For those who are behind, here are the earlier parts of the list: MARVEL MOVIE RANKINGS
With part three of our five-part series, we’ve reached the midpoint of quality in Marvel’s modern cinematic timeline.
While part one of our rankings is full of titles so bad we wish we could forget, and part two includes ones that could already be forgotten entirely. The seven films listed here can be boiled down to the term ‘inoffensive.’ The majority of these movies came out much more recently than those in our previous entries, and you can tell that this is where Marvel began hitting their stride. And while none of these are films we’d love to watch again and again, we could certainly leave the theatre afterward without the taste of bile in the back of our throats.
Let’s take a look at some good ol’ mediocrity in preparation for some of Marvel’s real heavy hitters:
19. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
The sequel to the mediocre first entry on this list, this Punisher is adapted quite a bit better with Ray Stevenson in the role of Frank Castle. His older, wiser, and much more violent characterization of Marvel’s anti-hero played perfectly to the audience, unfortunately there was a lot of the movie that didn’t. The campy villains were an odd mix combined with the over-the-top gore and violence, and while it was nice to see the appearance of a few characters from the comics like Jigsaw and Det. Soap, the overall story was plagued with sloppy pacing and forgettable side characters.
Of course, the shining light of the film is without a doubt the Punisher costume, which brought the tactical side of the Punisher into the film, and was unafraid of the iconic skull symbol that the first movie seemed to shy away from. The box office also failed to impress, with poor marketing and some publicized issues with the director Lexi Alexander and the producers partially to blame. While we certainly enjoyed this film more than the Thomas Jane version that preceded it, it still was not the Punisher film fans of the character were hoping for. Hopefully with the film rights now safely back with Marvel we will see a dark and gritty Punisher that doesn’t have to rely on camp to sell Frank Castle. - S. Fraser
18. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Unlike Captain America and Thor, Iron Man doesn’t have the luxury of alternate histories or fantastical worlds to explore that offer creative avenues for new, exciting environments and characters. Iron Man is set in present day America, and the restriction makes it difficult to innovate, something we saw pretty clearly in Iron Man 2, which felt in a lot of ways like a retelling of the first movie. Iron Man 3 is still a lesser sequel, but at least this time there’s an arc for Tony and the villain isn’t just a guy wearing another variation of Tony’s Iron Man tech. IM3 centers around Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and his company AIM, which seeks to improve human potential by turning them into fire-breathing monsters. You know, that timeless tale. On top of that we’re finally introduced to Iron Man’s classic comic book nemesis The Mandarin, yet while the movie’s spin on the flamboyant terrorist is clever and contextually appropriate, we can’t help but feel disappointed with his anti-climactic reveal.
Shane Black is best known for revitalizing the action genre with 1987′s Lethal Weapon, but surprisingly the action in Iron Man 3 is easily the worst part of the movie. At this point in the MCU we’ve seen so much Stark tech that the final action scene involving a dizzying number of Iron Man suits and explosions is hard to invest in. Tony is constantly jumping in and out of suits and shrapnel flies around the battlefield like confetti, and while it’s visually impressive, it’s hard to care. Most surprising is that Iron Man 3 isn’t afraid to make lasting changes to the characters: At the end of the movie Tony has essentially destroyed all his Iron Man toys and even removed the tiny arc reactor and remaining shrapnel from his chest, potentially using the Extremis formula to better himself as per the comics. It’s no Demon in a Bottle, but in a massive action franchise like this it’s nice to see that Marvel still has the guts to explore the man behind the iron mask to some extent, and remind us that billionaire playboy superhero Iron Man used to be a simple tinkerer. – D. Woizinski
17. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
As mentioned earlier, The Amazing Spider-Man was handicapped from the start just by the fact that millions of people had already watched the character’s origin story ten years prior. Luckily there was enough to explore that warranted a fresh take. In TASM there’s a much stronger focus on Peter’s parents, specifically his father’s work at Oscorp. Of course there’s also the introduction of Gwen Stacy, Pete’s original love interest, rather than skipping ahead to Mary Jane Watson like Sam Raimi did in Spider-Man. There are also some more minor, superficial changes to the film story, like Spider-Man’s webshooters being tech rather than a biological side-effect from his radioactive spider bite, which falls in line with the comics and further reinforces the genius of Peter Parker. For the most part The Amazing Spider-Man is a forgettable film. Rhys Ifans’s Lizard, despite being a core villain in Spider-Man’s history, is pretty boring on-screen. Spider-Man is a character based on agility and acrobatics, but Lizard is too standard of a monster to allow for more vertical, flashy fight scenes that we saw in the previous trilogy. Factor in a weird last-minute scheme to turn all of New York into human-reptile hybrids and the character’s motives don’t really make much sense.
It’s the things that TASM does right that makes it a watchable movie though. The first thing the reboot did to convince us it had potential was cast Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker. We may have thought that Tobey Maguire fit the role well back in 2002, but boy does Garfield make the character shine. Here we finally we get a Spider-Man who cracks bad jokes and stutters when he talks to girls. Peter Parker is every teenage boy who struggles with trying to look cool while adjusting to puberty, and this time around Parker effortlessly shows insecurity and brash cockiness at the drop of a hat. On the other side of the coin, Marc Webb’s Spider-Man actually moves like a spider, crawling around with gangly arms and legs and using webbing in more creative, interesting ways. The movie as a whole didn’t make much of a lasting impression, but The Amazing Spider-Man set up potential for a new, exciting line of films for everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood superhero. – D. Woizinski
16. Blade II (2002)
Guillermo del Toro’s work is dominated by two obsessions: War between implacable ancient enemies (usually rooted in folklore or mythology), and sickening things that seem to be born from the mind of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. Del Toro brings his creepy phobias to Blade II, the sequel to Stephen Norrington’s 1998 original Marvel fire starter. You can sense the difference between a movie that’s a technical exercise and one steamed in the dread cauldrons of the filmmaker’s imagination. The Reapers are the masterpieces of this movie. and feature mouths that unfold into tripartite jaws in some of the more visually striking scenes of the film.
Blade II is a genuine product of B-movies, with many references to previous genre films to come before. Del Toro’s film isn’t as corrupted by the system of Hollywood mechanics, never sacrificing entertainment but providing an experience dripping in gore, humor and confidence. Blade II is the kind of film where nothing is overlooked – the weapons get bigger and ‘badder’ and the increasingly vile vampires become nightmarish centerpieces. Popcorn nonsense? Absolutely, but shot with a wit, skill and understanding of its audience all too rarely seen in the genre. – M. Corner
15. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Following up on the incredibly disappointing Ang Lee film was The Incredible Hulk, which was the second movie from the new Marvel Studios, and the first film to really tease the idea of a shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bruce Banner was recast, and Edward Norton played a Banner with familiar ties to the television version of the character. The theme of a man on the run from his government was embraced, and the CG was heavily upgraded to provide a powerhouse of a Hulk that the original film failed to bring us.
Edward Norton brought a unique gravitas to the character, and was joined by the loveable Liv Tyler. William Hurt stepped into the role of Gen. Thunderbolt Ross, and while slightly over the top his scenes added some much needed weight to the villain role, which featured Tim Roth as Emil Blonksy. When the Abomination finally reared his ugly head, we saw a fight amongst giants that impressed fans, but the film didn’t register on the radar as much as the previous hit from Marvel Studios, which we will be discussing later. We enjoyed the action packed bits and tolerated the love story, but the kicker of the film had to be the surprise cameo in the mid-credit scene, which speaks a lot about the film itself. - S. Fraser
14. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The first Thor took me by surprise, as the concept was a bit out there with its mix of science, magic and mythology. However, director Kenneth Branagh was blessed with three good things: Chris Hemsworth as the arrogant hero, a love for the Shakespearean family struggle, and the discovery of Tom Hiddleston as the mischievous and scheming Loki. The sequel had a lot of pressure as it had to follow the enormous success of both The Avengers and Iron Man 3, and they were doing it with a new director in Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) too. While we got a decent Marvel movie out of it, one can’t help but think it might have floundered without Loki showing up to shine brighter than his brother and frenemy.
The charm and appeal of Thor was the constant battles between Loki and Thor, as well as Thor being a fish out of water as he finds his way back into the good graces of his father Odin. In this go-around, Thor is unhappy in Asgard as he broods away from the woman he loves, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). The Macguffin in this story used to get the lovebirds back together comes in the form of the Aether, which is teased to feature heavily in the future of the MCU. While the love story worked in the first movie, it sputters here as the characters seem to go through the motions. If anything, the movie should be called Loki: The Dark World, because the best moments involve Hiddleston chewing the scenery and delivering his trademark quips and barbs. Again, Hemsworth is still charismatic as Thor, but it makes you wonder if whether they are concentrating on the wrong brother in this franchise. - C. Tansuche
13. The Wolverine (2013)
Director James Mangold’s film features some breathtakingly suspenseful action sequences, exquisite production and costume design and colorful characters, some of who register more powerfully than others. When Wolverine is tracked down in the wilds, he’s living away from society, isolated and wild, ruminating in angst about what it’s like to be immortal. The film attempted to project a quieter film, justified less on its X-Men sized cast and focusing real attention to the character of Logan, succeeding more so than the previous entry, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
The chase-sequence through the streets of Tokyo which culminated on top of a speeding bullet train are the film’s action highlights. Those scenes are both thrilling and funny at the same time. Though the last act of the movie can’t sustain the plot, it’s still entertaining. Mangold should be congratulated for attempting a character-study rather than a spectacle.. A descendant of the Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Clint Eastwood schools of mythic characterization, Wolverine is quiet, brute force personified. in this film, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine doesn’t even care if we like him, giving up charm and witty asides for a more sombre film reminiscent of a classically structured Yakuza or samurai film. – M. Corner
We’re getting down to the lower end of our list now and reaching the movies that make us at Geek giddy. As the movies get better, and aren’t as bogged down in terrible writing and lazy storytelling, we’re starting to see the characters we love from comics given their due on the silver screen.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe only gets better from here, and moving forward you’ll see us shed our cynicism and embrace the next twelve films with genuine adoration. Have we lost you yet? Can you do the math as to where we’re headed with our top twelve?
Images: Marvel Studios, Lionsgate, Sony, New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox