With the release of Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel has now churned out seventeen movies. Yep, that’s right. Seventeen fuckin’ Marvel movies and almost all of them widely popular with both critics and fans, almost all of them hit big at the box office. But not all of them are great or good. There are few stinkers and there are a few gold. The list below starts with the stinkers with the movies listed in descending order.
The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008). Say what you want about Ang Lee’s Hulk, that’s still better than this movie. This louder rehash only improves on the special effects the action, which everyone soon forgets once Mark Ruffalo shows up in The Avengers.
Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010). Iron Man 2, or: How To Make A Bloated Sequel. Black Widow made her first appearance in this movie. That’s the most vivid detail I remember from this really really long talky Robert Downey Jr. movie. That and Tony Stark literally pissing his pants.
Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011). Joe Johnston brought his Rocketeer aesthetic into an alternate 1940s giving it a frozen in amber quality. It was good in that it looked different, if only it wasn’t so boring.
Deadpool reminded me of Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, that is. Deadpool was half the movie that Spider-Man was, but with enough adult things—humor, language, sex, violence—to make up for the lacking half.
Spider-Man: Homecoming reminds me a lot of Deadpool, but in terms of the adult things—humor, language, sex, violence—the latter was (in)famous for, Homecoming‘s only half the fun that Deadpool was. It’s Deadpool-lite, with the latter’s hard-R rating cut to whiny PG-13.
Marvel has finally “marvelized” Spider-Man—which is both good and bad—the same way it did Thor, Cap, and Iron Man. The good: the casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker (easily the most precise (best?) incarnation of the character, a perfect middle ground for those who find Tobey Maguire too dorky and those who find Andrew Garfield too dicky), Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, and Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, Marvel’s ability to present a plausible comic book world that’s close to our own, and the impressive visual effects—all of which, should be pretty much given by now in every Marvel movie. And these are among the main reasons for these movies’ box office draw and the franchise’s enduring appeal.
And the bad: Pete’s high school/superhero life is just too light, sometimes too much to be remarkable, if not forgettable, unlike the three Sam Raimi spins, and to some extent, the Sony reboot for Twilight fans (Marc Webb at least managed to add cute and dramatic moments; Homecoming goes for the romantic/dramatic level of American Pie). Like the bulk of MCU movies, it’s a fun above-average entertainment, but ultimately recyclable.
Instead of taking its cue from the Sam Raimi films, Homecoming re-imagines Tom Holland’s Peter as Tony Stark transposed to high school, with Ned as Happy Hogan and Tony Stark as Nick Fury, evaluating a possibly new recruit for his Avengers Initiative. The movie’s plot, the suit, the incoherent mid-air battle, down to the Aunt May reveal in the end, it’s so Iron Man recycled for the nth time. (Ant-Man’s plot is also similar, but it’s got something Homecoming doesn’t have.)
But the suit Stark made is a hoot, though kind of overkill (Is that Spider-chute?); that Nolan Knight reference send up, hilarious. And the suit’s A.I. whom Peter named Karen (Jennifer Connely), has an inch more character than most of those in Peter’s class. Outside of Ned and Michelle, they were as memorable as the supporting characters in Iron Man 2. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is underused while Robert Downey Jr. makes the best out of the little screen time he’s given. Then, there’s the bit parts played by Captain Rogers, who definitely can’t teach. (Because those who can, do. And those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym class.)
Michael Keaton playing Adrian Toomes/Vulture is simply the best thing in the movie. His scenes with Peter in their house and in the car were easily the most memorable, along with that elevator rescue, Peter getting buried in the rubble, and of course, “Blitzkrieg Bop”.
There are moments when the movie slips to show some heart (Pete rescuing Mr. Delmar, a guy not wanting Toomes’ weapons in his hood) but for the most part, it’s just busy geeking out on Stark’s marvelous suit and contented with being Deadpool-lite and Iron Man in underoos.
While we know what harm Toomes’ weapons could do in the neighborhood, Spidey’s biggest fight is actually more self-serving than anything really heroic. He wanted to get into the A-Team. And guess what? He actually ends up sacrificing his homecoming dance for them, not for the people of Queens, who, by the way, were barely a character in the movie (Which is probably good because the last time ordinary citizens were involved, they lined up the cranes). There’s also this nice (wasted) dramatic conflict in the end, a conflict between trying to stop the villain and saving Liz’s father at the same time. It was a little dramatic touch drowned in the sea of big battle mayhem. Keaton definitely tried to elevate the proceedings (i.e., those arched brows suggesting Toomes’ ambiguity in the end), but that battle on the side of the airplane—over-edited, hard to follow CGI mess—is a blast! And it leaves Homecoming in ruins.
Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) was a good cop out to get NY kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)—who in turn framed him for drugs and got him incarcerated. Macready lost everything while in prison, save for his little girl—thanks to his buddy Sgt. Marcus Williams (who showed up in the movie for a few minutes just to read Macready’s first graphic novel and reveal what this movie is all about: Macready’s revenge). Of course, Macready has since returned. This time as the masked vigilante known as Big Daddy. Big Daddy together with Hit-Girl a.k.a. his now 11-year old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), are on to destroying D’Amico once again. They’re no super-heroes; they’re only out for blood.
Elsewhere, there’s Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his friends wasting time geek-talking about superheroes—how no one’s attempted to wear the mask and fight crime in real life. When Dave finally decided to don the green unitard and take on the streets, the results ranged from “nothing happens” to downright bone-crushing. In other words, he got his own ass handed to him a few times. And then he went viral and eventually conquered MySpace. (MySpace, of course, would eventually lost to Facebook, as can be seen in David Fincher’s brilliant Mark Zuckerberg movie, The Social Network.)
On the side, there’s Lyndsy Fonseca as Katie Deauxma, the requisite (not that I’m complaining) love interest, Dave’s long-time crush and Kick-Ass‘s own MJ (an improvement over Spider-Man‘s Kirsten Dunst).
When Big Daddy and Hit-Girl finally crossed paths with Kick-Ass, Dave’s super-heroics took a backseat, together with his (and the movie’s) thought balloons about superheroes, comic books and genre deconstruction. And this is when Kick-Ass shifted gears into a straight action movie.
But what an ass-kicking action movie it is. Fluid cameraworks, great fight choreography, Matthew Vaughn’s cartoonishly violent action sequence—that’s what really sets this apart from other comic-book movies. Christopher Nolan’s Batman action scenes would look like something from a Kevin Smith movie if you compare them. While Vaughn’s spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), could shred every James Bond movie from the last ten years to pieces if it wants to, Kick-Ass makes most of MCU movies look “strictly for kids”.
The best sequence of them all, the movie’s dramatic high point, is when Hit-Girl rescues Big Daddy and Kick-Ass from D’Amico’s men—Big Daddy’s burning and tied to a chair, shouting coded instructions (e.g., Go to Robin’s Revenge!) while Hit-Girl takes the henchmen down one by one. The sequence packs so much emotions, bullets, blood and style (i.e., POV shots, fast cuts and glorious slo-mos) and brings to mind bits from the best John Woo movies (i.e., The Killer, Hard Boiled).
Another hallmark of a good action movie? The main villain, Frank D’Amico, has the best fuckin’ lines (e.g., God, I wish I had a son like you).
When all is said and done, it’s all about revenge. And Matthew Vaughn’s stylish action sequence. Nevermind its premise, or the first half, or Dave Lizewski’s thought balloons about being a superhero. You’ll forget about them anyway, once you see Hit-Girl engage Frank D’Amico in a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the movie’s kick-ass finale. And don’t forget, the part with that “one weird sounding bazooka” is a total winner.
No, Kick-Ass, though more kick-ass than Deadpool, doesn’t quite work on a similar level of either Superor Deadpool. Not a send-up or anything. It’s just a straight shoot-and-slice-’em-up revenge story disguised as comic book movie about comic books and superheroes. No chimi-fuckin-changas—just first-rate action movie is what it is.
Spider-Man 2 (2004). In the comics, later in the story, it is revealed that Aunt May knew all along that Peter is Spider-Man. That she secretly knew his secret. That this is hinted at in the movie, is one of those little things that made this adaptation great. That Aunt May is given her own kick-ass moment, teaming up with Spidey to beat Doc Ock, is another. Of course, there’s the great train sequence, the bank heist, Doc Ock’s Evil Dead moment, and don’t forget, J.K. Simmons as the blustering J. Jonah Jameson.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). This is one visually stunning film. The troll market is a hoot. The fate of the last forest god is both tragic and beautiful. On top of that, the film’s main conflict isn’t just simplistic good vs. evil—Prince Nuada has good reasons to break the truce. Remember the part where they drink beer and sing along to Barry Manilow? Yeah, this movie’s quite funny too.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014). It’s a good mix of action, comedy and drama—not over serious but not just mindless fun either. From the opening song and dance number down to the other song and dance numbers before and mid-credits, this movie about a band of misfits saving the world is a winner! And probably the danciest superhero movie of all. The best MCU movie? Yes—beats The Avengers by a hair and way way better than Civil War.
Batman Returns (1992). Tim Burton isn’t much about inventive fight scenes than he is about texture, the elaborate Gothic sets, the quirky and oftentimes grotesque characters. What it does lack in action, it makes up with style and wit (i.e., Penguin’s weaponized umbrella, Selina Kyle’s taser-kiss). Add to that the deliciously insane script and the great cast—Danny De Vito, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfieffer—and you got the best adaptation of the Caped Crusader’s plight.
Spider-Man (2002). Compared to more recent movies, this may seem a little too straightforward now—more like a comic book primer, a one-shot. But that’s only because it is the prototype, which others would later try to improve on. Some movies upped the action (Kick-Ass), some, the comedy (Deadpool) but Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, where Peter Parker learns that “with great power comes great responsibility”, remains the all around better origin movie.
The Avengers (2012). After two Hulk movies that were just okay, here’s that Hulk movie we all really need. I remember not being so excited about this before it came out. That all the movies that lead to this movie were just okay—the talky Iron Man sequel, Cap’s WWII origin and Thor‘s uneventful Asgard—was enough for me to lower my expectations. Thus, seeing the Earth’s mightiest in one awesome movie—thanks to Joss Whedon—was such a huge marvelous surprise.
Deadpool (2016). Merc with a Mouth’s origin story is part Spider-Man redux, part corrective to the atrocious Wolverine origin and the closest a comic-book movie comes to approximating Monty Python and the Holy Grail-type of craziness (though it’s not even close). Green Lantern is quite good as Deadpool and he’s got Serenity‘s feisty muse as his girl next door.
Kick-Ass (2010). Also known as Big Daddy’s Revenge (With A Little Help From Kick-Ass). Because. It’s all about revenge. And Matthew Vaughn’s stylish action sequence. Never mind the premise; or the first half; or Dave Lizewski’s thought balloons about being a superhero. You’ll forget about them anyway, once you see Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) take on Big Boss Frank D’Amico in a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the movie’s kick-ass finale.
Super (2010). The genre deconstruction that Kick-Ass hardly was—James Gunn’s pre-MCU superhero black comedy features the pipe-wrench wielding vigilante who calls himself The Crimson Bolt and his far more unhinged side-kick Boltie. It’s dark, funny and gritty. Tired of the family-friendly and passable entertainment from Disney? Or the trying hard to be dark and edgy DC movies? This one’s for you.
Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). I was one movie short of making this a top ten list. So I thought of another movie which I really like. Then, I remembered this—Kevin Smith’s movie about Jay and Silent Bob going to Hollywood to stop the adaptation of Bluntman and Chronic into the big screen. It’s trashy and amateurish, which is typical of Smith’s movies. A must-see if you’re a fan of Smith’s.
‘Civil War’ should have ended with that mid-movie orgy, not with the Tony-Cap-Bucky threesome.
Captain America: Civil War finds the Earth’s mightiest heroes split in two. One led by Captain America and the other headed by Iron Man—two evenly matched teams going head-to-head in a mid-movie battle seemingly inspired by the opening sequence of the X-Men cartoons from the ‘90s. While Iron Man got Spider-Man, Captain America’s team is the more exciting one, with Wanda, Hawkeye and Ant-Man on his side. Still, this doesn’t make it significantly more interesting than the other similarly themed summer flick from DC, especially when most of the superheroes left to team up with either Cap or Tony, are the predictably dull side characters in the Marvel Universe—War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Vision and a likewise banal newcomer in Black Panther.
I thought we should at least have Nick Fury in the middle, make him give long Tarantino-esque monologues that would illuminate why Cap and Tony were on different sides. (Looks like Tony is just jealous because Cap’s got a new boyfriend and he’s got no one else since Pepper left him.) Also, they could have given Agent 13 more screen presence this time, because honestly, they couldn’t make Black Widow any more alluring and her signature takedown gets tiring already. Another thing, the camera tends to get too shaky during her fight scenes—actually, most of the fight scenes, not just those with Black Widow.
Captain America: Civil War starts with The Avengers foiling a terrorist attack somewhere in Africa. They were able to retrieve the biological weapon from the terrorists, but not without collateral damage—something they might have avoided, if only Vision wasn’t so busy in the headquarters kitchen. So Tony Stark has to do a Bruce Wayne this time; taking fall for the death of innocent people when they tried to save the world from Ultron. Captain America, on the other hand, just can’t afford to lose Bucky for the third time, even if his disagreement with Stark could lead to Civil War.
Of course, it didn’t. No Civil War, just a smaller version of Mark Millar’s serial, which has twelve superheroes fighting each other in Leipzig/Halle Airport. With Hawkeye just being funny, delivering one-liners in between punches; Ant-Man getting inside Iron Man’s suit, then later turning into Giant-Man; and Spider-Man throwing banters while webbing up Falcon, sparring with Cap, and swinging around Giant-Man. Then, there’s Elizabeth Olsen, who gives Wanda Maximoff the vulnerability—both emotional and physical—that’s kind of rare in this type of movie. Olsen’s Wanda is both fragile and fierce, like a kitten with special powers, caught in the middle of a slugfest.
Said airport scuffle is easily the best part of this movie. But since it happens somewhere in the middle, right before the “more” important events are about to unfold, it makes the last third of the movie drag, not just a bit. And I couldn’t even care less, especially after Wanda, Ant-Man and Spidey left off the screen. And I think, it asks too much of its audience when they killed Rhodes. Almost. It’s not like he (almost) died trying to save people. And both teams seem to be having a fun pick-up match just right before that, with Spider-Man referencing Star Wars and Ant-Man asking for orange slices (probably to nurse a massive headache) after he gets knocked down. Unlike the death scene in Joss Whedon’s Age of Ultron, the tone here is just, off.
At long last, the final fight between Cap and Iron Man boils down to Tony doing another Bruce Wayne—as he turns vengeful for the death of his parents. The fight gets a bit clearer near the end—lesser camera movements, lesser cutting but in the same gloomy blue-grayish tone (would have been nice to see Cap’s bright costume contrasting nicely with Iron Man’s metallic gold and red). And in case you forgot, in the pure Marvel tradition of having boring half-villains, this movie also got one: Baron Zemo, who gets to carry out his very complicated plan, just because the plot needs him to.
Again, that airport scene is probably the coolest thing ever…or maybe, just until the next Marvel movie comes.
Midway through the film’s title sequence, it occurred to me – this could be the Captain Deadpool and the Oily Grail of all comic book and superhero movies! Only, it didn’t turn out to be.
Minutes later, Deadpool segues into the highway scene we’re already familiar with – the one where he jumps into a van full of bad guys who in the hands of the Merc with a Mouth, will soon suffer or die in outrageously violent and sometimes funny ways. From there, Deadpool goes about his origin story through a few flashbacks, encounters the two X-men who would become his sidekicks and then assures the audience that his movie is actually a love story. Much like Peter Parker’s story years before, this is also about a girl – Vanessa, played the very hot Morena Baccarin.
It’s definitely inferior to Spider-Man, but it is also lots of fun. Deadpool is irreverent, self-aware, shockingly juvenile and does with plenty of violence. Our titular character also breaks the fourth wall every once in a while. That said, it still feels lacking and tame in some way as compared to some recent films of the genre. James Gunn’s Super is far crazier; his Guardians of the Galaxy has that one sequence that’s infinitely funnier than anything here (not to mention that it’s followed by a touchingly poignant final battle). In terms of action and violence, Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass is more, uhm, kickass – fluid camerawork, great choreography and a boss fight that’s brutal as fuck. And despite Deadpool‘s hard R-Rating, the nudity is of the blink-and-you-miss-it variety. No, exposed butt doesn’t count.
Okay, Deadpool may not have that many wow moments, but on the plus side, the fight scenes are mostly coherent – better than in any of those Michael Bay atrocities, better than the expertly choreographed, but poorly shot and badly edited fight scenes we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
For what it is, which is an adequately faithful adaptation of the comics, Deadpool is ultramega OK. “The real heroes here” did a fine job taking from a variety of source materials, putting in the right amount of Deadpool-ness they need and adding their own sensibilities to come up with their own definitive version of the fourth-wall breaking Merc. The result is a film that ticks all the fanboys’ check boxes and hardly strays from the character’s established conventions, which are not quite conventional – at least within the current trend in comic book movie adaptations.
Of all the in-jokes and pop culture references here, his jab at Hugh Jackman/Wolverine is the one I like the most. A character Fox love so much – Wolverine appeared on almost every X-Men movie and pretty much shoved everyone else to the sidelines. And yet, six movies in and Wolverine still has to make one memorable onscreen kill.