Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, comic books, Edward Norton, list, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel, Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston

Tomorrow I’m watching Spider-Man: Homecoming and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve enjoyed the majority of Spider-Man films that have been released, probably only really excluding Toby Maguire’s third outing, but none of them have really done fantastic things. I think Andrew Garfield was perfectly cast but the stories just didn’t cut it. Toby Maguire was fine for the time and his films are still astonishing in terms of that era. However, his portrayal of Peter Parker just seems flat nowadays. With this film being the third time a new actor has taken up the spidey suit in 15 years, it’s starting to feel like every young-ish actor will eventually get the chance to play him. Still, I have high hopes for Tom Holland. His brief appearance in Civil War was an absolute treat within all of the heavy shit going on and proved that a solo film could be full of geeky fun. To get myself in the mood for watching this new film I spent today watching some past Marvel films: namely Civil War and Ant-Man. Both were great, obviously, but it got me thinking about my ranking of the films in the MCU. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid doing because it’s such a changeable thing. However, with another Top 10 Wen-sday upon us, I decided it was time to give it a go. Expect this to have changed by tomorrow.

Fifteen: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 was the first of man disappointing MCU sequels and it is still the worst of the bunch. I understand that it had a lot to live up to because Iron Man was the film that gave the MCU life. Still, this is just a lacklustre film. It is only saved thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s charm. The film offers us two underwhelming villains (wasting the talents of the wonderful Sam Rockwell) and spends too much time showboating to offer anything real. It’s just dreadful.

Fourteen: Thor the Dark World

I think I always look favourably on The Dark World because it contains Tom Hiddleston’s face. Ever since his brief romance with Taylor Swift I’ve kind of gone off the guy. I know it’s fickle but how can I be a massive fan of someone who made that choice? Anyway, as such I now no longer see all of his films through rose-tinted glasses and can see how awful this film really was. The dark elves are not fleshed out in the slightest and Thor becomes a supporting character in his own film. This was a let down from start to finish.

Thirteen: The Incredible Hulk

Before Mark Ruffalo came along I was more than happy to have an Edward Norton shaped Hulk. I mean, yes, you couldn’t have got much worse than Eric Bana (who I assume was only hired because of his name) but Norton brought depth to the character of Bruce Banner. He wanted to explore the pain and suffering that lay behind the huge green rage monsters and it was a welcome change. The problem that this film really faced was that it’s just not going to be easy to make a solo Hulk film. This is something that has become more apparent as time went on but, clearly, having a main character who is silent and ragey most of the time just isn’t a workable formula.

Twelve: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I so wanted to love Age of Ultron. It had everything: Avengers had set us up with a great team full of banter; we were going to see Vision, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver; and it had James Spader as the voice of Ultron. How could it go wrong? Well, apparently quite easily. Age of Ultron was exciting, maybe, but it was a huge mess of a film. The narrative was all over the place and it was basically just a Michael Bay-esque feast of explosion porn. With every viewing this film pains me more. Not just for how bad it is but for how much it let me down.

Eleven: Captain America

I realise that Captain America is a much better film than I give it credit for but, personally, I just didn’t love this film. I admit that I liked it much better on my second viewing for my TBT post but I still find it difficult to get too excited about Steve’s first outing. Hayley Atwell is amazing and there are some great moments but it all feels a bit rushed. Considering what followed in Steve’s solo outings, this film just doesn’t quite cut it.

Ten: Thor

As with above, this is primarily on personal taste and I’m sure most people would have this film higher up. I get it. Thor isn’t the typical Marvel film but I adore it. Kenneth Branagh may not be the most obvious choice to direct a comic book movie but I loved what he did with Thor. He turned it into a Shakespeare play and I think it worked. He was on firmer ground and Tom Hiddleston excelled at playing Loki as though he was Edmund in King Lear. It’s not perfect and there are some incredibly dodgy moments but Thor always makes me feel full of joy. I don’t care if I’m the only one.

Nine: Iron Man 3

I kind of wanted to put Iron Man 3 higher up the list because of how badly it treated The Mandarin character. That would have been petty though because, all in all, this is a pretty good film. Shane Black did a great job co-writing the script and directing the whole thing. It’s funny, exciting and dramatic. A huge improvement on the second film in the series. Black and Robert Downey Jr. have a great working relationship and Tony Stark is at his best. There were a few moments I could have done without but, for the most part, this was a winner.

Eight: Ant Man

It might just be because I’ve only just finished watching this film but Ant Man is much better than people give it credit. Paul Rudd is fantastic in the role of Scott Lang and there is plenty of fun to be had. It takes a character that nobody really wanted a film about but shows just how good of a decision it was. Yes, I still wish Edgar Wright had directed the story that he had wanted but this definitely showed the potential of the more random Marvel characters.

 Seven: Iron Man

When Iron Man came out way, way back in 2008 there wasn’t an MCU and Robert Downey Jr. was that drug addict from Ally McBeal. This film changed everything for the better. Downey Jr. became a household name and the MCU kicked off in style. This was a brash and exciting film that showed comic book movies could be a spectacle and also a really good film. As important as this film may be in terms of historical importance, it has to be said that it has been overshadowed by future releases. It’s still a great film but there are now better ones out there.

Six: Dr Strange

I can’t say that I was exactly overjoyed to hear that Dr Strange was coming to the big screen because I didn’t know enough about the character. Then I heard the immortal words: Benedict Cumberbatch. I will freely admit that my interest in the film was mostly linked to the face of this great actor but I think that’s reason enough to watch it. There are some fantastic moments in this film and breathtaking sequences where the laws of physics are just ripped to pieces. It’s a visual feast but I wanted this to be better. Dr Strange feels as though it wasn’t give the freedom to be everything it could be and was forced to fit into a Marvel template to keep everyone happy. I hope future films are given more of a chance.

Five: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The second Guardians film was a great continuation of the series but it made the same mistake that most sequels tend to do. It wanted to make thing bigger and better. Yes, this still has the same funny and relaxed feeling that the first one did but there was something confused about it. The effects were too big and the fights too confusing. However, this was an emotionally charged film that finally added some consequences to the MCU. I adored this film but I wish it had been slicker.

Four: Captain America: Civil War

Again, it might be because I watched this today but Civil War is a fantastic film. It is the film that Avengers 2 wishes it could have been. Watching this film makes me truly sad that the Russo brothers weren’t allowed to direct Age of Ultron because it would have been a massive improvement. Yes, it still runs into the same problems as Ultron has because it deals with so many characters. Yes, the narrative isn’t exactly wonderful considering the comic book story it comes from. And, yes, the villain’s plan doesn’t exactly make sense when you think about it too much. However, this has some of everything. It had the fun and banter of The Avengers, the darkness of Winter Soldier, and the emotional conflict that has followed Steve through all of his films. It could have been better but it was pretty damn good.

Three: The Avengers

This was the film that nobody thought would be possible; something that gathered together every big name in the MCU up until that point and made them work together. With that many egos in one room, how was anyone going to be able to come up with a decent story. Thankfully, somebody agreed to let the legendary Joss Whedon have a crack and he managed to make it work. This was a funny, clever and exciting film. It knew what it was and it worked with it’s problems not against them. It gave us more of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, which cemented him as best villain in the MCU, and gave us our first glimpse at Thanos. As with all Marvel films, the evil minions could have been better and it could have been a bit slicker but this is still one of the greatest film the MCU has produced.

Two: Guardians of the Galaxy

The best thing about Guardians was that it was such a breath of fresh air. It came after Thor: The Dark World and Winter Soldier had given us a supremely grim and dark set of Marvel films. It seemed to be following the Batman trend that dark and gritty was better when it came to superhero films. Guardians was always going to be something of an underdog because the source material wasn’t as well known to the general movie going public at the time. So it decided it wasn’t going to take itself too seriously and, boy, are we glad. This was the first comic book movie in such a long time to have a real sense of humour about itself. Director James Gunn managed to create something so full of joy that was also exciting enough for comic fans. This had it all.

One: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I know a lot of people would put Guardians as their number one because it’s so watchable. I agree that it’s great but, in my heart, I know that Marvel as never been better than in Winter Soldier. Of course, it isn’t as fun or light-hearted but it’s really well crafted and it totally changed the landscape of Marvel’s future. It ramped up the emotional side thanks to Steve and Bucky’s friendship and it gave us the delightful Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson. It may have followed the Marvel staple of having a huge object fall to Earth in it’s finale but this film was so close to perfection. It deserves the top spot.

Birdman (2014)

Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Michael Keaton, review, superhero, Zach Galifianakis
I have to be honest with you, Michael Keaton is my favourite incarnation of Batman. No offence to Adam West or Christian Bale but there’s something about those two Tim Burton films that just gives me so much joy. Quite simply, I love Michael Keaton and no amount of shitty Christmas films is ever going to stop that. So I couldn’t imagine anything better than hearing Keaton was set to star in a life-mirroring film about the washed-up star of a Superhero franchise. Michael Keaton going all Being John Malkovich on us and get super meta? Jesus, I was excited. I have to admit that I spent a lot the film wondering whether I still would and, despite seeing the now 60+ year old running around in his grungy tighty whities, I probably would. After Edward Norton, of course.

I’ve seen a number of people referring to Birdmanas a superhero film, which seems like dodgy marketing to me. Yes, the fictional alter ego of actor Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) keeps a pretty strong presence throughout the film but those turning up expecting to see the ex-Batman star parading around in a leather jumpsuit are going to be pretty fucking disappointed. The latest film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu has so much more to offer than any of the latest releases from Marvel and DC (and I say that as a life-long fan of grown-ups pretending to hunt super-villains and aliens).
The film actually deals with actor Riggan’s Broadway debut as writer, director and star of an adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story ‘What We Mean When We Talk About Love’. Having never found the kind of fame that he experienced during his Birdman glory days, Riggan is desperate to both prove himself as an actor. Unfortunately, his past continues to haunt his inner thoughts, complete with Christian Bale style gravelly voice, by adding bitchy commentary to every situation. Birdman becomes the voice of Riggan’s fears and self-doubt. When several disasters arise before opening night, the unbalanced actor must avoid falling into complete emotional instability.
The script, written by Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, is playfully meta and up-to-date with its pop culture references. The script doesn’t pull any punches and ensures that nobody is safe. It plays with Hollywood vanities whilst showing that theatre actors are just as fucked up. Taking equal jabs at high brow and populist culture, the writers make sure that egotistical New York critics don’t get off scot free. The script is unashamedly current and self-aware without ever feeling smug. For the first time, the director of hard-hitting dramas like 21 Grams, Babel and Biutifulwalks the comic path and gets the chance to have a bit of fun.
Something that is made most clear in the technical side of the film. Birdmanhas been created in such a way that it feels like one continuous take. Aided by Emmanuel Lubezki, who’s fucking insane cinematography for Gravitywon him an Oscar last year, Iñárritu puts you at the heart of the story. Through long, careful tracking shots the camera winds its way through busy corridors and narrow stairways, moves in close for private conversations and soars high over New York city. For a film dealing with the competition between film and stage acting, Iñárritu’s use of the camera blurs the lines between the two: offering the sustained intensity of the stage with the intimacy of the cinema. If you’re worried it all sounds a bit too gimmicky, then don’t . It’s fucking mesmerising.
The non-stop and energetic nature that this camera work suggests is only aided by Antonio Sanchez’s fantastic score. His jazzy soundtrack, featuring an abundance of drum and cymbal, adds to the comic tone and offers an edgy and frantic vibe to the action on screen. It holds together the director’s continuous shot effect and gives the actors plenty of room to play with pace. Sanchez has created a very complex and accomplished score that lifts the already fruitful narrative and great performances.
Performances that don’t get much better than Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson. A lot has been made about the connection between Keaton and Thompson and there is no doubt that their similarities add a great deal. You can’t imagine anyone else approaching this role and succeeding in quite the same way. Keaton is on fucking amazing form; he is playful, funny, cutting and has no problem with the verbal intensity of the role. Riggan is at times ridiculous and incomprehensible but Keaton plays everything with a wistfulness and desperation that warms you to him. It is a fucking brilliant performance that will rightly receive attention in award season.
Keaton only gets better when he comes face-to-face with his fantastic co-stars; none more so than Edward Norton as narcissistic stage actor, Mike Shiner. Norton is also facing a fictional version of himself as he portrays Shiner. Confronting the reputation he has for being difficult to work with, Norton fucking kills as the egomaniac brought in the day before the show previews. Thankfully, Norton manages to find the perfect balance between arrogance and sincerity so Shiner still has a shred of humanity beneath all the ego. There are so many moments, in both fiction and reality, when Norton steals the show.
Most often during his quieter scenes with Emma Stone. Stone is a genuinely fantastic performer in all her roles but she brings even more to the part of Riggan’s ex-drug addict daughter, Sam. Successfully ensuring that there is still a lovable edge to the damaged, cynical young woman who is fresh out of rehab. Working as Riggan’s PA, Sam is desperately trying to connect with her father and bring him up-to-date with the current climate of social media and trending topics. Although, it’s Stone’s sizzling chemistry with Norton than really sticks out and the two rooftop scenes they share are some of the best on show.
There is less work for the remaining supporting cast but they still get enough of a time to shine. Top amongst them is the incredible Lindsay Duncan who is fucking unforgettable as the icy, unflinching theatre critic set to destroy Riggan’s last chance. Playing amazingly against type is Zach Galifianakis who presents the voice of reason amongst all the crazy as Riggan’s friend and producer. Amy Ryan, only allowed a short time on screen, plays Riggan’s ex-wife in a calm and collected manner that helps bring out his emotional side. The final two women fair the worst and are all but forgotten. However, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough offer sterling work as the play’s leading ladies.

Birdmanis one of those films that demands your attention. It is made with great care by a bunch of talented people and you can’t help but lap it all up. Of course, there are moments when it kind of feels like a young child playing up in front of an audience; perhaps showing off just a little too much. Also, there are plot-lines that feel too open-ended and unresolved. As though in the rush to create tension and chaos, the writers added one too many things to the pot. The end result is by no means inedible but it’s just a little less satisfying than you thought it might have been. Still, a must-see film if ever there was one.