With 2017 bringing us a slew of comic-book films, 7 to be exact (6 live-action, 1 animation) and them all receiving very different receptions now would seem like a suitable time to rank them. Although comic-book films are increasingly prevalent every year at the moment in the film industry with 2016 jumping up to 6 releases, 2017 further continues this trend.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to chug along and this year, we’ve had 3 new films – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel continue to prove with these films in their general reception that they are the current juggernauts and things look very promising indeed for next year’s big team-up which these films culminate in – Avengers: Infinity War.
2017 has been an even more important year for DC in their quest to also prop up a cinematic universe, like Marvel. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were both received very negatively last year (I liked BvS a lot and can just about give a pass to Suicide Squad) so 2017 has been very important in them proving why they should also have a share of the market. 2017 saw the releases of Wonder Woman, which practically did a U-turn for the DCEU in its brilliant reception. Although Justice League, the culmiation of the DCEU films thus far which sees our favourite superheroes team up, wasn’t received nearly as well, in terms of reception, people have accepted it a little more than either of 2016’s releases. The Lego Batman Movie also features in this list, which is not an official entry in the DCEU but it’s still a comic-book film nonetheless based on the DC character of Batman.
The trend of comic-book films aimed more towards adults , which kicked off with Deadpool last year, continues with Marvel’s solo X-Men offering this year, Logan and it is also Hugh Jackman’s swansong as the character.
So this hasn’t just been a typical year in this genre hence why I have felt the need to rank them. Let’s get started!
7) The Lego Batman Movie
The Lego Batman Movie is a film of two halves – its first act is particularly impressive and constantly cracks jokes left, right and centre and is surprisingly very cine-literate. The opening sequence which is a fight between Batman and the Joker is particularly well-crafted and the gags keep coming at a rapid pace and there is so much to absorb on-screen, little references to the character and previous incarnations scattered across the screen – it is pure eye-candy. The voice cast are generally pretty strong and Lorne Balfe’s score is generally competent and there are a couple of memorable, dark and brooding themes that elevate the narrative, particularly in the opening fight sequence. Unfortunately, the film completely tanks in its second half. The reason why it tanks, primarily is because it chooses to go down a specific narrative which I won’t spoil but it really doesn’t do the film any favours. Part of why the first act works really well is because the filmmakers are clearly respectful of the source material but all that respect goes out of the window in the second half and this very much becomes a film centered for children. (My full review here)
6) Justice League
I debated whether to put Justice League in last position because between this and The Lego Batman Movie, at least the latter has a brilliant first half. But because that film so violently tanks in its second half and at least, Justice League has a bit more promise, it just edges that film out. Still, Justice League is an absolute mess and is the result of again in the DCEU, too many cooks in the kitchen. Snyder and Whedon as filmmakers pull in completely different directions, with Whedon injecting more humour into the film whereas Snyder has always been the more visionary filmmaker. Whilst I was watching the film, I never felt the stakes faced against these characters and the film has no sense of flow. 120 minutes is a very short run time for the story this film tries to tell and is the shortest DCEU installment thus far. The film neglects to develop its new characters of Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash that it introduces and has a very forgettable, one-dimensional CGI villain with typical end-of-the-world antics. One also has to wonder what this fim could have been. I’m confident that if we ever see a Snyder cut of the film, it will be leaps and bounds ahead of the theatrical cut and could really elevate the film. (My full review here)
5) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is unevenly paced and overstuffed but the amount of heart it has allows it to just about be successful. Gunn hasn’t made your typical sequel but the story he chooses to tell is all over the place and at times, incoherent. The film retains much of the heart the first film had and this is what allows the film to work better than a film such as Avengers: Age of Ultron or X-Men: Apocalypse which were lunk-headed, equally overstuffed and had zero heart. Gunn manages to further expand the mythology of this sub-universe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Guardians of the Galaxy are very much an important and established strand of this behemoth. I just wish the film was better. It is only because of the characters and the amount of attention invested in them that I can just about be positive in my overall opinion. (My full review here)
And now for the good one’s…
4) Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is immensely enjoyable for a long strength of its lengthy runtime, has a lot of heart and is surprisingly quite human for a comic-book film. Action sequences are used quite sparingly in this film, Jenkins really puts these characters at the forefront and develops them strongly. The performances, pretty much across the board, are excellent and the film looks great visually. Unfortunately, it does fall into the trap of stumbling in its final act where it becomes quite formulaic and contrived but until this point, it is a very fine film and definitely the strongest DCEU film so far. (My full review here)
3) Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok is a Taika Waititi film through and through – it retains his signature humour and really inverts expectations on what a Thor film should be. This feels refreshingly different from the first two films, more vibrantly coloured and more comical. The film is extremely entertaining and puts the characters that we have grown to like over the course of the films in rather vulnerable positions throughout the film and there is a real sense of danger prevalent. Unlike recent comic book films which have a great, big (and boring) action climax at the end of the film to save the world, Thor: Ragnarok actually earns its finale. The marketing for this film has also been extremely impressive upon viewing the final product – there’s a lot that Marvel have managed to withold from its audiences which is very satisfying. (My full review here)
2) Spider-Man: Homecoming
It was a tough choice where to place this with Thor: Ragnarok but ultimately Spider-Man: Homecoming, to my surprise, was more of a breath of fresh air in what has been quite a convoluted genre of late. I thought it struck just the right tone between seriousness and humour and it is a very realistic and grounded film in the Marvel canon. It also features one of the best villains we’ve had in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is extremely sinister and narcissitic. The whole cast are generally excellent and I was really invested in the narrative that Watts portrays. Watts also does well to not aim too high in terms of visual effects and although there are a couple of impressive action sequences, they never reach the heights of some of the other Marvel films which further helps to keep this film very grounded. (My full review here)
And the best comic-book film of 2017 is…
There was never any competition as to which film would get the top spot as Logan absolutely floored me in terms of how good it was. It’s not just the best comic-book film of 2017, it’s also one of the best films overall of the year. Logan is not really a superhero film, it is more of a Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of Logan is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than The Wolverine but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since The Dark Knight. (My full review here)
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister