Saturday, July 08, 2006

Superhero movies - the best and the worst.

With the new Superman movie having just been released, MSN has an article on the top 10 superhero movies (as well as the worst) of all time. The guy who wrote the piece cites both Superman II and Batman Returns in his list, but not the original films. And he also has "Spy Kids" in there, which isn't a superhero film. Plain and simple, once again, these film critics need to know exactly what constitutes the criteria for a solid comic book/superhero movie. Which is why I'm here.

The original criteria I cooked up for a comic book movie remains pretty solid. I don't think I'll be making any major revisions anytime soon. But in contrast to the MSN is my top 10 superhero movies, as well as my worst 5 picks.

10. The Rocketeer - I have to agree with David Fear on this one. I loved the Rocketeer, if for no other reason than the line uttered in the trailer by the hero, "They've got my girl!" Campy fun and a great adaptation of Dave Stevens' graphic novel - especially the choice of Jennifer Connely for the female lead.

9. Sky High - while it isn't based on a comic book, it definitely gets the whole genre, and does a fine job poking a little light-hearted fun at it. Think "Teen Titans" meets "John Hughes movie of your choice" complete with the cheesy 80's music and all. The appearance of Linda Carter (Wonder Woman) as "Principal Powers" is a fine touch as well.

8. Mystery Men - While touted as a satire of superhero films, this movie is actually based on a group of heroes from the independent "Flaming Carrot" comic of the 80's. The "Mystery Men" are a group of misfit superheroes who simply suck at the hero business. You've got to love Ben Stiller as "Mr. Furious", a hero who gets really angry...and that's it. Not more powerful, not bigger...just angry. Greg Kinnear as "Captain Amazing" does a great job of spoofing what a real superhero with Superman's powers would likely do...endorse products.

7. The Crow - Based on James O'Barr's uber-dark indie comic inspired by a real life tragedy (but in no way based upon it) "The Crow" is a meditation upon loss, death and hope, made all the more poignant by the actual death of Brandon Lee during filming. The most monochromatic color movie ever made, boasting a fantastic soundtrack to boot.

6. The Incredibles - I'm noticing that a lot of my favorite superhero movies are somewhat parodic. "The Incredibles" asks the question, "what happens when Superheroes get married and have kids?" While poking fun at the superhero mythos, it is obvious that the creators of the film also have a great love for the genre.

5. X2: X-Men United - The best X-men film in the trilogy...the pay off to the set up of the first film eclipses the bombast of the the third. Delving into areas of the X-men canon which we never saw developed in the third film, this movie has all the edge and flair the series needed. Too bad Singer went to do Superman Returns...well...bad for Logan, good for Clark Kent. The "Weapon X" elements were fantastic, and Wolverine cutting loose at the school was awesome!

4. Spiderman 2: I'd have given the award to the first Spiderman, but they put Willem Dafoe in a mask, for heaven's sake! This movie broke none of my rules for comic book movies, and adhered wonderfully to the source material. The shot of Spiderman's costume shoved into a garbage can is iconic, right off the cover of an actual issue that sported the title...SPIDERMAN - NO MORE! Alfred Molina as Doc Ock was a grand blend of madman and tortured victim. The scene where Spiderman fights to stop the train was pure comic-book movie magic. Tough act to follow for the third film...

3. Hellboy: This is a pure comic book movie all the way. Taken directly (although not purely) from one of the Hellboy graphic novels, this movie doesn't seem to care if it has enough accessibility for the general public. "It's a comic book movie dammit, we don't care if you like it!" it screams at every corner. Plus any movie with Nazis and Lovecraftian elements sucks me in. I'm easy that way.

2. Batman Begins - Tim who? Burton? Oh yeah. Right. Schumacher, go suck some neon. This is what a Batman movie should look and feel like. Gotham is a real city within the DC universe, not an accumulation of carnivalesque gothic monoliths. Keaton? Kilmer? Clooney? They were either good at being Batman or being Bruce Wayne, but Bale gets both sides of the Dark Knight's persona down. And delivers. Too bad about Katie Holmes, but hell...they never got Lois Lane quite right either, did they?

1. Superman the Movie - You'll believe a man can fly. And we did. I remember seeing the ad for this movie in the Calgary Herald, while visiting my grandmother's house. We lived in Fox Creek at the was usually about a year before major release movies made it to the local theater. I had no idea, as few seven year olds would, that a Superman film had been made. So when I saw the crystal "S" shield on a black background on the Entertainment page of the Calgary Herald...I freaked out. My dad and I went to see it that afternoon. It was pure magic. There's something about the moment where Reeves tears the shirt open to transform into Superman that still chokes me up...and by the time Margot Kidder replies "You've got me---who's got you?" to Reeves when Superman catches her fall...I'm tearing up.

Now, in worst 5.

5. The Punisher - both of them. For a real "Punisher" movie, rent "Man on Fire"
4. Superman IV - Superman as creepy date-rape guy...kiss Lois, she remembers, get action...kiss her again, she forgets...kiss her...she remembers...kiss again, she forgets. Grrr.
3. Captain America - the 91 stinker where the Red Skull got plastic surgery...ewwww.
2. The Phantom - Billy Zane would make a kickass superhero...but he'd need a script to do it.
1. Batman and Robin - it wasn't Clooney's fault...they had WAY too much money to screw this up as bad as they did. Shame on you Schumacher.


  1. And guess what else is coming out next year....Ghost Rider! With Nicholas Cage! God, I hope it's going to be good!


    P.S. I picked up the 1st Punisher movie about two months ago, 'cause everyone kept telling me to see it. Louis Gossett, Jr. wasn't bad, but the rest of the film was hilarious, right down to the classic "warehouse" action sequence (why do always have the final death match in a freakin' warehouse?!) I like the newer Punisher better. But that's only because I have a thing for Thomas Jane.

  2. Hey under worst, don't forget Man-Thing, still classifiable as a super-hero property depending on the writer :)

  3. i never saw man-thing, but I'll definitely take your word for it. With few exceptions, superhero movies were given crappy budgets and b-scripts up until the advent of Raimi getting Spiderman or Singer getting X-men. Since then even the not-so-good are great compared to the dreck we had to put up with in the 80's. I mean, compare the Phantom with Daredevil and you'll see what I mean. Daredevil, while not the best of the Marvel adaptations, is still head and shoulders above the Phantom. Part of that is technology, but I think it's also the result of actual comic book fans growing into the seats of power in Hollywood and saying, "THIS is how you make a comic book movie!"