We’re past the midway point of the 2017 summer box office and one thing is clear: it’s been a rather terrific season for the superhero flick genre. In fact, there’s a very good chance the summer’s top 3 earners will belong in that classification. That’s not the first time this has happened (more on that later), but it’s still pretty remarkable.
This got me thinking – what have been the greatest and worst superhero summers of this 21st century? After all, it was the summer of 2000 that got the superhero genre alive and kicking again and it’s never let up. 17 summers ago, it was the release of X-Men that helped revive a genre that had hit a low point three summers earlier with Batman & Robin. In 2002, it would be Spider-Man that would set the opening weekend record and ensure that no summer following would be missing some comic book character headlining. **2001 is the only summer of this century in which there’s no superhero pic.
This leads to my newest list: ranking the superhero summers with explanations provided below. We’re talking 17 summers, so I’m counting down from the worst to the best in my humble opinion.
The Movie: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Just one flick in this particular summer. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had just kicked off the year before, so there was no follow-up ready. Instead, we got Wolverine’s first spin-off and it’s the worst of the whole bunch by a significant margin.
The Movies: Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
The third Spidey entry closed the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire on a very weak note and the Four sequel was none too impressive either (to be expected after a middling at best predecessor).
The Movie: Iron Man 2
Tony Stark’s return to the screen after 2008’s juggernaut suffered from being overstuffed with two many villains, etc… One of the lesser MCU entries.
The Movies: X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns
Two pics that failed to meet expectations – The Last Stand suffered a big quality drop-off after the second X and Superman Returns (the first Supes flick in nearly 20 years) couldn’t live up to the hype.
The Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four
Disappointing as it featured two of the weaker MCU entries and a seriously misguided Fantastic Four reboot.
The Movies: Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine
IM3 was an improvement over part 2, The Wolverine was an improvement over Origins. Man of Steel? A letdown in many respects, just like Superman Returns.
The Movies: Spider-Man 2, Catwoman
Would probably rank higher because Spidey 2 is arguably the best of the bunch, but loses points due to the catastrophe that is Halle Berry as Catwoman.
The Movies: Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse
A mixed bag. Civil War is one of the finer MCU pics, Squad is that mixed bag, and Apocalypse was a major disappointment.
The Movies: X2: X-Men United, Hulk
X2 is perhaps the strongest X entry, but Ang Lee’s Hulk (while having its moments) was often a pretentious bore.
The Movie: X-Men
Only X-Men in this summer, but it deserves props for kicking off the genre in a major way once again.
The Movie: Spider-Man
Even more than X-Men, Sam Raimi’s first Spidey ensured a heaping of genre entries for years to come.
The Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Guardians was pure joy, Past was a solid X pic. Loses points for the mess of a Spidey sequel.
The Movies: Batman Begins, Fantastic Four
OK, so Fantastic Four was not so good. Yet this is in my top 5 because Batman Begins not only kicked off the heralded Nolan trilogy, but it’s my personal fave superhero pic of the century.
The Movies: Thor, Captain America: First Avenger, X-Men: First Class
Though not of these flicks are great, they’re all solid in my view. Thor and Captain helped usher in the MCU era as we know it and First Class rebooted its franchise in a pleasing way.
The Movies: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man
Avengers is the granddaddy of MCU, Rises ended up the trilogy in a mostly satisfactory manner while Spidey was a slight letdown (though miles better than its sequel). As referenced earlier, these 3 pictures would mark the highest 3 earners of that season.
The Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming
Three highly entertaining and well-done entries that marked the first super-heroine success.
The Movies: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The Dark Knight is considered by many to be the genre’s artistic peak and Iron Man was a fine start to a franchise that just keeps charging along. Incredible was a more satisfying (though still flawed) Hulk pic than five years earlier and Guillermo del Toro brought his visual splendor and humor once again to the Hellboy series. A rather easy pick for #1.
Or is it? What are your thoughts on the superhero summers?