(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – With Marvel creating several critical successes, “Black Panther” for example, one might think they were always great at making superhero films, but it wasn’t always that way. For the longest time, movies based on Marvel comic book characters were bad. Some of them ranged from being just okay to completely terrible. So to remind audiences of the cinema giant’s troubled past, here’s the history of early Marvel films.
Now bear in mind, some of these movies were made by Marvel Entertainment and others weren’t. Trying to figure which is which would be more trouble than it’s worth. Even the studios themselves get confused sometimes.
“Howard the Duck” is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time, being so bad it’s funny. Having seen it, I agree with that. This train wreck was actually Marvel’s first attempt at a feature film. “Howard the Duck” is based off a minor character from Marvel comics. Why they decided to make the film about Howard The Duck instead of about any other Marvel character, I don’t know. To make the movie even more puzzling, it was produced by George Lucas… what?
Do you think the “Fantastic Four” movies are bad? Well, apparently they’re a tradition. Forget “Fan4stic” or the other two that came before. The first “Fantastic Four” movie was released in 1994. It was made on an extremely low budget and produced by the B-Rated movie King, Roger Corman. According to Watchmojo.com, the final product was so bad Marvel bought the film’s rights just to prevent it from being shown in theaters.
Captain America’s first movie did not premiere in 2011. In reality, Steve Rogers’ first appearance was actually in a crappy, direct-to-video movie: 1990’s “Captain America.” It featured terrible special effects, a bad story, boring performances and Red Skull, who was Italian for some reason. Even that wasn’t the first movie about the captain – according to Comic History and Screen Junkies, two low-budget made-for-TV movies were released in 1979: “Captain America” and “Captain America II: Death Too Soon.” Both are just as bad as the 1990 version. “Death Too Soon” actually starred renowned actor Christopher Lee as the villain…because I guess he needed a paycheck.
Many may be familiar with Dolph Lundgren – who played Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV.” In 1989, Lundgren starred in “The Punisher” as the title character. According to Screen Junkies, it has awesome/mindless violence, but a bad performance by Lundgren. Like “Fantastic Four,” Punisher movies have the tradition of being bad films, with “The Punisher” in 2004 and “Punisher: War Zone” in 2008 being no exceptions. Thankfully, Jon Bernthal’s version on Netflix broke the cycle.
The Punisher isn’t the only superhero to be saved by a good Netflix series. Daredevil once appeared in a crappy, crossover TV movie “The Trail of the Incredible Hulk.” Thor had his own crappy, TV movie crossover as well – “The Return of the Incredible Hulk.” In 2003, “Daredevil” was a big-budget Hollywood movie. It starred Ben Affleck, and like every other actor in it, he’s bad. The movie also spawned one of the worst spinoffs in film history, “Elektra.”
Back to the Hulk. Sadly, his movies also have an unfortunate history. The crossovers were in a series of low-budget TV movies that tied into a live-action TV show, “The Incredible Hulk.” It aired during the late 70s and early 80s, with Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the other guy. To be fair, the show was beloved and still has a fan base. This cannot be said for 2003’s “Hulk,” which proved that even an Oscar-winning director like Ang Lee can make a bizarrely bad movie. The 2008 version of “The Incredible Hulk” was a little better. Technically, the film is part of the MCU, but due to its so-so quality, people pretend it never happened.
Now in Marvel’s defense, not all of their movies from this era were bad. In the 90s, several beloved cartoon series were released, such as “X-Men” and “Spider-man: The Animated Series.”
Believe it or not, “Blade” is based off a Marvel comic series. Originally, Wesley Snipes wanted to make a “Black Panther” movie of his own, but later settled for “Blade.” “Blade” and “Blade II” are considered to be good action films, although “Blade Trinity” is not. These movies actually prove that “Black Panther” isn’t the first black superhero film and “Deadpool” wasn’t the first R-rated superhero film, either.
Some superheroes just can’t catch a break on the big screen, almost as if they’re cursed somehow. Speaking of curses, both “Ghost Rider” and “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” also suck. Granted, a good portion of the blame could be placed on Nick Cage’s acting as the anti-hero. His performances tend to be either really entertaining or really off. You can guess which version is in this movie.
In reality, this is the short list of bad Marvel productions. I actually could’ve mentioned even more. I strongly encourage looking up more information for yourself.
DC movies have a similar history to Marvel movies and they have just as many bad superhero films. Sure, DC Entertainment may be credited for 1977’s “Superman” or Tim Burton’s “Batman,” but they’re also credited with “Catwoman” and “Batman and Robin.” As it stands, DC has plenty of dirt on their hands.
It’s a good thing many of these characters aren’t real, because if they were, they wouldn’t be too happy with their movies. And there’s no telling what characters like the Hulk, Ghost Rider or the Punisher would do to the filmmakers responsible, especially the Hulk.
Thankfully, Marvel has vastly improved over the years. Well, for the most part – if you can just forget about “Inhumans.” While they certainly will continue to make mistakes in the future, without a doubt Marvel films have come a long way.