Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a superhero movie!
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a superhero movie! Over the past ten years Hollywood has undertaken a renaissance when it comes to representation of popular comic book characters, opting for a more realistic, gritty approach. I take a look at some of the best superhero movies ever made which haven’t just wowed audiences but have changed the entire genre also.
This film is a measure of how far the Marvel movie has come. Blade is a dark and violent action thriller and its success may seem surprising when it’s compared to the shinier, mainstream films like Thor, Captain American: The First Avenger and Iron Man. These superheroes played by A-list stars makes the casting of Wesley Snipes as the immortal vampire hunter seem bizarre.
However, he gives the film its bite (pun intended) and plays as a reminder of a not-so-distant past when comic book stories were for a niche audience.
The stylish opening scenes with superb martial arts in a blood-drenched vampire nightclub introduces audiences to the half human, half vampire hero as well as providing a nostalgic trip to a time before CGI dominated fight scenes. The decent pacing and brooding John Carpenter-esque soundtrack make this a worthy superhero movie despite it not being a family friendly addition.
Made by a British director, in Britain, written by a Brit, from a comic by a British writer, whose protagonist and antagonist are played by British actors is refreshing in a market made for America.
It takes a classic American template and spins it on its head bringing it right up to date for the Internet age. Many thought it would fail but it stood its ground amongst Hollywood heavyweights such as Iron Man 2 with its success coming down to its willingness to take risks.
The film’s superiority is choreographed by screenwriter Jane Goldman who brings emotional depth, goofy humour and bags full of charm to the table without selling out the source material. The casting of Chloë Moretz as the samurai sword wielding, foul-mouthed 11 year old and Aaron Johnson as the likeable, vulnerable every day nerd turned superhero is superb. If you haven’t seen this film yet, why the hell not?
8. The Incredibles
A film about a superhero family. Why has nobody come up with this before?
The Incredibles, despite not being based on a comic, works. Yes, its use of animation could be called cheating as it makes producing superhuman action somewhat easier to portray on screen. But its deeper exploration of superheroism and balance of fun for the kids as well as the adults is what allows this to take on the titans.
The Incredibles asks the question what happens when superheroes become parents, try to live a ‘normal’ life in the suburbs and have to conceal their powers from the rest of the world. It’s a premise that has never been attempted before (we’re not mentioning the measly attempt at the Fantastic Four) and works because of its mixture of visual humour, snappy dialogue and controlled action sequences, best displayed in the super-powered dinner-table squabble, which suddenly freezes as the doorbell rings.
The Incredibles is yet more proof that Pixar, a company regarded to make children’s movies, can make films that are more intelligent, slick and exciting than most adult movies.
Quentin Tarantino described Superman best in Kill Bill Vol. 2: “Superman stands alone…When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent.” It’s this reversal of the superhero formula that made 1978’s incarnation of Superman the best. After two big-budget attempts to reboot the franchise with access to a far greater special effects capability, neither have captured the world’s attention like the original.
Part of its success is the casting of the unknown at the time, Christopher Reeve – who superbly switches from doe-eyed klutz journalist to super-powered fearless alien hero – amongst well-loved actors including Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp and Marlon Brando.
This Superman also added something missing from almost every superhero movie since: a strong female presence. This came in the form of Margot Kidder’s sharp-tongued journalist Lois Lane who isn’t just there as a love interest.
When Stan Lee created Spiderman in 1962, the major appeal was the fact he’s a callow teenage superhero who faces the same problems and doubts as the audience, desperately trying to balance his duties to the people of Manhattan as the web-slinger (okay, maybe not all of us relate to this problem) with his studies, chores and wooing of Mary Jane.
Sam Raimi picked up on this in the first Spiderman feature film, managing to weave together a tale of love, tragedy, betrayal, revenge and sacrifice, which has immortalised the rather simplistic message of “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Raimi’s Spiderman may be about a super-powered teenager battling a man in a cybersuit, but the real story loved by audiences is about unrequited love. Steering clear of the camp approach previously seen in most big screen superhero movies, Raimi creates an expertly paced, superbly acted, warm and charming superhero movie, which also boasts some memorable edge-of-your-seat action sequences.