No calendar year can go by without the box office being dominated by Marvel's heroes. That said, not every Marvel movie is a hit. Some are painful misfires (cough, "Thor: The Dark World.") Some of them are just plain disasters. On the 5th anniversary of Thor's first sequel, here are all the movies Marvel licensed or released under Marvel Studios that were full of meh.
'Howard the Duck' (1986)
Why Hollywood felt Howard the Duck deserved a live-action movie before the X-Men or the Avengers is beyond us. As it is, this film probably set the superhero genre back a good ten years. Long before Jar Jar Binks, it also suggested that maybe not everything George Lucas touches is Hollywood gold.
'The Punisher' (1989)
Casting Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle is about the only thing the first "Punisher" movie got right. This is a movie that ignored its source material so completely it couldn't even be bothered to give its protagonist his iconic skull shirt. The result was just another direct-to-video quality, late '80s action movie.
'Captain America' (1990)
So much of the success of the current Captain America movies boils down to the charisma and sheer likability of star Chris Evans. The amazing special effects and emotionally engaging stories don't hurt either. Strip all that away and you're left with this dud of a film. "Captain America" served only to show how far Hollywood had to go before it could do the Marvel Universe justice.
"Daredevil" proved that just because a studio gets one superhero franchise right, that doesn't mean it can't still fail with another. Between the bad costumes and worse action, the stilted romance and the overstuffed plot, "Daredevil" didn't do much to capture the appeal of the Frank Miller comics that inspired it. The director's cut is somewhat better, sure, but why bother when you can watch the Netflix series instead?
'Blade: Trinity' (2004)
The original "Blade" practically singlehandedly revived the superhero movie genre, and "Blade II" is pretty swell, too. Sadly, the series lost all momentum in its third and final outing. When your star is that visibly bored on screen, you know it's time to call it quits.
As if Daredevil fans weren't injured enough by the original film, "Elektra" had to come along and rub salt in the wound. In some ways, Jennifer Garner held her own better as a solo player, but she still couldn't save a film plagued by a lousy script and bland co-stars.
'Fantastic Four' (2005)
Fox again failed to apply the success of the X-Men movies to another Marvel franchise with "Fantastic Four." Boasting an exceptionally mismatched cast (with the exception of Chris Evans as the Human Torch) and a very bland script, this dud served as a foreboding sign of things to come for the FF franchise.
Many Marvel movie lovers aren't even aware that this movie exists. We envy them. All you really need to know is that test audiences reacted so poorly to "Man-Thing" that Marvel eventually threw in the towel and released the crap fest on the Sci Fi Channel in lieu of a theatrical release.
'X-Men: The Last Stand' (2006)
The X-Men franchise has a peculiar habit of following up great sequels with unusually poor sequels. That trend started with 2006's "The Last Stand." Hindered by the unexpected departure of director Bryan Singer and an unwieldy cast of mutant characters, this sequel utterly failed to do justice to an iconic X-Men comic book storyline.
'Ghost Rider' (2007)
With Nic Cage starring as the Spirit of Vengeance, we weren't exactly expecting high art from Ghost Rider's cinematic debut. Sadly, "Ghost Rider" did even work in a "so-bad-it's-good" capacity. That was left up to its equally terrible, but far more entertaining, sequel.
'Spider-Man 3' (2007)
It's rare that a superhero franchise makes it to a third movie without a steep drop-off in quality, and "Spider-Man 3" certainly didn't break that trend. This sequel attempted to cover way too much ground by focusing on Venom, Sandman and the new Green Goblin, and in the process did justice to none of them. That's to say nothing of cringe-worthy scenes like Emo Dancing Peter Parker or the infamous butler monologue.
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' (2009)
If the X-Men comics have taught us anything, it's that there's rarely much to be gained by exploring Wolverine's mysterious past. Sadly, no one at Fox got that memo, and thus fans were saddled with this atrocious, continuity-mangling prequel. We're honestly surprised the franchise ever recovered.
'The Amazing Spider-Man' (2012)
You can't blame Sony for wanting to move in a different direction after the lousy critical reception to "Spider-Man 3." But was the answer really to reboot the series and give fans a rehash of Peter Parker's origin? At best, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is redundant. At worst, it makes Marvel's most iconic hero into an unlikable jerk.
'Thor: The Dark World' (2013)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed a pretty incredible track record over the past decade, but even it has a flaw. "Thor: The Dark World" remains the low point for the MCU, with a bland, uninspired conflict getting in the way of the Thor/Loki drama we love. It's little wonder Marvel moved in such a drastically different direction for the next sequel.
'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' (2014)
Even freed from the need to revisit Peter Parker's origin story, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" somehow managed to be worse than its predecessor. The lousy villains are the most obvious example of where this movie failed, but the truth is that very little about it worked outside of the chemistry between stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
'The Fantastic Four' (2015)
Ten years after first botching the Fantastic Four franchise, Fox followed up with a reboot that somehow managed to be even worse. It's not just that "Fantastic Four" is a bad Marvel movie, it's that the first half offers just enough of a glimpse at what might have been had the director, studio, cast, and writers been more in sync. At least Michael B. Jordan followed the example of fellow Human Torch Chris Evans by finding a new home in the MCU.
'X-Men: Apocalypse' (2016)
Once again, a superhero series went off the rails in its third installment. As much as "X-Men: First Class" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past" managed to restore the sheen of the X-Men franchise, this sequel swooped in to immediately undo all their good work. At this point, we're wondering if another reboot is in order.