2017: Superhero Movies and What I Want from Them – Midseason Report

2017 superhero movies

In January of this year, I wrote my take on the superhero movies coming out this year, what I expected from them, and what I hoped wouldn’t happen with them. By the end of the article, anyone who read it would be forgiven if they thought I wasn’t exactly optimistic. I spit a bit of venom, but I generally wasn’t overly worried. If anything, I was more worried in 2016. Halfway through, and it’s time to see how I felt about some of the movies compared to my original expectations.

The LEGO Batman Movie (Feb. 10)

I figured this was a safe bet. My only real concern was that The LEGO Batman Movie would take the joke of Batman in The LEGO Movie and turn into a feature-length showcase of every Batman meme you can find. You know, that he’s brooding, always prepared, a loner, and forever haunted by the death of his parents.

Well, in The LEGO Batman Movie, Batman is brooding, always prepared, a loner, and forever haunted by the death of his parents. But he is far from merely a meme. It all works here.

His loner antics push everyone he cares about away. In a twist, it also pushes away The Joker. Batman won’t acknowledge that Joker is his “greatest enemy”, and the Joker’s resulting tear-fest and resulting bromance hijinks actually hit their mark.

In fact, many of the jokes hit. True to the first movie, The LEGO Movie features some sharp writing and storytelling. The vibe is a bit darker, of course, because Batman. But the movie’s overall mood sure isn’t. There are tons of laughs. In fact, it’s probably a bit too rapid-fire in its gags. You can miss a few if you’re too busy hacking up a lung from the laughter. But it’s still entertaining as hell.

The fantastic storytelling is topped off by the vocal talents, which complement the brilliant script. Will Arnett reprises his role as the Caped Crusader. He’s joined by a stellar cast, including Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred.

The movie is also as technically awesome as the original. It never ceases to amaze me how cool it is to see fully realized worlds made of LEGO bricks. I would have thought the visuals would be old hat by now, but it looks as great as before, if not more so. Watching the movie made me want to spend a whole paycheck on LEGO bricks. My rent and phone bill wouldn’t be paid, but I’d get to build cool shit!

As the first “superhero movie” of the bunch up to bat, The LEGO Batman Movie was a standing triple. Was it perfect? No. But it delivered a great start to my 2017 slate.

Logan (Mar. 3)

Please allow me a moment to deliver my obligatory “Gee, I’ve only heard that about 300 times!” joke.

Wow! It only took Fox nine movies to finally deliver one that properly handles Wolverine!

Thank you, thank you. For my next trick, I’ll try to say it with more humor. Don’t forget to tip your waitress!

Logan is a proper send-off for Hugh Jackman, the only Wolverine we’ve ever known on the silver screen. The R rating gave director James Mangold the ability to go ham with the violence. The result is a movie that pays proper homage to the Cannucklehead.

It also delivers the feels in spades. Logan and his relationships with both Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Laura Kinney/X-23 (Dafne Keen) are powerful stuff. Keen in particular is awesome, capable of nearly stealing the show herself. And the story is heartbreaking. By the time the end credits roll, you’re emotionally spent.

Odds are, you’re a little queasy, too. Blood is dispensed in gallons, and the gore is enough to make people wince. I went to Cinebistro, a movie theater where they serve drinks and actual food right before the movie. I ordered a cheeseburger with a fried egg. The egg threatened to hatch from my stomach one time. I’m guessing the four or so vodka tonics didn’t help. That’s a good thing. Logan is a Wolverine movie, and it needs to be a movie where the visuals upset your digestive cycle.

In many ways, Logan is exactly the movie Fox needed to make. Now the die is cast for what a Wolverine needs to be. Now Fox needs to take this formula and keep it going. Fox is planning another X-Men movie, though, so I really doubt it.

Iron Fist (Mar. 17)

After nine years and several movies and series, Marvel has released its first bonafide stinker. No matter how rosy a picture I try to paint, Netflix’s Iron Fist is a disappointment. The series smells like roses all right. The dead kind.

Many howled at the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist. Many hoped that an Asian person would play the role despite Rand being white in the comics. Trust me when I tell you that Jones was just one of several problems that plagued this series.

One of the biggest problems I have with the series is one that has hurt Daredevil as well: The Hand. Somehow, Marvel has found a way to make a gang of ninjas boring. I didn’t think that was even possible! They’re boring because they’re impotent and devoid of actual purpose. Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) makes a return appearance as the leader of The Hand, and she’s more enigma than threat.  I never really felt like Gao or any of the Hand – apart from a few kick-ass assassins and Zhou Cheng (Lewis Tan) the Drunken Master – were a real threat.

Then again, neither was the Iron Fist. I know he’s not supposed to be totally invincible, but he often seems unable to hold his own against enemies that he should be able to defeat handily. He definitely wouldn’t be roughed up by a security guard, but that happens.

I’d like to say the script is where most of the faults lie. This was less about Rand trying to reclaim his father’s corporation and defend Kun Lun from the Hand and more about the Meachums. Patriarch Harold (David Wenham) is actually more of a threat than Madame Gao. And they spend more time developing Ward and Joy Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup) than they do for Rand. Even the now-expected appearance of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) is weak, easily her worst appearance in the Netflix Marvel universe. Aside from a good performance from Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), this series would be a miss all around.

No matter where you want to place the blame, Iron Fist was not good.

Power Rangers (Mar. 24)

The Power Rangers became a sensation way after I would care about them. My son, however, was absolutely obsessed with them. I’m kind of glad he didn’t go see Power Rangers in theaters. I’m sure he would’ve been disappointed with the movie. I am, and I don’t care for the series.

For all the interest in the story, the only thing fans care about is seeing the Rangers fight, form the Megazord, and pummel whatever monster stands in their way. That does happen in the movie, but only during the last 25 or so minutes. For the remainder of this OVER TWO HOUR LONG MOVIE, we get nothing but setup, development, and exposition. There are ample amounts of character development, which would be great if the majority of the characters were likable in some way.

Instead, Power Rangers forces us to watch itself slog through the establishment of five teenagers I have a hard time sympathizing with. Instead of five friends that have common interests and get along, we meet five random teenagers that have nothing in common. Their motivation for being together and finding the Power Coins is a bit contrived for me. Worse yet, the Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery) is portrayed as a dumb jock and the Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott) is a bully. I’m not exactly giving a shit about them, Power Coins or not.

In the movie, the original Red Ranger is Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and the original Green Ranger is Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Honestly, I think Banks is the only one who seems to be playing their role. It sure isn’t Cranston, who seems pretty bored about the situation. How can Walter White EVER look bored?

The fighting at the end of the movie does look pretty cool. It’s too bad we have to sit through 90 minutes of crap to get there. My great-nephew is a huge Power Rangers fan. By the time he gets to the part in Power Rangers that interests him, he’ll be way past tired and beg for another movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)

And I was worried this movie would trip up because of higher expectations.

There were quite a few people who felt Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was not as good as the original. I kinda see where they’re coming from. Guardians of the Galaxy was new and fresh, and everyone was pleasantly surprised. The sequel was basically dinged for not being the original movie. But the sequel is still one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

Prior to the movie, it’s understood if all you thought of the movie was “interesting scenes intermixed with Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) shots”. Honestly, the cute green bastard was everything people talked about…well, other than JACK BURTON (Ego, played by national treasure Kurt Russell) being the father of Star Lord (Chris Pratt). There wasn’t too much else evident from the trailers.

That was a good thing. It didn’t give away the real meat of the movie.

By the end of the movie, the feels were real. Star-Lord brings them while trying to buy into his relationship with his newfound father. Drax gives us a glimpse into his when speaking to Mantis (Pom Klementieff). And Yondu (Michael Rooker)…whether with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) or Star-Lord, holy shit does he bring the feels! A movie that gained a rabid following from being silly by design got real, mixing in tons of laughs with some genuinely heartfelt moments.

If I had only one complaint, it’d be that the laughs were almost too many. Sometimes, one joke didn’t fully hit before another one was dropped. I love me some humor, but too much of a good thing can be bad.  Well, maybe not bad in this case, just mildly irritating.

Whatever. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was as irreverent and goofy as expected. I loved it. James Gunn and Co. didn’t screw it up.

Oh, and apparently Yondu is Mary Poppins. Interesting.

Wonder Woman (June 2)

The majority of venom spewed in the January article centered on this movie. After lamenting the missteps in the DCEU, I basically threatened Warner Bros. no to screw Wonder Woman up, then paradoxically dared them to do it. Whatever, I was drinking and I was upset.

Thankfully, Warner Bros. did not screw Wonder Woman up. The movie is actually one of my favorites thus far. Maybe my favorite of all.

This is an origin story, delving into Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) New 52 origin. And many of the beats, from growing up as the daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), to meeting Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), to fighting in World War I, everything is just excellent. It stumbles a bit during Act 3 in my opinion, but everything up to that point was great.

More than anything, this movie reaffirmed my faith in the DCEU. As much as it may seem that I’m a Marvel fanboy, it’s far from the truth. Though I read much more Marvel books in my time, I still love DC. And until Wonder Woman, the DCEU has been disappointing. I’m not calling her the savior of the DCEU, but I’m saying she – and really director Patty Jenkins – showed everyone else connected to the DCEU how it should be done. The fact that it took the movie starring my favorite DC hero not named Green Lantern makes me doubly happy.

Wonder Woman also showed me that Gal Gadot wasn’t just a mirage in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She was great there, and she was great here. She owned the role, and I’m beyond giddy that she was a major part of Warner Bros. getting Wonder Woman right. Finally, Diana of Themiscyra has a movie that’s at least on par with Superman and Batman.

Suddenly, Justice League doesn’t look like an impending four-alarm fire.

Oh, wait. Yes, it does. Fuck!

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)

What I’m about to say will not win me any friends. I’m gonna say it anyway.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is pretty good. But I don’t think it’s the world-bending masterpiece fans claim it to be.

Don’t worry, I enjoyed the movie. Allow me to explain.

This movie was really fun. Tom Holland absolutely nails it as teenage Peter Parker. Watching him do high school things was 100% genuine in my eyes. I can’t say enough good things about Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds. Everything about Peter was great. I equally enjoyed how he handled being the wall-crawler. He did a great job mixing in Spidey’s humor in with Spidey’s constant desire to do right. Spider-Man is a pretty complex character in the comic books. Spider-Man: Homecoming captured a lot of that, including his attempts to juggle being a hero with being a regular kid.

Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture (Michael Keaton), was an equally great villain. He’s much deeper than most other Marvel villain, whose motivations never stray away from, “EVIL HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!” Keaton brought a level of humanity to Toomes that hasn’t been present in the MCU, and I feel really hasn’t been seen in a villain since Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. Keaton’s awesome, and this movie proves it yet again.

Even the presence of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) didn’t mar this movie. There were fears Stark would overpower Peter Parker’s own movie. Turns out the fears were unfounded. Stark was a mentor character, but he was properly subdued in his influence. Marvel and Sony set out to do what I feel they wanted with Stark: make Spider-Man: Homecoming feel part of the MCU without overshadowing the real star of the movie. Mission accomplished.

So if I think all these things are great, why am I not as high on Spider-Man: Homecoming as Digital Crack mate Punisher and a legion of other believers? Well, because I’m obviously a grumpy old asshole. And because I feel I haven’t seen enough of Peter Parker. My misgivings are entirely because I wanted to see more. I now know Tom Holland is a great Young Peter Parker. Before we anoint him saint or savior, can we see him take a crack as Working Peter Parker? Can we see him add employment to his never-ending slate of responsibilities? Can we see him handle more than just a desire to join the Avengers and, maybe, graduate? Oh, and will Holland work as a post-high school Parker?

It is a stupid thing, and I readily admit it. That’s why I called myself a grumpy old asshole. But it’s what I feel.

All things told this is still a really good movie. And my biggest wish – successful cooperation between Sony and Marvel – came true. Now I want Fox to see this cooperation and find a way to merge the X-Men and Fantastic Four universes into the MCU. Goddammit, I NEED TO SEE THANOS PUNCH DEADPOOL IN THE FACE!!!

Those are my opinions about the released movies so far. As for my feelings toward the rest of the slate I mentioned in January, I wanted to wait until San Diego Comic-Con to talk about them. Now that I have all the info I’m gonna get about them, let’s talk about them.

The Defenders (August 18)

I knew nothing about what The Defenders was going to be about back in January. I knew three members – Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Kristen Ritter), and Luke Cage (Mile Coulter) – were great and intriguing. I hoped the fourth – Danny Rand aka Iron Fist (Finn Jones) – would be as intriguing. I figured Netflix could do no wrong at that time, so I believed they could pull off The Defenders. But I had my doubts. Mainly, I wondered how four people who work alone and whose only real superpower was to punch things really hard – ok Luke Cage is bulletproof, but don’t complicate things – could form an effective team.

Fast-forward to Comic-Con. After the disappointment I felt with Iron Fist, I worried about the team-up series. Two trailers helped assuage my worries. I still wonder how four people who punch real hard and work alone can be effective, but at least I’m less worried.

Most of my worries have been assuaged due to the chemistry I’ve seen. Seeing Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist dislike being together but still doing it is awesome. Seeing them snipe each other with snarky quips is awesome. Seeing them eat Chinese food together – all the while disliking the idea of a team and sniping each other – is awesome.

Oh, and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the bad guy. HOW ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO WIN???

I still have my reservations. My main worry back in January was that the series – shrunk down to eight instead of the usual thirteen – would need to rush too much. Considering that so many characters from the Marvel Netflix Universe are involved lends credence to my worries. The trailers tell me that The Defenders is in good hands. I still worry because so many characters and so many stories need to coalesce, meaning there are so many points of failure.

That being said, I’m still binge-watching The Defenders on August 18th, and I have already called out from work. Things will literally have to be on fire before I respond to a call from them!

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3)

Like The Defenders, Thor: Ragnarok was an unknown property back in January. Like The Defenders, Thor: Ragnarok has had two trailers release since.

Unlike The Defenders, I am completely sold on Thor: Ragnarok.

Say whatever you want about me, but I can be swayed with the right trailer. Thor: Ragnarok has shown me two trailers. Both of them have made me squeal more than my daughter does when she sees anything about K-pop sensation BTS. Trust me, that’s a lot.

Both trailers gave me different things. The first one showed Thor (Chris Hemsworth) flinging Mjolnir at Hela (Cate Blanchett), who smashes it with one hand. Then it shows Hela razing Asgard to hash while Thor flees. He ends up in a foreign world, where he’s captured and made into a combatant for the pleasure of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). And who do we see him fighting? The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), bedecked in Planet Hulk gear. And all of this is happening as Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song is amping me up to 11.

The second trailer dialed back the soundtrack, choosing to play Magic Sword’s In The Face of Evil as a backing track. But the action was ratcheted up to a thousand. Thor teaming up with Hulk, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)? Hela totally taking over Asgard with Skurge (Karl Urban)? Hulk taking on both Fenris Wolf AND Surtur, fire lord of Muspelheim? The former is a Norse badass birthed from Loki and the latter is THE BALROG FROM LORD OF THE RINGS TIMES A BILLION!!!

Why are we still debating this? Why have you not pledged to buy tickets for this awesomepocalypse yet?

My biggest for this worry was that it would be a Thor movie that was as uninteresting as the last two. With director Taika Waititi behind the camera, I hoped it wouldn’t be. After what I’ve seen after two trailers, I really think it won’t be.

Justice League (Nov. 17)

This movie also got two trailers from January until now. Unlike Thor: Ragnarok, however, Justice League had to sell me a lot more. I’m not sure I’m sold.

There’s been a lot of turmoil in the DCEU before Wonder Woman, and there has been a lot of turmoil since. From the personal tragedy that has befallen Zack Snyder to the rumors surrounding Ben Affleck’s desire to end his tenure as Batman, the DCEU has been in flux. I’m not in a capacity to talk about Snyder’s personal issues. Nor am I going to acknowledge or dispel any rumors surrounding Affleck and his desires to wear the cowl of Batman. I’m just a nerd who wants to see a great Justice League movie.

I don’t know if Justice League will satisfy my urge…but it sure looks like it will.

There is one scene in the second trailer – the Comic-Con trailer – that sums up my feelings for the movie. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is body-surfing the body of a defeated parademon. He rides into the side of a building, shattering every floor on the way down. Once the ride hits the ground floor, Aquaman slides off, shakes off his hair, and walks off LIKE A BOSS!!!

If that doesn’t tell you everything about how I feel about the movie after seeing the trailers, then I can’t help you.

Let’s be serious. After one good movie in Wonder Woman, I’m not ready to heap praise on the DCEU. Yes, Justice League looks good. Guess what? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad trailers looked good before they released. They were awful. That doesn’t mean Justice League will be awful…but I am concerned.

I just want Justice League to succeed, dammit!

One of my biggest fears about this movie has been resolved. Wonder Woman was great. That takes some of the heat off. But not all. The lead-up was awesome. Will the follow-up kick ass? Aquaman bodysurfing a parademon into a building says it will. History and current turmoil say otherwise. We shall see.

He has been playing video games for longer than he would like to admit, and is passionate about all retro games and systems. He also goes to bars with an NES controller hoping that entering the Konami code will give him thirty chances with the drunk chick at the bar. His interests include vodka, old-school games, women, vodka, and women gamers who drink vodka.

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