I started watching the movies in what was eventually labeled the Marvel Cinematic Universe back when it started in in 2008. Now for those of you NOT seeped in these things, not every Marvel character that appeared in a movie this century is an MCU film.
For convoluted aesthetic and licensing reasons, the films with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Blade, and Deadpool films, among others, are not part of the canon. The Spider-Man films in 2002/2004/2007 and 2012/2014 are not MCU. But the recent ones with Tom Holland, including Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films, ARE MCU. Got that? There will be a test.
Despite having had collected comic books for over a quarter-century, primarily Marvel products – and I still own some Marvel Masterworks books – I hadn’t watched all that many of the films. Before I tackle the MCU, I thought I’d check to see which ones of the other Marvel films I’ve seen.
Howard the Duck (1986) – the movie was previewed in Albany in a movie theater, sponsored by FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked. I related to the “trapped in a world that he never made” description in the comic book, which also transferred to the film. It was roundly panned, and perhaps deservedly so. Yet I had an odd fondness for it.
Fantastic Four (1994 – unreleased) – at some point in the 2010s I saw this, possibly on YouTube. It was not very good. In fact, it was so awful, it was mildly enjoyable.
Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) . These are the ones starring Tobey Maguire. I saw the first one in a cinema, the second at a resort in the Berkshires. Never saw the third one. I liked the first two enough to get them on DVD.
X2 (2003) – I watched in a hotel in Oneonta on New Year’s Eve many years back. Maybe because I didn’t see the first X-Men film, it didn’t make as much sense as I thought it should.
Fantastic Four (2005) – I thought Michael Chiklis was actually quite good in this. That is high praise since he was all but unrecognizable as The Thing. The rest of the story, as I recall, was pretty pedestrian. That’s necessary, I suppose for an introductory piece, but still… Never saw the follow-up.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – for reasons I’ll explain soon, I have been watching a LOT of MCU movies this summer. So in early July 2020, I needed a palate cleanser before starting on Avengers: Infinity War.
Why did we need ANOTHER iteration of the web-slinger? I say that as someone whose favorite Marvel character is Peter Parker, the awkward young man with a secret.
Maybe we didn’t. But I felt Andrew Garfield was a credible Peter. And since the earlier Sam Raimi stories focused on his relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), it seemed natural that the series deal with his first love, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Her internship with Osgood Corp may have been a bit too coincidental for my taste.
Still, I appreciated their relationship. Her father, the cop (Denis Leary) felt like a real dad, as did Peter’s uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Aunt May (Sally Field) fretted a lot. If the villain was more tortured soul than actually evil (Rhys Ifans as Curt Connor/the Lizard), that would be in keeping with the comic book narrative.
Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the films I had seen a decade and a half earlier. Still, it was time well-spent. I’m still warming up to the new Spider-Man. But that’s a story for another time.