d-review-marvelcinematic

Launched in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced 21feature films to date. Among them are, top row, “Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012); center row, from left, “Black Panther” (2018) and “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018); and, bottom row, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Doctor Strange” (2016) and “Captain Marvel” (2019). 

Reel Family Time sig

Reel Family Time is an occasional feature where Entertainment Editor Lee Clark Zumpe and his daughter, B.C. Zumpe, share their thoughts on family films.

Love it or hate it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed the face of modern cinema.  

There’s no disputing the fact that the journey to the release of “Avengers: Endgame” has been a long and winding road. Since 2008, Marvel Studios has released 21 interconnected films – not to mention tie-in comic books, short films, television series and digital series. The sprawling shared universe has grossed more than $18 billion worldwide. The MCU has altered the expectations of both filmmakers and audiences. It has helped elevate the comic book heroes of the 20th century into a form of modern mythology.

“Avengers: Endgame,” the 22nd installment of the MCU, will officially open April 26 – with some screenings scheduled for April 25 in select theaters. In a letter tweeted April 16, Anthony and Joseph Russo, the movie’s directors, urged fans not to spoil the ending of the upcoming film, calling it the “end of an unprecedented narrative mosaic spanning 11 years and 11 franchises.”  

Predictions suggest that “Avengers: Endgame” may gross $300 million during its opening weekend. The previous Avengers film made $257 million during the opening weekend and went on to earn $2 billion worldwide. 

Of course, the story really started long before Marvel Studios existed. The history of the MCU can be traced back to 1940 when cartoonists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America. The character debuted in Captain America Comics No. 1.   

To prepare for “Avengers: Endgame,” my daughter and I spent three weeks watching, reviewing and ranking all the MCU films. Instead of watching them in order of release date, we chose to follow the narrative arc’s timeline, starting with “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which is set in the 1940s. We have condensed our evaluations into brief assessments. Following is our look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe in review. 

 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) 

B.C. Zumpe

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: The first Captain America movie is great. It had a lot of action and well-developed characters. My favorite scene is when Captain America is rescued from the ice.  
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • HYDRA Soldier: Cut off one head, two more shall … 
    • Col. Chester Phillips: (kills soldier) Let’s go find two more!   

Lee Clark Zumpe

  • Rating: 4.2 
  • Opinion: For me, Steve Rogers is the most thoroughly developed character in the MCU. He remains true to his nature throughout his trilogy, yet we see his view of the world evolve. His origin story plays out wonderfully set against the backdrop of a world at war. The film’s most visible weakness is how the screenplay renders Johann Schmidt/Red Skull as if ripped from the pages of an old pulp magazine.  
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Johann Schmidt: And the Führer digs for trinkets in the desert. (Seems like someone is trying to pull Indiana Jones into the MCU) 

 CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: “Captain Marvel” had a good plot. I liked the statements it made about women. My favorite scene was when the Skrull family reunited. 
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Carol Danvers: I’m not gonna fight your war. I’m gonna end it. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.6 
  • Opinion: “Captain Marvel” is a beautifully-constructed missing puzzle piece that helps to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe into clearer focus. It’s both entertaining and empowering. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Carol Danvers: Does announcing your identity with branded clothing, help with the covert part of the job?  
    • Nick Fury: ...said the space soldier who’s wearing a rubber suit. 

 IRON MAN (2008) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 3.5 
  • Opinion: “Iron Man” was good. I liked the heavy metal songs in the soundtrack. It’s not my favorite MCU film because Tony is not that likable. My favorite scene is when Tony and Pepper dance.  
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Tony Stark: I am Iron Man. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.0 
  • Opinion: It’s the best of the Iron Man trilogy, but it’s difficult to watch knowing that Tony Stark never seems to carry the lessons he’s learned from one installment to the next. Jeff Bridges seemed miscast as Obadiah Stane: I kept thinking that Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski really went down a dark path.  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Yinsen: So you’re a man who has everything ... and nothing. 

 IRON MAN 2 (2010) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 4.0 
  • Opinion: I liked this film because of the good performances by the cast. I thought Mickey Rourke did an excellent job as Ivan Vanko. My favorite scene was when James “Rhodey” Rhodes helped Iron Man. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes: No, it’s your fault. I just wanted to say I’m sorry. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 3.1 
  • Opinion: See, Tony has to go through the same trial and tribulation all over again: Whine and throw a temper tantrum, alienate friends, recognize all that narcissism, make amends. There are points in this film when I’m actually rooting for Ivan Vanko. Honestly, Mickey Rourke is pretty awesome in this.  
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Tony Stark: I told you I don’t want to join your super-secret boy band. 

 THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 3.5 
  • Opinion: It was good, but the special effects weren’t that great. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner in this film. He’s replaced by Mark Ruffalo in the ensuing MCU films. I think both Norton and Ruffalo are equally suited for the part. My favorite scene was when Hulk recognizes Betty.   
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Betty Ross: (yells at taxi driver) A------!  
    • Bruce Banner: You know, I know a few techniques that could help you manage that anger effectively. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 3.4 
  • Opinion: This one is surprisingly better than I remembered. Well, two-thirds of it is, anyway. The action sequence early in the film works because the Hulk stays in the shadows. By the time the film reaches the third act – when Hulk meets Abomination – everything falls apart. The CGI is terrible, even by 2008 standards. My favorite moment in the movie is a musical cue borrowed Joe Harnell’s theme “The Lonely Man” from the 1978 “Incredible Hulk” television series. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Bruce Banner: Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry. 

 THOR (2011) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 4.5 
  • Opinion: It was great. I really liked that there were important female characters, including scientists. The special effects were very good. My favorite scene was when Thor and Jane were sitting on the rooftop talking about the Nine Realms.   
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Thor: And who proved wrong all who scoffed at the idea that a young maiden could be one of the fiercest warriors this realm has ever known?  
    • Sif: I did! 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.2 
  • Opinion: Kenneth Branagh brings a touch of Shakespearian attitude to the MCU. Tom Hiddleston is so good as Loki that Chris Hemsworth disappears into the background sometimes. Thrilling battle sequences and a low-key budding romance bring an alluring balance to this installment.   
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Thor: For the first time in my life, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.  
    • Erik Selvig: Anyone who’s ever going to find his way in this world, has to start by admitting he doesn’t know ... 

 MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (2012) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I liked it, but it was kind of long. It had a lot of action. I thought that the acting was excellent. My favorite scene is during Loki’s emergence in Stuttgart when an old German man refuses to kneel before him. 
  • Favorite exchange:  
    • Thor: I have unfinished business with him.  
    • Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Yeah, well get in line. 

 LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.5 
  • Opinion: This is the film I’d been waiting for since I started reading comic books in the mid 1970s. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” brings all of these eccentric superheroes together and shows that they can work together in spite of their differences. It’s hopeful, it’s action-packed and it’s brilliant storytelling.  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Tony Stark: That man is playing Galaga! Thought we wouldn’t notice. But we did. 

 IRON MAN 3 (2013) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 3.5 
  • Opinion: “Iron Man 3” was good, but the story was complicated and hard to follow. I don’t understand why Tony has to learn the same lesson over and over again. My favorite scene was when Harley got his own lab.  
  • Favorite exchange:  
    • Tony Stark: It’s not the ‘80s, nobody says “hack” anymore. Give me your login.  
    • Colonel James Rhodes: “WAR MACHINE ROX” with an “X,” all caps. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 3.3 
  • Opinion: Only slightly better than “Iron Man 2” because it’s the first time we see a vulnerable Tony Stark. The misdirection with the villain is an interesting twist, but Guy Pearce goes a bit overboard in his portrayal of Aldrich Killian. On the other hand, it was great to see Pepper Potts kicking butt. Tony should just give her all the armor. She’d make a better superhero. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Pepper Potts: Am I going to be OK?  
    • Tony Stark: No. You’re in a relationship with me, nothing will ever be OK. 

 THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I really liked it. It had a lot of action and good special effects. I liked the plot. My favorite scene was when Loki saved Thor. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Volstagg: If you even THINK about betraying him ...  
    • Loki: You’ll kill me? Evidently there will be a line. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.1 
  • Opinion: There’s more Shakespearian connotations, with family feuds and festering resentment playing a pivotal role in “Thor: The Dark World.” For nerds like me, this film is particularly fun because Thor must go head to head against Malekith, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC series “Doctor Who.” Some dislike this installment, claiming it is too dark or does not mesh well with the overriding story arc. I find its dark fantasy elements appealing.   
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Odin: She does not belong here in Asgard any more than a goat belongs at a banquet table! 

 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: Despite the darker tone of “Winter Soldier,” I enjoyed this one. It made important points about our world today. I felt empathy for Bucky’s situation. My favorite scene was when Bucky pulled Cap to shore. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Jasper Sitwell: Is this little display meant to insinuate that you’re gonna throw me off the roof? Because it’s really not your style, Rogers.  
    • Steve Rogers: You’re right. It’s not. It’s hers. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.9 
  • Opinion: Bleak and depressing, this marks the beginning of a dark phase in the MCU. Still, it’s the best film in the best trilogy of the entire series in my opinion. It delivers astute criticism of the contemporary military-industrial complex and of government-sanctioned surveillance of its own citizens. That social commentary doesn’t hamstring the action or muddy the plot. For me, this is the MCU at its finest. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Steve Rogers: Bucky?  
    • The Winter Soldier: Who the hell is Bucky? 

 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I loved this movie. It has a really great soundtrack. “Guardians of the Galaxy” features funny anti-heroes at its core. I like how they come together as a family. My favorite scene is when Star-Lord saves Gamora when she’s in space. 
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Groot: We are Groot. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.7 
  • Opinion: Just as I love “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” for its ominous tone and cynicism, I adore “Guardians of the Galaxy” for its facetiousness and optimism. Much like “Marvel’s The Avengers,” it’s the story of a ragtag team thrown together by fate that manages to overcome their differences and accomplish the impossible. Nowhere else in the MCU will you find the mix of action and humor this effective. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Drax the Destroyer: Where did you learn to do that?  
    • Peter Quill: I’m pretty sure the answer is: “I am Groot.” 

 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: It was great. I liked the soundtrack, especially the use of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” during the opening sequence. It was an outstanding follow-up to the first film. The conflict and reconciliation between Gamora and Nebula were moving. My favorite scene was the Baby Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky.”  
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Yondu : I’m Mary Poppins, y’all! 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.3 
  • Opinion: The second franchise installment is as much about the fight to keep this dysfunctional family from unraveling, as it is anything else. The plot is driven along by the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage, along with tangential storylines involving the Sovereign race as well as Yondu and the Ravager community. James Gunn deserves much of the credit for this film’s success. He wrote and directed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” He identified what worked in the first film and he improved upon it. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Peter Quill: You shouldn’t have killed my mom and squished my Walkman. 

 AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 3.0 
  • Opinion: It’s not my favorite film of the MCU, but it was OK. Some people were out of character. I thought the battle at the end dragged on too long. My favorite scene was when Natasha Romanoff kissed Bruce Banner. 
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Clint Barton: (to Wanda) Doesn’t matter what you did, or what you were. If you go out there, you fight, and you fight to kill. Stay in here, you’re good, I’ll send your brother to come find you. But if you step out that door, you are an Avenger. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 2.5 
  • Opinion: Joss Whedon crammed too much into this one. The story grows a bit unwieldy as new characters are introduced, returning characters are further developed and story seeds are planted which will come to fruition in future franchise installments. Added to the plot complexities are the mind games of Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) which send some of the heroes into perplexing dream sequences. The threat never seems as great as that of the previous Avengers film and, as usual, Tony Stark is just an awful human being. 
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Steve Rogers: You get hurt, hurt ‘em back. You get killed ... walk it off. 

 ANT-MAN (2015) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I liked the characters and the humor. “Ant-Man” is similar to “Guardians of the Galaxy” in its use of comedy. Paul Rudd’s performance of Scott Lang/Ant-Man was excellent. My favorite scene was when Hank Pym reveals the Wasp prototype suit and offers it to Hope Van Dyne.  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Scott Lang: No. Do not whistle. No whistling. It is not The Andy Griffith Show. No whistling. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 3.6 
  • Opinion: “Ant-Man” is a much-needed respite from some of the heaviest films in the MCU. It’s a fun, breezy rollercoaster ride. It’s like following up a Godfather film marathon with a viewing of “My Blue Heaven.” 
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Anything Luis says. 

 DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I liked it. It had really good special effects and lots of interesting characters. I enjoyed the action sequences, especially when they were fighting in the Mirror Universe. My favorite scene was when the Ancient One pushes Doctor Strange into the Astral Dimension.  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Doctor Strange: Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain! 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.7 
  • Opinion: I confess that the occult detective elements make this installment a personal favorite. It’s also nice that Stephen Strange – unlike Tony Stark – eventually acknowledges his arrogance and vanity and transforms into a better person. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
  • Dr. Stephen Strange: Well, what’s this? My mantra?  
    • Baron Mordo: The Wi-Fi password. We’re not savages.   

 CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 4.5 
  • Opinion: “Captain America: Civil War” is one of the darker movies in the MCU. It’s difficult to watch because the protagonists you like are fighting amongst themselves. I was rooting for Captain America. My favorite scene was when Ant-Man goes supersize!  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Spider-Man: (referring to Captain America’s shield) That thing doesn’t obey the laws of physics at all! 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.1 
  • Opinion: Dark and disconcerting, this one sees former friends brought to blows over a difference of ideology. It shows what happens when tact and civility are cast aside in favor of selfishness, vanity and sanctimoniousness. The screenplay is unnecessarily bloated, with too many characters to cover, too many subplots to follow. Still, the central conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark is as compelling as it is agonizing. Having watched all the movies over a short period of time, my biggest takeaway is that Tony is only one hissy-fit away from being a super-villain and that by this point in the series, any sympathy I had for the character has dwindled to almost nothing.
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Steve Rogers: This job ... we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody. But if we can’t find a way to live with that, next time ... maybe nobody gets saved. 

 SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I liked the movie and the characters. Tom Holland plays Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Holland does well with portraying Parker’s inexperience. I also like the fact that Zendaya plays Michelle “MJ” Jones. Zendaya starred in the title role of Disney Channel’s “KC Undercover.” My favorite scene in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was when MJ made friends with Peter and Ned. 
  • Favorite quote:  
    • Michelle: What are you hiding Peter? I’m just kidding. I don’t care. Bye. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 3.3 
  • Opinion: It’s more of a coming-of-age tale, with the main character dealing with all the normal teenage crises in addition to having to cope with superpowers and homicidal maniacs. Holland gives audiences a charmingly innocent Peter Parker, one whose childlike amazement over his powers and whose social awkwardness make him particularly appealing. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Peter Parker: So, to become an Avenger, are there like trials, or an interview?

 THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: “Thor: Ragnarok” has excellent effects and a fast-paced plot. It’s different from “Thor: The Dark World” because the character has changed. Although the threat to Asgard is serious, the tone of the film is lighter and there is plenty of humor. My favorite scene was when Thor and Loki make up.  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Loki: I have been falling for 30 minutes! 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.3 
  • Opinion: “Thor: Ragnarok” is relentless fun. A roller-coaster ride of intense action, screwball humor and swashbuckling heroes pitted against insurmountable odds, the film’s focus is on wild action, lush Jack Kirby-inspired scenery, tangential humor and Thor’s oddball companions. It’s light, cheeky and intoxicating while simultaneously bringing those epic battle sequences between gods, monsters and heroes to the screen. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Odin: Are you Thor, the god of hammers? 

 BLACK PANTHER (2018) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: With a cast that is predominantly black, “Black Panther” not only sets a new standard by introducing a non-Caucasian superhero but also by presenting an African nation – Wakanda – that is peaceful and technologically advanced. I like that it follows up on the story seeds found in “Captain America: Civil War” by showing how T’Challa ascends to the throne.  
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Okoye: Wakanda forever! 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.8 
  • Opinion: An outstanding film that exceeds expectations in every aspect. Director Ryan Coogler’s film transcends the superhero genre, tackling complex sociopolitical issues. It explores the consequences of colonialism, addresses slavery and human trafficking and examines the pros and cons of isolationism. It deals with race, identity politics and nationalism. It acknowledges that the transgressions of the past can foul the future – and it still sees hope and the capacity for global harmony. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • M’Baku: If you say one more word, I’ll feed you to my children … I’m kidding. We’re vegetarians. 

 AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: It was good, but it was dark and it ended on a cliffhanger. I enjoyed seeing all the superheroes meet each other and work together. I am concerned with the fates of many characters and hope that “Avengers: Endgame” will bring a happier ending.  
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Peter Quill: Exactly like Footloose. Is it still the greatest movie in history?  
    • Peter Parker: It never was. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 4.4 
  • Opinion: So grim yet so spectacular. It’s not perfect, but “Avengers: Infinity War” earns points for successfully juggling so many characters. Marvel comic book fans have always loved unusual mashups. In “Avengers: Infinity War,” audiences get to see some new superhero pairings, including Iron Man and Doctor Strange tag-teaming some of Thanos’ minions. 
  • Favorite exchange: 
    • Rocket Raccoon: You speak Groot?  
    • Thor: Yes, they taught it on Asgard. It was an elective. 

 ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018) 

BCZ 

  • Rating: 5.0 
  • Opinion: I liked it. I’m glad that it showed what happened while everyone was fighting Thanos. I liked that it introduced a new character (The Wasp) and I like that Ant-Man and Wasp show teamwork and grow closer as friends. My favorite scene was when they found Hope’s mother. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Cassie: (to Scott) You can do it. You can do anything. You’re the world’s greatest grandma. 

LCZ 

  • Rating: 3.7 
  • Opinion: Ant-Man exists in a cozy corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Audiences may not feel a deep emotional attachment to these characters, but that doesn’t make them less compelling. If anything, the personal relationships in this film – particularly between Scott and Hope as well as the father-daughter relationship between Scott and Cassie – are surprisingly tender and well rendered. 
  • Favorite quote: 
    • Dr. Hank Pym: Are you going to keep staring at each other until they start shooting at us? 

Lee Clark Zumpe is entertainment editor at Tampa Bay Newspapers and an author of short fiction appearing in select anthologies and magazines. B.C. Zumpe, Lee’s 12-year-old daughter, is a middle school student, film buff and aspiring writer and director.