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Avengers: Endgame -- I binged every Marvel movie and I regret nothing

My marathon took place over 35 days and allowed me to really appreciate the MCU. Bring it on, Endgame!

avengers-endgame-poster-square-crop

I'm ready for you guys now. 

Marvel Studios

You know something? These Marvel movies are pretty good.

Until about a month ago I'd never seen any of them all the way through. No Iron Man, no Captain America and definitely no Avengers: Infinity War. It was a glaring cultural blind spot. The release of Avengers: Endgame provided the perfect excuse to fix it.

So in anticipation of Endgame's release on April 26, I've spent a good chunk of my recent evenings watching all 21 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I've ingested more superhero awesomeness than any mortal should. I managed to avoid spoiling anything, which would make the Russo brothers happy. And I've also been live-tweeting my random dumb thoughts as I watch, because sharing is caring.

Now I'm done, and it feels great. Granted, my marathon wasn't quite as intense as my CNET co-worker Abrar Al-Heeti's 59-hour back-to-back run, but it was still pretty intense. Now I'm caught up with the rest of humanity, ready to find out what comes next.

Now playing: Watch this: Watching the MCU movies in the perfect order
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What my month-long Marvel binge taught me

Alright, some crazy people like my colleague Abrar Al-Heeti are watching them all back-to-back, and more power to her. I can't begin to imagine doing that. 

Even maintaining my relatively leisurely pace of roughly a film every 1.7 days I feel like I missed plenty of stuff, and am already looking forward to rewatching them. The good news is that I was able to appreciate them individually and as a group. Here's a few takeaways.

  • I legitimately loved many more of these films than I thought I would. The best are superb examples of moviemaking and even the worst had great moments. I don't regret watching any of them.
  • My favorite overall so far is Infinity War, followed by the first Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok. The first two are multi-hero ensembles while the latter was just a friggin' blast. 
  • Some of the origin stories were great too. My favorites were Spider-Man: Homecoming, the original Iron Man and Captain Marvel. My experience of the last one was enhanced by watching in the theater with my daughters.
  • What impressed me most about the MCU, especially after watching them all in close succession so the in-world build was fresh in my mind, was the way the characters came together and interacted. 
  • The level of humor was consistently awesome in many films. The funniest to me was Thor: Ragnarok but Ant-Man (the original) and Spider-Man: Homecoming were up there too. I can also see why a lot of people love the two Guardians films, but I thought they tried too hard.
  • The action sequences rocked but Winter Soldier and Civil War stood out, as did a couple of the the major battles in the original Avengers, Age of Ultron and the incredible epic clashes during Infinity War. The freeway fight in Winter Soldier was the best in the MCU.
  • The gut-punch at the end of Infinity War hit all the harder because of the affinity I had developed in such a short time with the heroes. I was glad to have Captain Marvel and Ant-Man to help recover afterward.
  • My final four watch order deviated from official CNET canon because twitter. I can see why some people might enjoy IW and Endgame back-to-back, but I really wanted to watch all the end-credit scenes (I'm kind of a completeist), and following that canon meant I would've had to skip a few to avoid spoilers. 


Anyway here's my final reports and twitter threads along with my personal rankings (note: I am not a real expert). For everyone who followed along and gave me advice on twitter, thanks. 

Now playing: Watch this: Watching the MCU movies in the perfect order
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Captain America: The First Avenger

I really liked it. I was totally unfamiliar with the story. The CGI'd small-to-large hero, the Captain's stage career and the period setting in general were refreshing highlights.

Iron Man 

Even better. Tony Stark's playboy character threw me at first, but the awesomeness of his gadgets, his personal quest to make real power armor, and the overall humor really won me over.

The Incredible Hulk

Not good. It had its moments, particularly during the setup and with the introduction of wacky Mr. Blue. But overall it's much more of a downer than the first two, and kinda plodded along.

Iron Man 2

Not as good as the first one but still enjoyable, especially after The Incredible Hulk. The quintessential scene was Tony drunk at his own birthday party shooting the watermelon. Priceless.

Thor

All of a sudden the superheroes are gods. There's magic, space travel and mythology set in a breathtaking new fantasy multiverse. To this nerdy D&D alum, Thor was manna from Asgard.

The Avengers

Easily the best one yet, and a contender for my top 10 favorite movies of all time. All those personalities, motivations and superpowers kept me enthralled without becoming entangled. Another level altogether.

Iron Man 3

I came out of The Avengers hoping for more superhero world-building, but what I got was all-too-human Tony dealing with PTSD and getting help from a scrappy kid in Tennessee. Still a lot of fun despite the narrower scope.

Thor: The Dark World

This one was a disappointment -- barely better than The Incredible Hulk -- and not just because the dark elves were meh. It seems like the most generic superhero of the series so far: too much empty action, not enough care.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Going in, I'd heard from multiple people that this was their favorite MCU movie overall, and I can see why. It's a masterpiece of tight pacing and unbelievable action tempered by nuanced character building and, yes, realism in a comic book movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy

I watched this one and Vol. 2 as a Friday night double feature, and both felt less connected to any of the other films. Still a blast though. I like this one better because it's funnier -- best rapid-fire dialog of the MCU -- and I enjoyed meeting all the colorful characters for the first time. 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Plenty of LOL moments and an absolutely killer final scene, but this one felt bogged down in the second half by a less-than-compelling villain, repetitive set-to-music scenes and running gags that ran long. Baby Groot was hella cute, but I like grown-up Groot better.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The first Avengers is still my favorite and sets a too-high bar. This one was packed with HUGE action and sets up Civil War perfectly, but it lacked the cohesiveness and little gems of character development that could put it over the top. Scarlet Witch is awesome though. 

Ant-Man

Really entertaining, original and among the funniest installments, this one just kept giving unexpected gifts. I loved the innovative powers and how he uses them, as well as the great character development from all three protagonists. 

Captain America: Civil War

I didn't quite buy the schism between our heroes, but that's beside the point. Watching a team of "enhanced individuals" develop animosity and deal with all the realistic repercussions of powers in an otherwise normal world overcame my quibbles. That and the near perfect fight scenes.

Black Panther

Epic in scale and beautiful to watch, this one maintained an approachability in its secondary characters and plenty of jaw-dropping action. The most original setting in the MCU was pure moviemaking joy to see realized. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The most fun of any MCU installment yet, with a pitch-perfect high school hero who does more to endear himself in five minutes than some of these guys do over two or three films. And Michael Keaton as the antagonist gets a killer surprise twist that scared teenage me to death.

Doctor Strange

My third-least-favorite so far. It has a lot of cool-looking effects, plenty of magic and the best cloak ever, but the characters are poorly developed and I never got a good handle on the new mythology and storylines.

Thor: Ragnarok

I laughed, then laughed again, but not too hard. This installment was so entertaining, so different from the first two Thor films that it ended up being the best surprise of all of them. And Kate Blanchett as Hela was as intimidating and powerful as Galadriel herself.

Avengers: Infinity War

Oh my god. I can't believe that just happened. This one started out incredible and just got better. After nearly 20 movies where superheroes proved mostly invulnerable, the coming of Thanos and the final cliffhanger were perfect counter-programming.

Captain Marvel

Seeing this right after the IW finale restored hope in the best possible way. My daughters loved it and I appreciated the introduction of an ultra-powerful hero who could potentially help resolve the Endgame. And seeing Fury again made it even better.

Ant-Man and The Wasp

My marathon ended on a relative low note, but I'm fine with that. Although very funny and packed with family love, cool concepts and visuals, this felt like the most derivative of the sequels and, unlike Captain Marvel, unnecessary to the broader MCU-scape (at least so far). My favorite part was the first post-credits scene.

Katz's month-long MCU marathon, final ranks


Rank Runtime (hours) Date watched
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) 1 2:29 4/19
The Avengers (2012) 2 2:23 3/28
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) 3 2:10 4/18
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) 4 2:16 4/4
Captain America: Civil War (2016) 5 2:27 4/12
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) 6 2:13 4/15
Iron Man (2008) 7 2:06 3/19
Captain Marvel (2019) 8 2:03 4/20
Ant-Man (2015) 9 1:57 4/11
Black Panther (2018) 10 2:14 4/13
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) 11 2:04 3/17
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) 12 2:01 4/5
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2014) 13 2:21 4/9
Iron Man 3 (2013) 14 2:10 3/31
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017) 15 2:16 4/5
Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) 16 1:58 4/22
Iron Man 2 (2010) 17 2:04 3/23
Thor (2011) 18 1:55 3/25
Doctor Strange (2016) 19 1:55 4/16
Thor: The Dark World (2013) 20 1:52 4/2
The Incredible Hulk (2008) 21 1:52 3/21
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Originally published March 17.