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Ranked: Marvel Studios Movies from Worst to Best
With this week's release of X-Men: First Class, we revisit highlights like X2 and lowlights like Daredevil.
By James Brady Ryan
Marvel Studios has a long and spotted history. While its output is massive compared to DC's, it's produced as many misses as hits. Luckily, it seems like the studio's been learning from its mistakes, and this week's X-Men: First Class may be their best film yet. In honor of that upward trend, we've ranked all the studio's films from worst to best.
23. Elektra (2005)
Who could have thought, after seeing Jennifer Garner kick so much ass in Alias, that she would kick so little in Elektra? Her version of "cold and removed" stops being stiff only when the CGI artists start animating her themselves. I can think of exactly one thing that might entice some of you to revisit this movie, but please, spare yourself the trouble and just look up pictures of that skimpy costume online. Because this film itself is so deeply boring thatzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
22. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Did you know there was a sequel to The Punisher? (Related: did you know there was a movie called The Punisher?) While Marvel films stand apart from DC's for their bright, more "comic book" feel, P:WZ gets dark and gory in some terrifically uninspired ways. It's like Marvel's attempt at Saw. ("What if another object was stabbed into another guy's face?!") Interestingly, this film also features a villain named Jigsaw; uninterestingly, he never dresses like a transvestite hooker wearing a pig's head.
21. The Punisher (2004)
Do you think Thomas Jane ever gets angry that this wasn't his Batman? I bet he does. And the film plays like an extremely dumb version of the same: after witnessing the death of his family, one man becomes a vigilante, driven by revenge. The only problems are the utter lack of psychological nuance, action scenes that may have been imagined by my four-year-old godson, and a main villain who is the powerful mob boss of... Tampa, Florida. Said mob boss is also played by John Travolta in what I pray is a hairpiece.
20. Ghost Rider (2007)
Something Marvel had trouble realizing for a long time: a lot of superheroes are kind of silly. Maybe you can get over that silliness on the page, but live-action is not as forgiving. So the studio needs to be very careful about what they adapt, because if you choose the wrong guy and don't offset that with some smarter choices — like hiring Shakespearean go-to Kenneth Branagh to direct the potentially silly Thor — you end up with Ghost Rider. Nicholas Cage, a man well known these days for screaming about bees and burns, is just not going to balance out a motorcycle from hell.
19. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
If you're going to adapt a story about an incredibly powerful cosmic entity that eats planets and sends, as his herald, a surfer, you need to be committed. That story will never not sound insane, so at the very least it should be insane and fun. Sadly, the makers of this undeserved sequel didn't have the chutzpah to actually bring Galactus to life on-screen, and changed him into a cloud. (But, like, a menacing cloud.) Their decision to smooth out the weird edges takes this film out of the running for even "so bad it's good" consideration. Rise of the Silver Surfer is about as bland and as dead as they come.
18. Fantastic 4 (2005)
Somewhere out there, Chris Evans should be thanking the universe for his escape from the terrible gravity of this film. Perhaps more than any of the others on this list, Fantastic Four suffers in the page-to-screen transition — we do not yet have the power to make The Thing look realistic, and too often the leads come off as goofy. These shortcomings were all the more obvious next to the year's other big comic-book adaptation, the much darker Batman Begins.
17. Daredevil (2003)
Add another page to Marvel's "Why don't we have a Batman?" notebook of sadness. Daredevil is hampered by some serious plausibility issues, even if you're feeling generous with your suspension of disbelief. How is the main character a lawyer all day and a vigilante hero by night? I was always under the impression lawyering was hard work. (And I know all about hard work — I watched Elektra recently.) Beyond that plot contrivance, though, the casting for this movie is insaaaaane. Casting Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, and Colin Farrell as the leads is like dressing a five-foot-tall guy as Michael Jordan for Halloween. You can make the costume as cool as you want; you're never going to sell it.