Now that I’ve been thoroughly depressed by the Oscars let’s talk about movies that will never get a live action Oscar- superhero movies. I have actually not been a huge superhero movie fan. In fact, in 2011 I wrote a post on my other blog called ‘Thumbs Down to Summer Movies’. I had recently seen Green Lantern and it was the tipping point. Here’s what I said
“It’s at this point I must make a confession- I don’t like super hero movies. It’s hard to explain why but I have never liked them. With the exception of Harry Potter, I can’t think of a super hero/fantasy franchise I’m a fan of (I’m a marginal fan of Lord of the Rings). I also like the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but they have been sullied by mediocre follow-ups in recent years.
Despite all the special effects I find most super hero movies boring and I don’t like 3D”
So, yes I had sworn off superhero movies and all their progeny but then Avengers happened and I smiled at these likable fun characters with witty dialogue. And we got 2014 and I saw Captain America 2 which was actually a spy movie, Xmen Days of Future Past which is actually a time travel story, Guardians of the Galaxy which is actually a space opera, and Big Hero 6 which is a movie about loss and grief in the guise of a superhero movie.
It was then I had a revelation ‘I like superhero movies when they aren’t superhero movies’. Ding, ding, ding! Fortunately for me Hollywood has figured this out and aside from the odious Man of Steel and the cluttered Amazing Spiderman 2 they have had a remarkable track record of late to the point where I’m actually looking forward to superhero movies now (although highly skeptical about Batman v Superman but we will see). Marvel at least has made me a believer.
I feel like I also have to give a caveat that I am actually not a big Dark Knight fan. It’s super well made and acted but it was just too violent for me and I found it cynical, dark and Batman is such a bore. I wanted him to lose the whole way through. You can all hate me now but it’s really how I felt….
So with all that what are my favorite superhero movies? Here goes.
10. Superman- Christopher Reeves is so charming as Superman and he makes an ok Clark Kent. It doesn’t get bogged down in exposition but is light and fun with great music and decent if hokey special effects. Gene Hackman is good as Lex Luther . Superman is kind of a boring superhero because he’s so perfect but this film finds the balance of embracing the silly while not being too silly (aka Superman 3 and 4…). We also don’t get too much of the Savior metaphors like we do with Man of Steel or Superman Returns that take themselves way too seriously.
9. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Yep friends this is my favorite Batman movie. Maybe that won’t be a surprise because I love animation but I honestly think this is the best movie depiction of Batman. He’s not just a bore but he gets jealous, frustrated, happy, a mixture of emotions. Kevin Conroy is great as Batman and perhaps it is only in animation that you can pull off the mixture of Bruce Wayne and Batman because you can draw whatever you want it to be where an actor may just be better at one side than the other (same problem so far with Peter Parker). Mark Hamil is wonderful as Joker. It’s a well written script with a bit of a mystery involved but it isn’t too grim or violent. Now I just wonder when the heck it will come out on blu-ray!
8. The Rocketeer- A movie too often forgotten but a very sweet homage to 40’s action movies. It stars Billy Campbell as a stuntman who finds a rocketpack that was designed by Howard Hughes. Jennifer Connely plays his girlfriend and the rest of the cast is stellar with Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton as our Nazi bad guy, Terry O’Quin and more. I defy you to not be charmed by it.
7. X-men: Days of Future Past- Of the big franchises Xmen has always been my favorite. Even when I had sworn off the genre I still kind of liked the X-men movies. Maybe partly because they are the only franchise to pull of interesting female characters and they almost always deal with something thoughtful and complex without getting mean spirited and who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman? I think the recent X-men Days of Future Past is the best of the 7 (including the Wolverine movies) to have come out. It has it all- amazing ensemble (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy I could go on. Almost every member of the cast has an Oscar nomination or win. Not bad for a superhero movie).
But its also the Inception of Superhero movies. The time travel element creates layers of a puzzle to figure out and Quicksilver is an amazing villain with special effects. It’s great!
6. Spider-man 2- For my money it is the only good Spider-man movie that has come out so far. The others have good elements but this is the only one that fires on all four cylinders. The special effects still hold up, the large set pieces like the train fight is gripping, Tobey McGuire is charming enough to get me to ignore Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and him have good rivalry. But really the reason the movie is special is Dr Octopus who is such a great, engaging villain. He has really positive motivations through a lot of the movie but he has no self control . It makes him very interesting and fun to watch.
5. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier- A great superhero movie because it’s not really a superhero movie. It’s a spy flick like Mission Impossible with an amazing villain for Winter Soldier, great action fight sequences, a car crash sequence which felt so real, Robert Redford is great (that’s the quality of actors we are getting now!). The Nick Furry twist was very clever and it is so well paced. It never lost my interest or got boring. They build the case with very minimal exposition typically housed within a trip to the museum or some other outing so it doesn’t feel like exposition. Captain America is likable and Chris Evans keeps the character innocent like a man from the 40s might be while still being tough.
4. Big Hero 6- I just got Big Hero 6 on blu-ray and watched it and loved it all over again. It is a superhero movie with real heart. I loved the connection of the two brothers through Baymax. It reminds us that those we love never really leave us because the love continues on. I also loved the diversity of the Big Hero 6 and I thought the motivation of the villain was really clever and surprised me. Also Sanfransokyo was gorgeously drawn and a fun new setting. Overall a huge win for Disney.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy- Don’t worry this is my last from last year. Guardians has everything I want in my superhero movie. It is a likable band of misfits that are gathered together to fight a bad guy. I love the friendship between Groot and Rocket. Chris Pratt is great as Starlord. It’s fun, keeps you guessing and has the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years. It really reminded me a lot of Star Wars with a much weaker villain, and that’s really its only mark against it. I think they actually picked the wrong villain. Nebula is much more complex than Ronan. Still I loved it!
2. Incredibles- Even when I had sworn off Superhero movies I still loved The Incredibles. What’s so great about this movie is it includes so many of my favorite genres all in one. It’s a family movie with a stay at home Mom and her 3 kids who all have their struggles, it’s a movie about work and how when we aren’t doing what we are made to do we aren’t happy, and its gorgeous animation. Every choice they made works. The villain is very scary with a believable and brief backstory. Edna is hilarious (no capes!), and the ending is perfect with everyone learning just the right lesson. Also love Samuel L Jackson as Frozone! It’s actually the first movie I saw when I came home from my 20 month mission for my church and it was a great choice to get reintroduced to cinema.
1. Avengers- This actually came out when I was in my ‘I hate superhero movies’ phase but it was the biggest movie ever so of course I ended up seeing it and to my surprise I loved it. What I liked most is it didn’t take itself too seriously. It was fun without being stupid. I hadn’t seen most of the precursor films leading up to Avengers except Ironman but I don’t think you need to enjoy the movie. Joss Whedon is such a great writer creating likable characters that we can root for and a team dynamic that is unpredictable.
I like that the destruction isn’t too bad and its not really trying to teach us anything. Just give us a team we can root behind and see them seriously challenged by a formidable villain in Loki, who I love. Tom Hiddleston is my favorite performance in the movie. He has motivation behind what he is doing and he never gets mean or too violent like the Joker can. He’s probably my favorite comic book villain, maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as a villain. In the end the script is well written and funny with good action. That’s enough to get 1 on my list.
So there you go! What do you think of my list? I know all of you would put the Dark Knight so maybe give me some other one’s besides Dark Knight you would have included? I’d love to hear.
What are the worst superhero movies? Well, I haven’t seen all of the worst but I’d probably say (does Howard the Duck count as superhero movie? If so than he’d be 1):
2. Batman and Robin
3. Superman 4
4. Green Lantern
5. Man of Steel