It was a (Bruce) banner year for superheroes in 2012, what with Batman, The Avengers collective and Spider-Man all hitting screens. In the end, who was superhero of the year? The Movie Fanatic nominations for the award went out to the usual suspects, plus a few from an origins story we hope to hear more from: Chronicle.
Early in 2012, a visionary new filmmaker -- Josh Trank -- gave us a "found footage" movie that was truly at its heart the first chapter in a superhero series. Alex Russell's Matt Garetty and Dane DeHaan's Andrew Detmer both earn nominations for Superhero of the Year, even though the latter wound up following a classic antagonist journey. For a while there, DeHaan was super... as we explain further in our Chronicle review!
Then, in May, there was an earthquake of Marvel proportions. The Avengers arrived. After Marvel had released previous movies that firmly established the worlds of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and the Hulk, each had an audience collective backstory to fall back on. Yet, as introduced in the The Avengers wallpapers, we meet a new hero in Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and learn more about Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow than was introduced in Iron Man 2.
We hope Hawkeye and Black Widow have more to do in The Avengers 2!
The Avengers were all super. The Hulk may have been given to audiences previously by Eric Bana and Edward Norton, but in the hands of Mark Ruffalo through the Joss Whedon story, the green monster has never been so compelling, humorous and menacing. He is a huge part of why The Avengers sits in our Top 10 Movies of 2012.
After a not-so-great Iron Man 2, Robert Downey Jr. brought Iron Man firmly back to where we adore him -- very cocky and quite heroic. Captain America (Chris Evans) came into his own and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) further dealt with his brotherly issues.
As America was set to celebrate its independence in July, someone who many felt was too soon to return... came back. The Amazing Spider-Man landed on screens Independence Day weekend and with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and the webbed wonder, audiences welcomed the hero anew. Garfield is a perfect Parker-Spidey and with his performance, our affinity for the tragic hero grew even deeper. We eagerly await the sequel as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 casting news has the aforementioned DeHaan playing Parker BFF Harry Osborn!
In mid-summer, the Caped Crusader arrived and we learned how The Dark Knight Rises. Although audiences did not see Bale as Batman for the better part of half the movie, the final Christopher Nolan film in the Dark Knight trilogy is still simply super. Our last foray into Nolan's Gotham City showed why the superhero remains so relevant. The Dark Knight Rises trailer shows us that our hero is a wealthy man, but Bruce Wayne is the everyman's hero. He has no superpowers. He relies solely on what he can build and effectively use against those who wish his city evil.
The race for Superhero of the Year is not even close. His mark on the movie year 2012 has been seismic... and very green. The Hulk is a character that Marvel has had well-documented difficulties bringing to the big screen. Where once was played by Bana and most recently Norton, Ruffalo nailed the schizophrenic nature of the Bruce Banner/The Hulk personality with an affection worthy of the character's long history.
Yes, the incredible CGI (thanks to Industrial Light and Magic) brought the beast with a bit of an anger problem to life as never before. But without Ruffalo's even-keeled and stellar performance as Banner, the entire operation would not work.
There were no greater cheers from audiences this year than when the Hulk was doing his thing. Punching Thor across the room... hilarious! Tossing Loki around like a rag doll... warranted and hysterical. Next year may bring us a new Superman, the return of Iron Man and Thor... but 2012 belongs solely to the big (green) man. May we see more of him on his own in the future.
Now he can say, "Hulk happy!"