11 May 2010

Superest Sequels - 2010

The assembly of Iron Man 2 has necessitated the reevaluation of my superhero sequel rankings (click here for last years list) The top entries remained stable but lower on the list, some of my rankings were shuffled up a bit based on how much I would actually want to revisit the movies. As for Iron Man 2, it definitely wasn't the disaster than many sequels in the genre end up being, but it fell just short of the classics ending up in position #6 (Again, my rules for inclusion consider prequels as sequels, but do include clear-cut franchise reboots).

15. TMNT

Kind of a bizarre sequel, coming 14 years after its predecessor, and also being animated as opposed to man-in-suit. But this is clearly a sequel as opposed to a reboot. The animation actually fit the film, as turtle ninjas were much more believable when they are toons (believe it or not). Leo and Raph had a fantastic rooftop fight in the rain. This incredible sequence really stood out and showcased some fancy animation and cinematic camera movements. Unfortunately, the movie overall was just kinda dull. This one took a big drop in the rankings because I just can't really imagine myself ever having the urge to see it again any time soon. (Better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? - Yes)

14. Batman Forever

I will rank Batman Forever above Returns (dropped from this year's list), though over the years they have switched places a number of times. I guess what gives this one the edge for now (giving it the oh so prestigious 14th spot) is that it at least rings truer to the Batman character. The Robin origin in particular is not bad. Val Kilmer as Batman was a step down from Keaton, but still way better than Clooney. I also thought the riddles themselves were fair, and the Riddler's take on being a mirror image of Bruce Wayne was interesting - though pink haired Jim in spandex is a bit yikes. Two-Face on the other hand was irredeemable and fares even worse when compared to The Dark Knight. (Better than Batman '89? - No)

13. Superman 3

Although Superman 3 really doesn't have any business being on any Top anything list, there really aren't THAT many superhero sequels. Besides, the movie is not completely devoid of redeeming moments. After two films focusing on the relationship between smoker-teeth hag Lois, it was great to see Superman going for the upgrade in Smallville with Lana Lang. The main villain of the film being a plain old computer as opposed to Brainiac is a let down, but when the computer turned the villainess Vera into a cyborg... that was some scary stuff. The fight between Clark Kent and Evil Superman in the junkyard was also one of the great superhero clashes in any movie - even if it doesn't really make sense. When that Superman theme chimes in at the end, you can't help but feel excitement! (Better than Superman? - No)

12. Superman Returns

What a gorgeous movie this was. It played homage to the first two Superman films and includes the memorable Superman themes. The airplane rescue was also jaw dropping, but unfortunately, one amazing scene does not a great movie make. All of the Super-stalking and child subplots sullied the hero. The lack of a superhero throw down was also disappointing. Sure, we saw plenty of heavy lifting, but zero punches and that is criminal. And I don't even want to get into the lameness of the Kryptonite island real estate scheme. Sorry movie Lex, you are still lame. After Superman 3 and 4, this was a pretty good return to form for Superman, but they probably should have freed themselves of the 30 year old film baggage and gone for a reboot. (Better than Superman? - No)

11. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer did all he could to save this sequel from disaster. I am not sure he was successful, but the character was easily the greatest part of the film "steel"ing every scene he was in, and looking "fantastic." If only the Fantastic Four had had someone to fight other than a cloud or a Ferris wheel, this movie may have been better received. I must also admit to enjoying the power swapping scenes, and the super powered Johnny that takes out Dr. Doom. In spite of everything, the movie gets marks for improving on the original - even if the bar was set awfully low. (Better than The Fantastic Four? - Yes)

10. Spider-Man 3

After a recent rewatching this movie dropped a few spots in the rankings this year. Some of the scenes in the movie were good, but the way they were threaded together was just so sloppy. The alien symbiote's arrival on Earth was a joke, Sandman's backstory (especially his role in the retconned death of Uncle Ben) was horrible, and pretty much everything about Venom was mishandled (no one wants to constantly see Eddie's face). I didn't have a problem with the dark Peter Parker. I just imagine that a Peter Parker amped up on "roids" be a jerk, but he would still be a geek. The jazz club dance on the other hand was jarringly out of place. Sandman's origin and fights were among the movies highlights, at least until he turned into a giant dirt moron at the end. In spite of the flaws, the movie did wrap up the goblin arc in a decent enough manner. Rest in peace Harry Osborn. (Better than Spider-Man? - No)

9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The sole prequel on the list (perhaps because its the only prequel in the genre, for now...). The movie lacked the epic feel of your X2, or Dark Knight, but also absent were any cringe worthy moments that often rear their heads in superhero sequels such as dance club sequences (found in BOTH Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four 2), costume nipples (Batman Forever and B&R), or not so subtle political statements (Superman 4). The movies biggest offense, much like X3 was the slew of missed opportunities. Deadpool, Gambit, even Emma Frost could add a lot to a movie, but not so much here, especially in the case of Deadpool (getting the old Angel 2-scene treatment). The main element missing was a grand Magneto scale villain. Weapon XI, William Stryker, and Sabretooth just didn't quite cut the mustard for me. (Better than X-Men? - No)

8. The Incredible Hulk

This is a bit of a cheat because Marvel calls this a reboot, but to me it seemed like it could just as well have been a sequel. Hulk ended with Bruce Banner speaking Spanish in Central America, and The Incredible Hulk opened with him a bit farther south, still on the run from Thunderbolt Ross and the Army. Finally, we got to see the Hulk fight a real enemy. Watching him thrash tanks was also fun, but once the Abomination showed up, Hulk actually had a non-canine challenge. Though I enjoyed the dark, slow, physiological build of Hulk, a lighter more action packed follow-up is just what audiences wanted. (Better than Hulk? - Yes)

7. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

X-Men 3's biggest failure was in not living up to massive expectations. Second to that, it took characters in directions different from the comics (and admittedly usually for the worse). But even though they were not all executed well, there are some thought provoking themes under this movies surface and I would wager than if the Phoenix saga had never been told in print, the plot of this movie wouldn't have been so maligned. In my opinion, this film is greatly under appreciated. The additions of Beast, Shadowcat, and Juggernaut were excellent and the whole ending sequence with Jean / Phoenix was pretty amazing. Sure, it could have been better, but this movie avoided the steep decline in quality that befell other 3quels (see Batman Forever, Spider-Man 3, and Superman 3). (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

6. Iron Man 2

Most of the movies on this list are either better than the original, or disasters. Iron Man 2 is the exception, partly because Iron Man 1 was so good, and partly because even though this movie was cohesive and enjoyable, I'm not really sure what it was about. I'm not even really sure who the villain was. There were lots of antagonists (Justin Hammer, Whiplash, Drunk and depressed Tony, Rhodey), but none of them ever really had a substantial showdown with the hero. Its not necessarily a bad formula, but it is unorthodox. When the movie ended it just didn't really seem like there had been a point to any of it. I mean, Iron Man had a new chest piece, War Machine was on the scene, and it was clear an Avengers movie was in the works, but everything else was pretty much status quo. (Better than Iron Man? - No)

5. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I can't smile without Hellboy 2 getting some much deserved recognition. What an odd choice of a song for the movie, and yet it worked so well. This movie really upped the ante on a solid first movie. The art department did an amazing job designing the troll market and even the actual golden army and the story was pretty interesting and atypical even. Its just goes to show you that some quirkiness never hurts when combined with polished effects and good action. (Better than Hellboy? - Yes)

4. Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 kept it simple. It didn't try and give us twice the villains or twice the explosions, it just built on the foundation of Spider-Man. We got to see the characters grow and Doc Ock was a better villain than the original's Green Goblin. The clock fight / train sequence stands out as an action highlight. But the best aspect of this film is that we can really identify with Peter Parker. Spider-Man 2 stole a page from Superman 2 with the hero finally embracing his powers and responsibility. When Peter finally catches a break from MJ at the end, we get to cheer for him. and not just for his alter-ego. (Better than Spider-Man? - Yes)

3. Superman 2

Call it nostalgia, but this movie is just so much fun and shows what a good Superman movie can be. General Zod and his crew were a viable threat for the Man of Steel. They easily stole the show from Lex Luthor and gave audiences a reason to cheer for dude that is practically perfect in every way. The movie has an interesting story as well with Superman deciding if he really wants to be a the hero and then regretting his decision after getting pwned in a dinner by Bubba. The fight on the Streets of Metropolis was high stakes and my vote for the best Superhero fight on film. "Kneel Before Zod" is an all-time great movie line and seeing Zod bested is a delight every time. When so many things are done right, you can even forgive some missteps like bizarre un-Superman powers (super plastic S-shield throw, amnesia kiss, finger beam). (Better than Superman? - Yes)

2. X2: X-Men United

X-Men was good, but no one was prepared for the epic X2. The film seemed like it could be overstuffed like many sequels are, but the additions of Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike did not rob the other heroes of their moments. The opening scene of Nightcrawler's White House infiltration is a perfect action sequence and Magneto's plastic prison escape was also awesome. Though the subtitle "X-Men United" is awfully cheesy, seeing the X-Men forced to team up with Magneto, and then be betrayed by him, was great. The film's cliffhanger ending was a perfect final note for this near flawless sequel. (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

1. The Dark Knight

Two years after its release, The Dark Knight maintains its position as the bar by which superhero movies will be measured. Even with two main villains, the movie never suffered from character overload. It helps that both characters were written and played so well. While the action in the film may not be quite up to par with some in the genre, its the characters that make this one great. That is not to say the action is bad, there are some classic sequences, especially the Bondesque Honk Kong abduction. Small problems like the misuse of Scarecrow and questionable bullet reconstruction forensics are minor detractors from the best superhero sequel of all time. (Better than Batman Begins? - Yes)

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