"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Continuing the Top Ten Game: Superhero Movies

You know how you hit somebody else's computer and they never bothered to make a homepage other than MSN.com? Well, that happened to me today and I found this fascinating list of the ten best and five worst superhero flicks.

Having seen what MSN came up with, I've got my own list to post.

10. Darkman -- One of the darkest and quirkiest superhero flicks ever. The main character has major problems with anger and anxiety. Even when he's kicking butt he's quite, shall we say, edgy. Occupies a unique spot in the genre.

9. The Shadow -- This isn't in anyone's list of favorites, but it scored with me. Alec Baldwin captures the old Radio Age Lamont Cranston quite well. I particularly enjoyed the way his face and personality changed when he inhabited the Shadow character. Very much a piece of pulp, but a satisfying one.

8. Batman Returns -- Keaton, Devito, and Michelle Pfeiffer. This film does a wonderful job of exploring the psyche of people who develop these wild meta-personalities with which to encounter a violent world. What keeps the film down is that Batman's ability to solve some problems is more magical than gritty.

7. Batman Begins -- Christian Bale was a brilliant choice to play a young Bruce Wayne. Still an American Psycho, but this time with a moral compass. Sending Bruce to the Orient to learn the ancient arts just as Lamont Cranston (the Shadow) did worked. The action almost didn't even need to return to Gotham to satisfy.

6. Batman -- The original Keaton vehicle was the most pleasant of surprises. After years of pure crapola from the superhero industry (save a couple of Superman movies a decade or so previous), Batman arrived to save the day. Things haven't been the same since. Jack Nicholson steals the show, but that's expected from The Joker.

5. Superman -- There was a reason people cared so much about what happened to Christopher Reeve. This film was it. During an era when superhero entertainment meant bad animation, or worse yet, terrible, terrible live-action, Reeve's Superman was a bolt from the blue. Beautifully filmed. I'll never forget the young Superman bounding across the plains or Reeve's success in portraying a hunky, yet truly nerdish Clark Kent. Margot Kidder was tops as Lois Lane, too. Not glamorous, but spunky and you can see why Superman is torn in his affections between Lois and the world.

4. Superman II -- Based on limits of technology, this one probably ranks as the greatest of all time because it worked without today's special effects. Combat, combat, combat tied in beautifully with a drama and a romantic backstory.

3. Spiderman II -- Successfully continued the Peter Parker hard luck story with amazing battle scenes with our hero and Doctor Octopus. Extremely enjoyable and guess what (Spoiler), Peter gets the girl. In fact, the girl next door.

2. Spiderman -- The origin story magnificently rendered. Superhero movies had already improved with the resurgence of Batman, but this was another level.

1. I know one of the three top spots will belong to the newest Spiderman movie, so here's a big vote of confidence.

Biggest Disappointments

5. Daredevil -- I didn't hate it the way so many reviewers did, but it failed to capture the feeling of the comic. I'm not sure it was a great idea to combine the origin story and famed Electra tragedy in one go-round either.

4. The Hulk -- This movie was going somewhere for the first hour, but it all fell to pieces. Try again.

3. All the X-Men films -- Really not bad, but far, far short of the original comics. I've gone to each with high expectations and have each time thought it was worth the money, but not amazing. The last one really screwed up by combining favorite bits and pieces from lots of different stories in one film. Hodge-podge can be fun, but it's no substitute for a little literary discipline.

2. Fantastic Four -- Not bad as entertainment, but again falling short of places where the comic has been. Reed Richards was definitely too young and Sue Storm was too much sex appeal and not enough maturity.

1. Superman III and IV plus whatever the heck the Clooney Batman was. 'Nuff said.


Kathy Hutchins said...

Maybe this is too far outside the mainstream of the genre for you to have considered it (or maybe I'm just the only person who really likes this flick) but I would put Unbreakable on my list of top ten superhero movies.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Oh, and how could you have forgotten The Incredibles??

Hunter Baker said...

The Incredibles was incredible, but I'm excluding the animated pics from my list. There's been a lot of good animated stuff that deserves to be mentioned if we go that way. The Incredibles deserves to be at the top of the list and is so well done you're probably right that it belongs on ANY list of superhero flicks.

Unbreakable also deserves a mention. I'm tempted to put Shyamalan pics in their own category. I liked Unbreakable, but would have liked it even better if we could have seen our man Bruce in action a bit more.

James Elliott said...

Kathy, I totally agree. Unbreakable was awesome. You're the second person I've ever seen who holds the same high opinion.

Tlaloc said...

I quite liked Unbreakable, probably more than Sixth Sense.

Hunter the fact that included any of the batman movies other than Batman Begins (which was marginally acceptable- barely) means you are beging for contempt. The batman movies completely sucked, and I say that as a person who loves the batman character when done well.

Fantastic Four was terrible, although the makeup for the Thing was quite good. I agree with you on Darkman and the Shadow- not great but with enough charm to let them sneak into the listing.

I didn't particularly like the Superman movies but Reeve was *perfect* as the big blue boy scout. Superman 2 was by far the most entertaining.

The Spiderman movies were fantastic which really annoys me because I hate the spiderman character. Why can they do such a good job with the whiney little loser hero and such a horrible job with Batman? Why? Why? Why?

I actually quite liked the Hulk though. I thought Ang Lee's direction was inspired. It did drag a little bit at times but that's what happens when you put things like character development into a superhero movie.

Didn't see daredevil. I am looking forward to Ghost Rider though. It'll probably suck but come on! He's a flaming skull headed motercycler from hell. What's not to love?

The Xmen movies... are a mixed bag. Lots of potential...sometimes realized. I really wish instead of trying to do the Phoenix story they had devoted a film to the Sentinels. With modern effects you could make a seriously cool sentinel movie. And they are such a core part of the Xmen mythos. I would have made the first movie about Magneto and the second about the sentinels. For the third you could do the Marauders, maybe, if you wanted to go darker.

James Elliott said...

Tlaloc, I'm surprised you're so vituperative about the Batman movies. I agree with Hunter: Batman, Batman Returns, and Batman Begins were pretty good iterations. At least, in my opinion, which is pretty much what movie reviews are about.

Now, what I really want to see is Planetary, Global Frequency, and Powers, but that's just me.

Hunter Baker said...

Tlaloc, you're wrong about the Batmans. They paved the way for further goodness down the road. I'm with you on Ghost Rider and on the X-Men. A Sentinels flick would have been ultra-fab. By killing so many characters they seemingly foreclosed the possibility of that kind of future-oriented flick.

If I'm picking the next comic for big screen treatment, I wouldn't mind seeing the early Alpha Flight implemented!

James Elliott said...

Alpha Flight? Alpha Flight?!

Kill me now. Coming down the pipe is Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman, which might be interesting. I'm also looking forward to the next Batman iteration, and I would love to see a Green Lantern or Avengers movie (the things Mark Millar did with the Ultimate Avengers would make a great film.

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc, I'm surprised you're so vituperative about the Batman movies."

Dear god, why? They were such abominations. In the very first movie batman uses guns and kills at least one person. Um hello? Pretty key facets to the character are his hatred of guns and the fact he doesn't kill. Making the joker the one who killed his parents was just idiotic. And amazingly they got worse from there!

"Tlaloc, you're wrong about the Batmans. They paved the way for further goodness down the road."

Okay, hunter, this isn't one of those conversations like the ones we have about god. There are no dissenting opinons allowed here: this is important.

" By killing so many characters they seemingly foreclosed the possibility of that kind of future-oriented flick."

I'm pretty sure they intended to make this a final chapter. Everything was just too neatly wrapped up at the end.

"I wouldn't mind seeing the early Alpha Flight implemented!"

I have no idea why but I always liked Alpha Flight. Goofy but fun. And they're Canadian! For some reason the idea of canadian superheros always slays me. "Protect the froth keg of Moosehead, eh!"

"I'm also looking forward to the next Batman iteration,"

Batman begins was certain far and away better than the others since it was alomst passable, but it still kind of sucked. I like Christian Bale but he has a weak chin and the fake hoarse voice he did was awful. The plot was enormously stupid (hello a microwave emitter capable of heating up a water main sufficiently to cause it to burst would also cook to death everyone in the area- we have water in our bodies, and why bother with such an elaborate scheem when you could have just bought a plane and dumped the stuff as an aresol from altitude?) and the love story was beyond "tacked-on." And once again batman is entirely too cavalier about killing people (leaving mines on a highway? Wouldn't caltrops have been as effective and not, you know, killed people?). Yeeagh.

"the things Mark Millar did with the Ultimate Avengers would make a great film."

They couldn't do it pg-13 and it'd take too long to introduce the characters. I quite like the various Ultimate series but I doubt we'll see any movies based on them.