I have to say that I felt that most of the action in Phase 1 was okay. Enjoyable, rarely boring, but action beats which I would feel compelled to watch over and over were rare. Phase 2 is another matter though. The action suddenly became, for the lack of a better word, creative. In Phase 1 I was entertained by the movies despite not being a big fan of action. In Phase 2 I started to specifically rewatch certain action scenes because I loved them so much. It’s not because I have suddenly discovered my interest in explosions, but because the movies started to offer more than that. Much more. So let’s take a look at the
Ten best action scenes:
10. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3: Coulson’s Portal jump
This scene is simultaneous awesome and totally ridiculous. For the poor souls who have given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too early: Hydra has opened a portal to another planet and sends a team through. Coulson, who is really out for blood in this episode, jumps out of a plane under fire and manages to hit the opening in the ground spot on, is catapulted into the air on the other side and ends up rolling down a ditch, hitting his head. After an episode which was incredible tense, it was the perfect ending point. A fist-pump combined with a big “oh sh….”.
9. Thor, The Dark World: Switching through the convergence
There isn’t really much which works for me in Thor the Dark World. But I have to give it to the writers: The idea for the final battle is very creative. Especially the part with Thor’s hammer having to take the scenic route in order to reach him again. If I would care more for all the people involved in it, this one would be way higher. As it is, it gets points for thinking out of the box.
8. Age of Ultron: Taking out Baron von Strucker’s base
As important as the Battle of Sokovia is, as an action beat it mostly left me cold. It felt too much like a repeat of The Avengers. The best moments are happening more in-between the actual action beats, like Thor distracting Ultron, Captain and Natasha deciding to fight until the last minute even if it means their death, Hawkeye talking to Wanda and especially Vision confronting Ultron. Iron Man vs the Hulk Buster was a little bit too long and self-indulgent for my taste. The very first battle, though, was close to perfect. The way the Avengers are fighting with each other shows from the very first moment how close the team has grown between movies. The call-back to The Avengers when Thor hits Cap’s, but this time around in order to take out the enemy, is perfect. As is the moment when Cap just grabs his bike and throws it into the attackers.
7. Ant-Man: Ant-man vs Falcon
One thing which is sometimes a problem in Marvel movies, is that the writers tend to pin fighters with similar abilities against each other. In two of three movies Tony is fighting a guy in a suit, Steve always goes up against another person with Super-serum perks, Gamora fights Nebula aso. It is therefore very refreshing to see two characters with a totally different set of abilities have a go at each other in a fairly detailed fight. Poor Falcon though. How do you deal with an enemy, you barely see coming? But if anything put across that Ant-man is not just a joke, than this moment.
6. Agent Carter, Season 1: Dotty scaling down the stairway
The fight scenes in Agent Carter don’t tend to be very fancy, mostly because Peggy’s style is very direct – meaning she tends to grab the next heavy object in order to smash it in someone face. Which is awesome because I am kind of tired of female fighters having to do those flips all the time. I have to admit though, the scene in which Dotty was scaling down the stairway in an acrobatic act was awesome!
5. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2: The Sacrifice of the BUS
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really ramped it up in the second season. There are countless great fight scenes for Bobbi, May and even Daisy gets her moment to shine. But the moment which stuck out to me the most was this one: The team intends to infiltrate a base. They do so by flying into the danger zone with a larger plane (the so called BUS) and a smaller plane on top. The BUS is destroyed and May flies the smaller plane to the ground, pretending to be part of the debris. It is not like the audience sees a lot of the fancy flying. This is still a TV show on budgets restrains, so it is shown exactly as much as needed so that the audience understands what is going on. But for some reason showing the characters in the plane makes the scene even more tense. The moment also works on an emotional level. The BUS was the main base of the team in the first season. In this episode the original six characters are on a mission together again – for one last time. The destruction of the BUS is a reminder that there will be no going back to the beginning. The team we got to know in the beginning is gone, and will never be again. But it got send off with a bang.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Battle for Xandar
To ruin my geek cred for good: I am not a big Star wars fan. What bores me the most about this franchise (and Star Trek for that matter), is what most fans love the most: The space battles. I usually don’t really get invested in a bunch of models or CGU ships firing BS laser at each other. It always looks the same, and it rarely feels real for me. But in Guardians of the Galaxy, I enjoyed every single action scene, including the space battles. I think mostly because it was so much more than just ships in some sort of vacuum firing at each other. That is especially evident in the battle of Xandar. The flying under the explosion, having to evade the attackers in order to reach the main ship and the blockade which is formed in the end in order to keep the Dark Aster from reaching the ground, every moment in this is so not what I have come to expect from a space battle. It helps that the fighting in the air is interrupted by scenes from the ground, and the battle within the ship. Not to mention the emotional moment when the Dark Aster finally crashes towards earth. I can watch this again, and again, and again.
3. Iron Man 3: Skydiving Stunt
I already hinted it when I wrote about phase 1, but most fighting scenes with Iron Man leave me pretty cold. He is always either walking through the crossfire or making those fancy flying moves, but in the end, it is always about shooting a tank missile in the right direction. But this scene is really tense. For one, it really feels like a situation in which Iron Man could fail. He might not be able to reach all the falling people in time, they might end up being too heavy for him, but he does it in the end. The scene is so well done, I am even able to forgive that it wasn’t him at all in the end.
2. Daredevil, Season 1: The Hallway fight
What else? This scene has become legendary. And for good reasons. This is the antithesis of fake CGI action. The set-up is actually fairly simply, one guy fighting his way through a group of gangsters. But the way it is shot, from the stark yellow light to the seemingly lack of cuts (there actually are some, but they are well-hidden) while the camera moves up and down the hallway, makes it stand out immediately. But the choreography is the icing of the cake. The way how Daredevil becomes visible more exhausted during the fight, how the goons fall down but trying to stand up again after a while, every detail in this just works. And that it is done on a Netflix budget makes it even more impressive.
1. Captain America, The Winter Soldier: The Elevator Scene
It is a good thing that I have a “one per movie or Season” rule, or this movie would have made up half of the list. Ever – single – action – scene in this one is awesome. And I was very close to picking the battle on the bridge, because of the emotional pay-off and the fancy knife-work in the hand-to-hand combat. It’s those details which make a scene like this special. But in the end, it is hard to beat out the elevator scene. First you have the tense built-up. The way more and more people enter the elevator, while Cap notices a number of small details which tell him that something is off, ramps up the expectation that something will happen. And then the fighting starts, with Cap having to take out a whole group of agents with fancy gadget trying to capture him. Similiar to the Hallway fight in Daredevil, this one is personal and intense. Though my favourite is the shot from above at the end, showing him standing between the bodies of the fallen enemies. It’s simply perfection from start to finish.
I have spend now so much time praising the MCU, I am starting to think that I should criticise it a little bit more. So the next two lists will be about my least favourite elements of the MCU.