The ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU for short has spawned a multitude of movies boasting a rich gallery of superheroes with compelling character arcs. With the arrival of Black Widow and Shang Chi this year, the tally of MCU origin movies is now at a whopping 12 movies, to reach 13 very soon when The Eternals hits the big screen (or your Disney+ App depending on the current climate). With so many origin movies out there, it can be hard to dip your toes into the whole thing without knowing which are the better ones. So, what are the top 5 MCU origin movies? Here are my lukewarm takes:
#5 Spider-Man: Homecoming
I’d be remiss to exclude arguably the most iconic Marvel superhero from the list, so sitting at #5 is Spider-Man: Homecoming. This is the third modern rendition of a Spider-Man origin movie and that only means added pressure and stakes for this movie to outperform its predecessors. In some ways, this take on the friendly neighbourhood web-slinger does outdo Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s version. Though not equipped with gripping storytelling of Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man or the natural affinity Andrew Garfield has to pull off the titular Spider-Man role, Homecoming sees Tom Holland perfectly encapsulate the role of Peter Parker. Holland looks and feels the part and shows a flurry of quirks that reminds us of the goofy lovable nerd Peter Parker should be from the comics.
Homecoming takes away the extravagance MCU movies are known for due to its evolving worldbuilding and takes us back to a smaller, more familiar scape as we venture into the everyday life in Queens, NY. Homecoming is about Peter balancing the life of two worlds and the challenges that comes with it. The surprising addition of Iron Man as a mentor brings a nice familial superhero touch that no other Spider-Man movies have seen, making the movie more refreshing and engaging. The interaction between Peter and Tony drives the movie, as we see them try to connect whilst Tony guides Peter to become the superhero he is meant to be. The action is slick and stylish, with the latest Spider-Man rife with new gizmos courtesy of Stark Tech going against a spidey villain we’ve never seen on the big screen before in Micheal Keaton’s Vulture, who plays the role terrifyingly well, sometimes effortlessly stealing the screen. While nothing stupendous, this movie is certainly fun, action-packed and an overall solid outing.
#4 Dr Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch being in the MCU is nothing but music to one’s ears. Dr Strange presents another egotistical genius who was put in his place as extremely renowned surgeon Stephen Strange’s life forever changes after a cruel accident permanently damages his hands. No longer able to practise his trade, Strange dried his resources trying to find a way to fix his hands, eventually ending up on the doorstep of the Ancient One in Kamar Taj penniless. The movie then takes a strange (wink) turn as Stephen was made aware of the existence of magic and how it could fix him in unexpected ways. Dr Strange is about Stephen Strange accepting that his life as a doctor is over with it his arrogance and turn over a new leaf as a sorcerer with newfound humility and passion. This movie seems to borrow the journey of an egoist humbled from Iron Man, successfully so.
But that’s not all there is to it. The reason this movie is ranked 4th is also because of the jaw-dropping action, as we first see magic in the MCU. Dr Strange bends reality and logic with unimaginable fight scenes that take place because of the mystical aspect of the movie, presented in the way Strange and his allies use magic to illustrate the magical and sometimes even psychedelic nature of the movie. This movie is captivating, elegant, and mesmerising, a fine entry to the MCU.
In at #3 is Ant-Man, tackling the tricky task of making a superhero who can become as small as an ant into a kick-ass sensation, and succeeding in style. The movie follows engineer turned thief Scott Lang with a heart of gold, who, after a failed attempt to rob a famous scientist, was offered the role of a lifetime to don the mantle of Ant-Man and prevent the forces of evil from creating a more evil version of the superhero to unleash harm into the world. Ant-Man is cheeky, fun, and ridiculous to an extent, unashamedly poking fun at the nature of the character while also impressing you with Scott’s heroism has as the microscopic hero. With the addition of a great cast such as Micheal Douglas, Carlos Pena, and Evangline Lily, this movie is solid through and through in becoming what it wants to be; a witty and sleek action-packed experience. Ant-Man will have you laughing from beginning to end but also surprised at how good of a superhero Ant-Man is, with you finally coming to terms and thinking,” Wow, Ant-Man is pretty cool”. After all, he wouldn’t make it to this list, beating out Spider-Man and Dr Strange, if he was only a mini success.
#2 Guardians of the Galaxy
Barely missing the top is James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, GotG for short. It is severely underrated how Marvel managed to make characters so obscure into such a fun ragtag team, making for an extremely entertaining ride that is GotG. The movie is weird, quirky, and wacky, but that is also what makes it such an enjoyable experience. We follow a makeshift crew led by the funnily charismatic Star-Lord (played by equally funny and charismatic Chris Pratt), with assassin Gamora, the stone-faced Drax, and mercenaries Rocket Raccoon and Groot as they undertake the impossible mission of keeping the power stone away from the hands of the ruthless space criminal Ronan the Accuser.
The movie is unapologetically wacky as the crew go to eccentric places and meet unexpected creatures in the vastness of space, leading to mix-ups that are often weird and crazy, but never boring. Then, when you think the movie has nothing else to offer but balls-to-the-wall hilarity, you are gut-punched by the heartwarming scenes of the team bonding and becoming a family. GotG is a rare occasion that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that only appears peculiar in the beginning, leaving you feeling very satisfied when it ends, but still excited for more. A worthy runner-up to the list.
#1 Iron Man
The one that started it all. There is without a doubt in mind that Iron Man is the best MCU origin movie. Iron Man paved the way for MCU to become what it is today, where one wrong move would’ve set it many steps back. But the movie didn’t do much wrong, if at all. We follow Tony Stark, billionaire playboy philanthropist who in the movie quickly got his just deserts (wink) for being a weapons tycoon as he is kidnapped by terrorists who want him to create the next big weapon of mass destruction. Tony, however, had other plans as he, with the help of Ho Yinsen, decided to create something else to help him and Yinsen escape captivity. The plan went slightly awry as only Tony escaped after Yinsen decided to sacrifice his life for Tony’s, who he believed had more to offer the world. With renewed belief, Tony set out to track down terrorists who have misused his weapons in the past and present to make the world a better place. He does that by creating the iconic Iron Man suit that he uses to take down bad guys with style.
Iron Man is smart, charming, and stylish, with a storytelling formula so successful that Marvel continued to adopt into its array of movies that followed. The casting of Robert Downey Jr is also a masterstroke on the behalf of director Jon Favreu, who insisted nobody but the then washed-up Downey would fit the role more. Downey’s wit and charisma made the role his own and turned Iron Man into such a massive presence in the MCU that he can never be forgotten, perhaps even decades after, etching his name into history. Iron Man is near flawless, and is arguably flawless as superhero origin movies go. That’s why it’s comfortably at #1.
Hartwick is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
Register at headliner.newswav.com to become one of our content writers now!
*The views expressed are those of the author. If you have any questions about the content, copyright or other issues of the work, please contact Newswav.