With big screen adaptations of superheroes becoming all the rage in movies, the good, the bad and the ugly have emerged from a brat pack of blockbusters and busts. When superhero films are successful they are incredible, however more often than not they fall flat on their fat-budgeted faces. After a disappointing box office for “Batman and Robin,” the superhero genre fell silent. It was reawakened in 2000 with Bryan Singer’s letterboxed atypical adaptation of Stan Lee’s “X-Men.” The movie led to a gold rush on superhero films, specifically expediting production on the Sam Raimi directed “Spiderman,” and pushing “Daredevil” into a fourth-quarter 2002 release. To make your visits to video rental outlets a little bit easier, we offer our selections for the five best and five worst superhero movies of all time.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – They’re the world’s most fiercesome fighting team. In 1990, New Line Cinema brought Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello to the big screen in their first live action spectacle. Banking on the success of the insanely popular cartoon, New Line had their first ever blockbuster in “TMNT,” and it went on to earn 10 times its budget, or approximately $135 million. The film adaptation of the dark comic book was more than entertainment, it provided deep philosophical phrases such as, “Wise man says forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.”
4. X-Men – Casting a character as popular and mercurial as Marvel’s Wolverine can make or damn a movie, and with “X-Men,” the at-the-time questionable selection of nobody Hugh Jackman could’ve damned the film. Instead, Jackman fit into Wolverine’s tights perfectly, rounding out a superb cast which included Sir Ian McKellan and “Star Trek” captain, Patrick Stewart.
3. The Crow – Director Alex Proyas is one of the most talented filmmakers today, but his promising career almost ended after the tragic death of Brandon Lee on the set of “The Crow.” Proyas created a true comic book environment, darker and richer than even Burton’s work on the first two “Batman” films. While not a comic book film, his second feature length film, “Dark City,” continued with his brilliantly multifaceted landscapes and ability to create reality out of pure fantasy.
2. Superman – Richard Donner’s masterpiece is possibly the most beautiful superhero drama of all time. While the flying scenes have dated under the wear and tear of modern F/X, they still have the ability of instilling child-like awe in the viewer. Gene Hackman is a perfectly maniacal Lex Luthor, and Christopher Reeves is The Man of Steel. He will always be The Man of Steel.
1. Batman – Tim Burton ended the vision of Batman as a campy detective chumming around with Commissioner Gordon. Batman was dark, and he got his hands dirty. But not as dirty as Jack Nicholson, who found the perfect role as The Joker. Those who complain his performance was too outlandish don’t understand how evil has manifested itself in Gotham City since the 1940s.
5. Men in Black – There really should be a rule about films that employ a song by one of the actors in it. It didn’t work for the DMX- Steven Segal alliance, and it certainly didn’t work for big Willie Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in “Men in Black.” In even better news, “Men in Black 2” is coming out this summer, and Will Smith is doing the whole soundtrack. Sweet.
4. Captain America – Marvel proved they had a long road to travel with this 1979 TV shlock-fest starring Reb Brown (?) in a blue leotard fighting the evil, um, it doesn’t matter. The trick to a good superhero flick is atmosphere; the main character must inhabit a world in which he can truly exist. But taking a camera outdoors into the washed-out ’70s sheen and putting a fairly normal looking dude into a giant stocking with some white wings on his head and a big plastic shield- not heroic.
3. Supergirl – Superman would beat the shit out of Supergirl. In a painful adaptation of a pathetic spin-off character, “Supergirl” is a comic book movie at its worst. Christopher Reeves was originally intended to make a cameo in the film but backed out due to time constrictions. Wise move Mr. Reeves. The entire film is a waste of money, but nothing was more ludicrous than the $1 million budget for the opening credits.
2. Tank Girl – Set on a post-apocalyptic sound stage, Lori Petty plays Tank Girl, one of the few remaining humans in a desperate fight with the evil Water and Power company run by Malcolm McDowell. McDowell seems set on proving “A Clockwork Orange” was a cinematic fluke for the gifted stage actor, who staunchly refuses to make good movies. Oh, and Petty teams up with Ice T, who plays a Mutant Kangaroo. Stellar.
1. The Punisher – It’s a sad day when Dolph Lundgren quits the acting business. But nothing is sadder than sitting through the 1989 action flick “The Punisher.” Co-starring “Jaws 3” veteran Louis Gossett Jr., the film is a painful time killer with trite dialogue such as, “I punish the guilty,” and “The guilty will be punished.” While satisfying in its own way, film purists will probably prefer the witty dialogue of “Rocky IV.”
– Compiled by the Daily Arts Editors, who hope everyone has the summer that they hope to have. Keep it secret, keep it safe. Watch out for snakes.