TV & FILM
brian-mcgee - December 26, 2017
2017 was a year of stunning highs and catastrophic lows in the comic book movie world. We bid farewell to heroes, welcomed new ones into the fold, and got surprising twists on two beloved characters. Years from now, I think we'll look back on 2017 as the year everything changed in the comic book movie game, and all seven of these films will have played a substantial part in that movement. Without further ado, here are the definitive rankings of 2017's comic book movies from worst to first!
Arguably the worst movie in the entire DCEU to date—which is really saying something—Justice League was a misfire across the board. The film released in theaters was a messy mishmash of styles as two different directors fought for control of the story. Nevermind any of the drama actually happening on screen, the real drama is in all the behind the scenes shenanigans as Warner Brothers realized, far too late in the day, that they had another BvS-sized disaster on their hands.
Justice League as a movie, however, is a miserable failure. It's like if the captain of Titanic had steered the ship away from one iceberg only to crash it immediately into another. Starting from its use of a whiny cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" over the opening credits, and extending into woefully misplaced humor, a villain you couldn't care less about, and some of the worst cgi I've ever seen in a major motion picture. This was Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash sharing the screen. As a fanboy, I should've gone out of my mind, but the film was an absolute catastrophe of the highest order. Scrap everything about this DCEU, except for Wonder Woman, and start over.
It's telling just how good this year was for comic book movies that a film I mostly enjoyed—The LEGO Batman Movie—ranks so close to the bottom of the list. Taking the piss out of Batman the way The LEGO Movie took the piss out of the hero's journey, this often hilarious flick was probably the best version of the Caped Crusader we've gotten on screen since The Dark Knight.
The plot is flimsy as all get-out and travels the well-worn road of "we have to work together if we're gonna succeed," but don't get hung up on all of that. The way this film takes the Batman mythology for a walk and points out some hilariously awful things in the character's past should be a beacon for filmmakers hoping to do new things with comic book characters. Try a new approach. At the very least you'll be left with a film that's as entertaining as this was, and that's not a terrible thing at the end of the day.
Here's another case of the films ahead of this one being just too damn good to rank this one ahead of them. Despite an advertising campaign that gave away nearly every beat of the film's plot, Thor: Ragnarok still managed to be the best film bearing the mighty Asgardian's name. Credit where credit is due to director Taika Waititi for worrying more about character and comedy than the kind of grimdark moping and revenge planning that can bog down a story like this in an instant.
Also credit the incredible cast for pulling off one of the strangest entries in the MCU. From Jeff Goldblum basically playing himself to Cate Blanchett hamming it up as Hela to Chris Hemsworth finally getting to show off his comedic chops—the dude is legitimately funny—it was a note perfect blueprint for how to do this sort of thing without being self-serious.
2014's Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be a tough act to follow, no matter what the sequel looked like. While writer/director James Gunn didn't quite pull off the feat of making a better sequel than the original, he came damn close. If you like these characters and want to spend a little over two hours watching all of them grow, then you're going to love Guardians Vol. 2.
Not only does the film pull off comedy better than most comic book movies, it's also got a ton of heart, and perhaps the best and most touching final scene of any film in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. They took two films to give these characters the emotional catharsis they needed, and they earned it that way. Were you to have taken these characters to these places in the first film, then the climax and finale wouldn't feel earned. But it did, and it does, and it's placement on this list only further indicates what a tough top three this was to crack.
Okay, first things first, the film's third act is a mess. It's an overly convoluted retread of themes other X-Men films have dealt with in much better ways. Having said that, the first two acts of Logan are nearly flawless. We were just talking about earning emotional payoffs in comic book movies, and that applies to this film one hundred percent. Watching Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart play these characters for nearly two decades gave this film the weight and gravity it needed to work, and boy does it.
That third act, though. It reeked of set-up for films to come and the little kid shenanigans made a thoroughly adult film feel like it was suddenly and unexpectedly pandering to kids who should not be allowed to watch this film. It's violent and brutal and everything you've always wanted from Wolverine. It was an amazing send-off for this character, and the true travesty of it is that now that the Fox/Disney deal happened, Jackman won't get to play Wolverine in an MCU movie.
In times when things seem hopeless in the world, cinema can shine a beacon to light the way for those who feel lost and disenfranchised, but that's only part of the reason that Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman was so good. Yes, the timing of its release will play heavily into its myth as the years go by, but at the end of the day, this was the best DC movie in years because it had a real sense of adventure and fun.
Gal Gadot has fully become Wonder Woman and is honestly the only thing the DCEU has going for it right now. Her chemistry with co-star Chris Pine was fantastic, and the film's allusion to the classic finale of A Matter of Life and Death was every geeky cinephile's dream come true. Yes, it suffered from the same third act villain problems that all DC films suffer from—and frankly most Marvel films as well—but like Logan, those first two acts and the ultimate conclusion of the film are so powerfully good, they redeem whatever nonsense crops up in the climax. Years from now, this will be cited as the favorite superhero film of millions of women.
Now, all of the issues I've mentioned about all of these other films are almost universally addressed and fixed by Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not only is this the best on-screen version of the webslinger ever, this is quite possibly the best film in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
First of all, they fix the villain problem that has plagued virtually every Marvel film. Not only is Michael Keaton's Vulture a threatening and formidable villain for Tom Holland's Spidey, he's got a really solid reason and justification for doing what he's doing.
Add in the fact that the stakes of the third act don't involve the destruction of a planet or a city or even a city block. That alone should earn Homecoming legendary status in the MCU. The climax of the film hinges on a plane's worth of Stark Industries tech getting stolen and Spidey trying to stop it.
Couple that with the fact that this is a legitimately funny film, with actual comedy built into its DNA and not just shoehorned in when the plot requires it to undercut a serious moment.
Finally, we need to acknowledge just how great it is to have an actual kid playing Peter Parker and not just creepy man-children Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. This Peter Parker's biggest concern was who was he gonna take to the dance. I can't overstate the beauty of low stakes to a film like this.
Marvel has nailed a lot over the years, but Spider-Man: Homecoming really felt like the first time they ever put it all together in the right order. I've seen it three times now and I plan to watch it several more times in the next few years. Fans of Spider-Man, in particular, should rejoice over this film. It is the reason we've all been so disappointed by all of the previous big screen incarnations of the character, all the little inconsistencies and nuances that other directors and actors have failed to bring to this character in the past. Spider-Man is back, and he's not only back, he's honestly better than ever.
So there you have it! Tune in next week when I'll bring you our look ahead to the comic book films of 2018. It's starting early next year with Black Panther in February! Stay tuned!