It's that time of year, folks--when everybody is doing year-end wrap-ups and trying to make some sense of the torrent of material that came at us this year. To that end, we're taking a look at some of the nuts and bolts of the comic book movies that passed by us this year, and discussing some of what we loved, and didn't, about each of them. We'll give out some "bests" and "worsts" here, but if there's one thing we won't be doing, it's naming a Best Movie overall. Why? Simple: Nobody can agree, and there are arguments to be made for The Dark Knight Rises, Marvel's The Avengers and (my personal choice) Dredd 3D. To pretend there's one definitive answer when the year gave us three fantastic, entertaining films done in such different styles and voices is silly, and would only lead to a comments section filled with bile. Also, not everything will have a "worst" attached to it. Is it intellectually inconsistent? Sure--but we're only really interested in writing up a bad performance that's truly bad, not one that's just not as great as other people in the same category. But here are our picks, and some idea of why we picked them. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter!
Best Villain: Bane, portrayed by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises Say what you will about his voice, but what was on the page for this character was gold, and Hardy got the tone and the feel of the character just right. Bane had more depth than most comic book villains, and although Loki is certainly better than the average, most of his character development and motivation dropped in Thor, with his role in The Avengers being basically that of "enforcer." Worst Villain: The Lizard, portrayed by Rhys Ifans in The Amazing Spider-Man The Lizard was, of course, the weakest part in the whole film. There were a lot of problems, from the look and the characterization to the gaping plot holes left by apparent studio meddling. And that's from a reviewer who actually quite enjoyed the movie. People who didn't like it won't be so kind!
Best Hero: The Hulk/Bruce Bannner, played by Mark Ruffalo in Marvel's The Avengers There honestly weren't that many stand-out performances as the heroes this year, with the villains taking most of the acting accolades. The two big exceptions? Spider-Man and the Hulk, both of whom managed to impress despite pretty low expectations. We're going with The Hulk here simply because he's not the titular star of the movie, but anyone who can say they watched Marvel's The Avengers and didn't walk away loving that character is lying or crazy. Worst Hero: Hawkeye, portrayed by Jeremy Renner in Marvel's The Avengers It's really pretty simple: in a movie like this, a lot of casual fans are going to say, "Why do we need a sexy spy and an archer when we've got a Hulk?" The answer, for the sexy spy, was pretty obvious. Besides being the only female on the team, Scarlett Johansson's Natasha proved that, if you were to take the super powers away from anyone else in the film, she'd take them in a fight with one hand behind her back. The bit where she busted up a bunch of criminals who thought they had her right where they wanted her was priceless. For Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, that answer never came. Why DO we need this guy around?
Best Supporting Actor: Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson in Marvel's The Avengers Gregg is always spot-on, but he was given a lot of material to work with this time and he totally nailed it. The one-liners, the broad, silly humor of being a Captain America fanboy, the big emotional scene that held the whole movie together were all his. And I just got The West Wing: The Complete Series for Christmas and am devouring it already. If I'm telling you somebody beat out Martin Sheen for something, you know he's impressive.
Best Supporting Actress: Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man Gwen Stacy may be the character the most different onscreen from her comic book counterpart, but the actress they got to play her was just spot-on. Stone is a magnetic performer in general, but her Gwen Stacy was one of those relatable characters who you just want to love, like Ione Skye's character in Say Anything. It's really too bad even Stone thinks she's a goner one day soon...! Best Actor: Karl Urban as Judge Joseph Dredd in Dredd 3D
Urban's Dredd absolutely owned the screen. In a crowded field of great actors that includes Robert Downey, Jr. and Christian Bale--two of the guys we tapped as some of the best comic book movie stars of all time, he stands out. And that says something. Best Actress: Olivia Thirlby as Judge Anderson in Dredd 3D It seems kind of myopic to give the top acting awards both to the same movie--but the reality is there wasn't another female character in a comic book movie that got enough screen time to be credibly considered a lead. Anne Hathaway kind of knocked on the door but she was still totally absent for big chunks of that film. Plus, Thirlby nailed it. If Urban hadn't worked as Dredd, the narrative behind this movie wouldn't have been "unappreciated gem," it would have been "holy crap, Thirlby was awesome."
Script Most in Need of Repair: The Dark Knight Rises There's a strong argument to be made that this is the technically best comic book film made this year. It's almost impossible to argue that Nolan is the best director of the four we've been discussing. But...the script needed help. There were plot holes big enough to drive a truck through and while they didn't affect my enjoyment of the picture, a lot of people couldn't say the same. The Most Memorable: The Dark Knight Rises As discussed above, this is the best film from a purely cinematic point of view. It'll be remembered and discussed and dissected for years, while Marvel's The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man are big commercial hits which will fade in importance when the next installment comes along and overshadows them. Dredd, sadly, will likely be remembered as the "second failed attempt to bring the 2000 AD character to life on the big screen." The Most Fun: Dredd 3D I didn't have more fun at the movies this year than I did watching Dredd. The dark humor, the action, the horror show? All of it was genius. It's a movie I can't wait to own on Blu-ray so I can really savor it.
The Most Re-Watchable: Marvel's The Avengers There's no question that Marvel's The Avengers is the movie out of all of these that I'll watch the most. Oddly, it's also my personal least favorite, but that's a taste thing and not indicative of the film's actual quality. I'd put it at #2 or #3 by objective standards. But it's light, it's fun, it's a crowd-pleaser. In a lot of ways, it's the perfect comic book movie--in that it's exactly what you expect from such a film.