Tag Archives: Batman

Summer Movies: Hulking Dark Man-Boy Knights of Incredible Iron

Iron Man
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I have now seen all ((Oops! Forgot about Hancock, starring The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sorry, Will!)) of this summer’s slate of superhero movies. I’ll do a more in-depth write up shortly, but for those wondering whether The Dark Knight managed to unseat Iron Man from the number one position on my list of the Top Superhero Movies of Forever and Ever, Amen, the short answer is no.

The slightly longer answer is: not by a long shot.

The Dark Knight is not a bad movie—I gave it a solid 7 out of 10 stars—but it’s note a great movie, either. I’ll be posting a full review in the next couple of days, so let’s get back to the list.

Though Iron Man remains safely (for now; Watchmen is coming and the trailer is absolutely stunning) in the top spot, the summer blockbusters have shaken things up a bit in the middle and lower ranks.

Without going into excruciating detail, here are The Ten Superhero Movies (Summer 2008 Edition):

  1. Iron Man
  2. Hellboy
  3. Batman Begins
  4. X2: X-Men United
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. X-Men
  7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  8. The Incredible Hulk
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Spider-Man

Something feels a bit off about the middle of this list; I may have to tweak it a bit once I’ve written reviews of The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Top Ten Superhero Movies (Spring 2008 Edition)

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a blog! It’s an ordered list! It’s the Top Ten Superhero Movies as ranked by me!

Batman: The Movie (1966)10. Batman: The Movie (1966). The Dark Knight makes three separate appearances on this list and this is arguably the least dark of his incarnations; in fact, I’ve previously referred to the relative darkness of the Adam West version of Gotham’s nocturnal vigilante ((Actually, Adam West and Burt Ward do most of their crimefighting in broad daylight.)) as “a skim milk vanilla latté with a shot of raspberry syrup”. Batman: The Movie is classic, campy fun that still makes me chuckle, ((“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”)) but this movie proves that superheroes don’t have to be dark and gritty to be enjoyable.
Superman: The Movie (1978)

9. Superman: The Movie (1978). Superman movies trouble me. Christopher Reeve was a fantastic Man of Steel, ((Brandon Routh did a find job of imitating Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns, but that was just about the only thing worthwhile in the entire movie.)) but I’ve never really been a fan of the “funny” Lex Luthor. Why pit the most powerful man on the planet against a clown with delusions of grandeur? How about a villain who actually has a menacing presence on the screen? ((Sorry, Nuclear Man, you’re about as menacing as Gunther Gebel-Williams with a head cold.))

Most people I know would probably rank Superman II higher than the original, what with Terence Stamp and all that business about kneeling before Zod. In truth, the first two movies kind of blend together for me and I don’t really consider them separate entities.
Batman (1989)

8. Batman (1989). The first movie I ever stood in line for on opening day, Tim Burton’s Batman pretty much revived the superhero genre. Michael Keaton was surprisingly good in the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, but it is Jack Nicholson who stole the show as the maniacal Joker. Unfortunately, this set a bad precedent for bringing in big-name actors to portray the villains and The Shumachery that followed damn near marched the genre off a cliff in a rubber-nippled batsuit.

Spider-Man (2002)

7. Spider-Man (2002). All hail Sam Raimi for bringing the web-slinger to the big screen! Now please, stop making superhero movies. Though Spider-Man 2 had a better villain and better action sequences, the overabundance of whining and preaching knocks it down several pegs in terms of sheer enjoyment. We will not speak of Spider-Man 3. Is that understood? We will not speak of it.

The Incredibles (2004)

6. The Incredibles (2004). Here’s a special beast: a well-made superhero movie that was not adapted from a comic book. Actually, The Incredibles has roots in a whole slew of comic books, especially Fantastic Four (the movie adaptation of which only wishes it could be The Incredibles). For sheer imaginitive use of superpowers, no movie has yet matched this one.

X-Men (2000)

5. X-Men (2000). In 1997, Joel Schumacher drove what I thought might be the final nail into the coffin of not only the Batman movie franchise, but into the entire superhero movie genre. Then along game Bryan Singer, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart to revive it. Sure, Halle Berry, James Marsden and a bunch of other folks were along for the ride, but let’s face it, X-Men fans only cared about two things: getting Captain Jean-Luc Picard into Professor Xavier’s wheelchair and finding the right guy to wield Logan’s adamantium potato peelers. Ian McKellan as Magneto was icing on the cake. As for the other X-Mean…yeah, whatever, we got Patrick Stewart, baby!

Unfortunately, Bryan Singer went on to murderize Superman Returns while Brett Ratner came in to do the same to X-Men: The Last Stand.

X2: X-Men United (2003)4. X2: X-Men United (2003). Why does the sequel rank higher than the original? Two reasons: Brian Cox and BAMF! Brian Cox plays an excellent bad guy; the perfect antagonist to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. ‘Nuff said on that. Now on to the other thing: Nightcrawler’s teleportation attack on the White House was simply stunning. I spent the following five minutes trying to reattach my lower jaw and to this day I’m still not sure what happened immediately after that scene.
Batman Begins (2005)

3. Batman Begins (2005). Holy franchise resurrection, Batman! Director Christopher Nolan rolled the stone away from the tomb and we found that George Clooney was gone—replaced with the American Psycho himself, Christian Bale. The retelling of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the Dark Knight Detective is the grittiest silver screen version of the Batman to date, and the Gotham-under-siege storyline lays a solid foundation for a resuscitated series.

Hellboy (2004)2. Hellboy (2004). How much do I love this movie? Let me put it this way: I wish I had not one but two wombs so I could have both Guillermo del Toro’s and Ron Perlman’s babies. That is all.
Iron Man (2008)

1. Iron Man (2008). The latest is, indeed, the greatest. Jon Favreau is clearly an Iron Man fan, because he got everything right: casting, story, special effects, pacing, beards; it’s all brilliant. Iron Man is the first movie I’ve seen in quite a while that had me wanting to stay in the theater and watch it again after the end credits had rolled. Speaking of end credits, if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet (and you should), be sure to stick around for an extra piece of geekery after they roll.

As the self-appointed Arbiter of Superhero Movie Worthiness, I declare that this list is truth absolute ((Until my whim changes and I update it.)) and its accuracy is above question. However, if you should wish to offer your opinions on the topic—whether they rightly align with my own or not—you are encouraged to do so in the comments.

Batman Returns, more or less.

Batman and Robin - The Complete 1949 Movie Serial (DVD)I finished up the 1949 Batman and Robin serial over the weekend, and I must retract something I said about it in a previous post. See, I asserted that the 1949 version of Batman had no utility belt. Boy, was I wrong. He may not use any bat-gadgets in the first half-dozen or so installments, but when he finally does, it’s a doozy.

Minions of the fiendish Wizard lure The Dark Knight and The Boy Wonder into a trap, seal them in an airtight room and pump CO2 (that’s carbon dioxide, kids!) in through the vents. Robin, whose job description apparently reads “fall unconscious at the first hint of danger,” collapses in a heap on the floor. In classic cliffhanger fashion, the episode ends with Batman slumping to the floor as well. Is this the end of the Dynamic Duo?

Of course not. You only think you saw Batman fall face-down beside Robin last week. In reality, Batman knelt next to his sidekick and instructed Robin to breathe through a special device. A device he retrieved from his utility belt. Turns out that big old belt has both function and form. In fact, there’s a full-sized, fully functional acetylene torch on Batman’s hip, complete with ignitor and hoses that lead… well, let’s not think about that. Batman wasn’t really into miniaturization in those days, I guess. After cutting a hole in the door, Batman tucks the torch back into the ridiculously huge holster on his utility belt. How is it that I didn’t notice that thing before? It boggles the mind, really.

You know what? That’s why I love those old serials. The sheer audacity employed in getting the heroes out of one seemingly fatal scrape after another entertains me. I chuckle to imagine the audience going to the theatre week after week to find out how Batman and Robin (or Flash Gordon) managed to escape certain doom. Would there be any cries of “That’s impossible! They were both aboard the plane when it exploded last week!” or “They didn’t have time to get to the trapdoor!” or did the audience simply accept that they didn’t really see the Caped Crusader fall into the pit a week ago?

Even the revelation of the Wizard’s identity in Chapter 15 is a big cheat, but there’s no reason to spoil it for future viewers, is there? I don’t know what the official moratorium on spoilers is (probably less than fifty-six years), but I’m not telling you who the Wizard really is. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

Batman: Old School

Batman Disc 2 MenuPart of what has made Batman such a popular superhero over the years is the fact that he has no super powers. He’s just an ordinary millionaire playboy who has trained to the peak of physical perfection and used his seemingly limitless funds to build an astounding array of gadgets and gizmos to aid him in his battle against crime. Just like you or me.

Nowhere is the fact that Batman is just an ordinary Joe more evident than in the 1949 movie serial, Batman and Robin. The Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder drive around not in the Batmobile, but in Bruce Wayne’s car. They defeat criminals with fisticuffs worthy of a barroom brawl. No fancy martial arts, no swinging from rooftops, and nary a Batgizmo in sight. That’s right, the utility belt that saved Adam West’s Batbacon on so many occasions in the 1960’s does little more than hold up Robert Lowery’s Battights in the 1940’s.

Well, so far. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the 15-installment serial. The depths of The Wizard’s fiendish plot have yet to be revealed, but at the core of the masked madman’s machinations is a device that can remotely control any vehicle (be it plane, train, automobile or … tire iron?) within its range. The clever contraption can even cause a controlled car to combust. The malevolent machine runs on diamonds, and apparently requires a steady flow of the stones to operate. Thus, The Wizard dispatches his henchmen to pilfer the precious pretties from a variety of vendors, only to see them thwarted by the Dynamic Duo.

As with all serials, each episode ends with Batman and/or Robin in dire peril, and the following installment reveals how they escaped certain death, usually by cheating. Yes, the plane exploded, but … oops! … we forgot to show that crucial cut where Batman and Robin exited the aircraft with plenty of time to spare. Hell, they could have sat down for tea and biscuits after disembarking. They had that much time.

Such is the way of the movie serial of yesteryear. When Batman and Robin cheat death, they really cheat. It’s fun to watch, nonetheless. When the Captain America serial is eventually released on DVD, I’ll snatch that one, too. Yeah, I’ve already got it on VHS, but I’m a sucker for Captain America.