Tag Archives: Shared universe

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

© Marvel Disney

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Marvel Studios and Disney will continue to print their own money with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron today. In preparation for the movie, which has already made over $200 million overseas, I’ve been rewatching the previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I put more planning into this months-long marathon than I do into what I eat. I usually hope patrons will bring us cookies or something equally tasty.

Anyway, top ten lists are always fun (and it’s been a while since I did a top ten list) so, without further delay, I present my ranking of the films of the MCU.

Warning: These are only the films since, apparently, the television shows, tie-in comics and one-shots only complicate the movies.
Warning: This is only my preference. Save your nerd-rage for something else.
Warning: This list contains spoilers.

10. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

I’m probably one of the only people who enjoyed Ang Lee’s 2003 iteration of the big green monster. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, but I remember that it at least it tried to be cerebral. Louis Leterrier’s version, on the other hand, is bland; I feel like he only makes horribly average movies for people who hate movies (see Clash of the Titans, The Transporter and Now You See Me). He’s like a French Michael Bay. This film is clearly the black sheep of the MCU as it’s hardly ever referenced, save for the one-shot The Consultant and a line in an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I promised to keep this cinematic. I think it would be incredible (see what I did there?) if the Hulk just stayed in Avengers films or other team-up films in the future.

9. Thor (2011)

I think this is the only film in the MCU that I didn’t see in the theaters. I’ll openly admit that I don’t particularly care for fantasy/mythology stuff. I realize that may seem a bit hypocritical when I’m listing off comic book movies, but let’s move past that. When Kenneth Branagh was announced as the director, I thought it was a match made in heaven. For a time it seemed like Branagh was set on adapting all of Shakespeare’s plays and I’ve always felt the story of Thor is inherently Shakespearean. While the finished product never reaches the Shakespearean epic I had in mind, there are snippets of it bubbling below the surface, specifically when you watch Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston act off each other. You really feel for them as brothers and I’m not just saying that because my brother is blonde and muscular whereas I am dark haired and, well, not (see my earlier comment about eating).

8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Again, knowing that Alan Taylor (someone who’s directed six episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones) was directing this sequel got me excited. I’ve never seen the show–I’m not that kind of nerd–but people really seem to enjoy it and it seems pretty similar in tone to Thor’s mythology. Again, I was disappointed. It’s super-close, but I’m ranking this sequel above Thor because of the Guardians of the Galaxy midcredits tag, the expansion of Thor and Loki’s relationship and because this scene had me cracking up in the theater. I could watch Tom Hiddleston all day.

7. Iron Man 2 (2010)

I know, I know, after I spoke so highly of Robert Downey Jr in my last post, how could I possibly list one of his films so low? Of the three Iron Man films, this is the one I feel like watching the least. It seems there’s a need in sequels to escalate everything so I will give credit to Jon Favreau and company for making the action of the climax less end-of-the-world-threatening than other sequels (see: Thor: The Dark World). Still, the ending was essentially the same as the first Iron Man–people in metal suits fight each other and blow stuff up. Also, Sam Rockwell was wasted in this movie, but  it was a delight to see him pop up in the All Hail the King one-shot (Sorry! I’ll stop venturing from the cinematic part of the MCU).

6. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Let me say this right off the bat: I’ve never really been a fan of Captain America. I like my heroes flawed and Cap’s always seemed too good. An argument could be made that he’s essentially a junkie because he gets his powers from a series of injections, but that is a blog post for another day. Also, I agree with Tocqueville about patriotism; overly showy displays annoy me. That said, I actually do enjoy this film. The World War II setting is great because it forced the writers to deal (to an extent) with technological hindrances of the day. It’s also not a time period we normally see in these types of films and in a market that is quickly becoming saturated with comic book movies, being different is important.

But more on that later …

Which films made the top five? Click through to find out!


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The Beauty of the Shared Universe

I came across a paperback copy of one of the latest Wild Cards series of novels, Inside Straight. Since it was free I grabbed it, and being a fan of the superhero genre, started reading it. For folks who haven’t visited the first link in the post yet, Wild Cards is a shared universe created by New York Times best-selling author George R. R. Martin in the 1980’s (before he became rich and famous).

Wikipedia offers us a nice explanation of the  shared universe.  Ever since the first superhero team-up, the modern comic book has embraced the idea of the shared universe.  The fantasy and sci-fi book industry was a bit late to the game, only creating formalized shared universes in the late 1970’s and 1980’s with series like Wild Cards and Thieves World  (my first exposure to the shared universe concept in book form).

One could argue that the many Conan pastiches that have been published since creator R. E. Howard died are themselves a shared universe, and the Cthulhu Mythos have always been shared among an elite cadre of dynamic writers (including Howard himself). But they don’t follow the same tight structure that Thieves’ World and Wild Cards do. Both series contain books that usually begin with some kind of framing sequence, then present a series of short stories from different authors. The authors freely share characters and build from each other’s work. Generally an editor (Robert  Asprin for Thieves’ World, George R. R. Martin for Wild Cards) rides herd over the whole affair, and usually contributes a story or two to each book.

Shared universe books like these are always a mixed bag–with so many different authors you never know what you might get in terms of storytelling style or quality. As a kid they forced me to expose myself to other writing styles I might not have tried otherwise. They also gave me the chance to read female writers, and experience a genuinely feminine perspective on sci-fi and fantasy. My first exposure to Janet Morris and C. J. Cherryh came from Thieves’ World.

Now back to Inside Straight. It’s pretty damn good. If you liked the first season of Heroes and you dig reality TV shows, this book presents a pretty nifty mix of those two concepts. I am now going to have to track down the other newer Wild Cards title, Busted Flush to see where the universe goes next. Should be fun!


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