The MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE Knockout: Round 1 THE AVENGERS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Avengers disassembled...

It's time for the sixth and penultimate match-up in Round 1 of our great Marvel Cinematic Universe movie knock-out. Having eliminated Far From Home in favour of Spider-man: Homecoming, Iron Man 2 and 3 leaving the original 2008 offering, Vol 1 of Guardians of the Galaxy in favour of Vol 2. Ant-Man and The Wasp losing out to the 2015 original, and the first two Thor gilms making way for Thor: Ragnarok, today we turn our attention to the four Avengers films.

So without further ado let's get to it and decide which assembled adventures is the best and is worthy of a spot in Round 2. Spoilers will feature from the off.

The 2012 debut ensemble outing for Earth's mightiest heroes was something of a triumph upon release. Impressing both critics and audience alike. I remember a review at the time commenting how well Joss Whedon manages to juggle the cast, giving each the right amount of screen-time. As true as that may be, Whedon had it easy compared to Joe & Anthony Russo's task of incorporating, what felt like, close to a thousand characters in Infinity War / Endgame.

That said, the review is spot on, and Whedon's love and respect for the characters and their respective comic books shines throughout. It's action packed, emotional, comical, fantastical but surprisingly grounded, and more than anything that came before it set the tone for the future of the MCU. The stakes are higher than anything we'd seen before, both on screen and for the production of the film itself. Just think, if Whedon had delivered a Justice League-esque finished product back in 2012 we likely wouldn't be anticipating the arrival of Phase Four today.

But time hasn't necessarily been kind to The Avengers, even though it's a mere seven years old Marvel have continuously evolved and perfected the production of superhero movies. Indeed, it is the later Avengers films which have made the first team-up adventure feel a lot more dated than it actually is. Today, when re-watching, it sort of plays out like a TV movie - albeit the most expensive one you're likely to see.

Age Of Ultron arrived three years later. Expectations were high. Possibly too high, setting the movie up for sure-fire failure. It didn't bomb of course, but as The Dark World is to the Thor films, Age Of Ultron is for The Avengers. It exists but it's unlikely to rate too highly on anybody's list of favourite Marvel films.

I personally don't think it's anywhere near as bad as many people make out. Yes, James Spader's Ultron is not as good of a villain as Tom Hiddleston's Loki, but the camaraderie of the team feels so much more natural here, even if it is at times a fragile alliance. I'm also quite fond of the scene at Hawkeye's farm, it's a moment of revealing respite before the film becomes an overly heavy CGI extravaganza.

But, let's face it, you and I both know Age Of Ultron is clearly not making it into round two.

Ah, Infinity War you marvelous beast you. Endgame was always promoted as the culmination of the 21 Marvel films released before it, but Infinity War had the harder task, I believe, as this was the point where 18 of those MCU adventures converged. Endgame, although no small task, simply picks up the threads from this film.

Right from the outset, as characters we've known and loved are, seemingly, dispensed with in the first few frames, Infinity War reveals its stakes and never once lowers them. It is the most brave and ballsy film I can think off.

I strongly feel that there is no area of Infinity War which disappoints. It's unlike anything ever witnessed before in the history of cinema. Just as that critic commented about Joss Whedon, the Russo's masterfully juggle the massive roster of 30+ MCU characters, again every single one of them getting the screen time they deserve (inc Hawkeye - joke!). They also perfectly present the constantly shifting tones and modes of the story. Infinity War blows your mind and breaks your heart. Often in the same scene.

Thanos is such a complex character. There's a perfectly reasonable method to his madness, and the tragic twists and turns in his relationships with his estranged adopted daughter, Gamora, is made all the more unsettling because you actually feel his pain even though he committed the heinous act.

Infinity War ends even more bravely than it began, with a final ten minutes that will haunt and horrify you in equal measure. It's a stroke of bold, brilliant genius, and a narrative risk so audacious that you could never, ever not want to find out what happens next.

What happens next is Endgame. A movie that does not short change its predecessor, and one which would become the biggest grossing film of all time.

Like Infinity War it succeeds in every element required of it, and despite its three hour run time does not overstay its welcome. Every second is used to near perfection, with a masterful understanding of the characters and their respective relationships. This is just my opinion of course, as Endgame seems to have become the Marmite of Marvel movies.

The one area where I can, to a degree, understand the negativity is the time travel and deus ex machina nature of it. But it doesn't overly bother me, certainly doesn't spoil the film for me (and it was so great being able to revisit classic MCU moments in a Back To The Future 2 style), and once Doctor Strange was introduced to the MCU time travel was always going to be a possibility somewhere in the franchise. Others complained that the rules of Endgame's time travel were nonsensical and with Cap's final scene end up contradicting themselves. Perhaps they do, yet there's one thing that we should've learned from the, what is now, 23 entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, don't take everything at face value as it's quite likely what might seem a glaring error is layering for a future adventure.

Between Endgame and Infinity War there is but a slither of preference for me, and as only one can go through to round 2 of our Marvel Cinematic Universe it'll have to be...

...Infinity War. From the shockingly bleak opening it just never let's go of you, but it's that final ten minutes for me that really secure its place in the next round. Even after multiple viewings I'm still rooting for the team on Titan and their attempt to subdue Thanos and remove the infinity gauntlet, despite knowing full well their plan is doomed. I probably should've been expecting it but it really was just such a knockout way to finish a film.

So we have Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-man: Homecoming, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Ant-Man in round two of our Marvel Cinematic Universe knockout. They will be joined by a Captain America adventure, and next time we will discover which one.

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