2017 was a massive year for superhero entertainment. From the shelf and the television screen to the cinema, there were countless comic-related adventures to dive into. Marvel Studios saw its most ambitious year to date with three theatrical releases instead of the usual two, as well as the first small screen superhero team-up on Netflix. DC capped the year off by offering its own superhero ensemble movie in Justice League, to a less than stellar response. But the fact remains, when it came to watching their favorites superheroes on-screen, fans were truly facing an embarrassment of riches.
As with all forms of entertainment, there were some good, and some bad offerings. Some exceeded expectations and more than lived up to the hype, and some were considerable disappointments. Now, as we head into 2018, we turn our attention once more on 2017 and the year’s five best big screen superhero adaptations.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was an instant hit and a modern classic. Naturally, a lot of hype surrounded director James Gunn’s cosmic sequel. In many ways, the movie proved to be another strong showing for Marvel, albeit one that fell just short of its predecessor. Vol. 2 was a blast of a space adventure, but it fell victim to a few traps. Mainly, the sequel’s humor felt a bit forced in a few instances, and characters like Drax didn’t have much else to do in the film but laugh at something or someone — mainly, Mantis, which some didn’t enjoy seeing made the butt of a joke for the whole movie.
Those criticisms aside, the film was still one hell of a fun ride. Kurt Russell’s Ego was a strong villain from beginning to end, and the movie had a whole lot of heart. The final act of the film was a heart-wrenching experience, and Vol. 2 may just have been the first Marvel movie to leave its audience in tears. The Guardians are Marvel’s premiere makeshift family — the first film built them up, and the second tore them apart, only to have them emerge even stronger.
Saban’s Power Rangers kind of flew under the radar of most theatergoers. It wasn’t as big or high-profile as a Marvel or DC release, which showed in its box office performance. This was a crying shame, too, considering that the film was one of the strongest superhero showings of the year. Here is a film that decided to build up its five characters instead of moving from one big set piece to another. Two thirds of Power Rangers is spent in highlighting the five leads, as they not only come to grasp with the power they wield, but also form a strong bond of friendship.
Director Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers was a smaller film that, surprisingly, wore its heart on its sleeve. It bore a sense of destiny and purpose for the five leads, while being quiet and self-contained. It was devoted to make us care for these five characters out of costume, before they would ever morph. The film also had a strong villain in Elizabeth Banks’ Rita, who was scarier than anyone anticipated. Sure, her goal was a tad on the generic side, but she was still effective, while having a strong presence. The movie was darker and more grounded, and yet the final confrontation between Goldar and the Megazord embraced all the silliness of the old television series. There was a lot to enjoy here, and we hope a sequel sees the light of day. The cast alone deserves it.
The first superhero movie of the year was also one of its best. Director James Mangold’s Logan was billed as Hugh Jackman’s final go at Wolverine, and promised to offer a compelling conclusion along with a hard-R rating that the character had always demanded. While we expected the movie to be good, we had no idea how great it was going to be. Nothing could have prepared us for the sheer brutality on display, both graphic and emotional. Every scene in the film was loaded with intensity and heartbreak, and the dystopian setting only helped highlight the loneliness the characters felt.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart gave career-defining performances as Logan and Charles Xavier, the two of them making us feel every hardship their characters were going through. This is not a movie that is easy to watch, and it might not even be one you will keep coming back to to experience all over again. It stays with you and haunts you. It makes you cry, and yet it inspires you. The only weakness the film may have faced was in its villains, who were a bit vaguely defined. In the end, that was a forgivable slip since Logan’s true nemesis turned out to be himself.
Many fans agreed that Gal Gadot’s Diana was the highlight in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. For that reason, and more, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the release of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. As a female-led superhero movie, the film meant a great deal to many people. The movie was a big step forward in a superhero landscape that is traditionally male-driven.This fact made it even more gratifying to see how truly wonderful the film was. A period piece set in the days of the first World War, Wonder Woman is about self-worth, heroism and love. It’s a movie that embraces the strength of its main character, as well as her gender.
Thanks to Gal Gadot’s incredible performance, Wonder Woman’s status as an icon was renewed, and the character’s stock rose immeasurably. The rest of the cast, led by Chris Pine, was compelling, helping make the movie a breathtaking adventure from start to finish. The weak link of the film was once again the villain of the piece, Ares, who only briefly appeared at the end of the film, and who didn’t get much in the way of character development. But Diana’s feats of strength were not lesser because of it. In Wonder Woman, we had DC’s best movie to date, a star-making turn that positioned the Amazon Princess as a true symbol of hope, peace and power.
Spider-Man made his grand entrance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, but 2017 was when the wall-crawler would get his own solo movie set in the MCU. Similarly to solo Avengers films, Peter Parker’s world was truly a part of the shared universe, but it was still all about the webbed hero at its core. Tony Stark may have appeared from time to time, but his presence was devised to support Peter’s character development and growth. Tom Holland proved without a doubt that he’s not just a great Spider-Man, but a great Peter Parker.
In Homecoming, director Jon Watts employed humor better than most MCU movies. Unlike Thor: Ragnarok, which bordered on the side of slapstick comedy, the humor at play in Watts’ movie felt natural. It was never out of place or forced, and it was true to Spider-Man’s comic book origins. The movie also had an ace up its sleeve in Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a villain that had ample amounts of screen time, characterization and depth. Vulture was easily the best on-screen supervillain of the year, making the confrontation between hero and villain all the more compelling and personal. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a movie filled with heart. The best superhero film of 2017 let its dramatic moments have weight, all while showcasing the true strength of its main character.