28 July 2021

Ranking of All MCU "Infinity Saga" Films (Part II)

Every movie on this particular half of the list is a good one - so much so that outside of the top three it was hard putting them in order.  So after the long delay between the first part of this list and now, let's get right to it:


#11 - IRON MAN 2 (2010)

I'll admit that Iron Man 2 is not the easiest MCU film to re-watch, especially since pretty much all of the first half scenes feature Whiplash.  But sometimes, you have to appreciate a movie for its initial impact instead of how it ages.  And this was actually one of the most-revolutionary in the Infinity Saga.

For instance, if you were to put together a list of Tony Stark's most-iconic scenes throughout the entire saga, about half of them would come from this movie.  The dynamic between he, Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and the Black Widow, as well as the occasional Nick Fury outing, were even more entertaining than the fights.  This was also the film that introduced us to Don Cheadle as Rhodey, another actor who has maintained a compelling on-screen relationship with Robert Downey Jr..

Some of the fight scenes in this movie haven't aged well at all.  In fact Iron Man 2 marks one of the MCU's poorest performances as far as special effects go, now looking at them over a decade later.  But before the chastisements begin, there are a couple of important facts that need to be taken into consideration.  First is that prior to the MCU, effectively putting two superheroes on the screen simultaneously was virtually unheard of.  But here we got to see not only Iron Man, but him actually battling alongside War Machine, a character many of us never really thought we'd ever see in a movie.  And that brings me to the second point.  Some viewers were actually comic book fans even before the MCU came out.  And for such individuals, just seeing the aforementioned heroes duke it out with those robots (the first time around) was a major treat in and of itself.  So it's like give respect where respect is due.


No one likes a major casting change after a series has already been established.  But in this case, I would say that Don Cheadle proved to be a better Rhodey than Terrence Howard probably would have been.  And that's taking nothing away from Howard, who is more lead-role kinda material.  And that's taking nothing away from Cheadle either, who has proven to be a mainstay of the MCU even more than some of its headline actors.

#10 - ANT-MAN & THE WASP (2018)

The first Ant-Man and second Ant-Man are like equal in entertainment value.  So the first one has to be ranked higher on the list since it was the original.

One major gripe I have with Ant-Man & the Wasp is that we all know, as mature adults, there's really no such thing as a realistic superhero movie.  But having a film where some giant dude is traipsing around New York City, with onlookers barely even gasping (and some not reacting at all) - on top of buildings shrinking down to the size of toys with no one noticing - is like an insult to the audience's intelligence.  This one is more like a Disney film in the truest sense of the word.


Hannah John-Kaman isn't necessarily the most-talented actress, but man is she a pleasure to look at, just like in Ready Player One (2018).  And for the record she is mixed, i.e. her dad being Nigerian and her mom Norwegian.

Honorable Mention: Laurence Fishburne (Bill Foster)

According to IMDB, T.I., who is also Black and plays the role of sidekick negro Dave, is billed higher than Laurence Fishburne.  But still, the latter's character had a more profound effect on the plot and just as much, if not more, screentime.  There may have never been a movie that Fishburne starred in where he didn't make an impact.

#9 - ANT-MAN (2015)

Hollywood has a history of making movies based on people shrinking which predates 2015's Ant-Man.  And in all of such cases, it isn't so much about the storyline as it is effectively pulling off the related special effects.  And in that regard, nothing I've ever seen beats Ant-Man.

Yes, Paul Rudd did his thing.  But this movie wasn't the first MCU film, nor will it be the last where audiences are treated to the lovable, wise-crackin' White male protagonist.  Robert Downey Jr. had already successfully set the mode for others to follow.

But what it does hold the distinction of is perhaps being the MCU's first comedy, i.e. the first in which they employed a straight-up comedian in a major supporting role - that being Michael Peña.  And Marvel Studios also gets props for once again proving that they could take an antiquated character that no one has really cared about for decades and actually create an interesting movie based on hm.


Whereas T.I. may have gotten more screentime in the sequel, he played a more memorable role in this one.  In fact out of the handful of times he's acted that I've seen, this is his best performance.

Honorable Mention: Michael Peña (Luis)

In the 'hood no one really differentiates between Blacks and Latinos anyway.  And it's almost impossible to imagine this Ant-Man (as well as the sequel) without Michael Peña's presence.



Infinity War could have been better, but it could have easily been worse also.  Whereas having all of these different, diverse characters in one movie may have been a dream for comic book fans, it must have also been a logistical nightmare for those tasked with putting them there.  For instance 2015's Age of Ultron, which proceeded this in the Avengers' timeline, features a lot less characters but is whack AF.

The best parts of Infinity War were actually those that featured Thor.  That may be one of the reasons why out of all of the original MCU series (besides Avengers), his is the only one getting a fourth installment at the moment.


There are a number of Black/ethnic characters, most of whom have already been acknowledged on this list, that have higher billing in Infinity War than Letitia Wright.  But I had to give the trophy to her as, besides for maybe Zoe Saldana, her scenes were the most memorable.  And even if you do feel that Saldana played a more noteworthy role, keep in mind that the best Gamora scenes, unlike those of Shuri, were buttressed by the presence of Thanos himself.

#7 - THOR (2011)

Being released during May of 2011, Thor was only the fourth film that the MCU had ever put out.  And unlike now, where the cinematic universe can survive a cornball or two or three, back during the early goings a project proving successful was more critical.  And this was the movie that established the fact that the first two Iron Man films and even the Hulk weren't flukes.  Marvel Productions was also able to make Thor a hit, unlike the other MCUs that had come out prior, without putting an established actor in the lead role, and Chris Hemsworth fit in perfectly.


Back in the day Heimdall was one of the coolest characters in the MCU.  And Marvel must've known it, considering the love they showed him on the movie's poster.  I'm not sure what happened to the character since, though I think he perished in Ragnarok.


The Avengers was not the first movie to do a respectable job of putting a bunch of superheroes into one film.  That distinction rather belongs to Fox's X-Men series and perhaps more specifically X2 (2003).  But it accounts for some of the best acting scenes the MCU has to offer, such as the exchange between Tony Stark and Loki inside Stark Tower.  There was a whole lotta hype leading up The Avengers, and unlike some other films in the MCU's canon, it actually lived up to it.


I'll admit being skeptical upon first hearing that Samuel L. Jackson was cast to play Nick Fury.  And it's not only because the character is traditionally White, but also Sam is kinda old to be portraying an active action hero.  And accordingly the fights scenes involving Fury, such as the one on the Helicarrier, do appear elderly-considerate.

But when it comes time for Nick to preach to an Avenger or two, which is actually his main occupation in the MCU, it's hard to imagine the people who cast Jackson having made a better choice.  And at this point it's also impossible to imagine the MCU without him, especially as far as the Infinity Saga is concerned, as he has appeared in almost half of the movies.


The first Spider-Man film had a number of advantages over most other Infinity Saga flicks.  First is that the special effects are gorgeous.  Second is the appearance of Iron Man in the ferry scene, which is perhaps the coolest MCU cameo to date.  Third is the fact that the main character had already experienced plenty of Hollywood trial and error under Fox.  And fourth would be the performance of Micheal Keaton as the Vulture.  That scene where he's threatening Peter Parker in the car makes your skin crawl, not to mention him taking an outdated villain and transforming him into perhaps the most-relatable bad guy in MCU history.


The trophy would once again go to Zendaya in the role of Michelle, or whatever her name is supposed to be in the MCU.  And as I sit here writing this post, the latest big news is that she and Tom Holland are actually dating - a movie romance turned real life.  So perhaps what MCU fans are hoping for in the back of their minds is that they manage to stay together at least until the completion of the trilogy, with the third Spider-Man slated to be released about five months from now.


Out of all of the films the MCU has put out, this was the one that was the most-surprisingly good, even if a bit racist.  Characters such as Iron Man and Ant-Man may have been anachronisms when their movies were released, but at least their powers are intrinsically compelling.  Such cannot be said for the Guardians of the Galaxy, give or take.  But this proved to be one of the best space action movies ever.  Moreover, Lee Pace's depiction of Ronan the Accuser is underrated.  And you also have to give to it Chris Pratt for adding new flair to the never-too-serious, reluctant White hero trope.  And another thing Guardian of the Galaxy doesn't get credit for is starting that (increasingly annoying) trend of movies using old songs for their soundtracks.


I almost forgot that Djimon Honsou was in this movie until I just looked it up on IMDb.  Whereas his character was pretty interesting during earlier parts of the show, as the movie progressed he became more and more generic - more or less your typical African lackey.

Honorable Mention: Gang of Black Dudes in The Kyln

I'm looking at Guardians of the Galaxy like damn, niggas is even getting locked up in space?  Indeed, it's rare that you come across any movie with a prison scene where there isn't at least one Black dude locked down, even if the facility is like in Siberia... or galaxies unknown.  I tried to look up the actors who actually played said prisoners via IMDb but was unable to track them down.


I know I already mentioned a couple of times how much of a wonder it is that now that we're able to enjoy comic-book movies that put virtually-unlimited characters into a single film.  But Civil War is when Marvel really let the world know that, theoretically, they can feature as many quality superheroes in a movie as they'd like.  And it wasn't one of those cases where they all have the same power.  Instead we were treated to a wide range of personalities and abilities.

In terms of the former, such would be the result of Marvel hiring serious actors.  So then you can afford to have someone like Paul Rudd, who is able to carry a movie as a leading man, rather getting less than six minutes screentime.

This movie also sports some of the MCU's best fight scenes - the introduction of Black Panther, Avenger vs. Avenger and Captain America vs. Iron Man - and is actually one of the more consequential stories in the canon.  The only downside is that Daniel Brühl's Baron Zemo is boring with a capital B.  In fact the only MCU villain who was less-interesting is Red Skull from the first Captain America.


Both Sam Mackie and Don Cheadle are apparently billed higher than the late Chadwick Boseman, who played the Black Panther.  And respectively, both War Machine and Falcon had notable moments in the battle.  But overall, the Black Panther was more memorable, maybe because this was his introduction, and Marvel brought him into the mix really well.  In fact during this point in time, it almost felt like the MCU couldn't fail even if they wanted to.  Indeed, little did we know that future stinkers such as Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017) and the ambitious yet sleep-worthy Captain Marvel (2019) were on the way.


Civil War is actually the Infinity Saga film I saw last.  One reason for the delay was being so turned off by the first Captain America that I just wasn't interested.  Also, Sebastian Stan simply doesn't have a bad guy's face.  Marvel Productions perhaps recognized this when casting him, considering how his character arc has developed.  Anyway, The Winter Soldier probably has a higher general re-watchability than any other movie in the cinematic universe.  It's like a Fast & Furious, Mission: Impossible and MCU film all rolled into one.


I could've easily went with Sam Mackie on this one or both he and Samuel L. Jackson, but the latter gave a more-memorable performance.  This may be the best depiction of Nick Fury in the entire MCU, a fact that lends to the movie's overall greatness.  And even though Zoe Saldana may have gotten more Infinity Saga screentime than any other Black actor, Samuel L. Jackson, who doesn't lag too far behind on the list, actually appears in more of the films.  Also considering that Jackson has had just as many appearances as any other actor (i.e. Robert Downey Jr.) in the Infinity Saga, then he can also be considered the main Black character of the first 23 films altogether.

#1 - DR. STRANGE (2016)

I bet you didn't see this one coming.  Most MCU rankings I've come across didn't appreciate Dr. Strange at all - the ingrates.  And no, this movie isn't perfect.  For instance, the hand-to-hand combat scenes are lacking.  And Mads Mikkelsen's portrayal of Kaecilius seems as if it were intentionally designed to be dull.  But everything else is on point, even down to the casting and music.  In fact, Dr. Strange is the only movie I've ever watched where afterwards I looked up its score.  I'm not talking about the soundtrack, like songs from other artists that are featured - I'm talking about the score, i.e. the instrumental designed specifically to be featured in the film.  And my favorite is the end credits:

But of course this music is way better, as intended, with the associated visuals and within the context of the movie.


This is something I wasn't even thinking of when I first started this list, but Chiwetel Ejiofor, taking nothing away from the likes of Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, etc. is the best Black actor to ever work for the MCU.  In fact he may be the second best in Hollywood after Denzel, even if he doesn't get a lot of high-profile leading roles.  And man did he kill it in this one, like that scene where he's arguing with Stephen Strange in the New York Sanctum.  In other words, his performance is one of the reasons this movie came off so well.  In fact, considering the performances of Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and even to some degree Benedict Wong, this may be the best-acted MCU to come out thus far.


Black Widow (2021), the first MCU Phase 4 (i.e. post-Infinity Saga) film, finally came out a few weeks back.  And whereas it wasn't a bad movie per se, it did suck as an MCU outing.  Then there was the surprisingly-whack Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021), as well as the snoozefest known as Loki (2021), not to mention that the Infinity Saga closing out with the dreadful Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019).  So isn't like a good MCU film is a surefire thing.  And whereas Armor Wars, Shang-Chi and Dr. Strange 2 may be something to look forward to, for all we know the best may already be behind us.  So all that really remains is for the MCU is to come up with a role appealing enough for Denzel Washington to agree to.

Last modified on 12 October 2023