Iron Man - 2008
A super-wealthy industrialist who makes armaments decides to build himself a powerful battle suit instead. One of Marvels more intriguing, but not top drawer, superheroes gets the fantastic-special-effects and impressive-cast treatment; the result is a reasonably involving romp, a little thin plot-wise perhaps, but with enough wide appeal to make it one of the biggest box office hits of the year.
Director: Jon Favreau, Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard
The Incredible Hulk - 2008
Bruce Banner heads to Brazil but is pursued by General Ross. Better than the previous attempt to bring the Hulk to the screen, this version has a bit more oomph and better CGI battles, but still doesnt fully emotionally engage (perhaps Banner should have been given a bit more dialogue, for starters). Its reasonable comic book fun, though, honestly enough done.
Director: Louis Leterrier, Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
Punisher: War Zone - 2008
After hunting down and killing several criminals, the Punisher encounters the deadly Jigsaw. Demented fun for a violent night out: the appeal of films like this must be our innate desire to see justice done and baddies get blown to bits in various inventive ways. Perhaps the most liberated of the three Punisher films.
Director: Lexi Alexander, Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - 2009
How the man called Wolverine gained his adamantium skeleton and lost his memory. Fans were largely sniffy about this prequel but its good rollicking fun, a tale of revenge punctuated by top action sequences with a variety of super-powered freaks.
Director: Gavin Hood, Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins
Iron Man 2 - 2010
Tony Stark is targeted by a homicidal Russian. Considering that this looked like being one of the great superhero sequels, it has to be judged a disappointment: its perfectly watchable and well made, but it doesnt break any new ground and lacks an especially compelling storyline. Rourkes Whiplash isnt effective because hes indecipherable, Johanssons Black Widow seems like an afterthought and only War Machine packs a punch; if only there could have been more sequences like the one at the Monaco car race.
Director: Jon Favreau, Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle
Thor - 2011
The god of thunder comes to Earth to learn some humility. Thor never was a particularly interesting or likeable superhero and this production doesnt do much to make him any more empathetic, or a big-time player, but its not a bad movie, although the pacing isnt quite right and locations a little odd.
Director: Kenneth Branagh, Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
X-Men First Class - 2011
Two groups of mutants clash at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Remarkably proficient prequel with a strong, compelling storyline, imaginative (and not hard to follow) action sequences, some rich performances and an awareness of wider issues. Were all superhero movies so successful.
Director: Matthew Vaughn, Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones
Captain America: The First Avenger - 2011
A skinny kid keen to fight in World War Two is turned into a super soldier. One of the many trailers for Avengers Assemble is solid superhero fare: it looks great, if a little brown, its free of cynicism, and the first half works particularly well. But it lacks that certain something maybe its because the lead character is a little wooden and unsympathetic, the relationship between Evans and Atwell never sparks, or that the Red Skull isnt the most spectacular of villains.
Director: Joe Johnston, Cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - 2012
Johnny Blaze attempts to save a young boy from the devil. A semi-sequel that somehow manages to be even worse than its predecessor: its grey and muddy, obviously shot on a limited budget, the CGI is poor, the script mostly mumbo jumbo and, most importantly, the Ghost Rider just isnt anywhere near being a decent superhero.
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, Cast: Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba
Avengers Assemble - 2012
Nick Fury brings a group of superheroes together to fight evil Asgardian god Loki. Marvels long-awaited amalgamation of many of their top heroes into one picture has to be judged a pretty fair success, and a good example of a living, breathing comic strip: the individual super-types prove to be better suited to a team movie theyre probably not quite strong enough to star in a really great film of their own and when it all comes together, particularly in the second half, comic book fans will not be the only people in the audience feeling a satisfying thrill. But those who praised it to the skies should remember that this is partly because it could have been a disaster. Finally, its worth noting that Hulks encounter with Loki is the funniest thing in years.
Director: Joss Whedon, Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo