Ranking the MCU: 16-11

Continuing on with a ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from bottom to top. Here’s 16-11.

16. Ant-Man (2015)

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Paul Rudd as Scott Lang in “Ant-Man.”

So, for “Age of Ultron,” I wanted the comedy a bit dialed back. However, here in “Ant-Man,” it worked. This was a very self aware movie, the filmmakers knew the premise was a bit silly, and decided to run with that.

This is accomplished both with a fun cast of characters and some great moments of using unconventional battlefields (such as a miniature train track), which really pushes the entertainment value. The movie also works by incorporating a heist concept.

Some of the detriments, though, is an underdeveloped, shallow villain and a rushed romance.

15. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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The Hulk fighting Abomination in “The Incredible Hulk.”

This film is notoriously underrated. Now, I think Mark Ruffalo has made a better Bruce Banner than Edward Norton and the CGI in the film doesn’t look as good in today’s standards. However, that’s really the only criticism I can find.

Plus, while I think Ruffalo is better, it’s only by a thin margin. Norton was great here as the troubled Dr. Banner, who’s trying to get his life under control while dealing with the danger of the Hulk. Norton’s acting is spot on, as he portrays Banner using his scientific methods to see if he can prevent becoming the Hulk while also learning meditation to prevent the Hulk from appearing. There’s a significant amount of desperation that Norton gives the character, with Banner appearing as rather isolated. But at the same time he still has very human, relatable moments, too.

It was also a good move here to not have this be an origin story, either. After a brief montage at the start showing how Banner received the Hulk powers, the film picks up a while later. This was especially important as this came out just about a month after the 2008 “Iron Man.” It showed how the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be diverse in its presentation.

Instead of an origin story, this is more of a fugitive, man-on-the-run type action film, making the pace feel very quick as the protagonist can’t stay in one place for too long. Things are still capped off with a great battle scene,, where Banner becomes the Hulk and battles the film’s primary antagonist. It’s a great fight, highlighted by the Hulk ripping apart a police car and using the two halves as boxing gloves.

The film’s cast is also well rounded with Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt.

14. Ant-Man and the Wasp

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The Wasp and Ant-Man in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” had a lot of pressure on it considering it came out not long after “Avengers: Infinity War.” While it’s not perfect, the movie holds its own.

The best part of the whole movie is the battle couple dynamic from the two lead characters. This is one of the only movies of its kind to feature a romantic superhero couple and watching them work together is a real treat.

Again, not all of it works. The stakes feel so low here that the tension never gets all too high, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s seemed somewhat out of place. Overall, though, it’s an alright entry.

13. Doctor Strange (2016)

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in “Doctor Strange.”

I’m going to get the negative out of the way first. “Doctor Strange” is a bit rushed. It felt like Strange went from being a rich doctor, to being depressed because of his injuries to learning mystical arts, very fast. The first act just was a bit too quick for my liking and the movie also had very noticeable similarities to the first “Iron Man.”

With that said, once the pace starts slowing down a bit in the second half, things improve, and watching the protagonist develop is compelling. The film really hits its stride in having Cumberbatch being perfectly cast as Strange as well as giving an audience a visually amazing experience.

Plus, the film has one of the best climaxes in any Marvel Studio film. Instead of going with a typical action filled sequence, the movie has Strange come up with an interesting concept to defeat the big bad without throwing a punch.

12. Captain Marvel

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Brie Larson as Captain Marvel.

“Captain Marvel” is in the upper echelon of the MCU but doesn’t quite crack the top 10. The movie is weighed down by a rough first act, a sequence in the middle about the protagonist’s past that moves too quickly and some of the 90s jokes missing their mark.

However, the film still has a lot going for it. The movie really hits its stride in the second act when Captain Marvel and Nick Fury start working together in a buddy cop kind of way. This is of course helped by the solid performances from Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson. Additionally, the picture boasts a fine supporting cast. On top of that, the action is on point.

11. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Captain America battles Iron Man in “Captain America: Civil War.”

There are a lot of things I like about “Captain America: Civil War,” especially the last half hour. There’s a great moment of dialogue between Black Panther and the film’s main villain, as well as an emotionally wrenching fight between two heroes you’ve come to really enjoy watching.

The film also deals with some important themes, such as how much control should be given to the Avengers, considering they’re basically an independent military force, as well as how far can loyalty and friendship go in extreme situations.

The film, however, hit some snags. The second act, for example, gets bogged down with some side-quests. This is most noticeable with Tony Stark recruiting Spider-Man. Now, as a character, the film got Peter Parker and his alter ego completely right. However, considering how many powerful characters Iron Man had on his side *cough* Vision *cough*, bringing in Spider-Man to help confront Captain America didn’t seem necessary.

Plus, there’s the fact that much of the main antagonist’s master plan was based on a lot of coincidences happening. If they don’t happen, the Avengers probably wouldn’t go to fight each other like they do. And that’s another thing, the only time this felt like a real conflict was at the end. During the big fight at the airport, it seemed like a light scrimmage, especially with so many characters having quips and one-liners. Not only did it make it feel like the stakes were low, but it was also rather jarring when War Machine was injured.

So, not top 10 material, but right on the border.

All photos courtesy Marvel Studios.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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