2008 Super Hero Movie Roundup

2008 Super Hero Movie Roundup

As the year 2008 comes to a close, it's time to take a look back at all the movies that came to theaters in the past 12 months. Whereas 2007 was a parade of smash independent films like No Country for Old Men, 2008 was practically a pure popcorn year. We saw a whole slew of super hero movies and surprisingly many of them were pretty good. Let's round up the top 5. The Dark Knight We're getting this one out of the way nice and early. Christopher Nolan's sequal to his very nice reboot of the Batman movie franchise was, without a doubt, the best super hero movie of 2008, and likely one of the best of all time. It's kind of odd for a hero picture, though. In a genre that typically hovers over the title character's shoulder for 90% of the film, The Dark Knight comes close to snubbing the Caped Crusader. It was a nice move, though. By being more than just two hours of Batman kicking robbers in the head, The Dark Knight allowed us to spend a lot more time with the rest of the stellar cast. Heath Ledger reinvented the Joker without going too far from the villain in the comics, Maggie Gyllenhaal was a significant trade-up from Katie Holmes, and Aaron Eckhart nearly stole the show as Harvey Dent. All in all, it's pretty impressive to see a super hero movie that manages to be artistically relevant. Iron Man Iron Man is more of a traditional hero flick than The Dark Knight, if only because more stuff blows up. Just the same, casting made all the difference in the world. Robert Downey Jr. absolutely makes the film and he has good screen chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow. Jeff Bridges doesn't pull off being a very interesting villain, but he fills the spot just fine. I think it was a bold choice to use the film to comment on the implications of the West's military complex and its ties to modern-day terrorism, even if the film did so cartoonishly. Unlike some other franchises, I'm looking forward to a sequel of this film. The Incredible Hulk I'm in that weirdo camp of people who liked Ang Lee's version of the big, green sorta-hero better than this year's sequel. Everybody involved did a good job, as they should. Edward Norton conveys the horror Bruce Banner feels very well and Tim Roth was amazing as a subdued villain. Still, I'd rather give the emotionally complex role of Betty to Jennifer Connelly than Liv Tyler. In a story centering around the metaphor of inner pain, it just doesn't fit to have a big good-guy/bad-guy brawl close out the movie. Hancock This is a divisive movie, mostly thanks to a mid-film twist. It was a bit clunky and badly explained, but it added a strand of tragedy to Hancock that nobody really expected. The special effects were unique and impressive, Will Smith gave a nice performance and it's always good to see Jason Bateman get so much screen time. In think that people will go back and watch Hancock again in a few years when the expectation of a mindless action movie no longer hangs over it. That alone will rescue this misunderstood near-masterpiece. Hellboy II: The Golden Army I can't say I was as thrilled with The Golden Army as many of the critics. It wasn't as dark or original as the first Hellboy and the title character's personal conflict was heavy-handed (no pun intended). It had more interesting visuals than its predecessor, but that's about it. In some ways sad and in some ways welcome, the super hero movies of 2008 raised the bar for the whole genre. It's no longer acceptable to get 12 rounds of flashy ass-kicking backed by a thin, predictable plot. Guillermo del Toro's style was interesting enough in Pan's Laberynth but in The Golden Army it just looks like he ran out of ideas. We get it, a monster with no eyes in its head and eyes where there shouldn't be.