I think our kids live in an amazing time as far as how they watch and what they have available to watch. Streaming has changed the world of content consumption, mostly for the better. I was thinking about this as my daughters were sitting down to watch yet another episode, in a row, of Doc McStuffins (Ugh…I guess I’m just not the intended audience). They can watch this show any time they want, thanks to services like Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s amazing. But, you know what they are missing out on? Saturday morning cartoons. Was there anything better than waking up on Saturday, knowing there was no school and then sitting down and watching something totally epic? I submit that here was nothing better than that. That got me thinking about some of my favorite cartoons from growing up, so I put together a list. This list. This is not a ranking, so they will not be numbered (trust me, there’s 10), and it is by no means a comprehensive list. In other words, your favorite may not be on here. Share with us what your favorite was, if that’s the case. Mostly, this list was just for fun. I am not saying these were the best. These were simply 10 cartoons I have fond memories of, hopefully you do too.
Who doesn’t love a major blockbuster franchise? I think everyone does, especially the studios who make said films, and consequently make lots of money. These films have a tendency to be a huge part of our lives. We literally spend years waiting for the next one to come out, and then when it does come out we pick it apart with our friends and begin waiting for the next one. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t anticipating a new film. Granted, sometimes I was waiting for films that probably weren’t really coming out. That was before our magical information age, so I was relying on friends, who had no more information than I did.
In any case, I have taken it upon myself to seek out the 10 greatest geeky film franchises, and then to rank them from 10 to 1. Why? Because, obviously, I love starting arguments. You won’t agree with my list. That’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, however incorrect it might be. Just joshing’ you. A list like this is absolutely subjective, so your list would definitely be different from mine, and that’s ok.
You’ll notice that the Marvel movies did not make my list. I love these films, for the most part, but I felt like a whole “Cinematic Universe” was too broad. Since I am the one making the list, I felt comfortable making the rules, like that one. I also did not include two franchises that were the same, like the 1990’s Batman and Nolan’s Dark Knight, or Star Trek and the new Star Trek. I picked one or the other.
This list is supposed to be anything ground breaking. Mostly it was just for fun, and to hopefully start a conversation or two. Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. We love hearing from you.
10. The Spider-Man Trilogy
This trilogy seemed like the first big Superhero hit of the century. This thing was just massive when the first one came out. It was well done, as it brought Spider-Man to the big screen for the first time. It’s interesting because this was before Marvel Studios was really a thing, so they were more invested in this one. Go back and watch these films. They feel like the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, more than the recent Amazing series. Tobey Maguire was great as Peter Parker and was decent as Spider-Man. The suit was spot on. Everything was pretty good. It was a shame that it was rebooted so quickly after the third film was released.
By far, in my opinion, the best film of the trilogy was number 2. The story seemed to flow the best, and Doc Ock was fantastic. I think it worked because there was one, count ’em, one villain in the film. That just seems to work the best. It built on to what we saw in the first film, and had the classic moment where Pete decides to hang up the suit for good. As well as the classic moment where he saves the train and the people of New York finally really embrace him as a hero. Start to finish, this installment was the most watchable.
Number 3 is the infamous franchise killer. If this installment had just been any good at all, Tobey Maguire may be getting ready for his close up in Avengers instead of a new Spider-Man being cast. Start to finish, this film was just not good. Part of the problem? It was the opposite of what we saw in 2- it had too many villains. For some reason there always seems to be a desire with a superhero franchise to begin character cramming. It never turns out well. Ever.
9. Back to the Future
There were few movies that were as cool as Back to the Future when I was a kid. I loved these films. Each of them was one of my favorites growing up. I always dreamed of someday having a DeLorean of my own. It has yet to happen, but I am holding out hope. I loved watching the adventures of Marty and Doc, and I always get sad when number 3 comes to an end and it’s all over. Despite all the 80s references, it is still timeless in a lot of ways. My kids watched the first one a couple of weeks ago and really liked it quite a bit.
The best of the series was the original. It had the tightest story (notice I said tightest, not necessarily tight), and the fewest gimmicks. It seems like the second and third movie thrived on the gimmicks and the same jokes from the first one, just replayed in different times. The first one was just so original, it is hard to top. It is the main reason why the franchise has endured as long as it has.
Number 3. It was just too cheesy. Don’t get me wrong, number 3 is still a lot of fun, and out of nostalgia, I still love watching it, but it is just not the same quality of the first film.
Where does the X-Men movie franchise end? is it 2 separate franchises, or just one? With Days of Future Past, it became one franchise. I grew up in the 90s watching the old X-Men cartoons, and I was in love with them just as much as any other kid alive at the time. It was just amazing when this franchise was launched, and seeing Hugh Jackman step into the Wolverine role for the first time was just incredible. He was born to play the part. As was Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. I remember thinking he would be a perfect Xavier if they ever got around to making an X-Men film. I was right.
My personal favorite was X-2. I always liked the story of how Wolverine becomes Wolverine. I have also liked the Nightcrawler character. I’m sure is has nothing to do with the fact that he is German. The second movie was a lot of fun from start to finish. Although, First Class is a close second for me. It was also very solid and enjoyable.
Easy. Last Stand. I am can’t tell you how happy I am that Days of Future Past basically retconned that Last Stand never happened. It should have never happened. I wish it hadn’t. Unfortunately, I do remember paying good money to see it in the theater.
7. Harry Potter
One of the best modern book series became one of the best geeky movie franchises. There is a definite shift in these films as they transition from Chamber of Secrets to Prisoner of Azkaban, just like the books did. The young actors were not very good at first. They got by mostly on just being “cute,” but they grew into their roles and each one was pretty good toward the end. The movies may not have followed the books perfectly, but I think they did a great job capturing the feeling of the books, which is really almost the best one can hope for.
For me, I have to say, I really dig any of the movies from Order of the Phoenix onward. They are paced well, and pretty action packed. That’s saying something, because I did not enjoy the Order of the Phoenix book. It was one of my least favorites.
The Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for our British friends). The kids were just learning how to be actors and just developing their chemistry together. Plus, it was like a Disney version of Harry Potter. It was way family centric and almost kid focused. It started getting better with Prisoner of Azkaban.
Superman: The Motion Picture was pretty amazing for its time. I understand it doesn’t compare to what we see today as far as special effects, but it’s not bad either. Plus, Christopher Reeves will always be Superman in my mind. I admit that this is probably higher up on the list for me simply because I grew up watching these movies constantly. I’ll admit right here that Superman has always been my favorite, and I know I am opening it up for all the Batman and anti-Superman folks to send me hate mail or stop following my blog, but I’m proud of my love for Big Blue.
For me, none of the films in this series touches Superman II. That was always my favorite. I think the main reason why is because Superman actually had a real challenge on his hands with 3 other beings just as powerful to fight against. Then to top it all off, he had just given up his powers to be with Lois. Yes, the costumes definitely date the movie, but 30 years from now, some other blogger, or whatever they will be doing then, will be writing about how the costumes in Man of Steel date that movie.
Superman III. Out of all the stinkers on this list, this one is the one that I will say go ahead and just skip it. There is no reason to watch it, unless you have a couple of hours you simply don’t want.
5. Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones was the reason I wanted to study History as I got older. I know, he was an archaeologist, but in High School, History was as close as I could get to Archaeology. Then I found out that archaeologists don’t have adventures like Indiana Jones, plus, in History class, I learned about how the Nazis were not really around anymore, so it kind of lost some of its magic. Not completely, though. Indiana did really teach me that there was value in the past and that it was worth studying. I credit him for my love of History. Plus, Harrison Ford was pretty much the coolest guy in the late 70s and through the 80s and early 90s. Who am I kidding, after walking away from that plane crash last week, he’s still the coolest guy around. Indy was so iconic, with his fedora and his leather satchel and jacket, and the whip. He was awesome. I loved this trilogy growing up, and I even have fond memories of seeing Last Crusade in the theater and thinking it was awesome. What a way to end the series. Let’s all pretend that’s how this paragraph can end.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is tough to beat. While Last Crusade will always have a special place in my heart because I remember seeing it in the theater and it started in Utah, Raiders is the superior movie. It is a classic in every sense of the word. This movie, along with Star Wars launched Harrison Ford from being a relative unknown to being a super star.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Pretty easy choice, if you ask me. Maybe I need to go back and revisit the film, but it is just so hard. I left the theater thinking, “Why?!” Last Crusade was so perfect, this one just did not need to happen.
4. The Dark Knight Trilogy
In an attempt to stem the thousands of comments I was sure to receive about how Batman is better than Superman, I have ranked Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy above the Superman series. It would be hard to rank it below. This was a very solid trilogy, and what I love most about it is that it was a trilogy. Nolan is not coming back to do another Batman film. He told his story, and now he has moved on. This trilogy really showed what Superhero movies could be. It’s no coincidence that this series is the highest ranking superhero franchise on my list.
Could there be any other choice? The Dark Knight is one of the most perfect films from start to finish. It was a masterpiece, from the storytelling to Heath Ledger’s Joker, it is hard to find a lot of fault with this movie. It has to be the best of the 3.
The Dark Knight Rises. It just didn’t flow as well as The Dark Knight, and Bane was a poor substitute for Joker, but for obvious reasons Joker did not return in this film. It wasn’t a horrible movie, so maybe calling it a stinker is unfair, but I had to pick one film to be a stinker from the trilogy.
3. Star Trek
10 movies puts this franchise at the top of our list as far as number of installments. It is a testament to the endearing qualities of Star Trek that have allowed the franchise to last as long as it has and still be relevant. I selected the original, prime universe, franchise, and not the new rebooted universe franchise because of how long it lasted. I have always thought of Star Trek as the best of the best as far as Science Fiction goes, at least on TV and on film. Trek was such a big part of my growing up. I used to go through my house and pretend that there were sliding doors in every doorway, like my house was a starship. I would even do sound effects as I went from room to room. I mean I eventually grew out of it…when i got married and I was too embarrassed to let my wife know that I did that kind of weird stuff. Ok, fine, I do it when she is not at how and the kids are in bed. It’s really not that weird.
When you have so many films, it is hard to choose which one is the best. I have always been partial to First Contact because Picard is so awesome in it, but I think for the Best, I have to go with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is the movie that saved the franchise after the first Star Trek Movie was less than good. It is also the movie that set the pace of every even-numbered Star Trek being good, while each odd-numbered was typically not as good. Go ahead, look ’em up if you don’t believe me. It pretty much works out that way.
When you have this many movies, chances are there are a couple of stinkers in the bunch, but the stinkiest of the stinkers has to be Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. So much bad heaped into one movie. They almost had to make VI just to save the franchise and get it back on track. They couldn’t with this dung pile.
2. Star Wars
Let the arguments begin. How is this not number 1? I hear you, but I think it is indisputable that this belongs in the top 2 with my number 1, and the 2 franchises could be interchangeable, at least in my mind. So how did Star Wars end up at number 2? The stinker was just a little more stinker than number 1’s stinky. Star Wars has so many fond memories for me, but what I love is that the series remains pretty timeless. I know the prequels get a bad wrap, especially by people my age and older, but for my kids, the prequel are just part of the story, good or bad, it is the way it is. This and X-Men were the only franchises I had on this list that we know for sure are still going on. I will be eager to see how Episode VII turns out, even if it is a Christmas release. However, good news today as it was announced that Episode VIII will be end of May in 2017. That just feels right.
This comes down to A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back. For me personally, it is Empire Strikes Back. There was just always something great about this movie for me. The characters seemed more developed, more comfortable in their roles, and more complex. The story was also really good and flowed well. I love watching Empire Strikes Back, and the big reveal scene never gets old, even when I know it’s coming. I am right there with Luke shouting NO! Literally. I mean my wife usually has to calm me down and remind it’s only a movie.
A lot of people will say it Phantom Menace. I disagree. For me it is Attack of the Clones. I think part of the problem is the name. I could never get past the name. It just sounds stupid. I think the other part, and this is the bigger part for sure, was Hayden Christensen. Attack of the clones was painful for me from start to finish. This is the movie that is responsible for Star Wars at 2 instead of 1. This movie and Jar-Jar.
1. The Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit
First of all, congratulations on making it to the end of what has ended up being a very long post. Congratulations, and thank you for reading and sticking with it. Yes, The Lord of the Rings is my number one. When you think about it, it has a lot in common with Star Wars. Both had very solid original trilogies, followed up with prequel trilogies that were not as good. In my mind, the Hobbit trilogy, although obviously not needing to be a trilogy, is better than the Star Wars Prequels. Hence, it takes the number 1 spot. These movies are huge time commitment (much like this post), but they are always worth it. I can’t think of a time when I have been bored while watching these films, at least the original trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. The scene when Sam picks up Frodo and carries him up the mountain, it just hits me in the feels every time. So much so, that I won’t include the video here.
It is hard to say which of the Lord of the Rings movies is the best, and really they were all shot at the same time, and are all one continuous story, so the whole trilogy is the best, and should always be consumed in one sitting. Always.
The Desolation of Smaug. Just shouldn’t have happened. The Hobbit was too long by about one whole installment, maybe two. But definitely this one. And whoever heard of a romance between an elf maiden and a dwarf? No one, not even Tolkien.
Well, there’s my list. What did you think? Which ones do you agree with? And disagree? Let me know in the comments. I love hearing from you, and love talking about this stuff, so let me know. In any case, there’s a pretty good list of movies for you to watch, if, you know, you’re bored or anything like that.
Before you start thinking that this is going to be another post trying to determine which comic book company is superior, let me just stop you. I really like both. If I had to pick which way I have traditionally leaned, it would be DC. I don’t know why. I think I have always felt that their superheroes have always been more iconic, more regal, more superhero-y. Marvel’s seem to be more like regular folks with super powers. I guess I just prefer my superheroes to be more superhero-y. That being said, I really like Marvel still. Growing up I read my fair share of X-Men, Spider-Man and whatever other hyphenated superheroes Marvel had. I like a lot of the characters in the Marvel Universe just fine. In addition, I have really enjoyed almost every movie Marvel has released, while I admit that DC’s attempts have been, well, not very good at times. Green Lantern, I’m looking at you (ironically, Ryan Reynolds is on tap to possibly ruin a popular Marvel character next. I guess that’s as ironic as Ben Afleck being cast as Batman, after ruining Daredevil). This is not a post about which one is better, but more of a discussion of how they’re very different, and what that means. This is part one, which is all about Marvel.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe
What it is
The vision (no pun intended) for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is to have one cohesive universe where all of their heroes reside. It doesn’t necessarily follow the comics continuity, but it does have a specific continuity and each movie has a place in that continuity. What happens in one movie will affect what happens in all the movies that follow. With Agents of SHIELD, Marvel extended this universe into television as well. What happens in the movies, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, can and does affect what happened in Agents of SHIELD. Each installment is also another chapter in a larger overall story arc. For example, we have already seen a few of the infinity stones that will be playing a role (a huge role) in the Infinity War movies coming in a few years. It is all leading up to that point, even though each film can also be enjoyed on its own. This universe also includes the Netflix Series (can we really call them TV series, since they will never be on TV?) that will be streaming over the next couple of years, starting with Daredevil this April. The MCU will also, as of this week, include Spider-Man going forward.
Why it Works
It works because geeks love this stuff. We love the little details. We love seeing a movie and picking up on little details that foreshadow what could be coming up in the next movie, or some other later movie. It makes us feel pretty cool when we are sitting in the theater with a group and we pick up on something no one else in the group picked up on. It’s just cool.
An even bigger reason this works is because of how the stories are going to be told. We get the origins of each of the individual characters in their individual movies, so when they come together in a cross over movie, like the Avengers, we don’t have to clutter it up with each individual members origin. We can just hit the ground running. Much of the character development happens in the other movies, while the big movie, the team up, is all about the action. And what makes that even cooler is that we have the big team up movie at the end of each phase with each of the Avengers movies, and really Avengers and Age of Ultron, although big payoff movies, they are really just two more minor movies setting up the Infinity War movies. It’s awesome because each movie is building on the one previous and establishing foundation for the next movie.
Why it Doesn’t Work
Up until 2 days ago, the picture at the beginning of this part was going to be Spider-Man. He was really the representation of the biggest problem Marvel has. He is their most well-known character, and up until Tuesday, he wasn’t going anywhere near Captain America or anyone else in the MCU. That, as we know has totally changed now, so we’ll use the next most popular title Marvel doesn’t have the rights to: The X-Men. This is Marvel’s biggest issue, because they are hindered by which characters they can use, and they could start running out. This has been talked about a lot, and honestly, the X-Men and the rest of the Marvel Universe exist pretty separately in the comics as well, so this is not as major an issue. The Fantastic Four is actually probably a bigger deal. None of this, however, has really anything to do with why Marvel’s model doesn’t work.
The biggest reason the model may not work is because it is all so connected. It doesn’t give a lot of liberty to the writers or the directors or any of the creators. Anyone they bring on will need to fit the MCU model so it all feels so cohesive. This has worked fine so far, but will it continue to work well going forward? As they start getting into some of the characters they have coming up, it will be difficult for them to keep it all feeling the same without sacrificing the feel of the character, at least traditionally. Take Daredevil,for example. The trailer looks pretty amazing, but Daredevil is a much darker, grittier character compared to what they have done so far. In fact, most of the Netflix series will be that way. How will that fit in with the rest of the Marvel Universe? They have to find a way for it to work, because it has to fit in with the master plan. There were rumors that part of the reason Edgar Wright left Ant-Man was because working for Disney/Marvel was too constrictive. If that’s the case, then it will only get more that way as the movies continue to be successful. They have a formula that works, and they are going to stick to it. If there is one thing Disney has figured out over the years, it is how to stick to a formula that works, in order to make a lot of money. In fact, nobody does it better.
In addition, Marvel has already revealed their plans for the next half decade. Now they are trapped into following those plans, or face the wrath of the fans. That may sound silly, but it is true. We are all looking forward to the movies coming out, and they better all be amazing. If something goes south for some reason and they drop a film or two, we are not going to be happy about it, and they will look stupid. Movies get greenlit, and then get stuck in pre-production forever and never get made- it happens all the time. What doesn’t happen all the time is these movies get greenlit, and then announced on a huge stage at comic con. They had better make sure they get these films made, or it could be a huge hit to their reputation. (By the way, this is a big hit against DC as well)
That concludes part one of this huge two-part post. Tomorrow, I will be bringing you my look at the DC Multiverse, and how that all works. Stay tuned…