“Ant-Man” is Marvel’s latest success story and one of their better releases


Back when Avengers: Age of Ultron was about to hit theaters, I ranked the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, 11 films at the time. Now, with Ant-Man the latest MCU release coming this weekend, I’m going to go ahead and re-rank Marvel’s titles. I’ll have more to say about Ant-Man than the others, of course, but essentially I’m just slotting in Paul Rudd’s diminutive hero into the old list, particularly since this list will continue to be in flux over the next few years. What Peyton Reed and company accomplished with this one is worth taking note of, but 2016 and beyond offers plenty more Marvel to get excited about. As such, this list will pop up again before long. In the meantime though, it’s fun to see how it looks with a new movie added in.

Quickly, a few initial thoughts on Ant-Man. In short (no pun intended), it’s quite good and works in spite of a tonal oddity. What I mean by that is Edgar Wright’s DNA is still very much there, despite Wright having left the project and not directing it like he initially intended to. His script is still partially used though, so at times this is an above average Marvel flick and at others it’s a really offbeat pseudo Wright movie. The end result is a lot of fun, if slightly quaint by current MCU standards. Rudd and Reed have a blast and it rubs off on you. This isn’t as good as Marvel’s best, but it’s not nearly as far off as you’d think.

Like last time, one thing to keep in mind is that this list is going to change in a hurry. In less than a year, Phase Three will be in full swing for the MCU and Kevin Feige’s big plan for cinematic world domination. That next stage will bring Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange in 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, the untitled new Spider-Man movie (rumored to be called Spider-Man: The New Avenger), and Thor: Ragnarok in 2017, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel in 2018, and finally Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 and Inhumans in 2019. After that, I’m sure we’ll have an Ant-Man sequel at some point, among others. Basically, expect this list to get updated more than once in the years to come…

Here now are all of the current installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ranked once again:

12. Thor: The Dark World – If this is the worst that Marvel can do, we’re in a good place. Thoroughly acceptable but without much of a spark, this sequel has Thor pretty much doing the same thing as in the first one. The enjoyably larger role for Loki saves it from turning into a slog.

11. The Incredible Hulk – More a byproduct of not knowing how to use Hulk properly than anything else, this shows Marvel as a studio still finding their footing in the world. The fact that it’s more or less not referred to at all in the canon of the MCU should be telling, though it’s not unenjoyable at all. Still, this and the title above are the clear weak links.

10. Iron Man 2 – The one film in the series that got too concerned with setting up The Avengers, there’s plenty to like here with Tony Stark/Iron Man just as fun as always. At the same time though, it’s a bare bones plot where the sequel building is unfortunately the prime focus. It’s middle of the road for Marvel in just about every way.

9. Thor – From here on out, the titles move to the good/very good/great range, with the God of Thunder perhaps just suffering from being their least interesting character. There’s nothing wrong with this movie, and the Hawkeye cameo is pretty cool, but it’s on the forgettable side, that’s for sure.

8. Iron Man 3 – Making this the Tony Stark show as opposed to watching him just use the suit for two hours was a top notch decision. Besides just showcasing Robert Downey, Jr. in a big way, it mixes up the formula, which was needed. If they make an Iron Man 4, it’ll partially be based on the success found here.

7. Captain America: The First Avenger – A bit cheesy at times, but intentionally so, this is the most throwback of any Marvel outing to date. The ending is very solid, but up until then it’s basically an unexceptional World War II tale. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, but it’s put to shame by its sequel, as you’ll see below.

6. Avengers: Age of Ultron – As much as this is great summer blockbuster entertainment, I found myself hoping for a bit more. The recent movies from Marvel (the next two down, actually) as well as the first Avengers flick really are a cut above, so to see this just be pretty good was a slight disappointment. Part of that might just be that we’ve now seen the group together already, so some of the magic is gone. Still, this is more than effective and well worth seeing.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – An out of nowhere spy thriller that could have almost come out in the 1970’s and been about the Cold War, this was one of the MCU’s most pleasant surprises. It’s no shock that the filmmakers here have been given the keys to the Marvel kingdom from here on out, taking over the upcoming Avengers sequels.

4. Ant-Man – One of the sillier Marvel outings to date and a riskier one too, this probably shouldn’t have worked, or at least not as well as it did. The original combination of Paul Rudd working with Edgar Wright had many pumped up, but Wright obviously left the project, ultimately leaving it in the hands of Peyton Reed. At times Reed lets things get a little generic, but the script is still partially credited to Wright and it shows. His clearly influenced moments are by far the best, but it’s a fun flick throughout. It’s at its best when the ridiculousness of the idea isn’t being shied away from. Plus, it’s just enjoyable to watch MCU fight scenes done on a totally different scale.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy – The biggest gamble Marvel has made since actually setting forth with the MCU concept, this turned out to be one of their biggest and most purely entertaining success stories. Taking their universe and truly making it universal, this space opera of sorts is as much Star Wars as a miniature version of The Avengers. It’s just so much fun.

2. The Avengers – It was all leading up to this one, so it was a joy to see just how well the meeting of Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor ultimately was. Probably the biggest superhero movie ever (at that point), it was lighter than the Batman franchise it was opening up the same year as, and while not quite as amazing, still more than blew audiences away.

1. Iron Man – It’s hard to beat the one that started it all. RDJ is just perfection as the title character, setting up everything that has come since. If he hadn’t been at the top of his game, none of this would have turned out the same. For that alone, it’s worth heavy praise, but this is also a nearly perfect superhero film. It stands tall among the MCU titles so far.

Stay tuned to see where next year’s releases fall on the list when it gets updated again!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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