The Golden Age of Super-Movies
While I have some serious qualms about DCs efforts of late, there’s no two ways about it, this is an amazing time for super-hero movies. Marvel have really led the charge with their Cinematic Universe, and it’s been a revolutionary project in both film and television, and the latest trilogy of Batman films has been nothing short of spectacular. It looks like good Superman films may well have ended with the first two Christopher Reeve instalments 1978 and 1980.
I’m also a huge proponent of original properties and alternative takes on the concept of super-heroes. These days they’re a rich subject, rapidly increasing in volume but with a fascinating history stretching back almost as far as super-heroes themselves. But like any history, it’s got its’ shameful moments.
Fantastic Four (1994)
Falling firmly into the “So bad it’s hilarious” category of films, this not-even-straight-to-video film was so horrendous that I’d actually advise hunting down and watching it. The dialogue was badly recycled and delivered with all the grace of a thrown haddock, the storyline existed, and the science didn’t. Dr Doom hits every villainous stumbling block from monologuing to “taking care of it himself”. He’s declared himself the king of… somewhere and is threatening to blow up New York because…
And then there’s the Ben Grimm subplot in which the Thing has to deal with his physical deformity. That happened too! He even changes back for a moment after finding love with the vicitm of a hobo-kidnap that fell madly in love with him after touching his face one time.
I can forgive this film its low budget visuals, and a lot of its’ less corny moments. Or rather I could have done, if it weren’t for the fact that the same producer went on to fund the 2005 and 7 Fantastic Four films. Dammit Bernd Eichinger, this is why we can’t have nice things.
Batman Forever and Batman and Robin (1995 and 1997)
This is really a question of style. The batman I grew up with was the grittier Dark Knight of the 90’s cartoon series rather than Adam West’s “Splat! Kappow! Jumping Jackalopes!” Batman, so I’m not so keen on Tim Burton’s film series. Joel Schumacher‘s continuation on the series strips away those last shadows and fills them full of shiny gadgets, neon lights and ludicrous degrees of ostentation.
Batman Forever marked the decline, beginning with the loss of Michael Keaton, who could actually play both the billionaire and the crusader very well. Val Kilmer gave a bland and lifeless performance, while the Riddler and Twoface (Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones respectively) are both goofy caricatures of the original villains, like the Joker keeps borrowing their suits. Plus Kilmer‘s Batman downright kills people! That’s way off base.
Batman and Robin only worsens the villain problem, with the font of puns that is Schwarzenegger‘s Victor Fries and Uma Thurman‘s Pamela Isley, who’s far too hammy to be a vegetarian. The writing, already suffering in Forever, worsens significantly, and George Clooney played Batman in name only, because frankly the attitude of both the character and the actor stank. A cardboard cut-out would have been better suited to the job. Or if the cut-out is busy, maybe ask Val Kilmer back as a last resort.
The new TV series may have saved the Man Without Fear from having this as his only legacy. I was 13 when I saw Daredevil, and loved it because of its’ nu-metal soundtrack and the awesome coat that rattled whenever Bullseye swooped it around himself. I now know things about film, and that 13 year olds aren’t allowed to have an opinion on them. Daredevil was badly paced, filled with bad characterization and Matt Murdock seemed incapable of concealing his abilities because he’s a jerk in a highly suggestive outfit.
I liked the idea of a black Wilson Fisk, there was absolutely no reason why not, and Michael Clarke Duncan did an amazing job with the bad script he was given. He had the gravitas and the build, but we all know he’s a better actor than Mark Steven Johnson gave him chance to be. Ben Affleck on the other hand may have acting chops, but he just didn’t bring them into work that day. Nor did Colin Farrell, his Bullseye was worse than his Doug Quaid from Total Recall, and we all know he’s better than that.
Shame really, Mark Steven Johnson works well with Nicholas Cage. Affleck has a lot to make up for, and he claims that that’s exactly why he wants the role of Batman in the upcoming Dawn of Justice grudge-match. The latest trailer has made me somewhat less optimistic.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Green Lantern (2011)
Ahh, poor Ryan Reynolds. With Deadpool on his high-stepping way we look back on on his performance as Hal Jordan with a slight sigh. The films failings were not his fault, his performance was – as it ever is – the very best Ryan Reynolds he could be, and he suited the part rather well. The failings were that of design and writing. Green Lantern was difficult to look at. It’s hard to bring the power of Green to screen without it being a blinding light display, but I feel like this wasn’t even a consideration, the weird shiny suit and over-the-top CGI backgrounds that put a live action performance deeply into the uncanny valley, and the villain – Paralax – looks stupid. Really stupid.
It’s quite an enjoyable film until the final scene. I quite enjoyed some of it’s higher moments like Jordan’s sloppy attempts at concealing his identity from his friends, and the line “How wonderful that all it took for you to grow up was the end of the world.” We all know that there is only one comic-book role that Ryan Reynolds is perfectly suited for, and neither Green Lantern, nor Origins: Wolverine are going to be enough to ruin Deadpool for us.
And I’m sure there are plenty more bad Super-Hero films to come. We’ve seen the release of a lot of new trailers, and we know the plans of both DC and Marvel for the next few years, and not every film on the roster can be a hit, and inevitably the genre will collapse.
It may be a little bleak to be considering such a thing, but there’s another field that has yet to shine. The video-game movie hasn’t had a success story yet, but Agent 47 approaches, and it looks like it could not only outstrip the original Hitman movie, but pave the way for the planned Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed films that have been on the cards for a while now. Perhaps we can finally expunge the stains of Uwe Boll, or the Resident Evil franchise.