With “X-Men: First Class” being released this week it seems as good of a time as any to reflect on some other recent superhero movies. There’s no shortage of films drawing from comic books these days, in fact it seems as though Hollywood might be running out of creative juice, cannibalizing other media for their sweet, sweet brain candy.
The recent release of “Thor” and the upcoming release of “Captain America” seem to show that Paramount and Marvel don’t care how many predictably derivative superhero movies they have to crank out in order to get “The Avengers” to screen. But it’s not always so, comic books offer a rich source of ideas already conceived by creatively minded people who genuinely care about their craft, and sometimes Hollywood gets it right.
Certainly the most outstanding of recent comic-based movies has to be Christopher Nolan’s reboot of Batman in “Batman Begins” and the superb follow up “The Dark Knight”. Both these movies follow the source material closely enough that fans of the franchise don’t feel betrayed, while still maintaining a level of creative independence that shows Nolan’s not simply stealing from the source. Throw in Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance as the Joker and you’ve got what is possibly the best superhero film of all time.
Some might argue that the original “Batman” should make this list. While Tim Burton’s dark zaniness does make for an interesting watch, the movie can’t hold a flame to the pseudo-reality of Nolan’s films. Also, Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker in this film, while still noteworthy, doesn’t come close to the identifiable madness of Ledger’s performance in “The Dark Knight”.
Another superhero flick worth checking out is 2009’s “Watchmen” directed by legendary graphic novel whore Zack Snyder, who was previously responsible for the film adaptation of “300” and more recently the forgettable “Sucker Punch”. Snyder has made a career of cloning graphic novels for the movie screen, and while the film sticks to his style of over-the-top, slow-motion action sequences and flamboyant sets, the source material he draws from is possibly the most influential graphic novel ever written. “Watchmen” deserves a place on this list not because it is truly an outstanding movie, but because Snyder does a suitable job of not fucking up his source material.
If you’re still jonesing for a superhero fix after these movies try checking out “Spiderman 2” the best film in the trilogy, “X2: X-Men United” the best of the X-Men trilogy, or the first “Iron Man” film. All these movies are worth a watch, even if the other films in these franchises may not be.
“Superman Returns” is a good superhero movie to avoid. I’m not sure if this film was intended to be a comedy but it certainly crams enough suck into its 154-minute run time to be considered a laughably terrible movie. Also “Spiderman 3” deserves an honorable mention for including Venom, one of Spidey’s most iconic villains, in a movie that has an inexplicable dance scene.
However, the superhero movie most deserving of contempt has got to be “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. This film takes one of the deepest and most troubled characters from the X-Men lexicon, destroys much of what made him so mysterious and desperately tries to tie together the threads of his origin in one short, clich©-ridden action flick. Also I’m not sure why the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is a mistake that has not been corrected across four movies.
So check these movies out for your superhero fix, but try and avoid the stinkers.