Over the last few years my partner and I decided to tackle the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Neither of us were big into the story, having each seen only a few of the films, and now wanted to see this thing that had taken over popular culture. So, armed with a Disney+ subscription, we embarked on the journey of The Infinity Saga.
There is much debate online about the order in which one should watch the films. There are two main options: (1) as they were released to us or (2) the timeline within the universe. There are of course pros and cons to each (e.g., the after-credits scenes not making sense if you go with option 2) but we decided to go with the timeline within the universe. I don’t recall why we picked this option but I suspect it was because we didn’t want to be distracted by sorting out when a moment/film fit into the overall timeline and didn’t care about the after-credits scenes; we already knew what films/characters were involved. Regardless, we watched the films in the timeline of the universe and to make things more interesting I kept a running ranking that I updated after each film. The end result looks like a poorly organized subway system:
(click image to embiggen)
In the end I most enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and least enjoyed two (of the three) Thor and two (of the three) Iron Man films, with The Incredible Hulk sandwiched in between them. You can see how things shifted as we worked our way through the story. It should be clear that I did not reevaluate a film once it had been ranked (things don’t ever move up the list after a new film is watched).
After going through this exercise I wanted to see how my rankings compared with the rankings at popular film rating websites. So for each of these 23 Infinity Saga films, I grabbed the Rotten Tomatoes Critics and Audience scores (/100), the IMDB rating (/10), and then Metacritic score (/100), and then used the scores to generate a set of rankings on each measure. Here is a comparison between my rankings, the Rotten Tomatoes critics rankings, and the IMDB ranking:
I more often aligned with the Rotten Tomatoes critics than with the IMDB rankings. It turns out that my rankings most closely aligned with the Rotten Tomatoes critics and deviated the most from the Rotten Tomatoes audience rankings. The correlations between my rankings and those of the ratings sites are here. As compared with the critics the biggest differences are between: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Endgame. Seems like other than Endgame I enjoyed the Avengers ensemble films more.
Generally, the ratings/rankings across the sites are quite consistent with each other (r2 between 0.21 and 0.69) but there are interesting differences. For example, the Rotten Tomatoes Critics and Audience scores:
Points falling on the line represent exact correspondence between scores. Captain Marvel is a pretty clear outlier. The wildly out-of-step audience score seems to be a situation of sexist trash on the internet and negative review bombing. As you can see in my final rankings I thought Captain Marvel was one of the bottom tier films (a ranking in line with the Critics) but it had little to do with a female lead or some issue with Brie Larson, I recall thinking that Captain Marvel was just too powerful.
After going through The Infinity Saga we intended on carrying on to The Multiverse Saga and beyond but have been mostly disappointed in what has come after The Infinity Saga. We have seen Black Widow, WandaVision, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and felt they were all somewhere between really bad, bad, and meh. At one point during Thor: Love and Thunder we asked each other if the movie was supposed to be funny or serious and wondered if we had become too old to appreciate the comedy. Guardians 3 is basically a series of large action scenes with extremely low probability events coming out in favour of the Guardians and Chris Pratt reminding you every 15 minutes that the movie is about “saving our friend, Rocket!”.
The rankings and analysis shown above don’t say much of anything about what we actually thought of the films themselves, they just show how we thought of them relative to each other. Our opinions are probably not as strong as Scorsese but they certainly lean in that direction and Multiverse releases have done nothing to move us from that line of thinking. And to be clear it is not that we are comic book movie’d out. We loved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse. Those two would probably slot in the top five of these rankings. In any case, I doubt we will keep up with or pursue the MCU as we did with The Infinity Saga.