Many comic book movies have come out in 2017. Now that we're in the middle of peak comic book movie adaptations, we're witnessing a creative renaissance in the genre. If Justice League's box office disappointment is any indication, it's simply not enough to just throw iconic characters up on screen any more.
The comic book movies that were the most successful this year have strayed from the beaten path and mined new tones and textures. Consider the stripped down atmosphere of Logan or the unexpectedly hilarious hi-jinx that spiced up the formulaic plot in Thor: Ragnarok.
Some others have played it a little too safe and a handful have flat-out failed. For instance the Inhumans pilot, which is being counted because it was released in theatres, might've been acceptable, even liked, in 2001. However, not only does it not fly now, but it also lands with a dull thud.
To stand out, these movies now have to be either excellent or unique-- the scale is now as such that mediocrity is the kiss of death.
With that said, here are the 17 Comic Book Movies Of 2017 Ranked Worst To Best.
17 The Inhumans Pilot
Inhumans represents a failure of imagination: despite the big bucks sunk into the project, it looks cheap and indistinct. There's tonnes of exposition but shallow characterization, and the performances across the board are comparable to wood. The fact that it was released in IMAX theatres only amplified its shoddiness.
The Inhumans follows a royal family of superpowered beings who live on the moon. There's Black Bolt, the king who opts to be mute lest he level mountains, Medusa, who has magical CGI hair and or bad wig, Maximus, the powerless brother who plots a coup, and Lockjaw, the giant teleporting dog.
It's a crazy idea, even for a comic book show. However, what's even more unbelievable is just how boring it is.
16 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Valerian, based on the French sci-fi comic book series of the same name, begins as a galactic-sized visual feast, brimming with possibility and wonder. Then the two leads, space cops Valerian and Laureline, exchange some "witty" banter and it's all down hill from there.
Resembling a couple of chic Gucci models, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevinge don't convince as worldly veteran officers. However, it's not all on them-- it's hard to imagine Idris Elba and Olivia Coleman making the soggy dialogue crackle.
Luc Besson directed the 1995 sci-fi adventure movie The Fifth Element to great acclaim. It's unfortunate that he can't replicate that success in this one, though it certainly isn't for lack of trying. It's just too busy and too unwieldy to truly connect.
15 Death Note
Director Adam Wingard adapted the hugely popular manga Death Note for Netflix. Running at one hour and a half, this Americanized Death Note sprints through plot points that the source material took time to develop. It's like an extended montage.
High schooler Light Turner happens upon a book dropped on Earth by the Japanese death god Ryuk. When writes a name in the book, they die before his eyes. Recklessly abusing this power, Light draws the ire of a relentless detective named L.
Although Death Note is rushed, hollow, and disjointed. However, it's not without its charms. Ryuk's creepy design is faithful and Willem Dafoe brings the right combination of mischief and menace, Keith Stanfield as L is fascinating, and some of the kills are gory fun.
Based on the 2010 graphic novel from Daniel Clowes, the guy responsible for Ghost World, Wilson (as played by Woody Harrelson) is a hipster-y misanthrope who likes to tell it like it is.
Wilson's fatal flaw, and indeed the fatal flaw of the movie, is that he entirely lacks insight or originality. However, when Wilson re-connects with his ex-wife and estranged, equally misanthropic teenage daughter, he finds that he has a chance to achieve a measure of happiness.
Woody Harrelson brings his trademark amiability to a thoroughly unlikeable and boring character, but he can only do so much. It's a fine enough premise for a quirky, character-based comedy. It's a shame, then, that Wilson too often hovers in that mumbly, mediocre area between comedy and drama.
13 Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman: The Secret Service took everyone by surprise. It was a vulgar and affectionate tribute to James Bond movies of old. The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, had all the elements to elevate the original. While it's certainly bigger and longer, it's not better. In fact, it's very disappointing.
Nearly all the problems with this sequel are apparent in its first ten minutes. Eggsy is engaged in a car chase scene with a minor character from the first flick, now returned as a henchman with a robot hand.
It's set to a thumping Prince track “Let's Go Crazy”. The action is loud and disconnected from reality. On paper, it's classic Kingsman stuff. However, it's deflated by a lethargy, an inescapable feeling of “been there, done that.”
12 Batman and Harley Quinn
Batman and Harley Quinn makes sense as an idea, right down to its title: Harley Quinn is nearly as popular as Batman, and so pairing them off in an animated adventure/caper that harkens back to the glorious '90s Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animated series where both characters were at their best.
Some of that old-school film-noir style informs and distinguishes Batman and Harley Quinn – the femme fatales, the back alley chase scenes, the gangster-infested saloons – but the rest of it plays like hyper-sexualized, parodic fan-fic.
There's a fine line between sexy and sleazy, and Batman and Harley Quinn crosses it a few times. Occasionally it amuses, especially Melissa Rauch's turn as Harley Quinn. A bit too often, though, the crude clowning annoys.
11 Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell lovingly recreates the eerie existential moments of the source material in some scenes, such as when a Geisha's face springs open to reveal a web of featureless metal or the introspective moments of Scarlett Johansson's half human/half robot lurking the streets of a globalized Tokyo, alone and alien.
However, this adaptation is weighed down by bland direction. Though the production design is spot on, this Ghost in the Shell feels like it takes place in a hermetically sealed movie set, which almost entirely scrubs away the gritty humanity of the 1995 anime.
The whitewashing plot point is one of the year's biggest head-scratchers. Also, the complex philosophical themes are diluted in favour of courting mainstream success that it couldn't attain.
10 Atomic Blonde
If this list was about the most purely stylish comic book movies of the year, then surely Atomic Blonde would rank in the top five. The aesthetics are that winning combination of vibrant and grungy, the cinematography is top notch, and the action is immaculately choreographed.
However, though Charlize Theron is striking as the hyper-competent super spy Lorraine Broughton and James McAvoy as an unstable MI6 agent is a blast, the plot is incomprehensible at times.
Atomic Blonde often gets bogged down in dry exposition and details that just aren't interesting or pertinent. However, the movie will also occasionally gift you with an awesome neon-lit action sequence that shames most contemporary action sequences. David Leitch, who also helmed John Wick, does some outstanding work here.
9 Justice League Dark
Jay Olivia, the director who brought The Dark Knight Returns to animated life, tries his hand at the supernatural aspects of the DC universe. Although Batman is featured prominently in the promotional material, this is John Constantine's movie. He's aided by Zatanna and other members of the DC B-squad, who are brought together to combat the threats that the Justice League can't.
Matt Ryan reprises his role as the seasoned demon hunter John Constantine, and as usual, he's great. The Dark team are an interesting contrast to the League.
Whereas the League is fully-formed, majestic, the Dark team is flawed, imperfect. It'll be interesting to see whether the DC animated universe has the courage to continue to explore these guys sans Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
8 Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is a far better adaptation of the DC source material than The Killing Joke, though it's filled with similarly adult themes such as an inappropriate romance between the villainous Deathstroke and his assistant.
However, like most other DC animated films, it moves through the story at a furious pace and is filled with edgy action that could never be put on the Young Titans TV show.
The main issue that plagues Teen Titans is that it's absolutely stuffed with backstory, betrayals, and old rivalries. Going into this one cold, without any knowledge of Damien Wayne, Nightwing, or Deathstroke, would be a mistake. However, if you're a fan of DC, particularly of the Titans, you could do a lot worse than this.
7 Justice League
There are so many obvious issues that plague Justice League that, for a 300 million dollar plus budgeted blockbuster, it's honestly baffling. Look to Ben Affleck's fluctuating weight and Henry Cavill's malformed digital face to see where Zack Snyder's vision ends and Joss Whedon's begins.
The villain Steppenwolf is lamer than a Lord of the Rings reject, and the plot is absurdly simple, with dialogue alternating between exposition and jokey jokes.
Yet, against all odds, the film is a lot of fun. Batman and Superman hew a lot closer to the source material than in Batman V Superman. It moves at a fast enough pace as to never be boring or confusing and is the pivot to a brighter, more heroic future for the DCEU.
6 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy differentiated itself from the Earth-based MCU movies with its retro space opera and wacky comedy. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doubles down on those aspects, while focusing on an intimate story about dysfunctional, squabbling families.
Consequently, it's not quite the same breath of fresh air that the first one was, but its story is ultimately more touching and it explores it provides the characters with a lot more depth.
Unexpectedly, the dads steal GotG Vol. 2-- whether it be Kurt Russell as Ego, the ultimate rockstar supreme dad whose narcissism literally threatens the galaxy, or Michael Rooker's Yondu, whose mean exterior conceals a spirit marred by shame. Also, when a contemplative Peter Quill cradles Baby Groot while "Father and Son" plays, it's a quietly transcendent moment.
5 The Lego Batman Movie
Far from being a soulless commercial for lego toys, The Lego Movie was a well-crafted commercial for lego toys. Lego Batman was the funniest character, so a Lego Batman Movie was the next move. Although The Lego Batman Movie wasn't directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it retains its predecessor's sharp humour and charmingly staged action sequences.
There are enough nods to the Batman mythos – whether it be from the movies, tv shows, cartoons, or comics – to satisfy any Batfan. However, where The Lego Batman Movie finds its heart and humour is in its depiction of Batman as a lonely manchild who's too scared to make the connections he needs.
It's doubtful even the grittiest Ben Affleck Batflick would dare to get that real.
4 Wonder Woman
In a landscape populated by superheroes who're often motivated by self-interest and tragedy, Wonder Woman's uncomplicated decency is refreshing and heartwarming.
Moreover, it's a solid origin story boosted by its performances and direction by Patty Jenkins. Gal Gadot, who was still a question mark after Batman V Superman, projects a warmth and moral authority that very few have matched since Christopher Reeve.
The No Man's Land sequence, in which Wonder Woman reveals herself to save a village under fire, is a beautiful testament to the ideals of hope and selflessness that superheroes are meant to embody.
It's a shame that the climax is a bland sequence of hellfire and debris, and that the reveal of the villain dilutes Diana's coming-of-age. However, it is nevertheless a beacon in the fledgling DCEU.
3 Thor: Ragnarok
It seems that director Taika Waititi's prime directive from the head honchos at Marvel was to “shake it up, do something new.” Indeed, Thor: Ragnarok is a radically bold departure from the previous two Thor flicks.
It's a wholly successful translation of Jack “the King” Kirby's infectious, energetic artistry that informed Thor and other famous Marvel characters. Plus, it's imbued with Taika's signature weird sense of humour.
It's unserious vibe verges on parodic a few times, but it scarcely matters when it manages to pull off so many jokes.
Pairing off the Thor with the Hulk, who's apparently become a champion gladiator on a junkyard planet in the two years since they last fought Ultron robots, is an inspired move, along with introducing Tessa Thompson's awesome Valkyrie.
2 Spider-Man: Homecoming
Although Spider-Man is Marvel's billion dollar mascot, Spidey is ironically at his best when he's grounded. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, there's no triumphantly swinging across the skyscrapers nor any city-destroying plot to thwart.
In fact, as seen in Captain America: Civil War, this Spider-Man is a boy trying to be a man. The spider costume is not just to conceal his alter-ego, it's to conceal his youth. Tom Holland is perfect as this new Peter Parker who grew up in the world of the Avengers and dreams of becoming one of them.
When Peter discovers that it's down to him to save the day, crushed under weight both literal and metaphorical, and he says through gritted teeth “C'mon, Spider-Man!,” you want to cheer.
A swansong for Hugh Jackman's and Patrick Stewart's 17 year run as Wolverine and Professor X respectively, Logan is outstanding. It's a superhero deconstruction that could only resonate like it does during the fraught times when it seems like the apocalypse is approaching.
Time is the villain in Logan. Professor X's once great psychic mind has deteriorated to the point of being a hazard and Wolverine's healing powers can't halt the poison from the metal that laces his skeleton. They're in a bad place, but a shot at redemption appears when they happen upon a young runaway mutant who needs help.
Bleak yet tender, Logan is not only the best comic book film of the year, it's one of the best films of the year.
What do you think? Do you disagree with our ranking? Let us know in the comments!
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