There can be no doubt that the summer of 2008 stands as a high-water mark for superheroes. But in the wake of a superhero renaissance and the growing cultural legitimacy of the genre, the question must be posed: Has the superhero genre evolved beyond the comics medium?
Unlike previous years, where classics came crawling out of the celluloid woodwork with regular reckless abandon, 2008 was more calm… and considered. That's not to say that choosing 30 top titles was hard. The difficulty in placing them in some manner of rank order suggests the actual depth of quality involved.
Like the gladiators of old, 2008 resembles a battle of formidable acting gods, especially when looking over the 20 choices presented below. Indeed, if anything, choosing a winner requires more of a leap of faith than any amount of critical skill - they all were that good.
Without a couple of recognizably fallible and ordinary men like Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon at its center, The Dark Knight would ultimately be nothing more than an exceptionally well-tooled and smartly-acted thriller.
The serious Science Fiction film genre is dead or at least on cinematic life support. As the new millennial marches forward, and an omnipresent production paradigm that substitutes spectacle for smarts, futurist filmmaking is definitely gasping for breath.
That the U.S. imagines itself in the position to take unilateral decisions that affect the rest of the world is as much a function of the nation's founding myths (all that 'city on a hill' business, represented in Pyle's notion that he can save Phuong) as it is its economic might (Pyle's knowledge that he can support Phuong).