Best Super Hero Movie

Comic to Big Screen in 2012

year end comic book boxies2012 had some big super hero movies in theaters. It didn’t have the volume of some year’s releases but the ones that did come out all had impact on the landscape of this genre. Each came with it’s fair share of baggage with some good and some bad. 2013 looks to be an even bigger year but potentially less controversial. Let’s get into what I mean now…

The Boxie goes to:

  • The Dark Knight Rises

The other nominees:

  • Amazing Spider-Man
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
  • Judge Dredd
  • Marvel’s The Avengers

The Dark Knight Rises

The first thing I thought when I left the theater at 3AM for the first showing was…”Wow, I just saw a real FILM”. Not a super hero movie but a film. Sure, Bruce Wayne dresses up like a bat in a costume and fight people but this felt different. It felt like a allegory with bigger themes going on. Soon after watching the movie, Adam and I recorded a podcast on the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy (one of our first podcasts) that you can check out here.

christopher nolan dc comics

This movie felt epic and not because of special effects. That’s a first for me in the modern age of super hero movies. Sure the inexplicable alien invasion in Avengers looked cool but it had no emotion behind the fight. Instead, watch the Batman and  Bane fight near the end of Dark Knight Rises. Bane’s army and the police square off in what looks like the end of a gladiator or war movie with the two generals cutting through the fight to go one on one with their enemies. The movie was shot beautifully especially in the scenes with the snow showing off Gotham.

batman bruce wayne podcast

The A to B super hero format was abandoned with this movie opting instead for a movie that made you feel the humanity of the hero instead of just his “super humanity”. The movie is no perfect but most of the major problems were due to time management of an already long movie (examples: fixing Bruce’s back, trips between Gotham and the pit, etc.). What made this the best super hero movie of the year was the exploration of the impact on a world to having a Batman in it. Often told from multiple perspectives of those affected the most by his war on crime, this movie was bigger than just Batman. Because of that we got the final installment in a world I’ll miss visiting. I feel bad for the team that has to reboot this franchise once again.

batman nolan review 2012

Marvel’s Avengers

I see Dark Knight Rises as a film with super heroes and Avengers as a super hero film. All the beats of a modern Super Hero film are in the Avengers just…better. It’s got the coolest looking heroes fighting hordes of villains with destruction and special effects with all the trimmings. The characters in this super hero team movie all get their moment to shine as well. The best thing this movie has going for it is that they finally created a shared universe that gels as well as the comic book Marvel Universe. This is no small feat. These characters are stars of their own movies but they came together in a true ensemble picture here.

iron man hulk thor

Aspects of the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were all part of this script that used them all perfectly. Whedon should get a ton of credit for managing a colossal effort. With all the special effects and movie stars in this movie the toughest part was injecting heart. Whedon did that the way he knows best…a death of a loved character. Gregg Clark’s Agent Phil Coulson impact on this movie should not be forgotten. His role in this movie was enough to get him our choice for the hero of the year for 2012.

whedon marvel podcast

When everything is all said and done this movie will hold up for exactly what it is: escapism that puts smile on faces. The Hulk was the character that many said stole the show because of how they kept teasing his appearance before he showed up on screen. His second transformation scene would have been the most memorable scene if the movie if not for his later fight with the movie’s villain, Loki. This is the next level of super hero movie making. This game changer has both Fox Studios and Warner Brothers scratching their heads on how they can duplicate the effect of this movie. That’s pretty impressive.

Amazing Spider-Man

I feel like Adam and I said all we could possibly say about this movie on our podcast episode dedicated to the movie (episode #28 available streaming and on iTunes!). That said, we found the movie more unnecessary than bad. It’s not that it was poorly written or acted in at all (well, Gwen Stacy was WAY too convenient) it just didn’t tell a unique Spider-Man story. If Dark Knight Rises or Avengers were comics, I’d would have found them to be good reads. If the story in Amazing Spider-Man was a comic, I would be pretty bored with it. Sure, it’s an origin story (and one that’s been told in the last 10 years) but it didn’t have enough uniqueness to it to warrant it existing. Except, we know why this movie was made. If Sony didn’t make this movie they would have lost the license so they have to keep making them indefinitely or it reverts back to the now very capable hands of Marvel.

marvel sony movie 2012

I’d like to see something different in the next movie. I think it all comes down to writing. The core group of actors are actually quite good. Andrew Garfield especially did a great job capturing the essence of both Peter and Spider-Man. What needs to happen is to take some chances. Tell a Spider-Man story that’s never been told before and you’ll win me back.

Judge Dredd

The bar couldn’t have been set lower! Comparisons to the Stallone 1995 movie have to be made and are very easy to shrug off. This movie has no insights, depth, compassion, or heart and yet…it’s Dredd. This is one of those movies that’s faithful to it’s source material to a fault! It’s a throwback to the 70s and 80s action movies where you lose track of the body count, can’t identify with the protagonist, and notice that your heart rate climbs as the bullets fly. Karl Urban shows a different side to himself in this pure genre film. With the helmet firmly on at all times, he really becomes Dredd.

comic book reviews podcast

You have to have the right expectations when you see an adapted movie. Mine were of a grim and gritty comic book character who takes no prisoners and is less personable than Batman. I got that in this movie. We were also treated to stylized violence that looked more real than I thought it would for a comic book movie set in the future. Maybe this movie will help take back the line “I am the law!” from the hammed up Stallone and bring it back to its violent cold roots.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

This movie makes it into the top 5 because there wasn’t a true 6th super hero movie release in 2012. Was there? I’m not counting Men in Black 3 (even though that was a comic book adaptation at one point). I am sure there were some indie super hero movies that were released (let me know about them in the comments section below) but I didn’t see them. If I did, then whatever they were they would have beaten this movie.

What can I say about this that I liked? Well…let me think about that. Hmmm…I’ve got nothing! It’s not even to bad that it’s good. My expectations were super low but were raised a bit by the inclusion of the directors of the Crank movies. I thought that if this movie managed to not take itself too seriously, it could have been fun. Turns out it didn’t have that right kind of magic that allows bad movies to work. 2013 has more super hero movie releases so I feel like I won’t have to include movies like this in next year’s list. I leave you with a video from Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance.

* If Thomas Jane’s awesome short Punisher Movie, Dirty Laundry counts as a movie than it’s AT LEAST number five on this list.


Short Box co-founder, Nick, is married to Sarah and their 1st child is on the way,
Nick uses terms like Comic Book Historian and Geekologist to describe himself but...those aren't real things...right?
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