With Avengers: Age of Ultron inching ever closer, we’re kicking our countdown into high gear this week with a recap of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best fight scenes! The MCU’s heroes have gotten into battles of various sizes over the years and this is one of those weeks where it’s tough to whittle out down to just 7, but we’ll do our best! Check out the list below and let us know what you think in the comments!
In case you need a refresher: With Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe wrapping up after this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultronand Ant-Man, we decided it was a good time to take a look back at some of the best moments Marvel Studios has brought to the silver screen. Between now and Age of Ultron’s release we’ll be counting down several Top 7 lists that celebrate many of the greatest moments from the MCU so far. For reference, this includes every movie released to date (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy), as well as all the straight-to-video Marvel One-Shots (“The Consultant”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer”, “Item 47″, “Agent Carter”, and “All Hail the King”), and also Marvel’s ongoing foray into television (as of print date: 18 episodes into Agents of SHIELD’s second season, the entire first season of Agent Carter, and the entire first season of Netflix’s Daredevil). Finally, this should go without saying, but you’ve been warned: SPOILERS AHEAD!
7) SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK (The Avengers)
While we are very much looking forward to an entire movie of the Avengers already knowing each other and getting along, part of Joss Whedon’s brilliance with the first film was that he took nothing for granted; each of these heroes were used to being the guy, so it makes sense that they’d butt heads a few times before they could learn to work together. Thor’s first taste of action in The Avengers is a perfect example: the God of Thunder, Captain America, and Iron Man each had different ideas of how they were about to handle Loki, which led to a wildly entertaining forest bout that an amused Loki watched from a distance. This fight–despite its relative brevity–was packed with great moments, from Robert Downey Jr.’s famously improved “doth mother know you weareth her drapes?”, to Thor’s lightning strike actually supercharging Stark’s suit. Captain America’s part in the scuffle was short, but it did underline the different personalities between the 3 characters while also showing just how durable his vibranium shield is. This fight was packed with laughs, action, and characterization–really a microcosm of the entire first Avengers movie.
6) GUARDIANS MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Similar to the above moment from The Avengers, one of the best moments of Guardians of the Galaxy was an early scene that featured the Guardians getting…acquainted with one another. After Peter Quill gets rebuffed trying to offload the Orb, Gamora incites a three-way scuffle by stealing it while Rocket and Groot try to capture Quill for bounty money. The scene is packed with clever “gotcha!” moments, like when Star-Lord slaps a rocket pack on Gamora’s side or even when the Nova Corps show up at the end to break it up. This scene gives us a nice taste of each of the characters: Quill’s sass and weakness for attractive females, Gamora’s ruthlessness, Rocket’s humor and affinity for big guns, and Groot…well, being Groot. The scene is also a nice intro to John C. Reilly’s character and the sort-of-relationship he has with “Star-Prince”. This scene is great because it continues to build on Guardians‘ signature tone and immediately makes all four of the Guardians so far really likeable.
5) DAREDEVIL VS NOBU (Daredevil – Season 1)
Much has been made about the 5-minute, single-shot sequence at the end of Daredevil‘s second episode where the hero fights through a barrage of goons in order to rescue a kid. And rightly so–the fight choreography was impressive, not to mention its iconic in presentation. But at the end of the day, it was Daredevil taking down a bunch of nobodies, and as cool as it looked we never really thought it could end any other way than it did. His fight against Nobu, on the other hand, was so brutal that we wondered several times how he could possibly make it out alive. Daredevil takes a beating throughout the entire season, but in this fight, Nobu injures him so badly you’re astounded he can get up at all, or if his superpower is simply an inability to bleed out. The way the fight was presented–inter-cut between scenes showing the lead up to it–also added to the tension and the doubt that Daredevil would make it through in one piece. The choreography of the fight was also spectacular with an emphasis on acrobatic movement; no other adversary, including Kingpin, really felt like they physically and mentally challenged Daredevil as much as Nobu did. Speaking of Kingpin, his late entrance into the fight felt like rubbing salt in Daredevil’s many wounds, as it took absolutely everything he had just to defeat Nobu. Finally, this fight also proved to be Murdock’s inspiration for acquiring what would become his signature, armor-equipped red suit.
4) INFILTRATING THE DARK ASTER (Guardians of the Galaxy)
After all the joking and teasing, we finally get to see the Guardians in full action as a team. The climactic assault on Ronan’s Dark Aster is a big showpiece for our heroes and occurs on a greater scale than we’ve been afforded to see the rest of the movie (outside the expositional pseudo-flashback in the Collector’s lab). It opens with a dogfight between Ronan’s forces and the combined talents of the Guardians and the Ravagers. Once the Nova Corps join the fray, the fight becomes much more dynamic. Star-Lord crashes the Milano into the Dark Aster, allowing him, Groot, and Drax to launch an assault on the bridge while Gamora settles a score with her cyborg sister, Nebula. The Star-Lord/Groot/Drax arm of the fight features the team finally working together with lethal efficiency, each using their own strengths to overcome Ronan’s forces while Gamora and Nebula settle a good old-fashioned duel on the floor below. Meanwhile, Rocket leads the continued assault outside the ship, and we finally get to see what Yondu is really capable of. All the way to the Dark Aster‘s ultimate demise (and even through the final encounter with Ronan), director James Gunn never lets up on injecting humor and emotion into the fracases just as he’s done the entire film.
3) CAPTURING THE LEMURIAN STAR (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
I was a little unsure how to classify the Lemurian Star sequence that opens The Winter Soldier; really, it’s a bunch of smaller fights strung together. But trying to split off any of the individual scuffles didn’t feel like it would do justice to the impressiveness of the entire scene. It starts out with Cap in stealth mode, but on the offensive, silently and efficiently working his way through a string of patrol guards (which, I might add, featured many creative and visually striking shots). When the fight breaks out in earnest, we are treated to what will become a recurring theme of the movie: the Russo brothers really know how to capture Cap’s abilities in ways that no previous director had quite nailed. The acrobatics, the reflexes, the creative uses of the shield–it’s all there, and it’s clear that two years removed from the Battle of New York, Cap has become a much more seasoned pugilist. Black Widow also gets a nod with a fun infiltration scene, and the punches (kicks?) really culminate with a creative take on an obscure villain called Batroc the Leaper. Batroc’s cameo was the first bit of evidence (of what would turn out to be many) that the Russos were very capable of juggling a large variety of characters from the Marvel mythos, integrating them into the MCU in ways that both make sense and are true to the character. We also get reintroduced to Jasper Sitwell in this scene to set up his later turn to Hydra, and we witness some flirty, distrustful banter between Cap and Widow, but those are all extra sprinkles on what was a perfectly-executed display of Captain America kicking butt.
2) FREEWAY FIGHT (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Truth be told, we could probably make a Top 7 countdown comprised entirely of fights from The Winter Soldier. However, there was definitely a clear standout amongst all of them: the battle against the eponymous Winter Soldier atop a freeway that eventually spills into the streets of D.C. below. The Winter Soldier’s skills are on full display from the moment he tears Agent Sitwell out of the car and into the path of an oncoming big rig. The battle of wits between Winter Soldier and Black Widow was an enthralling mix up, and every single move in the melee between the villain and Cap was cleverly choreographed. The flow of the fight was impeccable, showcasing a lot of what makes Captain America (and his shield) so special, and my heart skips a beat when the Winter Soldier flips that knife. The fight ends with Falcon’s first taste of action and the dramatic (if predictable) reveal of the Winter Soldier’s true identity. The entire fight is perfectly put together and perfectly-executed, an emphatic arrival for directors Joe and Anthony Russo on the feature film stage–a fact Marvel Studios clearly recognizes themselves having handed the brothers the keys to arguably the 3 most pivotal movies in the Phase 3 slate: Captain America: Civil War and both halves of the two-part Avengers: Infinity War.
1) BATTLE OF NEW YORK (The Avengers)
It almost feels like a cheat to pick The Avengers‘ climactic battle–the extended scene is far longer than any other on this list, which affords it more time for spectacular moments. But it is the clear choice, a dazzling showcase of Marvel’s biggest heroes’ abilities, and a fitting climax for an entire film that was an unprecedented realization of many childhood dreams. The reverberations of The Avengers success on Hollywood business and film making in general has been well-documented, but no doubt the Battle of New York will be remembered by today’s youth as a moment that inspired them. This fight is absolutely packed with awesome moments, my personal favorite being the long tracking shot that stops by each of our heroes before finishing with Thor and Hulk taking down one of those giant space worms. Speaking of Hulk, he had a plenty of smashing moments, but also worked for brief moments of comic relief punctuating the action, perhaps best of all when he pummels the “puny god” Loki in Stark’s living room. It’s nice to also finally see Hawkeye unleashed for the first time, and there is some awesome combination at work when multiple heroes are paired together to take down Chitauri; Iron Man’s repulsor beam reflecting off Cap’s shield is straight out of a video game, and it’s awesome to see it brought to life. This fight is a big reason why excitement is so high for Age of Ultron: Joss Whedon has shown he is more than capable of juggling all these characters in a way that emphasizes and celebrates not only their individual strengths, but how they combine and interact with one another.
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