The Avengers: Age of Ultron

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a little film coming out this weekend called The Avengers: Age of Ultron. As much marketing as this film has gotten, it really only has the chance to be the SECOND biggest film of 2015, with many analysts predicting a $500 million opening weekend for Star Wars. By contrast, the largest opening day in US history belongs to Ultron’s older brother The Avengers, which opened to just a shade over $200 million in 2012. So Star Wars…kind of a big deal.

But I digress.

This week, we’re talking Marvel, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, et al. Only in the parallel universe that is Hollywood can someone get in trouble for jokingly calling a fictional character a slut, but apparently Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner did just that this past week. Robert Downey Jr. made HEADLINES by walking out on some assclown who went off-script in an interview and Mark Ruffalo called out the media on sexism by facetiously answering all of the sexist questions lobbed towards Scarlett Johansson.

Plus, this:

Does anyone else miss the time when we saw a trailer for a film, and decided to go and see the film? Not listing spoilers, media critiquing other media interviews or whining when the stars decide to say something other than “it was a great experience, see the film”, but flocking in droves to see clips of the stars saying anything but.

For the films themselves, this is the 11th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the whole thing launched with the original Iron Man in 2008. That’s pretty impressive. Also more impressive is that all of the films have generally received solid reviews from critics and fans alike.

Don’t remember the other 10? You came to the right place. Now counting down the films, in order from worst to first (in my not-so-humble opinion).

10. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
In my view, this is the only bust in the universe. The story was completely muddled and even non-sensical at times. It went too fast at highly emotional moments, then slowed down for reasons passing understanding at scenes that were little more than filler. Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman deserved a better story.

9. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Not a bad film, but largely forgettable and little discussed within the canon anymore with Mark Ruffalo taking over for Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. Ang Lee’s “Hulk” in 2003 had more style, while The Incredible Hulk had a much better story. Too bad Marvel doesn’t have the rights to try again with Ruffalo – he’s the real deal.

8. Thor (2011)
Stylish and fun, it’s hard to imagine a better introduction for Thor than Kenneth Branagh’s origin story in 2011. The problem (for the subsequent series) was that without a “this is how Thor got started” story, it essentially ran through two superhero stories at once – introducing the character, then showing what happens when the character doesn’t have his powers. Also did a great job showcasing Natalie Portman’s intelligence and ability.

7. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Essentially a bigger version of the first Iron Man, which sacrificed some of the freshness of the original in exchange for bigger set-pieces without pushing the story too far forward (often an issue of a second film in a series). Still, Downey as Tony Stark is always worth watching, and Jon Favreau handled the film well.

6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Can be appreciated as a World War 2 set-piece as much as a superhero film, I loved the style of Cap 1. The story had a lot to get through and it handled it well, getting Cap from 1942 wimp to 21st century superhero without feeling rushed. And, it introduced us to the intriguing character of Sharon Carter at the same time.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The most out there (literally and figuratively) film of the series, Guardians was a lot of fun with a lot of great sequences and characters. My only objection was it seemed to have an overly dark edge to it – maybe a bit too much action with some rushed character development and interplay at times.

4. Iron Man 3 (2013)
This film is largely polarizing – a lot of folks loved it, and a lot hated it. This is one that resonated with me right away. After the Battle of New York (or “The Incident” as it’s been referred to in Netflix’s Daredevil), Tony Stark found himself in a “What does it all mean?” cycle, similar to a lot of people in the United States right after 9/11. Stripped of his powers and forced to fend for himself, he has to find the will and means to fight again. Though the climax was ludicrous, it’s still an interesting character study of a superhero. Wish the studios would make more like this.

3. Iron Man (2008)
This film is 100% fun – Downey at the top of his game, great action sequences and a believable (in the world of superheros) story. Jon Favreau broke out as a top-line director in a film full of wit and enjoyment.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Like Cap 1, Cap 2 functions on another level than superhero film – this time as a spy vs. spy, governmental espionage thriller that is completely relevant in today’s world. Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson displayed sparking chemistry, and the story was near-perfect. Unlike many super-hero films, the requisite blow-out ending action sequence made sense and actually advanced the story. Plus – Robert Redford!!

1. The Avengers (2012)
I actually think that Cap 2 is a better film – which I hate to say because one of my top five film heroes Joss Whedon wrote and directed this. But I choose The Avengers as #1 on this list simply because of what it had to do. The Avengers had to introduce 7 major characters in such a way that audiences who hadn’t seen EVERY film understood what was going on, then have believable conflict between a super-genius, guy who turns into a big green monster, a super solider, two super assassins and an actual GOD. (Puny god). Then it had to have them come together into a situation that made THEM the underdogs. Whedon managed all of this and more, while adding his trademark wit, character development and quirk. When you consider the impossible task put before him, it’s amazing what The Avengers ultimately became.

And now just for good measure (and SEO purposes), I leave you with the trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron.