Home » Ranking the Super-Hero Movies: Episode 4

Ranking the Super-Hero Movies: Episode 4

A New Mope

These ten movies start off with a sulking unkillable hero and ends with a sulking unkillable hero.

I get it; I really do. From a narrative perspective, characters with great powers must face equally great challenges otherwise there’s no drama. The problem is that, while the comic books these characters sprang from answered the problem by imposing vulnerabilities on the characters (Kryptonite in all its shades for Superman, etc) modern audiences demand something more realistic and organic.

So writers turn to angst and/or emotional trauma, often related to family. Peter Parker is an orphan and loner; The Punisher had his family murdered; Bruce Wayne saw his parents killed right in front of him, and so on. Our superheroes became neurotic, barely functioning human beings who have to overcome their damage in order to become super.

It works.

But for some reason, (I blame the success of Nolan’s Batman trilogy) Hollywood became enamored with the idea that heroes don’t overcome their weakness, but constantly must struggle with it, leading to story lines mired in Sturm und Drang, forgetting that most of us read comics to escape the real struggles in our lives in the first place. A taste of it is good; it grounds the hero and helps us identify with them. But a little goes a long way, and for several of today’s movies, there was too much of a bad thing.

60.  The Wolverine (2013)

Wolverine spends most of this movie wanting to die and fighting not to. This dichotomy is what drives the movie, and by the end, Wolverine decides he wants to live after all.

The movie is not bad, and his sidekick, Yukio, is awesome. One of my regrets is we never saw her character again, albeit, her prediction for Logan’s death does make it into a later movie.

My problem with this one is, as stated above, we spend far too much time with a moping, sulking Wolverine. And I never bought into the whole love triangle with him and Jean in the first place. It never carried any weight.

59.  Wanted (2008)

We’re getting into that part of the list where good movies live. Not top of the heap, but good solid movies that may feature a flaw or two.

Wanted, for instance, is one of those. It’s a fun movie, featuring engaging performances, but it doesn’t crack the top fifty, partly because there are better movies, but partly because of a couple of flaws. First, in the source material, the Fraternity is evil, and Wesley Gibson knowingly works for the bad guys. In the movie, the Fraternity uses assassination to promote order but has been perverted by Sloan.

Putting aside this divergence from the source material, the movie is pretty good, and worth a watch or two.

But no, no matter how hard you snap your wrist, you cannot curve a bullet.

58.  Fantastic 4 (2005)

So much to like, yet so much left on the table. Chris Evans as Johnny Storm is the only one appearing to have a good time. Ioan Gruffudd doesn’t pull off Reed Richards. Despite the man in the suit look of the Thing, I thought Micheal Chicklis did a good job bringing the Thing to life. Jessica Alba was okay as Sue Storm, but was hampered by Gruffudd’s lack of any sort of charisma. There was just no chemistry between them.

The other shortfall was Dr. Doom. Julian McMahon was good as Victor, but never create the aura of menace that Doom needs. I would have liked to see what Willem Dafoe could have done with the role.

57.  Daredevil (2003)

Kingpin makes the movie. Michael Clarke Duncan made the role his own. Come to think of it, the Netflix series Daredevil also benefitted from a standout performance from Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin. Two different actors with different interpretations but both captured the menace of the character.

Bullseye should have been better; I can’t put my finger on why he wasn’t. Collin Ferrel has the intensity necessary for the role, but it just didn’t work.

I think the Elektra plot line is what really hampers the movie. Jennifer Garner looks good, and shows flashes of what the character could be, but there’s just too much going on in the movie for her relationship with Matt to be given justice, and that hurts the movie. They should have introduced her, but saved her story for the sequel.

56.  Blade (1998)

The first and unquestionably, the best. Stephen Dorff makes for a good nemesis and the movie does a good job dealing with Blade’s origin by integrating it into the plot. Kris Kristofferson does a good job as Whistler, and it’s nice to see the female victim become a contributing part of the team, instead of just a victim.

55.  Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Odin goes from the wise All-Father to a petulant old man. Jane goes from a brilliant scientist to fainting arm candy. Darcy remains Darcy and Eric loses his mind and his pants.

This is the first movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the list and there’s a lot here to like, including the beginnings of Loki’s redemption. Unfortunately, it appears that Natalie Portman left the MCU one movie too late as she really seems to be phoning it in this time. Part of that can be blamed on the script, which really didn’t give her much to do.

I like that Selwig is showing after effects of having Loki controlling his mind. Played mostly for comedic effect, it was still nice to see that touch of reality. But the hands down best part of the film was Loki’s story. Hiddleston fleshed out Loki’s character into a real, three dimensional character. No longer the cardboard villain from The Avengers (a step backwards from the first Thor movie) Loki’s motivations are ones we can relate to, even if we don’t agree on his methods.

54.  Men in Black 3 (2012)

Sigh. Time travel again. Why’d it have to be time travel?

Certainly better than MIB 2 and Josh Brolin does an excellent job playing Tommy Lee Jones.

53.  X2: X-Men United (2003)

This movie does several things well, exploring Wolverine’s origin and his relationship to Stryker, setting up the Origins movie, and sets the stage for the Dark Phoenix saga, with jean Grey sacrificing herself to save the team.

It also has some good interplay between the two mutant teams, showing a much more complex situation than the comic books original “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.” When both sides have legitimate goals, it becomes more about the methods chosen.

I still don’t like the Jean Grey/Wolverine/Cyclops triangle. It just doesn’t work.

52.  Man of Steel (2013)

Superman doesn’t sulk. Pa Kent doesn’t tell him to let kids die. These things make it clear that Zack Snyder has no understanding of what it means to be a hero. And that keeps his Superman from being the icon that Superman should be, and keeps this movie outside of the top fifty.

51.  X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

This movie would rank much higher except for my loathing of time travel in movies. I loved the blending of the two casts with both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy playing Xavier and Micheal Fassbender and Ian McKellen as Magneto. I loved Mystique’s arc as she travels from militant to reluctant hero, and the introduction of Quicksilver is epic.

And that wraps up the first half of the list. Next episode, we start counting down the top 50 super-hero movies. Yes, there’s some cheese to come, ranked higher than many would have them, but that’s the fun of the list!

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