Well, I thought I would do another back-to-back top 10 post about the thing that I think most of us are sick of – comic book movies. There are so many options to pick from about which ones are bad. I could go on and on and on about how terrible so many of them are. But, where there are 10 bad ones, there is one good one. What film that really is enjoyable and well done. This is a list paying homage to the comic book films that are actually worth sticking around to watch, rather than total pieces of shit, like the rest. I hope you enjoy.
Given my total lack of religion, you may find this one out of place, but honestly, I look at films about Christianity the same way that I would look at Greek or Norse mythology. I judge them on their own merits, and here, I found this to be a pretty good film. Keanu Reeves was in his element, as Constantine, a demon hunter trying to buy his way into heaven. Through the film, he meets a police detective, played by Rachel Weisz, and he gradually figures out a plan by the son of Satan to bring about the apocalypse. It’s got a cool premise, good acting, solid action sequences, and it uses the special effects to add to the story, not wow the audience. An all-around good film, even for those of us who see Christianity for what it is – a cheap way to control people. Well, not so cheap, when you see their palaces of worship.
9. The Punisher
I have always enjoyed John Travolta as a bad guy. This was a film that didn’t do what a LOT of superhero movies do – have huge over-the-top action sequences. This made the action very believable, made the characters very human. Again, it didn’t focus on the action, but on the people. This film tells the story of Frank Castle. After a huge bust, he is retiring from the police force. But the mobster whose son he ended up getting killed swears revenge. He kills Frank Castle’s family, and nearly kills him. Now, Castle is back, and vows revenge in the most brutal way possible. Like what was done to his family, he isn’t just killing them, he’s killing their entire lives. It’s a sick and twisted story about a sick and twisted hero, which made a guy who is known in the comic book universe for killing first, asking questions later into a very likeable and tragic character. But of course, the sequel to this movie butt-raped all the coolness this film had done.
8. Batman Returns
Now, before you go off on me, I loved the original film. Jack Nicholson was awesome. But, as much as I loved that movie, this one I liked a little bit more. There are a lot of reasons why. The first is the even darker premise than the other film. In this movie, there is a lot more character struggle, which makes what is happening disturbing and relatable. There is also the relationship between Selena Kyle, aka. Catwoman, and Bruce Wayne. And as Catwoman, she is very, very cool. She isn’t the more anti-hero style character from The Animated Series or the comics, but she still is very fun, and her look is both creepy and cool. Sure, Danny DeVito’s Penguin isn’t that great, but I still think it was pretty solid. Another thing I loved about this film was how it didn’t have a triumphant ending. The ending was very bittersweet, which made it very cool, and very fun.
The first and second films in this series were awesome. It made the complete piece of shit that the third film was that much harder to swallow. But this was a very solid film. The scope was pretty nice, the acting was very good. Sure, Toad was a REALLY lame villain, but he was a villain who was kind of an add-on, and not in the story especially much, so you didn’t really care. But the casting in this movie was well-done. Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier was so perfect. I really couldn’t see anybody else doing that role in the same way, and with such skill. And like all the other good superhero films, it keeps everything small and reasonable. Sure, the ultimate goal was to turn all of NYC into mutants, but the action was contained, and it felt very personal. That was the fun of it. And the second film also kept that that same kind of thing, but I like this one better.
A lot of people didn’t seem to like this movie, but to be honest, I thought that this was quite the film. Unlike most comic book films, it chose to examine the darker aspect of being a comic book hero – walking away. This film tells the story of the Watchmen. They were a group of costumed heroes who are now outlawed. Each of them is coming to grips with their new reality, and it is a very tragic look at the people who had to lose their role in society. Each character was an interesting study. Even though I am a very liberal guy, I still loved Rorschach’s monologues. This film was like a character study, about what it means to be a hero, and what it means to see the worst in society and to accept it. While it wasn’t the action film that everybody thought it was going to be, for me, that doesn’t hurt it’s awesomeness. In fact, it helps it to be more awesome. To me, anyway.
5. Iron Man 2
Robert Downy Jr. was the best thing that happened to this film. He was able to bring life to a character who really isn’t all that interesting. That said, I really liked the first film, but this one was much better. Tony Stark is using his suit as a new military deterrant, but his time is quickly running out. The core that is keeping him alive is also killing him, and the Iron Man suit is speeding up this process. Meanwhile, a man with an eye for vengeance comes to the arena to smote Stark into ruin. There is a real sense of personal tragedy to this. The human element is very clear, and while there are a lot more effects in this movie than in some others, it uses them to tell the story, rather than as eye-candy, like in Avatar. And the final action sequence isn’t all that long and drawn-out, but no less epic. Getting to see the War Machine throw down is pretty awesome, but at the end of the right, Tony shows that Iron Man is still the badass.
4. The Crow
During the 90’s, there were a precious few good superhero movies, and then there were the ones that totally blew balls. In fact, some of them were so bad that people feared the genre was dead forever. However, The Crow is not one such movie. This was one of the few saving graces of the 90’s superhero movies. It tells the story of Eric Draven. He has come back from the dead with the help of an ancient curse. This allows him to go on a mission to get revenge against the people who killed him, along with raping and murdering his girlfriend. This was a very dark film, which goes with the original comic perfectly. Brandon Lee died during the filming of this movie, but he left a legacy of skill, and it was a testament to how cool he was. A good revenge story is always its own reward, especially when the vengeance demon is as cool as Eric Draven.
3. RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous)
The thing I like most about this movie is the fact that it has such fun with the premise. This is like Jason Bourne meets Grumpy Old Men. And it is so awesome! I haven’t laughed in a long time the way I did with this film. This has got to be the funniest, most bizarre film that I have ever seen. The premise is simple – there are four former-CIA agents. They got too old and retired, but aren’t handling it so well. This film got some of the best actors who have ever lived, and put them all in a room together. Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren. They are all incredible. To have these people in this kind of movie is just so weird, and so cool. It was not only a solid comic book film, but it was also a solid action-comedy. Those two things are almost never synonymous. I am so glad that the people who made this film made it respectable.
2. Sin City
What made this film so cool is the fact that they were actually using the special effects to make it as much like the comic as possible. And it works so well in this movie. The limited use of color is pretty cool, having the entire world be in very gothic and unpleasant backgrounds. The premise of this movie is that there are people in the town who are given, by sheer chance, the opportunity to do good things. Of course, since this is a town where evil is the name of the game, they can only do good things in context to the ugliness of their world. This film is violent, it’s harsh, and it never lets up. There is never a truly calm or happy moment. Even the moments that are loving seem very harsh. That’s not something that is easily done. The huge use of special effects would normally kill a movie like this, but this movie is living proof that you can use these kinds of effects well. Pity other movies that massively invest in CG don’t learn that lesson (Avatar, anyone?!).
My favorite superhero film, though, I like for a totally different reason.
1. The Dark Knight
The thing that draws me into this film so much is that it makes the comic book hero and especially the comic book villain into something that they weren’t before – realistic. It really makes this kind of thing into something we could see. These kinds of people could be the people we meet on the side of the road. The portrayal of the Joker in this movie still scares me, because of the fact that they made it clear that he is a character who could be the person that we meet. These kinds of monsters exist, and the idea that a rational world can exist is really put to the test. The Joker didn’t want power, money, or anything like that. He wanted to prove a point – that Batman is just as corruptable as the rest of us. He destroys a fair chunk of Gotham to make this point too. This film also captured the tragedy of Harvey Dent, who is turned into Two-Face. Not only is this my favorite comic book film, but it’s also one of my favorite movies. Incredible, from start to finish.
But of course, where there is a good film about superheroes, there are some GOD-AWFUL films! And they will be seen in the next post. Stay tuned!
Until next time, a quote,
“See, to them, you’re just another freak. Like me! They need you now, but when they don’t…they’ll cast you out. Like a leper!” -Joker, The Dark Knight