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.
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, sorta, Falcon. All these characters could have quickly made the movie go the way of Spider-Man 3, but instead more or less equal screen time was given to the majority of the cast, with supporting roles coming in to do their job without making the film feel overly crowded.
On the acting front, the main Avengers team have really come into their own, the actors having now portrayed their characters a minimum of three times prior to this movie and it really shows through. There’s an air of comfort about who they’re playing and each one has made the character their own while also staying true to that character’s comic book roots. Even the humor in the movie was fitting and not once did it feel forced or cheesy or slapstick. Most of the humor was off-the-cuff comments, which made the team more human and relatable.
Ultron was a terrific bad guy. He was smart, dangerous, evil, but at the same time had a humanity to him that helped connect him with the audience. He wasn’t just some evil robot and that’s it. He was also a formidable foe for the Avengers and it did take the entire team to take him down.
The addition of Vision worked well and was a good progression of the Jarvis character. He had a specific purpose in this movie and fulfilled it to a T. I’m curious to see what role he plays either in the stand-alone Marvel movies or in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War flicks.
On a fanboy note, there were some amazing iconic superhero action shots in this flick, the kind that makes you gush and squeal (yes, I’m that nerdy). There is one particular moment—you’ll know it when you see it—where I was just, like, “Wow, oh wow.” And the action on the whole was well done, with each character fighting according to their skillset.
Going to have go back for a second outing to the theatre on this one and, of course, will be adding it to my personal movie collection when it comes out.
Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2006) Written by Greg Johnson Directed by Curt Geda and Steven E. Gordon Runtime 71 min. 4 out of 5
In World War II, the Nazis tried to launch an intercontinental missile and was thwarted by Captain America, but at great cost: Captain America fell into icy waters and was presumed dead. Some sixty years later, he was found and revived by S.H.I.E.L.D., who ends up convincing him to join their fight against the alien Chitauri. When the Chitauri attack, S.H.I.E.L.D. implements Project Avenger and begins assembling together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to take on the Chitauri and put a stop to them once and for all.
This ensemble flick is one of the greats and is a solid introduction for the uninitiated to the Avengers—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Giant Man, Wasp and Hulk—all led by Nick Fury.
It’s evenly paced, exciting, and gives each member of the team enough screen time to give them a chance to lock in with the viewer and make that viewer-character connection before moving on to the next guy.
Marvel’s direct-to-video efforts have been lacking and haven’t been that great because they’ve been very busy—albeit very successfully—focusing their efforts on bringing their heroes to the big screen. Ultimate Avengers and its sequel are the major exceptions to their animated shortcomings and this movie is every bit as good as their live action counterparts. I also think that’s the secret to making a good animated movie: treat it with the same care and seriousness as a live action film and you’ll hit it out of the ballpark every time. It works in Japanese animation. No reason why it wouldn’t work here in the West.
This movie was good start to finish. Had a story that spanned decades, and made you care about what was going on from first frame to last.
You have multiple plotlines going on, ranging from the Avengers dealing with the Chitauri to Bruce Banner trying to find a cure for the Hulk, to Captain America trying to find his place in the world. The amazing thing is they fit all these plotlines into a very short runtime (just over an hour).
The art direction was superb and I enjoyed how everyone looked in this, especially Hulk. (For me, he’s one of those guys that don’t always come out well.)
While there’s a pretty good dose of violence in this movie, it’s much more kid-friendly than the majority of DC’s animated features and is safe for kids (depending on your household rules for this sort of thing). Personally, I let my kids watch it but don’t let them watch the DC movies.
Whether a Marvel fan, an Avengers fan, or a superhero fan in general, Ultimate Avengers is a fantastic flick worth watching many times over. What’s cool is it’s basically part one of two and goes right into its sequel, Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther, without missing a beat, so if you have both, you’re in for a doubly-good time.
Iron Man 3 (2013) Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black Directed by Shane Black Runtime 130 min. 3.5 out of 5
An evil mastermind terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is wreaking havoc via a rash of bombings, holding the world in his grip. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) gets on the case and discovers the bombings are initiated by people exposed to the Extremis program, something Stark Industries could’ve had ties to a long time ago, but chose not to. Turns out those Tony Stark knew back then are neck-deep involved with what’s going on now, have re-entered his life, and are making things complicated.
While trying to pinpoint the location of the Mandarin, Iron Man aka Tony is also dealing with the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion of New York in The Avengers. Having trouble sleeping, he’s been spending all his time constructing various Iron Man armors to help himself cope. This brings tension to his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who he’s now living with and is dedicated to.
Upon discovering the location of the Mandarin and his true identity, Iron Man and his almost-sidekick the Iron Patriot aka War Machine aka Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) head up against a battalion of Extremis-infected warriors and must pull out all the stops to put an end to their reign of terror. The problem is these Extremis soldiers are so powerful that victory doesn’t seem likely.
Can Iron Man prevail against an army as strong as he is?
I’m not sure what to make of this movie. Sure, it was entertaining and the storyline was fine. I like the idea of making it a direct follow up to The Avengers, and showing how Tony Stark’s world—never mind the rest of the world—had been affected by the Chitauri invasion and the presence of the other Avengers.
This flick was loaded with solid action, tough bad guys, cool tech, guns and everything else that makes an Iron Man movie a lot of fun. I just wasn’t sold on the presentation. This might be harsh, but this flick came off as the Batman Forever of the Iron Man movies. I’m all for humor in even the most serious of movies, but it seemed the jokes were either too forced or too slapstick to make me take this flick seriously. And that’s the secret with superhero movies: they need to take themselves seriously—even if they’re meant to be a comedy—otherwise they’ll never work. There was an awful lot of getting in and out of the Iron Man suits in this film, both by Tony and Rhodey, never mind Pepper getting a shot at wearing it, the President, the Extremis guy—there were so many suit changes that the novelty of watching someone don the Iron Man armor was quickly spent after the first three times.
This film was not directed by Jon Favreau, which might have had something to do with it. Just seems this movie was weighed down with not enough Iron Man and a storyline—which was solid in and of itself—that moved slowly. I realize Tony’s aftermath and post-traumatic stress from The Avengers was the focus, but the same goal could’ve been accomplished had there been more Iron Man. I don’t necessarily mean more action—as action-filled movies that are nothing but explosions start to finish get boring after a while—but perhaps him having a love/hate relationship with the suit because being in it nearly killed him at the end of The Avengers, or maybe take the robo-injections to summon the suit to a new level because he’s trying to make himself super to be on par with guys like Captain America or Thor and have him deal with that?
The extra scene at the end of the credits with Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) picked up on the bromance from The Avengers. A nice touch. Didn’t move the Marvel Cinematic Universe forward in any way, but was nice nevertheless.
If you’re a Marvel movie completist, then by all means, check it out. Likewise, pick up the Blu-ray when it comes out to complete your set. For me, I think I’m going to have watch it again and perhaps I’ll warm up to it a bit more. I felt let down when I watched the first Spider-Man in 2002, but got more into it with subsequent viewings. Iron Man 3 might be one of those movies.
Iron Man 2 (2010) Written by Justin Theroux Directed by Jon Favreau Runtime 124 min. 4 out of 5
Taking place six months after Iron Man, old shellhead is using his armor to maintain world peace and keep things right as rain for the world. Enter Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), aka Whiplash, who has a vendetta against Tony Stark and wants to see him dead for the wrong he believed Tony did to his father.
Meanwhile, Tony’s dealing with issues of his own, namely that the very tool he’s using to keep himself alive—the arc reactor in his chest—is actually poisoning him, and time is quickly running out.
Can Iron Man defeat a foe hellbent on grinding him to dust while also saving his own life?
Iron Man 2 is a solid sequel. It’s not as smart as the first one, but it’s certainly not bad by any means. The idea of the arc reactor slowly killing Tony is brilliant. I mean, really, what do you do, right? Just wait it out? Unplug? Tell someone? Good stuff.
A lot of people gave this movie grief and I don’t understand why. You got superhero action, superhero struggle, relationship tension, introduction of a new hero—War Machine (Don Cheadle, who plays James Rhodes; the part was originally played by Terrence Howard in the first movie)—and a new villain with a simple but decent origin story. Adding to that you got the breadcrumb trail that will eventually lead into The Avengers. The cool part is this subplot—complete with appearances by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)—don’t detract from the main story. Of course, I won’t fail to mention Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, who’s an amazing actor and becomes whatever role he is assigned. I love that about him.
As before, Robert Downey Jr. continues to amaze me as Tony Stark. He is that guy. End of story. Never thought I’d like a self-absorbed hero, but he proved me wrong.
Anyway, back to the action: Iron Man 2 has got loads of it, right from Iron Man’s first encounter with Whiplash, to the big fight at the end where it takes Iron Man teaming up with War Machine to take out robots and a newly-armored Whiplash. What I liked was the realistic—as you can get, anyway—portrayal of what a suit of robot armor would most likely do and fight like if it was real. It was fluid, yet appropriately clunky and moved as such accordingly. The flight sequences were exciting, same with the weapons used.
What was also good was the humor. Aside from the here’s-how-I-pee-in-the-armor joke, which I found dumb, every other bit of joking around totally worked and still maintained that this was a serious movie with a serious hero fighting a serious villain.
What makes this third movie in Marvel’s Phase One plan great is that while it had its own self-contained story, it was part of the overall Avengers plotline. I loved how the two worked together but weren’t dependent on each other.
Do I watch this movie when I’m going through my super flicks in my DVD and Blu-ray collection? Every time.
Iron Man (2008) Written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway Directed by Jon Favreau Runtime 126 min. 5 out of 5
Tony Stark has it all: money, women, fame, and little regard for anyone else but himself, but when he’s kidnapped by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings, everything changes and he soon finds himself with a car battery connected to a magnet in his chest. Tiny bits of shrapnel from the blast that led to his capture are slowly making their way to his heart and the magnet is keeping them at bay.
The Ten Rings want him to build them a weapon and Tony knows that if he does, the world will fall into the terrorists’ hands. He needs to find a way to escape and to do so he must create something more than just the weapon the Ten Rings wanted him to.
After inventing a metal suit with some crude weaponry, he manages to escape the Ten Rings’ lair and return to the world as a new man. Taking his iron suit discovery to a whole new level, he becomes Iron Man and sets to right the wrongs of his past and ensure that the terrorists who tried to enslave him won’t do so to anyone else.
Iron Man is a thrill ride you don’t want to miss!
There’s something about origin stories that I have an extreme soft spot for and Iron Man is near perfect in that regard. Given that Iron Man is a “human hero with no powers” ala Batman and it’s his suit which gives him his abilities, he becomes instantly relatable (well, okay, maybe not one hundred percent as I’m not a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist like him), but I’m on the journey of life like Tony with my own share of pain and turning points. The movie’s pacing is bang on and progresses “as if this really happened,” which is a huge plus for a superhero movie. (I’m a fan of super flicks that come from the angle, “If this happened tomorrow, this is how it’d most likely play out.” My own superhero series, The Axiom-man Saga, is based on that premise.)
The Iron Man armor looks amazing and real, which is a big deal because most of it is CGI. I’m glad they were able to create real-looking metal armor that didn’t look totally fake. Likewise, to see the progression from the oh-so-crude Mark One armor all the way up the Mark Three was cool.
The rest of the special effects were out-of-sight, especially the ultrasonic flying sequences. Looking at the world from Tony’s perspective inside the suit put you in his shoes—in his armor—and made you feel like you were Iron Man along with him.
This flick also boasts a killer soundtrack and score that gets you pumped.
Let’s see . . .
Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Right from the first scene he lets you know who he is and what he believes in: himself. This carries throughout the rest of the film, but he also does a good job of becoming a changed man as the story goes on and the Tony we meet in the beginning of the movie is different from the one at the end. A lot of actors who are on supposed journeys during a story don’t pull that off and usually come across as the same guy from start to finish.
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is dynamite. She’s strong, witty and is one of the few people who can go toe-to-toe with Tony’s narcissistic personality. Excellent casting for this role.
Iron Man was the stepping off point for Marvel’s Phase One, which would later culminate in The Avengers. I don’t think at the time anyone knew that Iron Man—who back then wasn’t really known outside of the comic book community—would become such the massive hit it was, the franchise growing bigger and bigger with each outing.
The Invincible Iron Man (2007) Written by Greg Johnson Directed by Patrick Archibald, Jay Oliva and Frank D. Paur Runtime 83 min. 2.5 out of 5
When billionaire Tony Stark accidentally awakens an ancient evil while raising an old Chinese city, he must develop the means to stop it. Creating an exoskeleton armored suit, Tony becomes Iron Man and faces off against the Elementals, four supernatural beings that can control earth, fire, wind and water. Not only that, but he must face the evil emperor, the Mandarin. Can Iron Man stop the foe he inadvertently helped create?
You know, I might be in the minority, but I just couldn’t get into this flick. I found it really slow, had not much Iron Man, and wasn’t big on the animation.
From a story standpoint, the what-it-was-about, it was fine. It showed Tony’s origin in creating the Iron Man armor, had him go up against one of his biggest villains, and had high stakes. Just wasn’t really my thing. I like Iron Man, don’t get me wrong, and am a fan of the live action movies, namely the first two, but this one wasn’t really my thing. To each their own.
If you’re an Iron Man and/or a Marvel junkie, I’m sure you’d really enjoy this or at least like it more than I did.
Wish I had more to add, but there’s really nothing more to say.
The Avengers (2012) Written by Joss Whedon Directed by Joss Whedon Runtime 143 min. 4 out of 5
When Thor’s mischievous brother, Loki, makes a deal with the alien race the Chitauri to help them secure the Tesseract Cube so they can conquer the galaxy, the Earth suddenly falls into great peril. With even the powerful top secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. having difficulty containing Loki, there is only one call S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury can make: Avengers Assemble!
The team is gathered—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye—and they set out to do battle with Loki and his alien cohorts. If they don’t overcome their differences and learn to work together as a team, the Earth will fall and Loki will rule the planet.
The Avengers brings together Earth’s mightiest heroes to combat a force of evil so great they either stand together or fall together, with the fate of the planet—even the galaxy—hanging in the balance.
The Avengers is a difficult movie to review, more so, give a proper rating to because this movie is very much black and white between its story and its presentation, so that said, I’m going to quickly go over both and you’ll see where I’m coming from at the end.
The story: This is a single-plot movie, very much an A-to-B narrative and incredibly simple—too simple. Aliens are coming, we need to stop them so we’ll get the Avengers to do it. That’s it. From a storytelling perspective, it’s too simple and too predictable. Big bad guy, big good guy(s), let’s fight, good guys win. The end.
However, if you view The Avengers as an end cap/final act to all the movies leading up to it: Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America—then you have something that definitely serves its purpose and more or less lets each character shine for the same amount of time. In this case, a simple story works despite, um, the many continuity flaws from the previous movies (i.e. Thor is somehow now able to come to Earth, which renders the ending of Thor’s movie moot; Tony Stark called upon to be Iron Man in The Avengers despite being banned from doing so in Iron Man 2; the characters communicating to each other without earpieces or any communication devices. Maybe they’re telepathic?).
The presentation: this movie is a nerd’s dream come true from start to finish. Assemble your favorite superheroes—of which each were spotlighted in their own movies, almost—put them together and have them go toe-to-toe with a larger-than-life threat that will squash the planet if they don’t come through.
From an eye candy perspective, this movie nailed it. Huge battles, lots of explosions, combat action, hammer throwing, Hulk smashing, shield boomeranging, repulsors firing, arrows shooting, girl fists punching—yeah, it has it all.
It’s also very important to point out that the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk was an amazing choice. I honestly wasn’t too thrilled with the news when I first heard it, with Ruffalo being more of a chick-flick romance guy, but he got the role done so well that if there’s a spin-off, I hope he gets the job. He’s definitely earned it.
Chris Evans as Captain America—a Superman performance, which is good and brought a traditional superhero element to the team. As the running joke was throughout the movie, a little “old-fashioned” was what was needed.
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man—do I really need to talk about this? He’s the same Tony Stark from the first two Iron Man movies, the only difference being he’s mellowed out a bit because, despite his arrogance, he understands life isn’t all about him and there are other people out there, too. This bit really comes through in this movie.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor—bold, poetic, commanding, everything his character is supposed to be so kudos to him for carrying on with a great performance from the stand-alone movie.
Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye—I don’t know much about the comic character other than he’s like Green Arrow, but perhaps with a more military-mind-set, so I can’t comment. Renner did sell me on Hawkeye though, but why couldn’t they give him that awesome mask? Maybe in the sequel.
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow—she really comes into her own in this flick because in Iron Man 2, it was more a back-up appearance so we didn’t know much about her. I’m glad she got the screen time she deserved and, come on, her fight scenes were fantastic.
Tom Hiddleston as Loki—he’s the bad guy you love to hate, the one that, even just looking at him, you want to punch in the face. I appreciated how Loki, to a degree, was a villain to sympathize with because of his exile, but you also get mad at him for being such a jerk about it.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury—an excellent portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson being Samuel L. Jackson—but under a fictitious alias. Yeah.
The Avengers is a solid good-times-turn-your-brain-off-action-fest that is great for escape and is recommended for that reason. As a spoiler warning, if you want just the action parts, start the movie around thirty minutes in.
Honest assessment is 3.5 out of 5, but because it’s the first movie of its kind and because of all the building up to it that has been going on since 2008, I’ll give it a 4.