The Problem with Non-Marvel “Marvel” Movies

Fant4stic Marvel Fox

It’s such an obvious concept on the face of it that it doesn’t seem to bear saying out loud.  But if Fant4stic is any indication of the industry’s understanding on the subject, then it obviously does.  Only Marvel should be making Marvel movies.

Why anybody would think any differently is completely beyond me.  The non-Marvel successes have been so few and far between that they hardly bear mentioning in the first place.  There’s X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future Past… and that’s it.  Those are the only good non-Marvel Marvel movies.

Now, I understand that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy have their fans and that there’s a pretty loyal following for the first two X-Men.  Hell, even Daredevil‘s R-rated director’s cut is starting to have a critical re-evaluation in some circles.  That being said, I have never found any of them to be anything more than just okay.

X-Men Marvel Fox

Although it took the franchise a long time to figure out what to do with itself, there’s no denying that X-Men is actually in good hands at the moment.  First Class was one of the most invigorating movies of 2011 and singlehandedly sold me on watching director Matthew Vaugn’s other projects (not the least of which was Kingsman: The Secret Service).

I have additionally made no secret of my love of Days of Future Past, which was my second favorite movie of 2014.  With Deadpool only looking more and more awesome as time goes by – not to mention Apocalypse waiting patiently in the wing – I’m increasingly convinced that Fox is where this franchise probably belongs at this point and time.

The problem is, however, that their winning streak is only two-movies long, and the remaining two are based purely on speculation.  Although the first movie was certainly ahead of the curve when it premiered in 2000, it can’t help but feel subpar in this post-Dark Knight, post-MCU cine-scape.  The drab monotone is set purely in the Daredevil school of angst (the Ben Affleck one, for those of you who are keeping count).  The plot is excessively comicky, Bryan Singer’s inexperience with the action genre is readily apparant throughout the film and everything about it simply fails to hold up as well on the rewatch.  It’s still a solid enough movie, to be sure, but it’s disappointing enough when revisited now to make me wonder why I was ever so excited about it in the first place (the short answer: I’d take X-Men intravenously if it were possible).

The second movie, for all of its grander ambitions – and for as awesome as Nightcrawler’s cinematic introduction was – ultimately failed to live up to its predecessor in terms of execution.  The same could be said about X-Men United, only to a far greater degree.  While I am far more forgiving of X-Men Origins than virtually everybody else on the planet, that largely comes down to knowing virtually nothing about Deadpool at the time and my inherent love for Cell-like villains (ala DBZ).  The Wolverine was a touch better, but was ultimately a boring movie with a boring villain trapped in the boring canon of the supremely disappointing X-Men United.

Spider-Man

The best thing that Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy had going for it was that it was made at the dawn of the 21st century: a few years after X-Men (so they knew enough to throw some color into the mix) and a few years before the start of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (so our expectations weren’t too high).  J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson was absolutely spot-on, Uncle Ben’s death was tragically executed and the whole production actually remembered its comic origins.

In fact, it was so fidelitous to how the comics looked that it failed to look realistic (something that we generally want at least a sparing dose of in the theater).  The color scheme was garish, the web-slinging cartoonish and the costumes downright atrocious.  On this last point, Weird Al aptly commented that Willem Defoe was “wearin’ that dumb Power Rangers mask, / but he’s scarier without it on.”  That’s not even touching on the head-scratchingly miscast Tobey Maguire spearheading the movie in its title role.

I’ve always preferred The Amazing Spider-Man movies to Raimi’s trilogy, if only because they finally injected the fun back into the franchise.  Peter is a sarcastic, witty and ultimately fun character that the world ultimately weighs down on (not the least of which is the guilt of his uncle’s death).  Raimi’s movies (even before the cheesy sequel and that God-awful three-quel) forgot that vital aspect, and just piled melodrama and gloom up as much as the movie would allow.

That being said, The Amazing Spider-Man movies, although superior, aren’t vastly superior.  For as terrible as Spider-Man 3 was, it had the most fantastically stand-oout sequence of all five movies (William Baker’s transformation into Sandman).  No one sequence in Webb’s two movies were memorable, let alone near that level of craftmanship.

The movies were weighty, fatalistic and spent far more time setting up sequels and spin-offs that would never come to fruition than it did developing its own characters and story.  Andrew Garfield was fine as Parker and Emily Stone was outstanding as Gwen Stacy (who was always my favorite love interest for the character), but neither of them were ultimately good enough to elevate their decent-at-best material to something more than just alright.

Daredevil

The rest of Marvel’s out-sourced movies have been nothing short of disasterous.  Between three (technically four) Fantastic Fours, three Punishers, three Blades, two Ghost Riders, two Daredevils, one Hulk and a smattering of odds and ends (including, infamously, Howard the Duck), there has not been a single good movie.

The Blade movies all overly rely on poor CG and the tiresome acting prowess of Wesley Snipes (even if Guillermo del Toro made the second film more than just passingly forgetable).   Each Fantastic Four is more artistically inept than its predecessor (and that’s saying something, given that the first was made by Roger Corman).  The Ghostriders are comically inept, the Daredevils painfully angsty and the Hulk features protracted fight scenes with a Gamma-irradiated poodle.

In the meantime, Marvel has crafted a critically acclaimed, multi-media empire out of the properties that they’ve managed to hold on to.  Between 12 movies, 5 shorts and three television series, they’ve created the broad-reaching, continuity-driven shared universe that is fast becoming the blockbuster standard in Hollywood.

Maybe – just maybe – everybody should give Marvel back all of its toys and stop trying to beat them at their own game.


  • Corey

    Mark me down as thinking you’re being hyper critical of some of these movies. Sure, there are a LOT of turds in the non-Marvel “Marvel” spectrum, but I think X-Men and X2 both stand the test of time, with X2 being right up there with Days of Futures Past.

    • Greg

      No, they do not stand the test of time

  • Enoch Qub’aljemozyx Abraham

    I think the analysis of some of these movies really didn’t really make too much sense, at least with Spiderman. Yes, Peter Parker in the Raimi iteration of the films was somewhat square, but Peter Parker was always a square when it came to his Parker persona. Only when he was Spiderman was he really all that witty, and in contrast the “Amazing Spiderman” seemed to only be honest with Peter Parker’s character when he was in uniform. Outside of uniform, the character was irresponsible, arrogant, and often careless, which is a lot different than Parker’s comic book characterization, who is almost haunted by the burden of having to be so responsible and losing even when he did everything right.

    And then to say that the Blade series was so much more terrible than, I don’t know, the entire Thor series or Iron Man 2 & 3… the only thing these movies did do was have critical acclaim. They weren’t made even remotely to a degree where they could be considered better than many of the outsourced Marvel films you talk about, they just seemed to because they are bunched together with a media engine that was very good at mapping all this out. Therefore, there can terrible films in this cinematic universe, and still everyone would say that they are doing an amazing job because they are bunched together with movies that can make you forget those failures.

    So they are critically-acclaimed, but that doesn’t mean they are better movies. That just means they were planned better, and since they did it first then other people are going to have a hard time getting something that can be considered comparable.

  • Alec

    Just wanted to say it’s nice to see an article on the site. I may not agree with all written, but it’s good to have something to debate! 🙂

    • CarlosTheDon

      Agreed, I miss having articles on this site. I would write for them, but I only have a small sample to show to them.

  • MegaSolipsist

    A good article, but I think the first two X-men and Spiderman movies have stood the test of time, even if they are a little dated, and I stand by the Blade Trilogy, especially Blade 2. Yes, the CGI is mediocre, but they do have great villains (except maybe Blade: Trinity).
    I think the first Captain America and the third Iron Man movies were terrible, and the Thor films are only decent because of Tom Hiddleston’s magnetic performances.

  • Iain Reid

    *Emma Stone

  • CarlosTheDon

    You lost me at the statement about liking ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ films over at least 2 or even 1 competent films from Raimi.

    I do disagree with this article, the point you make are fine, but you only spent a paragraph explaining why the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are better, or anything at that.
    If you did a deep analysis you would find me and others who aren’t Marvel fanboys say that quite a big chunk of the MCU isn’t that great.

    Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk are the lowest point, however when you stated about X-Men 1/2 being passable but not great films, people (including me) see Captain America 1, Thor 1 & 2, Iron Man 3 and even Ant-Man to the “same old, not masterpieces but enjoyable”.
    So someone (maybe me) would love to write a counter article, because people always go back to Avengers, Iron Man 1, Captain America 2 and Guardians, but the rest are actually quite forgettable in it’s own right.
    Also don’t get me started on ‘Agents of Shield’.