Two weeks ago I posed this question: With "Spider-Man: Homecoming," would our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler climb up the spout again, or would this third version of the character finally wash him out?
Well, with $117 million domestic and a 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, the answer seems fairly clear: Spidey has climbed. What follows, then, is this: Where does this latest film fit in fandom's favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films?
Many times, bigger is considered better, but Ant-Man proves the notion wrong. Unlike many (OK, most) superhero movies, where a giant blue sky laser threatens the entire world, the stakes in "Ant-Man" are relatively small (no pun intended). Underneath the special effects, this is really a film about the relationships two dads have with their daughters. Add in clever writing, great physical comedy, cool effects and a heist worthy of "Ocean's Eleven" and we have a superhero movie that hits all the right notes.
The "First Avenger" film had several unenviable tasks: 1) Make U.S. audiences care about a property that arguably hadn't been relevant for 70 years, 2) do the same for international audiences, 3) make a World War II movie compelling enough for all the people who had seen Steven Spielberg's 1998 classic "Saving Private Ryan," 4) set up the Avengers world and franchise and 5) make an interesting stand-alone movie with a good story in its own right.
And it did all of these, as well as introduced the world to the Star-Spangled Man With a Plan.
Thanks to director Shane Black's machinelike direction and wittier-than-thou script, "Iron Man 3" soars above its predecessor while putting Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man into the context of the MCU (whereas before, everything had simply been following his coattails). Plus, since so much action takes place outside of the suit, it shows Tony Stark is the superhero, not Iron Man.
I feel pretty good about putting Spider-Man's latest offering at No. 7 on my list. While I don't believe it reaches the heights of 2004's "Spider-Man 2," it beautifully integrates Marvel's flagship character into the cinematic universe while modernizing the character and providing lots of laughs. Extra points for Michael Keaton's menacing turn as the film's bad guy, Vulture.
If I had to choose between "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," the choice is easy: neither. "Guardians" blows them both out of the sky. An otherwise completely unknown property became the sensation of 2014.
Yes, I am hooked on a feeling.
It's hard to argue with the film that started it all. Way back in 2008, people were talking about superhero movie fatigue (yawn) — until Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau showed us we hadn't seen anything yet. "Iron Man" proved that the tortured, bleak, superficially "mature" superhero had nothing on the one who joked and behaved like a rock star.
Good heavens, even the trailer to "Iron Man" is a masterpiece.
What? Only No. 4!? This is heresy. Well, no. Although "Avengers" tops most people's list of Marvel films — and while it was amazing — the film's opening could be stronger, and let's face it: The film just spent far too much time on the SHIELD helicarrier. Still, the cliché that "Avengers" brought the feeling of reading a comic book to the screen better than any other comic book movie holds true.
If there's a weak point in the MCU, it's the franchises' villains. Solution? Make the heroes the antagonists. "Civil War" is packed from start to finish with gut-wrenching, heartstring-pulling, jaw-dropping good movie stuff. The airport fight sequence, where we see the heroes unleash their powers on each other, is the classic superhero "I must but I must not dilemma."
This '70s-style political thriller accomplishes what no one thought was possible: It made Captain America coolAnd this elevator fight scene is more thrilling than any action sequence you thought you could get from a guy who doesn't really have any superpowers.
"Winter Soldier" successfully flipped the MCU on its head — and, as the movie's villain Hydra teaches, for every head you flip, two more will take its place.
"Age of Ultron" is typically regarded as the weaker of the two Avengers movies, but history will vindicate "Ultron." While the first Avengers was the culmination of the five previous films, "Ultron" was seeding the next 10. And it does so while still telling an awesome story with amazing set pieces and more laugh lines than you can shake Thor's hammer at.
The film is brimming with Joss Whedon-y goodness ("Honey, you know how supportive I am of your avenging." / "Language!" / "You get hurt, hurt 'em back. You get killed, walk it off.") and comedian James Spader's casting as a robot supervillain is inspired. The opening action sequence is also better than anything we'd seen to date.
For those who wonder, the rest of my list would go like this: 11) "Thor," 12) "Dr. Strange," 13) "Iron Man 2," 14) "The Incredible Hulk," 15) "Thor: The Dark World," 16) "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2."
I may have to revisit this list after I see "Thor: Ragnarok", currently scheduled for a November release, which I predict will edge out "Ant-Man." But even if it doesn't, it's not the end of the (Marvel Cinematic) universe — "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp" are all on deck. And that's just for 2018.