12. Thor: The Dark World
The first Thor film was a modest success. The Avengers upped the god of thunder’s visibility, proving he could be a powerful and fun hero Just over a year later, it was time for The Dark World to solidify that reputation.
The movie had some amazing battles. The scope and fantasy elements gave it an epic Lord of the Rings feel. The invasion of Asgard is truly a highlight.
Better, it had the third appearance of Thor’s brother Loki, adding pathos to the baddie’s evil fun. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki performance is so good, it casts a huge shadow Chris Hemsworth’s Thor cannot escape. Especially in the romantic scenes with girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman), Hemsworth’s acting came off more stony than his hammer.
But the worst part of this film was lead villain Malekith,. Trapped under layers of laytex, actor Christopher Eccleston’s performance was flat. More, this Dark Elf’s motivation was thin — he’s a bad guy out for revenge…and no one cares.
The film ended up grossing only slightly more than the original Thor, and ended Marvel’s 2013 on a bad note. Especially since the earlier 2013 release is the second worst Marvel film yet…
11. Iron Man 3
In Avengers Captain America challenged Tony Stark, saying “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?” We’d find out in Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark spends most of this film stripped of his suit, forced to use McGyver-esque tech and his wits to take down an evil scientist.
In 2013 there was no argument — Iron Man was Marvel Cinematic Universe’s superstar, both on and off screen. Yet, was “Regular Man” was not what made him so fun. It was a betrayal of what the series, and the trailers, promised — as was the lead villain.
Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley played Iron Man’s comic nemesis The Mandarin. In trailers he seemed like an all-powerful mastermind, seemingly behind all the traumas in Tony’s life. Yet the film undermines any menace the character may have had, turning him into a punchline. It’s a funny punchline, but it leaves the film with another weak villain with thin motivation. The Iron Man Mk 42 armor was the Windows Vista of super-suits. And the film’s ending, Stark destroying all his armor, was undone with the next Avengers movie.
Still, Iron Man 3 was a huge box-office hit. It remains only behind the two Avengers films proper in box office, and is the only solo Avenger film to gross over $1 billion worldwide. And the film has aged very well as expectations were reset with time. Downey gives a great performance and many of the jokes do hit their mark. The script is solid, even if it would make a better Lethal Weapon 5 than Iron Man 3.
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director Joss Whedon had set the bar high with the first Avengers. That 2012 film succeeded in bringing together six solo heroes, giving each their own character moments, and delivering the best MCU bad guy to date with Hiddleston’s Loki. But all the pieces had been put in place, even Loki, for that film. With Age of Ultron Whedon’s task was much harder.
First, he had to create and introduce iconic Avengers robot villain Ultron. With that brought three new super beings into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision. With those four origin stories there were a total of 10 major characters, all who needed their own screen time and character arcs.
On top of that, higher-ups at Marvel Studios also mandated Age of Ultron set up the next phase of Marvel movies, sending Thor off to some hot springs to have a premonition that was useless in this film.
With this many elements it seems unlikely anyone could make it fit in a 2.5 hour film–it’s more suited for an ensemble mini-series. The result is a cluttered and uneven film with a few great one-liners, and some spectacular action scenes. Both at the beginning and the end Whedon stages truly incredible group fights, possibly the best staged of the entire Cinematic Universe. And the new characters will hopefully be interesting in future films. It’s a shame they weren’t more interesting here.
And this is a lesson Marvel should have learned from mistakes made in the next film in our list.