shroudofsorrow

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Phase 4 MCU Stuff ranked from worst to best

These days, it feels like everyone and their mother is crapping on MCU's Phase 4 like its the second coming of Michael Bay Transformers or Uwe Boll. Speaking for myself, I've been loving Phase 4 and in fact some of my favorite MCU stuff to date has been from this phase. So therefore, I thought I'd take the time to rank the MCU Phase 4 stuff I've seen from worst to first. Expect this list to be updated as more Phase 4 stuff comes out and I see the stuff I've missed so far.

List items

  • While I don't hate this movie, I nevertheless do concede that Love and Thunder is the weakest Phase 4 MCU product to date (at first I felt that was Eternals, but after thinking about it some more, I'd say L&T is the weakest). But I went in hoping for some good fights between Thor and Gorr, and I got that. Plus, Gorr in general is not just the best main villain in a Thor movie other than Loki, he's one of the best MCU movie villains to date period, and Christian Bale is of course great playing him. The rest of the cast is also good, and the humor aside from those dumb screaming goats mostly lands (I especially love how Thor talks to and about his two weapons like they're an ex and current girlfriend). I do think more time could and should have been spent on Thor and Jane Foster's romance, but I like the way that story concluded.

    I also really loved seeing all the god cameos in the Omnipotent City, as well as Russel Crowe as Zeus. I mean, he plays a real jerk-wad version of Zeus, but that is arguably correct characterization (definitely preferred the nicer Zeus in a bafflingly deleted scene though). That said, the overall detour to Omnipotence City does kind of feel like a waste of time, since the only real thing of consequence that happens plot-wise is Thor gets Zeus' thunderbolt. I feel like there was a real missed opportunity to have the gods come to Thor's aid after all when he most needs it and help him save the children, which would not only justify having the Omnipotence City detour, but also give the gods the chance to show that Gorr is wrong about them and push back against his assertion that they're all evil (which, you know, would also mean audiences are inclined to actually root for the hero and not the villain).

    So while the movie overall starts and ends strong in my opinion, its middle definitely spins its wheels and the overall story has some missed opportunities. In all, I would call this a decent MCU movie, but not the best one. It definitely is the overall most disappointing entry in Phase 4 thus far. Again, I love the villain it's got and I don't even hate all the humor (the main thing most folks hated about this movie). But its weak middle and missed storytelling opportunities ensure that, compared to the high points of Phase 4, it just can't cut it by comparison.

  • I have enough thoughts on this one that I could probably do a full blog post or essay on it, but I think I'll start by saying, I don't hate She-Hulk. I don't love it either, but I haven't hopped onto the "OMG, it's bad! WOKE AGENDA!" bandwagon.

    On the positive side, I actually do like the lead actress' performance in the title role, and while I don't think the show is always as funny as it thinks it is, some of the humor did have me cracking up. I especially liked the Luke Jacobson character, the reformed Emil Blonsky and his therapy group, and the Mr. Immortal sub-plot, all of which I found very entertaining. I also liked the 4th-wall breaking from She-Hulk herself. The show maybe resorts to it a little often, but I generally found it amusing enough. Daredevil was of course awesome and it was fun to see him again. And finally, while I know everyone has harped on the bad CGI for She-Hulk, the CGI for Professor Hulk seemed fine to me.

    But...

    ...yeah, the CGI for She-Hulk is pretty sub-standard, which is odd given that, again, the CGI for Professor Hulk seems as fine as it was in Endgame, so I really don't see why they couldn't also do justice to She-Hulk in CGI. The show also suffers from a terrible villain who is both underused and underdeveloped. He only has a few small appearances throughout the season before the finale, the revelation that he's the one running the similarly underdeveloped Manosphere site Ingelligencia is far from shocking, and his motives are all but non-existent, all causing him to be an antagonist who feels like he's got no meat on his bones. Similarly, the Josh character is also pretty bad. I get that he was just using Jen to get her blood, but in order for that to actually sting, we need to care about Josh, or else sympathize with Jen caring about him. But the character is so ridiculously underwritten and generic feeling, that I found him more boring than a piece of toast. As a result, his betrayal carries no emotional weight.

    Even aside from that though, not enough of the narrative feels engaging enough for me personally. I think part of that is because so many of the other MCU Disney+ stuff was so good that it kind of spoiled me and set a high bar that this show just doesn't match. I also have to admit to not being a huge fan of the legal sitcom genre, and She-Hulk ticks off a lot of familiar boxes in that genre. Were I a bigger fan of the genre I would be a lot more on board for that, but as it is, it combines with the show coming up short relative to so many of the other Disney+ MCU stuff that it leaves me a bit cold. Basically, I found it hard to get very enthusiastic about this one, and I think another thing factoring into that is that I largely saw this one out of obligation to make sure I saw everything in Phase 4. All that being said, I don't view this as the unwatchable, man-hating dumpster fire that folks online make it out to be. Just not really blown away by it either. So kind of a "eh" viewing for me.

    And yes, Titania is god-awful and insufferable, but in the show's defense, that's exactly how you're supposed to view her. So I won't give She-Hulk grief for that.

  • I know some people LOVE Loki, but I myself just didn't like it as much. Mind you, its perfectly watchable, and Tom Hiddleston is great as always. He-Who-Remains steals the show when he appears, and the episode dealing with all the Loki variants is (for me at least), the high point, with Classic Loki's sacrifice easily one of the best MCU deaths ever. But...

    ...I find almost everything having to do with the TVA aside from He-Who-Remains pretty dull honestly. I guess it sort of makes sense that a soulless bureaucracy isn't very stimulating, but I really do dislike them. And while I don't mind Sylvie, her and Loki falling in love is...yeah, sort of gross.

  • I don't despise this movie the way every other person on Earth seems to, but yeah, this is definitely one of the weaker Phase 4 entries. Which isn't to say that I think its terrible. On the contrary, I think the director does a good job of bringing a fairly distinct look to this film compared to other MCU movies. It also has a nice sense of scale in its story as well as visuals. The Ikaris fight towards the end is awesome, and it brings several actors I like into the MCU, such as Kit Harrington, Angelina Jolie, and Salma Hayek.

    Honestly, Eternals gave MCU bashers what they said they want: a director with their own style, a nuanced and sympathetic villain in Ikaris, and for those who love parroting the "these movies are just pure popcorn entertainment" (I hate this common MCU criticism most of all), Eternals has at its core an existential conflict where the heroes are forced to decide if it really is worth sparing the Earth when its destruction is meant to bring into being a Celestial, who's purpose is to create more life. Honestly, the perspective of Ikaris (and Arishem by extension), kind of reminds me of Thanos' worldview. Do we not consider Thanos a good villain? Personally, I don't see why Ikaris should be dismissed as a villain when he advocates a similar perspective of letting numerous people die for the good of the universe as a whole. And again, I think that sort of ethical dilemma of sparing the Earth Vs. letting it die to bring into being a life-creating space god, is a perfectly acceptable one.

    And yet, despite addressing everyone's three favorite MCU criticisms (lack of director's touch, boring/phoned-in villains with unsympathetic motives, and a plot with nothing on its mind), folks complained anyway. Doesn't make much sense to me personally, but oh well.

  • I feel bad ranking this one so low. Hailee Steinfeld is great and I pretty much always enjoy seeing her. Her enthusiasm as Kate Bishop is infectious and hey, this show brought Vincent D'onofrio Kingpin back. And of course, it gives Jeremy Renner's oft-underappreciated Avenger more time in the spotlight. Its only that I found a lot of the other Phase 4 stuff even better, which is why this ranks low. Still good however. I especially like how the show uses different Christmas jingles, especially its use of the Mr. Grinch song for Kingpin's intro. Perfection.

    Also, I'd have kept the Ronin costume if I were Kate. Way cooler looking than her main costume, which is OK a but underwhelming.

  • Might get some heat for ranking this one so low. The truth is, I really did like the GotG Holiday Special. Similar to She-Hulk, this is one I saw more out of obligation than desire, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable I found it. Gunn's usual humor and good taste in music are present here, and I like that we got more focus on Mantis, who has generally been a background presence since her debut in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Here she feels like a character with more substance, and while I'm not sure how I feel about her being Star-Lord's half-sister, I do think the emotional heart-string-tugging moments, obvious as they were, mostly landed. I mean, it's a Christmas special, so one has to expect a certain degree of sweetness and sentimentality. So long as it feels earned, I can take it. Speaking of, I particularly liked the flashbacks involving Yondu. I didn't love the animation style, but I nevertheless enjoyed the story they told. Kind of reminded me of the Spongebob Christmas episode actually. And yes, Kevin Bacon showing up as himself was also good. But I think probably the band song towards the beginning was probably the best joke in the short for me. In all, I would put this one about on par with fellow Phase 4 Christmas entry, Hawkeye. It ranks as low as it does not because there is anything wrong with it, but because I liked the other stuff even more.

  • Everyone seems to hate this movie, and I don't really understand why. Admittedly it isn't Phase 4 at its best, but Scarlett Johansson is as good as usual, the fight scenes are great, and it introduced Florence Pugh's fun take on Yelena Belova. Lot of folks hated the Taskmaster twist, but I actually didn't mind (and have been considering making a piece defending it down the road). But even if you don't like the Taskmaster twist, I think there's enough here to offer a good time. I also think the family dynamics and emotional drama between Nat, Yelena, Melina, and Alexei are honestly pretty well handled. Gives the movie a heart amidst all the punching and shooting.

  • Though it suffers from a profound lack of compelling villains (plus the fact that the final episode doesn't even deal with the main villains at all), Ms. Marvel is still overall a good time. The lead actress' performance is great, and I like the visual flair of animation representing Kamala's thoughts in the first episode. Sort of wish the later episodes had kept that up, honestly. The humor is (mostly) pretty good, and I think Kamala is a pretty relatable and fun superhero. I also give the show a lot of credit for its portrayal/handling of Muslim-American culture. The history nerd in me also appreciated the extended flashback to the 1940s during the fifth episode. In all, Ms. Marvel isn't my favorite Disney+ MCU show (I definitely don't adore it to the extent that many critics seem to), but it's still a perfectly solid entry in the MCU canon and if nothing else, I look forward to seeing more of this version of Ms. Marvel.

  • The buddy comedy dynamic between Bucky and Sam is great, the scenes with Bucky's therapist are hilarious (or at least I thought so), and the series does a great job of capturing the look, feel, and tone of the second and third Cap movies. Having been thoroughly unimpressed with Civil War's portrayal of Zemo, I think this mini-series redeems him nicely, especially since he gets to wear the purple mask. And the best part? They DIDN'T turn John Walker into a paper-thin metaphor for Trump! I thought for sure they were going to do that, but instead they actually remembered to keep him a flawed-but-sympathetic and nuanced character, which is more than I can say for how Supergirl handled Agent Liberty.

  • With good action scenes and martial arts choreography, pretty good humor (mostly thanks to Awkwafina and Ben Kingsley), Abomination FINALLY returning (and with a more comics-accurate design!), and easily one of the better MCU movie villains to date, Shang-Chi goes down as smooth as butter. While Tao Lo maybe feels a little too Wakanda-esque for its own good, the movie as a whole I think does an admirable job of differentiating itself from Black Panther, and Shang himself is a charismatic and fun lead. The Master of Kung-Fu wasn't exactly a household name to the non-comic reading public before this movie, and I think it did a good job of making the case for him as a character.

    Also, his sister was hot.

  • What a wonderful little addition to Phase 4. Honestly, between this and WandaVision below, I'm beginning to wonder if the MCU shouldn't do more stuff that's in black and white and/or love-letters to older works. Because as a love-letter to old school horror movies, Werewolf by Night is pretty great. While it doesn't go for the deliberately low-budget special effects of the early episodes of WandaVision, I think that can be forgiven by the demands of the story. As it is, the action scenes are pretty good overall, and I love the titular Werewolf and his practical effects design. Man-Thing (who's showing up at all was a pleasant surprise and easily a million times better than his pointless 2005 movie) also looks fantastic, and might actually be one of the MCU's best visual effects creations in a while.

    But even aside from all the aesthetic pros mentioned, I also just think its a solid story that adds a whole extra dimension to the ever-expanding MCU and shows just how far the franchise has come. Remember back in both the early MCU days and the pre-MCU period when it was felt you couldn't have multiple superheroes in a single adaptation? Well now we don't just have dozens of superheroes, but things like Werewolves, Vampires, Demons, and so on have also made it in. And for a comic fan like me, that's a dream come true. And I think this short does a nice job of offering just enough of a taste of this new supernatural side of the MCU to leave me wanting more.

  • For those who love to complain that the MCU is too visually/stylistically monolithic or safe, this is the show I would recommend. With almost every episode not only set in a different era but with an impressive amount of effort and attention to detail going into making each episode FEEL like a TV episode from said era, WandaVision is easily one of the MCU's best visual achievements to date. It's also a really good character study for Wanda herself, taking what had (for me at least), been a less interesting character among the MCU's cast and making her great. I also love the Ship of Theseus scene between the two Visions (and just Paul Bettany's performance in general), and of course, Agatha Harkness is a lot of fun too. I know I'm not the only person who loved the theme song they gave her.

  • I'm a sucker for Multiverse/alternate reality stuff. So that alone makes me inclined to approve of this film. But honestly even apart from that, I really do think this is a winner. Sam Raimi's creative fingerprints all over this film, making it the MCU movie least deserving of everyone's favorite MCU criticism. Much like WandaVision, this is another one of the MCU's best visual achievements in my view. And while lots of folks seem to hate the direction they took Wanda in, I actually really like it. Scarlet Witch, to me at least, is another one of the best MCU villains to date, having a lot more depth and pathos than, say, Malekith, Hela, or Killian, to name a few. And her fight scene with the Illuminati felt very Invincible-esque in all the right ways. As if all of that wasn't enough, it also gave us another turn by the great Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, an MCU Black Bolt who is better designed and isn't in something unwatchably awful, AND Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic in a bit of fan-casting folks have been demanding for years. Simply put, this is one of the MCU's greatest in my book.

  • I've loved Moon Knight for a long time, so I was very happy to see the MCU get him right. While Ethan Hawke's Harrow isn't the coolest looking or flashiest villain, he does have a lot more nuance and is much more sympathetically motivated than many other MCU villains, and the actor does a great job playing him. Its psychological weirdness also makes it feel distinct from the rest of the MCU material, and the flashback episode showing Marc Spector's childhood is basically a masterpiece (not to mention as dark as anything from the Netflix shows despite being less bloody). Moon Knight himself sadly doesn't get in a lot of action, but what little he does get is cool to see. I also like his wife in the mini-series, who I think is more engaging than Marlene Alraune has often been shown to be.

    And yes, I love Oscar Isaac's deliberately exaggerated British accent as Steven Grant/Mr. Knight. Also the use of Frank Sinatra at the end. Can't hate a show that ends with a Sinatra number.

  • While critics seemed to almost uniformly turn up their noses at this one, for a long time fan of the What If...? comics, this show was basically everything I hoped for. Great, inventive premises, many of which I didn't predict, What If...? felt like it took good advantage of its premise, and I can't wait to see what other alternate reality stories they give us. A really visually pleasing animation style, some terrific action, tons of VA role reprisals, and the awesomeness that is Infinity Ultron are just additional points in its favor. We're getting a second season, but I really do hope that we get more than that. Really, What If...? is the kind of thing that could potentially keep going for years...and I hope it does.

  • Sadly, I did not get to see this one in theaters and instead had to wait for it to drop on Disney+. It was worth the wait though, providing a very emotionally powerful story that, while perhaps longer than necessary, still feels like one of the more heartfelt MCU stories overall. I've never much liked it when people talk about the MCU as though they're all spectacle and nothing more, and this is one of the films I would point to to rebut that assertion. The cast is great, with Angela Basset getting her best turn with Ramonda and effectively making that character far more interesting than she had been before. It's take on Namor and the Atlanteans is very drastically different from the comics, but here I think it really works, and he in turn is an effective antagonist for the movie. While it doesn't quite live up to the promise of a full-on Wakanda Vs. Atlantis epic battle as I think many of us hoped, I would also argue that's sort of the point: that in the end the two sides choose NOT to pursue a war of mutually assured destruction.

    But again, this movie's got a lot of emotional punch to it, dealing with grief and loss to a degree one doesn't usually associate with Superhero films, and I think its handled gracefully here. As if all that wasn't enough, it also introduces a take on Riri Williams who, for me at least, is already far more likable and sympathetic than her often rather unpleasant 616 version. Really, apart from being a bit over-long and Shuri's rather questionable strategic moves in the third act, I don't see much to fault with this one.

  • Perfection.

    No seriously. NWH is basically everything I wanted/hoped for. But even besides the obvious joy of seeing all the returning faces (and the fact that this movie basically retroactively makes the Raimi and Webb movies part of the MCU), I also really do think this movie was a good turn for Tom Holland's Spider-Man specifically. He really feels tested here and grows, and the actor gives arguably his best performance as the character to date. We also get a new, Tony Stark-free status quo and hopefully no more villains mad at Tony Stark, which is also a plus. The movie also makes me care about the MCU's Aunt May, something I had never really done before. Before this movie, I saw her as much less fleshed out than either Rosemary Harris Aunt May or even Sally Field's. But again, this movie helped fix that in a big way.

    And yes, seeing all three Spider-Men interact with each-other was just a deliriously fun experience. I know its probably hoping for too much to think we'll get another team-up with these three, but if we don't, I'll be glad we got this at least. Spider-Man: No Way Home isn't just the best Phase 4 MCU product so far and one of the best MCU movies ever, it is also one of the best Spider-Man movies and one of the best Superhero movies period.