Why Marvel’s Movies Keep Getting Better

So everybody, Thor: Ragnarok was awesome. The action was fun and Jeff Goldblum has never been Jeff Goldblumier. OK, thanks for reading. That’s really all I needed to say. Article’s over, go home.

But since there are a few hundred more words to be filled in, let’s break down why Thor: Ragnarok was awesome. In fact, let’s talk about why Marvel movies keep getting better. Because according to this nifty graph I made based on Rotten Tomatoes scores, that’s super what’s happening:

As you can see, Marvel has consistently had hits since they started making movies, but as time passed, their lower-ranked films slowly caught up with their higher-ranked ones. If you’re wondering, the films that represent those valleys in quality were The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor 2, and Age Of Ultron (although you can hardly count any of these as critical failures).

So what is happening? What’s behind the pattern? Well I’m glad I asked, because I have an answer: The lowest-rated films were all “filler” stories. Incredible Hulk was a necessary reboot of Ang Lee’s attempt, and the other three were all part twos leading up to major explody events like The Avengers and the eventual Infinity War. We had already met all the characters, and so these films bought time so that the MCU could set up the inevitable hype films on the horizon. For that reason, the stories are pretty self-contained and therefore rather boring: the bad guy shows up, wants to blow up the world, and creates an army.

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios“It may have not worked out for the first 23 bad guys, but Team Ultron is gonna make it happen, baby!”

Second question: Why did the quality of these “filler” films get better? Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok could both be considered “filler” movies. Hell, the plot to the first Guardians, when you look at the broad strokes, is extremely cliche: “A group of reluctant heroes band together to fight an evil wizard / family member from blowing up a planet using a super-weapon, only to take down his spaceship and save the day.” That’s also the plot to Star Wars. Ragnarok is about another Asgard sibling putting together a generic skull army to take over their world … only with an even pointier helmet. So why is it so amazing despite that oatmeal premise?

Because it’s fucking weird, obviously. This “oatmeal” premise is flavored with crazy-dick characters and Led Zeppelin. Jeff Goldblum is dressed like a gospel space-priest and appears multiple times as a hologram. The movie is so comedic that it’s practically a parody of itself. The studio got the dude who made What We Do In The Shadows and let him make a beautiful mess, like a cocaine toddler in a Walmart. Marvel realized they were making filler films and said, “Well shit, we might as well fill these fillers with clown guts and candy.” And that’s goddamn swell.

And so the rule for Phase Three came down to a successful Marvel film being either A) a unique and interesting story told in a straightforward way (Civil War, Homecoming), or B) a really straightforward story told in a unique and interesting way (Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians).

This explains why movies like Thor 2 and Ultron weren’t as well-received, for they are neither unique nor told in a particularly fun way. The lesson here is that Marvel’s doing a great job of being ahead of its fans and realizing that the superhero stories once considered “unique” tend to get old really fast. I remember a time when I couldn’t wait to see an origin story; now I shudder at the words “Uncle Ben.” And guess what? Homecoming knew this, and focused on making a Spider-Man that felt bizarrely similar to a coming-of-age teen movie. Other comic book movies are figuring this out too. Logan was an X-Men stab at drama, and now we’re getting The New Mutants, a goddamn superhero horror movie.

But finally — and this is super important — Marvel is beginning to learn that they need to stick an eccentric ’80s/’90s actor in their movies as a villain. Sure, it could be Kurt Russell or Michael Keaton, but the big money is obviously Jeff Goldblum, America’s bumbling sex maestro.

We need more Goldblum villains, Marvel. Goldblum Hobgoblin, Goldblum Stilt-Man, an entire gang of clone Goldblum henchmen. I don’t give a fuck who you thought was playing Thanos; if you want Infinity War to end with a whooshing cacophony of nerds’ ROM the Space Knight panties hitting the theater floors, you know what needs to be done. Don’t fuck me on this.

David is totally on Twitter.

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