A Ranking of Netflix’s Marvel Films from Worst to Best.
Netflix Film Review by Kirsty Asher
6. Thor: The Dark World
Thor is absolutely my favourite cinematic Avenger, and 2011’s Thor might well be my favourite of Marvel’s post-Iron Man films. As a theatre-lover and former performer, I think it was bang on the money to hire Kenneth Branagh to direct the first outing, giving Shakespearean swagger to the Norse mythology - it was just what the character and the fictional world needed. This second installment fails to live up to the charm and wit of the first film. It’s not necessarily a bad film, but Christopher Ecclestone’s villain is pretty forgettable, and the ending is a gargantuan, messy clobber-fest that fails to satisfy. Plus, premiering the same year as The Wolverine and Iron Man 3 meant that it became lost amongst more impressive superhero films, and if Thor: Ragnarok lives up to the hype then it is sadly destined to cinematic middle-child syndrome.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man
This was a very syrupy, wholesome return to the world of the iconic Spidey, and my reluctance to place it higher on the list is borne of a perhaps-irrational dislike of Andy Garfield’s whole stuttering, doe-eyed thing. I placed him in high regard after Doctor Parnassus, and he has a lanky likeability, but his performance is more dreamy indie-boy than all-out nerd who unexpectedly attains superpowers. Tom Holland and Tobey Maguire both captured that essence of being relatively attractive young men who could also pass as not particularly cool. I also find the voyeuristic obsession with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy as something that should be neither made light of nor encouraged, and yet it is (it’s okay, ‘cause he’s attractive). Having said that, the performances are witty, the cast brilliantly chosen, and it has potentially the best Stan Lee MCU cameo.
4. Ant Man
I was pleasantly surprised by Ant Man. It’s a compact little film that took a risk which paid off by casting the gently unassuming stoner-comic Paul Rudd as its leading man. What helped this film rise to an above-average superhero film for me was the way it neatly set up the premise of Rudd’s Scott Lang as a highly-skilled cat burglar. We’re given a clear sense of a man who is not only very good at what he does, but he also does it for good, and it is the perfect kind of low-rent criminal mastery that actually works well for donning ‘the suit’. I’m sure nuclear physicists probably clawed their eyes out at the ending, but if you can suspend your disbelief long enough, it makes for an enjoyable piece of action cinema.
3. Iron Man 3
I distinctly remember the absolute ‘roid-rage blockbuster experience of watching Iron Man on the big screen, nearly a decade ago. Unapologetically swaggering, brimming with intelligent American arrogance - one knew when the credits rolled on that first Robert Downey Jnr outing that the genre had stepped up a notch. And all credit to Marvel in taking the time and effort to explore the downside of the superhero image in this third installment; the repercussions, the post-9/11 era fallout and the grim reality of trying to save the world every other day. It’s what made The Incredibles such an appealing superhero film, but Downey Jnr’s seems uneasy in his moments of grief and panic and the performance sometimes comes across as wooden, but the ‘attempt at redemption’ scenes with Harley (Ty Simpkins) more than make up for it. Guy Pearce stretches his God-complex scientist muscles once again after Prometheus, and Ben Kingsley’s red herring villain turn is absolutely brilliant.
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron sets up rather than actually tackles the concept of post-war guilt and the ramifications of superhuman abilities that made Captain America: Civil War such a compelling superhero film. Nevertheless, the opening fight sequences of this film were so crisply executed that you have to, ahem, marvel at how brilliantly choreographed the Avengers series and its associated films have become. In a way, you grasp the beauty of their teamwork far better in this film than in Assemble, as they’ve settled into their roles. Black Widow’s sterilization backstory felt uncomfortable and a little out of place but I thought it was brave of the producers and writers to approach this idea, asking questions about superheroes and motherhood that have as of yet mainly only been broached in Marvel’s comic book series.
X-Men 2 set an unquestionably high bar for superhero films, and the childhood memory of watching it for the first time in the cinema is a joy. A decade before the current climate of identity politics discourse, X2 put together a well-crafted story that approached the concepts of prejudice, witch- hunts and political extremism without ramming it down the audience’s throat. X2 not only lived up to the genre with fantastic action and special effects (Nightcrawler’s White House break-in beats Evan Peters’ Quicksilver kitchen montage in Days of Future Past, IMO) but the human (or should I say, mutant) stories in between about struggling to be accepted, grappling with personal identity and learning to live with and love oneself are all intrinsic to what fans love so much about the X-Men. Plus the story’s attention to Jean Grey’s (Famke Janssen) transition into Phoenix did precise justice to one of Marvel’s most complex, dark and brilliant superhero characters.