It is undoubtedly true when they say that it is a great time to be alive for comic book fans, since all that we saw on pulp in our yesteryears materialises to jaw dropping spectacle in front of our eyes, owing to some significant advances in technology. From rocking the stables in the 80s and 90s to continuing their gold struck box office reign well into the second decade of the 21st century, superhero movies seem to be all the rage about now, and if trends and moolah are to indicate anything, they are here to stay, with franchise building being the name of the game.
A sad day for comic book aficionados has since passed, following the announcement of the demise of the Marvel comics stalwart Stan Lee. What I see is an unbefitting irony when I draft this article and the majority of the films in this list come from his stable of superheroes. It is true, 2018 has been one of the best years for Marvel with their tentpole culmination ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ hitting screens, and ‘Black Panther’ surprising every one with its stellar sweep at the box office and with the critics in general. DC, the only significant rival comic book house giant, had little to offer this year following the debacle of ‘Justice League’ in 2017, but with ‘Aquaman’ lined up for release this December and keeping in mind what we have seen so far, things do look promising.
As with other categories of films, 2018 has been pretty standard in terms of superhero films as well. Seven superhero flicks released this year to screens, two of them animated, and almost all of them did superb business and were equally loved by viewers the world over, solidifying the deep-rooted reach of these films and franchises with the audience. While the superhero slate for 2019 makes me giddy in excitement, with ‘Shazam’, ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘Dark Phoenix’ and the fourth ‘Avengers’ film already lined up for release, I reminisce on the year that has gone by, here’s the list of all seven superhero movies ranked from best to good to worst. What do you think was the top superhero movie of 2018?
7. Ant-Man and the Wasp
‘Ant Man and the Wasp’ is pretty standard Marvel fare, if there exists a clear definition of it. In a lot of ways, after the emotional rollercoaster that the culmination of Phase 3, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ was, ‘Ant Man and The Wasp’ has a levity that was welcome in more ways than one. The film garnered a lot of publicity with respect to Scott Lang’s absence from the scene in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, and the post credits scene of this film may be able to give an answer to that. Hopefully, this should add up to bigger things and a meatier part to play for Scott Lang in the fourth Avengers out next year.
Quite frankly, the subatomic shrinking of Lang’s suit and the Quantum Realm were the most interesting aspects of the first one for me, and they are put to plenty good use in the sequel. The action in the Ant-Man universe with magnified objects and diminished beings was a definite highlight from the first one, and while it’s present aplenty, it doesn’t break any new ground, the highlight being the mid-city chase sequence. The themes of family and father-daughter bonding continue into this sequel, as do the crazy antics of Lang’s ex-con partners, with a scene stealing Michael Pena. If you are a Marvel fan and know exactly what to expect, you’ll be just satisfied, nothing more. Turn a critical eye and the obvious ‘flat’ nature of the film surfaces, and sticks.
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6. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies
The surprise cracker of the year, right here ladies and gentlemen. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the success of ‘The Lego Movie’ not many years ago. Not being a huge fan of the TV show it is based on, I had almost nil expectations from the film going in, and the promos definitely didn’t hype me up too much, but boy was I taken aback. The film hits you with jokes the minute the first frame starts rolling in, and continues till you are either down with your defences and into the zone where you can enjoy all the silly on screen, or are already laughing your wits off.
From poking little bits of fun at the MCU, to self-referential jokes on even the current state of the DCEU, you will find yourself chuckling at the range of humour it has to offer, varying from slapstick, parody, juvenile to even smartly written. It is inherently charming, and the animation style akin to the show is bound to appeal to the younger audiences, with the story of the film involving the Teen Titans’ desire to star in their own movie as a way to legitimise the lesser known superhero group spellng F.U.N in the boldest, most colourful way possible. It isn’t groundbreaking, doesn’t talk about great power and responsibility, or bringing real change. It knows what it is and it acts exactly that way. This is the arena where I don’t mind DC movies bringing levity to the fore, and it delivers.
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‘Venom’ has been the typical case of the one movie this year that was panned by the critics but received equal love from the audience, both in terms of reviews and collections. Yes, it wasn’t perfect, and the first half an hour or so until the symbiote bonds with Eddie notwithstanding, the film can be a pretty fun ride. ‘Venom’ is Sony’s attempt at cashing on the few Marvel properties that it co-owns and is set in a separate universe from the MCU. To make a solo Venom film that doesn’t have Spider Man in its established universe is a task, and the film partially succeeds and fails in it. However, what baffles me more than anything is that the makers didn’t take enough risks for the film to be rated R, as is the inherent nature of the anti-hero. The R rating is something that could have opened a whole new avenue for the story and action, especially the latter, and as proved by the success of ‘Logan’ and ‘Deadpool’, could have been financially viable too.
As for the positives go, there was never a shred of doubt that Tom Hardy would be nailing the role of both Venom and Eddie Brock, and that he does. The CGI on Venom is first-rate, and some of the action set pieces are engaging enough with the final fight between Venom and Riot delivering the goods. The plot too is serviceable. One serious concern about ‘Venom’, and the critics are right about this one, is the tone. The film juggles between Eddie Brock’s struggle with duality that has an inherently dark undertone, and jokes thrown in the most ‘Marvel’ way possible. It can be fun at times, but at the cost of loss of viewer engagement when you know the stakes aren’t going to be that high.
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4. Black Panther
‘Black Panther’ made a stellar appearance in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ to make his way to probably the most surprising superhero movie this year, and an origin film in general, taking out more than a billion dollars in global revenue. Nobody, not even Marvel I guess, was prepared for the kind of storm ‘Black Panther’ would usher in. However, if I am to be honest, I would consider ‘Black Panther’ an important film with its cultural and political undertones, more than an excellent one. I also do agree that the film was vastly overrated by a lot of the professional critics out there. It was a serviceable film at best, praised in its time due to its groundbreaking cast and themes that run deep into history and geography itself.
On its evaluating grounds as a superhero film, ‘Black Panther’ has enough packed in its runtime to keep you invested, although much of it may be standard Marvel fare. The action is good, but the CGI does appear to be a bit off in some of the scenes. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger is the best and most fleshed out Marvel villain in years, and his angst and motivation are among the better bits of the film. All in all, ‘Black Panther’ is gorgeous to look at (especially the parts in Wakanda), culturally informed, handsomely mounted in terms of execution although sloppy in parts, and has a completely functional plot. If that sounds like almost every other superhero movie except the cultural connections, it probably is just that.
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3. Deadpool 2
I may actually be on the side of the minority with this, but I actually preferred the sequel more than the original. Agreed that ‘Deadpool’ the first was groundbreaking in its own right in introducing a foul mouthed fourth wall breaking self-referential ultraviolent anti-hero, but the film had a pretty formulaic script, thus seeming like the conception of an idea. While Deadpool the second isn’t exactly the fruition of the idea either, it does seem one step closer. It certainly was funnier since the jokes here come at almost twice the speed of the first, which works even if half of them stick. The action is a big step up, and that is probably owing to the bigger budget Fox provided the team with.
The story, here too, is formulaic and convenient in many places, but even that is referenced by Deadpool as “lazy writing” in a bout of funny jokes on how the film got made. The universe here is evidently bigger, with Domino, Juggernaut and Cable (played by Josh Brolin who steps in the Marvel villain shoes for the second time this year) being the best inclusions in the roster. In the hands of ‘John Wick’ and ‘Atomic Blonde’ director David Leitch, the film’s action sequences are elaborate but much more gory and visceral than the first one, although the fun is never missing.
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2. Incredibles 2
‘The Incredibles 2’ came out after an incredible wait of fourteen years since the first one released and had set up an almost unbeatable legacy. The sequel to such a film is always bound to get unfair comparisons and is often laden with unnecessary expectations. If you can be bereft of them, ‘Incredibles 2’ is exhilarating, quality fun with doses of humour and gorgeous animation. If you can’t, the good news is that it’s still pretty fun, and the latter stands true any which way.
Undoubtedly and unequivocally, Jack Jack is the star of the film. The scenes where the family learns about and copes with his newly discovered powers are some of the best in the film, and will leave you chuckling and awing at how adorable it all is. In that sense, it appeals to almost all age groups of viewing audiences. The action is great, the animation and effects are easy on the eyes (except the intense Screenslaver flashing sequences), and it’s written well enough to accommodate some endearing moments of family bonding too. In short, almost everything that made the first one a success and a legacy to bear is present in generous amounts in the film, only if you can have a somewhat liberal outlook.
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1. Avengers: Infinity War
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ was the movie event fans had been waiting for since ages, the culmination of a cinematic universe, or atleast the beginning of the end. The film turned out to be bigger and better than what anyone expected, and blew a storm across ticket windows grossing more than $2 Billion at the world box-office. That should have been no surprise given the massive popularity Marvel films enjoy anyway, but ‘Infinity War’ was more than a film ever since it came into being.
The film brought together virtually every Marvel hero introduced over a course of eighteen movies over ten years and pitted them against an all-powerful titan of a villain, Thanos, whose overarching presence was only hinted at in numerous post credits scenes. The film does demand a sense of appreciation at all the setting up that took years and farsightedness in the business, and the story of Thanos, his motivations as a villain and his menacing resolve to balance the universe add a lot of emotional weight to the story that I earlier found missing from most Marvel outings, and frequently lamented over. The cinematography and special effects were a huge step up from previous Marvel movies, and even the score was considerably better. It might feel overstuffed to a certain amount of viewers, but if one manages to squeeze in at least one badass scene for every hero, and absolutely killer entries for Cap, Iron Man and Thor, that alone deserves commendation. I paid to watch the film twice and have been burning the bluray disc since it has been out. Even as a DC fan, I was completely satiated.
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