05 April 2013

Superest Superhero Sequels

Its that time of year again. If there is one sure thing in life its that the summer will bring at least one superhero sequel - this year we can look forward to Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, and later in the year Thor: The Dark World. Will they be any good? Chances are yes, but here is the competition of the best superhero sequels ever made.
My rules for inclusion are simple, prequels are considered sequels but clear-cut franchise reboots are not. Clear-cut is a bit fuzzy, but basically I consider each Punisher movie a reboot, Batman Begins and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man and The Man of Steel are also reboots because they could not be shoehorned into the previously existing continuity. I have also decided The Incredible Hulk is ineligible because its association with Marvel Phase One has distanced it from 2003's Hulk. X-Men: First Class, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance on the other hand could reasonably exist alongside previous entries. With Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Avengers 2 in the works, this list is about to get a whole lot tougher to join. Let the countdown begin.

15. Superman Returns

What a gorgeous movie. It payed homage to the first two Superman films and included 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 deadbeat superdad 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. 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)

14. 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 someone to fight other than a cloud or Ferris wheel, this movie may have been better received. I must admit to enjoying the power swapping scenes and the super powered Johnny that took 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)

13. Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 gets worse every time I watch it. Some scenes 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 imagine that a Peter Parker amped up on "roids," even as a jerk 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)

12. 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 yet. 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! It may not be better than Superman Returns, but I would sure rather watch this any day. (Better than Superman? - No)

11.  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Let's be honest, there were a lot of problems with this movie. Having said that there were some ridiculously over the top visuals that were worth tuning in for. After the borefest that was the first Ghost Rider, over the top was a welcome improvement. While Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance didn't want to call itself a sequel, that's what it was to audiences at large who were so turned off by the original they missed out on GR's slight redemption. (Better than Ghost Rider? - Yes)

10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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 2-scene treatment previously assigned to X3's barely present Angel). 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)

9. 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)

8. 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 should 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? - I daresay Yes)

7. X-Men: First Class
X-Men: First Class managed to revitalize a franchise that was clearly running out of steam. Even more impressive is that this prequel manged the feat without many of the fan favorite mutants in the lineup. Instead, the film dared to rely on character development. Not all of the characters were home runs (ahem Emma), but Magneto and Professor X were both superb. Although this arguably exists in the same established X-Men movie universe, I am not too interested in linking this movie's inevitable sequel to the original X-Men's continuity. I am, however, invested in seeing the next steps for the characters in First Class. (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

6. 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. The story was pretty interesting, 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)

5. 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)
4. 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)

3. The Dark Knight Rises

Maybe not quite as good a The Dark Knight, this film deserves major praise for a couple of reasons. First, this was the first superhero threequel to not crash and burn. That alone earns it points, but the fact is, this was a mighty fine film. The other point to consider is that The Dark Knight Rises offered a true ending to a superhero saga. Whether or not the ending lasts is yet to be seen, but still, no other franchise has had the skill or audacity to end. More importantly, the movie had great and memorable villains as well as likable supporting characters (don't call them sidekicks). The way the League of Shadows plot from Begins was revisited and resolved were also brilliant. If anything held this one back, I suppose it could have used a few more moments of levity to balance the grim tone. (Better than Batman Begins? - No)

2. X2: X-Men United

X-Men was a good setup movie, but on its own I am not its biggest fan. Still, I was not 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 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
Five years after its release, The Dark Knight still 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 helped that both characters were written and played so well. While the action in the film may not be quite on 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 with one of the most memorable villains in the Joker. (Better than Batman Begins? - No )

1 comment:

  1. I've watched full international "Superman IV" version, with the First Atomic Man before this one in theatrecal (looks like Puma Man), with a lot of new action in different countries and with tornado scene in Smallville inclide Reeve's little daughter. And I like it. But the third "Superman" movie is awfull even in full international tv-version. It's bad as a crap, it bad filmed, bad acted, and has terrible script! Much worse than the 4th movie! And the "Returns" is totaly BORING crap. I hate this movie. There is totaly no action at all, it's a f*cking melancholic drama. What a sh1t!

    "Superman 2" is realy a masterpice, when the first is just great and good movie. Second is so amazing, when Superman decide to lose all powers, and then see a terrible invadors Zod & Co. It's a best Superman movie of all the time!

    I love first "Hellboy" movie much more than the second. Second is good, and has more interesting main villan, but first have better monster in the end, more horror athmosphere and much interesting plot. For me the sequel isn't better the first one at all.

    Second "X-men" are good, but I don't think they are better than the first. Nightcrawler made all movie, and Magnitu unite with X-men, it's great. But the first movie was epic great too! I so like the twist in train, when all we thought Magneto hunts Logan and we understan - Magneto hunts Rogue!!! And Sabertooth in Tyler Mane is a brutal haired machine-killer! I love it much more than everytime talking Schwieber.

    "Spider-man 2" is the best. When the third movie came it looks the best for me, the ending of Goblin story, the Venom, 3 super villans and etc. But now I think 3rd was worse that 1 and 2 parts (but still good and better then stupid, boring and uninterestin Webb's reboot!). So second "Spider Man" is the the best!

    "Iron Man 2" has moe Marvel characters, more action, a lot of robots, fighting, explosions. It the great entertainment! It's like a "Transformers" franchise, Bay's style. I love it. And it has Russian villan and Russian superheroine. Thet made this movie too! The first "Iron man" is a great movie too, but it looks like a "Family movie", so childish, so cute, it's like a "Spy kids", like "Zathura". It's not even like first "X-men" and "Spider man", it much more a family & kids movie. So the second is best. It was realy kick-ass action entertainment!

    And I totaly agree, for me "The Incredible Hulk" lools like a sequel to "Hulk" 2003. But I like 2003 version much more than "The Incredible Hulk"