The comic book/superhero movie has become a staple of the big screen over recent years, and we were treated to more great films in this genre over the last twelve months.
Some were a major critical and commercial triumph, while others did not live up to expectations and struggled to win over critics and audiences upon release. With 2014 coming to a close, we take a look at the trio of superhero movies that were the standout films in this genre for us this year.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
No year is complete without the release of a Marvel film, and in 2014, we were treated to two… and Captain America: The Winter Solider was up first back in March. I was a huge fan of this when it hit the big screen and it really is one of the best superhero movies of recent years.
This was the first time that we had seen the character of Steve Rodgers back on the big screen since the success of Avengers Assemble, and he was trying to find his place in 21st Century, after waking up after over seventy years in the ice. While that was touched upon in Avengers Assemble, this is the movie that fully explored his feelings of isolation, loss, and mistrust at the new world around him and the people in it.
As well as being a visual spectacular, The Winter Solider explores some interesting and relevant themes real and perceived threats to the U.S. and the world as well as government overreach - and there are themes that will resonate with all of us and keep this movie and story very grounded.
Chris Evans is back as Captain America and it is another charismatic performance from the actor as he tries to hold on to his beliefs and who he is in the face of changes in how the world deals with threats and the possibility of war. His partnership with Scarlett Johansson - who is back as Black Widow - was a great move by directors Anthony and Joe Russo, as they pair really do have a great chemistry. The addition of Falcon makes them a great evil fighting team and I would love to see this trio back in future Captain America movies.
The Winter Solider is one of the most critically acclaimed Marvel movies to date as critics fell over themselves to heap praise on this action packed, visually stunning, and terrific movie. This really is my favourite Marvel film of the year, and came very close to toppling Avengers Assemble as my #1 movie Marvel movie of all time.
The Winter Solider also proved to be a huge box office success upon release as it took the #1 spot in both the U.S. and the UK. By the end of its theatrical run, the movie had grossed in excess of $714 million and is the fifth highest grossing movie of 2014.
2016 will be the next time that we see Captain America in a solo film as Anthony and Joe Russo are set to explore the famous Civil War storyline. Robert Downey Jr, Jeremy Renner, and Chadwick Boseman are just some of the names that have been linked to the film. Evans will reprise the role of Rodgers in Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
It was back in 2003 when Bryan Singer helmed an X-Men movie with the success of X2, eleven years on, he was back in the director's chair with X-Men: Days of Future Past - which was one of the most anticipated films of the summer.
The movie saw First Class actors James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult return as they teamed up with original franchise stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Halle Berry for the first time. It resulted in one of the most impressive ensemble cast lists of the year.
The two franchises come together as the X-Men send Wolverine into the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. The film jumped back and forth between the past and the future, and yet the experienced Singer keeps all of the plates spinning in fine style.
Of course, the movie looks terrific and the special effects really are knockout, however, this is not the heart of the film, as Singer has concentrated on story and the development of the central characters - which is not always the case in this genre of film. More layers are added to characters we thought we already knew so well, while the chemistry between the central cast is undeniable: the likes of Jackman, McAvoy and Fassbender are clearly having a blast.
This is the most adventurous X-Men story in the franchise, and it is an action packed ride that is just a terrific watch from start to finish. This is the finest X-Men film in the series and I am glad that such a complicated story was given to Singer and not any other director - he clearly has a lot of love and passion for this franchise.
As well as being a critical smash, the movie was also a huge box office hit as it grossed in excess of $746 million by the end of its theatrical run. Not only is it the fourth highest grossing film of 2014, it is the most successful film in the X-Men franchise to date.
And the X-Men are set to return to the big screen in 2016 with X-Men: Apocalypse. McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and Hoult are back, while Oscar Isaac has been cast as Apocalypse. Jackman is believed to be in talks to reprise the role of Wolverine, while Singer will be back in the director's chair.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
We have already looked at one Marvel film, and Guardians of the Galaxy was the other to hit the big screen this summer. It was another hugely anticipated blockbuster as we were introduced to this franchise for the first time. There was no denying that this was Marvel's most adventurous project to date… but it was a colossal success.
James Gunn was in the director's chair for the biggest film of his career as well as his first time at the helm of a Marvel movie. He assembled a terrific cast that included Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, as they took on the roles of Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot.
Guardians of the Galaxy capped off another terrific year for Marvel - they really are the studio to beat when it comes to this genre of film - as they delivered another action packed movie gem that had both critics and audiences raving.
Once again, Guardians of the Galaxy raised the bar when it came to the superhero film, as Gunn balanced great characters, action packed storyline, great special effects with bag of humour and a terrific soundtrack - this was the first Marvel film to really use music as effectively as this.
From the moment the film starts to when the credits roll, Guardians of the Galaxy barely allows the audience time to catch its breath, as it is a movie that is packed with boundless energy that makes it both fresh and fun.
This may have been Marvel's most adventurous project, but it was a huge box office success as the movie grossed over $771 million at the global box office. It went on to be the second highest grossing film of the year, and the third highest grossing Marvel film, behind Avengers Assemble and Iron Man 3.
And Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is already in the pipeline with Gunn back in the director's chair. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is set to hit the big screen in 2017.