Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice except thousands of times better. This is based off of the comic storyline of the same name, but the movie does a much better of job of living up to the interesting premise of the heroes of the Marvel universe battling each other over ideological differences thanks to good writing and the characters all being sympathetic in their own ways. Both Iron Man’s and Captain America’s sides make valid arguments regarding their positions on the Accords and actually talk to each other, instead of just scowling at each other and brooding. Their positions also showcase their development, with Iron Man deciding he doesn’t have all the answers and Captain America not trusting his government so blindly anymore. Also, for a movie so stuffed with characters it utilizes them all well. Black Panther is introduced and has an interesting character arc, while Spider-Man makes his MCU debut and is awesome. All the action scenes are awesome with practical stunts, the airport scene where all the heroes fight each other is pure entertainment, and the climax is genuinely emotional featuring the falling out of the two heroes we know and love. The villain isn’t anything special, but his motivation is sympathetic and not convoluted or stupid. It’s not as good as The Winter Soldier, but it’s still a great superhero movie and a great conclusion to the Captain America trilogy.
Doctor Strange is an interesting movie. The first act does an excellent job of building up the character of Stephen Strange, then tearing him because of his hubris. It plays out like a tragedy and is when the film is at its best. Unfortunately the rest of the movie’s plot is pretty forgettable, as it essentially retells the same story the first Iron Man did about a jerk needing to learn humility. Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange is perfect for the role at least. The main selling point of this movie is the trippy, Inception like visuals and effects. They are admittedly impressive, but they’re the only impressive thing in the movie and Inception did them first and better. Mads Mikkelsen’s villain had potential but is just a standard Marvel villain when all is said and done. Also the humor isn’t handled as well as other Marvel movies since this is going for a more serious tone. It’s not a bad movie, just not a memorable one with some entertaining moments sprinkled throughout.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Against the odds it is even better than the first one. Vol. 2 smartly puts less emphasis on worldbuilding and more on character development. The pacing is slower, with the Guardians being separated at times and interacting with different characters. By far the best of these are Yondu and Rocket’s interactions, which give both of them more depth and nuance than the first one showed. The villain is not only miles better than the first one, but where Marvel has finally solved their villain problem. Ego played by Kurt Russell has charisma, you understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, and the sheer level of his atrocities is the worst of any Marvel villain. Even the soundtrack is better than first one, with the opening scene being equal parts hilarious and awesome with one long shot of Baby Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky” while the team fights a giant monster. Words don’t do it justice. Some might think the humor is too much, but I actually thought they did a great job mixing the humor in with the more dramatic moments. It’s easily one of the better Marvel movies and even one of the better comic books movies you can watch.
Finally Spider-Man makes his triumphant debut into the MCU. This is smartly not another origin story, but a story about Peter trying to come into his own as a superhero. Tom Holland was great from what we saw as both the geeky Peter Parker and the wiseass Spider-Man in Civil War, and he proves that he can still pull both off in his own movie. The plot is refreshingly small scale and humble, being more of a slice of life high-school comedy than a typical superhero movie plot. This film, like GotG Vol. 2 shows Marvel has finally found a way to make great villains not named Loki, with Michael Keaton as the Vulture being genuinely sympathetic and likable to the extent I was actually kind of rooting for him to succeed at the end. It’s also refreshing to have a Spider-Man movie where the Green Goblin isn’t the main villain. The humor is also quite appropriate for the setting, instead of forced or out of place like Doctor Strange’s humor was. If there are some negatives I could point to, it would be that Aunt May is way too young to be believable, and Peter’s high-school friend Ned was really obnoxious in the beginning.
At last, a Thor movie that’s actually good! When your movie’s opening scene involves Thor beating up monsters while Immigrant Song plays, you know you’re in for a wild ride. Ditching the faux Shakespearian drama from the last two Thor movies, Thor: Ragnarok has a level of self-awareness the other ones were lacking. This is the first movie with Thor in it since the first Avengers where I actually found him likable. Chris Hemsworth shows off a lot of comedic talent and wit in this, but can still handle the dramatic moments when needed. People may complain the humor detracts from the apocalyptic scenario, but that just makes the movie more unique in comparison to others like it. I’ll also add that there are some well delivered themes tackling the subject of colonialism on display amidst all the banter and jokes. Every cast member is having a blast in this, especially Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett. Golblum is just having the time of his life, and while Hela may not be the most compelling Marvel villain, Blanchett’s hammy performance ensures you’ll love her every second she’s on screen. New side characters such as Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director/actor Taika Waititi as Korg are awesome in their own right. This might very well have the best cast of characters in the MCU so far, with the highlight of the film being how they all play off of each other. Their interactions feel real and human, and if they were improvised I wouldn’t be surprised. One glaring fault is that the CGI and other effects aren’t very good a lot of the time, but this is balanced out by the artstyle and vivid colors of the worlds in the movie. If you’re expecting a grey, dark, miserable drama where everyone is unlikable and mopey, you’re out of luck. Thor: Ragnarok is vibrant, bright, and above all else: fun.
Finally, here is my ranking for the Marvel movies as of right now (an updated one will be posted after Infinity War)
1. The Avengers
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
4. Captain America: Civil War
5. Iron Man 3
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
8. Thor: Ragnarok
9. Iron Man
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
11. Ant Man
12. Doctor Strange
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
15. Iron Man 2
16. Thor: The Dark World
17. The Incredible Hulk
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had its low points, but their latest string of movies starting with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have been consistently entertaining and creative. The top six movies are ones I would recommend everyone watch, as they are standout movies in their own right. The bottom three should be skipped entirely, just read a summary online.