Marvel is seemingly untouchable right now. Ever since Iron Man beat expectations in 2008, they’ve crafted a cinematic universe that’s gone from strength to strength and raked in billions at the box office. They’ve even taken relative unknowns like Ant-Man and The Guardians of the Galaxy and turned them into box office gold.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Before (and even since, but we’ll get to that) striking it rich, Marvel were involved with some real stinkers! Take note: We’re not just referring to Marvel Studios here, but rather any movie featuring Marvel characters.
We take a look at the 11 Movies Marvel Wants You To Forget.
11. Hulk (2003)
Then sorely disappointed. While Ang Lee’s Hulk made a decent enough return at the box office, it was an example of a comic book movie being made by people who just didn’t “get” comic books or comic book movies.
Not only did the Hulk look like Shrek’s brother, he wasn’t at all intimidating when finally seen on the big screen due to some sorely dated looking CGI (even in 2003). Also, Ang Lee’s decision to emphasize emotional and dramatic depth came at the expense of action and excitement. When there was action, it was in the form of multiple panels on-screen at once. While multiple panels on a page might work great, it didn’t translate onto the screen and it looked terrible, as the audience was expected to focus in three places at once. The end result was an over-long, soulless, humorless, pulp movie that failed to connect with its source material or audiences.
Thankfully, the Hulk has been better treated in recent years with massive praise coming for his appearance in The Avengers. Given the love he now receives, we’ll just forget this movie ever happened and move on.
10. Daredevil (2003)
Daredevil gets a lot of hate. Looking at it now, some 13 years on, it doesn’t look all that good at all, but let’s just be fair for a minute. Firstly, while it’s often considered a flop. It actually made money, a $179.2 million return on a $78 million budget isn’t terrible at all. Secondly, let’s take a look at the movie itself. Colin Farrell’s Bullseye is menacing and entertaining in equal measure. Only Tom Hiddleston’s Loki can top him on that one. Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin is convincing as a physical powerhouse. Joe Pantoliano carries the story forward as Ben Ulrich. There’s plenty of good in the supporting cast.
It’s the leads that are the cause of much of the problem. Jennifer Garner doesn’t really capture Elektra at all. Her character isn’t given much room to develop, despite breaking the mold of “damsel in distress” love interests seen in superhero movies at the time (Mary Jane Watson, various Batman love interests) she’s got skills in her own right, she just isn’t given much room to grow. And then there’s Ben Affleck. He’s pretty convincing as a blind guy and carried more than enough physicality into the role once he put on the suit. Really, the problem wasn’t so much him as it was his career and private life at the time. He’d been the butt of a lot of jokes due to his relationship with Jennifer Lopez and his various antics at the time. He wasn’t the serious actor and talented director, that he is now.
The movie is almost redeemed by a Director’s Cut that came out a year or so later that gets an R-rating and includes a whole sub-plot that never made the theatrical release. The character itself gets huge redemption in the form of its Netflix series that’s received near universal acclaim. And as for Ben Affleck, well he’s got a little movie role coming up as a certain Dark Knight. If it’s as good as we hope, we might just forget this movie ever happened and give free passes all round.
9. Elektra (2005)
Spinning off from the aforementioned Daredevil, Elektra is an instantly forgettable movie. It’s a shame, as it had some pretty cool elements that would have been really awesome in a better movie. Stick and the Hand ninjas are really cool and yet here they are seen as flat, pointless, plot devices that are as forgettable as the rest of the movie.
Elektra has an enduring legacy, and one it would rather not have. It, like DC’s Catwoman, is given as an example of a female-led comic book movie that tanked. If it had been good, we’d probably have a Black Widow and Captain Marvel movie by now.
8. Howard the Duck (1986)
Widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, Howard the Duck is a movie both Marvel and the audiences would rather we just forgot about completely.
The source material is really funny, and would translate into a movie really well with the help of some 2016 CGI, but this epic ’80s mishandling just gets everything wrong. Shooting in live-action is its biggest mistake, as the animatronics are just not sophisticated enough and the duck-face looks expressionless throughout, giving the character a creepy edge that makes him excessively unconvincing.
Had it been made as an animation, Howard the Duck could have been a huge hit. As it is, the best version of the character we’re likely to get is the 5 seconds of screen time we got at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made a ton of money, so it wasn’t a flop. Unless you’d call over $700 million a flop. But it still fell short of expectations for a number of reasons.
While Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry was as strong, if not stronger, than it had been in the first outing, they couldn’t develop their characters more than the mediocre script allowed. It’s overstuffed with plotlines and villains and suffered from the same mistakes that other superhero flicks have made: too many bad guys! Electro (Jamie Foxx) was a carbon-copy of the Riddler from Batman Forever (seriously, watch their character arcs) and Dane DeHaan’s Goblin was uninspired and all-too familiar to audiences that had seen it all before.
6. Fantastic Four (all 4 of them)
We could easily make an entry on this list for each of the Fantastic Four movies. It’s a travesty that the comic book series that kick-started the silver age of comic books has never had a truly great movie.
It’s not even that easy to rate one as being the stand-out worst of the bunch. The 1994 Roger Corman version is firmly in the “so bad you have to see it to believe it” category. Only made as an ash-can copy to retain the rights, the movie wasn’t truly intended to be released in theaters. Fortunately, there’s so many bootleg copies out there that it’s been widely available for years.
The 2005 version isn’t bad as such, it’s just impersonal and by-the-numbers. There’s little character development or drama that makes it engaging to an adult audience, but the story isn’t funny enough to satisfy kids either.
The 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is possibly the best of the three as it does at least try to incorporate elements from the comics. It borrows heavily from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Galactus trilogy, but doesn’t have the nerve to show Galactus as the being from the comics, it just shows it as a faceless malevolent cosmic entity.
As far as the 2015 version goes, not only was it a financial disaster, it was mauled by critics and audiences alike. Marvel, Fox, and 90% of the people who saw it would happily forget it ever happened.
5. Captain America (1990)
For a movie as universally maligned as this, there are some things this low-budget 1990 version of Captain America does get right: Steve Rogers is surprisingly similar to his comic book counterpart, the suit is authentic(ish) and the villain is suitably evil.
But, there’s so much wrong too. Matt Salinger’s Steve Rogers is flat and soulless. The Red Skull is changed from a Nazi to an Italian boy used as a test subject who becomes the leader of a crime syndicate. While not exactly a crime against the source material, it undercuts what Captain America is all about.
The plot is laden with early ‘90s environmentalist politics that seem to be shoehorned in, making the vague threat posed seem ambiguous and far from urgent. The biggest problem is that it seems to have a hard time deciding who it’s aimed at. The early sequences, set in fascist Italy (complete with subtitles and an innocent family being gunned-down), is too graphic for kids. The plot, acting and production values are so weak that it’s not engaging to adults either.
Few people remember the movie, fewer still remember the even worse 1970s versions starring Reb Brown, and that’s probably just fine with Marvel. Given the success of the Chris Evans version, the star-spangled sentinel of liberty is back in form.
4. The Punisher (1989)
This low-budget Dolph Lundgren action movie ignored many of the central components that made The Punisher character compelling, even robbing him of his signature skull shirt in favor of a plain leather jacket.
The acting is wooden, the effects are cheesy, and the action sequences go on forever without ever feeling exciting. Despite two further attempts to bring the character to the big screen, The Punisher has yet to receive his cinematic redemption, as they weren’t too well received either. Given the promising trailers we’ve seen for season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix, The Punisher may just be fully realized at long last.
3. Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D (1998)
In 1998, the same year Blade was released and kick-started the superhero movie revolution, this travesty of a TV movie was released. David Hasselhoff isn’t exactly known as a thespian, but even by his standards his acting is terrible. The sets are poorly lit in an effort to hide the low production values. Even the Hydra henchmen are reduced to thugs in regular suits instead of the green duds of the comics.
It’s unclear if this was intended as a back-door pilot for an ongoing TV series or not, but one thing’s for sure, when they re-cast Samuel L. Jackson in the role for 2008’s Iron Man, they wiped this iteration of the character out of the collective consciousness forever. Believe me, that’s a very good thing.
2. Dr. Strange (1978)
Don’t panic, nobody’s hating on the Benedict Cumberbatch version that’s coming out later this year. There’s a little-known Doctor Strange movie from 1978… and it’s one that pretty much everyone forgot.
Intended to serve as a pilot for an ongoing TV series in the same style as Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange aired on CBS in September of 1978. Despite actually being reasonably good for its era, it wasn’t picked up and was rarely mentioned again.
Despite this, Stan Lee himself had good memories of the production of Doctor Strange. In a 1985 issue of Comics Feature magazine Lee said “I probably had the most input into that one. I’ve become good friends with the writer/producer Phil DeGuere. I was pleased with Dr. Strange and The [Incredible] Hulk. I think that Dr. Strange would have done much better than it did in the ratings except that it aired opposite Roots. Those are the only experiences I’ve had with live action television. Dr. Strange and the Hulk were fine. Captain America was a bit [of a] disappointment and Spider-Man was a total nightmare.”
1. Generation X (1996)
Based on the comic book series of the same name, Generation X is a made-for-TV movie which aired in 1996. The comic book series is a spinoff from the X-Men franchise and features young mutants in a second school for gifted youngsters, away from the original X Mansion.
This version strays from the source material in several ways, largely due to the very low-budget. It does, however, have some familiar characters, such as Emma Frost and Banshee, as well as Skin and Jubilee.
Many fans were disappointed that Jubilee was played by a Caucasian actress, as she’d always been depicted as Asian-American in the comics. The director later commented that the script wasn’t specific as to Jubilee’s heritage, implying that he was unfamiliar with the source material. The opening of the movie begins with mutation being defined in a voiceover, something Bryan Singer would do when making X-Men four years later. That’s the only real similarity between this movie and any of the other X-Men movies however.
Largely forgotten, Generation X hasn’t fostered the same cult following of many other movies on this list. Marvel would probably be very happy with this. Given that the Generation X comic book was canceled over a decade ago, and is rarely mentioned, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a reboot either.
So, while Marvel may wish we’d forget some of these less-than-stellar movies, we still remember them for their kitsch appeal or just downright awfulness. Got any Marvel-based movies you feel we’d be better off forgetting? Got some hate for Ghost Rider? Less than thrilled with Iron Man 3? Let us know in the comments!