Yes, I know Howard was in the second one, too.

§ November 30th, 2020 § Filed under movie reviews § 12 Comments

So there’s been a little back-and-forth about superhero movies in Friday’s comments section (along with some now deleted reactions from folks upset about…socialism, I guess?), and while I think we can all agree what the best superhero film is, I just wanted to put in my two cents. And conveniently, this is my blog, so I can do so.

I’ve seen in the past some comments about how there’s a “sameness” to the Marvel Universe movies, and as has been noted, surely that’s by design. It’s brand-building…you go to a Marvel movie, you know what you’re going to get. Not really any different from Marvel the Publisher having a “house style,” really. Does this prevent the studio from reaching any “highs” by a purposeful maintenance of a consistent level of expression? Not necessarily, no more than Marvel’s “house style” kept Gerber’s Howard the Duck from happening.

I don’t know what would be the “Howard the Duck” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, aside from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which was 1) a really out-there move for the studio, and 2) literally had Howard the Duck in it. Other than that, I’d say the films that stretched the formula the most would be the Deadpool films (which weren’t under the main Marvel Studios room at the time), and possibly Logan (see previous parenthetical note).

“Yes, yes, but were any of these any good?” I think Marvel’s done a good job, he said about the company that’s raked in billions at the box office, building that brand and making each of their films a must-attend event for the fans, just so you can keep up with what’s going on and be properly informed for the next installment. And yeah, I realize that’s probably a thing that makes film purists wince, and I probably can’t blame them, but I honestly don’t see anything wrong with what’s basically big budget movie serials, looking at the nine movies of Star Wars and saying “oh yeah, here’s twenty and counting!”

Okay, okay, the first Guardians of the Galaxy is probably my favorite, with Thor: Ragnarok a close second. Avengers: Age of Ultron was my least favorite, at least upon initial viewing, but I find that occasionally catching a few minutes of it here and there as it’s rerun on TV or as the nieces and nephews watch it on Disney+ has made me a little more forgiving of it. Perhaps that’s the best way to watch it…snippets at a time, and not necessarily in order.

Of course, special mention must be made of Iron Man, which took a second-or-third stringer character published by Marvel, and, despite a lot of fans thinking “Iron Man? Really?” gave us a solid film. Solid enough to kick off one of, if not the biggest, moneymaking things ever.

Outside of the mainline “Avengers-verse” Marvel films, I think my favorites may be…well, surprisingly, the Deadpool films. I say “surprisingly” because I’ve been mostly indifferent to the character’s comics. But the movies are a refreshing mockery of your standard superhero movie nonsense, and frankly I’m shocked they even still use the “superhero landing pose” after one of the Deadpool movies pretty well demolished it.

Also, I think I’ve mentioned here that I saw the first one in a “4-D” theater, where the seats moved around in relation to the film’s action, and lights flashed at you and you occasionally got air blown in your face or whatever, and that’s pretty much the only way one should see a Deadpool movie.

Outside of that…I think of the X-Men films, the first one is still my favorite, Storm’s “frog hit by lightning” dialogue and all, if maybe only because I can still feel the amazement that they actually managed to make a halfway decent X-Men movie. And the Wolverine movies are all fun, and Logan was a real achievement. Dark Phoenix, the last film, was…not great, and given their attempts at trying to glue together the initial X-Men films with the First Class continuity, you essentially have Jean become Dark Phoenix twice and hoo boy that seems weird to me.

The many and varied Spider-Man films, prior to Disney getting involved, are…mostly good, I think. I like the Raimi movies a lot more than the two “reboots” that followed (though Amazing had Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, which ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at). Spider-Man 3 had “Evil Peter Parker,” which may be the greatest cinematic Spider-moment of all time, and if you don’t agree, I’ll have to ask you to leave this lecture hall.

All in all, I still have a soft spot for Howard the Duck, which isn’t part of the modern wave of Marvel movies, but I saw that on opening night in a theater with a small handful of other people and by God I’m going to treasure that memory forever.

Okay, that’s too much typing, so I’ll hit DC next time. I may decide Return of Swamp Thing is the best DC movie, just so you’re warned.

12 Responses to “Yes, I know Howard was in the second one, too.”

  • Snark Shark says:

    the best superhero movie is CLEARLY the first Superman! And the WORST superhero movie is Superman 4!

  • Daniel says:

    As I stated in the comments on the previous post, I’m not a huge Marvel fan (I don’t hate their films, but they rarely rise above being just…fine). So keep that in mind as I rate them:

    MCU Films
    I’m of the mind that the entire MCU can be boiled down to just seven films: The Howard Stark Story as told through his two “sons” (Tony and Steve). To use your Star Wars analogy, I’m fine with serialization. But I think that in a serialized story, each chapter must actively move the story forward. And most MCU films really don’t. You can ignore every other MCU film except the ones listed below and the storyline still works fine:

    Iron Man
    Iron Man 2
    Captain America
    The Avengers
    The Winter Soldier
    Age of Ultron
    Civil War

    Of those seven films, I’d give each one a solid “B” rating, except for The Winter Soldier which I’d elevate to “B+”.

    As for the other MCU films not listed above, most of them are “C+” for me with the exception of Thor: The Dark World which I give a solid “B”, Thor: Ragnarok which I give an “F” (I’d rank it lower if I could–it’s the worst film I’ve seen since Superman IV), and the two Guardians movies and Ant-Man 2, all of which I’d give a “D+”.

    Fox X-Men Films
    I think the first three X-Men films that were directed by Bryan Singer are the best of the series and make a pretty tight little self-contained trilogy. Like with my comments about the MCU-proper above, you can ignore all the other X-Men films and these three hold up really well:

    X-Men
    X2
    Days of Future Past

    I’d rate X-Men as a “B+” (the first half is great, the second half is pretty generic), X2 as an “A” (prior to MoS, BvS, and Joker, I thought that X2 was the best super-hero film ever), and Days of Future Past an “A-“.

    As for the X-Men adjacent films, I thought Logan was quite good, but also a film which I haven’t thought about at all since I watched it (I’d probably give it a “B+”), and Deadpool was much better than I expected (also a “B+”). I never saw Deadpool 2.

    Raimi Spider-Man Films
    There’s so much that I like about this trilogy, and so much that I don’t like about it. I’m an outlier who didn’t care for the first film all that much (I HATED the cinematography (way too garishly bright), which is probably one reason why I hated Aquaman, too, since both had the same cinematographer), and I think the third film is generally better than people give it credit for being. I’d rate the first film a “C+” and the third film a “B”. But the second film is still pretty friggin great. I’d give that one a solid “A-“.

    Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man Films
    I like these films much more than most people do. I’d rate the first film as an “A-” and the second film as a “B+” (I think the decision to play Elektro as a riff on Jim Carrey’s Riddler was a huge mistake (I hated Batman Forever), but aside from that I think the rest of the film worked quite well and am disappointed that they never finished the trilogy.

  • JohnJ says:

    Mike, I have to ask if you’ve ever seen the “Man-thing” movie that was Marvel’s one and only live action direct to video that I can remember. Given your love of Swampy, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you say anything about the Giant-Size Man-Thing. Love to say that: the dirtiest comic book title ever.
    Daniel, when I saw how long your entry was, I skipped right over it, sorry. It’s not your blog, man.

  • Robcat says:

    Ok, I liked Affleck’s Daredevil, Reynold’s Green Lantern, Trank’s FF, Justice League, both the Hulk movies, Push and Jumper. Andrew Garfield was my favorite Spider-man.

    Didn’t like the first Hellboy. Tolerated the second.

    Best superhero movie? Superman II (the Richard Donner cut) followed by Superman the Movie. Battling for third place are Blade I and II.

    So again it is clear that the movie you hated was some one else’s favorite and your favorite is thrown out in some one else’s trash.

    And just for the record, the comic that hooked me on comics, the very first one I ever read, was Iron Man by Michelinie, Layton and Romita. And Iron Man only appeared on the last page! So awesome! So when Marvel announced its first movie was Iron Man, I was “Of course he’s the best choice!”

  • CalvinPitt says:

    Favorite superhero movies. Deadpool, probably, which I enjoyed immensely. To the point that when I left the theater, I felt so upbeat and energized I wanted to just run or jump around like a kid. Could we count The Rocketeer and The Mask? I really like both of those.

    Deadpool 2 was good, and I felt like it mostly avoided falling into the trap of sequels to do the same thing, but more. Guardians of the Galaxy 2, for example, did not avoid that trap for me. Logan was good, but as someone who has watched a crapload of Westerns, i was befuddled by the reviews that acted like its story was some breathtaking, visionary thing.

    Of the MCU stuff, the first Iron Man and the first two Captain America movies. Maybe the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Most of the others fall into the “fine” category. The first two Thors would be at the bottom, with the third Iron Man.

    I like the Raimi Spider-Man movies alright. More than the ones with Andrew Garfield in them (haven’t seen the Tom Holland ones, Spider-Man as Stark’s protege, is probably a dealbreaker for me). Most X-Men movies are “eh”. Favorite Batman movie would be Mask of the Phantasm, then the Burton films, then Nolan (haven’t seen Dark Knight Rises), and I would pitch the Schumacher films into an incinerator.

  • I’ve read more DC books than Marvel over the years, though less and less. And yet I enjoy every Marvel film I’ve seen, to some extent as it relates to how much I like the character.

    I know Marvel’s history and I know DC’s history, and I don’t know why DC’s go-tos are Luthor and Joker. And why Zod? I dunno, I like the Avengers films and GoTG because they are enjoyable. Why has there never been a Brainiac film? I will say that films like BIRDS OF PREY and AQUAMAN were pretty good, but I just can’t watch another film involving Batman or Superman.

  • Thom H. says:

    “Why has there never been a Brainiac film?”

    THANK YOU.

    Favorites list:

    – Superman because Christopher Reeve was pitch perfect.

    – X2 because someone finally got a team right.

    – GotG because I had no expectations and it fully made me cry.

    – Civil War because of the airport fight scene, Wanda being a badass, the culmination of years of films, etc.

    – Into the Spider-verse because the animation left me dazzled.

  • Daniel T says:

    Twenty years from now, Into the Spider-Verse will be recognized as the best superhero movie up to this point.

    As it should be.

  • Squints says:

    The notion of the Marvel Universe as a big budget movie serial never occurred to me until Mike mentioned it here. Dang. Wish I’d thoughta that. I think that analogy doesn’t reasonably extend to the Stars Wars franchise insofar as (1) only The Empire Strikes Back suggests obviously that they thought (in this case knew) they’d make another one and 2) about most Star Wars since 1997, the less said the better.

    By hey-look-at-that contrast, any of the first three Indiana Jones movies stands as a entire serial done in an afternoon, with cliffhanger after cliffhanger. Which was probably Spielberg’s notion going on.

  • David says:

    “Superman because Christopher Reeve was pitch perfect”

    Thank you for this – it’s made me realise why I’ve disliked Superman all this time (the character, not the film, though obviously the film as well, since I dislike the character)

    I think I may be Lex Luthor, as I simply cannot accept Clark Kent as Superman. Reeve may have been a great Clark Kent, but he never made me believe he was Superman. This is not a slight against Reeve, none of the other actors have, either. I’m not sure that anyone can. Superman is just that – he is superhuman – he isn’t human, he isn’t a man, and that never comes across properly in the films.

    It works in the comics (particularly the 70s/80s, I feel) where his abilities can shine, but to then go back to being Kent – ugh.

    Maybe it’s because I grew up with the ‘weakling’ Kent version (pre-Crisis), but Clark was always a disguise, and Superman is the ‘real’ personality (much like ‘socialite’ Bruce Wayne isn’t the real character, and the readers know that). The films never really seem to get that right, for me.

    Honestly, it’s probably just that my concept of the character is different to the writers, so I’m never really happy – so that’s on me :)

  • Snark Shark says:

    Daniel: “Fox X-Men Films
    I think the first three X-Men films that were directed by Bryan Singer are the best of the series”

    I guess I’m not the only person to like X-Men 3, after all.

    Thom H.:
    “Superman because Christopher Reeve was pitch perfect.”

    He really was. No actor can do better than Reeve, and no actor ever will. He was PERFECT.
    (for a non-supes movie from Reeve that’s quite good, see “Deathtrap”!)

    Did anyone love or hate the Jonah Hex movie, or did anyone even SEE it?

  • Snark Shark says:

    Also, both HELLBOY movies were GREAT. Yes, BOTH, as there IS ONLY TWO OF THEM.

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