If you’re a superhero fan, or a movie fan, or a superhero movie fan, then you were probably looking forward to the summer of 2012 long before it actually arrived. Marvel kicked off the season with their superhero team-up event, The Avengers; Sony went for a (semi-)fresh start with their reboot film The Amazing Spider-Man, and Christopher Nolan closed out his Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises.
Indeed, it has been a most (the most?) epic summer for superhero movies – but which one did you like the best? We look back at the strengths and weaknesses (because yes, they all had some) of the “big 3” in summer 2012, to declare which superhero (or heroes) will take home the crown.
And before there are any “apples and oranges” objections: the particular type of apple we’re looking at is superhero movies. Therefore, all three of our contestants qualify.
WARNING!!! THE FOLLOWING PAGES (AND COMMENTS) COULD CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR ALL 3 FILMS!!!
STRENGTHS: The Avengers was truly a milestone event for both superhero movies and movies as a whole. You had three different film properties (with four films between them) synergize and merge into one extra-large-sized superhero epic. Writer/Director Joss Whedon infused the proceedings with wit, sharp character insight and best of all, an overall sense of adventure and fun. As the first blockbuster film to feature a team of famous superheroes standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the big screen, those Avengers tag-team smackdown sequences will live in our memories and hearts forever.
WEAKNESSES: Of course, once you’ve passed the geekgasmic thrill of seeing all those Marvel superheroes together, you do begin to notice some flaws. The overarching story for The Avengers is kind of weak (magic cubes? Generic alien thugs?), some characters got marginalized (Cap), and the film wasn’t immune to the occasional (unintentional) comic book hokeyness. While the set pieces were well adapted from the comic book page to the screen, with the exception of the final New York sequence, The Avengers wasn’t as epic in scale (or as masterful in design) as something like The Dark Knight Rises.
STRENGTHS: Director Marc Webb took the character of Peter Parker and updated him for modern times – a risky move, but one that many moviegoers felt paid off. Andrew Garfield definitely left his own mark on the role, delivering a Peter Parker realized and developed in a way that was at once familiar and refreshingly new; improved technology (combined with practical stunt work) made the Spider-Man action better than ever. Add the sparks practically exploding out of Garfield and leading lady Emma Stone – plus a more intriguing and immersive mythos – and there were enough quality elements of Amazing Spider-Man to make the film worth the mulligan… if only barely.
WEAKNESSES: Many are still waiting for the “untold story” of Spider-Man they were (unfairly) promised; all we really got instead was a slightly tweaked origin story that we had seen before in the Raimi films. The script suffered from stutter step pacing (when it wasn’t meandering from scene to scene), there was clear evidence that director Marc Webb still had something to learn about blockbuster filmmaking – and worst of all, The Lizard (one of the most complex and interesting Spider-Man villains) was pretty much relegated to “freak of the week” status. Poor Dylan Baker was probably tossing popcorn at the screen by the handful (geek reference).
STRENGTHS: It’ll be hard for another film in 2012 to beat The Dark Knight Rises in terms of sheer scale and spectacle (the only likely contender being Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit). The finale to the Dark Knight Trilogy is a veritable showcase of superior blockbuster movie making – and unlike, say, a Michael Bay Transformers movie, Chris Nolan provides actual substance to go with all the flash. With the best performance yet by Christian Bale in the central role, and a cast of new talent – Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – all stepping up to the plate and delivering, The Dark Knight Rises is, in technical terms, a masterfully-crafted comic book blockbuster.
WEAKNESSES: Like The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises isn’t just a movie – its’s a cinematic event. Unlike The Avengers, however, Dark Knight Rises arguably did not live up to the hype. Granted, the hype hanging over it was nearly impossible to ever live up to, but there is a definite sense that while it will undoubtedly be looked upon as a great film – at the end of the day, many people will not regard Dark Knight Rises as the best film in the trilogy. Whether it was too serious, overstuffed, or was simply missing that key villain (The Joker), Dark Knight Rises just couldn’t fully recapture (or surpass) the magic that many felt when watching The Dark Knight.
NEXT PAGE: And the Winner Is…
We don’t think many people would argue that The Amazing Spider-Man earns the third-place slot, but between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises:
Marvel’s epic team-up event left many moviegoers roaring with applause and warm with the feeling of having had a very good time at the theater. It appealed to just about everyone, and very few people came away upset with the job that Marvel and the cast/director had done.
It remains to be to be seen if Dark Knight Rises provides moviegoers with anything more than the catharsis of seeing Nolan’s trilogy reach its end. It’s not going to be a movie for everyone, and a very vocal contingent of fans will likely pop-up once again to decry the Nolan’s interpretation of the source material. TDKR also has real-life tragedy forever attached to its memory, and that kind of thing puts a serious damper on what should be a carefree geeky debate.
In the long run, maybe TDKR will turn out to be the more revered film – but right now, in the hot, wild, summer of 2012, we’re calling it this way:
- The Avengers
- The Dark Knight Rises
- The Amazing Spider-Man
What was your number one superhero film of Summer 2012? Or are you just happy to have variety? Let us know in the comments.