When it comes to animated movies, DC knows how to craft a great story. With projects like The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it’s easy to see why people tend to favor them over Marvel’s animated movies. On that note, Marvel has delved into animation before, and they even have their own studio for it. However, they’ve been under some hot water critically for putting out cartoons like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble. That said, it’s easy to forget that they have created some fantastic animated movies that could rival even the best of the DC Animated Universe.
Over the years, Marvel has used many of their characters (without the restrictions of Fox and Sony) to create stories that incorporate the X-Men with the larger roster of the Avengers. Not all of the movies have been winners, but plenty of them have been of a good quality, but are ultimately outshined by the popularity of DC’s animated work (at least Marvel knows what it’s like to have their film work ignored). While DC has been controlling the audience with cartoons, Marvel still has eight movies that are better than the DCAU (and seven that are easily worse).
15. BETTER: PLANET HULK
It makes sense that there’d be a motion picture adaptation of Marvel’s most popular Hulk story, “Planet Hulk”. While many people were begging for it to be a movie in the MCU, it was instead brought to the small screen with a feature-length animated project. Needless to say, it was just as good as many hoped it would be.
Beginning with Hulk trapped on a ship and sent off into space by the Illuminati, his former comrades, the story kicks off when he is stranded on the planet of Sakaar. Forced to fight in an arena of gladiatorial combat, Hulk eventually plots a way to restore Sakaar to its former and glory while fighting off all kinds of powerful aliens along the way. This is a must watch for any Marvel fan.
14. WORSE: NEXT AVENGERS: HEROES OF TOMORROW
What’s a shame about Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow is that the competition, DC and Warner Bros., had already done and done it well before Marvel. Batman Beyond already explored the future world of superheroes, so it’s not a particularly novel idea. That said, Marvel does a respectable job with Next Avengers, by introducing some hybrid heroes that carry on the torch of what their parents started.
The movie isn’t bad, it’s just fine. There’s nothing seriously wrong with it, but there’s nothing worth talking about (or even remembering) about it either. It goes in just about every direction you’d expect, with plenty of comedic timing and violence to keep an audience of all ages interested. However, those that are looking for any sort of depth in the narrative will find themselves immediately disappointed.
13. BETTER: HULK VS WOLVERINE
Another winner for the Hulk is one half of the Hulk Vs series of animated movies which are basically two specials that deal with the Hulk going on a rampage and fighting various heroes. The first of them is Hulk Vs Wolverine, which is one of the most iconic pairings in Marvel Comics.
What makes the movie such a treat is that it only clocks in around 40 minutes, which means that it’s extremely focused. However, it still brings in some notable Marvel characters to pad out the roster, the best of which is Deadpool (voiced by the fantastic Nolan North). Seeing Hulk and Wolverine trade blows for a while is always a great thing to see on screen, and this movie just gives us more of what we want.
12. WORSE: MARVEL SUPERHERO ADVENTURES: FROST FIGHT
One look at the art for this movie, and you can already tell that you’re not in for anything positive. First of all, that title doesn’t give off any hook or clear vision as to why we need to watch the film. Furthermore, the end result isn’t anything that’s worth remembering.
It’s clear that Marvel was merely capitalizing on the success of the MCU by bringing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and pitting them against Loki, who has another army to back him up. From there, the movie is a pretty standard affair with no real depth or heart that many superhero movies so desperately crave. It just feels like the movie is going through the motions the entire time, and with a colorful cast of characters like the Avengers, that feels like a crime.
11. BETTER: ULTIMATE AVENGERS
It seems that Marvel was hinting at their undertaking for the MCU a few years before Iron Man debuted. Kicking off their new animated feature run was the Ultimate Avengers film. This movie was inspired by the events of the Ultimates comics, in which the Avengers are recruited together in an alternate universe to fight a common threat.
The movie shows a classic roster, featuring mainstays like Captain America, Iron Man, and the Wasp. Not only are we introduced to each character fairly well, we get to see them unite against a Chitauri invasion for the first time. It doesn’t quite capture the magic of The Avengers, it’s still a competent well-made movie that was a promising start for what Marvel could do with animation.
10. WORSE: HULK: WHERE MONSTERS DWELL
The Hulk can’t always be put into a fantastic animated movie, and Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell is just proof of that. The premise alone leaves a lot to be desired. It sees Hulk and Doctor Strange teaming up to stop these nightmares that have been affecting people across the world on Halloween night. From there, it’s clear that Marvel is trying to have a special hook to get more people interested.
While the idea of a Hulk and Doctor Strange team-up sounds really interesting, Marvel seems to be doing it just for the sake of doing it. It doesn’t lend itself to any memorable story progressions and doesn’t say much about the characters overall. It’s just an excuse to have Hulk appear in various dimensions and beat up bad guys at the same time.
9. BETTER: ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2
One would think that, after the Avengers assembled, they would lead heroic lives until they needed to be brought together again. However, that wasn’t the case for the Ultimate Avengers movie. After the Chitauri were defeated, each of the Avengers went on to deal with their own struggles in the world.
That’s when Herr Kleiser, and old Captain America villain, rose to power and killed T’Chaka, the King of Wakanda. After that, his son T’Challa took the mantle and became the Black Panther. With an entire nation after this man, it was time for the Avengers to assemble once more and take down another threat that could have destroyed the entire world as they knew it. Ultimate Avengers 2 doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but it’s still an enjoyable film.
8. WORSE: IRON MAN: RISE OF TECHNOVORE
If there’s one thing we will praise Iron Man: Rise of Technovore for, it’s the fact that it uses an anime style. It’s not that weird CG mash-up, but a 2D structure. There’s something about superheroes and anime that just really works, and the movie looks pretty good. Where it starts to fall apart is in how the movie is structured.
First of all, the dialogue is nothing to write home about. Having nothing more than words that move the story from point A to point B, you’ll never remember any of the lines. Furthermore, the movie never does anything to draw more people into it. Instead, it feels like it’s solely being made for Marvel fans, and not in the best way. It has the chance to go above and beyond animation standards, but never does.
7. BETTER: DOCTOR STRANGE: THE SORCERER SUPREME
The tale of Doctor Strange is both an exciting and humbling one. Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme tells us the tale of surgeon, Stephen Strange, who is one of the best in his class before he starts getting cases from kids all with the same brain ailment. It isn’t long before the ghosts of them appear in the road ahead of him and he crashes, losing the use of his hands.
He does everything he can to save his hands, which eventually leads him to the Sanctum Sanctorum halfway across the world. Strange learns the magic arts and gets involved in a plot to use the dark arts to destroy the world. Structurally, it’s very similar to the Doctor Strange film, but it does incorporate more of the mystic imagery that the movie seemed to be lacking.
6. WORSE: IRON MAN AND CAPTAIN AMERICA: HEROES UNITED
Where comic book companies can really get people invested in their stories is by bringing their most popular heroes together for team-up adventures. Unfortunately, Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United is an example of how not to do this very thing. Despite bringing Stark and Rogers together, the film doesn’t do anything excited.
It’s okay at best, but where it really starts to rub us the wrong way is with its shoddy animation. Boasting a CG look to it (combined with a low budget), it doesn’t look pleasing. The lip syncing is particularly awful as well, and it takes us out of the movie very easily. It’s not the first Heroes United film that Marvel did, but it was the second and the (hopefully) last one.
5. BETTER: THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN
Iron Man was never one of Marvel’s biggest characters until Robert Downey Jr. portrayed him in the MCU. With that said, The Invincible Iron Man is more of what you can expect from the character, but with several differences that people who don’t like the MCU might appreciate.
We still see the journey of Tony Stark becoming Iron Man, but instead of dealing with the corporate schemes of Obadiah Stane, the film goes right into the conflict started by the Mandarin. It’s not some British actor, either — this is the real deal. On top of that, Tony also has to deal with a new love interest and some charges against him by S.H.I.E.L.D. He certainly had his work cut out for him. That said, the animation in the movie wasn’t one of the positive points.
4. WORSE: AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL: BLACK WIDOW AND PUNISHER
Despite the criticisms garnered by Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, it seems that Marvel didn’t learn their lesson. They created Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher as a follow-up to that project and as a potential starting point for other anime movies. Nonetheless, their efforts quickly went down the drain, as the project wasn’t well-received by anyone who sat through the thing.
One quick look at the artwork for this movie and you would expect the other Avengers to show up in it at some point, but you’d be dead wrong. Black Widow and Punisher are the focus, and nothing is ever done with their interesting personalities and backstories to mean anything. They’re just using the characters because they can rather than because it leads to a compelling story.
3. BETTER: THOR: TALES OF ASGARD
The Thor franchise in the MCU has never been the best (at least the first two weren’t) of the bunch, but it’s easy to sing a different tune when you look at the animated projects that the God of Thunder has provided. Thor: Tales of Asgard shows Thor as he has to work with Loki to defeat the Fire Demon, Surtur.
What makes Thor: Tales of Asgard so special is that it fully embraces its Nordic roots. There’s a real sense of adventure in this movie, despite it not being on as big of a scale as one would expect. Furthermore, the animation is reminiscent of the Spectacular Spider-Man series, which is always a win in our book. This movie did a better job of establishing Asgard and the other realms than the first two Thor movies ever did.
2. WORSE: HULK VERSUS THOR
The idea of Hulk being the one to cause Ragnarok seems like a good idea, but Hulk Versus Thor doesn’t handle it quite well. It’s a bit longer than Hulk Versus Wolverine but not nearly as interesting as that Hulk battle was. It does feature both Thor and Loki, but the latter isn’t as well-voiced by Nolan North like Deadpool was in Hulk Versus Wolverine.
Hulk is also technically not the one rampaging through Asgard. Loki brings him up and takes control of his body. From there, we’re introduced to several characters that make the story much more complex than it needs to be. Hulk Versus Wolverine was much more focused and more interesting. It’s also worth noting that Wolverine is overall a better character in these movies than Thor is.
1. BETTER: BIG HERO 6
Before we continue, it’s important to note that Big Hero 6 was not produced or created by Marvel. Instead, it was put together by Walt Disney, and you can tell the difference in its quality. Big Hero 6 is a gorgeous movie that combines what we love about superhero team-up movies with the stunning visuals that animation can provide.
Where Big Hero 6 really stands out is in the characterization of Baymax and how it deals with the complex theme of grief and loss. Like many acclaimed Disney movies, Big Hero 6 balances these mature themes with the light-hearted setting of a movie aimed at kids. It was one of the most surprising movies to come from Disney, but it was also one of their best.
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