Phase 1 of the MCU consists of six films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, & The Avengers). While I’ve seen people re-rank the MCU films lately, I question if they base their rankings on the emotion they felt when they first saw the films, or if they have actually watched them recently to determine how well they have aged over time.Having not seen many of these films in years, I felt it wouldn’t be right for me to rank them yet. I wanted to re watch each phase, & see if I felt the same way about these films today. While it has some bumps along the way, Phase 1 is a solid foundation.
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man is the film that started it all. It’s hard to believe the film is a decade old. I haven’t seen it in about five years. My memory was a little hazy about it. When the film referenced MySpace within the first couple minutes, I was a little worried other things would seem dated. Surprisingly, the film holds up better than I thought. To be honest, I think I actually enjoy it more now. Watching Tony Stark craft the first Iron Man prototype suit in captivity was more entertaining than I remember.
Also, I’ve become so accustomed to seeing Don Cheadle in the role of James Rhodes. It doesn’t matter that Terrance Howard was the original. Howard no longer feels like a fit to me.
I know this film is about Iron Man, but I wish they utilized Jeff Bridges a little bit more. He was fine as Obadiah, but I feel like they really squandered an opportunity to develop this character a little bit more. Several Marvel films seem to have an issue with developing a strong villain role. It just sucks even more when the villain is played by an actor as gifted as Bridges. This is my only minor complaint.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Incredible Hulk isn’t a good movie, & is arguably the worst in the entire MCU. I’m fine with them not wasting much time on the origin. The opening credits told us everything we need to know. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing this movie has going for it. The story is bland. The military is hunting Bruce Banner. They eventually find him. He gets pissed off, and becomes The Hulk. That’s it. This same scenario plays out a couple of times throughout the film. It’s just hunting Banner from one location to the next. While I can think of many films based around a character evading capture from the government, the person on the run typically has cool gadgets, and a bigger personality. Banner isn’t exciting, or a flashy guy.
Edward Norton does a good job with what he has to work with, but it just isn’t much. Also, when he turns into The Hulk he just smashes everything to shit. It’s cool, but the character is so limited. Samuel Sterns a.k.a. Mr. Blue is also one of the most annoying scientists. I think they were trying to make him funny, but it doesn’t work.
The CGI doesn’t look right at times either. The scene when The Hulk & Betty spend the night under the waterfall looks like ass!
If you need to skip any film in the MCU, this would be it.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Like Iron Man, Iron Man 2 has the same villain issue. As Ivan Vanko, Mickey Rourke just isn’t utilized enough. The end fight is also major disappointment. It was cool to see Iron man and War Machine take on a bunch of drones, but once Ivan enters the battle it becomes a huge dud. They couldn’t come up with a better final fight scene?
When I first watched this movie, I felt like some of the scenes involving Black Widow & Nick Fury were really wedged in to set up the future of the MCU. They were! However, given everything that has happened since Iron Man 2, it’s nice to see how everything would later fit together.
I feel weird saying this, but hear me out. Out of all the phase 1 films, Thor feels the smallest. For most of the film, you’re simply bouncing back and forth between two locations (Asgard & the New Mexico desert). That’s not a bad thing. Since we are starting from the very beginning, it’s good to keep things simple. I just didn’t remember it feeling this way. I also forgot this film introduces Hawkeye.
Watching this reminded how much the Thor franchise has changed. This first two films carry a more serious tone. I miss that. I like Thor Ragnarok, but it falls in line with all the other MCU films that contain goofy lighter moments. I’m not saying I want a Zack Snyder movie either, but it was nice to have one of these franchises be slightly different from the rest.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Oh boy. I forgot about skinny CGI Chris Evans. Some of those scenes look really bad. I honestly found myself nodding off a bit throughout the film too. It’s ok, but the film is like vanilla ice cream. I’ll eat it, but I’d prefer something else. It’s nice to see how Tony Stark’s dad fits into all this. I also enjoyed the ending. Luckily, the next two films are significantly better! This film ISN’T a mess like The Incredible Hulk. It just feels like a very generic movie.
Realistically, if you missed this, you only needed to know a few things. The film is set during WWII. Hydra is bad. Bucky Barnes was Steve Wilson’s best friend. After being frozen for 70 years, Steve is woken up in 2011. The end. Bring on Captain America: The Winter Soldier please!
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Finally, The Avengers assemble to kick some ass. Loki (Thor’s brother) is the bad guy & uses the Tesseract to open a portal over Manhattan, summoning a Chitauri invasion.
This film has some great moments. Iron Man & Captain America have a memorable first encounter with Thor. Seeing Tony & Bruce talk science together on the flying aircraft carrier was interesting. Watching all these characters come together felt natural, & like everyone had a real purpose. None of these character interactions felt forced. I hate when characters feel wedged in. I’m looking at you DCU!
That’s not to say I don’t have a few minor issues with the film. First, Loki is a being from another realm. While not eternal, he can still do quite a bit of damage. When he willingly turns himself in, obviously you know something is up. Why the hell would you imprison him on a flying aircraft carrier? I don’t care if every avenger is also on the carrier. It’s a horrible move. Also, the whole thing with Coulson and his stupid Captain America trading card collection. Remember how Nick Fury would later use this as a motivator to get the team rolling? “They needed a push.” I think getting their asses kicked was a big enough push. Some bloody Captain America trading cards that belonged to a reoccurring side character wasn’t necessary.
Overall, is this a fun film though? Hell yes!
Watching phase 1 in order made me realize how well Marvel / Disney crafted this. While I’ve read about how some lines were improvised throughout filming, it’s obvious the big picture was well thought out. Sure, some minor bumps can be found, but phase 1 is a fun ride.
Phase 1 MCU Overall Score: 7.5/10
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I wish Mark Ruffalo had his own stand alone Hulk movie. “The Incredible Hulk” film is definitely the worse out of the MCU.