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MCU Retrospective: Final Look

The MCU has been one hell of a ride so far. While it did have some missteps along the way, overall the quality of content produced by Marvel Studios so far has been top-notch. This never-before-seen, or at least not at this scale, level of story-telling has truly been a genre defining experiment that not only shaped how we as the audience view superhero movies, but more importantly shapes how the movie industry in general views itself. Thanks to Marvel, studios throughout the industry have tried to emulate that level of success, all with rather poor results. What was it about Marvel and their strategy that made this a success?

My thought is simply the element of surprise. Before Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, a few superhero movies had been good with very few having risen to the level of great, but the majority being labeled mediocre at best. At first it seemed that Iron Man was set to be another in a long line of decent but not great superhero movies. But then Marvel turned everyone’s expectations upside down with the inclusion of the very first MCU post-credit scene, with Nick Fury stepping out of the shadows and revealing the grand plan for the Avengers.This was something that people weren’t expecting and left many people wondering whether they would actually be able to pull off something that ambitious.

Well, 22 movies and 12 years later we have that answer. And overall this franchise has done extremely well. As I was re-watching it all, I was rating each of the movies on five factors: Acting, Villain, Action, VFX, and Story. Each category got an independent rank on a scale of 1-10. The movies had a surprisingly high range of average scores from 4.0 (no bonus points for guessing which movie that was) to 9.0. But overall, the MCU garnered a respectable 7.1/10.

The villain score was based on how threatening the overall villain felt combined with how effective they were in enacting their plans.

For VFX I also took the age of the movie into account when assigning it a rank. I didn’t expect a movie that was 12 years old to look as good as a movie that’s barely a year old and with a much larger budget. But to my surprise, I rarely had to invoke the “well it IS an older movie” train of logic as most of the visuals in the early MCU still hold very well. Below are the final scores I assigned to each movie based on release order.

So naturally the next thing I did with all of this was put them all in proper ranking order. For ties, I decided that of the five categories that I had ranked each movie on the story element was the most important. So in the event of a tie, the movie with the higher story rank I would rank higher overall. Well that mostly worked. The issue came with the Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Far From Home chunk. For those I finally had to concede and rank those on personal preference.

For those that have been with the site for a while, before Infinity War came out, Mike, Sam, and I all ranked the MCU movies to date (so up through Black Panther) by preference. I was curious to see if my thoughts had changed now that the Infinity Saga had finished. So I dug through my old records and found that ranking and compared that to these new rankings. Obviously some of the movies in this won’t have had a previous ranking so it’s not a complete comparison and the rankings are a little skewed by the change in size, but it gives the general gist of things.

The most striking movie on this list is clearly The Avengers, dropping a whopping 13 places since I last ranked these. Honestly I think that movie may have been the most radically different from how I remembered it. Going into this, I knew Thor: The Dark World was bad so I knew to expect that. I also knew that Winter Solider was great so again I knew to expect that. But from memory The Avengers was really good so upon re-watch and seeing that it actually kind of wasn’t that great, it was the most jarring slap in the face.

Overall the MCU has been great. A few low points here and there, but otherwise an extremely high caliber of material has come out of the studio. I’m looking forward to where things go from here, but I’m also cognizant of the public’s overall superhero fatigue. I’m afraid that the market is becoming over saturated with these kinds of movies and media and that overall love of these movies and the quality may start to wane. So far Marvel has proven that that isn’t the case, but it is still something to keep in mind moving forward.


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