The year 2019 saw the release of five movies in the superhero genre. From the Marvel Studios, we had Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. Then there was Spider-Man: Far From Home that was a joint collaboration between Marvel and Sony Pictures. 20th Century Fox brought their last instalment of the main X-Men canon, Dark Phoenix, as they got merged into Disney (that also owns Marvel Studios). Warner Bros and DC Comics had two big releases - Shazam! and Joker. But Joker can't really be considered as a superhero movie as, while it has its roots in the comic books, Joker is more of a psychological crime drama. Moreover, there are no superheroes in the film per se! Year Ender 2019: From Avengers EndGame to Spider-Man: Far From Home, 11 Best Superhero Moments That Made Us Laugh, Cry, and Cheer in Jubilation (Watch Videos).
So for the sake of this feature, let's just consider the conventional superhero movies and celebrate the quality of the brilliant Joker is in another, more relevant feature. As the year comes to an end, here's looking at the five big superhero releases, re-evaluating them and then ranking each based on how best they impressed or didn't impress us. So here's our ranking, starting from the Worst and going to the Best!
#5 Dark Phoenix
To give credit where due, Dark Phoenix had a couple of good ideas. It was bold enough to kill a major character at mid-point, that too a protagonist, and was appealing on a visual level. Moreover, Michael Fassbender and Sophie Turner give fine turns as Magneto and Jean Grey respectively.
However, the rest of the movie is a huge mess, as Dark Phoenix shows blatant disregard for character building and continuities. The main antagonist, played by the brilliant Jessica Chastain, feels shoehorned in the plot and is utterly wasted and the third act is meandering. Overall, Dark Phoenix turns out to be the worst film in the entire franchise. Definitely not the kind of farewell we would like to give to a superhero franchise that gave us fantastic films like X2, First Class and Days of Future Past (not counting the spinoffs though).
Even though Shazam! is closer to the ranking to that of Dark Phoenix, it is a vastly better film than the X-Men movie. After Aquaman last year, DC once again embraces the light-heartedness of the superhero genre with Shazam! that appeals to both kids and adults equally. Actually, make that, that kid in every adult who wants to be a superhero.
It is tautly directed by David F Sandberg with entertaining turns from the lead Zachary Levi and the young Dylan Grazer who plays Freddy Freeman. The movie is funny when it wants to be, and the VFX is decent. However, Shazam!'s premise is very okayish and the main antagonist, played by Mark Strong, feels quite one-note.
#3 Captain Marvel
So finally, Marvel makes its first solo female superhero movie and it goes on to make a billion dollars at the box office. Starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson in the lead, Captain Marvel is an origin story of one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel lore.
Directed by Anna Fleck and Ryan Broderick, Captain Marvel is funny, dramatic and moreover, entertaining. It does well with its '90s setting and offers some very enjoyable nods to the era, including a smart cameo from the late Stan Lee. The de-aging effects on Samuel L Jackson to make him look younger and Goose The Cat is a bonafide scene-stealer. The best thing about Captain Marvel is the beautiful statement it depicts of women empowerment, of rising up against all odds. Any hiccups? A couple of big ones there, especially Brie Larson's kinda stiff performance and a very ordinary narrative.
#2 Spider-Man: Far From Home
The billion-dollar success of Spider-Man: Far From Home nearly turned out to be a double-edged sword for the Marvel fans. Both Marvel and Sony nearly split reportedly over profit division, and Spider-Man was supposed to leave the MCU after the fallout. Which would have been really cruel, since Far From Home ended in such a tantalising manner, that we were curious to see the implications of that in the Avengers universe (viz. Spidey's identity reveal, the Skrulls back on Earth). Thankfully, the studios kissed and made up, and we will have two more movies in MCU featuring Tom Holland's Peter Parker.
As for the movie itself, it is an improvement on the predecessor, and relies on the teenage awkwardness and hormones to bring maximum fun and humour. Tom Holland continues to prove that his casting as Spidey is the best, while the supporting cast is excellent. Then there is Jake Gyllenhaal who truly impresses as Mysterio, the double-faced master of illusions. Far From Home, directed by Jon Watts, also boasts of some fantastic visual imagery, especially those scenes where Mysterio taunts Spider-Man with mind-bending illusions.
#1 Avengers: Endgame
Did you expect anything else in this slot? Avengers: Endgame's biggest flaw as a film is that you need to watch the 21 odd MCU movies that came in before to enjoy it thoroughly. But if you haven't done that, then either you are Martin Scorsese or you have been living like Red Skull on Vormir. Avengers: Endgame is a near-perfect culmination of three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that begin with the 2008 film Iron Man.
Endgame has its issues, especially when it tries to work around the time travel loopholes and its portrayal of PTSD through Thor. But they feel like minor aberrations, when the movie turns out to be this entertaining. You will laugh, you will cry, you will pump your fists in the air in joy and you will be left amazed by how the Russo Brothers pulled off the near-impossible in making the most awesome superhero movie with such a huge cast. They managed to tie up nearly most of the threads, gave perfect closures to a couple of major characters and gave nearly everyone in the major roster at least one scene to shine. That's an effing achievement in itself, and Avengers: Endgame deserves to take that number one throne at the global box office, beating James Cameron's Avatar. Wonder how Marvel can beat this phenomenon with their upcoming slate of movies.