Black Widow (2021, dir. Cate Shortland)

Natasha Romanoff reunites with her estranged fake family to disrupt a post-Soviet Russian agent programme. Patchy Marvel SF/spy adventure (the first Phase 4 movie) awkwardly balancing dysfunctional familial bickering and action set-pieces. A strong cast helps, as does a relatively low-stakes approach and some attempts at character.

Here’s the trailer.

The New Mutants (2020, dir. Josh Boone)

A young woman finds herself in a secure institution with four other teens, each with mutant powers. Horror-infused X-Men spinoff with a young adult spin: OK as far as it goes, though it’s talky, unfocused, and doesn’t really have a plot. Feels more like a TV series pilot than a self-contained movie (two sequels were planned).

Here’s the trailer.

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016, dir. Sam Liu)

An origin story for The Joker, filtered through his attempts to show anyone can become like him if they have a single day traumatic enough. Okay expansion of the iconic Moore/Bolland graphic novel. Doesn’t add much except running time; for completists only, perhaps, though those unfamiliar with the book may appreciate it more.

Batman Returns (1992, dir. Tim Burton)

Batman encounters Catwoman and The Penguin, who is being manipulated to become mayor of Gotham City. Darker, confident sequel, with a pervy streak a mile wide running right through it. Pushing the limits of weirdness for a tentpole release, Batman Returns is both a franchise and genre high point.

Batman (1989, dir. Tim Burton)

Batman creates – and battles – the Joker. Mixing expressionism, noir, Hammer horror and pop art, the 1989 Batman is well-tailored from patches and the need to service a guest villain performance, even if it doesn’t really have a story. Still fun, tho, with a lovely mix of technologies working together. Best of all, it feels like a comic book. Sequels followed.

Shazam! (2019, dir. David Sandberg)

A foster-child is granted superpowers which come with an adult hero persona; but a nemesis figure emerges. OK, but overlong and tonally-awkward superhero origin movie. Hampered by its Big-with-cape conceit and story uncertainty, it tries a bit of everything. Fun in the moment, tho, and some nice gags.

Matrix Revolutions [AKA The Matrix: Revolutions] (2003, dir. The Wachowskis)

Neo’s battle against Smith and The Machines comes to a head. Third and final part of the Matrix trilogy (a part four is on its way). For series completists only by this stage, though the finale delivers in terms of slightly-humourless comic-book spectacle and epic battles aplenty.

Brightburn (2019, dir. David Yarovesky)

An adopted boy finds out that he is an alien when his superpowers are triggered by puberty. Its neat inversion of the Superman origin story notwithstanding, Brightburn doesn’t quite know what to do with its premise, or with the horror route it takes. Nevertheless, an interesting minor film, with an eye for small-town detail.

Fancy another point of view? Here you go. Oh, and here.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019, dir. Jon Watts)

Peter Parker, on a European school trip with his classmates, comes into contact with both elemental monsters and a new superhero, Mysterio. Upbeat if overlong blend of teen road trip comedy and standard heroic action thrills, acting as a coda to Avengers: Endgame. Well-played and likeable, if episodic on several levels.

Aquaman (2018, dir. James Wan)

Aquaman/Arthur Curry reluctantly agrees to help prevent a war between the Atlanteans and humanity. Glossy and fun – though overlong and CG-tastic – superhero origin flick. Ugly greenscreen cinematography gets in the way of some decent performances and Wan’s capable direction.