Marvel Movie History - 2004 to 2008

This is the third phase of my Marvel movie history breakdown. This one takes us up to the point where Marvel introduced their epic cinematic universe to the world. There were a lot of bad films that were made before we got to that point. This is the the part in Marvel's movie history where fans saw some dark times before that ray of hope broke through with the release of Iron Man. That ray exploded into the Marvel movies that we are enjoying today. To see the previous two lists, click on the following links: 1944 to 1990 and 1994 to 2008.


2004 - THE PUNISHER - Lionsgate

I personally really liked Thomas Jane in the role of Frank Castle in The Punisher. I honestly wish we would have seen more films in the franchise with the actor in the lead role. Jane actually trained for 7 months with the U.S. Navy SEALs and gained more than 20 pounds of muscle in doing so. It was also the first comic book adaptation since Blade to earn an R rating. When the teaser trailer was shown, there was negative reaction to the solid white skull logo which has been the character's trademark in the books. The costume designer changed it to a "worn-down" design that better suited Frank Castle's character in the film. Ben Foster and Rebecca Romijn, who both co-starred in the film, also acted in the X-Men films as Angel and Mystique.

An undercover FBI agent becomes a vigilante assassin and sets out to unleash vengeance upon the corrupt businessman who slew his family.

2004 - SPIDER-MAN 2 - Columbia Pictures

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 seriously upped the ante for superhero movies. This film is universally loved by most fans out there, and I still think it’s the best Spider-Man movie that has been made up until this point. Chris Cooper was considered for the role of Dr. Octopus, but he was later cast as Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Early drafts of the script included Doc Ock, Black Cat, The Lizard, and Harry as the new Green Goblin. It was later cut down to just Doc Ock and Spider-Man, which worked out brilliantly. The film was given a budget of $200,000,000, and shared the record for the most expensive U.S. movie ever made at that time with Titanic. This is also the only Spider-Man film without a funeral scene at the end.

Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius. 

2004 - BLADE TRINITY - New Line Cinema

Even though this wasn’t my favorite movie in the Blade franchise, it was the first time I looked at Ryan Reynolds and saw him as the actor that should play Deadpool, and now that movie is actually happening. The movie was plagued with production issues. Wesley Snipes had a mental breakdown during the production, and he refused to speak to first-time director David S. Goyer. Guillermo del Toro was supposed to direct the movie, but passed after Hellboy got greenlit. After this movie was released, the live action film rights went back to Marvel Studios. This was also the first and only of the three films to get the Marvel logo at the beginning of the movie.

Blade, now a wanted man by the FBI, must join forces with the Nightstalkers to face his most challenging enemy yet: Dracula.

2005 - MAN-THING - Lionsgate

This is one of those films that kind of slipped under the radar because it was so awful. Lionsgate still holds the rights to the character, but who knows if they will ever attempt to do anything with it again. The movie was so bad that when they held a free test screening for it, a lot of the audience members walked out before the movie ended. That's not a good sign. The movie ended up being released on the SyFy Channel.

Agents of an oil tycoon vanish while exploring a swamp marked for drilling. The local sheriff investigates and faces a Seminole legend come to life: Man-Thing, a shambling swamp-monster whose touch burns those who feel fear.

2005 - ELEKTRA - 20th Century Fox

2005 was not the best year for Marvel movies. Between Man-Thing and Elektra, I wasn’t sure if we’d ever see another Marvel movie again. For some reason the studio thought that this Daredevil spinoff film would be a good idea. Instead it made fans and audiences really second-guess comic book movies. Jennifer Garner said that she felt this movie was terrible, and that she only filmed it because of contractual obligations from Daredevil. Ben Affleck even filmed a cameo reprising his Matt Murdock role, but was it cut from the final film. The rights to the character reverted back to Marvel at the same time they got Daredevil back. That makes me wonder if we’ll eventually see her appear in the new Netflix series.

Elektra the warrior survives a near-death experience, becomes an assassin-for-hire, and tries to protect her two latest targets, a single father and his young daughter, from a group of supernatural assassins.

2005 - FANTASTIC FOUR - 20th Century Fox

After 20th Century Fox released Daredevil and Electra, I wasn’t sure what we would get with Fantastic Four. Of course I hoped it would be good - I’m a half glass full kind of guy - but damn. Just because I hoped for a good film didn’t make it so. Fox sure did drop the ball...again. Of course it was better than the 1994 version that was never released. Hugh Jackman was offered the role of Reed Richards in the movie, so on top of playing Wolverine he also had the chance to play The Punisher and Reed Richards. That would have made a shared universe a little weird. The movie also starred Chris Evans, who went on to play Captain America. Apparently Stephen Soderbergh was interested in directing the movie, which I imagine would have been awesome. The film was released the same year as Batman Begins, which ushered in the dark and gritty vision of comic book movies. This movie is one of the reasons why fans aren't excited for this year's new reboot.

A group of astronauts gain superpowers after a cosmic radiation exposure and must use them to oppose the plans of their enemy, Doctor Victor Von Doom.

2006 - X-MEN: THE LAST STAND - 20th Century Fox

This is the first X-Men movie that Fox really screwed up. Hiring Brett Ratner to direct it was the worst thing that they could have done to the franchise, and they really didn’t recover from their string of bad movies until X-Men: First Class. After Bryan Singer dropped out to do Superman Returns, Joss Whedon was one of a few directors who were offered the opportunity to direct the movie, but he turned it down to work on Wonder Woman for Warner Bros., which never happened. (Whedon obviously went on to direct Marvel's The Avengers.) This was originally intended to be the last X-Men film featuring any of the original cast. There would have them been multiple spin-off films like X-Men: Origins Wolverine. Even though movie sucked, it still had the biggest Memorial Day box-office opening ever. It’s a good thing, too, because the movie had a $210 million budget, making it the most expensive film ever made at the time.

When a cure is found to treat mutations, lines are drawn amongst the X-Men, led by Professor Charles Xavier, and the Brotherhood, a band of powerful mutants organized under Xavier's former ally, Magneto.

2007 - GHOST RIDER - Columbia Pictures

Ghost Rider is the sixth Marvel movie in a row that disappointed the majority of the fans. I’m not sure what was happening, but all of the films since Spider-Man 2 couldn’t live up to the standard that it set. I know my faith in seeing another great superhero movie was shaken. Ghost Rider was kind of the nail in the coffin. It was really frustrating that all these comic book films with great potential were being wasted. Nicolas Cage was a huge fan of the character, but a lot of people didn’t care for him in the role. Hulk’s Eric Bana was in heavy contention for the lead role, which I think would have been a better choice. This was also Sam Elliott's second Marvel movie. The first one he starred in was Hulk.

Stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze gives up his soul to become a hellblazing vigilante, to fight against power hungry Blackheart, the son of the devil himself.

2007 - SPIDER-MAN 3 - Columbia Pictures

Spider-Man 2 set a very high standard for superhero films, and fans were really excited to see the third chapter in the Sam Raimi-directed franchise. Many of us were hoping that Spider-Man 3 would be an end to this run of bad comic book movies we had seen. Well, in the end Spider-Man 3 let a lot of fans down. I actually thought the movie was OK. I thought the first half was great, and then it started to lose me after Peter Parker went all emo on us. Raimi is the first director to helm three installments of a superhero franchise, and the budget for the film was around $250 million. Raimi did not want to have Venom as a villain in the film due to his “lack of humanity,” but producer Avi Arad basically forced the character in to the movie. It probably would have been a much better film had Venom not been involved. 

A strange black entity from another world bonds with Peter Parker and causes inner turmoil as he contends with new villains, temptations, and revenge.

2008 - IRON MAN - Marvel

Then Iron Man came along and took comic book films to a whole new level. This was the first movie that was produced and developed by Marvel Studios. It was a huge gamble for them, but boy oh boy, did it pay off. This is the movie that launched the Marvel franchise that is still going strong today. If it wasn’t for Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, who knows what other crappy films we would have seen get made. This movie lit a fire under Hollywood's ass, and now it seems like the fans never really have to worry about seeing a bad comic book movie again. The movie took 17 years to get into development. The rights to Iron Man went from Universal to 20th Century Fox to New Line Cinema, then finally back to Marvel where they belonged. Had any of those other studios took it on, I’m sure it would have bombed. This is also yet another film where Hugh Jackman was offered the lead role. Joss Whedon was also in discussions to direct the film at one point before Favreau came on board. The development of Iron Man was a perfect storm, and thankfully it all worked out the way it was supposed to.

After being held captive in an Afghan cave, an industrialist creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight against evil. This leads him to conflict within his own company.

2008 - THE INCREDIBLE HULK - Marvel

Mark Ruffalo was also originally wanted for the role of Bruce Banner in the film by the director, but Marvel insisted Edward Norton be cast. Norton was eventually replaced by Ruffalo in The Avengers. Even though the Captain America shield was placed in the background of one of the scenes in Iron Man, it wasn’t until the post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk that we realized what Marvel actually planned on doing with their their movie franchise, and it was insanely exciting! There was also a scene cut from the beginning of the film that featured Captain America frozen in ice with his shield. They actually crossed over the Marvel universe on the big screen and thus the MCU was born. 

Bruce Banner, a scientist on the run from the U.S. Government must find a cure for the monster he emerges whenever he loses his temper. However, Banner then must fight a soldier whom unleashes himself as a threat stronger than he.
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