In honor of the latest Marvel release Thor, I present to you with my own retrospective of previously released Marvel films. Now before you go asking yourself “Where’s such classics as Howard the Duck and the 80s Punisher?” So let me first establish that I will only be discussing films produced and co-produced by Marvel Studios from the late 90s to present. That’s basically when all this superhero hype began anyways, so let’s get to it.
Interesting film to start off the retrospective as in the comics Blade was as some nerds might say “second tier.” He was never a breakout character and was for the most part just featured in obscure 70s horror titles like The Tomb of Dracula and Vampire Tales. Though somehow he started to get attention in the 90s which I suppose built up a big enough fan base to justify this movie.
But who is Blade? Well, he’s a half-human/half vampire who protects humans from bad vampires (which basically means all vampires). He works alongside a crusty old man named Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) who acts as Blade’s mentor and weapons technician, though he mostly complains, “God Damn it Blade!” So Blade fights this evil vampire syndicate headed by Stephen Dorff and lots of stuff blows up.
The action is satisfying as you can actually tell what’s going on, but the story lacks emotion and all the characters are one dimensional. Yeah I get it, Blade is like all cool and stuff, but he really doesn’t have much of a personality. It’s forgettable light entertainment that could’ve really benefitted from some more humor and stronger characters.
Though Blade was technically the first Marvel Studios film I think most identify THIS as the first REAL Marvel film and as the film that more or less started the whole superhero craze. With so many different characters and stories throughout its run, an X-Men movie could have been a complete mess if not handled properly. Luckily, Brian Singer (Usual Suspects) was behind the camera and took what have been a ridiculous movie turning it into a great character driven story.
Most of the film revolves around Wolverine which is fine considering Hugh Jackman shines in the role. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are also standouts as both Professor X and Magneto respectively. A handful of characters are miscast (Storm, Cyclops, Sabretooth) but solid action makes up for that. I also praise X-Men’s attempts to stay grounded in reality, who knew you could hit on deeper themes like civil rights in a superhero movie? Anyhow this film will always have a place in my heart as the first superhero movie that felt genuine.
|Blade II (2002)
With little interest in the first installment, I didn’t have high hopes for another hack and slash vampire movie. Though one thing I overlooked until many years later was that this wasn’t just any stupid vampire movie, it was a vampire movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Yes, the same visionary filmmaker behind Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone actually directed a Blade film and guess what? It’s actually kind of awesome.
Director Guillermo Del Toro and screenwriter David Goyer (Who wrote all three Blades) hit us this time with an all out visceral gore fest of a flick with interesting twists and well-crafted suspense. The characters are still dry (with the exception of Ron Perlman hamming it up in the best way) but at least the story is engaging.
In Blade II, a new race of vampire has come about that not only feed on humans but other vampires. Not to mention these new vampires are like crack addicts and have to feed constantly. So Blade has to team up with the vampires to fight the super vampires. I know that’s probably the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard, but in the context of Blade, it’s all kinds of awesome. I suppose it goes to show what a talented filmmaker can do with the right tools to a so-so franchise.
With the exception of Episode I this was probably the most excited I’ve ever been for a movie. Finally, a chance to see my favorite web-slinger on the big screen! I was definitely nervous as this could have easily been a disaster (early stills of the Green Goblin weren’t encouraging) though somehow Sam Raimi pulled it off. The cast was great, the effects were eye-popping and it even had a cameo from Bruce Campbell! There were definitely changes made that soured my cider such as the absence of the web shooters and no Gwen Stacy, which basically screwed up the continuity of the comics right off the bat, those these were small complaints. All in all it was great fun and cinched the future of Marvel movies.
By Day he’s Matt Murdock; a blind lawyer living in New York City’s Hell Kitchen but when night falls he becomes “Daredevil!” A man in a red devil costume who fights New York City gangsters with a billy club! I guess it’s not surprising this was a critical failure, but if you ask me this film is kind of fun.
Released at the height of Ben Affleck hate-dom (mainly because of his marriage to JLO but also for a string of underwhelming flicks like Pearl Harbor and Gigli) Daredevil was sort of doomed from the start. He’s an unusual character and it had to be a hard sell for audiences. Imagine if someone went up to you and said, “Wanna see this movie about a blind crime-fighting lawyer who has super senses?” I mean it’s ridiculous, but being that I was a Daredevil fan going in I went in with an open mind and enjoyed this movie.
I only wish Daredevil could have been taken more seriously. I enjoyed the humor and action but it’s too lightweight. The cast was decent enough featuring; Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan (although miscast), Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, and Joe Pantoliano; but it’s flawed by its own awkwardness. Seems to me that this movie so desperately wanted to be Spider-Man that it took a subtle character way too over the top.
In retrospect, Daredevil probably should have received a better movie. He’s always been a fascinating character with great comics. He’s a solemn and low-key figure that would have shined in a darker and more dramatic film. All the great images in the comics of Daredevil perched next to gargoyles overlooking churches, but instead, we got a movie starring Good Will Hunting’s friend and Colin Farrell with a tattoo on his head, oh well it could have been worse.
With all the setup out of the way, X2 was free to take the franchise to next level with more characters and surprisingly, more drama. Non-mutant William Stryker (Brian Cox) takes the reigns as the lead villain this time with a plan to kill all the mutants and it’s up to the X-Men, with the addition of fan-favorite Nightcrawler (Alan Cummings) to whoop his ass.
It’s all the greatness of the original kicked up a notch, though I have a few complaints. I’m disappointed to see Halle Berry pushed to the front of every scene after becoming a breakout star. Also, what happened to Cyclops? His role is nonexistent in X2 which is a real insult to the comics. Granted James Marsden isn’t that strong in the role, they probably should have re-casted the role. In the comics, Cyclops was second in command, so stop screwing him over. That all aside this is still a mighty fine action flick.
The Hulk is one of my favorite Marvel characters because he’s a big monster that fights evil! He’s like something out of a Universal monster movie with his Jekyll and Hyde like persona and frightening appearance. Yeah he’s strong and he smashes stuff, but there’s also a lot under the surface in Bruce Banner’s pain, so I respect that Ang Lee attempted to touch on that… It’s just too bad he had to delve into that aspect for 138 minutes.
Hulk may be a monster but he’s still a superhero and you never feel that in Ang Lee’s Hulk. The action scenes are far too few and in-between and after awhile you get restless. It doesn’t help that Eric Bana is as exciting as a wet noodle with Jennifer Connelly being equally forgettable. Nick Nolte is bizarre as Bruce’s absent-minded father (something that as far as I know was never in the comics) and I’m not sure how I felt about him turning him into the Marvel character “Absorbing Man” in the last twenty minutes. The only cast member that shines is Sam Elliott who was perfectly cast as LT. Colonel “Thunderbolt” Ross.
Another thing that bugs me is the Hulk’s height, he’s like 15 feet tall! He can barely fit on the screen with the other characters. The CGI is good enough but it didn’t work for me and the movie although ambitious couldn’t capture the “incredible” side of the Hulk.
|The Punisher (2003)
This is actually the second Punisher film after the 80s Dolph Lundgren version which I’ve actually seen (it’s torture). This installment takes a more Hollywood approach in a desperate attempt to be as cool as all the more popular Marvel franchises. If you don’t really know anything about the Punisher consider yourself lucky as he’s never been that interesting. Basically, he was created as a villain for an issue of Spider-Man and somehow got his own series.
The Punisher is about Frank Castle; a recently retired FBI agent who’s been targeted by powerful Tampa crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta) after Frank killed his son or something, I don’t remember. Frank’s chillin’ at his retirement party with his wife, son, and dad (Roy Scheider) and then Howard’s boys come by and kill a bunch of people. Frank’s wife and son try to escape but they get run over by a truck and Roy Scheider dies too, but probably says something inspiring before he dies. So Frank becomes “The Punisher” and delivers vengeance in the only way he knows how… Bang, bang, boom!
The Punisher is fairly tongue and cheek for a movie about a guy who straight up murders people. Tom Jane stars and seems to have fun in the role. Jane hasn’t had the greatest track record, but I’ve always liked him, he’s just trying to get his kids back. I actually liked a handful of the silly characters and for the most part, it’s dumb fun. So even in if The Punisher lacks originality, has lazy plotting, and no real point, it’s still remotely watchable.
|Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Now that we were all familiar with Spidey’s origin, Spider-Man 2 upped the ante with bigger effects and even more at stake for Peter Parker. Pete’s relationship with Mary Jane is in the gutter, he’s living in the equivalent of a gutter and now he’s got Dock Ock (my favorite Spidey villain played marvelously by Alfred Molina) up in his shit. It’s basically the same movie again with a different villain but minus the weight of an origin story. SP2 is free to have fun but still has a heart and that’s why it’s my favorite superhero next to DC’s The Dark Knight.
|Blade: Trinity (2004)
Because the world apparently needed another Blade we got Blade: Trinity and yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. This time around we have vampires led by Parker Posey (strangely enough) that have decided to resurrect who else but Count Dracula, who’s apparently been lying dormant in an Iraqi cave for thousands of years because it’s convenient for the plot. Meanwhile, Blade is apprehended by the FBI while Whistler kills himself in an explosion to avoid being taken in. Not like it really matters as Whistler really didn’t have much to do aside from shouting “God damn it Blade!” So Blade is interrogated by a psychologist played by another Christopher Guest favorite in John Michael Higgins but uh oh, he’s a human working for vampire Parker Posey and he’s turning Blade over to the vamps! Why Blade is not killed in this scene is beyond me, I guess they had to wait for Dracula to kill him because it would be cool. Then in a completely implausible scene, Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel break into the FBI headquarters to rescue Blade.
Back at the good guy hideout (where are all these, hideouts?), we find out that Jessica Biel is Whistler’s daughter, how cliche is that? I mean what’s with third installments always being family affairs? Oh yeah, these people are vampire hunters and one of them is Patton Oswalt as the geeky gadgets guy, awesome?
The rest of the movie is a bunch of high adrenaline fights and chases to shitty techno music, but it’s nothing we haven’t already seen. What makes this movie so bad is a lack of originality and awful characters. Dominic Purcell is probably the worst as Dracula, but Ryan Reynolds is almost as annoying playing Dane Cook if he hunted vampires. Also, Triple H co-stars as a vampire that delivers such gems like “They pretty much fuckin’ ass raped us!”
One thing that puzzles me is why people that hunt vampires are always so attractive? Can you imagine if there really were vampire hunters? They’d probably be morbidly obese guys in mobility scooters. There’s a nod to Mr. Oswalt. I love ya man.
Out of all the great Marvel characters yet to be adapted for the screen; Doctor Strange, The Sub-Mariner, even the Silver Surfer, (though he would later get thrown in the “interesting” Fantastic Four sequel) Elektra was probably the last character that should have received her own movie. As if it wasn’t enough that she appeared in Daredevil, I seem to clearly remember her getting killed. Though thanks to magic and other stuff that doesn’t make sense she’s back and ready to do whatever it is she does.
The film opens with these two criminals in a moody mansion talking about who else but Mrs. Bennifer herself. This one guy seems really paranoid that she’s coming for them but I don’t understand, doesn’t everyone think she’s dead? For whatever reason, this guy thinks she isn’t and that she’s coming for them tonight. Why he thinks this I have no idea, I don’t even know why Elektra does come after him, she just hates smug guys in suits who sit around with guns in moody mansions.
Later, Elektra is hired to wait out at this lake house for further instructions regarding her next hit. While awaiting these instructions she spends most of her time training and having painful flashbacks of her childhood because that’s supposed to make her deep or something. Afterward, Elektra meets two other residents of the lake; a young girl named Abby and her father Mark with an ever-changing European accent. Later they all get attacked by assassins and it’s at this point that Elektra discovers this girl is a gifted warrior that she must protect. So at this point the film isn’t even that focused on her, where are they taking this?
My main problem with Elektra is I have no idea why anybody is doing anything. They all just seem to play good guys and bad guys because it’s a movie about good guys that fight bad guys. There really is no compelling story or interesting characters, though I always enjoy seeing Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shao Tsung from Mortal Kombat) that guys cool. I could keep going but I’m too sad.
|Fantastic Four (2005)
At this point, you might be able to tell I have a soft spot for Marvel’s most beloved franchises. I was so ecstatic for this film that I think it probably blinded me from the fact that this movie is really stupid. I like some of the decisions they made, but this movie is so silly that it’s more a dumb comedy than anything else.
Good casting is key in a good super-team movie, so right off the bat, you can see there’s a weak link in this unfantastic flick… Jessica Alba. Sure, she’s attractive, but has she ever been good in anything ever? The rest of the F.F. casting makes sense, though I’m not sure why they decided to put Michael Chiklis in such a stupid costume instead of simply going CG.
What really eats away at me is this film ruined the greatest Marvel villain of all time, Dr. Doom. Julian McMahon couldn’t have been more forgettable as what could have been the next Darth Vader. Couldn’t they have at least cast someone people had heard of? Someone like Jeremy Irons, sure he’s twenty years too old for the part but Doom needed to be played by a master thespian. That all aside this movie is at least watchable, just a missed opportunity.
|X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
This movie was basically all about the Benjamins. With Brian Singer parting ways and Brett Ratner taking over I don’t think anyone had high expectations but hey, it’s still the X-Men. So let’s see they fought Magneto, then Magneto/Stryker and now they’re fighting? Oh, it’s Magneto again, so why should I care? That’s more or less the whole feeling of this installment “Why should I care?”
You can cram in more characters, but why did this movie need to be made? Because people like me are stupid and people like me, sigh… enjoy stupid stuff like this. What can I say? I love the X-Men. I also liked the addition of Ellen Page as fan fav Kitty Pryde (excellent casting even if the role was small) and who doesn’t love Frasier as Beast? It’s got hella problems, but so does America and that’s why this movie was a hit.
|Ghost Rider (2007)
If all the Marvel films were students this would be the one that rides the short bus. I apologize for that remark but this is one of the dumbest big budget movies I’ve ever seen. Rarely have I ever been so desperate to flee a theater than the day I witnessed the abomination that is Ghost Rider. I’ll try and be brief as the mere thought of Ghost Rider makes me want to vomit with rage.
This “film” is about a stunt motorcyclist named Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage with CGI abs) who sells his soul to the devil to fight crime. Becoming the spirit like “Ghost Rider” Blaze wages a battle through plot holes and bad acting to try and defeat the evil Blackheart (Wes Bentley). You know a movie is bad when you’ve blocked out most of it from your memory. I’ll leave it there.
|Spider-Man 3 (2007)
I’ve already established I’m a softie for Stan Lee’s greatest creations. Just the fact that these movies keep getting made makes me overjoyed, so maybe that’s blinding whatever common sense I may have but I’m not gonna lie… I like Spider-Man 3. Is it cheesy? Yeah. Is the script a mess? Yup. Is it sometimes funny for the wrong reasons? A little bit. Is it entertaining? Hell yeah! At this point in the series, I’d grown so attached to the characters that I suppose I was willing to see them go through anything, even if it was silly.
Sandman, Venom, Harry Osborn on a glider, and a moody Peter Parker with an identity crisis all duking it out at the same time? Yeah, it was a little much and in the grand scheme of things this overpacked plot was probably the film’s downfall, but I still like a lot of the little things.
Sandman is underdeveloped but at the same time, it’s Sandman. I am watching a movie with Sandman! Is this real life? Sam Raimi may have gotten carried away, but I think his heart was in the right place. I mean he’s another fan like the rest of us and after two films I guess he wanted to mix it up a little, though as a wise group once said “Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby, rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over.” For too many, Raimi tipped the boat over.
|Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
It was already a shame that Marvel blew it on the F.F franchise, but they just had to bring down Silver Surfer too. Though Silver Surfer certainly popped up a lot in the F.F comic series he was just as a respectable hero in his own solo comic. The real downer here is that because this movie was stupid, people will never get to really know how cool Silver Surfer is. Any mention of Silver Surfer will ultimately lead to this movie which has forever tainted his legacy.
FFRotSS isn’t an abomination like Ghost Rider or Elektra but it’s not a good representation of the quality characters being featured. The action is good, the effects are nice, but the dramatic execution is terrible and ultimately this was the final nail in the coffin for Tim Story’s F.F. films. I only hope this film gets a legitimate remake in the years to come.
|Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Since we all needed another movie about a guy who kills people with guns, we got Punisher: War Zone. Maybe it’s a sequel, maybe it’s a reboot, but all we really know is that watching this movie is probably worse than actually being shot.
Frank Castle is back and more of a ripoff of Batman than ever in this gritty and completely unappealing action flick. This time around Frank faces off against a group of mobsters who have about as much depth as the Good Pidgeons from Animaniacs (deep 90s cut) and do bad guy stuff because… Because they’re bad guys.
Frank brutally murders these bad guys because he hates bad guys so much, but oops! He accidentally kills an undercover cop! So he’s all sad and starts stalking the cop’s wife (Julie Benz from Dexter) and decides he has to protect her because I don’t know, the bad guys wanna kill her or something.
Frank’s only real friend is Wayne Knight, who supplies him with guns in his laboratory underneath a subway system. Irishman Ray Stevenson (Who’s actually in the upcoming Thor) plays the emotionless and undeniably dull Frank “The Punisher” Castle, but every character is some kind of stereotype.
Something I find distracting about all this is how similar it is to Batman, check this out:
– Both characters became vigilantes after family members were murdered.
– Both are equally feared by crooks and cops and considered a menace.
– They both only come out at night
– The Punisher fights a guy named Jigsaw (Dominic West) who looks a lot like Two-Face.
– Both have secret lairs, both wear black, etc.
The only difference is Batman has depth and principles, The Punisher just teaches us that violence solves everything and that it’s okay to kill hundreds of people if you’re pissed off. I mean, bad guys suck so much, am I right?
|Iron Man (2008)
Here we go, a safe dependable character with a great cast and crew. Iron Man came just in time, revitalizing interest in Marvel films while simultaneously launching the proposal for an Avengers movie. I think we’ve all seen Iron Man so I won’t bore you with plot details. All I’ll say is that this an excellent performance from Downey and perfectly balances humor with action. Not to mention it introduced many of the uninformed to the awesomness of the character of Iron Man, instantly cementing him as one of Marvel’s top players.
|The Incredible Hulk (2008)
This is more like the Hulk! From the perfect casting of Mr. Duality himself (Edward Norton), the inclusion of another big baddie (Tim Roth) and several homages to the TV series, this was pitch perfect. Presented as both a sequel and a reboot, The Incredible Hulk gives us all the quality action that was lacking in Ang Lee’s snoozer. Perhaps the story is lightweight, but there’s plenty of humor and excitement to make up for it.
I have a few complaints but they’re minor. For one, why is the Hulk still so damned tall? He’s not 15ft but he’s still gotta be at least 10ft, I don’t get it. Hmm, that’s all that’s coming to me as of now, so I guess I don’t have as many complaints as I thought. It’s just too bad that Edward Norton won’t be returning to this role in the upcoming Avengers.
|X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
I already reviewed this on the blog once and I didn’t like it. Who would have thought you could surround such a great character like Wolverine with so much shit? Jackman’s good, but this film feels more like a contest to cram in as many X-Men cameos as possible, while simultaneously ruining all of them. Because of this film, we’ll probably never get to see favorites like Gambit or Deadpool in a good movie and that’s a shame. This film took so many liberties with the property that it became something so fowl I cringe to look upon it. I only pray that the second installment will do everyone’s favorite Canadian superhero justice.
|Iron Man 2 (2010)
With the upcoming Avengers flick, I’m not sure they needed another Iron Man, but it was fun to watch, even if it did kill a few brain cells. Iron Man 2 tries to up the ante as many sequels often do, but for some reason, it just felt too jumbled and busy. Too many characters and too many plotlines, it lacked the breezy looseness of the original. Downey is as good as ever as is Gwyneth Paltrow and Mickey Rourke, it was just sloppy. Let’s hope that The Avengers movie doesn’t get too out of hand.
Wow is that it? There’s probably something else that will come to me later, but I’m starting to lose it. Anyways I hope you all enjoy a Marvel infused summer as I know I will, excelsior!