In my opinion, 2012 was the biggest year for superhero movies since 1978, the year the original Christopher Reeves Superman was released. 2012 had the conclusion of a beloved franchise (The Dark Knight Rises), the start up of another (The Avengers), and the reboot of a third (The Amazing Spider-Man). Oh, and it also featured Ghost Rider 2, but that one’s a mere footnote in the history of the genre. Last week, I finally watched The Amazing Spider-Man at a second-run theater, so I can now say I saw all of the major superhero films of 2012. If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, here’s my short overview.
The Avengers: The Avengers is a movie that stands out as one of the most entertaining superhero films ever made. It basically deluges the audience with a host of cool characters and flashy visuals. Also, out of all of the 2012 superhero flicks, The Avengers did the best job of entertaining both kids and adults. It didn’t hurt that Joss Whedon wrote consistently witty dialogue and fleshed out the main characters more than their own feature films did. My main complaint with The Avengers is that the story was weak and the threat didn’t feel immediate. Having a team of the best superheroes fight weasly little Loki seemed like overkill, and the additional villains reminded me too much of the baddies from Power Rangers. Overall, this was a great film with a good message: oftentimes, what makes us unique is also our best asset.
The Amazing Spider-Man: I was on the fence about seeing this one for a long time, but when it hit the cheap second-run theaters, I doled out $3 and sat down begrudgingly… and found out I’m a heel. I was opposed to this movie mainly because I didn’t see a reboot as necessary, even though Spider-Man 3 was dreck. As it turns out, The Amazing Spider-Man not only reboots the series, but it reimagines it as well. I was thrilled by the way they changed up Peter Parker’s origin story, and found it in some ways better than the previous franchise. Andrew Garfield wasn’t as goofy and likeable as Tobe McGuire, but he brought the role the nuance and subtlety that were sorely lacking in Spider-Man 3. Emma Stone was great as Gwen Stacy, although I thought her to be an odd casting call (wouldn’t her red hair make her more of a Mary Jane?). I’m now looking forward to the sequel (not until 2014…).
Ghost Rider 2: Ghost Rider 2 was wrong, wrong, wrong. I know what you might be asking “Well Corey, what did you expect from a Ghost Rider movie?” Honestly, I enjoyed the first movie–it wasn’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked as popcorn entertainment. Ghost Rider 2 tries too hard to be gritty and stylish, and ends up turning into an hour or two of blah. The biggest flaw was this: how do we picture Ghost Rider? As a nasty dude who rides a motorcycle who has a flaming skull for a head and who fights bad guys. In Ghost Rider 2, he is rarely on his motorcycle, and even when he finally confronts the bad guys, he barely fights them. Instead, he grabs them, stares into their eyes, does some sort of Vulcan mind-meld, and the credits roll. Skip this one.
The Dark Knight Rises: Without a doubt, The Dark Knight Rises was the best superhero film of the year, and it’s the one I anticipated the most. It had just about everything you could ask for: a complex plot, a good ensemble cast, a handful of thrilling fight sequences, some interesting new characters, and a strong return of all of the other characters we’ve come to love over the years. Many people complained it was too long, and I’d agree that 20 minutes could have been shaved off (and included on the DVD) but I find some of the other complaints about this movie to be ridiculous. For example, a lot of people said that Bane and his cohorts were meant to resemble the Occupy movement and that Batman was a reactionary conservative, but to that, I can only say again, wrong, wrong, wrong. I liked The Dark Knight Rises more the 2nd time I watched it, and plan on seeing it again. (Longer review)
So that’s my take on the year of superhero films. To reiterate: The Dark Knight Rises was the best, Ghost Rider 2 was instantly forgettable, The Avengers was fun, and The Amazing Spider-Man was surprisingly good.
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What’s your opinion of the superhero films of 2012?