20. Iron Man 2
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Justin Theroux
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Synopsis: With the world now aware of his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark must contend with both his declining health and a vengeful mad man with ties to his father’s legacy.
Quick Take: The first thing people point to with Iron Man 2 is how it unnecessarily forced in S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers just to build up anticipation for the upcoming movie. That sin is unforgivable and shows why world building does nothing but hurt someone’s ability to make a cohesive story. There are things to enjoy like improvements with action, Robert Downey Jr.’s presence, and Sam Rockwell doing what he can with a nothing character. I enjoyed how it tried to touch on the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ storyline, but being a summer blockbuster it was never able to go all the way.
19. The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed By: Marc Webb
Written By: James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Synopsis: Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors, his father’s former partner.
Quick Take: After the complete disappointment that was Spider-Man 3 something needed to be done to right the ship. The Amazing Spider-Man tried to right the wrongs, and for the most part it was a welcome change of pace. Sure it has some very questionable moments, like the infamous crane sequence or Peter Parker doing his version of Air Spidey, but Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone where given enough room to make the movie their own. Director Marc Webb brought his ability to depict young love and placed it in a comic book setting.
18. The Punisher
Directed By: Jonathan Hensleigh
Written By: Jonathan Hensleigh, Michael France
Starring: Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Samantha Mathis
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
Synopsis: An undercover FBI agent becomes a vigilante assassin and sets out to unleash vengeance upon the corrupt businessman who slew his family.
Quick Take: A great amount of people really despise this movie, and I can somewhat understand why. However, for me this is the closest we have ever come to a good Punisher movie. Thomas Jane makes a fine Punisher, and truly enjoyed a lot of the action sequences. Sure having random thug after random thug just show up as his apartment for no real reason is not the best example of storytelling, but it also led to a very fun fight between The Punisher and the Russian. Perhaps ending the movie with a gigantic flaming skull in a parking lot was pushing things a tad bit too far. Luckily we have the short Dirty Laundry to dream of what could have been if this was successful.
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Written By: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, and J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Synopsis: The powerful but arrogant god Thor is cast out of Asgard to live amongst humans in Midgard (Earth), where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.
Quick Take: When Marvel announced their plans for The Avengers the one movie I worried about the most was Thor. It is akin to making Lord of the Rings and Star Wars at the same time and throwing in a rainbow bridge just to make things more difficult. What made Thor work was Chris Hensworth and Tom Hiddleston. Their chemistry and hatred for one another was palpable. Much of the action in Thor is lackluster, but their relationship adds a great deal to make those scenes work. If anything they should have focused on that relationship more, because as some of the deleted scenes show there were an assortment of great moments they didn’t use.
16. The Wolverine
Directed By: James Mangold
Written By: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%
Synopsis: When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.
Quick Take: The Wolverine had one huge thing going for it—very low expectations. I still hope we get to see the Darren Aronsfsky Wolverine movie someday, but James Mangold did an admirable job when he took up the position of director when Aronsfsky left. He took Wolverine back to his roots and placed him into a classic samurai story. Actual stakes were added to the action by removing Wolverine’s healing factor. Adding tension to scenes that would others be absent of it. It does fall off the rails in the last twenty minutes with the Silver Samurai Transformer. Before those closing moments we were finally getting the Wolverine movie we all wanted.
Directed By: Stephen Norrington
Written By: David S. Goyer
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
Synopsis: A half-vampire, half-mortal man becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires.
Quick Take: When you look at the rising history of comic book movies there are limited few that people point to as huge steps forward for the franchise. Blade is certainly one of those steps. Before Blade Marvel’s attempt to making movies were embarrassing. It took a character that was unknown to most and redefine him to something bigger and better. It also showed a comic book movie does not always have to be cartoonish. Wesley Snipes made such a huge impact with the character that the actual comic book version was altered to match his take. Not many actors can claim that feat.
14. The Incredible Hulk
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Written By: Zak Penn
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
Synopsis: Dr. Bruce Banner, thanks to a gamma ray experiment gone wrong, transforms into a giant green-skinned hulk whenever his pulse rate gets too high. Meanwhile, a soldier uses the same technology to become an evil version of the original.
Quick Take: There are certain movies on this list that I know I probably enjoy more than most people. The Incredible Hulk is probably an example of that. I enjoyed the way it meshed the feel of the classic television series, with the comic, and even taking elements of the previous Hulk movie. We got some of the explosive Hulk action with a rampaging battle at a college campus and a monster brawl between the Hulk and Abomination. Tim Roth made a great foible for The Hulk, it was too bad his character got really crazy really quickly. Edward Norton also made a pretty good Bruce Banner.
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Written By: Tom DeSanto
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Synopsis: Two mutants come to a private academy for their kind whose resident superhero team must oppose a terrorist organization with similar powers.
Quick Take: With Blade I mentioned movies that we can look at as stepping-stones of the genre, and the next big stepping stone was X-Men. When you look back at the first X-Men movie with today’s eyes it looks rather cheap, like a middle of the road TV pilot. Considering its budget was half the catering budget for The Avengers you can let that slide. What it got right from the start was the relationships between the main characters, most notably the kinship that formed between Wolverine and Rogue. It was an economic script that accomplished a lot, including explaining the X-Men world rather concisely.
12. Thor: The Dark World
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Written By: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
Synopsis: When Jane Foster is possessed by a great power, Thor must protect her from a new threat of old times: the Dark Elves.
Quick Take: Thor: The Dark World took what the first movie accomplished and did it bigger and better. For one the special effects were greatly improved and the action felt it better suited these god like creatures. Tom Hiddleston stole every scene he was in, and was somehow able to take a character that nearly destroyed all of New York and make him into a sympathetic figure. Some of the forced comedy **cough** Kat Dennings**cough** was a little to sitcom heavy, but the final portal battle sequences was one of the best action set pieces of last year.
11. Blade II
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Written By: Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, and David S. Goyer
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%
Synopsis: Blade forms an uneasy alliance with the vampire council in order to combat the Reaper vampires who feed on vampires
Quick Take: Rule #1 on how to make a movie better. You insert Guillermo del Toro (or Gizmo Del Toro for those who listen to Talking in Circles). Guillermo admitted the only reason he made this movie was to make Hellboy, and lucky for us he did. His style and knowledge of horror brought new life to Blade as he took everything that came before and improved it greatly. Wesley Snipes had yet to go completely crazy, and had great report with Ron Perlman and the rest of his team. Having Blade fight alongside a team of vampires could have been a huge mistake, but it added a complex dynamic that was not there previously.