Believe it or not, there was a time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was an awful period of time for some of these characters – that were butchered completely. We didn’t really count the films made before the 2000 X-Men film and also felt that FOX redeemed themselves for X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Deadpool. Interestingly enough, the recent Fantastic Four reboot isn’t #1 on the list:
10. Daredevil (2003)
Some would probably argue that other films deserve to be on this list. To those people I say – stuff like the Dolph Lundgren Punisher, David Hasslehoff Nick Fury or even the early Captain America film doesn’t really count. You know this…
Daredevil wasn’t box office flop but still didn’t merit a sequel due to the fact that it wasn’t any good (it was critically panned and most fans hated it as well) and they got a lot of things wrong. It was back in the time where studios were trying to capitalize on the success of X-Men and Spider-Man and rather than trying to stay true to the comics, they’d cram an origin story in there and make it their own certain way. Stan Lee even said that they got the character “all wrong”.
Ben Affleck wasn’t terrible but he certainly wasn’t spectacular and Colin Farrell as Bullseye left a lot to be desired. They also seemed to focus too much on the romance between Murdock and Elektra. One thing that the movie did get right, however, was the costume.
There was a Director’s Cut that was supposed to be the film released in theaters (Rated R with Coolio but the studio backed out at the last minute) which was a little better.
Affleck also said that the movie humiliated him to the point where he’d never play a superhero again. But now he’s playing Batman and it looks like he will do a great job.
It’s not all bad, though. The fact the film sucked led to Fox eventually letting the rights revert back to Marvel and now we have that great Netflix series that actually gets the character right – and I will admit that I liked the suit in the film better than the suit that Charlie Cox’s version has.
As mediocre as it was, this film did get a spin-off:
9. Elektra (2004)
8. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Falling into the same sad category as ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance’ (stick around for that one), Punisher: War Zone is indicative of the kind of mistakes that Marvel were making prior to hitting on their current successful blueprint for making their movies.
Both films were sequels of marginally successful origin stories. They were made because the studio saw potential for a big cash return, but put absolutely no care or attention into the project. Both promised violent and gritty trailers that would eclipse the action of the first film, but emerged an incoherent mess which the studio quickly moved to distance itself from.
I want to love ‘War Zone’, and every time I re-watch it, I pray I was too harsh on my last viewing, and time will have mellowed my opinion. It hasn’t. The film’s a twitchy neon melting pot of violence and cliche. The scriptwriters had looked to the seminal Punisher MAX series for inspiration, and mined the stories for the most interesting and engaging plot lines. The issue was, all of the material they came with bore no relation to the rest, so poor old Ray Stevenson finds himself in the middle of a chaotic and noisy mess of free-running Irish West-Indians, a Chechen drugs empire, possibly the least convincing serial killer of all time, and Colin Salmon looking like he turned up at the wrong casting call, but went ahead with it anyway.
The film’s violent enough, to be sure. A free-runner disintegrates mid air after being hit by a rocket launcher. A gangbanger having a crap gets shot in the face. Dominic West does a few laps in a pool full of broken glass. But Director Lexi Alexander (a former kickboxing champion, no less) can’t hide the fact she lacks the ability to tie any of it together. Which is a creating bloody shame, as Stevenson gives a cracking performance as the tortured antihero, playing the role much closer to the comics version than other portrayals.
The characters are two-dimensional, there is no plot, just a series of violent altercations that Frank Castle moves through, and the most pressing question the film presents to the viewer is ‘how much more of this shit do I have to sit through?’
And this is a tragedy. Because the film should have been a massive success. Tom Jane’s portrayal had left fans baying for more. The set-up was complete, the source material was there, it should have been easy to put in a successful action movie, full of tension and grit.
What fans were given torpedoed the character indefinitely. Hopefully it would appear that Netflix may be finally putting the Punisher back on the road to redemption. – Simon Andrews
7. Fantastic Four (Both) From 2004 and 2007
These movies are sort of in line with Daredevil and Elektra in that they didn’t really seem to know what they were doing with any of the characters. The looks were okay but the movies just weren’t good.
Doom was lame and they really wasted the Silver Surfer. PG? Come on now.
Marvel must have been paying attention because they eventually ended up casting Chris Evans as Captain America, as I’m sure all of you know (who wouldn’t know that?).
I will admit, however, that these movies look like masterpieces in comparison to the 2015 reboot.
6. Ghost Rider (Both) 2006 and 2011
The first Ghost Rider film was well, not really worth writing about.
I remember hearing that they were eventually trying to make this film rated R and that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor had a very specific treatment. But as you know, studios weren’t really going for the R-rated comic book movies back then (and still really aren’t) so what we got was a very watered down and poor film.
I could sit here and tell you all the bad things about it, but I really don’t even remember it all that much – to be honest. Ghost Rider looked dumb, the shaky camera was annoying and that acting wasn’t good at all. This was yet another film that ended up with the rights reverting back to Marvel.
I assume that Marvel is just waiting for the stigma of these movies to wear off (sort of like what they did with Daredevil) before doing anything new with these characters.
5. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Let me starting off by saying this movie is sh!t. Sh!t, SH!t, SH!T. But, this being from the studios of 20th Century Fox, the film had to be made at all cost. Originally to be directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film was suppose to focus on the intergalactic aspect of the X-Men universe with a new threat that our heroes were to battle. Instead we got another film where Magneto is the main villain and some of the main characters being killed off, including Professor X himself.
Little to nothing made sense of this film and this impending train-wreck should’ve been obvious once a new director to take over the troubled production from Vaughn was announced. [email protected]$KING-RATNER. The director took everything that was possible to come from the script, threw it out the window and replaced by the horrible version we have today. Since then, the X-Men films barely recovered and we still are getting “meh” treatment for what’s possible of these characters. -Mark Salcido
4. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Riding on the incredible success of Spider-Man 2, it was inevitable that a third film featuring the comic book hero would be made by the same team. The characters were already laid out, the actors were eager to return and Sam Rami was set to direct. What could go wrong? Apparently, everything.
This final film in the Rami “Spider-Man Trilogy” fell into the tropes that most part 3 films wonder into. Worn down and tired cast members, stretched out storylines and a director that clashed with a studio over creative differences.
The film was universally panned by critics and fans alike over everything about the film and rightfully so. Sam Rami has even gone on record to say that he purposely shot the film the way it was because Sony would not let him make the film he wanted. And for that, Sony rebooted the Spider-Man character and tried another crack at a trilogy. – Mark Salcido
3. Hulk (2003)
What a mess.
Kind of like this next film:
2. Fantastic Four (2015)
To discuss a movie, I have usually seen it a few hundred times, and know it like the back of my hand. However, the Fantastic Four remake this past summer, I only watched in the theater. I’ve been meaning to buy the DVD just for the simple fact that I collect Marvel movies. But I yet to find any ambition to do so.
The remake would have been alright if it didn’t actually call itself Fantastic Four, and the characters by the names they were so unattached from. Well, that, and the very anti-climatic battle against “Doom.” It was great as a stand alone science fiction movie. But to even call itself Marvel’s first family was a joke. I don’t care if it tried to adapt the team from the pages of the Ultimate Universe.
The FF movies a decade ago were fine. The only thing they messed up was Galactus. And Silver Surfer needed more on-screen development. That promised spin-off would have been great, but after an FF3. It could have served as an interquel between 2 and 3, while doing flashbacks of his origins before 2. FF3 could have been Surfer teaming up with the Fantastic Four years later, on a journey through the Negative Zone against Blastaar and Annihilus. Meanwhile, Franklin, Valeria, and Herbie would protect the Baxter Building against Mole Man, who’s taking over the building, moving his Subterranea kingdom up the skyscraper. The two forces against each other in a building, much like Dredd in the Mega City Block, or a tower defense game. – Allen Dean Lyons
1. Man-Thing (2005)
Wait. There was a Man-Thing movie? I’m sure most of you are asking yourselves that very question. It’s a valid question because I’m not even sure that I would count this as a Man-Thing movie. Sure, it’s called Man-Thing and he’s in it (for a little bit) but it’s mostly just terrible acting and bad effects.
Back in 2005, after the success of The Punisher in 2004, Marvel and Lions Gate looked to make more smaller budgeted R-rated films for their darker properties that would most likely go straight to DVD. They were in talks to do a Luke Cage movie even. Man-Thing was the first character that they selected and even scrapped the straight to DVD plans and made it scheduled for a wide release in October of 2004. After they held a screening in which nearly half the audience walked out, they scrapped those plans for a wide release and eventually, the movie premiered on the SyFy channel marketed as an original movie – so you know it was bad.
The film only had a 7.5 million dollar budget (it was cut by a lot) and had to relocate to Australia for filming (hence why you have a bunch of unknown Australian actors trying to sound like they’re from Louisiana and failing miserably) and what you get is an awful film that was dumped to the SyFy channel, most likely with the hope that it would just disappear.
For those of you wanting to check it out thinking that it would be fun to watch because of how bad it is, I wouldn’t recommend it. Without spoiling anything for you, it’s boring and it fails miserably to get the character right. I don’t even think any of the writers or the director bothered to read a Man-Thing comic or even look up a general description of the character.
If you’re into movies that are 90% walking around and talking about “a creature in the swamp”, bad acting and bad writing with no story development where literally NOTHING happens until the final act, then this one is for you.
Honorable Mentions: Howard The Duck, Blade: Trinity, X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Interesting Honorable Mention: Iron Man (2008)
You know how some people love cilantro? And there are others that think it tastes like dirty pennies? That’s how I feel about Marvel’s kick-off of their cinematic universe. While people were delighted with RDJ’s turn as Tony Stark, I thought he was an insufferable prick who was never kept in check. He never felt human to me, he just felt like an asshole who was wittier than everyone else. Sure, maybe that’s the point, but to me Tony Stark’s assholery is a shield to a deeper character, one that was thankfully explored in Avengers and Iron Man 3. At no point did I find myself rooting for him in the first movie.
Also, the action scenes feel bland and weightless, with not-quite-there CG and boring desert and street locations shot boringly. In the end, the whole thing comes off with the tone of a Mtn. Dew commercial. How we live in a world where this movie is considered different that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is beyond me. -Andreas Peterson
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