While not all Marvel films are created equal, 2023 proved just how diverse in quality the films inspired by the company’s iconic characters can be. While Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania represented the worst of what comic book movies have become, films like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse prove that Marvel films can still be popular with critics and audiences.
There are a number of films based on Marvel Comics’ characters that were unjustly hated and deserve a rewatch. These 10 movies stand out in particular.
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015)
Joss Whedon‘s first follow-up to The Avengers deserves credit for posing a question that many fans ask themselves now: would the world be a better place if The Avengers had never come together in the first place?
By suggesting a rift within the group was brewing, Avengers: Age of Ultron helped to set up the conflict in Captain America: Civil War. Whedon uses the character of Ultron, voiced magnetically by the great James Spader, as a representation of all of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) flaws. This became a critical talking point as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued.
‘Blade II’ (2002)
Blade II allowed director Guillermo del Toro to essentially make his version of Aliens but with vampires. While del Toro wasn’t as creatively involved with the project as he had been in his Hellboy films, he still brought in a level of practical craftsmanship and incredible makeup effects that made the sequel feel like it was made by someone who clearly loved the source material.
In retrospect, Blade II is a far more action-packed and entertaining film than its predecessor, which had a lot of backstory to get through before it delved into the plot.
‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’ (2005)
It’s hard to understate how significantly Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer improved upon its predecessor. While the 2005 film felt like a botched romantic comedy that happened to use the characters from Marvel’s “First Family,” the 2007 sequel was simply a wild, silly cartoon that got into the outer space weirdness of the source material.
Doug Jones’ incredible motion capture performance and Laurence Fishburne‘s booming voice make the titular Silver Surfer far more interesting than any of the heroes. While none of it is high art, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer embraced the tone of the original 1960s comics.
‘Spider-Man 3’ (2007)
Spider-Man 3 is flawed but too ambitious to be discounted entirely. It’s a film that’s overlong and stuffed with subplots, and the characters of Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) and Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) feel like they would have benefited from being saved for another film.
However, Sam Raimi created some truly beautiful moments, such as the creation of the Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) and Peter’s (Tobey Maguire) touching final farewell to his best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco). Spider-Man 3 is also responsible for the “emo Peter Parker” dance sequence, which Raimi had always intended to be campy on purpose.
‘The Incredible Hulk’ (2008)
The Incredible Hulk places low in many Marvel fans’ ranking of the MCU movies, and it’s often because some prefer Mark Ruffalo‘s depiction of Bruce Banner over Edward Norton‘s. While Ruffalo certainly nails the role, Norton provides a different perspective as a darker, more contemplative character on the run for answers.
If viewed as a standalone film without the context of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk does a great job of condensing the origin story into a brief section early on. The opening favella chase remains one of the best-directed action sequences in the entire Marvel universe.
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (2016)
Like Spider-Man 3, X-Men: Apocalypse was a highly ambitious film that certainly had its flaws. However, it’s interesting how each of the X-Men films with the younger cast representative of the decades that they are set in.
X-Men: First Class felt like a 1960s espionage film, and X-Men: Days of Future Past felt like a 1970s dystopian sci-fi adventure. It only makes sense that X-Men: Apocalypse would end up feeling like a goofy 1980s disaster movie. Oscar Isaac deserves all the credit in the world for putting such passion behind a character that is so inherently goofy.
‘Daredevil: The Director’s Cut’ (2003)
Some fans may not be aware of the darker, R-Rated cut of 2003’s Daredevil, which improves significantly upon the cheesy theatrical version. Daredevil: The Director’s Cut felt much closer in tone to the eventual Netflix series by cutting out many of the goofier elements. It even manages to turn Colin Farrell‘s depiction of Bullseye into a menacing antagonist and not the laughingstock he was originally.
‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)
Shane Black is the writer of some of the greatest action comedies of all time; this is the man behind The Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and the Lethal Weapon franchise, and there was nobody better to be writing quips for Tony Stark.
Iron Man 3 made the bold but admirable decision to divert from the original source material and turn “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley) into nothing more than a figurehead representative of the news media’s collective fear of terrorism. It was an interesting idea within a franchise that only rarely seems to take risks.
‘The Wolverine’ (2013)
The Wolverine does a great job at telling a more focused story about Hugh Jackman‘s Logan that embraced a specific genre. In the same way that James Mangold‘s follow-up, Logan, was directly inspired by classic Westerns, The Wolverine is indebted to classic Samurai films and ties in Wolverine’s backstory to events within Japan’s history in World War II.
The Wolverine is a darker take on Logan, as the character struggles with whether he wants to truly be mortal. It certainly served as a good palate cleanser after the disaster that was 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Ang Lee’s Hulk told Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) origin story by acknowledging the importance of his father, David (Nick Nolte), in his decision to become a hero. Bana and Nolte do a great job of adding dramatic heft to the characters, showing how David’s mental illness impacted his son’s life.
Lee used Thadeus Ross’ (Sam Elliot) malpractice to directly criticize military policies, an interesting decision given the real-world events of 2003. Hulk has heavy themes, but Lee inserts enough eye-popping visuals to retain its entertainment value.
From Avengers: Age of Ultron to Ang Lee’s Hulk, these 10 Marvel movies are probably the most underrated in the studio’s catalog. Read More