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Debate Club: The 5 worst Marvel Cinematic Universe movies
Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.
We're about to do something very dangerous here at Debate Club: We're going to mention our least favorite MCU movies.
Please do not yell at us. We don’t think any of these movies are horrible, and even the worst one is better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But everyone has to have their least favorites.
This Thanksgiving, rather than unite us all as one, let's be as divisive as possible and list our picks for the five worst MCU movies. And to warn: We are the only people around who actually like Thor: The Dark World. So know that going in.
05. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Picking The Rocketeer director Joe Johnston to helm the first standalone Steve Rogers movie was obviously an attempt to give The First Avenger a giddy, throwback feel.
Johnston did just that for this World War II-era origin story that starred Chris Evans, the guy that audiences largely knew from Not Another Teen Movie and those bad Fantastic Four films. And while some love this movie's old-fashioned sense of action and adventure, it's almost too self-consciously square, never letting Evans really embody all of Captain America's different dimensions. He'd emerge as a far more compelling figure in The Winter Soldier and the Avengers films to come.
04. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Mark Ruffalo has been playing Bruce Banner for over seven years now but has never had his own Hulk movie. In that regard, Edward Norton remains one up on him.
Unfortunately, The Incredible Hulk remains among the least-popular of the MCU films. It is entirely possible that, of all the Avengers, Hulk may simply be not as interesting a character. Lord knows that's the case here: Bruce has to battle Abomination (Tim Roth) while working through his feelings for ex-girlfriend Betty Ross (Liv Tyler).
The standalone Marvel movies all resemble the personality of their main character, which is probably why The Incredible Hulk feels so anonymous. And Norton famously clashed with the producers over the film's creative direction, which only further tarnished the movie’s reputation. Of all the MCU installments, this is probably the one the studio most wants to forget.
03. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
What was so exciting about Spider-Man: Homecoming — a fresh new perspective, no recitation of the backstory again, a fantastic villain — is mostly lost in the sequel, which transports the action away from New York City and thus gets away from one of the best things about Spider-Man: the city and borough he loves.
And while Jake Gyllenhaal is fine as the bad guy, he's not that interesting, and his scheme seems sorta puny. This feels like a studio making sure it keeps a beloved character fresh and current during a time of overarching transition, which, after the colossal Avengers: Endgame, is exactly what Far From Home is.
02. Ant-Man (2015)
The problem with Ant-Man is the obvious one: He's... small.
In a universe where the Avengers are fighting space aliens who can time travel, Ant-Man's primary ability, that he can get really tiny, isn't that exciting. It's mostly kitschy. That kitsch can be fun, and at times is, but the stakes are just a little too meager for us.
Ant-Man eventually becomes a key part of the Avengers and shows off more of what he can do, but in this movie, there isn't much of that.
01. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe — but the sequel suggested that maybe the franchise didn't have much of a future.
It was an inspired idea to have Mickey Rourke play the villain, but Iron Man 2 seems simultaneously overstuffed and underdeveloped. It was here that the larger machinations of the MCU started coming into view — Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow are major players — which left the movie feeling very much like a transitional entry meant to prime audiences for the Avengers flicks to come.
Little surprise that Iron Man 2’s shoot was reportedly tense, which is something you hardly ever hear about regarding Marvel productions these days. Iron Man 2 was a warning about what could happen if the Marvel team wasn't careful in the rollout of these movies. They righted the ship soon after.
Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.