The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing movie franchise of all time. The most recent movie, Avengers: Endgame, has been smashing box office records, raking in over 2 billion USD and counting. As large as the MCU is, there is a world outside of it where Marvel films are produced by other studios (although that world is getting smaller by the acquisition), some of whom have made their own successful franchises from the properties. Amongst them are the greatest superhero films ever made while others prop up the other end of the spectrum. Here’s a look of six of the best Marvel films that aren’t part of the MCU.
The internet was in its infancy when X-Men was announced. The classic costumers were ditched for darker colours while a relatively unknown actor was considered too tall for the part of Wolverine. A critical and box office success, X-Men came in the wake of the neon-bukkake disaster that was Batman and Robin. It was the movie the genre needed, paving the way for a more grounded superhero film that wasn’t afraid to add social commentary to its themes. The action was thrilling and the performances marvellous. A hugely important comic book flick, its legacy is still evident in today’s cinema with spin-offs and quasi-reboots all linking back to here. With Disney’s recent purchase of Fox, it will be interesting to see what Marvel Studios has in store for our favourite mutants.
An R-rated superhero movie? One that doesn’t spend half the runtime explaining an origin? Doesn’t sound like something that would be considered today however back in 1998 director Stephen Norrington and writer David S. Goyer created a perfect blueprint for comic book films that has been widely ignored since. Wesley Snipes has never been better as the Daywalker, a half human half vampire that uses his powers to purge the world of blood suckers. The opening scene is one of the greatest in action movies and with the rights reverting to Marvel, the franchise will likely get a reboot but it’ll be difficult to replace Snipes whose screen presence dripped with charm and charisma.
Almost twenty years after Blade sliced its way into our hearts, Fox decided to take a punt with their own R-Rated superhero, the merc with a mouth himself. Ryan Reynolds had long been attached to the project but with the character humiliated in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the project was mercifully buried under the sea. Showing solidarity with Deadpool’s virtual invulnerability, the film wouldn’t die with audiences being the winners. Deadpool was a self-aware laugh fest with brutal violence and a clever script. Reynolds himself plays the role like he was born to, wise-cracking to the camera as he breaks the fourth wall as well as some skulls along the way. An original entry to a formulaic genre
Men in Black
The Men in Black was originally published by Aircel Comics until they were bought out by Malibu Comics. Along came Marvel in 1994 to buy them and the rest was history. With Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones suiting up as J and K, these guys were guardians of the galaxy, defending the earth from the scum of the universe. Filled with great action and comedy, it helped cement Smith as a star and now has its own shared universe (*cough*, spin-off) with the upcoming Men in Black: International starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. While it shows promise, its unlikely to have anywhere near as great a title song as the original.
Superhero films appear to fall out of the sky these days but that wasn’t always the case. Throughout the 90s, Marvel had a nightmare of a time getting Spider-Man into production with Stan Lee infamously warning people that the project was a disaster. While indie horror directors taking over blockbuster movies is a trend, it was less so when Sam Raimi was signed to direct 2002’s Spider-Man. While this was was a huge success, the sequel was a huge improvement with groundbreaking visual effects and an incredible villain in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Raimi manged to get some of his trademark directorial gags in that gave a certain operating theatre scene a touch of the Evil Dead. An outstanding film, it still remains one of the best superhero films.
Kingsman: The Secret Service followed the huge hit that was Kick-Ass. Both films were directed by Matthew Vaughn, written by Jane Goldman, based on Mark Millar’s work and originally published by Marvel’s Icon Comics imprint. An updated comic book take on James Bond, Kingsman revelled in its over the top violence and constant nods to 007. It’s hugely entertaining and boasts a great cast in terrific form including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson. It made a star of Taron Egerton who excels as the bad boy looking to turn his life around while Sofia Boutella convinced audiences she really had blades for legs. The set pieces are brilliant and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better use of the song Freebird in any other movie.