Written by Kirk BairdIn a recent interview with Stan Lee, I asked the famed comic-book writer and co-creator of so many classic Marvel superheroes — the Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four — if there are any titles remaining he would still like to see on the big screen.
Of course Lee, 89, had several he said would make great movies, Dr. Strange and Black Panther being two he mentioned by name. He also said if any Marvel film was competently and properly made, any of its superheroes could be a winner on screen. Perhaps that’s why he’s excited about the upcoming Ant-Man adaptation by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).
But alas, not all superhero films are created equally, especially from Marvel properties. But those that have worked have been met with critical praise and huge box-office numbers, the biggest and best of these being this summer’s The Avengers. This all-star team-up of some of Marvel’s biggest names — Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow — not only was the biggest film this summer, but ranks as the third biggest moneymaker of all time. With the release of The Avengers on DVD and Blu-ray, here are some of the other best and brightest of the Marvel superhero film catalog:
The first two X-Men movies (X-Men and X2) and the prequel reboot, X-Men: First Class. The link between these three movies is filmmaker Bryan Singer, the director and cowriter of the first two X-Men movies and a hands-on producer for the reboot. In between these high points for mutant kind was X-Men: The Last Stand, which Singer and his writing team abandoned in favor of the ill-fated reboot, Superman Returns, while director Brett Ratner was brought in at the last minute.
X-Men: First Class was a successful attempt at negotiating around the third film disaster and reigniting the X-Men franchise, this time at the beginning, with a new cast, several new heroes, and a fun 1960s James Bond vibe.
Iron Man and Iron Man 2: With the cheeky brilliant Robert Downey, Jr., in the lead of Tony Stark/Iron Man, a genius, cocky, and sardonic scientist billionaire, the first Iron Man proved to be a classic in the comic-book genre. I’m in the minority, though, in thinking that Iron Man 2 is a worthy sequel. In terms of summer popcorn entertainment, it does exactly what it needs to do: keep you entertained from start to finish. Look for Iron Man 3 next summer.
Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2: I’m not so much a fan of this summer’s Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, as I feel it covered much of the same back-story territory that Sam Raimi and co. did with the first Spider-Man, which launched the franchise in splendid fashion. The second film was even better, now that the characters had been established and it could move beyond the origin story. The third film, unfortunately, tried too hard to one-up its predecessors, squeezing in three villains and a muddled plot.
Captain America: The First Avenger: With the origin of Captain America as the movie’s plot, director Joe Johnston cobbles together an engaging superhero romp that never takes itself too seriously, and even manages to pay homage to World War II propaganda films. Chris Evans makes for the ideal film representation of the perfect soldier. Evans will also don the red, white, and blue costume again in 2014 for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.