For those who are behind, here are the earlier parts of the list: MARVEL MOVIE RANKINGS
Well, we did it. We made it through the real turkeys of the Marvel film repertoire.
Now that you got that bad taste out of your mouth, we’re moving on with numbers 26 to 20 and, unfortunately, we can’t say they’re the best-of-the-best either, but isn’t it way more entertaining to read about the awfulness of Spider-Man 3 or Blade: Trinity? Here at GEEK we kid because we love and in part II of our Round Table discussion we get into the misfire origin stories.
A common theme in our first GEEK Marvel Movie Round Table was how many of those films were the third in a trilogy and how many of them looked so promising – SO PROMISING!- but ultimately capsized under the weight of their own anticipation. This week, it’s those “first-offs”; those terribly misguided first entries. Maybe they weren’t as collectively bad as our first list because there is something so compelling about an ‘origin’ narrative. Marvel made many of these films during their own origin: their beginnings in the film industry. Many of the titles below you may remember paying good money to see in theaters only to feel like you’ve been punched in the side of the head. Well, now that you’ve had time to heal, let’s all take a look back together.
26. Daredevil (2003)
Oh Daredevil. We could spend all day discussing this movie and the various mistakes it made, with a lot of the blame falling towards writer/director Mark Steven Johnson, who is responsible for more than one flop on this list. Of course, you can’t discuss blame without bringing Ben Affleck’s over-angsted and unheroic Matt Murdock into the mix. In a simple case of the actor trying too hard to make an unflattering role fit, Affleck fails to let the heart of the character shine through the terrible costuming and even worse script. I wanted to like this movie so much, as did so many fans of ol’ hornhead, but it just wasnt meant to be.
Daredevil could have easily fit in Part I with the many blunders that line Marvel’s past, but there are actually a couple of redeeming qualities. For instance, the movie comes together a lot more when watching the extended Directors Cut, but only if you aren’t already scarred by Colin Farrell’s absolute destruction of the Bullsye character, which ironically missed the mark completely. The action sequences are passable if you ignore the cheap effects, and the exploration of Matt’s childhood and origin were handled relatively well, if the viewer is a fan of cinematic cheese. And of course, Michael Clarke Duncan stands out as Wilson Fisk AKA The Kingpin in a way no one else could have at the time. Yes, Daredevil sucked, but it managed to squeak its way up this list despite itself. - S. Fraser
25. Hulk (2003)
Ang Lee’s Hulk is some kind of weird combination of generational guilt, brooding philosophy, and comic book aesthetic. A story cantering around Bruce Banner’s father, played by Nick Nolte (looking like he washes his hair with beer), who experimented on his son in order to release the power of gamma evolution which I guess he’s doing for the heck of it? Who knows. Most of the movie is dialog-heavy, which would be suitable for any film if any of it was actually enthralling. Lee mixes in tragedy, love and some repressed emotions, using the first half of the film to showcase a lot of background story about Bruce and his father, as well as Betty and her father, General Ross.
The final screenplay ended up having three credited writers, in what could only be described as a strange amalgamation of an overly complex origin story. We have ridiculous fights with giant mutant dogs and thunderclouds, overused split-screen to resemble the panels of a comic book and an otherwise masterful director who may have just approached the film with too much meditation and “sins of our fathers” narrative. Mix in really out-dated CG effects of a Hulk looking distantly at the horizon while contemplating his existence and you have one of the strangest, and unfortunately oddest, examples in Marvel’s film repertoire. – M. Corner
24. Ghost Rider (2007)
Did Mark Steven Johnson not get the memo? Was he not aware of the kind of reception Daredevil received? I think it’s safe to say that he just isn’t cut out for comic book movies. Ghost Rider has a Nicolas Cage who isn’t even at his ‘Cagey-est’, spouting off lines like “wicked cool” and showing off his brand new hair plugs and photo-shopped abs. Most of the time he looks asleep and as the Rider, he’s replaced by a questionable CGI creation. Cage isn’t the only forgettable one when it comes to the cast, most everyone else only seems present to cash a paycheck.
Apparently Wes Bentley was going through the height of his addiction with drugs so at least somebody has a legitimate reason for accepting a role in this film. Even if you watch this turkey for the terrible fun of it, be warned. There aren’t even enough ‘so-good-it’s-bad’ qualities to make it worth your time. The film is a hodge-podge of questionable and messy CGI, an incredibly mediocre script, failed line-readings, and phoned-in performances by a usually solid cast (Sam Elliot is maybe the best part). It’s safe to say that we are probably beyond these kind of movies from Marvel but we can only hope… We can only hope. – M. Corner
23. Fantastic Four (2005)
So we’re back to lamenting on Tim Story – again. The first Fantastic Four was certainly better than its sequel, but that’s really not saying much. When Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created the superheroic foursome, they strived and succeeded at creating the first non-conventional team of heroes to usher in an age of relatability and realism in the world of supes. The innovation that made this series a cornerstone in the early Marvel lineup failed to translate on screen. The “problems” that the group had weren’t trying or nearly as adversed as they should’ve been. The Thing has found a love interest by the end of the film, Torch is in a constant flux of cars, women and audacious one-liners, and Sue and Reed have enough soft pre-marital drama to make you hurl.
Like most of the films in this tier, the character development is rigid and unformatted. Perhaps the most compelling character is surprisingly Julian McMahon’s Victor Von Doom – even the way he receives his powers (taking on the space stations protective shields while the others were rooted in personality traits) was more standout. But pitting this against an unnaturally blonde Alba as Sue and the cliche hot head interpretation by Marvel’s current Steve Rogers offers a lukewarm experience. There are additional factors that sour the experience, like Victor’s creepy fascination with Sue, stale “hot” jokes compliments of Johnny (hell, he may be one of the worst things in the film overall), an unimpressive Baxter Building (the architectural equivalent of Jarvis’s A.I.), and an overly cheesy attempt by Fox to make a feel good super hero flick. And what’s more disheartening about the franchise? The video game counterpart was worlds better. Talk about a non-Human Torch burn. - A. Reese
22. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Andrew Garfield’s first go in the red and blue tights was held back by the fact that Sony had to tell the origin story all over again, but despite that and some less-than-stellar filmmaking, The Amazing Spider-Man did a decent job revitalizing the franchise that Spider-Man 3 effectively stabbed, shot and drowned in the tub. Stepping out from under Sam Raimi’s shadow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was director Marc Webb’s opportunity to take everyone’s favorite webhead and show us why Spider-Man is one of the most lucrative film characters of the day. Unfortunately, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was almost universally panned by critics, and while Geek has a couple of softies who managed to enjoy it (me being one of them), that has more to do with the lovable web-slinger as a whole rather than the movie itself. Apparently Sony learned nothing from Spider-Man 3 (No, we aren’t going to stop talking about Spider-Man 3) because they went right back and added far too many villains in TASM2.
Between Electro, Goblin, Rhino and in-your-face teases of future enemies to come, there was barely any time to wonder how and why Peter’s dad would hide an entire laboratory in an abandoned New York subway car. Most puzzling is that Webb chose to devote so much time to Electro’s story when Goblin is the classic arch-nemesis and appears to be the catalyst for the upcoming Sinister Six, which this film tries so desperately to make look exciting. Luckily for Webb, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are just so darn endearing that their scenes together are almost sickening, and they manage to humanize a CG-heavy film where a man turns blue and gains superpowers after being bitten by electric eels. Garfield is great in the role, hitting the important traits of both a goofy, lovestruck Peter Parker and the cocky, joke-loving Spider-Man, while Stone makes the generic superhero love interest more likeable than she has any right to be. This is also the most exhilarating web-swinging has looked on the big screen so far. If only Sony had decided to make a movie with it instead of a 2 hour trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 3. - D. Woizinski
21. The Punisher (2004)
It had been years since my last full viewing of this movie, so in preparation for this list, I sat down to see if it was truly as mediocre as I remember – and somehow, it’s more so. Unlike its sequel, which truly seemed to capture the essence of the character, this 2004 version is just average in every way. The parts I remembered being good have dulled over the last decade, while the parts I recall being laughably bad aren’t nearly as terrible as I thought. The whole movie just sort of flat-lined.
The scene where we see Frank Castle’s entire family murdered and him left for dead, a scene that depicts the entire motivation for the character, feels very “edited for television”. As one of the only R-rated Marvel films, they really fail to utilize the freedom the rating gives them. I liked Thomas Jane, and there were some really good scenes in here – the fight with the Russian (below) and the diner scene with Harry Heck, for examples. The pacing is actually pretty solid – reminiscent of the action flicks from the ’60s and ’70s – but Travolta isn’t at his best, and the location move from NYC to Tampa, Florida just didn’t work. Like many of the movies towards the middle section of this list, The Punisher just feels like a wasted opportunity to do something special. - B. Kronner
20. Iron Man 2 (2010)
After the success of Iron Man, the pressure was on to produce a great follow-up to the surprise first hit from Marvel Studios. With the first movie, while entertaining, the main draw was Robert Downey Jr. and his superb portrayal as the charismatic and narcissistic Tony Stark. The script was so-so, but Jon Favreau’s direction and RDJ’s starpower overcame the flaws. You would think that the second movie would try to punch up the script and fix the villain issue (which is really a running Marvel Studios problem with the exception of Loki) to make for a better movie. However, we end up getting a disjointed movie that still gives us villains to not care about, a script that was simply unfinished and a sequel that rings hollow amongst the other Marvel movies.
One has to think that getting Mickey Rourke to chew scenery opposite RDJ would sound like an ingenious idea that was so out there it could actually work, but the character of Ivan Vanko was just… bleh. Even having the usually fantastic Sam Rockwell bring his manic energy and delivery to the mix just seems like a wasted opportunity, as the patchwork script from Justin Theroux fails to ignite anything in the story other than wannabe Iron Man clone drones. It’s never good when the special features of the DVD highlights the fact that the script was on written on the fly. Again, RDJ saves the day as the dying billionaire genius, because him alone is enough to hold your attention on screen. Other than that, a shoehorned War Machine (with new James Rhodes actor Don Cheadle) and an undercover Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) aren’t enough to save this movie, which ends up as an empty action film with no memorable parts. At least we got our tease of Thor at the end, so I’ll take that as a way to end the film right. - C. Tansuche
We’ve made it to the top 20 in one piece. Seen any you disagree with so far? Stick with us as we trek on and make our way down the rabbit hole to the top-ranked Marvel films of the modern age.
Images: Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures