On the incredibly important question of which comic book movie is the best of the decade, I side with Dave Weigel, who picks Spider-Man for its tone-setting early success, over Matt Yglesias, who picks the excellent (and surprisingly rewatchable) but somewhat slight Iron Man. The problem with Iron Man is that the movie itself — script, direction, design — is only pretty good; it’s Downey’s performance that really makes the film. As soon as the third-act baddie comes into play, and Downey mostly disappears behind a CGI mask, the movie becomes just another good-but-not-great summer action movie; the film’s robo-a-robo third act isn’t all that much better than The Incredible Hulk‘s.
Still, I think both Weigel and Yglesias overlooked a better — if far less obvious — choice: Guillermo del Toro’s magnificent adaptation of Hellboy, which looks gorgeous, gets all the mopey, lovestruck character beats just right, and manages a number of zippy action sequences to boot. Even more impressive is that del Toro managed to figure out how to adapt weird and potentially off-putting source material without making any significant sacrifices — the lovable, grumpy, outsider core of Mike Mignola’s hell-spawned comic-book character is still there.
UPDATE: OK, if I had to rank the best of them, it would look something like this:
8) The Incredible Hulk
7) Iron Man
6) Batman Begins
4) X-Men 2
3) The Dark Knight
2) Spider-Man 2
This ranking is based on my judgment of overall quality — but it doesn’t entirely account as much for how influential these movies are or for how much I personally liked them (despite its many obvious flaws, I actually really liked The Dark Knight, if only for the intensity and noirish sheen it brought to the Batman franchise). Another point I’d make is how awesome it is that we had eight good or very good big-budget comic book movies over the past ten years. Like Weigel says, this is the sort of thing that probably would’ve made my 15-year-old self go into a joy coma (and, frankly, sometimes threatens to do the same to my 28-year-old self).