My Controversial Opinions About the Marvel Cinematic Universe
BY KÉRA MATTHEWS '24
This article has been seven months in the making! At the beginning of 2021, my dad suggested that we begin the year by watching every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), two per week. Fast-forward three months and picture this: me, drenched in tears, buried sixteen webpages too many into intricate Marvel fan theories. Since then, my Notes app has been busy full of my thoughts about each MCU movie and phase.
I have many opinions that I’ve been aching to get out in the open, and I can’t wait to share them here!
(Note: “Phase” is a general term in the MCU used to describe a new era. Eras are typically grouped together by the connection of each movie to an overarching theme.)
Part One: Phases Ranked
4. Phase 2 (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man): No phase is necessarily bad, but Phase 2 did not add much to the already introduced characters from Phase 1. Perhaps its biggest impact was Guardians of the Galaxy, but as a whole, I don’t find myself itching to revisit the movies here. However, it brought Marvel fans some unforgettable scenes and one-liners!
Favorite Movie from Phase 2: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
While this phase as a whole was pretty meh, this is one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. This movie worked well because of the fascinating relationships between the central characters—especially between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. Without those connections, Phase 2 could have been as lackluster as some of the original Avengers’ sequels. The Winter Soldier’s plot was intricate but digestible, and this movie birthed the most evolved original Avenger (along with some great one-liners).
3. Phase 1 (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Marvel’s The Avengers): This phase began my obsession with the MCU, so I couldn’t put it last. However, it is objectively the lowest quality of the four. Granted, Phase 1 began in 2008, so its production is bound to be worse than up-to-date movies.
Favorite Movie from Phase 1: The Avengers
This movie piqued my interest in the MCU. Cliché, I know, but a classic’s a classic. The relationships between the Avengers were perfectly humorous. Add in a bit of tension, and mwah! You’re introduced to well-written and complex superhero relationships. Loki is my favorite Marvel character, and this movie began my obsession with him. As a whole, this movie was a strong start to introducing the conflict that spreads across multiple phases, and the ending credits raised the stakes for what’s to come.
2. Phase 4 (Ongoing but includes Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Black Widow, What If…?, and Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings): This phase is off to a great start! It’s held up despite some dramatic concluding finales from Phase 3, which isn’t easy. Unlike Phase 1, this phase has phenomenal production and much more imaginative storylines. However, I think that this phase is a bit disjointed since there are so many action-packed plot points that do not connect to a bigger picture. That being said, the anticipation for future projects makes these concerns easily ignorable.
Best Movie/Show from Phase 4- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
I was lowkey vibing with this phase, but after Shang-Chi, I was hooked. In the movie theater, I was in awe of everything from the start. The action scenes were some of my favorites from the MCU, and the family storyline kept me invested. I found it easy to sympathize with the villain, making them more memorable than the villains of earlier movies and prompting me to want to learn more about them. After Black Panther, Shang-Chi is my favorite origin story.
1. Phase 3 (Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home): It’s undeniable that this phase stands out; for one, we were gifted three Avengers movies in this phase, and secondly, the content was a lot heavier. Production-wise, the origin stories were higher quality, and the stakes were raised when the villain foreshadowed from Phase 1 made their appearance. I enjoyed all movies during my first watch-throughs, and out of all the phases, Phase 3 aroused the most intense emotions. Caution, though, because this phase brings indescribable PAIN.
Best Movie from Phase 3: Avengers: Endgame
I hate this movie with a burning passion, but it’s also my favorite. I can’t ever watch it again because of my emotional instability, but at the same time, it gave me the closure I needed. Since Endgame was the climax of a decade’s worth of work condensed into a three-hour-long movie, many Marvel fans tread this fine line between love and hate. Midway through the movie, when I found myself crying into the pot I used to cook my ramen, I realized that my heart was truly tied to the characters and universe. Endgame referenced many moments from earlier movies and still managed to make me laugh through my tears, producing nostalgia. From a technical standpoint, this movie dealt with time travel, which is hard to execute well, but it passed with flying colors. With bittersweet endings and promising beginnings, I can’t help but rate this movie the highest.
My Ranking of all the Projects from Best to Worst:
Overall, only one movie is a miss. The rest of them are special to me for different reasons, and the MCU is always an exciting adventure that never fails to surprise me! If you aren’t a fan already, I recommend hopping on the Marvel train!