There has been a worrying trend in recent years with Marvel comic book adaptations that needs to be discussed. As the films have reached blockbuster status time and again and the studio has positioned itself as a major Hollywood player with a focus specifically on big-budget superhero tentpoles, innovation and nuance have, more often than not, flown right out the window. Some of the movies are a little better than others, but they are also increasingly derivative and radically convoluted, each one a virtual remake of the last. 2002's "Spider-Man" and its consistently terrific sequels, 2004's "Spider-Man 2" and 2007's "Spider-Man 3"—all three directed by Sam Raimi—brought not only grandeur to the fold, but also told emotionally viable, cleanly developed stories with characters who jumped off the page and came straight to life, not only as individuals, but as a multidimensional, fully formed unit. Since then, Marvel has put out, among others, 2008's diverting but unexceptional "Iron Man" (and two lesser sequels), 2011's enjoyable but unexceptional "Thor," 2011's meandering and unexceptional "Captain America: The First Avenger," 2012's inferior also-ran and generally unexceptional "The Amazing Spider-Man," and 2012's overstuffed, diverting but ultimately unexceptional "The Avengers." What is the common denominator? A sinking sense that hundreds of millions of dollars are being thrown into a series of movies that have little palpable passion or vision behind them. Sure, they are popular and make a quick buck, but they also feel as if they are being made by committee, each one (with a few tweaks) the same as the last. Where is the wonder? Where is the irresistible excitement? Where is the genuine emotion that transcends flimsy prefabricated calculation? Where are the people on the screen who move beyond undercooked Screenwriting 101 constructs?
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