While Disney still has several entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) planned for the next few years, it’s hard to imagine them ever building up to an event of such an epic scale as Avengers: Endgame.
The twenty-three films that make up the MCU, however, did not just contribute to an epic team-up adventure the likes of which we’ve never seen. They also provided us with a baseline by which to judge superhero films on a whole.
That is not to say, however, that every individual entry in the MCU is a complete and indisputable masterpiece. As I mentioned in last week’s issue of The Writer’s Everything, there is at least one problem in particular that almost every MCU film shares.
Nearly every one of them has the same climactic end battle. The hero has mastered his powers and must now face off against his mirror opposite, an individual with the same powers as himself, but evil.
Last week, I began analyzing all twenty-three films in the MCU in order, beginning with the least original end battle and going up from there.
So now let’s continue with part two of this analysis, beginning with the fifteenth entry in the list and going on through to the eighth. Then, in next week’s article, the final seven films in the list will be presented, with number one being the all-time most original end battle of the MCU.
The end battle of Thor starts out feeling typical. A super-powerful god fights against another super-powerful god, but evil. This end battle, however, excels in that it quickly takes things in a whole other direction. As Thor quickly and decisively disables Loki, we see the culmination of his character arc over the course of the film. We get to see if those couple days he spent on Earth managed to move him to greater heights than ever before, as his father hoped, or if they did not. As it turns out, Thor ends the battle by selflessly giving up the connection to the planet, and the woman, he loves. Then, he even goes as far as to talk some sense into his brother, reaching out to rescue him when Loki chooses a free-fall into the abyss of space instead. In an otherwise typical end battle, it’s those few moments that move Thor to its position above Iron Man on this list.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. A hero in an advanced shrinking suit fights against another character in an advanced shrinking suit, but evil. That’s old hat, as we’ve seen already. However, it still manages to keep things fresh with some fantastic set pieces the likes of which we’ve never seen before. After all, watching these two grown men desperately trying to defeat each other, all while riding on the back of a Thomas the Tank Engine, was just fantastic. It certainly captured the uniqueness of its premise in the end battle, if not that of the plot, and earned itself a position directly ahead of Thor.
13—Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The end battle of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, when judged based on the metric used for this list, is very similar to the end battle of the previous entry, Ant-Man. Once again, we have two characters with similar powers fighting each other. And once again, it’s the uniqueness of the premise that makes this battle stand out. Peter Quill’s crazy retro-imagination adds a great deal of fun to this end battle, and baby Groot is just enough to cause it to scrape past Ant-Man on the list.
12—Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A lot is going on during the ending of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The most important of the myriad events that transpire during this climactic end battle is, without a doubt, Captain America’s struggle to disable the deadly helicarriers before they take their position as the violent Big Brother of a new world. So of course, this end battle includes a super-soldier fighting another super-soldier, but evil. The Winter Soldier blows away all the entries in the list up to this point, however, the second Captain America disables the last helicarrier. His love for Bucky moves him to drop his shield, giving up the battle, and even his life, to save his friend. This is a highly rare case in which the victory of the end battle is an emotional one rather than a physical one, and that emotion certainly carries it past Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in my book.
11—Marvel’s The Avengers
Just like with Iron Man, I can’t fault this film for setting the standards that future sequels adhered to much too closely. There is certainly plenty to like in the end battle of Marvel’s The Avengers. The villains aren’t all the same, as they include ground troops, flying skiffs, and giant space snakes. And, even better, the goal of this end battle is not to simply beat someone to a pulp, although the Hulk took care of that in a moment of pure movie magic. The goal of the Avengers, closing the space portal, as well as the film’s status as the first of the Avengers movies, just barely place it ahead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier on this list.
10—Ant-Man and the Wasp
Let’s be honest. Ant-Man and the Wasp was not a memorable movie. I couldn’t even recall one thing about the end battle when writing this article. I had to search for it on YouTube and then scan through the clip to try to refresh my memory. I now am aware of three things that happen during the conclusion of this film. That being said, I should mention before I forget that the end battle of Ant-Man and the Wasp is unique in several ways, including alternate power sets for the heroes and villains, not to mention Ant-Man’s transformation into Giant-Man. All of this adds up to a more unique, if not better, end battle than Marvel’s The Avengers.
9—Captain America: Civil War
While the airport battle between the feuding groups of Avengers was certainly a highly enjoyable bit of superhero cinema, I’ve decided to consider the face-off with Steve and Bucky on one side and Tony on the other as the real end battle of this film. The way these two old friends team up against Iron Man, beating him with their hands and their skill, rather than any sort of advanced technology, and taking Stark down a notch in the process, is handled deftly and provides us with an enjoyable alternative to the hero vs. the evil twin scenario.
8—Avengers: Infinity War
I have to start by saying that there isn’t really anything special about the end battle of Avengers: Infinity War. It’s honestly par for the course when it comes to Avengers films. On one side you have the eponymous group of superheroes, and on the other side, a faceless alien army. There are several things, however, that really set this end battle apart from those of the previous team-up films. First was Doctor Strange’s confrontation with Thanos, which was absolutely epic and fantastic. Then there were the tragic results to both Iron Man and Thor’s personal struggles. And finally, the obvious thing that sets this end battle apart is the way it finishes, with the death of half the universe. We all knew they would be coming back, but it was still a welcome emotional gut punch.
How do you feel about the order of numbers 15-8 on this list? Do you think that these films deserved their rankings? Is there anything you would adjust or change up to this point? Let me know by sending me a message right here on Twitter. In next week’s issue of The Writer’s Everything, Issue #013, we will finish this analysis of the MCU end battles, before looking at the lessons for us as writers in Issue #014. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter by clicking right here to receive them directly in your inbox upon release.