As Jean Grey once observed after watching Return of the Jedi in X-Men: Apocalypse, “Everyone knows that the third movie is always the worst.” You read my mind, sister. Sequels to superhero films are common nowadays, and sometimes they even end up surpassing the originals, such as Spider-Man 2 or The Dark Knight. The third entries, however, have often fared far worse. Most of the time they end up as a stained blemish on the once-cherished franchises instead of an exciting new chapter in many superhero sagas (see: Superman III, Batman Forever).
With #ThorRagnarok being released this past weekend, Marvel has yet another opportunity to either expand upon or embarrass their pre-existing franchises. They’ve had plenty of hit-and-misses so far, both inside and outside of the MCU. Where does Thor: Rangarok rank? Let’s break it down. Here are the eight #Marvel three-quels ranked from worst to best.
Warning: This articles contains spoilers.
8. Blade Trinity
It’s commonly mistaken that Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man was the first film to launch the superhero craze in movie theaters. Not so. Wesley Snipes’ Blade and Blade II were actually both released earlier than Spider-Man and inspired a whole cult-following for their movies. They were fun, action-packed, bloody, violent and had plenty of Gothic-style to spare. Blade has rightfully earned his place in superhero cinematic history.
But good God, did the trilogy end on a sour note with Blade: Trinity — a poor, haphazard mess that put style over substance when the style wasn’t even that good to begin with. Sloppy, incoherent, uneventful and just mind-numbingly cheesy, Blade: Trinity was everything that the first two movies were not. It has rightfully earned its place as Marvel’s worst second-sequel.
7. Spider-Man 3
The original Spider-Man movies directed by Sam Raimi are among the best out of Marvel’s entire franchise — Tobey Maguire’s innocent, boyish charm, the nearly operatic performances by his movie’s villains, the acrobatic action that challenged what was visually possible at the time. While Blade was the movie to start Marvel’s superhero craze, Spider-Man was the one to catapult it into the stratosphere, and is still considered by many to be one of the best superhero movies made to date.
How devastating is it then that the pathetic excuse for #SpiderMan3 is the flimsy note that we end the series on? Campy, stupid, insincere and featuring ridiculous renditions of all your favorite Spider-Man villains (Eric Forman as #Venom? Seriously Sony?), Spider-Man 3 is an absolute train-wreck. The only thing that keeps this movie from being in the bottom spot is that the visual effects are still top-notch, with the fight scenes still managing to be exciting and riveting. That still doesn’t excuse any of the poor writing, directing, acting or anything else associated with this putrid movie. Spider-Man 3 killed the original Spider-Man series and dashed all hopes at ever seeing a Spider-Man 4. It deserves its place as one of the worst superhero sequels ever made.
6. X-Men: The Last Stand
I’m actually sympathetic to Brett Ratner for X-Men: The Last Stand, because even though the movie was slowly drudging through all of its Mutant-political nonsense, it at least was trying to do something different, right? Don’t get me wrong, I hated how they handled Jean Grey’s "Dark Phoenix" saga, multiple performances were over-the-top and no one will ever forgive some of the movie’s most absurd one-liners (remember “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”?)
Still, for what X-Men: The Last Stand was, it was a fun and simple action movie that had some good underlying themes regarding society’s demonization of minority groups and government experimentation. It was also enjoyable to see how liberally the film killed off some of its heroes, refusing to protect them from reality just because of the whim of a screenplay. However, fans were understandably outraged by some of the film’s deaths as well, with many viewers calling them cheap and unearned.
5. X-Men: Apocalypse
Considered by many to be an improvement over X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Apocalypse understandably started the race one leg down considering it was following up X-Men: Days of Future Past, one of the best X-Men outings yet, let alone superhero sagas. Asking for a great sequel to that is unreasonable. Franchises don’t stay dead forever, and while many viewers would have preferred that the franchise be left alone, there are no doubt hundreds of fans that were pining to see Apocalypse on the big screen.
X-Men: Apocalypse meets every fan in the middle, as there are times where the movie both works and backfires. The cast is exceptional, with Oscar Isaac serving up a provocative God-complex while Michael Fassbender continues the tragic summation of Magneto. The visual effects are quality, and the return of popular characters (such as Nightcrawler, Quicksilver and Cyclops) reinvigorated the franchise from its preexisting fatigue. On the other hand, the film isn’t significant beyond its fan service, much of what happens in the movie offers nothing of consequence. It’s definitely not X-Men: Days of Future Past, but then again, we already knew it wasn't going to be that. Ultimately it is a fun but unnecessary addition to the X-Men saga.
4. Iron Man 3
Stop your typing, angry internet commentator. Yes, I hated the Mandarin plot twist as much as you did. Ben Kingsley is a talented actor, and even if his initial variation of Mandarin as a terrorist leader is different from the comic book variation, that would have been a welcome modern-day update for one of Iron Man’s most notable villains. The fact that the film pulled a fast one on us and revealed the Mandarin to be no more than a drunken, failed actor is no doubt one of the biggest let-downs of all time, flaring fans up in anger at the movie for ruining one of their favorite villains.
However, controversial plot twist aside, the rest of #IronMan3 is actually quite good, and Robert Downey Jr. is always a key part in that. Funny, energetic, witty and jam-packed with highly-stylized robot suit action, Iron Man 3 is hands down the best Iron Man sequel to date. That is only mild praise considering its only competition is the gaudy Iron Man 2, but what can you do? Take a win wherever you can.
It’s unusual that the third entry in any trilogy winds up being the best, yet that’s exactly what happens with #Logan, Hugh Jackman’s final and most emotional outing as #Wolverine. With X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine being mostly mediocre in stature, Logan subverts the entire genre, focusing on an elder, weary Logan years after his time being with the X-Men.
Dramatic, emotional, brutally violent and unrelentingly tragic, Logan closes out the Wolverine trilogy and Hugh Jachman’s legacy with the appropriate send-off that it deserves. It would have been Marvel’s best film this year, if they didn’t also put out:
2. Thor: Ragnarok
To say Thor: Ragnarok was a surprise hit is a severe understatement. Funny, off-kilter, unpredictable and absolutely wild, Thor: Ragnarok is a complete subversion of the superhero genre, an unorthodox amalgamation of multiple genres fitting fluidly into one narrative. If someone had told fans that a meta-comedy starring the God of Thunder and Marvel’s not-so-jolly Green Giant would end up being one of the MCU’s best films, they would have most likely laughed. Instead, the movie made us laugh with it, and boy did we do a lot of it.
Considering how dull the previous #Thor movies have been, to have this one come in and shift the entire course of the series might be too jarring for some people. But wow was this movie a big ball of fun. It was almost number one on this list.
1. Captain America: Civil War
It’s only been a year since it’s release, so there's no way of knowing how well this movie will hold up over time. Still, as of now, Captain America: Civil War is the best second-sequel Marvel has pushed out to date. Climactic, emotional, politically challenging and morally opaque, Captain America: Civil War is the only superhero film to not have a clear-cut villain for its conflict, but rather have its heroes share sharp disagreements with each other that builds to a violent finish. It's exciting, action-packed and relevant to our modern-day world. Plus, it features Spider-Man's MCU debut. More than enough to call Captain America: Civil War the best Marvel three-quel ever made.