Sunday, June 9, 2013

10 Imperfect Superhero Movies I Enjoy

I have blogged a lot about superhero fiction, but I have not made a post ranking the best superhero movies.  I think that the reason for that is that I have not figured out a way to compare superhero movies.  There are some decent ones that I just don't enjoy and there are some bad ones that I do enjoy. This is a list of superhero movies that are never ranked among the best (Dark Knight, Avengers, etc.) that I enjoy.  Some are guilty pleasures and some are underrated, but they are movies that I enjoy (or at least enjoy above the critical consensus) despite their obvious flaws.

10. Batman and Robin (1997)
Am I allowed to openly admit that I enjoy this movie?  I totally get how in 1997 it would be the worst thing ever for a comic book fan, but I watched this for the first time as a kid and we have seen that Batman and superhero movies have survived this.  Batman still came out on top with great animated adaptations and Christopher Nolan's movies.  By all means this is absolutely terrible, bad writing and design.  But I will buy superhero camp, not my first choice but I will watch it and get a laugh.

9. Superman Returns (2006)
I was not going to include this movie, but the more I thought about it it is better than most of the movies on this list.  As much as it frustrates me it is a well made movie.  The main reason this movie does not leave a huge impact is that it was trying too hard to be the Richard Donner movie.  Which left it being kind of a sequel, kind of a remake and kind of a sequel.  But the thing is that the 1978 movie was made in the seventies when there had never been a serious superhero movie.  By 2006 things had changed.  I had badmouthed this movie more than defending it, but it does what it set out to do as being a homage and is beautifully shot.  I think that Man of Steel is going in the right direction, but even if Superman Returns was ill-conceived it is a good movie.

8. Sky High (2005)
I did not like this movie when I first saw it (when I was actually in the target audience), but it has definitely grown on me.  The main high school story is pretty paint by the numbers and forgettable.  But the supporting adult cast of character actors is a lot of fun.  David Foley, Kevin MacDonald, Lynda Carter, Kelly Preston, Jim Rash and Bruce Campbell recapture the campy fun of the Adam West Batman series (1966's Batman: The Movie almost made this list but I think the hate goes more towards the series than the movie).  And of course the film's most fun performance comes from Disney legend Kurt Russell who plays a perfect archetypal superhero and father figure.  The costumes are bright and colorful as well.  Overall this makes for a fun family movie.

7. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Spider-Man 2 is one of my favorite movies of all time (my favorite superhero movie) and I came into this movie with a lot of leftover goodwill.  I get where they were going with it and it had its moments.  I don't know why I give this movie a free pass, it is not amazing and is full of things such as Peter dancing.  But I just have a tolerance for some reason.  And I don't think that this was so bad that it needed to be rebooted.  I really can't defend it, but I won't badmouth it much either.

6. TMNT (2007)
I think that this is way better than the nineties live-action turtles movies.  As impressive as the Jim Henson puppetry is the characterization on the turtles is really bland.  This at least gets them closer to their very different personalities.  A lot of my friends grew up with the 1987 cartoons and 90s movies, but I grew up with the 2003 4Kids cartoon and this movie is closer to that.  Despite some serious story issues this is what I think a Ninja Turtles movie should look like.  A dark atmosphere with great action. The turtles move really well and I do like the designs.  Not a masterpiece by any means, but nice to see a different type of animated movie for a change.

5. Batman Forever (1995)
Okay I cannot defend Batman and Robin, but I will defend this one to a point.  Keep in mind that I first saw the nineties Batman movies as a kid.  This was the one I loved and the Tim Burton ones were the ones I just found to be boring (I am still not a big fan of Burton's Batman, although I completely understand what a huge deal it was for fans of the comics at the time get a serious take on The Bat).  But this movie has a lot of energy.  Nicole Kidman is good in it and I really like Val Kilmer's Bruce Wayne.  His relationship with Robin is solid too (even if Chris O'Donnell isn't).  Bruce Wayne's speech about vengeance is one of my favorite all time superhero movie monologues.  I do think I give this one some slack because I remember the merchandise from when I was a kid (had a book of it, a folder and some toys).  Somehow this movie always leaves a smile on my face even if it is not Batman at his best. Also I just love Jim Carrey's early work, I watched his first five movies a lot in elementary school.

4. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Yes, this is a huge step down from the amazing X2 and makes a lot of mistakes (such as undoing everything at the end of the movie).  But for me as a huge X-Fan there are enough good things about it to keep it enjoyable.  Specifically Magneto's speech about the cure is well written and delivered by McKellen.  I also think that this is Storm's best appearance on film.  Pretty much everything else was a missed opportunity or a misstep, but the one positive thing about the movie that nobody can argue is Beast.  The film's take on Beast, the casting of Kelsey Grammer, the makeup, and fight scenes are perfect and completely capture the wonderful character from the comics.  Hank McCoy is my all time favorite superhero so I was happy to see the film get him so perfectly.

3. Daredevil (2003)
This movie gets ranked among the worst superhero movies quite often but I think that is being a bit harsh.  There are problems: the theatrical cut is not as good as the uncut version (available on DVD), the costume seems off (why is he wearing a leather jacket?) and the soundtrack definitely ages it (two Evanescence songs).  But the cast is solid.  Affleck and Garner clearly have chemistry, Duncan and Farrell were inspired choices and David Keith, Jon Favreau and Joe Pantaliano give great supporting performances.  There are good fight scenes and it deals with darker subjects such as a hero killing that could not be addressed with more familiar heroes.  Part of why I like this movie is that it takes me back to when I was first getting into superheroes and this was one of the few options for superhero movies.

2. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Easily the weakest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I would argue that it is not a terrible movie.  It has some pointless moments (the strawberry scene and Vanko's bird) and it spends too much time setting up the rest of the Marvel universe.  But in defense of the crossover elements, this really did set up The Avengers.  It took away the need to set up Black Widow and it got Tony to where he needed to be for The Avengers.  It is full of good action set pieces and fun performances (specifically Rockwell, Cheadle, Rourke and Slattery).  Definitely the Marvel movie to skip, but not the one to hate.

1. Incredible Hulk (2008)
Out of all of the movies I have listed this is the one I will defend and claim is very underrated.  I do feel that the recasting of Mark Ruffalo was brilliant and a fascinating direction to take the character but that does not lesson this as a movie.  This is the perfect portrayal of Hulk as an uncontrollable monster and Banner as a tragic figure that cannot control him.  This movie really gets the tragedy of Banner and his inability to have the life he wants or deserves.  One thing I like about this movie is that it has a variety of action scenes.  There is an action scene where Hulk is hidden, one where he is under attack by the military and one where he is fighting another monster.  Which is just great seeing Hulk smashing and demolishing things.  The cast is good and I really like the dark tone of the movie which has enough humor to keep it enjoyable.  I am one of the people that just could not stand Ang Lee's Hulk, bored me to death and no 12 year old should be bored by a movie with a giant green monster.  This is still one of my favorite Marvel movies and I always enjoy it, even if they managed to improve on the character in The Avengers.

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