2013 was another pretty busy year for superheroes with Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine and the guy that started it all, Superman, all in action. We’ve spent thousands of words discussing the finer points of this year’s superhero flicks here at GammaSquad, but today I’d like to take a less nuanced look at these movies. Character, plot and adherence to source material — I’m tossing those concerns out today and just talking about the action scenes. I mean, let’s be honest, we all started reading comics for the fight scenes and there’s still nothing more important to our inner 10-year-olds.
So here are the best (and a few of the worst) superhero movie action scenes of 2013…
Best – The Wolverine
The Train Scene
I dunno, maybe it’s because the final scene of Mission Impossible blew my little mind back in the day, but I’m a sucker for any action scene that takes place on top of a speeding train.
The scene starts with some surprisingly hard-hitting close quarters combat (immediately after Wolverine discovers his wounds aren’t healing, which really drives home the stakes of the fight) then quickly heads outside onto the side and top of the train. The physics at play in the scene are uh, a little dodgy (actually they’re completely ridiculous) but hey, superheroes are all about ridiculous physics. We even get a quality Speed-style decapitation to cap things off. What more could you want?
Best – Kick-Ass 2
Mother Russia Wrecks Suburbia
Kick-Ass 2 was mostly a clunky, made-for-TV-looking mess, but it does have one undeniably great scene involving the hulking Mother Russia destroying a squadron of cops on a sunny suburban street. The bit where she catapults a lawnmower through a police cruiser’s front window almost justifies the entire movie on its own. The scene manages to emphatically make its point without being as over the top and tasteless as it’s comic book source material. I’ll admit, I also find Mother Russia…strangely alluring.
Best – Man of Steel
Superman vs. Zod
Okay, let’s ignore for a moment that Man of Steel was a Superman movie. Forget all your expectations about who Superman should be and how he should behave — let’s pretend Man of Steel starred a completely different hero called uh, Mopey Man. Okay? Now, can we admit that the final fight scene was freakin’ awesome?
The scale was amazing, the effects were perfect — the epic feel of comic book action scenes finally realized on screen. Yeah, a lot of skyscrapers fell down, but skyscrapers being destroyed is kind of a comic book staple. Throwing somebody through a skyscraper is how you say hello in superhero land. Yeah, the scene ended on an iffy note with the whole neck-snapping thing, but up until that point, I was riveted.
Best – Thor: The Dark World
Thor vs. The Rock Monster
Superhero movies don’t let the heroes just have fun with their powers often enough. Everything’s always too serious. Too life and death.
Thor and his pals were allowed to get their swagger on in this scene. Fandral, Volstagg and Sif get to do some choice ass-kicking then a giant rock monster shows up and Thor obliterates the thing with a single shot from his hammer. This scene did more to make me like Thor than all the fish-out-of-water comedy from both Thor movies combined.
Best – Man of Steel
Superman Makes Smallville A Little Smaller
I enjoyed the hell out of this scene. It was fast, hard-hitting and the effects were amazing, all without the destruction porn or lame finale of the movie’s final fight sequence. As soon as Zod threatens Superman’s mom, you know s–t is on, and Superman sending Zod flying a country mile into downtown Smallville is profoundly satisfying. I like Boy Scout benevolent Superman, but he’s also has a badass side that is too often forgotten.
So, the scene starts on a high note and only gets better once Zod, in a classic heel move, backs off and lets his lieutenants take their cracks as Superman. Then the army shows up and the stakes get even higher. After years and years of Supes as a light romantic comedy character in the 80s movies, Lois and Clark and Smallville, this Superman fan found this throwdown extremely cathartic.
Also, hello there Faora…
Now, I don’t want to dwell too much on the negative, but there were also a few superhero action scenes I wasn’t so fond of this year…
Worst – Thor The Dark World
Thor vs. Malekith
This scene had potential, but a good, simple Thor vs. Malekith rumble had to be overcomplicated by a lot of technobabble and jumping between universes because the real stars of the Thor movies, Natalie Portman and Sassy Kat Dennings, had to have a pivotal role in the big finale.
Worst – Kick-Ass 2
Hit Girl vs. Mother Russia
The first time Mother Russia punches Hit Girl she should have crumpled to the floor and died. A vial of adrenalin isn’t going to magically let you beat somebody four times your size.
Worst – Man of Steel
The Tornado Scene
This was sort of an action scene, right? I mean, it involved special effects and somebody died in it — although I suppose it was more an inaction scene. I fully believe cutting this one scene would have resulted in a 25% higher Rotten Tomatoes score and a totally different fan reception for Man of Steel. It was that bad.
Worst – Iron Man 3
The Whole Final Scene Debacle
Ugh. Uggggghhh. Iron Man 3’s big final action scene was everything I hate about bad superhero movies. Lousy effects, too much going on, boring villains, Tony Stark leaping from suit to suit because Robert Downey Jr.’s beautiful face can’t be covered for more than five seconds, Gwyneth Paltrow bouncing from damsel to tougher-than-Iron-Man hero depending on the demands of the plot. So terrible.
Beyond all that, the message of the scene was “Iron Man is kind of lame and Tony Stark shouldn’t want to be him” which is an odd choice for a freakin’ Iron Man movie.
So those are my picks for the best and worst superhero action scenes of the year. What about you folks? Any scenes I didn’t mention give you a good tingly feeling? Think some of my bests and worsts should be reversed? I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments!