In one day, another movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming out, Ant-Man. However, if you search Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, or Metacritic, critics have already given the film positive reviews; hailing it as a strong standalone story without having to lean on its bigger brothers.
Paul Rudd (Scott Lang) does a perfect job of acting out the ‘Average Joe’ persona. His comedic timing is spot on. Ant-Man also stars Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Michael Pena, and Evangeline Lilly.
See the microscopic superhero at your local movie theater Thursday evening. Ant-Man is the twelfth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m here to trace backward and countdown the best of the eleven from weakest to godly.
MCU started in 2008 with Iron Man, relaunching Robert Downey Jr’s acting career back into full swing as he quickly became the hottest celebrity, mirroring his social status as his portrayal of the genius playboy, Tony Stark. Over the course of seven years, Downey Jr was featured in six of the eleven Marvel films and in that time has become Stark’s reputation. MCU has also included Captain America, played by Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and two adaptations (Not counting Eric Bana) of the Hulk/Bruce Banner played by Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo was perfectly casted. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) have had recurring roles throughout. Other superheroes and supervillains introduced thus far were: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket (Voiced by Bradley Cooper), Ronan (Lee Pace), Nebula (Karen Gillan), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), Abomination (Tim Roth), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), Ultron (James Spader), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell), Crossbones (Frank Grillo), Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), Mandarin (Ben Kingsley or Guy Pearce), Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Sif (Jaimie Alexandra), Iron Monger (Jeff Bridges), Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (John Hurt), and Josh Brolin as Thanos. The television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D span the universe even further as well as Daredevil. Charlie Cox plays Daredevil, Vincent D’Onofrio as King Pin and in the upcoming Season 2, Jon Bernthal will debut as Frank Castle aka ‘The Punisher’. We can’t forget the legend who has appeared as a cameo in every single Marvel movie. If it wasn’t for Stan Lee and his incredible comic book stories, this would never exist.
The next summer will kick-off with Captain America: Civil War and introduce characters like Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to the fray. Civil War will split the Avengers into two factions: Captain America and Iron Man after the Government has passed a law that all superheroes must reveal their identities to the world. Steve Rogers (Captain America) takes it upon himself to go against the political decision as others join his calling. Tony Stark agrees with the government as the two Marvel leaders begin engaging in battle. Some heroes are for the Cap, others fight for Stark. Spider-Man is caught in the middle. Which side will you choose?
On to the countdown. You won’t see the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Blade or Ghost Rider anywhere on this list because they either are currently or previously owned by other studios like 20th Century Fox or Sony Pictures. Each film will be accompanied by Honest Trailers.
Weakest: Iron Man 2 (2010)
This movie was a joke. It took all the amazing aspects that made Iron Man such a success and pissed on it. Besides Terrence Howard not reprising his role as General James Rhodes, there were several illogical elements to the characters, like Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) being more worried about Stark participating in an F500 car race than him being Iron Man. Whiplash was a villain without a motive that spoke like a man who just suffered a stroke while gargling razor blades between his teeth. He did love his bird, though. Stark and Rhodes battle against court judges run by Gary Shandler and sit on long debates just so Stark can stop and eat a donut? Stark even gets drunk at a party he throws while disc jockeying and peeing in his suit. Black Widow’s eye candy was underutilized and Stark was able to create another metallic element by solving the most convoluted puzzle that his father hid in a giant diaphragm. Howard Stark would have to guess that his son decades in the future would hold onto that creation and eventually configure the algorithm. There’s nothing like fake scientific technology like holographic augmented reality. Don Cheadle who is now Rhodes found a way to work his suit in a matter of a few minutes when it took Stark nearly the full length of Iron Man to control his. Alright, maybe that was a nitpick, Rhodes could be a fast learner. The best part of this film was seeing Sam Rockwell dance across the stage and include his witty rhetoric. Rockwell probably improvised most of his scenes. Iron Man 2 is infamous for being the laughing stock of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and why Jon Favreau didn’t continue on to direct the sequel.
Weaker: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
This one is dull and boring. I watched this hoping Captain America would get to the Avengers. The Nazis, I mean Hydra are melodramatic villains. Although, Hugo Weaving looks like Red Skull, there wasn’t much else he did to captivate the audience. The film tries to make us care for Steve Rogers and Agent Carter’s relationship even though their zero chemistry lasted on screen for twenty minutes. Steve Rogers undergoes surgery to get himself bigger, stronger, and taller so he can become Captain America. Kind of sounds like steroids and war propaganda. It takes place in the 40’s when World War II was everywhere and when I didn’t exist. All the futuristic 40’s technology was cool though and reminded me of Fallout 3. The ending was predictable, anti-climatic, and barely showed the extent of the Caps abilities. I was excited to see the credits and know that I was closer to The Avengers premiering.
Weak: Iron Man 3 (2013)
In this third installment, Tony Stark is suffering from serious panic attacks and paranoia as he fights the villains as himself. Spoiler alert, they destroy all of his suits and house in the beginning after Stark idiotically tells Mandarin the whereabouts of his location. We will get to the Mandarin’s plot twist after. A new thing they added in this film was Stark’s ability to control the suits. He can remote control an Iron Man suit from miles away and can form pieces of suits onto his body magnetically or in some other impossible way. Then there were people who constantly had lava brewing inside their bodies that made absolutely no sense. This movie highlights why we still cannot stand Pepper Potts. Potts is super nagging and lets the obvious 80’s villain flirt with her played by Guy Pearce. Iron Man 3 ends with Stark bringing back all his suits for a final battle on the docks. Stark and Potts kill the bad guy, the suits all get destroyed in a firework spectacle, and Stark’s chest fusion battery gets removed so he can live a normal life with Potts. It’s okay to tie up loose ends, but not when there’s a sequel where Tony Stark comes back as Iron Man in Avengers: Age of Ultron. There’s also no explanation as to how he got back into the superhero game. And if a member of the Avengers were presumed dead, wouldn’t Nick Fury, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and the others of S.H.I.E.L.D come to his aid, maybe even fight Mandarin? Not in Shane Black’s film. The man threatened to assassinate the President of the United States. Going back to the Mandarin, what director Black did with his character was break the law of comic nerds. Spoiler alert, Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley turns out to be a paid actor. The people he is shooting in the film are just hired extras on a set. The real supposed Mandarin was Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who gets blown away by Potts after she attracts the interior dragon fire breathing syndrome. Just ridiculous. What were you thinking Black!? Way to ruin Iron Man’s arch nemesis.
Average: Thor (2011)
This wasn’t terrible but wasn’t great either. Kenneth Branaugh brought the Norse Thunder God Thor to the Marvel Earthly realm in a Shakespearean Hamlet-like adaptation. The mighty Thor who wields (I cannot pronounce the name) a giant hammer must learn the ways of virtue and elderly respect when his father casts him out of Asgard while relinquishing his powers. Looks like someone has some daddy issues. The majority of the movie is about a long blonde haired dude who speaks like he came off a set of Downtown Abbey. Jane Foster played by Natalie Portman was the female love interest who didn’t need to be a part of the movie. For a character like Thor, this film was too grounded. Not much else I can say.
Strong: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Before Mark Ruffalo portrayed the best Hulk in The Avengers we got the second Bruce Banner, Edward Norton. This was the reboot sequel to the awful Ang Lee 2003 Hulk which thankfully has no ties to MCU. This sequel does the comic book hero more justice as we see the Hulk take on an entire platoon of highly skilled soldiers, Tim Roth, and his transformation into Abomination. Edward Norton’s Hulk is more brutal and scarier looking than Eric Bana’s Shrek. The Incredible Hulk was released before Walt Disney bought Marvel, so many of the scenes are more violent than what we see from a Marvel picture today. The problem of this movie was the lack of concrete realism as it based its action scenes on CGI. Liv Tyler played a lovable Betty Rose, but her on-screen relationship with Norton was futile. Norton was tolerable and that is all I have to say. The only cast member going on to star in the next Marvel installment is John Hurt as General Thaddeus Ross. In the comics, Ross eventually turns into Red Hulk. Since an honest trailer wasn’t made for this film yet, I will attach the honest trailer for the 2003 Hulk bomb. Sit and laugh.
Stronger: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Alan’s Taylor take on Thor’s sequel standalone saga was portrayed on a much larger scale as the Asgardian world spread further out. The action was better, the comedy was amped-up, and Tom Hiddleston completely indulged himself as the God of Mischief. You can tell that he had loads of fun playing Loki this third time around, more than Thor and The Avengers. Thor becomes less arrogant as he settles down with Ms. Porter even though he should really hook up with Sif. Thor and Loki’s chemistry is magnificent as they fight against the elvish warlords, some guy named Malekith and bicker between themselves. There are several scientific mambo jumbo as we wait for the next Avengers movie. The ending leaves us on a cliffhanger as it’s suggested that Loki took Odin’s mantle after murdering him, that’s dark.
Strongest: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
On the top five we get to the really good films of the bunch. The sequel to the epic 2012 Avengers barely missed the mark. The action scenes were more intense and the teamwork between the Avengers got more creative. However, the major inevitable problem was that a film with all your favorite Marvel superheroes in one movie already happened. It’s difficult to top that masterpiece. Joss Whedon already proved himself so in this sequel he lessened the drama between the heroes and focused more on explosions. And I was fairly confident that the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D were able to destroy Ultron, the menacing A.I. tyrant since they were able to take down a god. James Spader as Ultron did well by adding Downey Jr humor to his one-liners while saying them in a creepy voice. They delved more into Hawkeye’s background and established him as a necessary aspect to the team’s foundation. Without that glue, it’ll fall apart, gods and superhumans alike. Black Widow gets more spotlight and shares an unnecessary romance with Bruce Banner. The best parts were: Hulk vs. Iron Man Hulkbuster armor, Vision, and the early of signs Captain America: Civil War. You begin to see how Cap and Iron Man disagree on issues facing the Avengers and the negative effects brought upon the creation of Ultron. The most important scene was when Stark is looking through a potential future where all the Avengers are killed in space. Scarlett Witch shows Stark this horrifying vision as it relates to what Thanos may do in Avengers: Infinity War (2018-2019). Quicksilver’s death should have been avoided because he is fast enough to evade the projectiles and because his body can regrow cells at superhuman levels. They might bring him back. No one ever really dies in Marvel. There is no honest trailer for this movie yet.
Superhuman: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The space Avengers Marvel movie flooded the world by storm last summer. Guardians of the Galaxy was fun, hilarious, and sensitive. The characters were likable and the adventures they partook were a thrilling ride. This less known Marvel comic from the 70’s (debuted Jan. 1969) showed the magnitude of Marvel Studios and James Gunn who managed to make a movie enjoyable for all ages. It’s like a Pixar Star Wars movie. The kids laugh at the bathroom humor while the adults crack up to the underlying dirty jokes. The visual effects were mesmerizing. My two qualms was that Ronin the Destroyer was a lame villain and the Guardians were rip off versions of the Avengers. Star-Lord is like Captain America, Gamora is Black Widow, Drax is the Thor in the group, Rocket could be the Tony Stark, and Groot makes them their secret weapon like the Hulk. They also teased us with another cameo from Thanos. This time Thanos speaks to Ronin but remains seated. This was a fun film that deserves to be at this spot. “I am Groot!”
Powerful: Iron Man (2008)
Director Jon Favreau started the path to assemble the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man took an infamous actor who went from the pits of despair and became an international film star overnight. If it wasn’t for this film’s success, these other movies on the countdown wouldn’t exist. Downy Jr. plays the perfect Tony Star, a role that he was born to play and does it with less narcissism than his other Stark performances. The origin story is on par with Batman Begins and showcases Downy Jr’s skills as an actor. So saddle up for the masterpiece that included plenty of AC/DC and Black Sabbath. This was the Iron Man that needed to stay, instead it became a joke of itself. Although, Jeff Bridges Iron Monger villain is generic, Downy Jr. holds the film with his charismatic and intellectual nature. The irony of Stark is that his creations wind up becoming his evident downfalls as they all turn against him. This is the founding father of MCU. However, the next one on the list outdoes the epic scope in every way.
Most Powerful: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
After the disappointing Captain America: The First Avengers the Russo brothers showcased the Caps talents and he kicks ass. Captain America: The Winter Soldier does away with the conventional light and comical take on the Marvel Universe to illustrate an epic espionage plot with twists leaving you gasping in awe. They introduce Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who plays a great sidekick for Chris Evans (Cap) and reintroduce Captain’s friend Bucky Barnes turned bad as Winter Soldier. This film shows us why Captain America is so important, he is the ultimate soldier and can adapt to nearly any tactical environment he faces. Whether it’s kicking a bunch of bad guys, jumping off high roofs, obliterating a Hydra fighter jet with his vibranium shield, catching his shield in impractical ways, using his shield to parachute out of a plane or fall safely out of a high-rise skyscraper. I loved how a secret society of Hydra members were hiding within the walls of S.H.I.E.L.D and how Nick Fury had to go rogue in order to survive. Black Widow comes back as the sexy assassin to develop chemistry with Rogers. The explosive scenes from the Hover Carrier are awesome. The Winter Soldier has several intense action scenes with Captain America and Black Widow. Things aren’t what they seem in this gut-wrenching action packed blockbuster. Just be aware that no one dies in this movie even after someone was shot, caught on fire, or fell from high altitude. Rogers being shown the modern world must have blown his mind. I wonder what happened when he saw any of the Marvel films.
Godly: The Avengers (2012)
The ultimate Marvel movie in MCU that has yet to be topped is Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. In 2012, every geek dream was answered when we saw Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk fighting together in one shot. It was the first time where superheroes from separate films came together to deliver a visual masterpiece that gave audiences chills around the globe. Whedon found a way to capture the chemistry between each superhero. The film should win awards to paying off it’s monstrous hype. The Avengers gave us the greatest Hulk and Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo and did a superb job of finding everyone’s dynamic from the Caps old jokes, Stark’s wit, Thor’s commentary on the oddities of Earth, Bruce Banner’s condition, Nick Fury’s burden, Loki’s wrath, Black Widows interrogation skills, and Hawkeye’s archery. Yeah Hawkeye wasn’t too effective, but that was all made up in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Battle for New York was incredible as the Avengers worked together to utilize each of their strengths and cover ground to take out an army of galactic aliens until the Hulk arrived and smashed the creatures to pieces. Agent Phil Coulson was a pleasant addition. The Avengers used his death to fuel a united team in the heart of an impending apocalypse. Having Hulk throw Loki around like a rag doll was the icing on the cake. Nothing has come close to this juggernaut. Can Captain America: Civil War which comes in 2016, dethrone The Avengers? It’s being referred to as Avengers 2.5.
Where will Ant-Man fall on this list? Find out Thursday night.