Thor is back and ready to crush his box office competitors — with or without his trusty hammer.
“Thor: Ragnarok” finds the Asgardian hero without his Mjölnir but with a hulking green sidekick. The movie is expected to make north of $100 million in its opening weekend. That’s par for the course for films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU.
It’s one reason the MCU essentially prints money. Marvel Studios spends gads of cash, too, but by delivering first-rate content they set huge returns in motion.
With that in mind let’s look back at the MCU and find four sequences that epitomize the franchise’s staying power. Yes, Marvel Studios hires the best actors around, from Robert Downey, Jr. to “Ragnarok’s” Cate Blanchett.
The following scenes remind us why we even know terms like MCU in the first place.
4. The Civil War in “Civil War”
It’s simply the best scene of any MCU movie, the moment that reduces grown men and women to 9-year-olds playing with their action figures in their bedrooms.
Some Avengers accept the U.S. government’s argument that the supergroup can’t operate without the bureaucracy. Others, led by Captain America (Chris Evans), insist to do so would weaken their efforts and cost innocent lives.
Let the battle begin. And oh, is it glorious. The sequence goes on forever, and you’ll wish it lasted longer. The best part? Paul Rudd’s quip near the end after getting a beating. “Does anybody have any orange slices?”
3. Enter Whiplash
The second “Iron Man” solo adventure proved a letdown (although not as much as the overrated third installment). Still, the moment we see Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash villain offers a glimpse of what might have been.
Rourke’s Whiplash nearly shreds Tony Stark on a race track course before he slips into his signature suit. Director Jon Favreau captures the friends in peril angle beautifully, raising the stakes while telling us just how formidable the film’s foe will be. All the while Whiplash chomps on a toothpick, a nice touch amidst the mayhem.
2. The Avengers Defend NYC
It’s the second-best moment in the MCU to date. Manhattan is under attack from an alien armada, and our heroes simultaneously protect Big Apple types while reminding the villains they messed with the wrong planet.
Director Joss Whedon understands why these costumed heroes resonate with audiences as they do, and his choreography throughout is stunning. We get superhero poses ripped from old-school Marvel comics plus humorous asides that shred the growing tension.
Loki, meet the Incredible Hulk. Smash.
1. Cap and Co. Give a History Lesson
The first “Avengers” feature also showcased why Captain America matters. He can’t fly and he doesn’t have any gadgets beyond that indestructible shield. He’s seen plenty all the same, particularly during his stint fighting Hitler in World War II.
So when Tom Hiddleston’s Loki asks a crowd to bow before him, one senior citizen refuses. Enter Captain America, who blocks Loki’s death blow and reminds him why he isn’t intimidated by his rhetoric.
It’s pure goosebump cinema.