Anyone even remotely familiar with my posts should know that as far as I'm concerned "X2: X-Men United" wins by a landslide in any poll on superhero or comic books movies. I really expected "The Dark Knight" to dethrone it for me, but it's just too bloated. As superhero movies keep getting more and more overblown (be it with special effects or with too many story threads or characters in an attempt to match the epic scope of "The Dark Knight"), I just become more grateful for how increasingly streamlined "X2" seems by comparison.
I just love how low key it is with its characterizations and plot developments, while still having its fair share of really exhilartaing set pieces (I was really tempted to do a Fleedism there with "exhilarating"). As for the others...
"Superman" - I like the sequel better. I think comparing this movie to the sequel is like comparing "X-Men" to "X2". The casting is great from the get-go, but the first one's plot is just full of so much stupid shit that I could never watch it again. I could never get over the absurdity of the "turning back time" nonsense at the end. It sinks the whole movie for me.
Again, I love the casting (especially Reeve and Kidder) and they have some lovely scenes together, but the villain's plot is too lame (again, exact same problem in "X-Men"). "Superman II" is a huge improvement first and foremost because the villain is fantastic (and he has no dumbass plot, he just wants to take over the world). The only area the sequel lets me down with is its special effects, and that's only because at the time state-of-the-art special effects still looked pretty clunky (no fault of the movie's director or writer).
"Batman" - Was too young when it came out to get swept up in the hype and see it in a theatre. It's probably the only movie I had a ton of merch for (trading cards, action figures) long before ever actually seeing it. When I finally did see it on home video, I was pretty let down. I liked Nicholson's performance and some of the iconic moments like the Batwing flying in front of the moon (ridiculous as it was), but it didn't do much for me.
"Batman Returns" - I did see this one in the theatre, but I didn't like it much more than the first one. Again, what I'm most nostalgic about for this movie is its merch (I love that there was a Bruce Wayne action figure that was actually a pretty well-rendered Michael Keaton likeness). I liked this a little better than "Batman" just because I got such a kick out of Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman. I don't think she was a very well-developed character (like all the characters in these movies), but she was just so fun to watch because she hammed it up something fierce. And her costume was delightfully kooky.
"Spider-Man 2" - Was really disappointed the first time I saw it, because I wanted something more fun and thought it got way too bogged down with dwelling on how shitty Peter Parker's life was. I've come to appreciate the focus on his personal life more during re-watches. I realize now that it makes the movie deeper and more emotionally involving, but I still think a lot of the stuff between he and Mary Jane hurts the movie by cranking up the melodrama a bit too much.
In spite of that, I think it's aging quite well and its flaws are easily forgivable because of how much it gets absolutely right. Stellar casting across the board, especially Dr. Octopus - one of the best written and acted villains in any of the comic book movies. The way that character was written and performed is the aspect of the movie I felt the most increased appreciation for when I watched it again a few weeks ago.
"Hulk" - Have only seen parts. Didn't like what I saw. Seemed way too portentous for its own good. Will probably give it another chance someday.
"The Incredibles" - I think this is way overrated. When it came out, there was all this talk about how it's more mature than most superhero movies and could therefore be appreciated by both adults and children, with adults possibly getting even more out of it. I don't understand why. I thought its message was boring and obvious and it was rather childish overall. I have to admit I have a personal hang-up that hurt my opinion of this film - I just find it boring to watch C.G.I animated characters in action. I loved "Monsters Inc." and because of movies like this, I got tired of Pixar for a long time (until "Up").
"Batman Begins" - Very absorbing no matter how many times I see it, but I agree with the criticism that it gets too bogged down by exposition at times, especially whenever Katie Holmes is onscreen.
I think it also suffers some of the same inevitable issues that handicap all first movies in a series. Particularly the fact that it has to spend a lot of time seemingly spinning its wheels setting things in place for a bigger and better sequel. Still, for that kind of movie, I think it's one of the best, and definitely the best first installment on this list.
"Watchmen" - I was really stoked when I watched this because I watched it right after reading the graphic novel for the first time, and I was thrilled by how faithful it was (even though a lot of things were skipped or altered). The second time I watched it, I didn't think it held up as well, but it still has performances to savour and set pieces that will always be enthralling. I think it's one of those flicks where the parts are better than the whole.
"Superman Returns" - A total bummer and one of the most disappointing movies I've ever seen in a theatre. One of the biggest reasons I now always skim some reviews before going to a movie. I really can't think of anything I liked about it, and it just heightened my appreciation for "Superman II". Boy does it ever suffer in comparison, even with vastly superior special effects.
"The Dark Knight" - Christian Bale's Batman voice taints the whole thing, but the other performances make it consistently watchable in spite of that. Probably the most emotionally involving superhero movie I've seen, even moreso than my beloved "X2". I'll never forget how much my heart was pounding the first time I watched Harvey Dent's last scene because of the amazingly gut-wrenching performances and dialog from Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart.
I even kind of felt sympathy for The Joker. I don't mean I related to him or was rooting for him, I just thought something really awful must have happened to him for him to be so suicidal and morally bankrupt. The actors in this movie gave their characters more depth and intrigue than any others I've seen in a comic book movie and for that I have to salute it, even if I think its dialog and plotting are little too pretentious at times.
"The Avengers" - Like "X2", this is a movie that tries to balance quiet, subtle character moments with large scale action set pieces. If it had done both with complete success, it probably would have been my new favourite, but for me, it didn't quite pull that off. I can't really explain why, because I can't say the action sequences were too hectic or lacked imagination.
They just, for whatever reason, didn't grab me the way the "X2" ones did. Maybe they were just too epic for me. I laughed and cheered during all the scenes of "The Avengers" fighting each other (verbally and physically) and I loved most of the quiet (and wisecracking) character moments, but the big action climax didn't quite land for me. I also felt some of the jokes and dialog fell a little flat.
This one is harder to criticize because it didn't have any big honking major problems...I just didn't get that emotional buzz from it that I got from the movies that hit me harder like "X2", "Spider-Man 2", and "The Dark Knight". Something was missing and I just can't put my finger on it. Could have used a bit more resonance. There definitely was some (particularly in the scene with the big powerful gun, oddly enough), but not enough for me to be totally satisfied.