Here we are, at the end of Phase Two of the MCU. I don’t know how long this series will last, but with Ant-Man, they’ve created the twelfth good Marvel film. I really thought this might be their first misstep, but no, this is a really fun, and particularly charming addition to the universe.
As is my wont, I will now insert Ant-Man into a ranking of all twelve films. But for those who simply want a review of this one film, I’ll oblige.
The opening of the film is a cornucopia of nerdy goodness, including the following aspects:
- An under construction Triskelion (referencing The Winter Soldier)
- Howard Stark, played by John Slattery (referencing Iron Man 2)
- Peggy Carter in old-lady makeup (referencing The First Avenger and Winter Soldier)
- Michael Douglas returned to his Wall Street looks by way of the best digital deaging ever
How do you not already love this movie?
In the present, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an affable ex-con, who of course was jailed for Robin-Hooding money from some guy who hoovered up a pension plan. Put simply, he’s been in prison, but we like him. We like that he tries to be a good dad to his daughter. We like that he tries to make a living on the up and up. Most of all, we like that he’s funny. But it’s hard out there for a con, so he agrees to a theft, which sets him on the path to become… Ant-Man! (Ant-Man has a suit that he can use to shrink to tiny size. He also mentally controls ants. Just go with it.)
Hank Pym (Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) help to train Scott so that he can stop Generic Bad Guy (Corey Stoll) from selling this technology to Hydra. (Nerdgasm!)
The main story is okay. It’s the grace notes in the film that make it special. Like Hank having to square off against one of the Avengers. Or the way Hank breaks out of a building where he’s been captured. Or, you know, the entire finale sequence.
Totally fun. This is a winner.
And now, on to the ranking:
- Captain America: The First Avenger — This is a perfect movie.
- The Avengers — There’s very little to dislike about this film, and it has a really good villain.
- Thor: The Dark World — Does a great job balancing the drama and the humor.
- Iron Man 3 — All three Iron Man films follow very similar trajectories, but the layers of Downey’s performance make this the most resonant of the three.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier — The only thing that pushes this excellent film down in the ranking is the by-the-numbers goal for the heroes at the end.
- Iron Man — This started it all, and started it well.
- The Incredible Hulk — An underrated gem. It definitely feels like it’s own thing, compared to the more connected rest of the films.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron — Another film that hits all the right beats, but doesn’t gel for me. Maybe because the Scarlet Witch stuff didn’t land.
- Iron Man 2 — Why the hate? The birthday sequence was dumb, and Black Widow was wasted. Other than that, it’s pretty fun.
- Guardians of the Galaxy — Yes, it’s heresy. I know. I just didn’t connect with this the way I did with all the films above it.
- Thor — I don’t hate it, but man there’s a lot to be ambivalent about in this film.