Number 5: The Avengers
Loki visits Earth with one goal in mind, to conquer. His antics cause Nick Fury to resurrect the Avengers Initiative, uniting Earth’s most formidable residents with Loki’s very capable brother Thor. Together, they attempt to mesh as a team while dealing with Loki and an invading force.
The Avengers changed the game. All of the Marvel movies up until that point were crafted towards this central idea. You could say that all of those solo films were prequels leading to the Avengers. This film cemented the possibility of a cinematic universe. Now every studio is at least considering how their franchises could coalesce into a similar universe.
But let’s ignore all of the ramifications of the film. The Avengers as a movie itself was great. Several heroes, each with a different agenda and personality, were gathered to form a strike team to combat Loki. However Loki seemed to always be a step ahead of all of them. There is a reason Loki is perhaps the most loved villain of the Marvel universe. He is without a doubt the best acted and written villain Marvel has produced on film.
The movie was able to provide a thrilling tale without taking itself too seriously. There are moments in the film where, even after seeing it several times, the viewer can still laugh out loud. The humor and character interaction give this movie a charm that hasn’t been matched by other comicbook adaptation before or since.
Avengers had one glaring weakness, its weak plot. The plot is rudimentary at best. An alien invasion threat heralds from an unknown world. There is little that we learn of this invading force other than someone powerful controls them. They even have the cliché hive mind. Kill the queen and they all fall down.
The character development makes up for the plot’s shortcomings. Besides this film isn’t suppose to be a psychological thriller, it’s a popcorn action flick. However, when compared to some of the other great comicbook films that have been released any weakness becomes crippling. Thus, The Avengers received the ranking it did.
Number 4: Guardians of the Galaxy
When I think of Guardians of the Galaxy, one word surfaces more than any other. That word is fun. The entire movie is a fun joyride. The cast of characters all have personality, even though they weren’t developed as well as I would have liked.
It’s similar in a lot of ways to the charm of a Star Wars movie. The soundtrack to this movie is incomparable. The scenes are well crafted and the direction of the film, from what I can tell, is well done. This movie offers personality. That’s a trait few comicbook movies can tout. This is a testament to the actors and James Gunn’s creativity.
This film does have some shortcomings. The villain, like most Marvel films, is forgettable. There is not enough time devoted to the villain or his motives. I also have to discredit the plot. The plot is just a little too simple. The overwhelming personality these characters display covers for the weak plot. The movie could have used another five to ten minutes of dialogue and character interaction to flesh out the plot. However, this film does its job and does so beautifully. Guardians of the Galaxy thrills, it humors, it entertains, and does so by blending the genres of superheroes and space operas.
Number 3: Captain America Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier was more of an espionage thriller than a superhero comicbook adaptation. The Captain returns after the events of The Avengers, he is still attempting to find his place in the modern world. The Winter Soldier is a film that raises moral questions about our world governments and their motives. The theme of suspicion echoes throughout the movie from beginning to end. There are several plot twists that keep you on the edge of your seat.
The most enjoyable part of this movie for me is the writing. It is written beautifully. The plot is intriguing and complex but not to the point of confusion. The story is well paced and moves along with a nice flow. Each confrontation between Bucky and Capt escalates the tension and raises the steaks without relying on a Earth destroying plot point. This film is one of the most complete films of a comicbook adaptation. I hesitate to call it a superhero movie, because it feels more like a spy film with superhero elements.
Number 2: Xmen Days of Future Past
Like all of the others in this list, this movie has a particularly unique trait that puts it in a league of its own. Xmen Days of Future Past is a case study on how to juggle a large cast of characters and multiple villains. There are at least four foil characters throughout the film. Most films have trouble dealing with two villains. The plot is engaging and emotional griping and never felt weighted down by an overly large cast.
The ramifications of failure fuel the story forward, especially since the audience was introduced to the future world in the first sequence of the film. Even more amazing was the use of each character. Xmen like Blink and Warpath, who in any other film would be afterthoughts, were utilized to their full mutant abilities. While Wolverine is the main point of view character, the focus of the story is on Xavier and what’s left of his first dysfunctional team.
Every character has a reason for being in the story, there no extra fluff in the plot. Even with such a large cast of characters, somehow the writers and director found a way to include character growth as well. In fact, a majority of the plot was the maturity of some the movies biggest characters.
I must admit I have a bias for the Xmen. As an Xmen fan, seeing these characters utilized in such a way was everything I’d ever wanted in an Xmen movie. So obviously the perfect Xmen movie will make this list.
Number 1: Batman The Dark Knight
In my opinion Batman: The Dark Knight is the single greatest comicbook adaptation of all time. The Dark Knight has a perfectly flawed hero who is confronted with his equal foil. This incarnation of the Joker is so opposite of the Batman that they become mirror images of one another. Joker could match Batman’s intellect with organized chaos. Batman was strong, but the Joker recruited henchmen. The Batman had a code, The Joker exploited that code. And just when the Batman thought he had it figured out, the joker revealed he was always two steps ahead.
Multiple villains were weaved in and out of the plot with elegant grace. Each character had a distinctive character arc rather than simply being subplot fodder. And even side characters turned out to play a major role in the story before the film’s end. The story was flawless as far as I could tell.
The conflict between the Batman and the Joker created a palpable tension that no comicbook film has replicated thus far. The Joker continued to push the boundaries of every character. The Joker was a master of judging human nature and exploiting it. He found the weakness of everyone he came into contact with, the people of Gotham, Batman, Harvey Dent, even the crime lords and mobsters.
Ultimately the film evolved into a psychological thriller between the hero and the crazed villain. It’s not often a comicbook movie can deliver a narrative that causes reflection on societal norms. The Dark Knight has the perfect villain, the perfect story, and the perfect psychological conflict.