Monday, May 3, 2010
Top 10: Superhero Films
We've all seen 'em, and for the most part we've all adored 'em at one point or another. The inner geek inside us refuses to die, and so superhero films are chugging on, eating up the box office and storming across Hollywood in the process.
The Summer movie season officially kicks off this Friday with Iron Man 2 blasting into theaters, which should undoubtedly heap some mega-box office returns, but what I'm more interested in is quality. I love superhero films, and I want to see all of them succeed, even though not all are so lucky.
With the release of Iron Man 2 nigh, and the release date being set for July 20, 2012 for a Chris Nolan Batman 3 (Hooray! for all fandom), I think it's befitting to take a look and see what my ten favorite superhero films of all-time are. We're in the Golden Age of superhero films, so it's a tough list to write up, but one that I hope will be fair. Perhaps Iron Man 2 could join this list come Friday, I don't know? Here we go:
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Okay, sue me for this one, I don't care, but nothing speaks to my inner child more than this initial romp into the sewers with these turtles in a half shell. This was a cornerstone film of my childhood, that actually does the turtles from the comics justice with tons of awesome ninja action and some good one-liners, that while are cheesy, still make me laugh in this stylish, and fun creation from Jim Henson Studios.
9. Superman: The Movie - Not many superhero films are better than Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie. This film wrote the book on how all superhero films were to be made after it; the film established the origin story formula that we now call cliche. We learn who supes is, how he came to be on Earth and become Superman, and then the final act deals with his foiling Lex Luthor's plot. It's a fun film, and Christopher Reeve was Superman.
8. Iron Man - Marvel pulled away from the pack with this one, setting up a Marvel Film Universe, all leading up to 2012's Avengers movie. Regardless as to the grand scheme of things, this film was also a fun, popcorn filled thrill ride that never took itself too seriously, thanks to Robert Downey, Jr.'s high octane performance, but it still managed to have emotional resonance thanks to Downey, Jr. and Gwenyth Paltrow's chemistry. A well done intro. to Marvel's Film Universe.
7. Spider-man - It's safe to say that if it weren't for this film, we wouldn't have all the other superhero films that have followed over the past decade. This was the first superhero film since Tim Burton's Batman to make so much money at the box office, ensuring the survival of the genre, but not only that it was an extremely entertaining film with all of the flourishes that made us love the webhead so much as kids.
6. Batman Forever - All right, you're either in uproar right now, or are nodding in approval. Batman Forever divides fans more so than just about any other superhero film. It's hard not to love Jim Carrey's hilarious portrayal of the Riddler, while Tommy Lee Jones was spotty as Two-Face, Val Kilmer more than compensates as Batman. It's a very pulpy film, much like a Dick Tracy world, but it's so stylized and oddly beautiful, you can't help but be blown away. Did I mention that it's also an extremely fun film to watch?
5. Superman II - Superman: The Movie was just the warm-up for what is one of the best sequels I think ever made. Superman II had way more action, way more adventure, and way more romance than in the first. The film's riddled with emotion, and actually pays one off in the end, unlike so many films that build to an emotional climax and then just taper off. The Man of Steel was never stronger than he was here.
4. The Incredibles - While not based upon a comic, Pixar made what is arguably one of the best representations of the superhero genre ever committed to film. While it was sold as a spoof, it turned out to be a full bodied superhero film, with likable characters, tons of epic super-powered action, and a lot of laughs along the way. The film also went a step further than so many other superhero films by making the heroes a family and serving the film more so as a family drama than an action frenzy, which makes all the difference. Plus, Michael Giacchino's score is slick, stylish, and amazing in every way possible.
3. X-2: X-Men United - Director Bryan Singer fashioned the X-Men film to beat all X-Men films. The ensemble was perfectly balanced within the film, never focusing too much on one individual character. While you could argue Wolverine gets the most screentime, all characters have their own individual arc to go on within the film, especially Jean Grey a.k.a. Phoenix. As well, Singer made the film a perfect allegory to racism and prejudices. Not to mention, Nightcrawler's attack on the White House is insanely cool.
2. Spider-man 2 - One of the shining pinnacles of the superhero genre that's good name tends to get sullied by that of its successor that, notice did not make the list. Tobey Maguire dispelled any doubts with this film, officially cementing himself as Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-man. Director Sam Raimi showed his reverence for the Silver Age Spider-man of Stan Lee and John Romita whole-heartedly within this film, delivering an action-packed saga that was so beautiful, so emotional, that I completely forget every time that I'm watching a film about a superhero.
1. (TIE) Batman Begins and The Dark Knight - There's no other way to settle this feud than to give them equal billing. Seriously, they're both so good, and depending upon the day of the week I'd say one is better than the other, so I just let it be a tie. Director Christopher Nolan crafted what is, the most faithful, most reverent adaptation of any superhero ever committed to film. His Batman was as he should be, dark, mysterious, brooding. The films were emotional, philosophical, and thought-provoking. They went a step further than your average superhero films by actually feeding your mind and soul and not just your thirst for action (which they both quench in droves). Batman Begins is a perfect character study of a realistic man who becomes a superhero, while The Dark Knight explores the complications a superhero presents to a realist, modern society. These films are masterpieces and rightfully should share the number one spot; not to mention when you watch 'em back to back they play like one long movie.