TIER 3: The OK Ones 13. “Doctor Strange” Scott Derrickson brings the wild stylings of Steve Ditko’s illustrations to life with some of the best visuals of the franchise. From chases that would make MC Esher envious to a wildly trippy visit into a blacklight universe, it’s certainly inventive from a visual perspective. At times it also takes a couple of risks which give you hope of something fresh. Unfortunately, all too often, it falls back into incredibly safe and familiar territory – remaking Tony Stark’s story but with a far less charismatic lead. A superb cast does what they can but the material is just too thin to work – Cumberbatch and Swinton come out well, but the likes of Ejiofor, Mikkelsen and McAdams are utterly wasted. It’s a shame a film that’s often glorious in looks is so ordinary at heart. 14. “Ant-Man” Much like the “Thor” sequel, Marvel’s “Ant-Man” is one of its safest and most by the numbers films – which also makes it one of its least interesting. There’s a welcome reduction in stakes here to just the fate of individuals and a man’s legacy, some familiar inventiveness that makes use of fun “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”-style scale differentials, a playful but sanitised sense of humor, and very likable lead turns from both Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. Yet there’s also arguably the weakest villain of the MCU to date, one of the most forgettably generic heist stories I’ve ever seen in a heist film, and a real feeling of this being only a very minor entry in the whole canon. 15. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” Certainly a more ambitious film than the first, this attempts to dive a bit deeper into the characters this time out whilst retaining the balance that made the original so fun. Yet even Whedon, who is such a master with large ensembles, is juggling too many balls in the air with this and can’t help but drop a few even as he impresses so well with what ones he can keep up. James Spader’s Ultron proves very disappointing in his rote evilness, the additions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch leave much to be desired, and poor Thor is given the strangest subplot of the MCU to date. Yet the film’s handling of The Vision is wonderful, same for the Hulk-Black Widow relationship and giving Hawkeye some proper development. Despite its fundamental flaws, it’s still a highly polished effort. 16. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” James Gunn tries for something a little different with the sequel, which neither falls into the trap of carbon copy repeating its predecessor or falling back on MCU formula (for the most part). Instead, the humor and easy appeal of the first gets nudged to the back burner as the heart comes to the fore and a storyline is built around it. It’s great big heart that hurts and asks you to behold its beauty as it shares its very specific pain with the world. Gunn however hasn’t mastered emotional filmmaking beats as well as he has comedic ones, and the greater focus on the former comes at something of a cost to the latter – at times making this akin to a heavy-handed Pixar film squeezed into a lesser pre-reboot “Star Trek” film where the labored metaphors are too often made manifest. The film’s greatest supporters will recognise that it is quite overstuffed, while its greatest detractors will admire some of the inventive ideas and bravura on display.