Comic books have been gold mines for movie screens for just under 80 years. No phase the genre has gone through since has been as impactful as the one started by Blade, X-Men, and Spider-Man in the early 2000s. Thanks to that and the runway success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the constant reshuffling of the DC Extended Universe, every comic book is up for grabs onscreen, no matter how obscure.
2017 saw the genre's grip on the box office grow even tighter, even as the market was more saturated than ever. Box office monsters and disappointments, critical darlings and punching bags alike vied for our attention this year, and these are the 10 best that I saw in theaters.
We waited for this to be good. We waited for the Dc Extended Universe to turn itself around following the success of Wonder Woman and finally affirm its existence. Saying that Justice League wasn't the landing many were hoping for is an understatement. The plot was convoluted, the special effects weren't pretty, and even the best cast members (Ezra Miller's Flash, Ryan Fisher's Cyborg, and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, in case you were curious) can't overcome the force of the two movies at battle in here.
Also, guys...come on.
The interplanetary journey of Valerian could only ever be brought to the screen by a director as ambitious as Luc Besson. The French graphic novel series following the adventures of time-travellers Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) is an overwhelming visual delight of colors and alien designs and has one of the most hopeful and beautiful openings I've seen in years.
But the visuals and turns by Rutger Hauer and Rihanna can't save Dehaan looking miscast and an incoherent story. I'd equate this to something like The Life of Pi or Besson's own The Fifth Element, probably at its best when you zone out and take in the eye candy.
Classy British spies getting in gory dust ups is a great idea on paper that more or less translated well to the Kingsman: The Secret Service back in 2014. This year's sequel The Golden Circle is more of the same, with the titular spies teaming up with their American counterparts The Statesman to take down a drug kingpin obsessed with 50s decor. The action is stylish and fast-paced and the cast (including Colin Firth, whose new situation really should've been kept a secret) is game, but it doesn't really move the needle for the franchise.
It's more of the same, which is great if you're a Kingsman fan, but a little troubling for a property that still feels very similar to Men In Black. The film has fun lampooning the Trump administration but the flagrant sexism involved in a scene where Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) seduces a woman at a music festival also left a bad taste in my mouth.
Charlize Theron doesn't get the credit she deserves as one of our best actresses currently working. Atomic Blonde is more proof that she can kick as while she does it, too. Theron stars as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent on the hunt for double agents during the tail end of the Cold War.
I wanted to put this higher on my list because the action is grisly and top-notch and Theron and Sofia Boutella make a great on-screen pair, but the film's advertising threw me off. I was sold something similar to director David Leitch's fast-paced masterpiece John Wick but got what amounted to Tinker Tailor Soldider Spy with more action scenes. It has more to do with false advertising than it does with the overall quality of the movie, but it was enough to keep Atomic Blonde near the bottom. Maybe I need to watch this again.
Yes, this is the best Spider-Man movie since Sam Rami's trilogy. Yes, Tom Holland is a scary good Peter Parker, even though they cribbed most of his story from Miles Morales. Yes, Michael Keaton's Vulture is one of the better villains in the MCU. No, this wasn't the best comic book movie of the year.
Tha action is thrilling and it's lighthearted and fun even by MCU standards, but it feels less weighty because of it. Your mileage may vary depending on how much you like high school coming-of-age stories, but Holland, Jacob Batalon's Ned, and Zendaya's MJ (wink wink) are compelling and jokes about how impractical Spider-Man's powers are outside of a big city are hilarious.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are broken. The team is just fine, but each member is developmentally arrested in one way or another. Guardians 2 explores their hangups in the guise of a trip through the galaxy spurred by Star-Lord's (Chris Pratt) search for his father Ego (Kurt Russel).
Guardians 1 is my favorite MCU movie, but I was afraid that it would be lightning in a bottle. There's a lack of freshness since the last one, but writer-director James Gunn has a knack for balancing action and comedy with a deeper and more affecting story that has me anxious to see what happens when they meet Thor in Infinity War.
Thor: The Dark World is the closest the MCU has come to producing a real clunker. Imagine how surprised I was when the color palette, action, and humor of Thor: Ragnarok graced that first trailer with Black Sabbath wailing in the background. Thor spends the movie trying to prevent Ragnarok from ravaging Asgard while trapped on the battle world of Sakaar with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). And it's easily the best Thor movie of the three.
It's not just the teriffic action, memorble supporting characters, or just how much humor this franchise has been holding back. It's not even because of Cate Blanchett's scene gnashing performance as Hela being fantastic, in spite of itself. It's that Taika Waititi managed to pull all of this together and make a compelling action movie that moves forward with a nostalgic glint in its eye for what made the Thor books great in the first place.
The Lego Movie's leaning into the meta narrative of the toys and their impact on people's lives - children in particular - was inspired. Choosing Will Arnet's note-perfect exaggerration of Batman as the first character to ge their own spinoff proved to be yet another good choice. The Lego Batman Movie sees the Caped Crusader, Robin, and Barbara Gordon doing battle with The Joker and a handful of other villains fresh from Lego's version of The Negative Zone. You'll know why if you've seen it.
Revisiting the world of master builders is truly a joy. Arnett and the movie's willingness to lampoon and strip away the grim and gritty Batman aesthetic to explore what's inside and the value of teamwork is even nicer. Callbacks to classic Batman villains and a time when things weren't so grim might be the best part of all.
Diana of Themyscira is carrying many torches in 2017. She's singlehandedly leading the DC Extended Universe through the darkness, she's spearheading an era of lucrative top billing for women in superhero films, and she's made one of the year's most enjoyable watches. This was the highly anticipated origin movie for Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who first reveals herself to the world during World War I when the God of War Ares decides to use humanity's destructive nature against it.
At its best, Wonder Woman is a pure crowd-pleasing thrill ride. Gadot makes a great impression as the first big screen Wonder Woman and will hopefully be around to keep the torch lit for years to come. It'd be a shame if the Dc Extended Universe's identity crisis led to the fall of the first great Wonder Woman.
There's been talk this year of Logan transcending the very idea of comic book movies. That it reaches new emotional depths no one thought possible from a superhero by apeing the aesthetic of a Western. That Hugh Jackman gave his best performance in what's proven to be both his breakout and most famous role for 15 years. That a cursing dementia-ridden Charles Xavier is both sad and endearingly hilarious. That Dafne Keen's fierce and fearless role as Laura/X-23 will be the series' next breakout. That this very well might be the best X-Men movie ever made.
If you lose all that pretentious bullshit about superhero movies being devoid of meaning, then that perfectly describes Logan. If this truly is Hugh Jackman's sendoff from the series, this is a hell of a note to end on.