Murphy’s Team-Up, Volume XX: Favorite MCU Second Films

Now that the team has had a chance to see the Doctor Strange sequel, we asked them to discuss their favorite 2nd film in an MCU franchise.

Nathan Miller

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness is my favourite 2nd MCU film. I loved what a big swing they took for a second film. From the expansiveness of the worldbuilding to the tightness of the themes in driving the characters forward. While the plot is reasonably simple, the concepts it draws from are far-reaching. At the same time, motifs are repeated like the happiness and heroism of Strange and Wanda, which help the themes land successfully, despite the plot’s fast pace. All of that is without talking about the mind-bending VFX, and the brilliant guest appearances, both of which really hit hard about how infinite the multiverse is. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the score, Sinister Strange fighting 616 Strange using musical notations was fantastic. With this continued inventiveness I look forward to more favourite 2nd Marvel Studios films from Eternals and ShangChi too. 

Torbjorn Frazier

While I definitely won’t go as far as saying that is objectively the “best” sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’d be remiss to not take the opportunity to discuss my personal soft spot for 2018’s Ant-Man and The Wasp. The film does a strong job continuing and evolving the themes of its protagonists set up in the original film. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is on the continuing quest to be the hero his daughter deserves (both in superheroics and as a father). Meanwhile, Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne really comes into her own being introduced as Wasp while continuing to build trust and relationships with those close to her after the tragic events of her upbringing. As well, I maintain that Hannah John-Kamen’s portrayal as main antagonist Ava Starr remains arguably the most underrated villain in the MCU through this point in time. As the cinematic franchise continues to venture towards larger scopes in storytelling, Peyton Reed’s sequel has strong rewatchability both on its own merits and as a low stakes palate cleanser in relation to films like Avengers: Infinity War that came before it. Even still, some seeds were planted for the future between marking the true origin for Cassie Lang’s journey to becoming a hero much like her father and leaving the option for John-Kamen’s Ghost to return down the road. Ultimately, Ant-Man and The Wasp could be described as Marvel Studios’ take on the quintessential “family film.” And in relation to the rest of the MCU, I continue to find the sequel as such a positive experience and an underrated continuation to Marvel’s smallest franchise.

Mary Maerz

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier by technicality. I’ve seen it 333 times in the past 8 years, so it’s proven itself to be (by MCU standards) timeless. MoM is much more exciting, and it has all the potential to end up at #1 for me, but I’ve only seen it twice in less than a week. It’s much more ambitious and it is perfect in how it took one of the least realistic or grounded characters and ran with it. It’s wild, it’s fun, it has so much more personality. But TWS has that smooth, airtight, all-around quality to it that MoM as a concept probably never could. So for me it comes down to how well MoM ages, but they’re neck and neck as two extremely different movies.

Joseph Aberl

To this day, I still adore what Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for the MCU, especially as a sequel. While the first explored a war story with some superhero flair, it was its sequel that truly cemented Steve Rogers’ character and still manage to cohesively build upon the first even if he’s lost in a different era altogether. It may also be the first instance where the film truly embraced the roots of a different genre, which would become a cornerstone for future entries and set up the team that would define superhero cinema.

Hunter Radesi

A major part of the reason the original Guardians of the Galaxy hit so well with moviegoers was it’s emotional core. Director James Gunn found ways to reimagine the protagonists that made them feel real. Their stories were relatable and their goals understandable, with every brilliant character beat tucked neatly into a beautiful, hilarious, thrilling cosmic adventure. Vol. 2, despite catching flack from some critics, manages to be my favorite Marvel Studios sequel by maintaining every inch of this spirit and expanding upon the exciting universe established in the first entry.

A deep dive into complicated family dynamics, exploring what it means to be human, and the admittance of redemption into an otherwise painfully difficult life. Maybe I just happened to see it at the right time in my life, but Rocket’s subplot alone will always hold a special place in my heart. I cry every single time. Also, the adventure itself is a lot more fun than it gets credit for. Creative action sequences, dazzling colors, and plenty of organic set up for galactic tales to come. If it’s been a while since your last watch, maybe give it another shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Dalbin Osorio

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If I was writing this before seeing Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, I’d have gone with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, having had the last 12ish hours to sit with the newest Doc Strange, I can safely say that this is as much a game changer as the 2nd entry in the Cap trilogy was and for many reasons. What worked for Winter Soldier was that it was still very much a Cap story, despite needing to set the stage for both Age of Ultron and Civil War. Doc Strange 2, in that vein, has the unenviable job of setting up the multiverse in spades (it’s no longer a concept, but a very real thing in the MCU), while also setting up Doctor Strange 3 in a very real way AND Secret Wars in a tangible fashion. We end with a corrupted Doc Strange, a bunch of dead sorcerers, and some much-needed growth for the good Doctor. We get Clea in the mid-credits scene, and that plants a seed for both the conclusion of the trilogy and the overarching story, but the shadow of Kang hovers above these proceedings when we realize that it was Sylvie’s decision to stab He Who Remains that has now caused these Incursions to happen in earnest. That one decision, in the void, has now set these different universes on a crash course for each other. Doc Strange 2 could’ve been forgiven if it focused solely on that, but this movie is as much Stephen’s story as Wanda’s in the sense that they are both chasing the thing they want the most only to find out their current iterations don’t deserve it. Whereas No Way Home needed the variants to move Peter forward away from the Avengers, the Variants in Doc Strange 2 serve to reinforce decisions that he made in order to save that team (and the universe). Michael Waldron deserves credit for how he wrote Wanda here, too, and I think it’s that well-earned heel turn that cements this as my favorite Marvel sequel. Wanda is a bad ass, who delivers some of the best lines (her telling Reed that it’s good that Sue is still alive because then their kids will have someone left to raise them was incredible), and is not to be trifled with. My favorite sequel from Marvel, for sure.

Anthony Canton III

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness made this question really tough. From Sam Raimi’s direction to the themes of the movie really challenged this spot. However when thinking of MCU sequels Captain America: The Winter Soldier remains the superior movie.

Cap 2 is a technical marvel no pun intended. The introduction of Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, the incredible action scenes, and the tilt of Steve Rogers character tips the scales. Robert Redford as the shadowy leader of Hydra in a Marvel movie is wild to think about. The fight in the streets of DC between Bucky and Steve is top 5 in the MCU. This movie wasn’t just a marvel movie, it was an spy thriller.

The movie asks and answers questions as to why S.H.I.E.L.D. should or shouldn’t exist. The deception of Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff force Steve to think about being a hero differently. It informs Captain America’s decisions for the rest of his time in the MCU, good or bad. Everything from the beginning to the end with the introduction of Wanda Maximoff makes this the easy choice for the best MCU sequel.

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