Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers: Infinty War is the remarkable culmination of ten years of superhero filmmaking. When Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios first embarked on this bold venture it seemed farfetched that it would reach its current level of success. But now, even lesser known comic characters like The Guardians of the Galaxy have become household names. All of the movies in the MCU haven’t been classic, but some are incredible. So here is my rank of all of the movies that have made up the greatest comic book franchise in film history so far. (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen some of these movies)

18. THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

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This film wasn’t awful. In fact, in comparison to Ang Lee’s non-MCU Hulk film, it’s fantastic. But the film isn’t remotely memorable and was the first inclination that this universe might not succeed. Other than an appearance from Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in Captain America: Civil War and a post-credit cameo by Tony Stark, it has no real connection to the rest of the franchise. Edward Norton’s stale performance doesn’t help, and it makes me wonder what this movie might’ve been if Mark Ruffalo had starred in it instead.

17. IRON MAN 3 (2013)

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The most egregious error of this film is making a mockery out of The Mandarin, Iron Man’s arch nemesis in the comics. But there are a ton of other problems with it too. Rhodey doesn’t do much of anything and too much of the film is spent with Tony Stark out of his Iron Man armor. There was also a few plot holes and the arc of Stark mentoring a young boy fell flat. The biggest saving grace is the army of Iron Man suits that shows up in the climax, but even that was spoiled by the trailers.

16. THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

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Like The Incredible Hulk, this film was also unmemorable and had by far the weakest villain of all the MCU films. It also brought back the useless humans of the previous Thor movie. But there are some bright spots that keep it from being terrible. There was the great chemistry between Thor and his brother Loki, as well as a pretty awesome fight sequence that showed how much of a bad ass Thor’s mother Frigga is.

15. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

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This movie was a letdown for me. It was far too much like the first Avengers and had a lot of left field plot points. Hawkeye having a family, Thor going to a “mind bath” that foreshadowed the Infinity Stones, and the random romance between Hulk and Black Widow were just some of the things that just felt out of place. Even Ultron, though performed impeccably by James Spader, felt underutilized. So while there are some awesome moments, the muddle of characters and frenetic plot made this movie underwhelming.

14. IRON MAN 2 (2010)

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This movie is better after repeated viewings, but it still pales in comparison to the first Iron Man film. The plot goes all over the place, with Tony inventing a new element in one day and Black Widow’s debut feeling forced. The story also doesn’t do enough to develop Mickey Rourke’s villain Ivan Vanko, but it does feature Tony Stark’s impressive suit case armor and a nice climactic battle with Don Cheadle finally debuting as Iron Man’s partner War Machine.

13. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

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The movie was certainly entertaining. But it was hard to live up to the hype of the previous Guardians film’s breakout success. The biggest problem with this movie, other than the muddled plot, is that it tries too hard to be funny. Jokes are thrown at the audience at every turn, often undermining serious moments. Meanwhile characters like Dave Bautista’s Drax get virtually nothing to do other than be another form of comic relief. And even though the death of Yondu was a nice endearing touch, the father-son dynamic between he and Star Lord felt forced.

12. THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

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Just like Guardians 2, this movie hurts itself by constantly trying to be funny. It’s even more unusual here, as the plot revolves around very serious stakes including the apocalypse of Thor’s homeworld, Asgard. It also doesn’t feel true to the other Thor films, as it discards important supporting characters from the previous films like they never even mattered. The movie does make up for some of its flaws thanks to some awesome action sequences and good chemistry between the cast.

11. THOR (2011)

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The parts spent on Earth aren’t very interesting at all. But this is still the most compelling Thor movie. The visuals are stunning and Tom Hiddleston’s debut as Loki is nothing short of sensational. Up until Black Panther, his performance was by far the greatest villain in the MCU and it gave this movie a Shakespearean feel when it focused on Asgard and not humans.

10. CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011)

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I thoroughly enjoy this movie more than most. Chris Evans’ performance as scrawny do gooder turned super soldier is fantastic. The World War II vibe is a unique touch and the movie paces well. The only real flaw is the unfortunately underwhelming portrayal of The Red Skull, Cap’s arch nemesis. When you cast someone like Hugo Weaving for your villain, you expect a little more nuance then your run of the mill megalomaniac.

9. ANT-MAN (2015)

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Like Guardians of the Galaxy, this movie was a pleasant surprise. Marvel was smart to make it more of a heist film than a superhero origin story, which gives it a distinctive quality among the genre. The villain isn’t memorable and there are a ton of hokey moments, but Paul Rudd manages to be a compelling lead and the visuals to this movie are absolutely incredible.

8. AVENGERS (2012)

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This was the movie that first proved that mixing a bunch of superheroes from different worlds could work. The chemistry among the cast is perfection and many of the action sequences are jaw dropping. But let’s not act like the plot to this film wasn’t weak. Loki just brings a random alien army to earth and the superheroes team up. Not exactly nuanced stuff.

7. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

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Tom Holland cemented himself as a perfect Peter Parker with this coming of age story mixed with superhero flare. The supporting cast brings great comedic timing and every piece serves a purpose. Michael Keaton brings his A-game as one of the MCU’s best villains and Robert Downey Jr. does a great job in the mentor role. If there were more action in this movie, it would be higher on the list.

6. DR. STRANGE (2016)

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Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely kills it as the arrogant and downtrodden Stephen Strange. Chiwetel Ejiofor also is great as good guy turned future villain Baron Mordo. And even though the Mads Mikkelsen’s villain isn’t wholly memorable, the plot paces well, the humor doesn’t feel forced, and the visuals are some of the most impressive in superhero cinematic history.

5. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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Easily the most surprising success in the MCU’s history. This movie is fun from start to finish and Director James Gunn does a wonderful job to pace the story and center the plot around its eclectic, yet charismatic characters. Even though the movie features another generic villain in Ronan, there are enough stakes to make the journey worthwhile. Chris Pratt is phenomenal as Peter Quill and the movie’s comedy feels organic. The film’s soundtrack is also another plus.

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

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While it was by no means as massive as the comic book event it is named after, Civil War ended up righting many of the wrongs from Age of Ultron. The dynamic between Tony and Cap came together well to create stakes that felt higher than in any previous MCU film. The epic airport battle and the successful introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man into the franchise help make this into one of the best film’s of the MCU’s Phase III.

3. IRON MAN (2008)

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We wouldn’t even be here without this breakout hit. As superhero origin stories go, this film had virtually everything. A flawed, but charismatic hero in Robert Downey Jr.’s debut as Tony Stark, a strong supporting cast, and fantastic special effects. It revealed the MCU’s potential and made Iron Man a household name. If only they could’ve recaptured this magic. Neither of its sequels were able to match it’s perfect blend of tone, pacing, and action.

2. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

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The Russo Brothers, who also directed Civil War and are set to make Infinity War and Avengers 4, turned this Cap film into an exhilarating thriller that felt like more than a superhero film. Chris Evans once again turned in an earnest portrayal as Captain America and the film’s political undertones also made the movie feel as nuanced as it was action packed. Fun supporting characters, brilliant fight choreography, and an interesting plot made this my #1 MCU film up until 2018…

1. BLACK PANTHER (2018)

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No, I’m not being prisoner of the moment here. This movie isn’t just the best movie in the MCU, it’s possibly the greatest superhero film ever made. Chadwick Boseman’s performance has James Bond levels of suave. But the supporting cast is what makes this movie transcendent. The horde of strong, magnetic female characters each add something to both the story and the hero’s journey. Even characters like Winston Duke’s M’Baku manage to shine in only about twenty minutes of screen time. The villains are also sensational. Andy Serkis brings comedic charisma to the role of Ulysses Claue while Michael B. Jordan delivers an incredibly passionate and endearing performance as Erik Killmonger, an antagonist whose compelling ideology leads to enlightenment and growth for the protagonist. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, the action sequences are jaw dropping. No other MCU film is as fun and thematically profound as Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther.

There you have it. Don’t like my rankings? Feel free to comment your thoughts and share which MCU films are your favorite. As always, thanks for reading, liking, and sharing!

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2nd Annual Moore Review Awards (2018)

mr2017What are the Moore Review Awards? I’d like to think of them as something between the Oscars and the MTV Movie Awards. The MRA’s were conceived to show appreciation for all of the genres that make up a great year at the movies and not just the art films. Here, we recognize that the performances and stories told in comedies and superhero films can be just as gripping as the dramas and thrillers. The only stipulation is that the movie must have been released in the calendar year of 2017 to be considered. So without, further ado… here are the winners of the 2nd Annual Moore Review Awards! Feel free to share, like and comment your thoughts! SIDENOTE: SPOILERS ABOUND!

 

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE

Bronze: Lil’ Rel Howley (Get Out) – Howley brought some well timed humor as the best friend we all dream of in this 2017 hit.

Silver: Kevin Hart (Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle) – Hart’s shtick might be getting a little old, but for whatever reason it worked wonderfully here as the jock turned vertically challenged video game sidekick.

Winner: Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) – This one really wasn’t that close, to be honest. Haddish brought exuberance and sass in her breakout role and turned what was already a fun film into an absolute blast.

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Other nominees: Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Sharlto Copley (Free Fire), Finn Wolfhard (It)

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Bronze: Ghost in the Shell – The story didn’t exactly resonate, but the futuristic design was a perfect recreation of the anime source material.

Silver: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – A lackluster narrative kept this film from being a classic, but the visuals and design of the futuristic worlds were absolutely stunning.

Winner: Star Wars: The Last Jedi – The climactic scene on the salt planet Crait alone is worthy of this film getting this award. Fans may be torn on the stories of these new films, but the visuals have been breathtaking.

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Other nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok

 

BEST SOUNDTRACK

Bronze: Star Wars: The Last Jedi – John Williams’ incredible score is once again timeless. The newer music created for the series has managed to feel like a welcomed addition alongside the music from the original trilogy.

Silver: Baby Driver – Edgar Wright’s brilliant screenplay was made all the more unique by a soundtrack that mixed several genres of music seamlessly with its fast paced narrative.

Winner: The Greatest Showman – The composers behind La La Land outdid themselves with this musical. With a mixture of gospel, pop, and R&B, they managed to create something unique and yet not out of place in the film’s early 1900’s setting.

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Other nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

 

BEST ACTION SEQUENCE

Bronze: The Stairwell Fight Scene (Atomic Blonde) – The plot to this movie was all over the place, but the battle between Charlize Theron’s spy character and a horde of German henchmen was exhilaratingly brutal.

Silver: Kylo Ren and Ray team up (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) – This unorthodox lightsaber battle might be one of the best action scenes in franchise history. From the start, it feels like something we all wanted to happen from the conclusion of Episode VII.

Winner: The Opening Getaway (Baby Driver) – With style and some jaw dropping car stunts, the start of this movie sets the tone for one of the best films of the year.

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Other nominees: The Amazons vs. Steppenwolf (Justice League), Logan and X23’s limo escape (Logan), Keanu Reaves vs. Common (John Wick 2)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Bronze: Hong Chau (Downsizing) – Her charismatic performance turned an otherwise boring film into something fairly heartwarming.

Silver: Silvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049) – She might not have been the primary villain of this noir thriller, but her stoic yet devious performance was one of the film’s most memorable.

Winner: Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) – If you’ve seen this movie, this should be no surprise. Haddish was a scene stealer, managing to be the life of the party despite sharing the screen with three A-listers.

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Other nominees: Elizabeth Olsen (Ingrid Goes West), Zendaya (The Greatest Showman), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Bronze: R.J. Cyler (Power Rangers) – Whatever this adaptation of the 90’s television hit lacked in action, it made up for in character development. And no character shined like Billy. They took a risk giving the character high functioning autism, but it paid off as Cyler’s performance was the glue that made the team feel genuine.

Silver: Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) – In his return to the role that made him famous, Hamill brought surprising emotional depth without managing to lose the wit and boyish charm that made Luke Skywalker a classic character forty years ago.

Winner: Patrick Stewart (Logan) – We’d never seen Professor X like this before. Stewart was absolutely brilliant as the withered old former mentor of the X-Men, giving the character some edge in this ‘R’ rated film without compromising the fatherly nature of the character.

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Other nominees: Dave Franco (The Disaster Artist), Armie Hammer (Free Fire), Tom Hanks (The Post)

 

BEST ADAPTATION

Bronze: Power Rangers – Say what you want about the lack of action. If it bothers you that much, just go watch Pacific Rim. What made this sequel a blast for any child of the 90’s was how wonderfully they adapted and updated the team of heroes. Here’s hoping they’re able to get a sequel off the ground.

Silver: Wonder Woman – Comic book nerds complain all the time about minor changes to film adaptations, but here there should be nothing to nitpick about. From the plot, to the supporting cast to the leading lady, this was the film the most popular female superhero in history deserved.

Winner: It – With an exuberant cast of charismatic youngsters and a wickedly creepy performance by Bill Skargard, this movie ended up being a perfect recreation of both the Stephen King novel and the 80’s television min-series.

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Other nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wonder

 

BEST ONSCREEN ROMANCE

Bronze: Ansel Egort and Lily James (Baby Driver) – With great music to bridge their relationship, these two ended up being an adorable couple with some ‘high school sweetheart’ style charm.

Silver: Aubrey Plaza and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ingrid Goes West) – If you haven’t seen this movie, you should definitely check it out. The chemistry between these two unlikely lovers ended up being this movie’s most endearing quality.

Winner: Ryan Gosling and Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049) – Who knew a relationship between an artificial human and an artificial intelligence could be this likable. The chemistry and homely charm between these two made the movie’s tragic tone even more captivating.

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Other nominees: Zac Efron and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman), Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones (The Shape of Water), Gal Gadot and Chris Pine (Wonder Woman)

 

BEST ONSCREEN TEAM

Bronze: Dacre Montgomery, R.J. Cyler, Naomi Scott, Becky G, Ludi Lin (Power Rangers) – They did the original 90’s group of teenagers with attitude justice. Not only did they have great chemistry that was well constructed throughout the narrative, but they each had interesting backgrounds and character motivations that made them feel relatable to a modern audience.

Silver: Dwyane Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillian (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) – Hilarious doesn’t begin to describe this group. Their different styles of comedic timing played well off of each other and helped this movie become a surprise sensation.

Winner: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen (Logan) – The fun and emotionally dysfunctional family dynamic of these three is what turned Logan from an exciting action film into one of the best comic book movies of all time.

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Other nominees: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa (Justice League), Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith (Girls Trip), The Losers (It)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Bronze: Split – M. Night Shyamalan had been in my doghouse for years, but making a horror thriller where a group of teens are held captive by a man with multiple personality disorder is pretty intriguing stuff. The fact that it also ended up being a quasi-sequel to Unbreakable was also pretty brilliant.

Silver: Baby Driver – Car chases, unique characters, an endearing lead, and a rhythmic soundtrack. Edgar Wright has some great films but this is arguably his best.

Winner: Get Out – Every scene is pertinent. This intense, racially charged script is an absolute marvel that turns the genre on its head.

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Other nominees: The Shape of Water, Coco, Free Fire

 

BEST VILLAIN

Bronze: Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water) – Shannon’s calculatingly methodical performance made this unhinged character steal the show in Guillermo Del Toro’s bizarre romantic drama.

Silver: Bill Skarsgard (It) – From the mannerisms to the voice, Skarsgard’s turn as Pennywise the dancing clown was the gripping centerpiece of 2017’s best horror film.

Winner: Jamie Foxx (Baby Driver) – With style, loads of charisma, and some witty one liners, Foxx’s performance as Bats was one of the many memorable pieces to this exhilarating thriller.

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Other nominees: Charlize Theron (Fate of the Furious), Michael Keaton (Spider-Man: Homecoming), James McAvoy (Split)

 

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Bronze: Despicable Me 3 – The plot might not have been up to par with its predecessors, but Illumination Studios managed to create a heartfelt family movie that was a massive upgrade from 2015’s Minions.

Silver: The Lego Batman Movie – This goofy but endearing movie is proof that the Dark Knight can still be cool and fun even with loads of campiness.

Winner: Coco – Pixar strikes again with a movie that is undeniably brilliant from its breathtaking animation to its tear inducing story. It also deserves tons of credit for its beautiful portrayal of Mexican culture. Representation matters.

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Other nominee – Cars 3

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Bronze: Denis Villenueve (Blade Runner 2049) – Villenueve lands in this spot for the 2nd straight year. This sequel to the 80’s cult sci-fi noir classic improves on the stunning visuals and soundtrack with a script that is intensely captivating.

Silver: Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) – Stylish and intense from beginning to end. The charismatic characters and use of music to enhance the narrative are why this film is an instant classic.

Winner: Jordan Peele (Get Out) – Move over Alfred Hitchcock. Peele’s directorial debut was a masterpiece of filmmaking. Every shot and every single scene from the camera work to the meticulous dialogue holds purpose and meaning.

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Other Nominees: James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman)

 

BEST ACTRESS

Bronze: Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West) – Plaza’s pertinent performance as the social media stalker in this indi-film was both humorously awkward and beautifully tragic.

Silver: Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) – Building on her fantastic cameo in the otherwise dull Batman v Superman, Gadot brought toughness, charm, and grace to the role as the iconic Amazonian warrior.

Winner: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) – She managed to be endearing, witty, and headstrong in a role that required her to use only sign language. If that isn’t great acting then I don’t know what is.

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Other nominees: Brie Larson (Free Fire), Meryl Streep (The Post), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

 

BEST ACTOR

Bronze: James Franco (The Disaster Artist) – Franco absolutely embodied the personality of the Tommy Wisseau, from the awkward mannerisms and accent to the childish charm.

Silver: Hugh Jackman (Logan) – At this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone else ever playing the grizzled comic hero. In what was likely his last portrayal of the character, Jackman brought more intensity and emotion than ever before.

Winner: James McAvoy (Split) – This felt like a no-brainer to me. McAvoy’s performance as a man with multiple personalities was one of the most captivating I’ve ever seen. Portraying a woman, a pervert, a child, and a gay artist in one movie and making it feel like they’re all genuine personas is nothing short of incredible.

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Other nominees: Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Jacob Tremblay (Wonder)

 

BEST MOVIE

Bronze: Coco – A beautiful story about family and supporting dreams, trademark perfect animation from Pixar, fun characters, and a radiant homage to a rich culture. There’s nothing to dislike about this animated classic.

Silver: Logan – Gritty and exciting from start to finish, Logan was more than just a comic book film. It took established characters and brought them even more nuance with an endearing story that felt ever more tangible with the western noir style of filmmaking.

Winner: Baby Driver – With originality and undeniable flare, this movie never stopped flowing. It had every element of what makes a movie memorable and exciting.

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Other nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Free Fire, The Disaster Artist, Get Out, Wonder

 

Did I forget anything? If I did, it’s probably because I didn’t see the movie (Sorry, Lady Bird). Thanks for another year of likes, shares, and comments! Here’s to another fun year of great performances and stories at the movies!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Full Review)

No film in Disney/Marvel’s massive gallery was as much of a surprise success as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film about a ragtag group of space anti-heroes transcended its lesser known source material to become a fun summer blockbuster full of exhilarating action and humor. But it’s hard to follow up a breakout hit with something better or even just as good. Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron showed us, that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe always keeps things entertaining, sometimes their sequels can’t quite live up to the hype.

GotG_Vol2_posterGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the adventures of a group of intergalactic heroes for hire. Returning are Drax (Dave Bautista), a slow witted mustle man who lacks subtlety; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a rude and violent talking raccoon; Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a naive tree monster reduced to baby form following the first film’s climax; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) skiled assassin and daughter to a space tyrant, and Peter “Star Lord” Quill, (Chris Pratt), an Earthling with a human mother and an alien father he’s never met. After the crew makes enemies out of a society of genetic purists (led by Elizabeth Debicki), the Guardians encounter Ego (Kurt Russell), an antient, powerful being claiming to be Quill’s father, and his socially awkward aprentice, named Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Michael Rooker also returns as Quill’s former mentor Yondu, and Karen Gillan reprises her role as Gamora’s sister/hated rival, Nebula.

As it turns out, Guardians Vol. 2 has many of the same problems as Iron Man 2 and Age of Ultron in that it seems more concerned with making the audience laugh and giving them shiny new CGI to gawk at than with forming a coherent narrative. As such, the plot to this film is all over the place for the majority of its seemingly lengthy runtime. There are far too many threads that are overly emphasized such as a subplot about Yondu’s connection to a former mentor (played by Sylvester Stallone) and his dismissal from the bounty hunting Ravagers. It isn’t until the admittedly exciting climax that things seem to actually come together, but the means hardly justifies the ends.

There’s still a great bit of humor throughout. Dave Bautista (who has greatly improved since his acting debut) is hilarious in every scene and most of the banter between the team is fun. But even here, things don’t feel as consistently organic as they did the first go round. Too much of the jokes are awkwardly raunchy (get ready for penis jokes… yes, penis jokes), and the cartoony slapstick is so abundant that it often undermines scenes that should probably be taken more seriously.

The film manages to add some weighty emotional moments to make the story feel grounded and a bit more necessary. A few scenes between Saldana’s Gamora and Gillan’s Nebula do a fantastic job of adding depth to both characters. In fact, most of the cast deserves credit for injecting likability into each of their characters. But with the story, much of the humor, and even the soundtrack all feeling like a step down, its hard to make a case that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is memorable. Not every follow up is going to be The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, but I can’t help but feel like characters this fun deserve an adventure that isn’t predominantly a throw away.

FINAL GRADE: C

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Probably better off waiting for Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money