The First Dozen Marvel (MCU) Films Ranked

With the release of Ant-Man, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films has concluded. Before Phase Three begins with Captain America: Civil War, now would be a good time to rank the twelve MCU films released so far.

1. The Avengers (2012) – As the culmination of years of careful seeding by previous MCU films The Avengers was a bold, energetic triumph. Director Joss Whedon accomplished the impossible by bringing together completely different characters and molding them into a superhero team just like in the comic books.

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As the most successful superhero film of all time, The Avengers excited numerous viewers and changed the landscape of superhero films. Before this film, the usual superhero films operated in their own realities without any indication of a rich universe as seen in comic books. But The Avengers embraced the richness of its comic book lore and it paid off. Now, shared cinematic universes are the rage. However, The Avengers is the best of the MCU films because it was so energetic, witty, and snappy, and had the novelty of our favorite heroes meeting for the first time. It all led to one of the most exciting finales presented on film that still reverberates with viewers.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Marvel Studios showed they were willing to take a chance with this quirky and exciting space adventure yarn. Who would’ve imagined that a sci-fi movie about a bumbling space pirate, violent green aliens, a foul-mouthed raccoon and a walking tree would strike a chord with audiences?

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Technically, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a superhero film, but this demonstrates how this MCU entry is quite different from its standard superhero repertoire. What made it special wasn’t just the premise, beautiful visuals or production design, but a toe-tapping soundtrack that ingeniously used ’70s pop songs. It was a unique signature for this space opera tale about a group of space losers who banded together to save the galaxy. Chris Pratt became a star thanks to his silly, but good-hearted role as Star-Lord, the self-proclaimed legendary outlaw.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The best MCU solo superhero film and one of the greatest superhero films ever made. More importantly, this was arguably the most volatile entry in the MCU because by the time the film ended, the cinematic universe was forever changed by the film’s events.

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Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers has demonstrated how he has grown in stature in these films. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers faced his greatest threats from a former friend (one of the deadliest and most frightening supervillains on film) and a shocking global conspiracy that rocked the MCU to its roots. Adding to the film’s specialness were a tightly written script, well-executed and riveting fight scenes and terrific performances from the cast.

4. Ant-Man (2015) – The final Phase Two film is known for its numerous behind-the-scenes hurdles where the original director quit after having developed the film for years. Yet, in spite of that and the titular character’s obscurity, Ant-Man was an unexpectedly great superhero film that’s full of panache.

antman in your face

As one of the more humorous MCU films, Ant-Man quickly won over viewers with its outlandish premise: a man who can shrink and communicate with ants. Wrapped around that was a swift-paced heist story that deftly integrated itself into the larger MCU in a natural way that eluded other films that attempted this. Adding to the film’s enjoyment were many winning performances, fantastic special effects and unlike other MCU films, Ant-Man was able to deliver an astonishing final act that helped pave the future for the MCU.

5. Thor (2011) – What sets Marvel Studios apart with their MCU films is its willingness to remain faithful to the comic book source material. At the same time, Marvel Studios has the ability to make organic changes and updates to its characters and situations. Thor is a perfect example. The film wisely eschewed its magic-based comic book roots that Thor and his ilk were actual gods and cleverly used science fiction tropes instead.

THOR

Thor followed the winning formula of MCU films by having an egotistical, flawed character learn some humility and become a hero. Thanks to director Kenneth Branagh, Thor also had a sense of grandeur that evoked a Shakespearean family drama. In this case, that involved otherworldly aliens mistaken for gods. It was also noted for its humorous fish-out-of-water scenario and Tom Hiddleston’s star-making performance as Loki, the MCU’s best villain.

6. Iron Man (2008) – The one that started the MCU phenomenon still holds up as a well-made origin story. Robert Downey, Jr. shined as he made a personal and professional comeback in the role of a lifetime. His trend-setting Tony Stark/Iron Man was a self-centered narcissist who learned to become something more.

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The first part of Iron Man was engrossing, particularly during the moments when Tony Stark first faced his mortality and was forced to construct a crude armored suit. However, the film faltered a bit in the second half. The pace dragged as we waited for him to construct a proper Iron Man suit. Things weren’t helped by the final battle that looked like something out of the Transformers and was just as cartoony. But Iron Man’s successful formula set the tone for the rest of the MCU. Continue reading

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Ant-Man Is Another TriumphANT Effort From Marvel

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Please pardon the pun in the article title, but Marvel Studios has done it again with their latest film Ant-Man. This film suffered through many behind-the-scenes obstacles and hurdles, the most dire was the sudden departure of Ant-Man’s original director, the fan-favorite Edgar Wright. Expectations were low for this film, seriously, a film about a guy who can shrink himself and talk to ants? It didn’t really work in the old Marvel comic books (created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby), so how could this concept translate to the screen?

Well, kudos has to go to Marvel Studios for pulling off another exciting and fun superhero film that leaves you begging for more.

Ant-Man is a heist film that is funny and full of thrills as it tells the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a cat burglar who has been released from prison after serving a sentence. He’s a down-on-the-luck extremely likeable scott finds suitfellow who just wants to reconnect with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), but can’t catch a break or a steady job.

His buddy Luis (Michael Peña), another ex-con, hooks him up with a caper to break into an old millionaire’s home and rob his safe. When Scott does this he discovers a strange suit in the safe that belongs to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and soon finds out that Pym was testing him.

Pym discovered years ago how to shrink himself using the suit and wants to keep that technology out of the wrong hands. Unfortunately, his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) forced Pym out of his own company and is on the verge of recreating the shrinking technology. What’s worse is that the unethical Cross is willing to sell the technology in the form of a beefed-up armored suit called Yellowjacket to the highest bidder for military use. Feeling desperate, Pym recruits Scott to don the shrinking suit, use its capabilities to infiltrate Pym’s former company and bring down Cross’ efforts.

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This may seem familiar to anyone who has seen your average Marvel Cinematic Universe film (MCU) , but that’s just on the surface. Whereas the other MCU film this year, Avengers: Age of Ultron, felt bloated and choppy, Ant-Man is a fast-moving joyride that has a bubbly sense of fun. You instantly root for the good guys and find it so easy to laugh at many of the gags and jokes. Director Peyton Reed deserves so much credit for naturally bringing the humor to this film and that is due to his comedic film credentials. Kevin Feige, the Marvel Studios mastermind, is owed a pat in the back by fans everywhere for helping to not only keep the production going after Wright left, but for finding the right person to direct Ant-Man.

running antmanSomething as silly as a guy who shrinks and talks to ants actually makes sense in this film… it works! That is because this film wisely chose to use the character of Scott Lang and made the film a very loose adaptation of David Michelinie and John Byrne’s re-interpretation of the character from Marvel Premiere #47-48 (“To Steal an Ant-Man!”) where the concept’s full potential was realized. Ant-Man used his powers in a unique fighting style where he would instantly shrink and grow to normal size, which confused enemies. Well, this approach is used in this film and Wright deserves credit for bringing forth that concept, which thankfully Marvel utilized. These fight scenes were electrifying and breathless because they haven’t been seen on screen before. The closest film that can compare to this is Innerspace, an underrated gem from the ’80s.

Aside from the brilliant special effects and pyms and langthe tight and competent direction, Ant-Man is such a winning film thanks to all the actors who bring their A-game to the film. From Paul Rudd’s affable Scott to Evangeline Lily’s stunning presence as Hope Van Dyne to Michael Douglas who just shines as Pym. He nearly steals the film thanks to his gravitas and unexpected comedic timing. You just buy him as the angst-ridden Pym and as to why he doesn’t like Tony Stark.

Yes, there are references to the MCU and even some swipes against the Avengers. But these Easter eggs (listen for a quick Spider-Man reference!) embellish the film and don’t feel forced. Make sure to stay until the very end of the credits to get an idea of how Scott Lang fits within the entire MCU as the final scene sets up the next MCU offering. Like with the other MCU films Ant-Man is part of something larger, but at the same time it’s a smaller scale film, and that’s a compliment. It gives Ant-Man a more intimate, relatable aspect that is perhaps matched by the Netflix series Daredevil.

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The fact that Ant-Man is firmly entrenched in the MCU may seem as detriment to some, especially those that may be tiring of superhero films. But like last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man is a bubbly and pleasurable romp.

José Soto

Comic-Con 2015 Highlights

deadpool hikerAnother Comic-Con has made its impact with genre fans from all over the world. As exciting as it was for those lucky enough to attend the annual gathering at San Diego, there wasn’t any Earth-shattering news to come out of the convention. Nonetheless, many presentations and speakers were able to whet the appetites for fans at what lies ahead.

TV Shows

New trailers for The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead made their debut and whetted the appetites for followers of the zombie phenomenon. While Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has leadership headaches in season six of The Walking Dead, we all finally get to see how the walker apocalypse got its start with the prequel spinoff.

While Marvel Studios was conspicuously absent this year, we did get news about their TV shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. The most intriguing was the tease that one of the actual Avengers (and Maria Hill doesn’t count!) may appear in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That being the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), which is terrific news since he is so popular.

As for their natural rival, DC, we found out that Jay Garrick will indeed be featured in The Flash and portrayed by Teddy Sears, plus Wally West is coming to the popular show as well as a new villain Zoom. Also, Hawkman himself will appear in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. Do we smell another spinoff coming?

Movies

The three big movie-related revelations at Comic-Con were about Fox’s Marvel movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and DC/Warner Brothers’ superhero films. The clear winner was DC who presented a teaser for the Suicide Squad, announced that there will be a Green Lantern Corps. film  and that Ben Affleck will direct and star in a Batman solo film, and showed a near-perfect trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But let’s go over the first two revelations.

Fox presented teasers for next year’s Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, as well as next month’s Fantastic Four. While the new X-Men presentation was fascinating, what brought the house down was the first look at Deadpool. The teaser featured many of the same scenes from the ashcan trailer that made the rounds in the Internet to sell the idea of a Deadpool film. But added to that were the basic origin stuff of how Slade Wilson became the Merc with a Mouth. Overall, the trailer clearly shows that this will be an R-rated film to the delight of fans.

Just as delightful to watch was the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel that was highlighted by a reunion of the Original Trilogy stars, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. A behind-the-scenes video was released that had new footage from the upcoming Star Wars film and one point that seems to be hammered into the video is the reliance on practical sets and effects so as to set it apart from the prequel films.

Arguably the most popular presentations where done by DC/Warner Bros. with their two comic book films due next year. The Suicide Squad trailer was fairly standard with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) winning over drooling fans as expected. The images were buttressed by Will Smith’s take of Deadshot, who added some gravitas to what looked like a costume parade. However, Jared Leto stole the entire trailer at the end when he showed up as the Joker. He seemed just as manic and deadly as he appeared in the photos.

What set the DC presentation apart was the winning trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It showed that there will be real repercussions for the events in Man of Steel where Superman (Henry Cavill) and his foes effectively destroyed Metropolis. We find out that Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) was present in Metropolis during the climatic battle and witnessed firsthand the threat that meta-humans pose. His hatred for Superman seems natural and justified. Meanwhile, Superman has to contend with either being revered as some kind of god and feared and hated by others. All the protesters with the signs calling him an illegal alien is very topical. The final and winning touch to the trailer was the premiere of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. It didn’t show much but she looked beautiful and powerful. Thanks to the trailer Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has become the must-see film of 2016.

Marvel Studios MIA

DC’s presentations sucked all the air out of the convention for the other properties, even the Fox Marvel movies. What could’ve countered this was if Marvel Studios had bothered to make a presentation at Comic-Con. Instead, they stayed home and it remains to be seen if a price will be paid for this absence.

They had their reasons for staying out of Comic-Con, Ant-Man will be out in a few days and their other films may not be ready yet. Then there’s the fact that there may be presentations at next month’s D23 Expo, which will solely be about all things Disney. batman armorOr perhaps Marvel Studios will have another special presentation like they did last fall where they announced the full slate of the Phase Three MCU films. Except this time we’ll get actual footage from Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.

Be that as it may, it is still probably a strategic mistake to take the year off Comic-Con. While the MCU films are riding a wave of popularity now, this year’s convention showed that genuine competition is coming and Marvel Studios needs to stay alert. Some cracks in the armor showed with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man’s potential for success is unknown. If they didn’t want to show any footage, they could’ve at least shown some props or artwork from the upcoming films. Instead we got to see cool props from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice like the Batman armor. Score one for DC. 🙂

Lewis T. Grove

 

 

Back to the Future: Celebrating 30 Years Of The Timeless Classic

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“Doc, I’m from the future. I came here in a time machine that you invented. Now I need your help to get back to the year 1985.” – Marty McFly

It’s been thirty years since the world was introduced to Back to the Future, the greatest time travel film ever made. For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, the film is about Marty McFly, your typical modern teenager who accidently time travels to 1955 and meets his then-teenage parents. This created a temporal paradox where Marty was threatened with non-existence so not only must Marty find a way back to his time period, but has to correct his parents’ timeline to ensure he’s eventually born. The instant classic wowed many audiences when it was released and was the biggest box office hit of 1985. Through the years since its initial release Back to the Future has generated many fans who look fondly at the film and for good reason.

marty and docBack to the Future, the brainchild of director Robert Zemeckis and writer/producer Bob Gale, is a humorous, smart take on time travel that starred Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as his best friend Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown. Both actors made tremendous contributions to the film’s success thanks to their comedic performances and a genuine chemistry between them. Both actors were so well suited for their roles, which made them so endearing to audiences.

Perfectly Timed Casting

It’s amazing this happened because it almost didn’t. As fans know, Michael J. Fox wasn’t the first person original martycast as Marty. It was Eric Stoltz, but as filming commenced Zemeckis realized that Stoltz wasn’t right for the role. To his credit, the director made the right decision to replace him with Fox, who was actually the first choice for the role but was initially unavailable. It all worked out in the end, Fox turned out to be perfect as the distressed but likeable teenagerwho finds himself in an extraordinary situation.

Thanks to his popularity at the time (his sitcom Family Ties was a hit TV show in 1985), Fox helped draw in ticket buyers who normally couldn’t be bothered with a sci-fi comedy about time travel. But Fox had a certain charm that made Marty so appealing to audiences. Through Marty’s eyes, we saw the trepidations of being a teenager and later in the film Marty was able to see that his teenage parents had similar gripes and issues. He witnessed teenagers in the 1950s with timeless problems such as peer pressure, bullying, social awkwardness and self doubt. Marty learned some profound lessons about his parents and himself. Underlying that are simple, yet poignant messages about self confidence and accomplishments. “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

einstein first time travelerFox isn’t the only reason that Back to the Future is so memorable. A large measure of that has to do with the supporting cast as well. Aside from Lloyd (who perfected the daffy, wild-eyed scientist), Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines, and Thomas F. Wilson as the comical bully Biff Tannen, Crispin Glover nearly steals the film as George McFly, Marty’s nerdy father. While Glover has funny playing the goofy, out-of-touch older father in the 1980s scenes, he really shines in the 1950s scenes where he exemplifies the shy and nervous sci-fi geek. tannen and georgeWhat sci-fi fan can’t identify with his dilemma where he has to choose between going out to a dance or staying home to watch Science Fiction Theater? It’s just unfortunate that Glover didn’t return for the sequels, thus diminishing his character in those films. But we did get to see more of Biff and his relatives later on, who were perfect villains throughout the three Back to the Future films.

Temporal Shock

Underlining the film’s appeal is the accurate representation of the 1950s and the culture shock that followed when Marty first experiences the time period. The film is littered funny and amusing nods to the past and present like Marty ordering a Pepsi Free at a diner and being told he has to pay for it, or Marty being mistaken for an alien creature by farm folks, and Marty disguising himself as Darth Vader. Other nifty touches sprinkled throughout the film include the well-groomed nature of that time period, the archaic but catchy music and how undeveloped but pristine Marty’s hometown of Hill Valley appeared.

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Overall, Marty’s experiences and culture clash were some of the best and funniest fish-out-of-water scenarios done on film. Looking at the film now, a modern-day viewer can also experience a measure of culture shock at the then-contemporary 1980s scenes. The contrast between the clean, bright middle-class lifestyle of the 1950s and the rundown, but modern vista of the 1980s is startling. Instead of making the film dated, the fact that Back to the Future is bookended with the 1980s adds to the rewatchability factor.

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