How many great superhero movies have there been? Not ever — just in the last nine years. Sometimes it feels like they've been with us for all eternity, but the current superhero movie era can really be traced back to 2008’s “Iron Man.” Back then, Christopher Nolan was in the middle of his grim “Batman” run, but “Iron Man” was the one that kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It planted the seeds for DC’s own, so-far-stuttering version, plus the odds and ends from the "X-Men"-owning Fox wing of Marvel.
So back to our original question: How many of these have been great? We’d say zero. There are some good ones, including the first “Iron Man,” the goofy “Guardians of the Galaxy” and, somewhat controversially, “Iron Man Three.” But most of them, including, sadly, the new “Logan,” are mediocre — strong in stretches but hobbled by some design flaw or need to conform to a wearying house style. Even the runts, like "Ant-Man" and "Doctor Strange," are weighed down by compromises. There are bad ones, too, of course, including “Iron Man 2,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Deadpool.”
Mind you, these are just our opinions, and comic book movie-heads would definitely disagree — and they’ll let us know how stupid we are, because they’re a vocal, not terribly tolerant lot who take it personally when you insult their favorite brand. (Raise the rage levels exponentially if the dissenter is a woman.) Because at this point, superhero movie fans are only slightly less insane than your tweeting Trump supporter.
Thing is, there’s not much difference between any of these films, good, mediocre or just plain bad. They’ve all made all the money. (The only one that didn’t was that epic non-starter of a “Fantastic Four” reboot.) They’ve all been part of something bigger: a cinematic universe of one stripe or another. They almost all have post-credits “bumpers,” teasing future product with characters only die hard nerds would know by sight. And as they years have worn on, they’ve all increasingly had too many characters, too many (usually boring) villains and far, far, far too much plot.
It’s difficult to remember this now, but the first “Iron Man” was a blast. It was silly-but-serious, with a clean redemption narrative and, best of all, Robert Downey Jr., back when he needed his own redemption story. Cut to 13 MCU movies later and the whole genre is like that Japanese video game “Katamari Damacy.” In it, you start off as a little guy rolling a sticky ball around a city, a farm or some space with lots of objects and people. Ten minutes later you’re manning an unwieldy behemoth that’s collected untold junk, making it a burden to control or even move an inch. But at least “Katamari” is fun.