Superheroes. The very word triggers many reactions – some of awe, wonder, and distaste. They may be the defining films of this generation, inspiring numerous filmmakers to come. Maybe superhero movies are just theme parks, a passing fad, a mega-billion blockbuster monster that has contorted cinema into an industry. Although spandex and capes might be rutted in a bit of a controversy due to the 2019 comments from the great Martin Scorsese, we all can agree on one thing – they are one heck of a good time.
These are 2019 superhero movies, ranked.
10. Dark Phoenix
Unfortunately, the X-Men franchise didn’t go out with the bang that was James Mangold’s “Logan,” instead ending with the pathetic sizzle that was 2019’s “Dark Phoenix.” We’ve seen this story time and time again, first perfectly told in comic form back in 1980, then perhaps in its most definitive form in 1994’s X-Men animated series, then averagely redone in 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” and finally in 2019, but this time around with much less grandiose and fun (and without the fine performances of Hugh Jackman, Sir Ian McKellen, and Sir Patrick Stewart).
The film follows X-Men Jean Grey as a cosmic flare bestows upon her powers she cannot control, powers which cause her to harm those around her as she fights her inner demons and generic villains around her. With a cliched storyline, bland dialogue (that the otherwise good actors couldn’t shine past) and bland action sequences, this trainwreck of a movie definitely deserves to be the back catalogue caboose of this list.
Despite the title, “Brightburn” is a lackluster film that struggles to maintain its audience’s attention. It’s a horror-superhero combination with an interesting premise: what if Superman was evil?
“Brightburn” tells the tale of barren couple Tori and Kyle Breyer, who are gifted by the stars an alien son, whom they name Brandon. After unearthing part of his mysterious heritage, Brandon acts on his most depraved desires, beginning to hurt Brightburn’s residents with his newfound superpowers.
While “Brightburn” does offer us a few entertaining shock value moments, that’s it. Actor Jackson A. Dunn does the best he can with the material, but it is not scary in any way. He comes across as an edgy, goth, imitation Clark Kent. The movie tries to delve into themes of nature versus nurture and suburbia subversion, but those two topics have been explored so much and so well in dozens of other movies that “Brightburn” misses the mark.
“Dark Phoenix” wasn’t this year’s only franchise killer. There was also “Hellboy.”
Originally proposed as a sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2008 “Hellboy II,” studios probably realized that the more the project got stuck in development hell (due to behind-the-scenes drama stemming from del Toro being unable to keep full creative control) the less relevant “Hellboy II” became, and the solution was a “Hellboy” reboot.
“Hellboy” follows its titular character, the half-demon Hellboy and his quest to stop the ancient resurrected sorceress Nimue the Blood Queen without causing the world’s end.
“Hellboy” does have some redeeming qualities. David Harbour, while not as iconic as Ron Perlman, is still pretty good in the role. There are some cool, fun, gory action scenes and creative character designs, and the urban fantasy/medieval aesthetic is refreshing for a superhero movie, but they don’t beat the film’s flaws. “Hellboy” is extremely rushed, unfocused, and overstuffed with a bunch of storylines that are developed better in the original comic form. It feels like a desperate attempt to cash in on this generation’s superhero craze and failed miserably in doing so.
The trailer for “Glass” looked extremely promising. A superhero crossover that was supposed to bring together director M. Night Shyamalan’s three best characters into some climactic development of a storyline, mashing together “Split” and “Unbreakable,” two unique films in the top tier of Shyamalan’s lineup. The idea of an auteur-driven superhero franchise seemed fresh and exciting.
One can’t help but respect the film’s ambition. There’s a good movie hidden somewhere in there, but it never reveals itself. Shyamalan has an obvious reverence for superhero mythology, but his passion transmits into boring scenes of villains and heroes being self-aware about the archetypes they represent. These concepts were executed well in the previous two movies, but Shyamalan doesn’t build on it. (Shyamalan also seems to think we don’t remember the past two movies, since he keeps on inserting annoying flashbacks to them that detract from the film’s experience.)
When the action finally hits, it’s underwhelming, and the movie’s twists only seem to exist for the sake of being twists.
The only good qualities of “Glass” are its performances (expected from masterclass actors like James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis) and its ambition, but aside from that, it isn’t worth checking out.
6. Captain Marvel
“Captain Marvel” is a solid, average blockbuster that feels like a dated Marvel Phase One throwback. It’s definitely an attempt at a progressive step forward since “Captain Marvel” is Disney’s first female-led superhero feature, but the movie unfortunately isn’t able to hold on its own.
It tells the story of Starforce member Vers, a Kree warrior in an intergalactic conflict between her race and the shapeshifting Skrulls. When the conflict brings her to a 1995 Earth, she finds herself having recurring memories where she lived another life as United States Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. She and American spy Nick Fury uncover the secrets of her human heritage as she uses her powers to end the Kree-Skrull war.
Brie Larson is a great actress, doing the best with what she has (at her best when she’s bantering with de-aged Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury) but Larson isn’t able to do much with such a blandly written character.
“Captain Marvel” also lacks the life and personality that recent solo Marvel outings have come to grasp. The costumes and makeup look great, but the space action feels uninspired, maybe because co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are more used to directing character-driven indies, and it shows. The film’s strongest moments are either Vers’ flashbacks as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers or the buddy-comedy dynamic between Larson and Jackson. The in medias res style of storytelling fails to separate from other superhero origin stories, and the ‘90s setting feels like a gimmick spawning from today’s nostalgia craze.
While still enjoyable, “Captain Marvel” was full of wasted potential. It introduces some interesting, inspiring feminist commentary that becomes less subtle as the movie goes on. The first female-led Marvel movie deserved better.