The year 2018 was a hell of a year for superhero cinema. Things were still shaky for a bit a few years back when there was that stretch of “Fantastic Four” films, “Batman v Superman,” “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Captain America: Civil War.” A rut was had but since that run we’ve hit a boon with superhero cinema.
Marvel is on its best streak yet, each movie being one of their best and a handful of them being legit game changers for the whole of cinema. DC has even gotten a bit better for the most part. Fox has had some actual classics when they don’t do team movies. Even Sony has a movie worthy of discussion in how wrong it is, as entertaining as it is bad. This year was probably the best pure year of superhero cinema yet. Let’s take a stroll down this spandex clad lane.
This movie is pure nonsense. It is insane that this movie exists in 2018. Studios have figured out what comic book movies are and how to make them without trying to cool them up to cover the vague stink of embarrassment at making a comic book movie. That Sony decided to let Marvel have Spider-Man but go off and still make movies on their own accord based off of Spidey villains that cut Spidey out entirely is just purely bananas.
You would’ve thought that Sony learned their lessons after “Spider-Man 3” and the Andrew Garfield years showed how bad comic book cinema could be. But nope. They pushed on and decided to make a movie based on that black-clad symbiote symbol of ‘90s uber cool silliness, the guy they screwed up badly in “Spider-Man 3.”
Getting Tom Hardy was surely a good sign, right? The guy has a good eye and always puts his heart into a performance. What kinda crazy voice(s) would he put into this thing? Well, Hardy is clearly the only thing worth a damn in this horrid movie. It’s horribly written, edited, and directed. The visuals are murky, and the action is mediocre action movie pap with some horrible symbiote effects thrown in. It feels like a movie chopped to bits in the edit as the movie kind of has no second act.
This feels like a relic from 2002 or something when there was no real clue on what to do, like it would be the B movie on a double feature with “Daredevil.” And yet, Hardy is so clearly aware of the nonsense he is making and he throws himself fully into this movie that you can’t help but enjoy the movie whenever he is on screen. It’s like a meathead version of a ‘90s Jim Carrey performance.
That the movie also accidentally plays like a same-sex romance between Eddie Brock and Venom is truly the icing on this ill-advised cake. We are lucky that the worst superhero movie this year is one that is so bad it has the immediate feeling of being a bad movie classic of the ilk of “Batman & Robin.”
8. Ant-Man And The Wasp
Peyton Reed gets to make an Ant-Man movie from the jump without having the stink of taking over from another director muddying up the waters like the fine but ultimately mediocre Ant-Man, and he kinda crushes it. It’s a movie designed to be a low-key palate cleanser after the overblown event-sized “Infinity War,” so it was never really made to be the kind of classic superhero movie we would see later in this list.
But it is a charming and entertaining blast of small-scale heist movie fun. The movie is funnier and the cast is all given something to do. The emotions work as the text and subtext intertwine pretty successfully. It’s just fun as hell and sets up some interesting stuff for the future of Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne.
DC has had a tough go of it. There are plenty of arguments to be had about the quality of their stuff thus far, but there’s two definites in the whole affair thus far. “Wonder Woman” is by far the most successful movie they’ve made, and “Suicide Squad” is an unholy aberration meant to scar the souls of anyone unfortunate enough to lay eyes on it. But this movie had the luck of having James Wan behind the lens, one of the best filmmakers working today. And it had the good fortune of being a standalone movie with no need to build up a shared universe. It just had to build up the world of Arthur Curry.
So while some trepidation is fair, there were enough good signs within to be excited. And the good vibes paid off. Wan knocked it out of the park. There’s an actual animated movie based on a cartoon show that doesn’t feel as indebted to Saturday morning cartoons like this movie.
One of the purest and most unabashedly real comic book movies ever made, this movie is big and loud and colorful and just plain silly. What makes it work is it knows exactly what it is. Wan took his history on the Fast and the Furious series and applied it here. This is pure cartoon cinema.
But there’s something underneath the hood that makes it better than an empty calorie snack. It utilizes the casting of Jason Momoa to inform this version of Arthur. Diving into themes of biracial identity informs every narrative decision here. And even the small stuff with Momoa’s Polynesian background helps to make Arthur feel different than the heroes before him.
The movie clearly wasn’t inspired by “Black Panther,” but shares a lot of similarities to the movie that it is the second punch in the 1-2 combo of how diversity can really help separate a movie from the pack. The visuals are gorgeously big and ambitious, unafraid at throwing regular audiences into the deep end of sci-fi cinema. The action is big and unconcerned with making any sort of real world sense, but it works. Momoa is a big, goofy but big-hearted hero. He’s given a lot of great little grace notes to show how Arthur isn’t just some beer-swilling bro, that there is a heart and a brain underneath all those tribal tats.
Patrick Wilson chews up the scenery as big bad war man Orm, but even he gets some great little moments to show the beating heart underneath the villainy. This isn’t the greatest movie in the world as there are plenty of misses in this thing as it is swinging wildly for the fences, the dialogue can be a bit rough, and the run time is long. But the whole package is just so charming and wild that you can’t help but enjoy it and hope that the good lessons to be learned from this movie are taken to heart in future DC endeavors.
6. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
I have never seen this show. Not for any negative reason. I like DC’s animated output for the most part. Just hard to keep up on any TV these days with so much content, especially a kids show on a channel that I don’t really remember to keep tabs on.
Luckily, this movie doesn’t really depend on a past connection to the show for people to enjoy this big ole fun blast of comic book silliness. It’s self aware as hell and takes so many cracks at comic books and comic book cinema and just the state of Hollywood in general. Then there’s just so many jokes in between those that the movie is almost breathless in its desire to entertain. It’s fun as hell. What else is there to be said?
5. Deadpool 2
The first “Deadpool” was a miracle and one that was going to be hard to do again. That balancing act of super dirty but heartfelt hero story was gonna be a difficult proposition again, especially when you lose a big element of what makes that first movie work.
Tim Miller left the director’s chair and there was some worry that the alchemy would be thrown off. But luckily they got “John Wick” co-director David Leitch to step in, so the technical/action components would be top notch. Would the heart/humor stay in place? That is a big affirmative.
Seems like the most important parts of this delicate equation is writers Reese and Wernick and go-for-broke star Ryan Reynolds. They understand what makes this character work and it’s his big ole diseased heart that keeps him from going full villain after the world keeps dumping on him. Throwing in a kid character to bring out the paternal instincts in Wade and throwing Cable in as the Terminator out to kill this kid help make this movie work much better than the scotch-taped-together original.
It’s a better whole and has some amazing bits of humor and violence (sometimes rolled together). Josh Brolin as Cable is a great addition to this world as he plays it as straight as straight can be, bouncing off of Reynolds’ Bugs Bunny-esque character in such a wonderful way.
The only real negative that can be laid on this movie is that it fridges Vanessa, a move that you kinda understand but feel like was a bit too lazy a motivation for Wade. So much so that the crew knew to retcon the move in the post-credits scene. This movie is a raunchy as hell good time, the kind of movie the landscape needs to help breed the idea into people’s minds that a superhero movie can take many different forms.