Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Favorite Films: Superhero Films

Truth, justice and the American way, that’s what superheroes are about... except when they aren’t. I do love me some good superhero films though when they are well done. Here are my favorites:

1. Hellboy (2004): How can you not love Hellboy? This is just a great character with a great sense of humor and a great supporting team. This and the sequel are films I always enjoy.

2. Superman (1978): This film did everything right. This is also the best origin film ever because it doesn’t feel like an origin film. This film stands alone in feel and quality.

3. X2: X-Men United (2003): This is easily my favorite X-Men film. This one is well shot, smart and packed with great actions and great character interaction.

4. Batman (1989): This was the first “dark” superhero movie and really changed the expectations. The real gem in this film was Jack Nicholson as the Joker.

5. Scott Pilgrim v. The World (2010): Yeah, I count this as a superhero film. This thing is just amazingly clever.

6. Batman (1966): Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb. This was the film version of the series and it played like a long episode. It was all kinds of fun.

7. Kick-Ass (2010): A fun twist on the idea of the superhero.

Thoughts?

41 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

I can't really argue with those choices. I am partial to the comic book heroes of my own youth so the original Chris Reeves Superman, and the 1989 Batman are right up there. Kick-Ass was a riot, although not quite as good when I viewed it again recently. I would add The Incredibles and Darkman as two I enjoyed that came quickly to mind.

Dave Olson said...

Some random thoughts:

First and foremost, you're absolutely right about X-Men 2, except for the release date. 2003, methinks.

Of the extant Batman movies that weren't directed by Christopher Nolan, the 1989 Tim Burton outing was the only one that didn't stink. Sorry, but I just watched the Adam West/Burt Ward campfest from 1966 and it was...well, as you say, it was a long episode. That's not a compliment. The only part I really liked was the BatBoat which was all kinds of cool. (Just the boat; the scene was stupid as hell, like most of the movie.)

And speaking of cool, Iron Man had all kinds of cool and then some. Before Robert Downey and John Favreau got their hooks into the project, Iron Man was a second- or even third-tier Marvel title, maybe just a notch above SubMariner. Great origin story, great overall story, and bravura performances from Downey and Jeff Bridges that made me believe men in titanium suits could fly.

There's just no other way to put it: Christopher Reeve WAS Superman. I was 7 when The Movie was released, and even though I didn't see it in the theaters, just seeing him in the suit on posters and lunchboxes was enough to imprint him as the perfect embodiment of Kal-El. In my mind, anyway.

There seems to be a recurring theme in most superhero movies: The hero tries to give up the gig in the sequel. Spiderman 2. Superman 2. Iron Man 2. The Dark Knight. Then the world goes to hell and they have to don the "Suit" to make things right. Moral: Being a good guy is a full time job, so deal with it.

Dave Olson said...

And I'm kicking myself for not including The Incredibles in my diatribe. A great spoof/parody/tribute of the superhero genre with a compelling and original story, along with a wonderful (and wonderfully subtle) conservative subtext.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I had a similar feeling with Kick-Ass, it wasn't as good the second time as the first. I like a lot of the older stuff too, though interestingly, there wasn't very much older stuff on film so much as on television.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, Thanks. I don't know what happened with the date. I think I just forgot to change the date from the form I used.

Now that I think about it, I should have included The Incredibles as well. Good stuff.

I think you're right about the second film being the one where they guy tries to quit. It's becomes such a cliche, and not really in a good way -- it injects a morose feeling into what should be a fun and energetic film.

I enjoyed the old "Batman" very much, so the film was a lot of fun.

Floyd R Turbo said...

1. The Incredibles.

2. The Dark Knight Trilogy... it was operatic and I mean that positively.

3. The Avengers... my other comic as a youth in addition to Batman, Daredevil, and Spiderman.

4. Spider man (2003)

5. Captain America

6. The Rocketeer was great

tryanmax said...

I can't get on board w/ Batman '66. Sorry. Batman '89, however, I completely agree. I also like Batman Returns which does not feature Bruce Wayne trying to give up the costume.

Of course I agree w/ The Incredibles.

Superman '78, of course, and I was sufficiently impressed by Man of Steel to cal it a fav.

TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze is another fav and a rare sequel in that, again, the heroes aren't trying to quit the gig and that it has more to do w/ the origin than the first film. (For the record, I find TMNT '90 plodding.)

The Incredible Hulk '08 was such an improvement over Any Lee's outing it automatically gets a spot in my faves. Plus, it feels truer than most to the source material.

And I almost forgot Mystery Men which may be my #2 or 3, so consider this list to be in no particular order.

tryanmax said...

Hon. Mention: For all its flaws, Watchmen is so visceral and visually rich that I can't help but admire it.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - yes, I agree it was t.v. Hell, I was weaned on George Reeves, Noel Neil, and Jack Larson, and still have a soft spot for that show, even if it seems kind of lame by today's standards. Never liked Batman. It came on when I was in high school, and at an age where I had "outgrown" heroes on the one hand, while being simultaneously offended at the spoof on one of the heroic characters of my youth. In those days, there was nothing at all dark about the caped crusader. He and the Man of Steel were every bit as heroic as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

Dave, Andrew, and Floyd - Incredibles was the first film I thought of when I read this post. Cartooning at it's best

Outlaw13 said...

Captain America...I pray they don't screw up the one coming out in a few weeks.

The Rocketeer was awesome and captured the essence of the comic rather well.

I enjoyed the first Sam Rami directed Spiderman. The sequels not so much.

I look forward to Guardians of the Galaxy. Who wouldn't like a machine gun wielding racoon?

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, The Incredibles definitely should have been on the list too. Good call on The Rocketeer.

On The Dark Knight, I have to admit that I really only liked the middle film.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I love the concept of Mystery Men and I enjoyed parts of it, but overall, it felt flat to me.

I'm not sure what to say about Watchmen, except what you said. I enjoyed the visuals, but disliked the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, The Incredibles really is cartooning at its best!

On Batman, I saw the show as a kid, so it didn't bother me at all. I also enjoyed the campy factor a good deal. I knew it wasn't THE Batman as the comic book people took him, but it was fun to watch.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, You really can't go wrong with a machine gun wielding raccoon. LOL!

I enjoyed The Rocketeer a lot. That was a very well done film. I guess we'll see about Captain America. Modern history is against it being good, but we'll see. At least it can't be as bad as something like The Green Lantern.

ScottDS said...

Andrew, you enjoyed X2? Didn't you know those movies are part of the "homo agenda"?!?!?1?

:-)

All kidding aside, I still enjoy the Tim Burton Batman movies, though the first one has dated a bit... but man, Nicholson is so fun to watch and the design is beautiful. (It won the Oscar for Art Direction and that Batmobile is still my favorite one.)

Batman Returns... I know I gave it a positive review on this site, but there are some things in it I can't defend.

Scott Pilgrim is great and I agree re: Kick-Ass - I'm not sure if the novelty/shock value would still be there.

Mystery Men had a great idea but it's kind of a... boring movie, which is inexcusable with such a talented cast. I remember watching it and it kinda drags.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yeah, I've heard it's all part of the gay agenda. Oh well.

On Batman and the rest honestly, I think a lot of super hero films don't hold up well. They all feel dated very quickly.

Agreed on Mystery Men and Kick-Ass. Scott Pilgrim took me time to embrace, but I really love it now.

PikeBishop said...

Superman 78? Even as a 13 year old male, the target audience, I said "Flying backwards to reverse the earth's spin to save Lois? Puh-leez! That has to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard of! And this was during the Carter Administration. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Dude, how else are you going to reverse time?

PikeBishop said...

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid denouement! After that great film that's what they came up with?

BTW: Superman came out about the same time as Scrappy Doo.............Carol......................tight shorts..................... :-)

Backthrow said...

1.) The Incredibles (2004)
2.) Spider-Man 2 (2004)
3.) The Dark Knight (2008)
4.) Spider-Man (2002)
5.) Robocop (1987)
6.) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
7.) Batman Begins (2005)
8.) Iron Man (2008)
9.) Darkman (1990)
10.) The Rocketeer (1991)
11.) Batman: The Movie (1966)
12.) Superman: The Movie (1978, mostly-great, but some of the humor and side characters are dumber than necessary)
13.) Project A-ko (1986, anime feature)
14.) Cutie Honey (2004, live-action feature based on a popular '70s anime)
15.) Swamp Thing (1982)
16.) Superman II (1980)
17.) Inframan (1976, a.k.a. The Super-Inframan, so bad that it's good)
18.) The Heroic Trio (1993)

I also liked Kick-Ass, Chronicle, Watchmen, The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises, but I've only seen each one once, so far, so they wouldn't personally qualify as favorites yet. I really wanted to like the Hellboy and X-Men films, but they ultimately left me cold. I don't know what it is about Del Toro, but Hellboy 1 and 2 are like his Pacific Rim; by all rights, I should love them, they have pretty much all the elements that I enjoy, and he's a talented guy with oodles of imagination, but then I end up waiting for a trainload of fun that never arrives at the station.

Most of the other superhero films of the last few years (Captain America, the two Thor films, the Iron Man sequels, etc), that aren't outright terrible, I tend to tolerate more than actually enjoy. The only upcoming one I'm at all looking forward to is Edgar Wright's Ant Man.

Voz said...

I'm glad a few people mentioned The Rocketeer...that has been one my favorite movies since I first saw it.
Obviously the Incredibles...perfect voice casting, plot, animation, homage...etc.
How come no one mentioned Condor Man yet? j/k
The Avengers
The Dark Knight
Iron Man 1,3,2 in that order
I had no complaints about Watchmen, I made sure to read the graphic novel first...and I was impressed with everything...I actually thought the ending of the movie was better than the graphic novel...more realistic to have a nuke instead of an alien. Zach Snyder did a great job on this as well as Man of Steel.
I liked the Hellboy films...but haven't seen them in a while. Perlman was perfectly cast for that role.
Captain America
Spiderman 1 and 2 were good, 3 was tedious.
The Incredible Hulk

I could end up listing almost all of them...with the Fantastic Four and Daredevil being down at the bottom...I find it funny that Favreau was in Daredevil,one of the stinkers, but then directed Iron Man, which is one of the best.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I'm in the tolerate more than enjoy camp on most recent super hero films as well.

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, Perlman made Hellboy. Without him, I don't think the film would have been any good.

Jason said...

Batman (1989) continues to score well, and I think it is a good film, but the fact that Jack Nicholson stole the show as the Joker helped lay the groundwork for the next three films to shift the spotlight too much to the villains, and for the actors to turn in over-the-top performances that usually overshadowed Batman (Who’s have guessed that Tommy Lee Jones would almost rival Jim Carrey for sheer hamminess in Batman Forever?).

That’s why I prefer the Christopher Nolan films. I thought they brought Batman back to the center of their universe.

I’d like to give a shout-out to a couple of “mid-card” superhero films: the first two Blade movies. Sadly, the third one is crap.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, That's true. Batman basically made it irrelevant who played Batman because the villains were all that mattered.

Blade was good.

Collin Chersi said...

Most interesting.

Here's mine:

Incredibles
Man of Steel
Punisher: Warzone
X-2: X-Men United
The Wolverine
Iron Man
Spiderman and Spiderman 2
Toxic Avenger
Dredd (2012)

And a large chunk of the DC Animated Universe films.

tryanmax said...

In defense of the Burton approach to Batman, that has also been the approach of every television incarnation. And while I haven't been a follower of the Batman comics in particular, that's the approach of most of the other comics I have followed. It's my understanding that comics have shifted from villian-of-the-week to brooding introspection in my own lifetime, but to be honest, I've never gone in for the brooders, so I didn't notice.

djskit said...

djskit said...
Captian America - and honest-to-goodness 1940's war movie with a superhero twist. No irony, no winking, no "we're not REALLY being patriotic, are you kidding?". It has restored my faith that Hollywood is not lost.

Spiderman 1 and 2 - just watched them again over the weekend again and the only thing that has "aged" is the CGI. But the story line holds up well and I've said before, the story arc of Harry Osborn is the Annakin Skywalker story, only done well.

The Incredibles - nothing to add that has not already been said - one of my favorite all time movies.

KRS said...

My favorite kind of superhero is the guy who stumbles into it, earnestly and wholeheartedly, but stumbling. That was the real appeal of Rocketeer (and the great Gee Bee flying scenes!) and the first Spiderman, Reeves Superman (but, geez, that ending!), the first Ironman, the original Robocop, to name a few. Just getting a grip on the superpowers and changing their lifes to make something inspirational really sets these characters apart and I think the best of them is Rocketeer. The sequels couldn't have that edge and are necessarily a little less fantastic, even with improved CGI.

Btw, not everyone handles this well: Fantastic Four fumbled this aspect, most likely because there's too many characters going through it at the same time, including the villian. The only characters of whom the transition was at all interesting to me was Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm.

On the TV side, I really liked Greatest American Hero - he paid for his superpowers every week. There were some faults - a William Katt is never going to win a Connie Sellecca and he was reluctant almost to the point of being a slacker. But there was Bill Maxwell to push him in the right direction, and Robert Culp was the first gun slinger I ever saw on TV who knew how to handle a .45 and didn't "throw" his shots at the bad guys. Extra credit for that.

John Jameson said...

Andrew, I notice you haven't commented on Spiderman (here I'm thinking only of the first movie). Is that a thumbs down?

Another superhero movie I quite like (not mentioned so far) is Unbreakable, for the choice of superhero costume if nothing else (plus Bruce Willis plays the role well). It reminds me a bit of Unforgiven (but is nowhere near as good) in that it is both an homage to and a deconstruction of the genre.

AndrewPrice said...

Collin, I actually like the old Dredd a good deal.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think that's true. Almost all superheroes today brood and want out while the villain steals the show with his over-the-top act.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, It's really rare to see genuine patriotism on film anymore. That's always welcome.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, I enjoyed Greatest American Hero a lot. That was a fun show - very goodnatured entertainment too.

AndrewPrice said...

John, I'm not a fan of Spiderman. I thought it was dull and had really bad CGI that made it impossible for me to get into.

Kit said...

Superman: The Motion Picture: The quintessential superhero movie.

The Dark Knight: Amazing movie. Snubbed by the Oscars.

Avengers: Take Marvel's heroes, set 'em loose, have fun!

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, John, I'm on the fence about Unbreakable. I love the idea and I think that for the most part the film is really well done... but it's also waaaay too slow.

Kit said...

I would also add the Joker Blogs. At least the first series. Very good fan show/sequel to The Dark Knight that introduces us to Dr. Harleen Quinzel (a.k.a. "Harley Quinn") and an incredible fan portrayal of Heath Ledger's Joker that put all the other "internet Jokers" to shame.

tryanmax said...

Something interesting: I'm watching a special about the Marvel film universe and they totally glossed over that Edward Norton played Hulk in the reboot. My guess, he didn't grant permission to be shown or named in the special, b/c they didn't show even a still of him. I wonder what his deal is?

shawn said...

Late to this party.

1. The Incredibles.
2. Blade II
3. The Avengers
4. Hellboy
5. X-Men 2
6. Iron-Man 2
7. Spider-Man 2
8. Superman (1978)
9. Thor 2
10. Man of Steel

Now these may not be the best superhero movies out there, but to me they have a high level of rewatch-ability that make them favorites of mine.

Anonymous said...

I have to cast a vote for The Iron Giant...

"Soooperrmannn..."

;)

Can I put in a request for a review of this film? Written by Brad Bird, of the much-lauded (just in this thread!) Incredibles.

On another note, I think Scott Pilgrim would be better classified as a video game movie, even though it was based on a comic. (Take that with a grain of salt--I haven't actually seen the movie.)

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