Thanks to how dominant DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies are these days, some jaded viewers tend to reminisce about the superhero genre’s supposedly better days. Thanks to nostalgia and their own merits, these movies are often propped up as examples that current superhero movies should follow.
The truth, however, is that these movies aren’t as great as their most ardent fans would claim. Although they’re not bad or offensive, these superhero movies get more credit and praise than they actually deserve. Sometimes fans of these movies are understandably sentimental about their favorites, or they’re trying too hard to be contrarian.
10/10 The Dark Knight Rises Was A Groundbreaking Trilogy’s Lukewarm Finale
The Dark Knight trilogy changed DC Comics adaptations and superhero movies forever. Each chapter left its mark on the genre and late 2000s pop culture. Case in point: The Dark Knight Rises is fondly remembered for giving Christian Bale’s Batman a concrete resolution, and for having some of the Batman movies’ best moments.
However, The Dark Knight Rises lacked Batman Begins‘ arresting visuals, and it fell short of The Dark Knight‘shigh dramatic bar. What’s more, The Dark Knight Rises’ attempts at social commentary were shallow at best and mishandled at worst. The Dark Knight Rises is good, but it’s still an iconic trilogy’s weakest link.
9/10 Man Of Steel Was Better In Theory Than Execution
Because of how portentous Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League are, many deem Man of Steel as Snyder’s best and most accessible DCEU movie. Fans loved Superman’s gritty modernization told through Snyder’s style. However, Man of Steel‘s ideas and themes worked better separately.
Man of Steel examined how Superman would react to the modern world and vice versa. The movie also showed how destructive Superman’s existence would be. These concepts were ambitious. But together, they made Man of Steel a morose deconstruction of a superhero-shared universe that only just began, and an excessive sensory overload.
8/10 The Punisher (2004) Was Just Another Vigilante Action Movie
Thomas Jane is one of the most underrated action stars of his generation. Jane’s fans consider his turn as Frank Castle in The Punisher as one of the best testaments to his unsung skills. Jane and his co-stars gave fun and memorable performances, but these were in service of an unremarkable vigilante movie.
The Punisher‘s biggest fault was how it was disappointingly tame for an R-Rated adaptation of a violent comic. The Punisher wasn’t the worst vigilante movie, but it wasn’t as brutal or compelling as later adaptations. Jane’s interpretation of the controversial vigilante Punisher was best utilized in The Punisher‘sunofficial sequel, Dirty Laundry.
7/10 The Amazing Spider-Man’s Cast Aged Better Than The Actual Movie
The Amazing Spider-Man is credited for being a new generation’s introduction to Spider-Man. Most of this praise was reserved for the reboot’s stars, specifically Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. But beyond its talented cast, The Amazing Spider-Man had little to offer beyond a formulaic superhero origin story.
The actors and some fun action did little to alleviate The Amazing Spider-Man‘s reliance on formula. Despite being released in 2012, The Amazing Spider-Man had more in common with generic superhero movies from the ’90s. The Amazing Spider-Man only got by thanks to nostalgia, but it’s still better than its transparently cynical sequel.
6/10 Fantastic Four (2005) & Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Can’t Stand On Their Own
The Fantastic Four duology are regarded by some viewers as nostalgic childhood favorites. Fans’ praises aren’t wholly unfounded. Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer boasted solid casts and genuinely fun moments. However, they’re only good when contrasted to their universally maligned reboot, Fant4stic.
Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer are mediocre movies that embodied their genre’s flaws from the 2000s. Worse, they failed to properly balance the team’s superhero adventures with their everyday lives. Even when compared to other superhero outings from the same era, the two Fantastic Four movies don’t hold up.
5/10 Flash Gordon Was An Acquired Taste
Flash Gordon bombed in 1980 because its brand of superhero adventures was too campy and outdated for viewers of the time. Decades later, Flash Gordon found a passionate fanbase who loved it for the same reasons it failed. Although Flash Gordon really is an underappreciated campy guilty pleasure, it’s not for everyone.
Even ignoring Flash Gordon‘scamp, it’s still a tonally confused mess. The movie wasn’t sure if was a straightforward adaptation of the old Flash Gordon serials, or a parody of one. Flash Gordon‘smost dedicated fans found genuine and ironic joy in the movie. To almost everyone else, Flash Gordon is an inside joke they just don’t get.
4/10 Kick-Ass & Kick-Ass 2 Weren’t As Transgressive As They Claimed To Be
The Kick-Ass movies were considered to be a breath of fresh air in the 2010s because of how edgy they were. In truth, Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2 are safe and almost toothless adaptations of notoriously self-indulgent comics. Worse, the Kick-Ass movies weren’t sure if they should condemn superhero power fantasies or reaffirm them.
Every criticism of superheroes was followed by an exciting but jarringly violent action scene. Worse, the Kick-Ass movies pulled back every time they had the opportunity to do something truly disturbing but appropriately subversive. This thematic and tonal indecisiveness worsened Kick-Ass‘ already juvenile and shallow satire.
3/10 Batman Forever Was Only Passable At Best
Batman Forever is seen by its defenders as the perfect balance of Batman Returns‘ and Batman and Robin‘s styles that also starred a great cast — especially its villains. However, Batman Forever only got a pass because it was released right in the middle of its cult favorite predecessor and a so-bad-it’s-good classic.
On its own, Batman Forever was a serviceable but disposable movie. Batman Forever lacked the creativity of the two preceding Batman movies, and even Batman and Robin‘s polarizing but unforgettable camp. The Riddler and Two-Face’s overacted interactions are the only parts of Batman Forever that are worth remembering.
2/10 Wanted Was A Generic Power Fantasy
Wanted may lack any of its original comic’s supervillain trappings, but it’s still a superhero movie. Wanted followed the traditional superhero’s journey, and replaced the comics’ superpowers with impeccable assassination skills. These made Wanted one of 2008’s most popular action movies that also had a strong cast.
Wanted‘sbiggest problem wasn’t being an in-name-only adaptation, but being too safe. Like the comic, Wanted was a juvenile power fantasy that conflated heartlessness with self-realization. However, Wanted excised the comics’ wanton edge, which made it less interesting in hindsight. Wanted is only remembered now for curving bullets.
1/10 Glass’ Deconstruction Of Superheroes Was Outdated
Unbreakable and Split are two of the best original and R-Rated superhero movies from the 2000s, and Glass was their finale. Glass was a satisfying payoff to its predecessors’ dangling threads. Glass worked as an ambitious and nostalgic crossover for two indie movies, but fell short as a deconstruction of superheroes.
Glass’ deconstruction amounted to little more than pointing out characters’ archetypes and the tropes they’re fated to obey. When Glass hit cinemas, superhero movies were either addressing these points or mocking them as Deadpool did. Glass worked as an ending, but it wasn’t as groundbreaking as what came before.