Posted July 31, 2015 by GP Manalo in Movies/TV

EDITORIAL: Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 Films and TV Shows Ranked! (From Iron Man 3 to Ant-Man)



Marvel Studios ends their second phase of films with Ant-Man hitting theaters a couple of weeks back; and it’s best to look back at two years, six movies, 3 TV Series worth of this larger-than-life saga continually fleshing out its cinematic universe. With introductions are all said and done in Phase 1, Phase 2 sees them fleshing out the established characters to their core as they are sent to dark places and at the same time have a good laugh about it while the newcomers did so as well.

Disclaimer:One could argue that TV shows don’t count since they go throughout the phases of all of the Marvel films but considering that they fell under and even made its end in Phase 2 we thought it would be fun to see how they would fare out in the list anyways with the films. Also, this isn’t a list of best-to-worst; thankfully for Marvel’s Phase 2 they didn’t really have anything that I could say that they are totally bad material (at least for this writer).  So think of this as one list of how each movie outbeats one from the other in terms of quality as piece of entertainment or better yet – a list of Average to Excellent. With that said, let’s get on to the list! Don’t worry they’re totally spoiler free in case you haven’t watched some of them!

  1. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Seasons 1 & 2)


This show was pretty much piggybacked by a lot of expectations by fans both old and new, with this show being expected as a big blockbuster like the Marvel films out at the time (and it was the time when Marvel already has the money to top their spectacle and quality in every film they release). But when the first episode aired, the positive air became negative flames spewing out of every fanboy alive with all of the fans initial expectations being the polar opposite. Even I have to admit, the show did get off to a rocky start with but right after the winter hiatus they start going to the meatier part with the tie-in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier with the twist of HYDRA infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. does in fact put it to good use and makes a lot of great twists to the show’s status quo. The “Who could you Trust” storyline was strongly elaborated in the show’s more dramatic parts and that’s one good example of how effective they integrated the ties to the cinematic universe. More so the surprising part was to how Inhumans ties in to Coulson and Skye in the latter episodes of the first season to the entirety of the second season. That’s another thing that kept me going through this show even when the episodes are more hit-miss.

I mostly enjoyed the show because I accepted that this show won’t be like the same scope the movies has or even the Netflix shows do as well. Granted There are still problems that both seasons do that the movies do so as well and it is that they don’t really know what to focus on. The series has more or less than 20 episodes per season but it still feels bloated as the show doesn’t know who or what to focus on. One minute the clairvoyant mystery is playing while we get romantic banter between Skye and Ward with Coulson’s resurrection case is being solved as well. Thankfully they learned their lesson in the second season and actually have big and small moments that makes great for television although there were still some characters that are embarrassingly under-developed. It was too much to take in and would’ve worked better if they had focused it on one episode and cut the unimportant stuff that prolongs most of their small-world situations. The show is definitely not the best out there, but there’s enough stuff sprinkled through each episode to keep this fanboy going.

  1. Thor: The Dark World

Thor Natalie Portman HD WallpaperThe sequel to Branagh’s Thor is the best definition of a near-perfect yet satisfying epic-fantasy movie. You really feel Branagh’s absence here; The feel of it being this Shakespearean drama in the guise of a Marvel movie is gone and instead have it be “just another Marvel movie”. To be fair, there are still some improvements and good to be had from the first film. After Iron Man 3, there was this complaint on how it didn’t entirely feel like the events of the Avengers film took some sort of toll to Tony (we’ll get to that later) I feel as if this one does make you feel like there are consequences from the Avengers film is being played out in this movie as the drama ensue with the megalomaniacal Loki and the Odinson family. Even so for Thor, you can actually see real character growth from him in this movie. The pacing does improve giving us more to explore than just an isolated village in New Mexico and more of Thor’s side of the universe (which is more than just a or a Throne room and the rainbow bridge in Asgard) be fleshed out more. The effects are better, giving us more awesome battles and new worlds that we did explore for fans would recognize some comic book landmarks that would make us hope they will explore in future films.

But unfortunately it didn’t really improve upon following up a villain like Hiddleston’s Loki in the last one. This time, the big bad is Malekith played by Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston. He wasn’t much of an interesting villain but he was played more of a Power Ranger villain (in fact the Dark elves even act like they’re in an episode of Power Rangers). Much like a lot of the villains in Phase 2, he felt more of a one big plot device just for the sake of having a villain for the hero to fight. But Gods bless the human being that is Tom Hiddleston for coming back as Loki by giving people a good show and their money worth for this movie. The rest of the cast were just serviceable except for Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster who was reduced to a teenage girl for some reason, the chemistry between him and Thor didn’t really feel as genuine as to how they were in the first film. In the end, the sequel was still able to give us something bigger though not entirely better.


  1. Iron Man 3

iron-man-3-wallpaperIron Man 3 is the most controversial of the bunch due to how polarizing the movie is and of course there’s a very good reason for this to happen. When the trailers came out for this movie we were all “Woah, Marvel! You guys are gonna get your hands dirty and Nolanize Iron Man?” it was a neat idea; but then I watched the movie and it was a totally different movie from how it was sold to me. The movie had a lot of great ideas, but some of them weren’t properly executed. Take Tony’s anxiety issues, though as much as I love the idea of Tony feeling like he’s no longer the most powerful man on earth because of the events he experienced in the Avengers the movie instead make you question “does he even have anxiety issues in the first place?” because they meanwhile forgotten about that subplot later on in the movie.  There’s too many things they want to do under one movie to the point where the occasional tone shifting. One scene we witnessed someone’s assumed death, the next we have Tony is making a fool of himself. It goes on to some other parts of the movie and it was really off-putting to watch that they can’t decide on which tone they would stick to.

Now people would hate the movie because it boils down to the Mandarin twist. Because of how betrayed they feel due to their beloved Marvel villain being tarnished on screen. Now, to me the twist was one of the ballsiest things I’ve ever seen Marvel do on film and I just accepted it due to how conceptually interesting it was to the grand scheme of Killian’s plan but of course that was just one good part of the plan; to be honest up to now I’m still scratching my head on what Killian really wanted to happen with his plan in mind. Thankfully, the “All Hail the King” One-Shot short explained that there’s an even bigger Mandarin that exists in the universe which makes me appreciate the character twist more. If only that was the mid-credit sequence of the film, probably because the outcome that is the fanboys’ outcry to the Mandarin twist may have not been in the expectations of the people behind the movie. But now that Marvel has money we have a lot of great big special effect scenes now (they won’t be saving up for the next Avengers movie for some larger-than-life special effects flare with all the box office records and DVD sales) and this movie was the first to show it as it is right after the surprising financial success of The Avengers. The plane rescue scene was fantastic and even if it is all special effects that was a well thought out and genuinely suspenseful scene, seeing all the armors come together and fight the extremist guinea pigs makes a fun watch and it’s just great to see how creatively used they were throughout that big battle sequence.

To the film’s credit, despite the lackluster execution on some of the film’s ideas I still liked how they add certain things Instead of going through the third-movie curse where they do the same thing again; I still have to give points for this movie to pull off something bold and fun and it was all thanks to Shane Black turning up the franchise up by a notch and as usual Robert Downey Jr.’s magnetic performance as the Tony Stark. The film ends as the rebirth as it was set out to be but to me it was more of Robert Downey Jr.’s way of saying goodbye to Iron Man franchise that pretty much started it all. I love the way it began, I love the way it ended, but it felt like it is a bit of a chore to go through point a to point b.

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

AoUDirector Joss Whedon continues the tradition of bringing together this ensemble cast to the big screen to have them be in these awesomely big comic book-esque action sequences and even a good battle of wits all thanks to his writing. But unfortunately the movie is very much bloated as the movie tries to cram so much material under its 2 ½ hour runtime. There were a lot of characters with their own sub plots being in play throughout the movie, there were even both some subtle hints to the future of the cinematic universe and at the same time are painfully obvious that they are taking a commercial break to say “look guys! An Infinity Stone! To be fully explained in 2018!” It’s frustrating when all that time they used to set something up for another 3 years could’ve been used to flesh out something that is happening now. Ultron would’ve been more of a threat than the movie implied and to think the casting was so perfect with James Spader in mind.

Like I said in the last bit, sequels tend to copy off from the success of the last film but they put on a few interesting nuggets here and there that makes them feel different from its predecessor. Though this film may have done a lot of callbacks (jokes, shot-for-shot scenes, plot threads, etc.) they were still able to update enough to make it different in a way that you almost can’t tell which makes it a strong enough and an entertaining entry to the ever growing franchise. Nonetheless, it was still a fun rollercoaster ride from start to finish despite the fact that it does feel over-crowded with all these set-ups and sub-plots.

  1. Agent Carter

5What makes Agent Carter succeed where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fail is that instead of looking at a much larger universe we instead focus on the titular character itself. Like I said, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. try to juggle so much material with a lot of character arcs and even the big story arc at hand as they co-exist in the expanding cinematic universe. Agent Carter doesn’t really need to be anything as a set-up to movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or even other unorthodox Marvel-related material. Of course, there were still some ties to the cinematic universe for sure but they were perfectly placed when it comes to playing a big part in the show. Referencing what already is an established universe is not the focus here when Agent Carter focuses more on making the audience be involved in the everyday life of Atwell’s Peggy Carter in the times where institutional sexism is a universally accepted thing. Exploring that kind of material not only makes the 8-episode miniseries a satisfyingly entertaining period piece but also a proper feminist TV show. It began strong, and went along brilliantly. 8-episodes was just the right length for it to explore enough character and story arcs to have a singular, emotional, and thrilling watching experience.

  1. Ant-Man

3I went into this movie with a lot of doubts considering the trouble it had with Edgar Wright and Marvel Studios as the film was about to begin shooting last year (and hearing the praise of his script coming from respectable people), but as I sat down in the theater not knowing what I was going in to (I didn’t really watch all of the trailers) I ended up having a great time and sure as hell Marvel proved my doubting mind wrong. This is the best way to end Phase 2 because it ends from where the Marvel Cinematic Universe began and it is just this small (no pun intended) and contained superhero movie about this one guy, Scott Lang and his colorful band of characters in Marvel’s first ever heist movie. The movie had the right amount of laughs, heart, and action. These days, we feel like we’ve seen enough from Marvel already when it comes to spectacle, but the spectacle they have here is not a lot we see in film these days. It was great to see how they creatively used some picturesque panoramic shots of a small man in a big world. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas are fantastic in their roles; I love how symmetric their personal stories are despite them being two different characters. Evangeline Lilly was also brilliant and I can’t wait to see her character grow in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The rest of the supporting cast were all brilliant and served their purpose well in the entirety of the movie. Peyton Reed knocked it out of the park but there’s still a part of me wondering what it would’ve been like if Edgar Wright had stayed (though it is nice to see that the story was credited to him) to direct the movie.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians_of_the_galaxy__hi_res_textless_banner__by_phetvanburton-d7nu1w3This was the movie that made me think that Marvel can do anything they want now because they can make any unorthodox Marvel material to gold with just one touch (same conclusion with Ant-Man). James Gunn was able to make a lot of bad ideas work with what he has; Batista? Acting?! He instead used his limited acting ability to good use by poking fun at just to how monotone he is. Save the world with a dance-off? Boom! It became the best scene in the entire movie, the list goes on. There were so many plot holes in the movie but I ended up not minding it because of the amount of fun I have in the movie. It’s a turn-your-brain-off type of movie but it doesn’t give the audience a “fuck you” to their watchers unlike Michael Bay’s current films. Even though it does appear that the film departs from the characterization of the original characters, they gave enough respect to them in the movie’s somber and emotional scenes. James Gunn was able to make an awesome mix of sorts by putting together a space opera-action-comedy along with a rag-tag cast of characters into Marvel’s most entertaining feature to date.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Artwork-2013This was the film that elevated the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it shakes the foundation of what they’ve been building up for years. The Russo Brothers takes over the franchise and they were able to create a smart, and entertaining political thriller as they explore a much different take to the man out of time. It’s a great follow-up as we see how Cap is adjusting to the present days since everything is not how it used to be back in 40s. The film made us the audience feel involved in his struggle and even we feel surprised when the peacekeeping organization we’ve known is not what it seems to be all this time. Furthermore, the film is backed up by a great social commentary about national security and even freedom in which we were able to see Captain America’s ideologies be fleshed out without it being overly-preachy.

The film saves the visual effects flare and instead gave us some outstandingly well-choreographed and grounded action sequences that really pack a punch! I still stand by the fact that the action scenes in the Avengers movies and Iron Man and Thor had some brilliant action scenes but rarely do I feel like they’re in real danger and that you have that feeling that they’ll make it out anyway. The film established real stakes early on in the movie and when somebody gets hit you really feel every BIFF! BANG! And POW! Leave it to the Russo Brothers to make one of the most quintessential entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by far.

  1. Daredevil

Daredevil_Netflix-WallpaperThis is definitely the first MCU-related material where they take off the kid gloves and start getting their hands dirty, and by dirty I mean REALLY dirty. One could debate that The Winter Soldier did it first (considering that it was released a year before this) but Daredevil seems to go to greater heights than how Captain America executed their version of “dark and gritty”. The show felt like it is a departure from what Marvel defined themselves by when the MCU establishes itself to making crowd-pleasing genre-mixing comedies. Although it still maintained its sense of wit and the right amount of grit. Everything about the show has a lot of subtlety to it. The humor was well timed, there were little MCU-related references but instead of making it a gag they kind of made a story out of it with fake real estate since a lot of people lost their homes in the Battle of New York.

I would go on about gushing over the show’s fight sequences but I would end up another thousand words just by rambling on that topic. To cut it short, they’re all well-choreographed, well-shot, and well-executed giving the film a true feeling of suspense and wonder how the hell our hero will make it out of this situation alive; the kind of element that is perfect for television storytelling. The performances in the movie are Marvel’s best adapted (with some slight improvements to the characters we know and loved in the comics) and best performed; especially with their fresh take on the Wilson Fisk’s baby steps to becoming the Kingpin (played brilliantly by Vincent D’Onofrio). The 13-episode length was enough to flesh out a lot of the characters, unravel the show’s well kept secrets, and kick some ass. This is Marvel’s smartest and the most staggering piece of comic book entertainment yet.

GP Manalo

G.P. Manalo is a student by day, and a resident tortured writer by night. Writing to keep him sane from all the Business School papers and presentations piling up each week.