EJ Moreno looks back at 20th Century Fox’s Marvel era…
For comic book movie fans of a certain age, we all remember the 00s-era of superhero movies. Before Disney entered the game and while DC figured itself out, Marvel ruled the landscape, but in a very different way.
Due to selling off various movie rights to avoid crumbling, Marvel movies were made by just about everyone at one point. Universal, Sony, and the focus of our conversations, 20th Century Fox, all had movies from Marvel. But none were as prolific as Fox.
From 2000 to 2019 (when Disney acquired 20th Century Fox), we saw nearly twenty releases from Fox and Marvel. Some were good, while others were the worst comic book movies in history. So, as Marvel Studios looks set to bring the curtain down on the Fox-era with Deadpool & Wolverine, we’ll look at ten key films released during this time and determine which were the best and worst from 20th Century Fox’s Marvel movies…
The Best – X2: X-Men United
X-Men in 2000 felt like a defining moment for comic book movies; it mixed the campiness of what came before with a very 2000s post-Matrix edge to it. All that was perfected with 2003’s the even better X2: X-Men United.
It’s as dark and edgy as you remember, but it had a humor that made these movies so rewatchable. The characters felt more defined, and we saw Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine step into the leadership role we’d see Fox place on him. Just add in the wonderful Brian Cox chewing up the scenery as our villain and our mutants teaming up in some compelling set pieces, and we have one of the best from this brand.
The Worst – X-Men: Apocalypse
Sadly, the only thing X-Men: Apocalypse was the best at was letting down its fans. Given the hype following the previous entry, X-Men: Days of Future Past, fans expected a lot and got close to nothing of note.
What hurts this one the most is all the wasted potential on display. Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse was a complete letdown, the visual effects took a massive step back, and you can see established actors begin to check out a bit. Jennifer Lawrence was on autopilot as Mystique, and alongside some other lackluster performances, you get almost nothing of what we’ve loved before in this entry.
The Best – Fantastic Four (2005)
As I’ve moved away from this 2005 film, the more I can appreciate its delightful tone and stylings. Fantastic Four feels like a bright spot in an overly-serious era for the genre.
Other Marvel entries attempted to be more ground, and this year’s Batman Begins began the brooding era; 2005’s Fantastic Four was good ol’ cheesy 70s fun. While not as cheesy as the failed Roger Corman entry (and not as bad as the next one), you still get a sense of joy when watching this. Throw in some inspired casting choices, including the birth of Chris Evans as a star, and you can see why this is fun to look back on.
The Worst – Fantastic Four (2015)
What a wild difference a decade makes. Everything that made the 2005 Fantastic Four film so delightful was stripped away from this 2015 grimdark take from Josh Trank.
2015’s Fantastic Four was marked with controversy and alleged studio interference, but it still doesn’t take away from how much this gets wrong about what makes the characters special. There’s no charm, no wit, no 70s space madness; it’s just a dour look at what should be one of the most fantastic families in Marvel. We’ll see the MCU attempt, but this one will still weigh heavily over the fandom.
The Best – Deadpool
The single fact that this movie exists alone is an achievement, let also being as entertaining as it turned out. 2016’s Deadpool took the world by storm, and we still feel the effects today.
As we await the release of Deadpool & Wolverine, there’s no better time to revisit this instant classic and the film that put Ryan Reynolds back into the good graces of comic book fans. Everything about this outlandish movie works, and it helped remind fans why Deadpool became such a moment in print. While the meme quality of the film can date it, it’s still a bright spot from this era of comic book movies, feeling truly original in a pool of the same.
The Worst – Daredevil
Long before Netflix reinvented this character with a stellar series, all that Daredevil fans had was the Ben Affleck-led movie from 2003 that many would want to forget.
Released during the early heyday of comic book movies, this one sticks out like a sore thumb. 2003’s Daredevil proved that not every Marvel release would be met with acclaim, and it became the first example of Affleck struggling with the comic book movie space. One of the only positives is that it doesn’t feel as weak as its spin-off, Elektra, but since she’s coming back for Deadpool & Wolverine, it’s better to be the meme.
The Best – Logan
One of the few things Logan will have above the rest of these movies (besides its strong filmmaking) is that it’s Marvel’s only Oscar nomination for writing (Best Adapted Screenplay).
Not that Academy Awards signify a good or great film, it’s just easy to point out how strong of a contender Logan is by seeing its reception from fans and audiences. No other X-Men movie has hit the heights that one did, and it felt like the perfect send-off to a character we spent decades with. While that will be slightly undone with Deadpool & Wolverine, it’s safe to say that the memory of Logan will live on with Marvel fans for years.
The Worst – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
If you’re looking at how amazing Logan turned out, it’s wild to compare it to the character’s first solo outing, the god-awful movie known as X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
When X-Men movies needed a desperate pick-me-up following the lackluster X-Men: The Last Stand, Fox doubled down on the bad and gave fans one of the worst Marvel movies ever. One of the only compliments someone could give X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that the movie was so bad that it put forth the path to stellar movies like Deadpool and Logan. Still, nothing is worth this kind of suffering.
The Best – X-Men: First Class
After Fox’s Marvel and X-Men movies hit some of their lowest points, the brand came back strong with one of its best installments ever in 2011’s X-Men: First Class.
From recasting the iconic roles we all loved to changing the origins of some of the X-Men, you’d think this one would be a massive blunder. But it all comes together for an experience that feels like a love letter to why we love our favorite mutants. X-Men: First Class gave fans hope that this era of the Fox movies would be strong; hindsight is 20/20, but it’s easy to look back fondly on what got us to this point.
The Worst – The New Mutants
It is a sad fact that the very last Marvel movie from 20th Century Fox would be one of its worst ever. The New Mutants was our beloved’s final nail in the coffin, ending this on a sour note.
The horror-inspired X-Men movie has some things working for it, with its strong young cast and dark aesthetic, but that can’t mask this hack job from the studio. With tons of reshoots, delays, and a near “Release Josh Boone Cut” campaign, The New Mutants is unsalvageable in every way. Thankfully fans have plenty of other entries to look back on, but I don’t think any X-Men fan will look back on this one.
What do you think of this list? What were your favorite and least favorite Marvel movies from 20th Century Fox? Share your thoughts with @FlickeringMyth on social media…