Julien Neaves, Editor
Marvel Cinematic Universe fans got a treat earlier this week with a new Phase 4 trailer that included new titles for the Black Panther and Captain Marvel sequels (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Marvels respectively), new footage from upcoming film The Eternals (November 5, 2021), and a tease of a Fantastic Four logo. Add to that the anticipation for the long-awaited Black Widow solo film (July 9, hopefully) and the recent trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3) and the MCU Phase 4 hype train is definitely off the rails.
And while the quality of the pre-Phase 4 MCU has been generally consistent over the course of 12 years and 23 movies there have been a few films that were less than stellar. Which brings us to our list today. With a helicarrier-sized SPOILER ALERT here are the five weakest MCU films, going from the bad to the absolute worst. Let’s dive in!
#5 The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk gets a lot of flak but it’s not that bad of a movie. Sure the CGI has not aged well, the fight scenes are somewhat disappointing, and it began the trend of the villain being an evil copy of the hero a month after Iron Man did it. And of all the MCU movies it does feel like an outlier with its main legacy being the General Thunderbolt Ross character.
Even the post-credits scene with Tony Stark seeking to form the Avengers is seemingly contradicted by future Iron Man films where he has no involvement with SHIELD, and also in The Avengers where he said he didn’t qualify because he was “volatile, self-obsessed, and (doesn’t) play well with others”.
But why is it only number five on this list? Well Edward Norton actually makes a pretty good Bruce Banner and is entertaining throughout. He also has some pretty strong chemistry with Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross. And sure, Mark Ruffalo’s version is good but I thought Norton was better. As a villain Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky is very one note but there is an enthusiasm to the character that still makes him fun to watch, at least until he becomes the blah Abomination.
The film’s pacing is also tight so it never overstays its welcome. And there are a couple of genuinely funny moments, including Bruce’s bad Portuguese having him say “Don’t make me hungry” and him getting too excited during his attempted lovemaking with Betty. The set-up of the heart monitor was also a great editing choice. And the film is ten times better than Ang Lee’s misguided version. So despite it’s many flaws The Incredible Hulk is still a somewhat enjoyable movie.
#4 Ant-Man and the Wasp
I am a huge fan of the first Ant-Man film and for me it is the funniest MCU movie to date (sorry Thor: Ragnarok). It also works well as a heist film and features some unique set pieces thanks to its shrinking dynamic. And I have been a fan of Evangeline Lilly since her days on Lost so I was looking forward to her character Hope van Dyne becoming the Wasp in this sequel. But man oh man was I disappointed.
Ant-Man and the Wasp just feels unfinished. Sure there are some cool set pieces including the exhilarating scene of Wasp taking out those bad guys in the beginning. And there are a few genuinely funny moments as well but much of the humour feels forced. Even Michael Peña’s schtick feels tired. The plot is really half baked and the whole film is effectively a bunch of people running around trying to get a shrunk lab. Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost has an interesting ability and a tragic back story but as a villain she is quite flat.
And it’s not a very good Ant-Man movie per se as his suit is malfunctioning for most of it and he is repeatedly the butt of the joke. The film would also have benefitted from at least one action scene with both Ant-Man and the Wasp kicking some butt. After all, it is the title of the movie.
Other than Hope becoming Wasp, rescuing Janet van Dyne, and moving the Quantum Realm storyline forward for Endgame, the film feels somewhat inconsequential. Let’s hope Quantumania in 2023 is an improvement over this giant missed opportunity.
#3 Thor 2: The Dark World
I doubt anyone would be surprised by the inclusion of Thor 2 on this list as many consider it the weakest MCU film to date. This is the epitome of style over substance. Let’s see what works (it’s going to be a short list).
Tom Hiddleston is his usual delightfully devious self as Loki and if not for him this whole movie would probably be a wash. And Sif and the Warriors Three have a couple of decent scenes. Oh, and there are some pretty good visuals. That’s about it.
The plot here is paper thin, Chris Hemsworth feels very low energy, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster becomes a literal walking plot device, and Malekith has to be one of the blandest main villains in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I ranked him second to last on my MCU villains list).
Like the Aether this film kind of just swirls around you but has no weight. I am not the biggest fan of Thor: Ragnarok but both it and the original are way better than this one.
#2 Captain Marvel
This film came out more than two years ago but I still see fans debating about it on social media. And I will likely get criticism for including it on a weakest MCU films list, especially almost at the bottom, but as we say in Trinidad my back is broad. But let me get a few things out of the way. Firstly, I love strong female characters and I am neither intimidated nor emasculated by them. Wonder Woman, Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Aeryn Sun, the list goes on and on.
Secondly, I have nothing against Brie Larson and I think she is a talented actress who I enjoyed in Room and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Sure some of her Endgame interviews made her look less than humble but that had nothing to do with my evaluation of her in Captain Marvel. And yeah, this film just came up wanting in multiple respects.
The biggest problem is the character of Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel herself. Larson plays her with a kind of dry, sarcastic, detached, phoned-in approach throughout which makes it kind of dull. She also has no chemistry with anyone else in the film, including Samuel L. Jackson as young Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull Talos, both of whom you can really feel trying and help to save the film.
And the character has such an uninteresting story arc, and even “arc” is pushing it. Even after learning that she has been fighting for the wrong side and was used by the Kree Carol’s personality remains the same. And the whole “breaking free” moment set to No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” was as subtle as Fury’s eye scar. Now if the writers had played up her hate for the Skrull, have her slaughter a lot of them, realise the horrors she committed, and then vow to save the species she wronged then that would been impactful. Instead we get this weak sauce.
Mix in Jude Law’s bleh villain, that nonsense with Fury losing his eye, and some pretty generic action scenes with poorly rendered CGI and you have an entirely underwhelming film. And sure it made over a billion at the box office but the post-credits tease at the end of Avengers: Infinity War made it required viewing for Endgame and I suspect it’s success was based on that more than the film’s actual quality itself.
#1 Iron Man 2
While Captain Marvel is objectively subpar some of it can be blamed on the teething problems with introducing a new character, especially an overpowered one. Iron Man 2 has such no excuses. This was the follow-up to the excellent first film which started the gargantuan multi-film franchise we all know and love. And the director of the original film, the highly underrated Jon Favreau, returned to helm this one as well. So what the hell happened?!
Nothing works here. Nothing! We have Tony facing death by becoming a boozing douche and the opportunity to do some kind of adaptation of the iconic comic book story “Demon in a Bottle” is poured down the drain in lieu of obnoxious shenanigans. Black Widow is introduced but is treated like a sex object for most of the time and is barely redeemed by an okay action scene at the end. We finally get to see Rhodey as War Machine but the two fight scenes are a dumb fight with Tony at his party and fighting boring robots at the end. And speaking of fight scenes, there are very few here and the only memorable one is the brief Monaco race track battle.
And oh my goodness, those villains. Wow. Criminally underrated actor Sam Rockwell is wasted as the buffoon weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer. And poor Mickey Rourke can do nothing with the ridiculous, bird-obsessed Ivan Vanko. I mean, he’s not only a poor villain, he’s also an irritating one. This movie just feels like a whole lot of filler. You ever leave ice in a soft drink and it melts and you drink it? That’s the experience of this film—watered down.
Iron Man 3 may have its issues (I am one of the few that didn’t hate the Mandarin twist) but it’s a consistent film that felt like it mattered. Other than introducing Black Widow and War Machine this movie feels entirely skippable. And for me, that’s what makes it the weakest MCU film to date.
Well that’s my list. Which five MCU films do you think are the weakest? And you can check out more great MCU content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.