemed like a good time to take a look back on the X-Men film series and talk about what we liked and didn’t like. These aren’t reviews, per say. We’re not going to rank these things or analyze the crap out of them. Instead, we’re just going to crack jokes and revel in the fact that Jackman has been playing this character for almost 20 years. That’s pretty damn amazing, whether you like the X-Men or not.

We already traveled back to the early 2000’s and discussed the groundbreaking start to the X-Men movie franchise covering X-Men, X-2, and The Last Stand right here. So make sure to check that out to find out which movie knocked Jesse’s pants off (he still hasn’t found them) and which movie we wish never existed at all (hint, it’s The Last Stand).

Next we are going to whip out our adamantium claws and slash our way into the Wonderful World of Wolverine.

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Let’s Talk About X-Men: Part 1

Alright peeps. Seeing as Logan is Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as Wolverine, it seemed like a good time to take a look back on the X-Men film series and talk about what we liked and didn’t like. These aren’t reviews, per say. We’re not going to rank these things or analyze the crap out of them. Instead, we’re just going to crack jokes and revel in the fact that Jackman has been playing this character for almost 20 years. That’s pretty damn amazing, whether you like the X-Men or not.

To kick things off, we’ll discuss all things concerning the original X-Men film trilogy, particularly whether or not Cyclops is as lame now as we thought he was back then (he is) and if these movies have stood the test of time. The first two? Yes. The third one? Well, we’ll get to that.

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“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Review by Jesse Schaffer

“The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes, the best that we can do is to start over.” 

If you read my review of Captain America: The First Avenger (and there haven’t been many posts around here lately, so odds are that you did), then you know that I was a pretty big fan of that movie. However, one big weakness of Cap’s big screen debut, as well as his role in The Avengers, was that you never got to see him kick very much ass. Granted, it’s not always easy to look powerful when your teammates consist of the God of Thunder, an enormous green rage monster and a wise-cracking genius in a high-tech armored suit, but Cap is his own entity, right? There’s no excuse for him not to be a bad ass when those other Avengers aren’t around to steal the spotlight.

Only that wasn’t the case in The First Avenger; the action scenes suffered due to the high usage of montages and thus we only saw glimpses of Cap proving his worth in battle. That was a mistake that I hoped all those involved would avoid in Cap 2, partly because the sequel seemed to be taking all of the other right steps to improve upon the original. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in the modern day world? He nails that role. Casting Anthony Mackie as the Falcon? Hell of a choice, guy’s a great actor. Bringing back Nick Fury, Black Widow and then throwing the Winter Soldier and Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce into the mix? I’m already on the edge of my seat. That being said, the movie is called Captain America for a reason and it was high time that he proved why he’s the world’s greatest soldier.

And that’s exactly what happened. Captain America: The Winter Soldier improved upon its predecessor in every conceivable way and reaffirmed my belief that Steve Rogers is a hero worthy of our attention and admiration. Not only that, but the narrative that is very carefully weaved here by The Russo Brothers (first time big-budget directors who are famous for Community) is chalked full of intriguing twists and turns with enormous amounts of payoff, and when you combine it all together, you have the finest standalone Marvel Studios film since the original Iron Man. I’ll go as far to say that it even surpasses our first encounter with Tony Stark.

We’ll start with the plot. Steve Rogers has lent his abilities as Captain America to the service of S.H.I.E.L.D., and though he is less than satisfied with the underhanded way that his new comrades operate (particularly the methods of Fury and Widow), he’s willing to overlook all of that so long as he still feels that he’s helping people and making a difference in the world. That all changes when Fury is pursued by “cops” in broad daylight and then fatally wounded in Rogers’ apartment, which in turn sparks a manhunt for Cap and forces him and the Widow to go on the run. I’d be well within my rights to delve even further into the spoilers, seeing as this movie has been out for three months, but I’ll hold back for anyone who was on the fence about this movie because they didn’t like the first one.

If you are a member of that band of ignorant fools, perhaps I can help change your mind. In my opinion, Evans embodies every essential quality of Captain America in this movie and is as relatable as he’s ever been. Once again, Rogers displays extraordinary conviction and refuses to sacrifice his beliefs or values, even when his so-called allies aren’t doing the same. It’s all well and good to do everything in your power to disarm those who present a threat to the innocent, but how do you react when you realize that your superiors have been holding a knife to your throat the whole time? The America that Rogers sacrificed himself to protect during the war is a distant memory, and what he finds in the new world is that the difference between good and evil is that the good guys will at least apologize after they stab you in the back.

On top of all that, Rogers’ entire existence is shaken to its core when he finds out the true identity of The Winter Soldier, the Terminator-esque assassin who carried out the hit on Fury and whose motivation is unclear. To watch Cap try and make sense of everything as he grapples with all of these betrayals and revelations is something to behold, and the only thing to top it are his interactions with his friends. I feel safe calling them that because over the course of the movie, Black Widow, Falcon and even a returning Maria Hill all prove themselves in Cap’s eyes. You already knew that Black Widow was playing for the home team (Scarlett Johanson absolutely owns that role at this point) but Mackie as the Falcon provides a fresh face and kindred spirit for Rogers to connect with. They are both soldiers, after all, and you feel their chemistry and camaraderie being established right from the opening frames. And spoilers be damned, but the reunion between Cap and Peggy Carter is one of the most intimate and human moments from any superhero movie. It provided us with some much desired closure between those two and inspired me to quote it at the beginning of this review.

Of course, none of this would mean a damn thing if the action wasn’t up to par, but it absolutely is. Cap is literally unstoppable as he bashes his way through anyone dumb enough to take him on and his trademark shield is one of the coolest weapons ever. It ricochets off walls and batters everything from helpless thugs to S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopters, proving once and for all that Cap doesn’t need any help in order to dispatch his enemies with extreme prejudice. His showdowns with The Winter Soldier are epic encounters that actually surprise in the way that they’re carried out and leave you wanting more long after the final credits roll. And speaking of that damned soldier, only Loki has left a more lasting impression as a villain that can challenge our heroes both physically and emotionally. All of this leads to a climax that has catastrophic results for the Marvel Universe at large and will surely impact every follow-up to come.

In short, Captain America: The Winter Soldier accomplished everything that we could expect from one of these standalone films: told a compelling story that was unique, action-packed and further developed characters that we love? Check. Introduced a terrifying villain but made him more than just a mindless husk or maniacal mastermind? Check. Provided us with touching character moments that humanized everyone involved? Double check. This movie went above and beyond in terms of where we normally see comic book movies go and raised the bar for Marvel once again. I adored everything about this film and I’m just as excited for the next Cap movie as I am to see the Avengers reassemble next May. Your move, Joss Whedon.

Jesse’s Rating: 10/10

Thor is Back, Hardly Dark but Mostly Fun by Jesse Schaffer

Yep, for the first time, Kevin and I are both reviewing a certain movie. Yeah sure, it’s a little redundant, big whoop, wanna fight about it?

“Thor: The Dark World” marks the return of everyone’s favorite hammer-wielding Asgardian, and I think it’s safe to say that Thor is back in a big way in this film. Some time after the end of “The Avengers,” our title character is attempting to restore peace to the Nine Realms, while Jane Foster stumbles upon the Aether, an ancient evil that the Dark Elves used to try and control the universe a really, really long time ago. The God of Thunder becomes concerned and takes Jane to Asgard, where she sticks out like a sore thumb, punches Loki in the face and puts everyone in grave danger, forcing the estranged brothers to work together to save their home. Quite thrilling, right?

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Thor is a Bore

Thor: The Dark World opens up with information overload.

We learn that thousands of years ago a weapon called the Aether was used by beings known as Dark Elves to send the universe into darkness. The Asgardians stop them and the Aether ends up being hidden not to be discovered for thousands of years. Meanwhile Thor has been fighting for peace in the Nine Realms while his lover Jane is stuck dating Roy.

This amount of exposition is pretty exhausting and sets the stage for the downfall of the film.

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