To date, there have been 50 feature length movies based on Marvel comics (not limited to only those within the MCU). Of those 50 films, there have been hits (X-2: X-Men United, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), misses (Howard the Duck, Elektra), and movies that started off strong, only to lose steam in the end (see: this list).
When Marvel adaptations are at their best, they adhere to a tried-and-true formula that aims them in the direction of success. Sadly, though, that exact formula is also what can often hurt them in the end, creating a nasty catch-22.
With Marvel— whether you’re referring back to its strong post-millennium collection, the beginning of the MCU, or the current slate— the endings are often compromised. Running into narrative slumps or putting far too many eggs into a single basket, these flicks are by no means without fault – no matter how much we may want to defend them.
While it’s admittedly difficult to reinvent the wheel, Marvel ought to take a lesson from its more successful and entertaining endings and repeat the process. Replicating perfection shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the moviemaking giant, right?
Keep reading to check out 15 Marvel Movies Ruined By Terrible Endings.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was a breath of fresh air for the MCU, proving that Marvel movies don’t always have to follow the same formulas to which audiences have become accustomed. It broke in some solid comedy, introduced an ensemble, and left the planet Earth behind. For these reasons and more, Star-Lord and co. earn themselves some brownie points.
However, where the movie ultimately ends up falling short is in the final act. After a mostly original setup in the first three quarters of the movie, GotG ultimately takes a turn for the basic when, after an aerial battle royale, Peter Quill “sacrifices” himself by grabbing hold of the Power Stone. Shortly thereafter, the other Guardians hold each other’s hands so as to share the load, but the result is less touching than it is trite.
14. Ang Lee’s Hulk
One of the biggest issues that most critics have with Marvel movies is how the final acts always seem slightly repetitive. Regardless of the setup, we all know where things will eventually go: hero and villain sparring off in a climactic “Duel of the Fates” set against a familiarly epic backdrop with cataclysmic consequences.
With that being the case, why then is Ang Lee’s Hulk getting thrown under the bus, despite attempting something relatively original?
Simply put: the finished product is a mess.
Lee attempts to bring some artistic gravitas to the final fight scene (which is arguably the only way to depict a fight scene between Marvel’s Jolly Green Giant and thunderclouds), but crashes harder than the Hulk does in this exact scene.
13. Captain America: The First Avenger
When the First Avenger entered the scene, there were some doubts. Not only was director Joe Johnston coming off the failure of The Wolfman, but Captain America hasn’t had much luck in the adaptation department. Between the 1979 TV movie starring Reb Brown and the 1990 feature starring Matt Salinger, Cap may as well have been allergic to any visual medium where the images don’t just sit still.
In a full expectation turnaround, however, Captain America: The First Avenger became the first entry in a celebrated trilogy, creating a superstar out of Chris Evans, a solid founding father for the MCU, and hope for superhero movies to come. Had it not completely misfired with the ending, this movie could be near-flawless, as far as comic adaptations.
What we ultimately get is a watered down race against the clock to stop [insert villain] from destroying [insert location] with [insert weapon]. Wake us up in 70 years when the formula hopefully gets a facelift…
12. Blade: Trinity
When Wesley Snipes breathed some hybrid-vampire life into Blade back in 1998, everything seemed to click. For a movie adaptation about a crime-fighting vampire who injects himself with blood so as to not chew people’s necks, the casting, tone, and plot definitely made the grade. Then, in 2002, the Guillermo del Toro sequel elevated the series even further.
Two years later, Blade: Trinity went ahead and stabbed a stake right into this series’ heart.
This was made all the worse by a weak, uninspired ending (and an even worse alternate ending).
Blade destroys Dracula in a paint-by-numbers fight scene (after the movie itself destroys Dracula’s entire legacy), and the hackneyed plot to kill vampires with something called the Daystar virus doesn’t even kill Blade because— as we already knew all too well —he’s not a full-fledged vampire.
There’s a reason Marvel brought in a director like Taika Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok. After a sequel that left audiences more than a little underwhelmed, the God of Thunder needed some serious renovation ASAP. In fact, this shift in tone even had something to do with the worthy first film – not on account of the movie in general, but because of how the original Thor fell flat in the final act.
By the end of Thor, the final battle is neither intimate nor ambitious.
Thor is still trapped in New Mexico, where the Asgardian Destroyer meets him head-on for an unbalanced weight-class wrestling match. Thor ultimately becomes worthy of Mjölnir, is reequipped with his armor and weapon, and kills Background Villain #1 before returning to Asgard for an equally underwhelming fight with Loki.
10. Iron Man
Many consider the first Iron Man to be one of the best entries in the MCU. Based on Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, an unpredictable narrative (assuming you didn’t watch the trailer), and an exciting sense of “big picture” planning that hadn’t really ever been accomplished before in Hollywood to the magnitude of the MCU, the praise is deserved. Sadly, though, the same sort of praise can’t really be said for its ending.
The actual last scene of the movie is great, with Tony Stark shattering expectations, announcing to the world that he is, in fact, Iron Man.
The events that led up to the final scene, however? Not so satisfying.
It doesn’t help that Obadiah Stane seems as disinterested in the events of the movie as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski was with most things not related to his living room rug. It also doesn’t help that the villain himself isn’t all that intimidating.
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron
If you just want an excuse to see the Avengers fighting side-by-side, then the final battle in Age of Ultron is completely harmless. In fact, you might even consider it to be deeply satisfying. However, when you take into account the sophomore curse of “sequelitis”, this ending just feels like a slightly modified ending from the first Avengers movie.
Villainous overlord unleashes his minions? Check. Unleashed minions attack area populated with innocent civilians? Check. Powerful machine with the power to destroy Earth activated, then thwarted? Check.
This ending might have seemed more entertaining if it didn’t feel like such a massive retread of events that went down in the previous installment. Alas, this is the ending we got.
8. Iron Man 2
Director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux deserve some credit for trying something different in Iron Man 2. Punishing celebrity worship and showcasing how “pride cometh before the fall,” this sequel tried to up the ante in unexpected ways. It even brought Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell into the picture as the movie’s villains.
Still, Iron Man 2‘s final act offers nothing more than expectation-jarring whiplash.
In the end, one villain goes to jail, while the other commits suicide. Not exactly the sort of “cherry on top” one might expect from a cinematic universe promising epic levels of entertainment. Everything about this ending— from messy CGI to wasted potential— does little more than leave a bitter taste in the collective audience’s mouth.
7. Thor: The Dark World
If you hadn’t already noticed by now, Marvel either doesn’t like sequels or just can’t grasp them. For the most part, Marvel sequels fall short, playing a kind of game with audiences where expectations fall extremely short by part 2, only to gain traction again in part 3.
It’s not a great formula, Marvel.
In Thor: The Dark World, the theme is disappointingly “same old, same old” especially when the movie reaches its final act.
Admittedly, the unimaginative villain and tired plot don’t really set this movie up for much of a payoff, but even so— it could have been so much better. Director Alan Taylor had some steam coming off of Game of Thrones, but as he proved with future projects (really just Terminator Genisys, to be honest), his creative reach is sorely, and unfortunately, limited.
6. X-Men: Origins: Wolverine
Before you go back to pretending X-Men: Origins: Wolverine doesn’t exist, let’s open the Disappointment Vault one last time to reflect on how abysmal this ending was.
What this movie does to Deadpool is beyond unforgivable.
For that reason alone, regardless of how ever many other misfires this movie manages to pull off, sewing up the “Merc with a Mouth’s” trademark mouth is the nail in this movie’s coffin. Thankfully, both Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman returned to their respective characters and did them justice in Deadpool and Logan, respectively, but solving a problem in the future by no means absolves the past.
Whatever plans Fox might have had with an Origins spinoff series ultimately became dead in the water after audiences agreed how bad this movie was, so if there had to be one positive thing to take away from this movie, it’s that.
5. Spider-Man 3
If Spider-Man 3 had anything, it was potential. With the symbiote, the introduction of Gwen Stacy, and plenty of drama from the previous entry to pour into this one, Spider-Man 3 ultimately ended up being a disappointment (and that’s with or without the dancing emo Peter Parker).
In terms of setup, this movie really didn’t have much to work with, which, by extension, made a satisfying ending nearly impossible to achieve.
During the finale, Spider-Man isn’t just trying to rescue Mary Jane from the villainous powers that be yet again; he’s fighting two villains at once— neither of whom are especially entertaining.
When it comes to defeating Venom, he does so by banging on metal poles.
4. Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
While a giant, planet-swallowing cloud may certainly make for an effective villain, the lack of entertainment value can’t be ignored.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is no golden egg in the Marvel compendium, but for fans of pre-Captain America Chris Evans and pre-Dark Knight superhero adaptations maybe there’s some kind of value to potentially latch onto. When it comes back to the fact that a giant cloud is the villain, though, it’s really difficult to keep this thing from drowning in its own pool of face-palming.
How do they manage to save the day? Silver Surfer just flies directly into the Galactus’ mouth.
3. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 is one of the more divisive movies in the MCU. On one hand, it’s trying its best to blow the lid off ambitious storytelling in a superhero movie (whether you liked it or not, the Mandarin twist was undeniably ballsy), but on the other hand, it’s guilty of perhaps trying a little too hard.
This movie tries to break with the formula, stripping Tony Stark of his suit, and forcing him to rely on his above-average brain to save the day. Ultimately, the results are grade-A. Sadly, though, it all leads up to a mind-numbing climax where the movie’s actual villain, Aldrich Killian, turns out to have fire powers.
In a universe where Johnny Storm exists, this shouldn’t seem so unbelievable, but in the context of this story, it’s as jarring as it is poorly executed. And to keep with Iron Man tradition, their final battle leaves much to be desired.
2. X-Men: The Last Stand
Remember when the X-Men series felt borderline flawless? The first two were definitely game-changers in the genre at the time. And remember when Brett Ratner entered the picture in The Last Stand and managed to singlehandedly destroy everything that fans held dear?
Tonally, the movie is off. Character-wise, the movie is off. Plot-wise, the movie is off. But where this movie really falls short—which is the understatement of the century— is during its final act.
Not only was the climax of this movie equipped with the internet in-joke, “I’m the Juggernaut, b—h,“ it failed to successfully pay off any character’s battle arcs (Iceman vs. Pyro was a devastating excuse for a fight).
What’s worse is that, despite Jean Grey showing signs of pivoting her arc towards the Dark Phoenix storyline ever since the end of X2, the execution turned out to be a disaster when was all was said and done.
1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
While The Amazing Spider-Man at least made an attempt to distance itself from Sam Raimi’s trilogy, offering up a relatively fresh take on the web-slinger, its sequel did no such thing, ultimately retreading the same “been there, done that” steps as all the other bloated entries in the series had done before.
So much is happening, but at the same time, nothing of any actual significance is happening.
In the final battle sequence between Spider-Man and Electro— and the the Green Goblin, because god forbid a Spider-Man movie only allows itself a single villain— the overall messiness is underlined with the fact that Electro literally turns his weapons into a musical orchestra.
Then, to add an extra layer of ham onto this objectively inadequate movie, the final final battle pits Spider-Man up against the cartoonish Rhino, after fist-bumping the bravest, but dumbest child in New York City.
Which Marvel ending bothered you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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