Fantastic Four (2015)

If Fantastic Four is supposed the be the story of a superhero family, the 2015 adaptation makes them seem as unsupportive as you can be before civil action becomes your only option. Not only do they see no beauty or meaning in their heroic endowments, but they are so quick to give up their integrity after the accident that you think, as you never should, that these people don’t deserve their gifts.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Superman II is exciting even in its flaws: even its badness seems to defy other kinds of movies, like so long as Superman is on top of this, everything else will be okay. It’s an uneven and delightful ride with defiant special effects — they defy the ambition of their practicality and also how that ambition has aged.

The Fight to Be Fathered: False Politics in Black Panther

This is a film made with the intention of proving that black actors should not be typecast as thugs, yet part of its comedic scheme is the counter-marginalization that all white people are colonizers. Black Panther admirably opposes prejudice when it’s directed at certain groups, but I would have preferred it, especially if its goal was “elevation,” to oppose all prejudice equally.

Logan

Mangold and John Mathieson let framing do the talking in Logan, leaving out the poster-worthy photo shoots the Avengers love so much in favor of bone-crushing close frames. Prejudice has always been a theme of X-Men and Bryan Singer was praised for evoking it through speeches. Mangold doesn’t need words, crafting oppression from an expressionist’s harshly lit, intimate frame.

Batman Returns

Batman is the man Bruce Wayne wishes he was, an empowerment trip mythologized into a performance. Batman is Bruce’s mania, his love, his coming-into-being. Batman Returns is as perfect at portraying him as live-action has been, though there were many angry mothers whose frightened children screamed to recall its atrocities.

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is a petty crime. It is a work of stupid badness, clumsy as a graffiti scrawl, and less motivated on a world stage where it hopes to earn $800 million than actual scrawls I’ve seen, on the bottoms of bridges where they expect to earn nothing but contempt.

Hulk (2003)

I’m not overextending an analysis of Hulk (2003) by connecting it to mythic lore and Shakespeare – its idea of drama is unquestionably what is in those fables, even if it is the worst in them. Its psyches are all torturous, exaggerated, archetypical. But what is worst in myth, what is flagrant and flawed, is also what is human and endurable.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

What DreamWorks have done with Ghost in the Shell, if it is a cultural invasion, is more potent than catering to an international market (or their idea of it). The new film is an inversion of its material, to an extent that its entire symbolic framework has been hacked by the virus of three-act Western superhero stories.