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7. They should’ve gone back to the drawing board with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”
The lowest-rated MCU movie on Rotten Tomatoes, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and her parents Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank (Michael Douglas) get sucked into the Quantum Realm in the third “Ant-Man” outing.
It’s a plot that feels too easily contrived for folks who should be smarter than to get sucked into a microworld.
What ensues plays like a one-off episode of “Doctor Who” where the heroes search for a way to get home.
A lot of the film becomes wrapped up in the juvenile humor of a creature who is obsessed with the number of holes Scott possesses or Janet’s sexual encounters when previously trapped in the realm. An endearing father/daughter story between Scott and Cassie feels manufactured for melodrama since the two had a loving relationship in the past few MCU movies.
Visually, the third installment loses some of what made the first two movies so special by playing with the shrinking and growing Pym Particles that made the Ant-Man character unique.
Instead, it feels like every character is planted onto a lifeless green screen with clunky visual effects because of the time constraints VFX artists worked under.
M.O.D.O.K. is the worst-looking character to appear in a superhero movie. Despite the character appearing wacky in the comics and cartoons, Corey Stoll’s face looks like it was stretched in editing and poorly attached to a CGI body.
Fans can easily skip this movie while still comprehending the rest of the MCU. All you need to know is that Kang (Jonathan Majors) is out to destroy the multiverse, a detail previously established in “Loki.”
6. Michael Keaton’s return as Batman was the best thing about “The Flash.”
Let’s be real. This film was dead on arrival.
Audiences didn’t care to see a project led by Ezra Miller, who has been shrouded in controversy and legal troubles. Warner Bros. seemed aware of that, too, since its posters began to heavily focus on Keaton’s return as Batman instead of its titular character.
The movie we received follows the Flashpoint comic storyline in which Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) goes back in time to prevent the death of his mom. His actions alter the timeline so the Justice League never formed and keep Barry stuck in the past.
It’s a tired storyline that’s been told multiple times before by DC, and was handled better in the CW’s recent nine-season run of “The Flash” and a 2013 animated adaptation. The movie oddly avoids answering the pivotal question of who killed Barry’s mom even though show viewers, who are almost certainly the same target audience for this movie, know the answer is an important Flash villain.
Instead, “The Flash” brings back Zod, a villain from one of DC’s most divisive films, 2013’s “Man of Steel,” with a cliché goal of overtaking the planet.
In doing so, the studio revisited the Snyderverse era of DC that WB refused to continue.
The only reason this film is ranked higher than “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is because every scene with Keaton is an absolute scene-stealer. A “Batman Returns” sequel would’ve been preferable to this odd jumble we received, which will almost certainly have little to no continuation in James Gunn’s future DC universe that he revealed in January.
5. “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” is much better than reviews say.
With Shazam noticeably absent from DC’s upcoming universe reset, it’s been difficult to understand why fans would bother investing time and money to support a sequel that may not matter moving forward.
However, “Shazam 2” was a surprisingly enjoyable sequel that explored the consequences of Billy Baxter/Shazam’s (Zachary Levi) actions at the end of the first movie.
Some of the most dazzling shots channel the mesmerizing sequences from 2016’s “Doctor Strange” where the audience feels immersed in a kaleidoscope of moving buildings.
The overall result is a delightful, wholesome family film on par with the underrated original that explores the complexities of what it means to be a hero and how everyone can be worthy if given the chance. It isn’t a superpower that makes us powerful.
This one ranked lower on this list because of its egregious Skittles product placement throughout the movie that’s even wilder when you know it was organically added into the plot and wasn’t paid advertising. The filmmakers actually asked Skittles if they could reference them in the sequel.
4. “Blue Beetle” is a heartfelt superhero origin story that embraces Mexican culture and the Latino experience.
Recent college grad Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is down on his luck when he returns home only to learn his family’s behind on bills and are about to lose their house.
When job hunting, Reyes gets fused with a mysterious ancient scarab and endowed with unexpected superpowers, finding himself and his family in the crosshairs of Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), a villainous businesswoman who wants to use the scarab’s powers to create an army.
The result is a heartfelt movie about the strength and resilience of family and community, especially in the eye of corporate greed. Instead of going it solo, Reyes’ family — led by a lively George Lopez as Reyes’ uncle and Adriana Barraza as a feisty grandma — join the fight against Kord when she kidnaps Reyes.
“What We Do in the Shadows” star Harvey Guillén has a memorable cameo as one of Kord’s goons who has enough of her antics by the end.
However, as fun as “Blue Beetle” is, it does little to explain the superhero’s powers or the origin of this ancient artifact.
3. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the MCU’s best release of the year, so far.
Director James Gunn’s conclusion to the “Guardians” trilogy is a beautiful send-off to the ragtag group of heroes, centering around Rocket Raccoon’s (Bradley Cooper) emotional backstory when his life is jeopardized.
The focus on Rocket’s creator, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a man obsessed with genetically engineering the perfect utopian society, drives a compelling theme about respecting and loving yourself for who you are and finding purpose in the world.
Otherwise, the execution of a two-and-a-half-minute one-shot hallway battle during the third act is among the best action sequences in this year’s crop of hero flicks.
“Vol. 3” isn’t higher on this list because — while it neatly delivered a satisfying conclusion for each of its characters — it was an incredibly safe, cookie-cutter ending that didn’t take any risks or kill off anyone in its large ensemble when it had the chance.
It also could’ve done without a mean-spirited Gamora, a character who Gunn considered killing off earlier in the franchise.
Though the franchise’s best new addition, a himbo Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), adds levity to the threequel’s darker tones, his inclusion feels slightly shoe-horned for potential future Marvel outings.
2. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is the most unexpected delightful surprise of the summer.
Paramount’s “TMNT” reboot may not be a DC or Marvel superhero flick, but the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-produced animated feature is a better superhero movie than the majority of releases this year, doubling as an incredibly sweet story about acceptance and found families.
With an eclectic cast ranging from Jackie Chan to rising star Ayo Edebiri (she’s everywhere right now), the film about four turtles transforming into mutants after getting covered in ooze delivers a unique artistic style and contains one of the best musical cues of 2023.
Combined, the foursome shares the endearing, spunky awkwardness of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, making them instantly likable and relatable.
1. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” isn’t just the best superhero movie of the year so far, but one of the best movies of 2023.
The sequel to 2018’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” lived up to the hype.
“Across the Spider-Verse” delivered even more impressive visuals than the first film, seamlessly transitioning between art styles as it blends 3D and 2D hand-drawn animation. Each on-screen panel is worth pausing on to fully appreciate its beauty and soak in every Easter egg.
Not only did the movie dive deeper into Gwen Stacy’s (Hailee Steinfeld) emotionally complex relationship with her cop father, but the sequel also explored what it means to be Spider-Man.
When Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) learns he was never supposed to gain the powers of the web-crawler, blowing a hole in the multiverse, it leads him on a journey to discover his place in the Spider-Verse on his own terms without being placed into a box and being told who Spider-Man can and cannot be.