The Best Of Marvel Phase One

Well it’s finally that time of the year. May has come and the Summer Movie Season is about to be in full force and what better way to start if off then with Iron Man 3, the official start for Marvel’s Phase Two. It’s really incredible to think back and realize that six years ago we were teased after the credits of Iron Man with the possibility of The Avengers. Now six years and many after-credits scenes later (that I’m sure aggravated clean up crew in theaters all around the globe), The Avengers has come and gone, exploding onto the screen and raking in critical praise and $1.5 billion dollars globally. In honor of the start to the next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we at Reel Reactions thought it would be a good idea to go through and rank Phase One from worst of the series to best:

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The big green Hulk, showing his back, Banner dressed in denim with a shoulder bag and head hung low facing forward.6. The Incredible Hulk – This reboot of everyone’s favorite green machine stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, a mind-mannered scientist traveling the globe in search of the antidote for his primal problem. The main drawback for this installment in the Marvel Universe is that it didn’t feel like it fit or even mattered, and for the most part it didn’t. Edward Norton did a fairly good job portraying Dr. Banner but was easily outshined by Mark Ruffalo’s performance in The Avengers; it was so good in fact that it essentially negated the existence of this film completely. Other than Norton, there’s nothing memorable about this film, making the movie ultimately feel like a stepping-stone for the franchise rather than a film that could stand-alone. While The Incredible Hulk is by no means a bad film – it provides impressive action set pieces that will dazzle the eyes – nothing about the film attracted me to watch it again or think about it again, which differs from every other film in Phase One.
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5Tony Stark is pictured center wearing a smart suit, against a black background, behind him are is the Iron Man red and gold armor, and the Iron Man silver armor. His friends, Rhodes, Pepper, are beside him and below against a fireball appears Ivan Vanko armed with his energy whip weapons.. Iron Man 2 – Film is about balance, a yin and yang if you will. With comic book movies, it’s all about being able to stay grounded in reality while still providing the over-the-top action that can amaze and captivate audiences. Iron Man apparently did not get this memo for the sequel and the result was a film that tried to focus mostly on staying grounded, almost losing the fast-paced fun the original had completely. Being a fan of the comics, I do understand that the “Demon in a Bottle” story arc is what the plot was somewhat based on, but their execution was flawed and the result provided audiences with a Tony Stark that felt more like an ass than a damaged, relatable character. All of this could have been salvaged with a really intense villain and some impressive action scenes, but what we got instead was a man obsessed with his bird, another man trying to play catch-up with Tony Stark, and a climactic battle that lasted a mere minute. While the performances are still fantastic and the visuals, when used, are just as impressive as ever, Iron Man 2 just doesn’t have quite the bite that its predecessor did.

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Captain America The First Avenger poster.jpg4. Captain America: The First Avenger – Here’s where the tables turn and we start to see the films that really got it right. Captain America is one of the first films in Phase One that, for me, felt more than two-dimensional. While it certainly did not have the impressive action scenes that the other films did, Captain America makes up for it in its storytelling and thematic development. The film mixes its retro vibes and somewhat pulpy action sequences with the exploration of things like love, loss, and proving one’s worth. At its core, this installment in the Marvel Universe does much more than set up the story for The Avengers, it’s the study of a man who just wanted to be more than he ever thought he could be and his ability to deal with saving the world. The idea of setting the film in WWII era and allowing them to use Red Skull to their advantage was definitely a plus, the performances were fantastic, and the movie had heart beyond belief. Captain America was the main film in Phase One that, in my opinion, portrayed comic books as more than explosions and corny one-liners.
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Thor poster.jpg3. Thor – Although many do disagree, I actually really enjoyed Thor. The idea of this God encountering a completely new world and being out of his element, while over the top at times, provided laughs and a much needed light-heartedness to the more serious tone Marvel was pushing for (it was no Nolan trilogy, but still…). Much like Spider-Man 2, which is easily one of the best comic book films ever made, the idea of taking away the thing that makes this man so great was an effective way to give him flaws. He’s the God of Thunder, so how are you supposed to relate to him? This is a question they answered very successfully. On top of this, the overarching theme of conflict within family and jealousy almost gave off a Cain and Abel type of vibe to the film, which, with the excellent performance by Tom Hiddleston as Loki, really drove the emotion between the two. Thor was a much needed change of pace from the rest of the Phase One films and one that I thought had its own voice while still staying true to the Marvel formula that has been so successful for the past 6 years.
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Ironmanposter.JPG2. Iron Man – This decision was difficult because Iron Man is really one of the best comic book films ever and is just a fantastic movie in general. Like I stated with Captain America, even if the film didn’t have the Iron Man staple, this tale of a narcissistic man who has to use his wit to escape imprisonment and does so by building a giant robotic supersuit would still have been a fantastic film. Robert Downey Jr. was truly excellent as Tony Stark and he remains so to this day; he completely lost himself in the role and everything about him just screamed Tony Stark, especially the way he could make every line have an effect with his haughtily sincere one-liners. This character was the first time I ever really thought, “Wow, that is a perfect casting. I do not think there is anyone else who could have played him better.” The dark and gritty nature of the cave scene was truly my favorite because right off the bat it established Stark as an individual with a superpower: his mind. Iron Man was easily the best stand alone Marvel film in the entire Phase One and it did a fantastic job setting the scale for each of the preceding films as well as setting up the final movie on the list.
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TheAvengers2012Poster.jpg1. The Avengers – At the end of the day, it’s a no brainer; The Avengers is easily the best Marvel comic book film and one of the best comic book films ever created (it’s in a constant battle with The Dark Knight in my mind). Between the fantastic performances (Mark Ruffalo killed it as the new Hulk and Robert Downey Jr. was great as usual as Iron Man), the breathtaking set pieces and special effects (note to Michael Bay, this is how you destroy a city!), and a script that not only delivered character development but humor as well (you got to love Stark calling Thor, ‘Shakespeare in the Park’), The Avengers set the scale high and delivered all of the suspense and superhero action that any comic book fan could every want. While Hiddleston’s Loki was pretty good in Thor, he stepped up big time, delivering a villainous performance that hasn’t been seen since Ledger’s Joker in 2008. Whedon’s script delivers action and comedy but also finds itself very grounded at points, allowing for character development and some very dramatic and emotional scenes (R.I.P. Agent Coulson). This is truly the definition of a long-term plan paying off in the end and I can bet all the schwarma in the world that the sequel will be just as magical.

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Agree with our picks? Which of Marvel’s Phase One movies is your favorite? Are you as pumped as we are for Phase 2?

Iron Man 3 opens tomorrow – May 3rd, 2013

Article by Nick Franco

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