The Year In Superhero Movies

By Alex Cherry

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The year is 2017. Superhero movies are some of the largest money makers in film today. Of the six major live-action superhero films released this year, three of them are in the top five highest- grossing films of the year, with all six landing in the top 15.

The six live-action superhero films released this year are as follow:  Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League.

This year proved that superhero films are still some of the highest- profitable films in the business, while also providing some major implications for superhero films moving forward. Based on box office numbers, it looks like Marvel and DC are here to stay — as well as the heroes we’ve all come to know and love.

RANKING

Financially, Wonder Woman takes the gold this year. Each movie’s total gross is listed below, with Justice League bringing up the end. The total gross numbers were retrieved from BoxOfficeMojo. 

  1. Wonder Woman ($412,563,408)

  2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($389,813,101)

  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming ($334,198,153)

  4. Thor: Ragnarok ($278,522,771)

  5. Logan ($226,277,068)

  6. Justice League ($174,007,541)

*note that Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok are still in theaters

It was a tight race for critical success, save for Justice League falling far behind the others. I’m using Rotten Tomatoes as the basis for ranking, but feel free to explore other critical reviews. The ranking is as follows (with a three-way tie for 2nd!):

  1. Logan (93%)

  2. Wonder Woman (92%)

  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming (92%)

  4. Thor: Ragnarok (92%)

  5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (82%)

  6. Justice League (41%)

And finally, I’d like to give my personal ranking. I’ll make a note here that I’m an extremely biased Marvel fan. Here’s my personal ranking:

  1. Logan

  2. Wonder Woman

  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming

  4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

  5. Thor: Ragnarok

  6. Justice League

PERSONAL REVIEWS

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Logan

James Mangold’s Logan is an incredible end to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine saga. Dark and gritty with complex moral confrontations and weighty implications for the future of the X-Men universe, it manages to tug at the heart strings. Its heart lies in Laura, a young mutant who brings out the human side of Wolverine and reminds him what he’s always fought for. The action is nail-biting, the relationships between Logan and other characters are complex and bittersweet, and the film as a whole presents a realistically torn world. Logan is a triumph both as a superhero film and as a moving drama.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy sequel to James Gunn’s 2015 hit. It delivers the same fun and humor, but falls short in bringing new content to the table. There are plenty of laughs, but it lacks the heart it strives for so desperately in its villain/hero relationships. In the end, the film carries much less weight than its predecessor, and it doesn’t do much to strengthen the hero relationships that are so key to its success. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits on the fun, colorful, music-filled action of the first movie, it doesn’t succeed in raising the stakes.

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Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is a game changer for superhero films, introducing the first female-led superhero movie since Elektra in 2005. Diana is charmingly naive, headstrong to a fault, and compassionately human, while also maintaining the unmatchable bravery that makes her a hero. While the villains are lacking in depth and believable motivation, Diana more than makes up for it in her confrontation with the fact that the world is not as black and white as she was once taught. The film has heart, romance, action and a hero that I’m sure will continue to succeed at the box office for years to come.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the film in which someone finally gets Spider-Man right. It only took  three franchises to do so! Homecoming is a success — full of heart, fun, a genuine coming-of-age arc pioneered by the film’s star, Tom Holland. The film manages to succeed in adding further stakes to the Marvel universe without getting bogged-down in world building, and the villain is a believable, worthy opponent with a well-matched story to Peter. While certainly not one of the greatest superhero films of all-time, Spider-Man: Homecoming manages to be worthy of Marvel’s foundation, and it certainly revives Peter Parker by shaking the cobwebs off a well-worn character.

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Thor: Ragnarok

Taiki Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok finally gives Thor his own unique style and feel. With offbeat humor and a stylized 80s feel which took notes from James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok gives Thor the levity he deserves to really shine. With a host of comedic sidekick characters such as Loki and Hulk, the film succeeds in humor and hilarious oddities, but ultimately fails to carry any sort of weight in character relationships, motivations, or its lacking villain. Overall, while delivering fun and few laughs, Thor: Ragnarok manages to provide nothing new and gives Thor little room to grow, despite the fact that this is his fifth film in the Marvel franchise.

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Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League unites familiar heroes with heroes not yet seen on the big screen. While it attempts to live up to the spectacle of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, it manages to be an overall fun movie despite lacking plot cohesion and moral weight. Due in no small part to the production difficulties of the film, the characters lack believable complexity and the villain is laughably flat. It does have its fun moments, particularly with the hilarious character of the Flash, and some of the action is markedly spectacular, such as the first fight with the heroes in the underground tunnels. However, the film doesn’t come to any moral conclusions, nor does it manage to set much up for the future of the world in and of itself.

IMPLICATIONS

While some superhero films become huge successes and others flops, they all serve to provide implications into the future of the superhero movie. Some critics claim that the superhero movie is becoming “old hat” and that the genre is dying, but I’d like to argue that this year alone proves that superhero movies are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Genre

While Logan and films like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are arguably very different in genre, this year’s box office and critical success of each film prove that there is no one perfect genre, but many.

If anything, the success of these superhero movies which manage to land on opposite ends of the spectrum shows that franchises shouldn’t be afraid to branch out in their content. Going forward, I hope to see more diversity in genre. In order to keep the superhero film successful and fresh, franchises mustn’t be afraid to take chances.

Women in Film

Perhaps the most obvious implication of superhero films this year is that female superhero films can be supremely successful — and Wonder Woman takes the cake. With both a female lead and a female director, the film manages to bring heart and passion that is fresh, new and long-awaited. I hope that this film proves that female heroes can do everything the boys can, and that we need more of them in our superhero films in the years to come.

Origin Story

This year’s films prove that the superhero origin story is still very much alive and a necessary part of the storytelling process. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Wonder Woman provide origin stories for characters that, while seen briefly in previous films, deserve their time to shine, and films even need it for the success of their characters in the future.

Justice League didn’t succeed as predicted, and I believe it’s due in no small part to the fact that these characters were not developed. I hope that DC learns a lesson from Justice League’s relative failure, and that superhero franchises continue to create unique origin stories that bring importance to the characters in their own right.

CONCLUSIONS

That’s it for this year! 2018 brings with it a host of exciting titles, such as Marvel’s Black Panther, Avengers Infinity War, and DC’s Aquaman. Here’s to 2018, and here’s to years of successful superhero movies to come.

Films to Get You Through Finals Week

By Savannah Stanley

Finals are coming up — which, as college students, means it’s time to look for something to do other than study. Without further ado, here are our top finals-week movie picks!


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, Dir. John Hughes

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What better way to prepare for the soul-crushing eventuality of finals than to bask in the glory of youthful freedom that was, apparently, high school in the 80’s? This iconic, fun movie is sure to lift your spirits, or help you prepare to sit down and get through finals for your own freedom.

Miss Congeniality (2000, Dir. Donald Petrie)

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A feel-good, empowering comedy with beauty pageants and explosions is everything you need when you’re actually trying to get down to business. If Gracie Hart can be an awesome, no-nonsense FBI agent and simultaneously be one of the most successful members of a Miss America pageant, you can make it through your exams. Also, who’d want to miss that William Shatner song?
 

Elf (2003, Dir. Jon Favreau)

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A holiday classic that premiered almost 15 years ago, Elf will reignite your childhood wonder and belief in the good of the world. If you’re procrastinating, this will help get your fire for the holiday seasons back. And who can’t feel great watching Will Ferrel scream about Santa?

Dope (2015, Dir. Rick Famuyiwa)

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Having a bit of a rough time with your chemistry homework? Dope will put that into perspective for you. Shake off your pre-exam jitters and watch a trio of teens, with everything going against them, use all of their resources to make the world work for them. And laugh at the absolute absurdity of it all, while you’re at it. Think you can balance some equations now?

Star Wars marathon

(1977, 1980, 1983, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2015, 2017 Dir. George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand, George Lucas, George Lucas, George Lucas, J. J. Abrams, Rian Johnson)

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Reward yourself or power through the last days of the semester and with a Star Wars marathon. This means all seven currently produced films and the upcoming eighth. There’s enough for every day of exam week and a treat at the end. Need we say more?

Regardless of what movies you watch, what snacks you eat, or how you procrastinate, we want to wish you the best of luck this finals week.. And we hope this list can help somewhat with the process.

Netflix Movie Marathons for Your Thanksgiving Break

By Leah Goggins

Thanksgiving is the holiday with a thousand faces. You might spend it keeping the peace between family members, vegging out on the couch or gleefully sipping a mug of tea while those two have it out at the dinner table. Whether you’re playing the peacekeeper or the rabble-rouser this holiday season, we have a movie marathon to suit your needs.

For the Lover of Love

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Rooney Mara in Carol. [Image via The Weinstein Company]

If you’re looking to nestle into the couch and catch up on the romances of a lifetime, we have the marathon for you. Start out with Adore, starring Robin Wright and Naomi Watts as women who enter into controversial relationships with men they know like the backs of their hands. Follow that up with Carol, a 1950s period piece that captures the heartbreak and triumph of a struggling divorcee and a bright, young photographer. For the grand finale, turn to Netflix Original Our Souls at Night, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in a story of loneliness and love.

 

For the Class Clown

Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. [Image via Buena Vista Pictures]

For an overload of laughs and some of your favorite comedic performers, turn to this triple feature. Begin with Best in Show, a Christopher Guest mockumentary with a stacked cast and plenty of pups for your viewing pleasure. Then head over to Miss Congeniality to see Sandra Bullock scheme her way through the Miss America pageant on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For one final bowl of popcorn, zip through Robert Zemeckis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the live-action/animated film that follows a human detective’s wild quest to exonerate Roger Rabbit, the cartoon star of a hit television show.

 

For the Animated Enthusiast

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Matthew McConaughey in Sing. [Image via Illumination]

When it’s time to chill out with talking animals and the comforting goofiness of an animated gem, we can tell you where to tune in. First up is The Secret Life of Pets, an endearing look at a day in the life of furry, domestic friends after their owners head off to work. Then we have Kung Fu Panda, the story of a Jack Black-voiced panda who finds out that his destiny is much larger than he ever knew. And finally, Sing, which features your favorite actors lending their voices to a big, catchy talent show — plus plenty of goofy scenes starring a Nick Kroll-voiced dancing pig.

 

For the Aspiring Musician

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Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton in Sing Street. [Image via The Weinstein Company]

When you finally decide to take a break from the latest instrument you’ve picked up, swing through this movie marathon for the musically inclined. We’ll start off with the Alan Rickman-helmed CBGB, which provides an origin story for the titular nightclub and music venue — New York’s raucous answer to LA’s Whiskey a Go Go. Follow through with the Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side, which chronicles the conflict-ridden and emotional life of The Experience guitarist. Cap the night off with Sing Street, an ’80s-set story about a group of Irish high schoolers who decide to start a band. (Important Note™: This film includes original music that sounds straight out of 1983 in the best way possible).

 

For the Indie Elitist

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Naomi Watts and Adam Driver in While We’re Young. [Image via A24]

Once you’re done rolling your eyes at that cousin raving about the latest superhero blockbuster he’s seen, turn to this treasure trove of indie hits. Open with the A24 gem While We’re Young, featuring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple drowning in monotony until they meet a set of quirky young hipsters — Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Then fade into Blue Jay, an exquisitely acted tale of nostalgia and regret between former high school sweethearts. Close out the night with Little Sister, a dark and hysterical picture of a young nun who travels home to see her brother, who has returned from Iraq.

 

For the Non-fiction Nerd

Still from Tower. [Image via Kino Lorber]

If a day of family gatherings and overeating has left you exhausted, chill out (and then get super mad about the injustices of the world) with these docs. We’ll begin with the fantastic Tower, which explores the events surrounding the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting through unique rotoscopic animation. Proceed then to 13th, the Academy Award-nominated and Primetime Emmy-winning documentary that exposes the hardwired connections between American slavery and the prison-industrial complex. End the marathon with Miss Representation, a film that criticizes the unfair representation of women in media through passionate interviews and stories from young girls.

 

For the Premature Christmas Elf

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Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, and Bing Crosby in White Christmas. [Image via Paramount Pictures]

Isn’t it about time you put up the tree, made some cocoa and kicked back with a few holiday flicks? If so, hop to a holly jolly start with White Christmas, a holiday standard replete with well-choreographed numbers, jokes about snow and even a few tear jerking moments. Afterwards, head over to How The Grinch Stole Christmas to revisit an old favorite and see Jim Carrey be Jim Carrey. Finally, finish the evening with The Ref and watch as an upper middle-class family hilariously struggles through being held hostage on Christmas Eve.