Here's the Thing

Marvel’s Offshoots Are Way Better Than Their Big Films

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #111. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.


It’s wild to think that “Marvel Movies” has pretty much become its own genre ever since the first Iron Man movie was released back in (I’m going to regret looking this up) 2008 (not as bad as I thought but still not great). That’s a full decade of super hero movies filling a void we didn’t know was there, then getting stale, and finally over-staying their welcome. Here’s the thing: while the biggest budget hero flicks adhere to a formula almost as stringently as the Oscar Baitiest of Oscar Bait, it’s the smaller side-stories that the studios care less about that truly shine – precisely because the studios don’t care about them.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked many of the big super hero movies that came out in that time, like the origin stories leading up to The Avengers and the like. But after a while they all started to get predictable with their bombastic setpiece moments and by-the-numbers plotlines – which, yes, the comics share the blame for this but still, who still gives any kind of crap about Age of Ultron at this point? It’s all become fairly stagnant, with a handful of outliers.

Those outliers are pretty much all side-stories, and many of them are fantastic. Not just as superhero movies that aren’t dishwater dull, but as enjoyable films in their own right. Ant-Man, Deadpool, Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy – they all fit within the established Marvel film universe, but they also stand on their own because the people making them were allowed to make what they wanted rather than what the studio thought would guarantee them tons of money. It’s basically the Michael Bay Transformers movie principle: “Who cares if it’s any good when it makes us a shit-ton of money?”

Deadpool 2 is a prime example of what I’m talking about. The studio didn’t have much faith in the first one (if at all), and it was freaking great. Minus the fact that TJ Miller was in it, anyway. It was great and it performed way better than they were expecting. So of course, when the sequel was in the works, suddenly they cared about it. Or rather, how much money it could make them. The stink of studio intervention is all over the damn thing. Pretty much the only redeeming quality of Deadpool 2 is Domino. Everything else is either trying so hard to wink at the audience it’s pathetic, or a carbon copy of something from the first movie.

I know I’m hardly the first person to lament studio involvement in filmmaking, and I’m certain I’m far from the last, but hoooooooooooly shit do these companies need to back off. Trying to catch lightning in a bottle by dutifully standing on top of the scorch mark isn’t going to work in the long run. Anyway yeah, if you’re interested in superhero movies that aren’t 90% painfully homogenized lumps of CGI explosions and expositional bad-guy staredowns that would make a Dragonball character check their watch, try looking to the periphery – at those films the studios don’t care much about and haven’t plastered over every single bus in your town. You might be pleasantly surprised.


Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved video games since the ’80s, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them. The same goes for other nerdy stuff from Anime to Godzilla, and from Power Rangers toys to Transformers. He gave up on Twitter, because Twitter is garbage, but you can still find him on Instagram and Mastodon.

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