Arts & Entertainment

Marvel Cinematic Universe: A chronological review

Image from Den of Geek UK

by Georgia Laganiere, business and social media manger

When I was in 6th grade, I became obsessed with the DC Comics shows. Arrow was my favorite, and while I would still recommend it, I eventually grew out of that superhero phase. Over quarantine, I started rewatching the shows and realized that maybe I should explore Marvel, too. So I began watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D without any knowledge of the franchise. Smart, right? Even without any context, I fell in love with the plot, the characters, and eventually the whole Marvel Comics Universe. However, I had a lot of questions, so I decided to watch all of the Marvel movies—on Disney+—in MCU timeline order for the first time. With WandaVision kicking off the rollout of the next Marvel phase, I’ve also included comments on which movies to rewatch for each of the movies related to the new films or shows in phase four. So, here are my thoughts and recommendations—with spoilers. Lots of spoilers. 

Captain America: The First Avenger- 4/10

Not only was the first of the movies, Captain America: The First Avenger, boring, it also made a movie in a dated period feel dated rather than like a backstory. While I did find the plot slow and the characters hard to root for, I found the costumes and character of Peggy Carter interesting enough to warrant the eventual watching of the Agent Carter series. With the release date of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier right around the corner, I’d still rewatch if the events were foggy. 

Captain Marvel- 5/10

While Captain Marvel had much more interesting characters, graphics, and plotlines, I still couldn’t help but feel as though there was something missing. There was no struggle. Nothing for her to overcome emotionally. She never fit in as “Veers” among the Kree, so it wasn’t as though she was being ripped away from her family when she crash-landed on Earth. On the same note, Carol Danvers never truly connected with her Earth family/friends before leaving. It just made the whole movie plot seem shallow and more external. This movie isn’t something I’d ever personally rewatch, with the exception of the cat scratching Fury’s eye. However, the young girl Monica returns in WandaVision as well as the eventual second Captain Marvel movie. 

Iron Man- 6/10

I knew from the moment I watched the first of these three movies that eventually Tony Stark would win me over. I was right. I get the hype. He’s witty, honest, and the perfect amount of morally ambiguous to set him up for a beautiful, albeit predictable, character arc. Pepper Potts, the love interest to Stark, despite her absurd name, also wound up being one of my favorite characters. While the plot of the first movie fell short compared to the next two, the characters made up for it. The events of this movie don’t relate to anything new, however in my personal opinion, this film is worth a rewatch.  

Iron Man 2- 7.5/10

To reiterate, I love Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. However, the introduction of the infamous-to-those-who’ve-never-even-watched-it Agent Natasha Romanoff was even better. Her simple yet effective deception of Stark made me root for her even more, as well as in her fight scene. The plot was mediocre, but once again, the likable characters saved it. If you’re scouring the MCU for Romanoff content before the movie comes out, I’d definitely include this movie. 

Thor- 7/10 

The colors, the plot, and the magic created a wonderful new universe to step into. The graphics overall were amazing. However, I had a problem with the characters. Sure, they were all beautiful, but that doesn’t cut it. None of the Asgardians showed any emotion other than rage or jealousy, and the main woman, Jane Portman, fell in love with Thor after knowing him for a week. Aren’t we past this trope? I’d skip this in any rewatches simply because it doesn’t have much relevance to the new additions to the MCU other than Darcy. Unless you want to ogle Thor, then I wouldn’t blame you. 

The Avengers- 8/10

Wow. I really liked this one. Though I didn’t have a lot of backstory on Bruce Banner because Disney+ doesn’t have Hulk or the Incredible Hulk on the platform, I still loved his character. I also loved the appearances of Coulson and Hill, some of my favorites from previous films. The plot was good, and the characters had reason to fight after Coulson’s death. It cleared up a lot of blindspots I had acquired by watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with no context. While it’s not a necessary rewatch, I’d still recommend it. 

Thor: The Dark World- 6/10

This movie was a bit disappointing. The plot was interesting, and the end of it tied into S.H.I.E.L.D, so that was interesting and filled in a couple of gaps. However, the costuming for Jane when she’s on Asgard was ethereal. The comic relief of Darcy was great until she predictably fell for her previously ignored “intern,” and once again I have to say, haven’t we seen this trope already? I would however recommend watching this movie when rewatching to get some more Darcy content before WandaVision as well as preparing for the eventual movie Loki set to release in May 2021 and Thor: Love and Thunder set to release that same month.  

Iron Man 3- 8/10

Similar to the other movies by this title, I loved it. The characters had more dimension and the threat of others with similarly powered suits was amplified in a way that reflects real-life problems with the privatization of weapons. The ending twist of Pepper Potts’ death with the even bigger twist of her not dying was the perfect end to the trilogy. While I did really like this film, rewatching it wouldn’t be helpful for the upcoming movies and TV shows. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier- 7.5/10 

I enjoyed this movie compared to the first. Though I am not the biggest fan of “Cap,” I do especially love the character of Natasha Romanoff. The plotline begins at the same point as the start of S.H.I.E.L.D—after the Battle of New York—and shows the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D to Hydra. This is especially interesting to me as it comes at no surprise that the agency of S.H.I.E.L.D is intriguing. The plotline and the characters developed very well in this movie compared to the first Captain America movie. Definitely rewatch if you are gearing up for the Black Widow release in May. 

Guardians of the Galaxy- 9/10 

From the witty banter to the comedic side characters, I laughed way more than I thought was possible for a movie. This movie was a really good break from the usually serious tones of the other movies. Coming from someone who loves to do makeup, especially special effects makeup, I have a huge admiration for whoever did costumes and makeup for Gamora. The introduction of Thanos was very ominous because while I don’t have a full understanding of the events of Infinity War and Endgame, I do know that he has a huge impact. 

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2- 9/10

Once again, I loved this one. I mean, Peter Quill got powers. Gamora’s suit got an update. And the best part: we got a solid minute of Baby Groot dancing while the others were kicking butt. If that doesn’t intrigue you, then I don’t know what will. The actor who played Ego, Kurt Russell, did well in this role solely because of the weird and uncertain vibes his character gave off, which played into the plot really well.  

Image from Disney Plus originals

Avengers: Age of Ultron- 8.5/10 

While I liked this movie overall, I have several bones to pick. Why did Romanoff’s dress in the party scene look like that? It wasn’t a good design, and it wasn’t functional either. However, I did love the developments between Romanoff and Banner as well as the reveal of Barton’s family. It softened Romanoff’s character and made me actually like Banner. The Hulk movies aren’t on Disney+ so from my perspective, he just kinda popped up with no backstory, but I eventually pieced it together. I also liked that it set up the reasoning behind the Sokovia Accords and thus Civil War. Plus, it introduced Wanda and Vision, the two main characters in WandaVision

Ant-Man- 9/10 

To be completely honest, I had seen this movie and Ant-Man and the Wasp when they came out. At the time, I had no idea they were a part of the MCU universe, and I barely remembered them. Either way, I really liked this movie. His daughter is probably the most adorable person ever, and I loved the slow and awkward romance between Scott and Hope. Now that is an overdone trope I actually like. 

Captain America: Civil War- 8/10

I have so many feelings about this movie. First of all, I am definitely on Tony’s side. They all should’ve signed the Sokovia Accords. It just seemed like a better alternative than getting killed for their heroics. To paraphrase what Tony said, the evil you know versus the evil you don’t. However, those who sided with Stark should’ve listened to Steve when he vouched for Bucky. So really they were all wrong, and they were all right.  

Image from Disney UK

Black Panther- 10/10

I loved this movie so much. I’m sad that there won’t be another movie with Chadwick Boseman in it, may he rest in peace. The fashion and the technology were amazing. The costume of the Dora Milaje, the female warriors, was amazing even down to the hair, or lack thereof. Now time to rave about my favorite character Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. Between the wit, the fashion, and hair, and her obvious genius and phenomenal personality, she’s amazing. It touched on racial justice, a very hot-button issue, without dragging the story down with politics. The new Black Panther movie starring Letitia Wright’s Shuri as the next Black Panther, so if you’re planning on watching that, definitely revisit this film. 

Doctor Strange- 9/10

This movie was dark and hilarious at the same time. It gave a man who was previously self-entitled a reality check by giving him a life-altering injury. The addition of mind-bending magic to a man who was already broken proved to be very interesting. In truth, my brain hurt a little after watching the insane amount of CGI that went into the mind-bending scenes, but it was totally worth it because the graphics were great. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set to release March 2022 so you’ll have an entire year to revisit this film before it’s sequel comes out. 

Thor: Ragnarok- 9.5/10

I couldn’t stop laughing. Loki finally had his redemption arc, and I was happy about it. The side characters and the ending realization about the meaning of Ragnarok. Coming to terms with the idea of their home planet being destroyed at their own hands instead of defending it. However, I do feel like the storyline of Jane just dropped off. Hela’s costume was insanely cool. The transition between her hair to her helmet thing was mesmerizing every time. The battle between Hulk and Thor was hilarious, and the beginning monologue was my favorite part of the movie. I would recommend rewatching this movie if you plan on watching Thor: Love and Thunder

Ant-Man and The Wasp- 7/10

While this movie was okay, its humor didn’t compare to the first, and the villain—though I wouldn’t call her that—wasn’t very formidable. I did love the extra content of Cassie because she’s adorable. Hank Pym being reunited with his wife was very sweet, and I would’ve loved that maze in my house as a kid. While the actress who played Ghost was very pretty and the character had a good backstory, the overall plot lacked a true villain. Ghost was merely an antagonist. In writing, there is a difference between a villain and an antagonist. Think Draco Malfoy versus Voldemort. Harry Potter wouldn’t be nearly as good without either of the characters. 

Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers: Endgame

Holy word-I-can’t-print. That was a whirlwind. I’m putting this review of the two movies together because the two movies flow like a single 5-hour film. In truth, I watched this back-to-back starting at 1 a.m., so distinguishing between the movies is a bit hard. Infinity War melted all of the previous movies together to create a single, basically undefeatable villain with the universe’s only hope, the Avengers, fractured across space and barely speaking to each other. The awkward combinations of characters meeting each other and the ragtag groups were probably my favorite part. Let me just say, I finally get why Marvel fans obsess over the line “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good” because wow, that line hurt. I hadn’t even watched any of the Spiderman movies, but the two movies he was in, outside of his own, made me want that happily ever after with Peter and Stark. Them not getting that fairy tale moment at the end of Endgame was heartbreaking. Watching all of Barton’s family disappear, watching Romanoff fall, watching Steve dance with Peggy, and watching Peter and Pepper’s tearful goodbyes was heartbreaking. While all of those moments were painful, my favorite moment, something I’m sure many of you share, is right after Captain America’s shield is broken and everyone shows up to help fight. It was powerful to say the least. Lots of happy tears. Which then turned to sad tears. Even with the giant plot hole that is Steve Rogers being on a bench rather than in a split reality, I’m still definitely recommending rewatching this. These. Rewatching these.

Overall

To review the franchise as a whole, I give it a 9/10. According to my very cynical friend, I’m very generous in my scores; however, I would have to disagree. While the movies may have plot holes or a couple of movies out of the many may have not been as good, I still think that the construction and characters of these movies are some of the best that I’ve seen. Similar to the Harry Potter franchise, each film added up to a huge climax at the end with little details from each movie coming to light as a larger piece of a puzzle. And I found that impressive. The characters were real. They had flaws, humor, strength, and they all played a significant role in each movie. Marvel had both a good plot and good characters and even if one dipped, the other rose above to save it. The fact that millions of people came together around this franchise shows just how much they love the characters. This same fandom decided that they wouldn’t accept the death of Agent Coulson and begged Marvel to give him his own show, which they did. A simple side character charmed his way into a show because that’s how good the characters were written and portrayed. I can now say with full confidence, I am now back in my superhero phase and will definitely be watching WandaVision and the other new additions to the MCU religiously. 

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