Fun with Franchises EXTRA: The Marvel Universe — Our Favorite Characters (Part II)

All right. So over the last ten weeks, we went over all the Marvel films. (Not counting Age of Ultron, since that’s too new. So all as of 2014.) We watched them, we made fun of them, we did our usual thing. And now, since this is a formidable universe, we’re gonna rank them. Like we did with Bond, and like we did with Disney.

I’m not doing this because I consider them on par with either of those two, but because it’s Marvel, and apparently that’s like web traffic gold. So, while we work in a Fun with Franchises break to allow us to get ready for the next set of franchises, I’m gonna throw up some of this bullshit, because I’m not opposed to whoring myself out for small periods of time. Look, it was either this, or nothing gets posted. I don’t have a problem with turning tricks on Hollywood Boulevard, but you don’t get to see that for free.

Today we’re ranking our favorite characters. Everyone is on an equal playing field. Heroes, villains, random people with one line. We’re just gonna list the people we enjoyed the most during these movies.

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25. Senator Stern


It’s Garry Shandling and he gets some 23-year-old aspiring journalist tail. What’s not to like? Oh, well, I suppose there’s the whole part where he’s a Hydra sleeper. That’s dumb. You just want him to be a jerk. In fact, they add absolutely nothing to the plot of The Winter Soldier by making him a secret bad guy. It was just so he could have a scene and be shown being part of an evil organization that’s infiltrated the US government.


When I saw they cast Gary Shandling as a senator in this movie, my natural response was “What the fuck?” And then I saw how he handled that hearing at the beginning of the movie. And it’s great. He’s such a smarmy dickbag you want to hate him. And then the scene at the end where he has to kiss their asses, it’s priceless. He’s such an enjoyable character. And then when they bring him back in Winter Soldier and he’s talking about banging a 20 year old, it’s awesome. I just wish we didn’t get the HYDRA part. It’s supposed to make his hatred for Stark make sense, but honestly, I didn’t need that. I’d have put him higher if he wasn’t HYDRA.

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24. Taneleer Tivan, The Collector


Jeez. We’re getting into a pretty long stretch of characters who are really only as good as they are because of who plays them. And that’s at once the best and worst things about Marvel: it eats everything, including Benicio del Toro. As much as I don’t love the exposition he spouts, I do like his voice, the way he asks for Groot’s corpse and how he’s just Space Liberace. Space needed a Liberace, so that was good. I also like the idea of a guy who tries to collect everything in the universe and put it in a hollow space monster skull.


I wish Benicio got more screen time to be weird. I like the look, I like the idea of the character. If we really get down to it, he doesn’t get enough time to develop and honestly most of his scene is exposition. But he is fun, and appropriately bizarre. I put him this high because I like the idea of this character more than I like other actual characters. But also, yeah, he is mining out of the severed head of a space god. Which is pretty great.

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23. Alexander Pierce


Redford. He’s cold-blooded, sure, which is part of the connection to Three Days of the Condor that actually exists with Winter Soldier. He’s like the Cliff Robertson character who will kill if he needs to and considers himself justified in doing so, regrettable though it may be. I particularly enjoyed him killing the cleaning lady. The reason he’s not higher (and in theory, he could have gone WAY higher) is that he ends up being nothing more than a Hydra grunt who believes in that ideology. There’s nothing to make him a maverick within the organization; he’s only there to implement Zola’s plan, and fails in doing so. 


I like that Robert Redford is here and hate that Robert Redford is here. Robert Redford should not be reduced to being in a Marvel movie. But at least he got to run shit and give monologues and shoot his maid in the chest a couple of times. Could have gone way higher, but as it is, he’s just pretty good.

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22. Odin


Anthony effing Hopkins with a full beard, a golden eye patch and a staff that silences peasants. Dude, come on. He has to be up here for all of that, but you can give him credit for having shown up to a battle on a bucking horse inside a rainbow. And for having a type of sleep named for him. 


Is there a more glorious entrance than that right there? Odin’s a fucking badass. He fought wars in the past and won the peace, and now he’s old, probably bangs a bunch of younger women, gets to go into a coma when he wants to, has a stick that silences peasants. He’s living the good life.

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21. Trevor Slattery


Man, am I conflicted about this one. I was so excited when it looked like Ben Kingsley was the bad guy for Iron Man 3, because Ben Kingsley is pretty astoundingly good as just about anything. Then he turns out to be this Southern-sounding terrorist, and I was slightly confused, but still with it because his delivery is great and he talks about Westerns. But then they make him the goofy actor, which — screw you for doing that because we wanted him as the villain. The surprise of him not being the villain doesn’t make up for him not being the villain. On the other hand, he plays the shit out of Trevor Slattery, who is amusing in his own right. So…yeah, he’s not cracking the top 20, but he’s close.


I hate the reveal but love the character. Because his schtick as “The Mandarin” is actually pretty great. Nothing is funnier than when he slips into that voice as he’s doing a line of coke. And reuses the fortune cookie trivia to impress the women he’s fucking. I think that’s great. He’s an actor who did a lot of drugs and hasn’t found work, so now he’s being paid, Wag the Dog style to pretend to be a terrorist. That’s pretty fucking great. And Ben Kingsley swings for the fences with this one, and does a terrific job with it. It’s a weird hate/love thing with this character, but I think we can all agree, aside from hating Marvel for doing it to us, we love Ben Kingsley for at least giving it his all to really deliver this guy.

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20. Steve Rogers


Another one who could have been a lot better if they focused on his character as being a little more than just a soldier. He should have represented the best of a bygone age that modern Americans have lost sight of, and in ways that extend beyond the battlefield. I love the idea of him spending time with vets and reaching out to the greater community to promote collectivism in times of need. Now, keep in mind that this excludes Age of Ultron — Steve is a great character that spends a little too much time fighting and talking about self-sacrifice. I still enjoy him most before he becomes Captain America, because at that point, he’s a lot more interesting to watch. 


I think his main problem is he took Spider-Man’s lesson to heart. He’s too much about the responsibility. He’s a great character at the beginning and is wonderfully drawn. He just gets a bit tiresome later one with his self-sacrificing and his over concern with how shitty things are now. I still really like him and how they set him up to be a good hero and then took him out of time to give him a whole separate series of issues. Him, Stark and Quill are the three main characters with the most backstory and the most empathy going for them. He’s the only character who got legit backstory. The first act of his movie is his backstory. So we’re more invested in him than we are most people. Plus, he’s pretty awesome. He tally hos off of everything, and his super power is that he’s just better at everything than most people. So it’s just him fighting people with a shield and his skills. Which I like. And he gets to be funny in the right circumstances. He’s not bland like other people are. I’d say this is a top ten character who does things that drag him down. Though we still really like him. He’s just not as enjoyable as he could be.

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19. Nick Fury


If they’d given Nick more to do and less universe building to oversee, he would have been so much higher on this list. And I would be singing Marvel’s praises had they decided to give him his own movie with less CG than the others and no superpowers. What makes Nick Fury worth it? Why is he such an awesome character? We saw that during Winter Soldier, when he’s being chased. He considers everything, always takes things seriously and might be able to defeat enemies with a scowl. I like, though, that he always seems to have a backup plan.


I think he’s here more on how much we enjoy him than what he’s actually accomplished. Because the list is about our favorites. We don’t need to justify this to anyone but ourselves. We could have put the Asian guy in Cap’s unit #1 and said, “What? We just really enjoyed him,” and have been totally justified. Fury is fun to watch, even though he’s gotten needlessly serious over the last few films. We never get to see Samuel L. Jackson let loose with this guy yet. But, just like Cap and Bucky, I’m with the Motherfucker Train til the end of the line.

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18. Agent Coulson


This guy needs to be given his credit for going from a completely unknown to a pretty major character. Iron Man, Thor, Avengers…he has a pretty consistent character between them, if a little more malevolent than usual while dealing with Natalie Portman. But I’m not going to dock him points for that. I like how he’s really professional and can make jokes in the context of business.


That’s why he goes so high. This was a one note character who was just meant to world build, and actually turned his part into something entertaining, which became a regular part, which became an integral part. He’s actually the connective tissue to all of the first set of movies. And then they kill him, which is a weird Joss Whedon thing that totally doesn’t work at all, but we’re not here to talk about that. I credit this dude from taking Random Agent #3 and turning him into a dude whose name we know and someone we actually enjoy seeing.

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17. Howard Stark


What’s not to like about Howard Stark? He likes fondue, he flies a plane, he makes shit, he has a sense of showmanship, he drinks on camera, and he kisses a showgirl on the mouth in front of hundreds of onlookers. I think that’s what sealed it for me. Just grabbed a showgirl and kissed her right on the mouth. In the same way we were introduced to Tony with booze, we got Howard with women. 


Colin focused on young Stark. Which is great. I love the fondue, making out with showgirls, and not giving a fuck about flying a plane inside enemy territory because he’s rich and won’t get in trouble. But I do really like John Slattery Stark that we see glimpses of in Iron Man 2 (which he is reprising in Ant-Man. Which I hope means a scene with Michael Douglas in the 80s). Him in the outtakes, where he’s drinking and cursing. That shit was great. You gotta respect a guy who really lives the playboy life.

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16. Justin Hammer


Sam Rockwell, dancing. That’s all I have to say here. Also, he’s this guy we know. But I enjoy him as the Daffy Duck to Tony’s Bugs Bunny. Daffy’s a better character than Bugs, and while Hammer isn’t better than Tony, he’s pretty damned good.


I don’t like this his whole character is to be an idiot. You wonder how he managed to get as far as he did being that dumb. But he’s amusing as shit. I love how cocky he is, despite so many shortcomings. And Sam Rockwell is a fucking boss.

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15. Heimdall


Idris Elba, in color contacts, watching the universe. Dude breaks out of an ice statue of himself with sheer will and tally hos onto an invisible spaceship to stab it with a sword. Well, not all at once. That’d be badass, though, right? No, I like him for how no-nonsense and unwavering he is in most things but how he’ll always find that loophole that allows him to do — or facilitate someone else’s doing — the right thing. 


It’s because he can see everything in the universe that makes me love him. Plus, he always accepts responsibility for doing the same crimes everyone else is doing and never gets in trouble. That’s pretty great.

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14. Johan Schmidt, the Red Skull


If this character was not Hugo Weaving, he’d probably fall 20 spots for me. Which is why, people reading this and telling us that we should be researching the canon: this isn’t a Marvel blog, nor is it comic book blog. It’s a film blog, which means that we cover what’s in the movies. We took Harry Potter stuff from the books while writing for the blog because that expanded the universe. Reading Marvel trivia just makes me more critical of how nothing ever changes and how many orphans there are. But back to Red Skull — he’s Hugo Weaving, and that’s really all I should be required to say. Hugo Weaving usually gets you pretty far. 


I love how fucking crazy Hugo Weaving plays this guy. It’s understated, but also great. That accent is perfect. This is clearly about Hugo Weaving and nothing else. He’s actually kind of a wasted villain. But Hugo Weaving is so goddamned entertaining, you can’t help but love him.

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13. Rocket Raccoon


He’s funny, he’s combative, he’s sad. He’s not the best of the Guardians, but I think Rocket was a lot better than the character I was expecting him to be because of how he sort of deals with being the freak and finds solace in the company of friends. He cares about money, his ego, and his life for most of the movie, but at the end, he’s really just a softy. And he tries to prank disabled people.


First off, it’s a raccoon bounty hunter. Which is great. And then he’s also an escape artist whose broken out of crazy numbers of prisons. How do you let a raccoon escape jail so many times? And then you get the nice backstory and his emotional stuff, which is well handled. You took what could have been a one-note sarcastic talking raccoon and gave him depth. And the fact that I just wrote that previous sentence means he had to go pretty high for us.

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12. Obadiah Stane


I love Obadiah. It’s not even just Jeff Bridges, though I’d argue that it’s impossible to divorce the character from the performance now that I’ve seen it. He’s a father figure to Tony for most of the movie, as we watch other very real villains do very bad stuff. Sure, they could have set him up better, but just how calculating and menacing the guy is, along with how great Bridges’ performance was — yeah, he’s my favorite villain in the franchise. The pizza! The Salieri! TONY STARK WAS ABLE TO BUILD THIS IN A CAVE! Love this character.


A lot of it is Jeff Bridges. He’s a good villain, but Bridges takes him to another level. He’s kind of both of our sentimental choice for favorite villain. It’s all the little things that Bridges does with this character that make me love him, from the head shake, to not wearing a shirt in that Face Time, to covering for Tony at the podium, to the pizza moment — there’s great stuff here. Jeff Bridges is one of the most underrated people in this franchise.

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11. Happy Hogan


Now we’re getting into the genuinely good characters, aren’t we? Obadiah, and now Happy. First off, he rocked a bolo tie and a mullet in one scene. But the most important thing is that he starts off as Tony’s main bro pal, other than Rhodey. And Rhodey doesn’t enable him or facilitate the tomfoolery the way Happy does. The headbutt in the casino, or driving his luggage to the airport while Tony drives the R8, or even sparring with him. The guy is a lot of fun for Tony, and the kind of paid friend that every rich guy wishes he had. Favreau is the guy you want for good comic relief. Checking out the nurse, struggling with one guard and finally biting his ear while Natasha dispatches like a dozen guys, or checking out Natasha in the mirror. Pretty much every time Favreau is in a scene, there’s something funny going on, and that’s rare in Marvel. 


In the first movie he gets to be the cool bodyguard. Second movie he gets to be part of the action and the comedy. And then in the third movie, they really used him perfectly. It’s the right version of comic relief and plot. The bolo tie and mullet, him touching the plant out of spite, his face as he acknowledges that Stark is gonna fuck Maya. Then his whole thing about the badges, and how seriously he takes his security job. And then him randomly loving Downton Abbey. He’s such a perfectly drawn character. How do you not love him? Favreau is one of the best things about the Iron Man movies. I’ll be upset if we never see him again in this universe.

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10. Peter Quill


Mike’s called him the outlaw archetype, and come to think of it, we haven’t really had one of those for real in this franchise. Though there’s a little bit too much of Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk in this character for my liking (being the bad boy, mischievous type who cracks wise and rides the line but will ultimately do what’s right), Guardians is effectively a space Western, so you could make the same case for Han Solo, I suppose. He had me at the dancing sequence during the opening credits, really solidified his position when he had a random chick on board, and secured top 10 status when he made the black light joke. There are things that can put you over the top, and that’s one of them.


It’s all of that. He’s fun, playful, not entirely a good guy, but is a good guy when it counts. Hopefully he doesn’t go Han Solo converted like he was in Jedi. He’s just a fun character, and, no matter what, we always have that emotional connection to him because of that opening scene. He’s a well-drawn character, and I like that he drinks and fucks random space women.

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9. Natasha Romanoff


Just want to point out that there’s ONE woman in the top 10 on this list, and that’s not our fault. Marvel doesn’t know what to do with women, and though that includes Natasha, she still manages to make it this high up the ranking with her skills and whatnot. Mostly the whatnot. I think it helps that she’s been in several of the movies and has managed to do something different in some of them. I really enjoyed her most in Iron Man 2, when she was playing Tony for a fool, and me along with him. The moment she had me was in Monaco, when Tony points at the table and asks, “Is this us?” She immediately tells him it can be, and then starts arranging it with the Monegasque hotelier. Like, to have that AND then be able to take out armed guards the way she does, looking like she does…she has to be here on the list. The way she climbs up it even more is by having some more dialogue-heavy scenes featuring interrogation or reasoning. I’d also approve of more scenes when she’s under pressure, like when Steve has her against the wall in the hospital. Scarlett Johannson does really well with her reactions. It’s just amazing how underused this character is — she’s been in a bunch of movies, but they’ve never used her as well as they could have.


This is a very adaptable character, and they use her well. I can’t really say a bad word about her except that I wish they stopped overly hinting at her backstory and just told us something for once. (Age of Ultron doesn’t count. That barely counts as telling.) Other than that, she can fight, she beats the shit out of everyone in her path, she can do the spy work, she knows tradecraft, she can be funny — she’s everything you want in a character. She’s also one of the few characters where CGI doesn’t factor into what she does. Which I truly appreciate.

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8. Col. Phillips


Oh, man. Tommy Lee Jones makes me so happy sometimes. He scowls a lot and snaps at people, which is a standard Tommy Lee Jones thing, but this movie gave him more opportunities. I’m still going to call his interrogation scene with Zola my single favorite scene of the movie. He’s talking to Toby Jones about an insane superhuman’s plot for world domination, and he does so while eating a steak in front of him. That’s magical to me. And when he shows up in the Hydra stronghold with a shotgun, well…yeah. Finally, there are several shots of him in bunkers or tents, staring at large maps, which is always on your side in the fight for my affections.


This is another actor over character. Tommy Lee Jones makes this guy. The scene up there is the best. “That would be awkward.” He’s so amusing. Watching Tommy Lee Jones frown at things is one of the great past times in life. He’s one of those people who clearly had no idea what these movies were, but did it for the paycheck, and had as much fun with it as he could have. And it works. (Also notice how the best supporting characters tend to be in the actual good Marvel movies)

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7. Groot


He is Groot.


No, no, no — WE are Groot.

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6. Abraham Erskine


Who remembers this character without prompting? Anyone who’s watching these movies correctly, as far as I’m concerned. I love that Stanley Tucci decided to do this role and was in that movie for like, four scenes. He finds the right guy, knows exactly who he needs the hero to be and then explains that over the course of one scene and one other moment — first, the scene in which he explains the importance of inner goodness and then drinks, and then the moment after he gets shot when all he needs to do is poke Steve in the chest to establish the hero’s entire character for the rest of the franchise. 


The only reason he’s not top five is because he doesn’t get enough screen time. But otherwise, Stanley Tucci is the fucking BEST. “Where are you from?” “Queens. And before that Germany.” He’s funny, memorable, a good mentor, and he gets a heartfelt moment when he reminds Steve to remain who he is despite the changes, and he does it WITHOUT A FUCKING WORD! This guy’s only in the movie for like 30 minutes, and yet he’s completely drawn, and you know everything you need to know about him. I wish we got more of this guy. I also like that the only reason he did this movie was just because he thought it would be fun to try a German accent.

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Kinda sad that an AI has to be included in the top five best characters in the franchise, but JARVIS is a pretty awesome AI. I wrote that Dum-E is the “character” that represents Tony’s insecurities, imperfections and underlying sentimentality — JARVIS is Tony’s ego in a sense. And I mean the Freudian structural model, where Dum-E might represent the super-ego and Tony himself is almost always the id. JARVIS spends half his time doing the practical thinking so that Tony doesn’t half to, bringing up information and reminders, and trying to convince Tony of more reasonable courses of action. The idea of an AI who responds sarcastically and gives up on trying to reason with its own creator is very funny to me.  


A computer character is better than almost all the human characters in this universe. Who can deny that, either? He’s a computer who handles his shit, anticipates Tony’s needs (how many times has he “taken the liberty” of doings things knowing that’s what Tony wants?) and sasses him back. And for a character who is wholly sarcastic, having his robot butler be sarcastic back can only lead to good things. And the best part about him is — it’s okay when he gives exposition, because that’s his job. There’s no way JARVIS isn’t legit one of the ten best characters in this franchise.

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4. Yondu Udonta


I’ll be people didn’t see Yondu landing this high up the ranking. If you did, good for you. If not, consider that Yondu is a devious space pirate who will kill anyone necessary and threaten most anyone in pursuit of his goals, but who still has a sense of fair play. Or rather, he knows when he’s been played and at some point, he can accept it. I made the comparison between him and the guy from Last Crusade who gives Indiana Jones his hat. He’s clearly annoyed at this kid for messing with him, but there’s also a strain of admiration for him. It really shows when Michael Rooker smiles each time during Guardians — this guy isn’t overburdened by morals, but he recognizes that there’s a degree of humor that comes with cosmic fate.


It’s Michael Rooker who makes this character. I love how he plays him. I love how he’s the father figure character to Quill, and has an appropriately volatile relationship with him. I love how his whole ethos is about stealing from everyone and getting paid, but is willing to bend the rules a little bit — oh shit. He’s the Gibbs of this franchise, isn’t he? That’s who he is. Plus, he has an awesome arrow that kills things.

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3. Loki


Didn’t really think Loki would be this high up the list when we started re-watching these movies for Fun with Franchises. It’s really because I associate him with generally worse movies that I expected him to be much lower down, but Tom Hiddleston is a properly good actor, and whatever there was to be gotten out of the character was gotten, and then some. I have huge problems with the motivations and general progression of this character overall, but none of that matters quite as much when you consider Loki’s scenes in isolation. He has great skills, but he’s mostly about the dialogue, which is so rare in these movies. There are plenty of times when another character would be pulling out a weapon or jumping somewhere, but Loki is constantly trying to talk to people in these movies. It’s pretty rare that he isn’t trying to talk to anyone for more than a minute at a time, and I think that’s why I like him. No matter what’s going on, he’s got something to say, and it’s probably going to be shitty. 


I love this character more than the way they used this character. Hiddleston is so good here. You get so many different shades of Loki (except in Avengers, where he’s boiled down to a one note villain. Though he does get to be fun for some of it), and completely understand him. I like characters that can play good, bad and in between. And he mostly just goes around trying to fuck people’s days up because it amuses him. And he’s got a nice and complicated backstory to him, where he hates who he is and who is parents are, but still loves them because they’re his parents. I love everything about this character, and need more of him in the future.

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2. Drax the Destroyer


Surprise of the segment for yours truly. This character was a delight. I never thought that Dave Bautista would be my reason for enjoying a movie more than I expected, but the man delivered, as did the script. He speaks literally, which makes him the perfect kind of jerk. When you think about it, they’re really just removing his filter, so he calls Gamora a whore and calls Quill out for sleeping with a gross alien woman. He’s like Larry David from Curb crossed with an MMA fighter from space. I want to reiterate that I don’t want him to have his own movie, but I really enjoy the character and thought he was the most consistently enjoyable offering from Marvel.


“Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.” This character is perfect, and I think we all recognize that. He’s a killing machine, has a backstory we can understand, and is amusing as shit because of his character traits. I think what really sealed it is when he called Gamora a whore. I think everyone lost it at that moment. He’s so good. How do you not rank a guy in the top five when he laughs maniacally as his ship careens around, running into people?

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1. Tony Stark


To be fair, Stark isn’t the most CONSISTENTLY enjoyable offering from Marvel, but he is the most enjoyable overall. The first movie is still the most fun to watch and his character in that movie is better than any Marvel character ever is in any movie. But in all the movies he’s in (though, to a lesser extent in Iron Man 3), he’s there to be the smartass. So rarely is that character done well, and so rarely is it done by someone like Robert Downey Jr. that everyone else really pales in comparison. Just thinking about it makes me want to go watch Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies. It’s a bummer he had to end up with Pepper, but I’m willing to go with just about everything else about this character, other than the panic attacks. So if you’re here to say that we hate Marvel and don’t want to like anything they’ve done — I like the character of Tony Stark as portrayed in the movies. Best. 


Honestly, that screenshot pretty much covers it for me. I’m forgetting the shit they did to him with the panic attacks. Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing that happened to this franchise, and he’s the reason it is where it is. He is given appropriate love and respect for this.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we’re gonna rank more shit.

(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)

One response

  1. Those are some great films fam.

    July 3, 2015 at 9:56 am

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