The Marvel cinematic universe’s most underrated and overrated movies
It’s not like fun is hard to come by these days. For instant enjoyment, you can turn to betting apps in New Jersey, but if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, you can’t do better than a Marvel superhero film. The Marvel cinematic universe is the most ambitious, interconnected movie franchise in history. It has reinvented the big-budget, action-packed, character-led special effects blockbuster for modern times.
Based on the vast world of Marvel comic books that go back to the 1960s and in some cases even earlier, there’s no shortage of characters or story ideas for the films to use. Every one of the 23 movies released to date is worth seeing, as are the multiple television series that are also part of the franchise.
But with so many entries, it’s inevitable that some get overlooked or are ripe for reassessment, given that the first MCU film, Iron Man, was released back in 2008. Others, dare we say, don’t entirely live up to the hype or, in retrospect, are not as good as they could have been. But let’s start with those films that we think are underrated.
Helmed by veteran British director Kenneth Branagh, Thor was something of an outlier in the MCU’s first phase, its Shakespearian fantasy setting being at odds with the science-based heroics of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. It wasn’t as spectacular or action-packed as many other Marvel movies, but it combined a strong story with character development and just the right level of comedy.
Thor’s home world of Asgard was visually stunning. With Chris Hemsworth in the title role, the film introduced Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and also featured the great Anthony Hopkins as Odin.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
A necessary set-up for The Avengers, this different kind of superhero film was set during World War II, and the pivotal character of Captain America appeared for the first time. Despite a strong performance from Chris Evans and a great mix of action and character-led scenes, the film was only a modest hit at the box office.
The relationship between Cap’s alter-ego Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter is excellently handled, the Red Skull is an impressive villain, and the movie does much to expand the interrelated universe ahead of future entries.
This old-fashioned comedy heist movie certainly has a different tone to much of the MCU and was based on a screenplay by off-beat British writers Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Many fans found it hard to reconcile with the unfolding saga, coming as it did at the end of phase two. Still, Ant-Man did an excellent job of bringing the superhero concept down to Earth at a time when the films were becoming increasingly cosmic.
The special effects are excellent, and Paul Rudd is great as the petty thief turned hero Scott Lang. Best of all, it can be watched as a stand-alone movie with no prior knowledge of the comic books or the MCU.
The Avengers (2012)
Now for the controversial bit: the films that we believe are just a little bit overrated. The Avengers is arguably the flagship movie for the whole franchise. It was a huge commercial and critical hit, but perhaps we were so impressed at the time with the fact that Marvel had pulled this one off at all that we overlooked its flaws.
The basic plot, in which Earth’s greatest heroes come together to save the world, is somewhat hackneyed. The first act is very slow, and when we finally do get to see some action, it’s a fairly humdrum car chase. Maybe it’s unfair to point out that the CGI effects now look a little dated, but there it is. The Avengers is still a great film but is not the all-time high as was claimed.
Black Panther (2018)
Similarly, this remains a great film, but the people who think it’s the greatest superhero film ever are mostly people who don’t like superhero films. Yes, it was ground-breaking in its casting and an important film socially and culturally. But taken purely as a superhero film, it has some serious flaws. The CGI in the final fight scene is terrible and was obviously rushed to get the picture out on time. The pace is uneven, and the story wilts in its third act. On its own, Black Panther is a powerful film, but in the MCU context, it belongs in the second division.
Of course, every fan will have their own opinions, and none of this is set in stone. The MCU is such a diverse place that there is something for everyone. Chances are your favorites will change with every viewing, and who knows: the best may be yet to come.