Friday Five: Marvel Cinematic Universe movies


Arely Sun

I flip through an array of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Although some of the films lack top-notch, logical writing and center around almost all white male heroes, the continuity between them make the MCU immersive and somewhat addictive.

by Arely Sun, Aquila Co-Managing Editor

I’ve been a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fan since my friend persuaded me to start a MCU marathon with “Iron Man” in eighth grade. Within the next few months, I powered through all the movies, thoroughly enjoying how each one connected with another. After finishing all 18 released at the time, I began to peruse articles analyzing the plot to create theories about this fictional universe, accumulated some related merchandise and eventually deemed myself a true fan. Although some of the films lack top-notch, logical writing and center around almost all white male heroes, the continuity between them make the MCU immersive and somewhat addictive.

You’ve probably heard most of the spoilers I’ll be mentioning due to MCU movies’ popularity (especially with “Avengers: Endgame”), but if you don’t know what I mean, you might not want to reveal all the spicy plot twists by reading this Friday Five.

5. Tie: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home”

These movies aren’t your average “buff guy with powers defeats other buff guys with powers” story. Rather, they mix action with adolescent tension. In “Homecoming,” Tom Holland’s youthful rendition of this classic wall-crawling but nerdy character earns laughs in his awkward interactions and sets him apart from the more mature versions of Peter Parker in previous Sony movies. “Far From Home” dives into a moodier tone with Holland’s masterful portrayal of his character’s grief. After losing his mentor Tony Stark, Parker grapples with expectations to step into Stark’s position and consequent insecurity. Jake Gyllenhaal also gives a fantastic performance as Mysterio (is now the time to make Taylor Swift jokes?) as he plays into both Mysterio’s “good guy” facade and bitter core. While “Far From Home” has a shocking twist and large scale action scenes, the plot comes across as messy. “Homecoming” has a simpler plot and more realistic visual effects, but it pales in comparison to the grandeur of “Far From Home.” The pros and cons of each Spider-Man movie break even in a tie.

4. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

Yes, yes, I’ve already sung the praises of “Shang-Chi” in my review of it, but here’s a rundown. Impeccable fight scenes pair fittingly with dynamic camerawork, and their organized rhythms akin to those in kung-fu movies set them apart from other Marvel battles. Stunning visuals add grandeur to accurate depictions of Chinese culture and mythology. Tony Leung portrayed a nuanced villain with a pained backstory, but his excellence makes Simu Liu’s titular hero seem flat in comparison. I somewhat enjoyed the sprinkling of humor throughout the movie, which were far less artificial than the cheap jokes in other MCU films but still felt out-of-place at times.  Criticisms aside, as a Chinese-American myself, I’m grateful for this excellent Asian-centric Marvel movie.

3. “Thor: Ragnarok”

Absurd humor? Check. Unbridled chaos? Check. Giving interesting personalities to previously flat characters and kindling the Thor Loki brotherhood? Check. Epic fight montage with aliens to Led Zeppelin? Check!! “Ragnarok” is the absolute funniest MCU movie of all time and uses a more absurd sense of humor that diverges from the Marvel norm of unnecessary cheesy jokes. Under Taika Waititi’s directing, the actors explored the silly sides of their characters in expert writing as well as improvisation. Unfortunately, the improvised dialogue slows down the pace of the movie in awkwardly placed spots. Nonetheless, I’ve seen “Ragnarok” three times, but the humor stays fresh with every rewatch, and that “Immigrant Song” scene always makes me want to punch the air in glory and scream the lyrics.

2. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Most of the movies from Phase 1 and 2 (movies with somewhat interconnected plots released from 2008 to 2012 and from 2013 to 2015) don’t stand out to me as remarkable, likely because I binged them in such a short period of time. All the movies in my top five belong to Phase 3 of the MCU because I was able to enjoy the full memorable theater experience when viewing them, except for “The Winter Soldier.” This movie would appeal to most audiences as it resembles an excellent standalone spy action film with plenty of espionage and clean, well-choreographed fight scenes. Steve Rogers, known for being a righteous goody-two-shoes all-American hero, faces a world of moral ambiguity in this movie. He discovers that his best friend has become a psychologically-controlled villain and that evil forces have corrupted the government, forcing him to question his loyalties. This complexity makes “The Winter Soldier” timeless and strong as a whole.

1. “Avengers: Endgame”

At this point, I think I’ve run out of compliments to give to movies! Fortunately for me writing this, “Endgame” doesn’t live up to many of the praises I gave to my other top five MCU films. I know this movie is an unconventional top pick due to its many flaws, but it holds a special place in my heart. A year after Thanos’ snap at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” dissolved half of the Avengers lineup, my friends and I sat in the theater on opening night, hushedly watching the first seconds of “Endgame.” I’ve never had a movie-going experience like that night: seeing familiar characters reappear on the screen one-by-one elicited cheers from the audience, and Sam Wilson’s “On your left” brought tears to my eyes as the theater erupted in exclamations and loud applause as circular portals opened on the tempestuous sky. I clutched onto my friends’ hands as Tony Stark powerfully uttered “And I am Iron Man” before snapping his gauntlet and collapsing in a swirl of light and music. The opening night of “Endgame” embodies my appreciation for the MCU — although I’m not always a fan of the technical aspects of Marvel films, the camaraderie within the fandom makes it so special.