In Search of The Most Interesting Superhero Movie

By  · Published on March 29th, 2017

An assessment of the remaining superhero movies of 2017.

There’s a hornets nest to be rattled when it comes to comparing superhero movies in any context, especially when it comes to categorizations like “Best” or “Most Anticipated.” Into these discussions there will always be a hot injection of deeply held personal histories, character and imprint loyalties, and the knowledge that we are not currently in a moment of peace between factions. There are dueling cinematic universes, after all. Plus a bunch of other heroes jumping into the pool, claws out.

So there’s no sense in doing a list of Best, Worst, or Most Anticipated Superhero movies here. Somewhere else on this site, sure. But not today. My interest in superhero movies during a week in which we saw two major superhero movie trailers drop, is less about what is best, what will be more successful at the box office, or whose fans are right about contrast levels. My interest is with the intrigue that surrounds each of the remaining releases of the year. Which film is the most interesting? For a variety of reasons, each film brings its own baggage and expectations.

And while this is no estimation of each film’s quality, there’s something to the intrigue effect. Do you find yourself often surprised by a movie you expect will be good? If you’re watching the same Spider-Man origin story for the third time, just with better effects and a different cast, is there really any chance you’ll be blown away as you would if it was a completely new, unexpected story? Or at the very least, something you hadn’t seen on screen before (like the appearance of Black Panther or Doctor Strange on screen for the first time)?

I’m of the opinion that intrigue breeds greater potential. Potential being the operative word here: again, this isn’t a commentary about which film will be the best or even most worthy of your time and money. It’s an exploration of the films that have a chance to surprise us. It begins with a consideration of lineage and marketing. We hopefully end with a ranked list (presented in reverse order) that answers the essential question: which of these films is most interesting?

Here’s my ranked list:

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

There’s a good chance that Homecoming will be a solid Spider-Man movie. But we can blame Captain America: Civil War for making it less interesting. We know what Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is like and we know a lot about how Tony Stark fits into most Marvel stories. There’s a bit of intrigue in having Michael Keaton play “dark Tony Stark” for Vulture, but that’s honestly about it for me. It’s a Spider-Man movie that will tell the story of Peter Parker truly becoming a hero, just set inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, they may have dropped the bulk of the story in the most recent trailer, so there’s little mystery left out in Queens.

5. Thor: Ragnarok

This isn’t a knock against Thor: Ragnarok – I fully expect it to be a fun cosmic ride thanks to some exceptional casting (Goldblum and Blanchett!) in combination with Taika Waititi’s vibe as a filmmaker. At the absolute worst, it will exist on a plane of quality akin to every other Marvel film that isn’t too preoccupied with being tied up in the MCU. Think, well, the previous Thor movies. We see Marvel get twisted into MCU-knots when it isn’t careful – ie. Iron Man 2 or Age of Ultron – but when they can deliver a focused, non-Avengers narrative there’s a baseline of quality we can expect.

4. Wonder Woman

DC’s first big female hero-led franchise film is both one of the riskier and safer bets of 2017’s superhero cinema slate. There still isn’t a lot of evidence that a female-led superhero movie can perform at the same level as the boys, but that’s for lack of trying. Which is what seems to make Wonder Woman a fairly safe bet. There are a lot of people rooting for this movie to (a) be good and (b) succeed in a way that goes toward settling the “female superheroes aren’t as popular” debate. I’ve seen friends and colleagues, many of whom aren’t usually into superhero films, actively anticipating Wonder Woman’s big screen solo effort. Remember, she’s one of the great enduring comic legends. On the DC side of Superhero Mt. Rushmore, she’s right there in stature with Batman and Superman.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

It’s reasonable to lump Guardians 2 in with Thor: Ragnarok as films that will likely turn out just as we expect them to. But there’s always something really interesting happening in James Gunn’s orbit. This time he’s wrangling Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone into a Marvel movie. And one of them is playing a living planet. Every fiber of my being wants to see how that works out.

2. The Inhumans

Technically not a movie, but Inhumans will make its premiere in theaters – in IMAX, no less. This is the first time that Marvel has downgraded a property from cinema to television (budgetary, at the very least) and they’ve chosen to do so with a very difficult set of characters to pull off in live-action. Add to that the leadership of Iron Fist showrunner Scott Buck, who is fresh off delivering Marvel’s Netflix unit its first sorta flop (critically, at least). My critical read on Iron Fist, outside the context of any controversy, was that it’s simply just a bland, uninspired show. That kind of thing won’t be helpful with the more complex, weird story of the Inhumans. Buck is bringing together a solid cast that includes Anson Mount and Iwan Rheon, so there’s all kinds of potential here. Will it rise above the Inhumans stuff that we’ve already seen on Agents of SHIELD? I sure hope so.

1. Justice League

Zack Snyder’s meticulously crafted look and feel for the current DC cinematic universe has received plenty of criticism and praise, usually from what appear to be warring factions of fandom. If he were to continue to just make his movies the way he wants, we could probably expect more of the same. Die hard Snyderverse fans would continue to defend the films and mainstream critics and Marvel-leaning nerds would write them off. But in the middle of 2016, Snyder did something confounding: he invited some of his toughest critics to the London set and said that he’s heard the criticism and has made changes to Justice League that should delight those who weren’t into Batman v Superman. Even though I’m not seeing much of that in the big trailer released this week, it’s hard not to be deeply curious about what that means. There’s also a higher ceiling on films like Justice League, as opposed to say, the third Avengers movie. Less pressure in a mainstream sense, as there are a lot of people out there expecting to be turned off by the final product. I remain openly, albeit cautiously optimistic.

How would you rank these 6 movies in order of least to most intriguing?

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)