Superheroes postsTuesday July 23, 2013
Why It Took Forever to Make Good Superhero Movies
But once again, [Stan Lee] would learn, Marvel's fate lay in the hands of people who knew nothing about comic books. Out in Los Angeles, as soon as the sale was made, [New World Pictures' Robert] Rehme had summoned his vice president of marketing and proudly told him, “We just bought Superman!”
The vice president was perplexed. Warner Bros. was selling DC Comics?
“No, no, no—we bought Marvel!” said Rehme.
“No, Bob,” the vice president corrected him. “We bought Spider-Man.”
Rehme raced out of his office. “Holy shit,” he said. “We gotta stop this. Cannon has the Spider-Man movie!”
-- from Sean Howe's book, “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,” pg. 295.
I suppose we should be grateful that Cannon Films, which produced “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” and the 1992 “Captain America” movie, as well as “Death Wish II,” “III” and “IV” and “Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo,” never did make that Spider-Man movie. Although, per below, they were obviously doing more than thinking about it.
On the other hand, just imagine what a disaster it could have been. Such a gloriously awful disaster.
Disaster averted. Photo courtesy of Original Vid Junkie blogspot.
Don't forget to rank your favorite (and least-favorite) superhero movies.
Zack Snyder Announces 'Man of Steel 2' Will Include Batman
At the San Diego Comic-Con today, Zack Snyder, director of “Man of Steel,” “Sucker Punch,” “Watchmen,” and “300,” announced that the sequel to “Man of Steel,” which I thought might be up in the air (no pun intended), given that, after its opening weekend, it hasn't exactly set the world on fire, will include the Batman. (Actor playing Batman to be determined.)
Initial thought: Cool! Lead-up to a Justice League of America movie, right?
Second thought: Smart! It'll get more people to see a Superman movie.
Third thought: Wait, how are they going to do this? Won't it be like ... this?
And Then Came ... Electro!
I'm a bit superheroed out these days (it feels like “The Amazing Spider-Man,” starring Andrew Garfield, was released last week rather than last year) but admit that this photo from the sequel to the reboot, with Spidey getting a less gossamer-like suit, and Jamie Foxx elecrtified as the villain Electro, looks pretty good.
Although what's with the dog collar? Is Electro a fetishist?
Scheduled release date: May 2, 2014. I believe it's a Friday.
Ranking Every Freakin' Superhero Movie Ever Made By IMDb Score
I did it with the Academy Awards' best pictures. I did it with baseball movies. Isn't it about time I did it with superhero movies? Isn't that what you've been asking yourself lo these many months? Nay ... years! Well, face front, semi-true believers, because it's happening right now!
A few minor provisos about what's included. First, and most obviously, what's a superhero movie? Or better: What's a superhero? Sure, Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, rah. But do we count Meteor Man and Blank Man? I did. How about Steel or Barb Wire? Yes to the first, no to the second. I don't have Sheena, either, which seems like blatant sexism at this point, until you realize I didn't include Tarzan the Ape Man. And is it OK to parse Zorro and Robin Hood? I did. For me, Zorro is the ur-superhero: a masked avenger who is pretending in his secret identity be a weak man to the disgust of the Girl Who Matters. Robin Hood is simply a Middle Ages avenger stumping for the king. And no, no Scarlet Pimpernel, either. Sorry, Leslie Howard.
Because newer films tend to start with higher scores and drop—as longtime reader and IMDb-watcher Andrew Reed has said—I've ranked the ties in chronological order. Age before beauty, as it were. It's much more impressive, for example, that Tim Burton's “Batman” has a 7.6 rating than “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” does.
That said, when is IMDb going to add an extra decimal point already?
But enough of my yammering, Lundy Legions: It's clobberin' time!
|1||The Dark Knight||2008||9.0|
|2||The Dark Knight Rises||2012||8.6|
|4||Marvel's The Avengers||2012||8.3|
|7||Man of Steel||2013||7.9|
|9||X-Men: First Class||2011||7.8|
|10||Superman II: The Donner Cut||2006||7.7|
Well well well, if it isn't the Caped Crusader and his little Boy Wonder. OK, just barely the Boy Wonder. At the very end. Spoiler alert.
That's right. IMDb's top three superhero movies are the three Chris Nolan Batman movies. I don't think any of them make my top 10. Too much wrong with them. But they're dark and gritty and kids confuse that with meaningful. There's a lot of needless destruction in them, and some people just want to watch the world burn.
As for “The Avengers,” “Incredibles” and “Iron Man”? Yes yes yes, as Molly Bloom said. (Look it up.) But no no no (as Ringo Starr said) to “Kick Ass.” It wants its irony and wish-fulfillment, too. And the best “X-Men,” according to these kids, is the prequel rather than “X2”? Oh my stars and garters.
“Man of Steel” will plummet to Earth, surely, but will the Donner cut of “Superman II”? Right now it's ranked higher than even “Superman: The Movie,” which started all of this, and it's a rare movie that most people won't watch and thus vote on. Although I guess IMDbers do vote without having seen. Just as, on election day, people vote without having thought.
Let's keep on. To the batpole, Robin.
|11||The Mark of Zorro||1940||7.6|
|13||X2: X-Men United||2003||7.6|
|15||Iron Man 3||2013||7.6|
|18||Superman: The Movie
Five movies with a 7.6 rating? Right away, we have an argument for that extra decimal point. And what a mixed bag these movies are! The Tyronne Power reboot of the “Zorro” franchise, which is good; Tim Burton's “Batman,” which is *meh*; the second Bryan Singer-directed “X-Men” movie, which is GREAT; Zack Snyder's “Watchmen,” which ruined one of the best songs ever written, Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” like, forever; and “Iron Man 3,” which made more than a billion dollars worldwide but is still plummeting here.
Not much “Spider-Man” love, is there? The best Spidey is 17th? Below “Watchmen”? Whallopin' websnappers. Three of these films—“X2,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Superman: The Movie”—would be (and will be, semi-true believers) in my top 10. Maybe my top 5. Stay tuned.
|21||The Mark of Zorro||1920||7.2|
|22||Adventures of Captain Marvel||1941||7.2|
|24||Don Q: Son of Zorro||1925||7.1|
|25||Hellboy II: The Golden Army||2008||7.1|
|26||Iron Man 2||2010||7.1|
|27||The Amazing Spider-Man||2012||7.1|
|28||Zorro's Fighting Legion||1939||7.0|
|30||Atom Man vs. Superman||1950||7.0|
Now this is an interesting group: two silent films, four movie serials from the '30s, '40s and '50s, two sequels, a reboot and a turn-of-the-century original, “Unbreakable,” which also might be in my top 10.
The “Captain Marvel” serial, by the way, was probably the first true superhero movie, or serial, ever made, if you think of a superhero having powers and a cape and a secret identity. It doesn't look bad, considering. (That mannequin can fly!) Back then, the Big Red Cheese actually sold better than the Big Blue Boy Scout. Then litigation got in the way.
Interesting that both Kirk Alyn Superman serials are tied with each other, but it is tough to choose between them. Both have their pleasures, their absurdities, their long, boring faults. But both are way better than “Superman and the Mole Men.” (See #63. — Erudite Erik.)
|36||The Incredible Hulk||2008||6.9|
|39||X-Men: The Last Stand||2006||6.8|
|40||Captain America: The First Avenger||2011||6.8|
Look at the above 10 again. What reads wrong to you? A 7.0 rating for “Batman Returns,” perchance? The movie where Tim Burton flew his freak flag for the villain, the Penguin, rather than Batman? That's certainly part of it. But I also have trouble abiding a tie between “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which wasn't bad, and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the movie where Brett Ratner gave us loutish dialogue, where Professor X tells Wolverine, “I don't have to explain myself—least of all to you,” and where, most important, Ratner kills off half the X-Men! Wotta revoltin' development.
We're only a third of the way there and it's already starting to feel a bit *blah*, though, isn't it? “Thor”? “Blade”? “Chronicle”? Too bad the second half of “The Incredible Hulk” (the Ed Norton version) wasn't as good as the first half. And not just because it lacked Débora Nascimento.
BTW, has anyone seen that “Shadow” serial?
Alright, let's keep going, kids. Who knows what evil lurks down there....
|43||The Mask of Zorro||1998||6.7|
|44||X-Men Origins: Wolverine||2009||6.7|
|50||Zorro Rides Again||1937||6.3|
I'm glad “Superman II” (Lester version) isn't as beloved as its catchphrase “Kneel before Zod!” “Mask of Zorro” (1998) is tied with “Wolverine” (2009), but I'd take the former over the latter any day. The Zorro reboot works; the Wolverine prequel was a major disappointment.
Oh, “Hancock,” you should've been better. Oh, Adam West “Batman,” you were better. But fanboys these days want their heroes glowering and growling. No poking fun at the entire genre—or the entire culture. Caped, costumed men must stand, grim-faced sentinels on tall gothic buildings, as rain pours down and fails to wash the scum from the streets. So many of these kids still kneel before Frank Miller.
|56||Batman and Robin||1949||6.2|
|59||Hero at Large||1980||6.0|
|60||Punisher: War Zone||2008||6.0|
By the hoary hosts of hogwash! I had my problems with “Superman Returns,” too, but IMDb voters would have it below “The Punisher” (with John Travolta as villain), “Flash Gordon” (with Queen on the soundtrack), and one of the worst movies ever made, “Spider-Man 3,” in which black goo from outer space turns Peter Parker into some combo of Tony Manero and Adolf Hitler??? Great Caesar's Ghost!
|62||The Green Hornet||2011||5.9|
|63||Superman and the Mole Men||1951||5.8|
|65||The Legend of Zorro||2005||5.8|
“Mystery Men” is way better than this, kids. But, as with the Adam West “Batman,” you need a sense of humor to get it.
Green movies (Lantern, Hornet, Hulk) don't make much green, do they? Did any movie here? “Fantastic Four,” kinda, but it's an embarrassing addition considering how instrumental the FF is in the Silver Age of Comics. Wotta revoltin' development.
|71||Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer||2007||5.6|
|74||The Return of Captain Invincible||1983||5.3|
|75||My Super Ex-Girlfriend||2006||5.2|
When you see movies like “Ghost Rider,” “Superman III,” “Daredevil” and “Elektra,” you know you've almost reached bottom. Just 14 rungs to go. Hang on ...
|82||The Meteor Man||1993||4.7|
|83||The Legend of the Lone Ranger||1981||4.5|
|85||Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance||2012||4.4|
|89||The Fantastic Four||1994||3.8|
|90||Superman IV: The Quest for Peace||1987||3.6|
|91||Batman & Robin||1997||3.6|
Hear that sound? That's the sound of hitting bottom. Thank God. Thank Odin. And his beard.
As we began with “The Dark Knight,” we end with “Steel,” starring Shaq. (Haven't seen it.) As we began with “The Avengers, we end with Matt Salinger's ”Captain America“ from 1990. (Haven't seen it.)
But I have seen the final Golan and Globus Superman and the George Clooney Batman and both deserve to be down here. Along with ”Supergirl“ and ”Legend of the Lone Ranger“ and Frank Miller's ”The Spirit,“ which is stab-out-your-eyeballs bad. Yes, and Nic Cage, Powerless Man, who sold his soul to the devil a long time ago.
So any I've missed, semi-true believers? Feel free to rap with Cap in the comments field below.
Final thought: I suppose it's a positive that there aren't many superhero movies worse than ”Batman & Robin.“ But I suppose it's a negative that there aren't any superhero movies better than ”The Dark Knight."
Ah, but there are. There are.
The Superhero Trilogy: Powers Revealed, Lost, Turned Evil
An observation about superhero sequels.
The first superhero movie of the modern era, the one that caused Hollywood to realize the money to be made from men in tights, was “Superman” in 1978. What happens to Supes in that Donner/Lester trilogy?
- I: Superman's powers are revealed
- II: Superman's powers are lost (so he can be with Lois)
- III: Superman turns evil (via synthetic kryptonite)
It doesn't seem like much of a formula—the box office for each sequel kept dropping—but we haven't gotten far away from it. The Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” movies follow it exactly:
- I: Spider-Man's powers are revealed
- II: Spider-Man's powers are lost (psychologically)
- III: Spider-Man turns evil (via intergalatic space goo)
There are subtler variations, certainly. At the end of “The Dark Knight,” Batman agrees to be perceived as evil, which, I've argued, is a smart move that prevents the series from descending into camp; and for the first half of “The Dark Knight Rises,” he's lost his powers through old age, injuries, and cynicism. He has to build his way back. Twice.
Even fucking Ghost Rider lost his powers in “Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vegeance.”
Of course, what matters is less the formula than the variations within the formula. Losing powers worked in “Spider-Man 2” and “Iron Man 3” (the Tennessee portion was the best part of that movie) but not “Superman II” or “X-Men 3.” And while turning evil is a tired plot device, the ways Bryan Singer handled it in “X2” and Christopher Nolan in “The Dark Knight” were inspired.
Even so, can't we get a new story now and again?
Apparently not. This summer, “The Wolverine,” sequel to “Wolverine,” opens in July. The big line from the trailer? “I'm not healing.” Apparently Logan loses his powers. Never saw it coming.
The classic superhero trilogy: powers revealed, lost, and turned to evil.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard