Whether you're a Marvelite or not, one can't miss the magnitude of the Marvel universe at the box office - and like all things epic, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn't built in a day.
We have seen box office triumphs and straight-to-video blemishes. Over the next few days we will attempt to highlight the good, the bad, and the Ghost Riders of the modern Marvel movie lineup. We’re a pretty passionate lot here, so after much debating, cape snatching and subsequent hero-name calling, we had a pretty solid list that we all agreed on.
The beauty of the MCU is that it’s ever-evolving, for the best – but pre-dating the days of the MCU, pretty much every studio under The Watcher’s line of vision had (as some still do) the rights to central Marvel characters and things got muddled, and at times just unbearable to watch. So consider this the growing up of the Marvel cinematic franchise – yes, awkward teen stages are included (we’re looking at you Fantastic Four).
Rankings are based on an average score from the Geek web staff, and limited to the modern era of films, so beginning with Blade in 1998 and running through the most recent release, X-Men: Days of Future Past.
34. Man-Thing (2005)
We are starting off this list with a film most of the movie-going public is completely unaware of, and one Marvel probably hopes we’ll forget (but we’ll never forget, Marvel). Originally made for TV, Man-Thing was upgraded to a theatrical release temporarily, until Marvel bumped it down to a video release in the U.S. Somehow still releasing internationally, Man-Thing also aired as a Sci-Fi Channel movie before quietly disappearing. While Man-Thing in the comics can be kind of a cool character when he’s written well, he can also be incredibly boring, pointless, and forgettable when he’s not. In a film bearing his name, Man-Thing shows up for about ten minutes, leaving the rest of the movie in the hands of a terrible cast with an even worse story.
The film threw away some elements of Man-Thing, like his ability to cause those afraid of him to burn with a touch, and outright stole some powers from DC Comics’ Swamp Thing. The origin is cheaply done and the majority of the film is spent on boats slowly moving through the Louisiana Bayou (which was filmed in Australia), even though Man-Thing makes his home in the Florida Everglades. Weak cast, terrible story, cheap effects, and the worst version of Man-Thing ever conceived by humanity make this film unwatchable, with zero discerning qualities. Every interesting feature of Man-Thing was abandoned for the film, so it’s no surprise Marvel abandoned Man-Thing. - S. Fraser
33. Elektra (2005)
Femme Fatales in the comic and cinema worlds are pretty spectacular to watch. Projecting more cunning than most of their male counterparts and using their feminine wiles to bend the universe to their will, you can’t help but to swoon over these ladies. One of the best examples of the trope is comic book version of the sai wielding mercenary Elektra, who can be considered one of the most beloved Frank Miller creations. We first saw her in the 2003 film. Daredevil, which you can bet we’ll be talking about later. Now while most would sigh or groan, Elektra was one of the few redeeming traits from the movie, so the arrival of her eponymous film shouldn’t have been the worst thing ever. But, obviously it’s this low on the list for a reason. Perhaps one of the most disheartening aspects of Elektra is Garner’s lack of personality, flair and depth in the portrayal of her character.
Elektra has been resurrected by The Hand numerous times, had a psychologically jarring childhood and experienced all sorts of hell in the criminal underworld – director Rob Bowman attempts to explain this per her death in Daredevil. But Elektra’s roots are tossed aside when the story takes a swift turn to focus on a young gifted girl that Elektra’s meant to protect from ninjas (compliments of the Hand?) who have weird animalities powers a la Mortal Kombat. And lets not forget the crappy one-liners (Don’t worry, death’s not that bad. I died once). Is this the best Fox could come up with to tell an unknown tale of a mysterious assassin whose skill rivals that of Black Widow? This one certainly left a bad taste in our mouths. - A. Reese
32. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 3 is perhaps the most disappointing movie on this whole list, which is no doubt why it inspires so much disgust now. Had it not been for the quality of its predecessor, perhaps expectations would have been lower entering the summer of 2007. As history would have it though, Spider-Man 2 was excellent, and this third installment took all that momentum and good will and flushed it down the toilet. We’ve all heard stories of the studio stepping in and forcing Sam Raimi’s hand with Venom, which was clearly a mistake, but it’s not without its flaws elsewhere either. From Kirsten Dunst not being able to sing, but getting the lead in a Broadway show, to Harry’s Alfred-like butler moving the exposition for us (years too late), to re-writing Uncle Ben’s death as an accident and effectively removing the cause of Peter’s original motivations – this movie is a mess.
Of course, all the biggest issues are in fact with Venom. Even if you can look past casting Topher Grace to play the physically imposing Eddie Brock (which we can’t), there is no excuse for him to constantly have his face exposed to speak rather than showing the alien we all want to see. They could have introduced the suit here, used it to help defeat Sandman, and they could have subtly shown a change as Pete got darker, thus setting up an entire fourth movie about Venom. Instead, they rushed it, and crammed in so many characters that we don’t care about any of them. Peter Parker and the black suit was a great story in the comics as it slowly played out, and it could have been good here if it had been done right. Despite its big box office numbers, this movie was panned by most everyone, and deservedly so. In its wake the whole franchise needed a reboot – like the Batman & Robin of Spider-Man movies – this killed any notions of a sequel.
I think the hairflip at 1:28 is about the time I wanted to leave the theater. - B. Kronner
31. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Wolverine has become one of Marvel’s more popular and enduring characters over the last 40 years. From hunting the Hulk for the Canadian government to joining the X-Men as the foul mouthed outsider, to eventually becoming an Avenger and teaching the kids at the Jean Grey Schhol. He’s just a supremely likable character, which might be part of what makes this movie so hard to watch. Screenwriters David Benioff (Game of Thrones) and Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard) managed to take 30+ years of solid source material to write about half of a movie – the first half. The montage of Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting side by side through multiple wars, the Team X stuff, even the fight with Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber’s casting is the high point of this film) were all solid – so I assume that was mostly Benioff. Which would mean it was Skip Woods (conjecture) who decided changing Deadpool from a wise-cracking assassin into a laser beam shooting, mute clone of Mortal Kombat’s Baraka was a great idea.
In the end Gambit was useless, the claws look cartoony, the dialogue is terrible, and Xavier’s involvement is just bad. If he knew what Stryker was doing, why didn’t he stop it? Also, if Days of Future Past is 1973, and this was 1979, Charles Xavier does not age well in the few years leading up to this movie… - B. Kronner
30. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The Dark Phoenix saga in the X-Men comic books is widely regarded as some of the best storytelling ever produced, and also happens to be one of my favorite. When X2: X-Men United teased Phoenix in the last shot, I remember leaving the theater as pure giddiness overcame me and exclaiming to my friends that this is the start of something beautiful. However, it was not in the cards. This movie, X-Men: The Last Stand, is how you bazooka a franchise back to the drawing board. There are many reasons why this movie failed. By utterly disrespecting both the comic book fans and fans of franchise by killing off two main characters, without so much of a fart noise to honor them with. Cyclops? Adios. Professor X? Later bro. Second, you continue the problem of wasting characters. That’s what you do with Ben Foster as Angel? Third, and probably the most egregious of all, the message is simply lost. Bryan Singer had woven together a great allegory about the fear and acceptance of being different, and was reaching his stride with the second X-film. Unfortunately, he jumped ship to Superman Returns and Brett Ratner was tapped to direct this movie.
For the record, I don’t mind Brett Ratner. Other members of the editorial staff hate him but I have no major issue with him. Except one: this movie. Ratner is purely a popcorn director and can whip together an action set piece that’s visually appealing to most. Can he string together a cohesive narrative with emotion and depth that resonates? Oh hell no. What we got was a jumbled mess with no memorable moments, a complete lack of any emotion from ANY of the characters, a destruction of canon for both the film and comic book folk, and the cinematic equivalent of someone putting out a cigarette in our eye. Even as an action movie alone, it was STILL mismanaged, lazy and not creative. He completely undid the work of the first two movies and the message it brought. If it weren’t for the previous entries, this deserves be in the discussion as the worst modern Marvel movie of all time. - C. Tansuche
29. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
The Silver Surfer is one of Marvel’s most dynamic characters. With the ability to bend matter almost entirely to his will and a cosmic surfboard that allows him to reach incredible speeds, he was designed to be shown in motion. And one of the most frustrating things about Rise of the Silver Surfer is that Tim Story seems have been somewhat aware of this during production: There are a handful of sequences where he plays with the environment around him – turning the ocean solid, or slipping straight through a skyscraper – that come close to bringing the Silver Surfer’s potential for dazzling, visually creative moments to life. Unfortunately these isolated moments of interest are few and far between.The movie is plagued with the worst curse a superhero flick can have: It takes itself too seriously. Rather than roll with the inherent silliness of the Fantastic Four’s entire premise and make that the movie’s central tone, Rise of the Silver Surfer tries to sell a legitimate world-ending threat to the audience and then throws the goofiness on top of it, peppering bad jokes and camera mugging into near every sequence.
It comes off as insincere, and instead of making a lighthearted film, all this manages to do is distance the audience from the characters and kill whatever tension the movie was trying to create. It’s hard to be scared of a lazy interpretation of Galactus or care about Sue Storm’s death when we’ve been subjected to hack jokes like fireproof lingerie for the preceding hour. The icing on the cake for this forgettable trash heap of a movie is its lazy writing and unforgivable direction. We know now that Chris Evans is worth his jawline in acting talent and Golden Globe winner Michael Chiklis proved his worth on The Shield for six straight years, so their cringeworthy performances have to be credited once again to the handiwork of Tim Story. And why does it seem like every bad superhero movie has to include a character dancing with their superpowers? - D. Woizinski
28. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
The sequel to 2007′s Ghost Rider had a lot of hurdles to overcome, considering the problems of the first film, which we will be discussing later on. Personally, there were a lot of elements to this film that I kind of enjoyed. A pair of directors who took some risks to nail some very interesting shots, as well as a firmer grasp of the supernatural were appealing, but unfortunately were not enough to save this film from mediocrity. Of course, having Nic Cage return to amp up everything that was wrong with his portrayal of Johnny Blaze in the first film didn’t really help.
A weak and frankly played out story coupled with Cage’s enhanced lunacy put a kibosh on many fans dreams of seeing a proper Ghost Rider adaptation, and has more than earned this film its low rank on this list. While there might have been some enjoyable moments in the film, they were usually plagued with inconsistent effects and forgettable characters, even with Idris Elba on board, who remains a Geek favorite despite his role in the film. We can only hope for a better Ghost Rider film or TV adaptation now that the rights are back with Marvel Studios, and far, far away from Nicolas Cage. - S. Fraser
27. Blade: Trinity (2004)
Shaky, choppy, and all over the place, Blade: Trinity was cursed by production problems from day one. Originally meant as a Blade movie to launch and promote a Nightstalker spin-off, which would explain the prominent focus of Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds, this is easily the weakest in the series. Taking a cue from the moderately successful Blade and Blade II, Trinity introduced an unmemorable depiction of Dracula plus Triple H showcasing some throw-downs for good measure.
It fails to dig deeper into our hero’s psyche, and it often betrays the internal logic and rules of the first two movies. Not to mention Patton Oswalt proving to be the worst basketball player to ever appear on film… Scratch that, maybe Halle Berry in Catwoman, but that’s another list. Ryan Reynolds’ Hannibal King is all nonsense instead of ‘no-nonsense’ like the vampire detective-esque character of the comics – though he and Biel prove to be somewhat competent action performers. When conversations such as Snipes telling writer/director David S. Goyer that he should quit because he is detrimental to the series, and Goyer rebutting with “You should quit”, you know things were not going smoothly. - M. Corner
So we got the heinous and capital superhero crimes out the way, we can only hope things get better in the second part of our Marvel movie rankings. Recapping on the above, it’s daunting how many series have incredible narratives and have the potential to be comic book gold, until the curse of the third film hits. Though there has been many offenses outside of the third installation – Iron Man 2 anyone?
Be sure to keep it locked to Geek for the next installment in our Marvel Movie Rankings series.
Images: 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures,
New Line Cinema, Lions Gate Films, Universal Pictures