The Great Marvel Cinematic Universe Elimination Tournament, Part 2
Round TwoCaptain America makes a strong showing, with all three of his "solo" films still in the running. He's joined by the likes of Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and super teams the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. To the left you can see how our tournament is progressing from the way it was originally seeded.
Iron Man vs. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Iron Man is currently ranked #1 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and #207 of All Time on Flickchart.
Captain America: Civil War vs. Captain America: The First AvengerCaptain America: The First Avenger had enough moxie to make it past the first round with its fun World War II period setting and solid set-up of the Captain America character. But it has to face the end of its trilogy in this round and will fall short. Captain America: Civil War works well as a Captain America film with Chris Evans' performance having improved in the interim, some finality to the Peggy Carter romance, and continued development of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Plus, it works as a mini-Avengers film, and the Russo Brothers showcase how to handle a large, colorful cast with style and create one of the best action scenes in comic book films. It’s pure fun in ways that The First Avenger can’t compete with and is correctly regarded as one of the MCU’s best entries. - Connor Adamson
Captain America: The First Avenger is currently ranked #10 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and #1,124 of All Time on Flickchart.
Black Panther vs. Guardians of the GalaxyThere's no arguing that Black Panther is an important movie, in much the same way that Wonder Woman was last year. More representation will always be welcome in this increasingly lucrative subgenre of movies. Yet while Black Panther was very good, I felt it lacked a little in one department that Wonder Woman didn't: fun. Don't get me wrong, the movie has its moments, and it's hardly Dark Knight-bleak, but Black Panther is a film that deserved to be taken seriously, and earned the right to take itself seriously. This isn't DC, though, and I come to Marvel movies for the fun, which Guardians of the Galaxy has in spades: bright, colorful (in every sense of the word), irreverent and just sheer bonkers, without sacrificing some emotional heft. I wish to take nothing away from the breakthrough that is Black Panther, but I also feel there's no shame in it's losing here. - Nigel Druitt
Black Panther is currently ranked #7 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and #623 of All Time on Flickchart.
Doctor Strange vs. The AvengersDoctor Strange is a great entry in the MCU, introducing magic into the universe, throwing another Infinity Stone into the mix, and featuring some of the coolest visuals Marvel Studios has to offer. Benedict Cumberbatch is great as Stephen Strange, a cocky, know-it-all surgeon who has to reorient his entire life after an accident. Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor offer solid support, and Strange's method of defeating Dormammu is the most creative way of overcoming a villain the MCU has seen to date. This is also my daughter's favorite MCU film, which I would be remiss not to mention. But The Avengers is the best superhero film of all time. Whether it wins this tournament or not, I stand by that statement. It brought together the main characters from four separate franchises and gave us the first true superhero team-up film. Bringing those characters together to share the screen and tell a story in which the narrative was balanced between them was surely no easy feat, but thanks to the deft hand of Joss Whedon and a tremendously talented cast, Marvel pulled it off. The resulting film gives you everything you could want in superhero movie: thrilling action sequences; real, human emotion and urgency, with genuine loss; and clever, quippy dialogue like only Whedon can write. (Yes, all MCU films feature fun quips and one-liners, but Whedon's writing is truly unique, and it could be argued that every Marvel movie since has just been trying to recapture what he penned in this film.) The Avengers also benefits from featuring the MCU's most compelling villain: Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Because of his performance, Loki outshines the rest of the all-star cast. All of these elements come together to give us Marvel's ultimate game-changer, my personal favorite MCU film, and an easy win over the admirable but ultimately outmatched Doctor Strange. - Matt Ray
Doctor Strange is currently ranked #11 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and #1,133 of All Time on Flickchart.
Round ThreeFour films remain, and Captain America has his name on two of them. Can he single-handedly fight off the Avengers and the Guardians?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier vs. Captain America: Civil WarThis semi-final match is a good one, pairing two thirds of the Captain America trilogy, both directed by the Russo Brothers. The Winter Soldier shouldered past Thor: The Dark World with relative ease, and delivered a fairly conclusive victory over Marvel heavyweight Iron Man. It will, deservedly, notch another win here. Though Civil War rightfully defeated the first entries of both the Captain America and Thor trilogies, its large scope is too uneven to beat the finely crafted espionage thriller that is The Winter Soldier. Though a great spectacle, Civil War's uneven pacing pales when matched against Marvel's best film. The Winter Soldier stands as one of the 21st century's best action films, period, with fantastic, hard-hitting fight choreography, the right touch of humor, and a convincing statement on the importance of personal liberties in the world today. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a nearly perfect film, and showcases why Marvel matters. - Connor
Captain America: Civil War is currently ranked #5 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and #451 of All Time on Flickchart.
Guardians of the Galaxy vs. The AvengersSo, these movies have a lot in common. A ragtag bunch of misfits comes together, bickering amongst each other all the way, to battle a threatening alien army. There's the good-looking, charismatic leader (Star-Lord, Captain America), the strong woman keeping the boys in line (Gamora, Black Widow), the typically deadpan tough guy (Drax, Thor), the wise-cracking, ill-mannered weapons expert (Rocket, Iron Man) and the less-than-articulate muscle (Groot, Hulk). Both of these films exist independently, without requiring back story from the rest of the MCU to work. So, The Avengers did it first, so it must be better, right? Frankly, the fact that The Avengers — Marvel's first big payoff after the build-up from previous films — negates the need to have to see those previous films is slightly off-putting to me, especially when I find a few of those previous films to be superior. That Guardians doesn't have that baggage is actually a plus. Additionally, there's that killer soundtrack, the humor (aside from Hulk's few great moments) is better, and I find the characters comprise a dysfunctional family I would more care to spend time with. The films may be practically the same thing, structurally, but the subtle differences make Guardians of the Galaxy much better in my book. Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention Hawkeye when I was rounding out the characters? Gimme a break; he spends most of The Avengers under mind control. And Yondu's a better shot anyway. (Yeah, I said it.) - Nigel
The Avengers is currently ranked #2 within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and #257 of All Time on Flickchart.
We've narrowed our picks down to two. It's time to crown our favorite film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier vs. Guardians of the GalaxyIt is interesting, at least to me, that this all comes down to the two films in the franchise that grew on me the most during the second viewing. I suppose this generally comes down to a matter of taste: Do you prefer the unhinged, galaxy-hopping zaniness of Guardians, or the gritty, heart-pounding thrills of The Winter Soldier? I love that the Marvel Cinematic Universe not only has room for both, but is getting ready to slap them together this weekend. That said, for me, it also comes down to craft. These are both right in my wheelhouse, genre-wise, and Guardians is without a doubt one of the most fun entries in the MCU, but Winter Soldier's carefully crafted suspense thriller wins out. Guardians gets a bit too magic-y toward the end, suffers from a cookie-cutter villain, and never really deals with the consequences of its events. (I mean, really, you can't celebrate too much when your entire defense force has been obliterated and hundreds, if not thousands, of your citizens are dead.) Winter Soldier is not only about a morally upright World War II soldier navigating the modern world of espionage, but it does something really interesting at the kick-off of the climactic battle: it puts every S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, from the techs to the security council, in the sudden position to either fold to the Hydra threat, or resist and most likely die. (This was explored a little more fully in the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) I'm not going to go so far as to say Winter Soldier is the best (I still personally find Civil War more compelling), but it certainly showcases the best of what the MCU can be. - Tom
In the future, when movie historians look back on the heyday of the MCU, it may be that 2014 is seen as its apex. How lucky were we to receive both of these brilliant films in the same year? To pick a winner between these two was a challenge, because they are both great examples of all the things Marvel has done right with their films. The tipping point that helped Winter Soldier win this matchup is in the plot construction. Guardians of the Galaxy is superb at establishing a whole new group of characters, but because it required a lot of world-building to set up all the players, the central conflict is nothing more than the fight to acquire a MacGuffin. It works for that film, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier aspires to something greater. The plot focuses on all the ways the world has changed since Steve Rogers first became a super soldier. The government he once defended is now corrupt and might be as bad as the enemy he once fought. The best friend he could always count on is trying to kill him. Even the facility where he first learned to save lives is nothing more than an empty tomb where he might be buried. It is this connection to what was established in Captain America: The First Avenger that shows the power of what can be done with a cinematic universe. The Winter Soldier is a solid stand-alone superhero film, but with the setup from stories that came before, it is astounding, and deserves to win our title as the best MCU film to date. - Ben Lott