A shortlist of the best Marvel films on DVD and Blu-ray
by Tony Dayoub
Once unable to get many of its most iconic characters on the big screen, its superheroes tied up in litigation due to some bad business decisions, Marvel Entertainment now thrives thanks to much of the education it reluctantly received in courtrooms. Its rival, DC Comics (publishing home of Superman and Batman), is stuck in a sort of stasis, unable to capitalize on a stable of comic book characters that are arguably better known than Marvel’s. (Remember the Super Friends, aka the Justice League?) Perhaps DC is a victim of “synergy” with parent company Warner Brothers. The conglomerate’s natural tendency to play it safe resulted in this summer’s Green Lantern, a homogenous piece of hokum that stunk of test-marketing. Just this past weekend, as the annual geek convention known as the San Diego Comic-Con was raging, Warner announced that the release of Zack Snyder’s all-star Superman feature, The Man of Steel, would be delayed until 2013. Meanwhile, the canny Marvel Studios keeps drawing its licensed characters closer under the roof of its new parent company, the Walt Disney Company. Disney purchased the distribution rights for the remaining features in the Iron Man and Captain America franchises, as well as the upcoming Avengers film, an experiment in which multiple franchise stars like Thor and the Hulk will unite with the aforementioned heroes to form a powerful mega-team.
Marvel’s films succeed by going for the purest distillation of its distinctive characters’ qualities, often pairing the right, edgy filmmaker (up-and-coming or veteran) with a project and reframing their character concepts to play better onscreen at the risk of alienating even their most loyal fans. Yes, superhero films still have certain limitations. The first entry in a series usually spends an excessive amount of time on exposition to explain the character’s origin; how much time did Spider-Man actually spend fighting the Green Goblin in the first installment? That’s why you’ll see a lot of sequels on this list. And a new storytelling convention is equally detrimental; recent movies in this genre have been peppering their already large casts with other popular characters (to comic fans, at least), burning valuable screen time in order to set up future franchises; for example, Iron Man 2 introduced the Black Widow and War Machine, the blockbuster serving more as a prelude to 2012’s The Avengers than as a film in its own right. But this past weekend, Marvel’s latest entry, Captain America: The First Avenger, stunned speculators by besting the latest and last Harry Potter film at the box office, after the Potter movie had one of the best opening weekends of all time the week before. Any cries that the superhero genre is in its final death throes have been silenced.
The films I’ve highlighted below are largely designed to be enjoyed by viewers without knowledge of a lot of the extra baggage. For your consideration and in order of theatrical release date, my favorite
CONTINUE READING AT NOMAD EDITIONS: WIDE SCREEN