Below is a list of my ten favorite superhero movies in no particular order.
1. Superman: The Movie
2. Wonder Woman
3. Batman (1989)
5. V for Vendetta
6. Iron Man
7. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
8. The Dark Knight
10. The Avengers
Of course, there are many more. I reviewed 100 superhero movies in my book, Look, Up on the Screen! The Big Book of Superhero Movie Reviews. It’s worth checking out if you’re a superhero movie nut like me. (http://bit.ly/1NRR4Gh)
Power Rangers (2017) Written by John Gatins Directed by Dean Israelite Runtime 124 min. 4 out of 5
Sixty-five million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, a war raged between Rita Repulsa and the Power Rangers. All the Rangers were killed—except one, who in a last-ditch effort defeated Rita and hid the power coins should she rise again. Now, Rita has returned and five accidental friends discover the power coins and must learn to work together as a team before Rita captures the Zeo Crystal and destroys all life on Earth once and for all.
Like most of my reviews, this one is written upon first impression—in this case, the same night I saw it at the theatre—and, man, this was a cool movie. Power Rangers is a guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve seen most of the entire saga. To find out it was hitting the big screen again and was to be done in a more serious manner—instead of an extension of the TV show—made my inner fanboy squeal with delight.
This is an origin story, so we get the personal backgrounds of Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (R.J. Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin), Trini (Becky G.), and Kimberly (Naomi Scott), as well as how they found their place on the Power Rangers team and, ultimately, as friends. What I particularly liked was a glimpse into Zordon’s (Bryan Cranston) and Rita Repulsa’s (Elizabeth Banks) origins. It was a cool twist on the Rangers mythos that I thought was clever.
The movie is a bit of a slow burn in terms of so much origin building before Power Ranger action, but once the team gears up and heads out, it’s good times, with loads of martial arts and mech excitement. The zords rocked, and the Megazord was reminiscent of Pacific Rim in terms of its operation.
On the visuals, the SFX were great. In terms of style, they were a touch too mechanical for my liking, but that same mechanical extreme also made sense in this morphin’ world and the alien tech used for the Rangers. Same with the Rangers’ costumes. Very Iron Man-like but, again, it makes sense for the world they inhabit. They certainly couldn’t have fought in tights. The only other option, I suppose, would have to have given them their “tights,” but modern day Superman- or Batman-style, that whole “armory fabric” thing.
The flick is perfectly set up for a sequel, and given the few sequences we see at the end, doors were left open for a certain favorite character as well as a certain base of operations.
I should also add we were treated to a couple fan-favorite cameos, which made me cheer despite how brief it was seeing them.
If you’re lookin’ for a morphin’ good time, Power Rangers is a great all-ages movie despite one or two bad words (I mention this for the parents). Like the TV show, the movie is filled with heart and good old-fashioned moral values.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer Directed by Zack Snyder Runtime 151 min. 4 out of 5
After witnessing the battle between Superman and General Zod in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself to ensure the Man of Steel isn’t a rogue alien who might one day enslave the human race. In the meantime, Lex Luthor has sworn to ensure humanity’s survival by securing for himself Kryptonite, which is later discovered to be the one thing that can weaken Superman. Worse, Luthor has a secret project tracking metahuman activity across the globe, which prompts Diana Prince to obtain the confidential data he has on her. To complicate matters, Luthor has also acquired the body of General Zod and creates from it an unstoppable killing machine—Doomsday, a being more powerful than even Superman. It’s going to take Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to take down the beast lest the city—even the planet—is destroyed by this destructive force.
Okay, this is a first impression review, with some processing time after.
Batman v Superman is a comic book movie, and not in the campy sense. It has the feel of DC’s direct-to-video animated features and there’s an atmosphere to the movie that superheroes belong in the world created.
The downside to the flick is it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film. There’s no strict A to B to C to the story. It’s more an introduction of story elements that will all play out in future DC movies instead. It’s like the first part of a giant graphic novel, and it is my hope that years down the road when all the other DC movies are released, what we will have is one massive story instead of what is usually given to us in today’s superhero flicks: each one a self-contained tale with subplots running through them that culminate in team-up adventures. If indeed DC’s plan is to make one giant movie, then that’s something never attempted before and never in the superhero genre. If this is the case, that’s brilliant and should be applauded. It’s jarring for moviegoers, but once they catch onto what’s going on, they’ll no doubt be amazed. After all, we do like our epics both on the big screen and TV.
Superman/Clark Kent. Once again, Henry Cavill delivers as the Last Son of Krypton. In fact, I think his performance is a step up from his previous outing in Man of Steel. That first flick was about Superman finding his footing, and while there is still some of that here, it’s more about the world finding its footing now that Superman is on the scene. You can tell Superman has become a beacon of hope to the world despite how some might view him as a threat. He’s bigger, stronger, and carries with him that air of awe and wonder Superman should. We’re not supposed to relate to this god-like being, but instead look up to him as something and someone to aspire to, and Superman is very much coming into that form as the flick goes on. As for the Clark Kent side, reporter Clark in this flick was pretty much just Average Joe. There wasn’t all that much involved in creating a clear line between Superman and Clark Kent, that strong sense of two separate people. I wish there was, but I also see how Average Joe works better in the reality established in these movies than someone who’s an over-the-top nerd. At the same time, it would’ve been nice to see Clark trip over his own feet or bump into a desk or something to really give off that whole there’s-no-way-this-guy-can-be-Superman thing. There was also one scene I had so hoped for in this movie that never came and that was the classic Clark ripping his shirt open to reveal the S. Perhaps in another movie.
Batman/Bruce Wayne. When Ben Affleck was cast, I got behind it right away. I’m an Affleck fan and knew he could deliver on what would be a worn-out Bruce Wayne, which would eventually give way to a worn-out Batman. What can I say? Affleck did a superb job. He did the playboy thing—though he could’ve played up the douche bag part a bit; yet at this point in his life, a cocky playboy might not be in the cards for him—and also did well when it was just him and Alfred. As Batman, this is the Batman we’ve been waiting for. Finally, oh finally, we got to see the comic book Batsuit and a Batman who’s fighting and action was the stuff that made the Arkham games so darn good. He also played the detective, which was never really in the other movies. And the bat-atmosphere? That part where he’s hanging in the corner in the dark and the light shines on him? Spooky and gorgeous. I also enjoyed the final fight and how Batman was portrayed. His limits as a human being with gadgets was shown, which is good, because I’m tired of stories where Batman somehow saves the day instead of the beings that are so much more powerful than him. I’m really excited for the forthcoming Bat-flicks with Ben Affleck in the lead.
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Small hero part in this movie, comparatively speaking to the two male leads. As Diana Prince, Gal Gadot was mysterious and intriguing. There was also a sense of detachment about her which, once you learn who she really is, makes perfect sense since she’s from Themyscyra. When the Wonder Woman reveal happened, she stole the show. Sorry Superman and Batman, you were outshone big time. She had a heroic entrance—which is so important in superhero movies—a killer score, and was completely badass when she got down to business and helped in the fight against Doomsday. What was also interesting is while the movie didn’t get too much into who she was, she stilled carried her own weight and felt fleshed-out anyway. Of course, this could all be in my head since I know who Wonder Woman is and enough of her backstory to fill in the gaps. With the Wonder Woman movie in production as of the writing of this review, I know I’ll be one of the first in line when it comes out. She was that good.
Lex Luthor. If Jesse Eisenberg is good at one thing, it’s playing the prideful I’m-smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room guy. And, yeah, that’s who Lex Luthor is. He’s a genius, and despite what he tells the public, has a contempt for humanity because he thinks he’s above it. Of course, the paradox is that he himself is human. In that regard, Jesse Eisenberg did a fine job. However, I still feel he was too youthful for the role since Lex is older than Superman in other incarnations, and Lex—as crazy as he can be sometimes—is more of a reserved crazy than someone more animated. It was this animated part that brought Lex down, in my opinion. Crazy is fine. Smart crazy is even better, but this kind of Joker-esque displays that happened now and then were out of place. Maybe given the ending Lex’s personality will change and he’ll be more reserved. We’ll see.
Lois Lane. Amy Adams works for me. She does the hard-nosed journalist thing quite well, and the standard Lois Lane thing of getting herself into hot spots so only Superman can come to the rescue. I don’t mind this trope so long as it isn’t all the time. Her role in this flick wasn’t a main one like in Man of Steel. She was more part of Superman’s support team despite her entanglement in some of the later conflicts in the movie.
Alfred Pennyworth. What can I say? Jeremy Irons did a good job as Alfred, who is also Batman’s co-combatant. Sure, he didn’t don a costume and get out there and fight bad guys, but helped Batman from the Batcave as a sort of special ops overseer. More importantly, he acted as Bruce Wayne’s conscience and wasn’t afraid to go up against him when he disagreed with something. As much as Robin’s job is to keep Batman grounded, it’s Alfred’s job as well, and since he is older than Bruce, he can provide wisdom in areas Bruce isn’t familiar with. Good choice having Jeremy Irons in the role.
There were a few moments in the film where I wished things had gone in a different direction, but that could just be my taste as opposed to my ideas being better.
Unfortunately, WB and DC marketed this movie as one thing and what it was was something different. Once you get over that hurdle and see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for what it’s meant to be in the greater DC Universe, then a lot of pieces fall into place and it’s highly enjoyable.
Zoom (2006) Written by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum Directed by Peter Hewitt Runtime 93 min. 3 out of 5
Captain Zoom used to be a great superhero and leader of the government-sponsored superteam, Team Zenith. When the government tried to enhance his powers and those of his brother, Concussion, something went terribly wrong and Concussion turned evil and killed his teammates. Zoom stopped him and after the explosion, Concussion was presumed dead and Zoom lost his powers. Thirty years later, the government tries to resurrect Team Zenith using new kids with superpowers and recruits the retired Captain Zoom to train them. At the promise of a big paycheck, Zoom reluctantly agrees and when it’s revealed that the real reason behind the resurrection of the team is because the government discovered Concussion is still alive in another dimension and is plotting his return, Zoom takes it upon himself to make the team ready before his evil brother comes back and puts the planet in jeopardy.
This movie is based on the children’s book Amazing Adventures from Zoom’s Academy by Joe Lethcoe. It’s a lighthearted superhero comedy, which is kind of like X-Men but with kids and tailored to that audience. Which is totally fine because kids need superhero movies, too, and with the majority of mainstream superhero stuff geared toward adults, I’m glad flicks like this are made.
This flick is chock-full of big names and recognizable faces: Chevy Chase, Rip Torn, Courtney Cox, and, of course, Tim Allen in the lead. Speaking of whom, Tim Allen was pretty funny in this and if you liked him in Galaxy Quest, he’s pretty much playing the same character of someone who once had glory but has fizzled out. The thing, too, is aside from the funny bits, when it came time to be serious and/or reflective and sad, he nailed it as well and you genuinely felt bad for the guy.
Courtney Cox was the biggest dork in this movie, which was perfect because that was her character. And she played it straight, too, that is, there was no tongue-in-cheek here, but a beautiful nerd that made you love her and roll your eyes at her at the same time.
Chevy Chase—big fan. As the head scientist for Team Zenith, he’s just following orders, and with his trademark deadpan humor and wit, I can watch the guy all day.
The kids who made up Team Zenith: just fine. Cute. Funny with kid stuff. The little girl with the superstrength was adorable. The teenager stuff played by actors who were older in real life than their characters—such a Hollywood thing—I could do without, but I hate teenage angst garbage and wish we as a species could just skip those years as we go from kid to grownup. The superpowers displayed were definitely budget: superstrength, telekinetics, invisibility and clairvoyance, and a kid who can blow his body up like a balloon. Yet they worked those not-so-awe-inspiring abilities into the story and made them work for what they needed them to.
I will say that when Captain Zoom cranks up the superspeed later on, it’s pretty cool and makes me excited for a Flash movie if it ever happens.
Overall, Zoom is a decent flick, good for kids, and if you’re a superhero fan it’s worth checking out for the sake of a fun time. However, if you’re one of those people where everything has to be top notch, then you’ll be disappointed.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Written by David Benioff and Skip Woods Directed by Gavin Hood Runtime 107 min. 3 out of 5
Little James was born in the 1800s and was always sick. His family background . . . well, he didn’t have much of one, at least, one that cared. Except for his friend, Victor. One night, during a drunken upset with his later-to-be-found-out father, James learned he could produce bone claws from his hands and defended himself, killing his father.
That night, James and Victor were on the run, and promised to always stick together. The years go by and the two find a great outlet for their rage: war. Victor (Liev Schreiber) also has a special ability and he is more animal than man, with claws coming out of his fingers. The two are very similar and age very slowly. War after war goes by, and the two eventually end up working with a secret team run by William Stryker (Danny Huston). While on one mission, James—now calling himself Logan (Hugh Jackman)—feels Victor has gone too far in his attack on an innocent and walks out on the group.
Years later, the group’s been disbanded and Stryker comes to warn Logan that Victor is behind the recent string of deaths of its former members. The only way Logan will be strong enough to fight the always-stronger Victor is to undergo a special experiment of Stryker’s own design: graft the indestructible adamantium to his bones. Logan agrees.
But there’s something Stryker hasn’t told him about what’s been going on and when Logan finds out, he’s furious and wages an all-out one-man war against Stryker, Victor and anyone else who stands in his way.
On the action: cool fight scenes and neat concepts. However, it seemed to me Logan was a little too acrobatic and was able to survive way more and take way more pain than even a mutant with a healing ability could.
On the story: works for me, in that we knew Logan had a history going in. He was the star of the X-Men movies after all, and X2 especially focused on Logan’s origins as much as they were able to without detracting from the main story. I did like seeing what really went on and, more specifically, how Logan lost his memory. I was under the impression that he lost it because of the adamantium experiment and not after it. Doesn’t matter, but I did feel for the guy when the love of his life wasn’t all she was cracked up to be.
On Deadpool, because, you know, it has to be covered: the whole story involving the secret ops group Logan was a part of made for fun action. Deadpool’s origin, hey, why not? To be honest, I don’t know if they followed the comics or not because I’m more a DC guy than a Marvel one and don’t know too much about Deadpool other than he’s the “merc with a mouth.” His transformation from normal-looking Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) to disfigured Wade—good stuff.
Was this a perfect movie? No, unfortunately. It felt too cartoony as opposed to carrying with it the realistic tone the other X-movies had, namely the first two.
Will I see the sequel? Absolutely. I’m a saga guy so I want to see what happens next.
Check this film out if you’re the superhero-movie-completist type like me.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) Written by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn Directed by Brett Ratner Runtime 104 min. 3.5 out of 5
When a cure is developed to rid mutants of their unusual abilities, the mutant community is torn in two, with some more than happy to get rid of what they view as a curse, while others are vehemently against it. Outraged at this development, Magneto makes war on the humans for trying to rid the world of mutantkind and the X-Men stand in the gap to stop him.
This movie has a lot going on and seems to serve as an ending to the previous two movies, bringing to fruition a major confrontation between the X-Men and the Brotherhood. These two teams, while having skirmished in the other movies, never had an all-out battle and this flick shows that. It also brings to pass a version of the Dark Phoenix storyline with Jean Grey returning from the dead as the Phoenix and working for the bad guys.
From an action standpoint, this movie has tons of it and it’s really cool. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) kicks butt as usual, while having the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) running around and smashing into things makes you cheer. Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) ups the metal-controlling ante in this—I mean, lifting a bridge? Flipping semis? Awesome!—and even having Beast (Kelsey Grammer) beasting it up adds a level of excitement that makes this comic-book-come-to-life a thrill. And when Jean Grey lets loose and destroys her childhood home while a bunch of X-Men and Brotherhood folks are fighting inside it? That was some jaw-dropping stuff!
From a story standpoint, it kind of falters. In a general sense—the overall story, I mean—it’s fine as is. That is, the “what it’s about.” The delivery, however, seems to suffer from the same thing Spider-Man 3 did: too much going on and not enough time to tell it in. Had this third X-Men movie either been part one of two or even the first in a trilogy where the mutant cure is introduced, a war brews, there’s a big battle, some people die, etc. then that would’ve been fine. But it didn’t happen that way. I don’t know if that’s because of a change in hands of directors or what.
The other thing that I didn’t like—but could’ve worked had the story justified it/been expanded into another movie or two—was everyone dying. We lost some major people in this movie and for seemingly no good reason. I have no trouble with killing off major characters. It can definitely add to the story . . . when done right. In this flick, there didn’t seem any justification for it.
What’s amazing is thanks to the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, depending on how that plays out, there’s a chance of undoing some of the stuff that fell short in this outing and bringing back some people from the dead. After all, isn’t that what time travel’s for?
In the meantime, yeah, if you want a fun superhero movie, I’d still recommend X-Men: The Last Stand.
X-Men: First Class (2011) Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn Directed by Matthew Vaughn Runtime 132 min. 4.5 out of 5
After writing a thesis on mutation, university student Charles Xavier is approached by the CIA for his expertise on the subject as they’ve been tracking the villain Sebastian Shaw, who keeps mutant company. Once convincing the CIA mutants exist, Charles begins to form a team of mutants to go up against Shaw before he can execute his plans to start a third World War.
Loaded with thrills, excitement, stunning SFX, fun cameos and a strong story, X-Men: First Class is an amazing prequel to the X-Men films that won’t leave you disappointed.
X-Men: First Class is one of my favorites. It was also a good chance to kind of give the X-franchise a boost after X-Men: The Last Stand. What was cool about First Class is it takes place in the same universe on the same timeline and is indeed a true prequel to the X-franchise we all know and love. Yes, there are some continuity flaws, but overall the whole thing flows. Besides, any other bumps that need ironing out can always be fixed with the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past as, well, time travel fixes everything.
The two main characters in this are Wolverine and . . . wait, kidding, it’s Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and this story goes way back to when they first met and were even on the same team fighting for the same ideals. You got to see how that friendship was forged because their friends-yet-foes relationship was so prominent in the other movies that to make it the spotlight of this one was a smart move.
This is truly an origin tale as you got to see Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in her humble beginnings, Professor X all the way back to when he was twelve; they recreated the Nazi camp beginning from X-Men for Magneto’s origin and then expanded on that—which kicked off the main plot of the movie in which Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) wants to use the mutants under his command to kick off World War III—and also how Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hault) becomes all blue and furry as Beast.
Like the other X-flicks, this movie is amazing at being an ensemble film where each character is given care, the right amount of time in the spotlight, each having unique relationships with the others, and who-does-what-and-why is clearly explained. As a storyteller myself, I find this kind of writing fascinating because it’s easy to fall into the trap of just focusing on one or two people and that’s it, the rest of the supporting cast being way too supporting and not enough of their own people. I think the secret was the X-Men—whether good guy or bad—were approached from the angle of family, the idea that as mutants their mutation was their common bond and it was all for one and one for all regardless of personalities or even if people got along or not. There’s even a bond between the heroes and villains of this flick because of their mutation.
The SFX were out of sight. The flying sequences were thrilling, the teleportations were amazing, the nods to the other movies—complete with cameos so watch closely—totally added to the world-building of the X-universe. That and the attention to the source material—using the yellow costumes from the classic comics, for example—and the overall story make this an awesome X-Men movie.
Man, just writing this review makes me want to go watch it again.
X-Men (2000) Written by David Hayter Directed by Bryan Singer Runtime 104 min. 4 out of 5
A small percentage of the world’s population has natural mutations in their genetic code, each manifesting themselves differently. For many, it leads to special talents and abilities, but such capabilities come at a high cost: ostracization from society. Two factions have risen: one which believes that these “mutants” and the rest of humanity can live peacefully side-by-side, and another which believes a war is coming between mutant and humankind, one in which only one side will prevail.
Welcome to the world of the X-Men.
This flick is considered by many to be the beginning of the modern day superhero film era. Yes, we had Blade before this, but X-Men really cracked the door open in terms of taking a well-known comic property and bringing it to the big screen. Not only that, but there is some serious acting firepower in this movie, namely actors who don’t do garbage, so right there that says something. Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto, Anna Paquin as Rogue—yeah, big deal stuff. Then you throw who was then an unknown into the role of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and you suddenly have a bunch of talented actors taking a serious stab at a story about mutants with superpowers.
Bryan Singer was known for The Usual Suspects before this flick, and with him at the helm, we got an X-flick that was serious, funny in the right parts, plausible and just plain cool.
They did right to take the most popular X-character—Wolverine—and tell the story primarily from his point-of-view. I mean, this role made Hugh Jackman’s career and it’s a role he’s gone back to six times, not including the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past due in 2014.
While the all-black leather costumes weren’t really my thing—I liked the more colorful ones from X-Men: First Class better, which were based off the classic comic book costumes—they brought a level of realism to the movie and prompted that joke later on when Wolverine complains about the uniforms and Cyclops says, “Well, what would you prefer? Yellow spandex?” At the same time, I’m also in the major minority of people who think that properly-armored and modernly-stylized colorful superhero costumes could work in a real world situation. There are guys going around in The Real Life Superhero Movement dressed as such and are helping police after all.
Anyway . . .
The trick with an ensemble movie is to give each character enough history and density to make them likeable and relatable from frame one. When you have only a couple hours to do that, you need to have a story that revolves around each of them so they could each have their moment in the sun long enough to get the audience involved with them. X-Men does this for the most part and it’s no easy feat.
Of course, there is the metaphor of the evils of racism throughout the movie, and how all people are equal regardless of who they are, what they can do and what they look like. This theme is strangely overt yet subtle at the same time. Kind of depends what frame of mind you’re in when watching it and your personal history and feelings on the topic.
This movie is an interesting, exciting, thoughtful and well-executed big screen adaptation of one of the biggest comic book franchises of all time. Did they nail it perfectly? No. Did they do a good job of taking the X-Men concept as a whole to the big screen? You betcha.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) Written by Joss Whedon Directed by Joss Whedon Runtime 141 min. 5 out of 5
In an effort to protect the world from future alien attacks, Tony Stark uses the artificial intelligence inside the gem of Loki’s scepter to complete his Ultron program. It works but, unfortunately, the now-sentient Ultron AI has taken it upon itself to destroy the human race.
Time for the Avengers to assemble.
Recruiting the Maximoff twins, Ultron uses them to take on the Avengers while he attends to building a robot army. Soon the Avengers are taken out and must re-assemble if there is any hope they can stop Ultron before his plan of global destruction comes to pass.
With the fate of the planet hanging in the balance, can the Avengers stand against a seemingly unstoppable foe?
Sequels are tricky business, especially when creating a sequel to not only a quality film, but one that was a hit at the box office. Usually, sequels pale in comparison to their predecessors, but now and then—and more often than not in the superhero genre—the sequels outshine the original and Avengers: Age of Ultron did just that. As good as the first Avengers was, Age of Ultron is better.
I don’t want to give away any plot points to those who haven’t seen it yet, so these are more my thoughts instead of notions on specifics of the film.
One of my greatest fears for this movie was its giant cast. Not only did the standard Avengers team return—Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Nick Fury, Maria Hill—but it was greatly added to with the addition of War Machine, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision and, sort