When Marvel’s The Avengers obliterated the box office in 2012, critics began trying to predict when the superhero bubble would burst. Many called Batman v Superman the beginning of the end, and still more tried to make Suicide Squad a nail in the superhero coffin, and yet Doctor Strange is now Marvel’s most successful superhero solo origin film. Every year, the internet is all too eager to echo the same worries: that we’ve uncovered the demise of modern cinema because multiple cinematic universes are now built around superhero stories. It’s pretty nuts to continue calling a trend approaching two decades of continuous growth a “craze,” but people still insist.
2016 was big for superheroes: The R-rated Deadpool was, as Rob Liefeld told Inverse, the pace-car for the year, while Batman v Superman made metric tons of money despite being critically panned. Captain America: Civil War proved the Marvel experiment still works, and Suicide Squad doubled down on DC’s tense relationship with film critics. On TV, Warner Bros. stretched the story structure’s limits, creating a billion-dollar universe based in four interconnected superhero shows. Again: Superheroes didn’t go away and were as strong as their willpower. But their ceaseless presence only keeps the attention of established fans, and/or children, while the disinterested’s eyes keep glazing. 2017’s offerings won’t change anyone’s minds, but upon close examination of its most noteworthy, it will be a year of reckoning.
Wonder Woman — June 2
Wonder Woman and her mythos deserves a grand, sweeping vision on cinema, one that evokes 20th century epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Ben-Hur. Patty Jenkins might have at last accomplished this in her Wonder Woman arriving in June, which DC fans are crossing their fingers fare better than Batman v Superman.
But that Wonder Woman will be a leader in the near barren crop of female-led superhero movies is also a reason to pay attention towards the next film in the underwhelming DC Extended Universe. Even if Wonder Woman is the best DC movie by default, it’s already historic.
Logan — March 3
In the actual screenplay of Logan, James Mangold declares Logan is not a typical superhero movie. “In this flick, people will get hurt or killed when shit falls on them,” it actually reads. “Should anyone in our story have the misfortune to fall off a roof or out a window, they won’t bounce. They will die.”
However boring the idea of a straightforward, R-rated Wolverine might pose, one cannot deny how different Logan wants to be. If critics of the genre complain that all superhero movies are the same, then maybe Logan will (violently) turn heads.
Spider-Man: Homecoming — July 7
On the opposite spectrum of Logan is the fun and youthful Spider-Man: Homecoming from Jon Watts. While most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been mostly olds, Tom Holland as Spidey will be two hours of teens being teens in a superhero world. It’s the first real youthful movie in the MCU, one that hopefully will be more Breakfast Club than Iron Man.
Power Rangers — March 24
Even if Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers looks like it’s from 2008, it’s the welcome revitalization of a 25-year-old franchise that is in need of a real reboot. In updating Angel Grove’s teenagers with attitude into real people, Power Rangers may be the one non-Marvel and DC superhero movie that doesn’t slavishly try to build “a cinematic universe.” And since it’s Power Rangers, it might just be bonkers enough to be one of the most exciting and interesting of the year.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — May 5
Justice League — November 17
Even if DC and Warner Bros. learned all the wrong things from Marvel, the raw thrill of the Justice League on the big screen is, at the very least, the surefire superhero movie of the year. Whether or not Zack Snyder has got a grip since the lashing his Dawn of Justice received in March, we at least get to see human testosterone Jason Momoa throw around Ben Affleck like a chump.
Thor: Ragnarok — November 3
We’ve written extensively why Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok is already the best Thor movie by default, but it bears repeating: A sharp director from New Zealand’s indie scene, directing a major Marvel movie with no regard to continuity, is a bold outlook for a character whose movies have been shockingly third-rate. Chris Hemsworth is funny and Taika Waititi might finally be the one to really show the world what that guy can do.
Plus, it has a Hulk.
The Lego Batman Movie - February 10
The Dark Knight returns as a plastic jerk. We’re already sitting in the theater.