In 2019, Hollywood’s big studios began to embrace change within the superhero film sub-genre, with smaller budgeted fare making big waves with audiences and critics alike in one of the most diverse years yet put to record for the still flourishing fantasy-action hybrid. With 9 major feature releases from 6 studios, including 4 billion-dollar worldwide box office hits, a horror spin-off and the first female fronted Marvel movie, superhero cinema was an ever-present on our screens this year, with Avengers: Endgame even going so far as to become the biggest box office hit of all time.
In this edition of ranked, we’re ranking each of these 9 releases from worst to best based on artistry and cultural significance.
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Director: Neil Marshall
Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church
In a year of many highs for the superhero/comic book movie sub-genre, the Hellboy reboot from Centurion director Neil Marshall and Lionsgate wasn’t one of them.
Coming some 15 years after Guillermo Del Toro first introduced the character to the silver screen, the remake was perhaps inevitable, but in the midst of Del Toro’s resurgence as a leading Hollywood creative figure following his Best Director Oscar win in 2018 for The Shape of Water, comparisons were perhaps even more likely to be negative than they may have been previously, the 2019 version opting to take a gamble on gore being its defining factor; perhaps using it as a mask for the missing creativity apparent in its creatures, narrative and action set-pieces.
This was a misfire that may warrant a sequel as being unnecessary.
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Director: David Yarovesky
Starring: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman
Marketed as a James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) project asking “what if Superman was evil?”, Brightburn excited many a comic book movie fan for its intriguing idea that stood out from the rest of what we had become used to seeing. A superhero-horror movie seemed like a huge step for the sub-genre, but it offered way too little by the way of its superhero promise, the film instead being “structured and paced more like a contemporary possession or haunted house movie”, according to Jacob Davis in his The Film Magazine review.
Shallow in terms of character and world building, and ultimately underwhelming in other aspects given its promising premise, Brightburn was a gamble we’re glad Sony Pictures took, but one that ultimately didn’t pay off in terms of quality of product, critical reception or box office dollars; making it a somewhat unexpected 2019 superhero movie dud.
7. Dark Phoenix
20th Century Fox
Director: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Dark Phoenix was re-shot and rescheduled in the build-up to its Summer 2019 release, and with issues behind the scenes regarding its studio 20th Century Fox being bought out by Marvel overlords Disney, and the likelihood of Marvel Studios incorporating the X-Men IP into their studio because of that purchase, Simon Kinberg’s passion project seemed sent out to die. Perhaps that’s why they removed “X-Men” from the film’s title…
What Dark Phoenix did right, it did pretty well – there was a fantastic train battle sequence that was reminiscent of some of the X-Men franchise’s greatest moments – but the film suffered from a lack of originality in a number of key aspects (including a finale massively similar to Avengers: Infinity War) and looked cheap; the re-shoots probably being to blame for the massive lack of cinematic qualities on offer in a number of sequences.
To say goodbye to nearly 20 years of the X-Men like this was disappointing, and to still be waiting for a good Dark Phoenix Saga film after two tries is beyond disappointing, but Dark Phoenix managed to offer sparks of something special that at least lifted it from our bottom spot.
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