This feature originally ran in April 2015 and will be periodically updated and re-published with the latest Marvel releases.
Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of Marvel’s seemingly never-ending cinematic universe.
Though it’s perhaps bad business to have you look at another website before you read and remain on this one, have a quick glance at this:
That was April 2006. Now, 11 years later, the outline for Marvel’s ambitious (many at the time said overzealous) plan to take over movie theaters has been made manifest. A Marvel movie is the closest thing to truly untouchable, from at least a fiscal perspective, that Hollywood has seen in decades upon decades. Under their watch, a movie partially centered around a sassy talking raccoon and a giant tree fighting space evil became one of the highest-grossing films of 2014. In 2008, Robert Downey Jr.’s career was still on the mend, and now he’s one of the biggest and highest-paid movie stars of the current era. Serialized superhero stories on TV are enjoying their biggest-ever boom period for Marvel and others alike, thanks to the brand’s immense success.
The point is, Marvel’s a big ‘ol deal. As the branding of the MCU extends out beyond Disney’s kingdom this week, with Sony’s co-production on Spider-Man: Homecoming, the imprint is likely going to enjoy another hit and for good reason. The how and why of Marvel Studios’ gambit working out so well is more complex than some will realize, but one simple explanation is that there’s a certain standard of quality expected from Marvel’s output, one that’s been consistently delivered upon with each production within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While we obviously like some of the films and shows more than others, there’s not a movie on this list that we could even come close to equating with the worst that your average film critic sees in a given year.
So join us as we dissect what Marvel has accomplished so far by way of the 22 Marvel Studios offerings that have been released (theatrically, on TV, or via streaming platforms) as of this publication. Because, as we’ve learned in abundance over the better part of the past decade now, there’s more than one way to tell a great superhero story.