Open Forum: Is 2014 the Best Year for Comic Book Movies Ever?

With Guardians of the Galaxy being a big commercial and critical success, it’s worth noting that while there may be a box office slump this year, it certainly doesn’t seem to be because of comic book movies which have been among the most critically acclaimed. There have been five comic book movies, to date, let’s look at the lineup and the Rotten Tomatoes scoreboard.

Snowpiercer 95%
Guardians of the Galaxy 92%
X-Men: Days of Future Past 91%
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 89%
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 53%

Four films of a genre ranking at 89% and above has to be near the high water mark of any genre. I doubt Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be joining that elite group, but Big Hero 6 has potential. Heck, you could consider the Lego Movie, at 96%, to be at least tangentially related with Batman playing a significant role.

Now, Rotten Tomatoes is flawed in several ways, the biggest being that a 3 star favorable review is counted the same as a four star review. How much is a masterpiece worth?

Let’s look at the Rotten Tomatoes scores from the 2008 lineup.

The Dark Knight 94%
Iron Man 93%
Hellboy 2 87%
The Incredible Hulk 67%
The Spirit 14%

So far, there’s no clamoring in 2014 that any of the big comic book titles be nominated for Best Picture. That wasn’t the case in 2008 which had not one, but two gamechangers.

Let’s also look at 2012, which had two of the biggest popular successes for comic book films.

The Avengers 92%
The Dark Knight Rises 88%
Dredd 78%
The Amazing Spider-Man 73%

So what do you think? 2014, 2012, or 2008? Or do you have another year for consideration?

  • stock

    By that standard, yes, a banner year. And you haven’t listed all the comic book inspired movies this year. So a great success. I don’t look at Rotten Tomatoes, but word of mouth and general reviews are usually correct, unless someone holds a particular bias for or against that’s just too extreme to be realistic. My personal favorite year would be 08, with TDK and IM, which are the movies against which many comic book films are compared.
    The only drawback I see is the possibility of increasing quantity bringing diminishing quality, which you can kind of see in ASM2, and IMO X-Men DOFP, which I find highly over-rated. There’s also the sleeper film, Snowpiercer, which didn’t even get a large market distribution, so I’ve yet to see it.

    Well, I’m off to see GOTG today and I’m looking forward to it. I have a good feeling about this. But some of us were unlucky in our work schedules this weekend. Another 20 years, that’s all they’re gonna get out of me!

  • Michael Lalaian

    First off, let me say I love these open forum posts. Thanks for starting them, Robert!

    I think ultimately it comes down to what is meant by the word greatest. Greatest, unlike favorite, needs to be approached with some semblance of objectivity. Is it the the year with most financial success? That can be quantified. The year with the best critical response? That can also be quantified, to a degree. Some combination of both? While an objective measure is needed, what it would actually be is hard to pin down. What about 1989? Sure, there was only a single comic book film that year, but nothing has really come close, culturally, to the Bat-mania of that summer.

    I don’t know if its possible, for me, to really quantify what the great*est* year for comic book movies is, but I think there is a line a year may cross that makes it great, and maybe that’s all that matters: there are years that cross that line, and years that don’t. I think that there are three years that undeniably pass that threshold: 2008, 2012 and 2014. But is 2014 great*er* than the first two? What about 2013? Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World may not be held up in the same company as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, but a superhero films breaking the billion dollar mark is still relatively rare.

    If this *were* a favorite list, 2012 would firmly be at the top. The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises are my two favorite superheroes films ever, period, and its a long hike, even for the honorable likes of Guardians and The Winter Soldier, to reach them. Second place may be a three way tie between 2011 and 2014, more for Captain America than for either Thor or GOTG, and 2008. Though if I am being honest, 2008 gets on the list for being a landmark year, but not because I actually return to those films often. I rarely watch Hellboy 2 or The Incredible Hulk, and even Iron Man feels a bit dated. The Dark Knight, while being a great film is probably my third favorite of the Dark Knight trilogy.

    I think personal experience also plays into it. Where were you in life? What was your viewing experience like? What were the stories surrounding you and your friends at the time? Were these years filled with midnight showings? What part of the hype were you personally involved in? Were you ever sitting in Hall H? One of the years 2012 is so precious to me was the way in which my Dark Knight Rises experience unraveled. It was the first time I saw the same film three times in three different cities in three states.

    I saw it opening morning in Las Vegas, standing in line for two hours and hearing vague reports of some madman with a gun, and then again in Aspen, where the ticket taker told a big fish story about Jack Nicholson attending that same theater four years earlier for The Dark Knight and saying “Let’s see who did it better.” The drive across the country took me through Aurora, which was one of the most chilling and also inspiring moments of my life, just seeing everyone gathered there, paying their respects. Finally, seeing it again in my new home out in the mid-west. There’s no feeling quite like coming home, even if it’s a brand new home, to Batman.

    Well, I certainly got long winded there.

    • Robert Reineke

      I’m glad people are appreciating the Open Forum concept. I don’t know how regular these will be, it depends on there being something topical to debate, but I’ll try to keep them coming.

  • Those really are the only 3 years worth considering and then it comes down to what categories one wishes to use to measure greatness and what weight he or she assigns to each category. Great arguments can be made for all 3. I just love that 2014, the year many looked past (which I believe I said not to once or twice on the show) because of the big names in 2015, is now deservedly in this conversation. The arguments for 2014 will only get stronger as GOTG continues to succeed at the box office, but it will also have to keep people talking about it for the rest of the year.

    Financial success and RT scores are important, for sure, but I would also look at pop cultural and genre impacts. TDK was wildly successful and loved by critics, but it also caught mainstream fire in a way few films in the genre have. It was talked about for the remainder of 2008 and into 2009 with all of its legitimate Oscar chatter. THE AVENGERS accomplished a similar feat in 2012, less being a real contender for the big awards.

    As good as they are, I haven’t head much mainstream chatter for this year’s superhero films continuing beyond their first few weeks of release. GOTG has a legitimate shot to change that, as I imagine convention goers and trick-or-treaters will be sporting costumes from the film this fall, but I have to see it happen before I can call it.

    It’s also too early to tell what impact 2014 will have on the genre. Certainly, GOTG has opened up a lot of doors in redefining what level of obscure comic book craziness general audiences can accept, but I’d have to see the studios actually walking through those doors. I already know what TDK and IRON MAN have done and the full impact of THE AVENGERS appears to be on the horizon.

    Perhaps when the year is over and more data is available, less 2014 genre impacts obviously, we will do a show to debate this very topic. Now I’ll just sit back and look for some good arguments I can steal from all of you. 😉

    • Robert Reineke

      I think I can make a good case for 2014 being the deepest year for high quality comic book films. Whether that translates to best is what friendly debates are for.

      I do agree that none of 2014’s films seem to have stuck in the general culture. Yet. We’ll see about GotG but the big issue with it being the next Star Wars is the fact that Star Wars is still a powerful cultural force.

      • The good news is that GOTG seems to be recognized more for how new and unique it is than how reminiscent it is of the big dog in the space opera genre.

        And yes, a good case can be made for 2014 based on its depth. Two movies in the 90s and another in the high 80s on RT with three films already over $700m worldwide. GOTG may be the fourth. Of course, 2012 can brag about being the only year with two billion-dollar superhero flicks.

        Still, the depth for 2014 is remarkable and is the year’s strongest argument in this proposed debate.

      • Robert Reineke

        Yeah, I give credit for GOTG only being like Star Wars in broad ways, fun, bright, colorful, space opera romp, rather than in aping shots, etc. I think putting Kirk and co. on a Millenium Falcon type ship for STID ended up as blatant copying/homage which GOTG thankfully avoided. Yeah, there was a little Indiana Jones in there, but for the most part Gunn was interested in making a GotG movie first.

        It’s hard to say that anything will be the next Star Wars which changed movies in fundamental ways and still remains the benchmark of the space opera genre. I certainly think that the “next Star Wars” will be in a different genre and push popular culture in a different direction. That said, if GOTG is “only” the next BTTF, HARRY POTTER, or POTC that’s a pretty good bar.

      • stock

        I’m happy to say that IMO, GOTG isn’t anything like Star Wars, except in the fact that both young and old can enjoy it. The little kid in front of me was digging it, I can tell you. I remember feeling like that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.

      • T.J.

        Frankly, I didn’t want it to be Star Wars. You know what I want to be Star Wars? Star Wars. 🙂

  • T.J.

    The competition really does come down to those 3 summers – 2008, 2012, 2014. If 2014 has an edge over the former 2 summers, I would say it came in the department of “risk-taking.” Even Winter Soldier was a risk for Marvel Studios; “First Avenger” was one of if not the lowest-grossing individual Avenger film. There was no guarantee of success there. Days of Future Past was certainly a risk – they built off of modest success in First Class & The Wolverine, sure, but trying to reunite original cast after several unsuccessful outings and introduce time travel as well? Risky. And then Guardians of the Galaxy … I mean, c’mon. Technically I guess I’m in the minority of fans who read GOTG before the movie and I just started with the Bendis run. There was no safety net or nothing with GOTG, and as we can now see, there’s only distant connections to what’s happening with the Avengers on Terra, er, I mean Earth. 2014 might win on the risk/reward factor.

  • texvor

    I would say no its not been a good year for comic book movies. Has it been a good year for Marvel? Yes. But for comic book Mainly because the films that are outside of Marvel or DC are not going to be seen by the masses because of their limited availability and the fact DC or any other big comic book company had no movies out.
    2008 we had three different movies based on characters from three different companies. 2008 showed variety. 2008 showed differences to the approach of the material in adapting it to film. 2014 all we got is Marvel. And i’m sorry to burst anyones bubble but Marvel is not the be all and end all of comic books in film or print.

    When we have a year like 2008 when you have comic book movies from different comic book houses..and they are not only different but strong films as well them having an outlet where everyone can see it and not a select few than i can say its a better year. 2014 is just the year Marvel took their MCU to another level. Spider man 2 was weak and Xmen DOFP restored the franchise but not without criticism and got it to the level the first film (in terms of profits) should have been years ago.