The Lists: Top 10 performances in comic book movies

Posted by · 11:44 am · May 1st, 2012

Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” opens Friday, but it doesn’t merely signal the beginning of the summer movie season. It signals the start of a summer highlighted by comic-based tent pole filmmaking. Still to come are Sony’s reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and the denouement of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises” (the latter having dropped a new trailer last night).

So it makes sense to keep the lists going this week with something pegged to Marvel’s big, inevitable event film. But who wants another “top 10 comic book movies” list, anyway? I couldn’t go there. Narrow it down? Top 10 Marvel movies (stretching back to pre-Marvel Studios, of course)? I just don’t like enough of them.

When I laid out my brief thoughts on “The Avengers” last week, I noted that, for me, what makes the film so special and work so well as a piece of entertainment is how organic the ensemble is. Everyone gels, major actors with major franchises coming together to make something greater. With that in mind, how about focusing on performances in comic book movies?

So that’s what I set out to do. And strangely enough, I ended up with about 25 considerations. Of course, when I say “comic book movie,” I’m not limiting that to superhero stuff. Otherwise it can be a bit of a waste land.

Though maybe not. As I revisited a few things and reconsidered others, I found, for example, that I absolutely love James McAvoy’s work in “X-Men: First Class.” It’s the giddiness he brought to the role, how game he was for it. For me, he sparks brighter than Michael Fassbender’s oft-praised, chilly work. He didn’t make the cut, though. I also gave some serious thought to Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal of “Superman,” which needed the right level of self-awareness to pull off Clark Kent as well as the right level of confidence to bring Kal-El to life.

Others I considered peripherally, looking for some diversity, included, say, Vincent D’Onofrio in “Men in Black” as an alien wearing another guy’s skin. Where do you begin to portray that? (And he did a bang-up, underrated job). How about Choi Min-sik from the manga-adapted “Oldboy?” It’s a stirring mix from the actor, raw and fueled. Paul Newman’s Oscar-nominated work in “Road to Perdition” (to say nothing of the undervalued Daniel Craig in same)? Great stuff. No dice, though.

But enough talk. Let’s get to what DID make the list. Check out our new gallery to find out just that. You can rank each selection as you click through the list, by the way. And as always, the obligatory caveat: this isn’t meant to be authoritative. Subjectivity reigns. So if you have a different take, feel free to offer up your thoughts and your own list in the comments section below.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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