Wednesday, January 2, 2013


CRASH!                 WHAM!

Let’s keep things rolling along with my personal selections of the best superhero from comic book to big screen Hollywood offerings.

I’m not a huge fan of origin stories.  For me, the origin comic book is the most boring read ever.  There’s too much set-up…Who is this person?  How did they get their powers?  How did they develop their costume and identity?  What will their initial adventure (and pitfalls) be like?  Blah Blah Blah!  As a comic book reader you normally have to wait until issues 3-5 to truly get a firm grasp on how successful a concept and characters are going to be.
Superhero origin movies are much the same (and once you see my full list you’ll chuckle that picks #5-#10 are all origins) but they have the benefit of being able to cram more into a two hour movie than a mere 25-page comic book.  For me, I’m never nervous that a movie can successfully pull off an origin story because there have been so many good ones.  The real shock is when the superhero franchise can pull off a thrilling second or even third adventure (there should be a lot more Spider-Man 2's than Iron-Man 2's).

It really shouldn’t be this hard.  I mean James Bond didn’t have an origin story (until 2006’s Casino Royale in a sense) and look at how many adventures he went on that were perfectly delivered in movies.  So, why then did I have to sit through Batman & Robin, Spider-Man 3, Superman IV:The Quest for Peace…etc.  If you can tell a good origin...then the rest of the stories should be the more exciting adventures!

Here are two origin stories/movies that get a whole lot right (and then follow it up with better offerings)!


Batman and Robin may be the worst superhero movie ever!  This movie worked so tirelessly to destroy the Batman franchise from the casting of George Clooney, to the horrendous dialogue (every line from Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy is riddled with cringe worthy moments), to the nipple costumes and neon-lit Gotham City, and of course to the fact that Batman was once again reduced to having such a ridiculous amount of gadgets and costumes (and thank God he had those bat-hook lines which seemed to be the only thing that could save his life…over and over…).  Watch the movie and you’ll see two hours of director Joel Schumacher exclaiming, “THIS IS HOW YOU KILL A BATMAN FRANCHISE!”

Then amazingly director Christopher Nolan came around years later and said, “This is how you save the Batman franchise.  You tell an adult story with good characters, solid plotting, and you take the audience on an adventure.”

I saw BATMAN BEGINS on opening weekend (an opening weekend that financially paled in comparison to the first four Batman movies) and I remember leaving the movie with a smile on my face but fearfully thinking, “Wow, I pray people forget Batman & Robin and go and see this movie because this is how Batman is meant to be showcased on the big screen.”

The movie solidly delivers Bruce Wayne’s origin and motivation, his training, the explanation behind his use of the bat-motif and his gadgets, and sends viewers along on a roller coaster as Batman learns the ropes while forging a partnership with Lt. Gordon and battling the Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul.  I think that’s worth repeating, director Christopher Nolan gave people a great Batman movie and his choice of villains were Ra’s Al Ghul and the Scarecrow!  You know the majority of people were thinking, “Where’s Joker, Riddler, Robin, and Catwoman…?”

I love the look of Gotham City in this movie.  I love the casting of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, the under-appreciated Rutger Hauer, and Gary Oldman (so much that I’ll overlook Katie Holmes and that annoying Joffrey from Game of Thrones too).  I love that Batman uses detective skills as well as darkness, gadgets, and fighting ninja-like abilities to battle the forces of evil.

Batman Begins is the second best Batman movie ever produced.  If you haven’t seen it recently, go check it out…it holds up spectacularly.


A Word War II superhero movie that has to bridge the path between blockbuster movies Iron-Man and the upcoming team-up The Avengers.  Captain America had every reason to fail and yet, it’s a grand slam!  Marvel Studios were spot-on in their choice of director Joe Johnston (or Rocketeer fame) to recreate the origins of the “first” Avenger and then manage to weave a tale that helps delivers him from the 1940’s to present day.

Next to Spider-Man, Captain America may be my favorite superhero.  What’s not to love?  He’s patriotic, a natural leader, a fighter, a strategist, and he throws a shield!  AWESOME!  As a child in the 70's I remember watching two horrendous made-for-TV Captain America movies - seriously am I the only one who remembers CAPTAIN AMERICA: DEATH TOO SOON...?  A disastorous movie where Cap (played by Reb Brown - whose acting chops were so bad he might as well have been performing Othello at a senior citizens home) had a motorcycle that he burst out of his "rockin'" 70's van (YES a VAN) to battle Christopher Lee and generic thug villains who looked like they stumbled right out of a Six Million Dollar Man episode.  Captain America's plastic shield was so poor and wobbly it looked like a strong breeze would veer it off course.  I watched these movies...over and over and smiled thinking, "Captain America is so cool!"  That's how cool his superhero factor is!  Captain America can strive beyond Reb Brown's "acting".

If you’ve ever read any of Captain America’s comic books (especially the early WWII stories) then what you see on the screen are those very same stories.  I loved the look of the shield(s), the Nazi-esque HYDRA agents, and the villainous Red Skull.  The montages tell enough of the story while cleverly leaving gaps for future sequels to plug in additional back storylines.  Bonus points for the use of Bucky and his “disappearance” to set up 2014’s Winter Soldier.

For a movie that came out in 2011, Captain America feels like a solid 70’s era-blockbuster.  It had me smiling the entire time I saw it.  The use of CGI to make Steve Rogers a weak human with a heart of gold is exactly how special effects should always be add to a movie, not to serve solely as the movie.  The best scene in the movie is when Dr. Erskin sits with skinny little Steve and he tells him what is important on the inside...and how it will never change no matter what happens to the outside.  This is a great parallel when viewed with the film's villain the Red Skull.  Cap’s finale battle aboard (and in the sky around) the Red Skull’s plane had me on the edge of my seat.  His ditching of the plane into the frozen waters…and subsequent “death” almost had me in tears.  This is a strong movie, and if you watch it back-to-back with The Avengers (which is really a Captain America movie) then you can see a solid story arc of a truly great American superhero.

Movies #5 and #4…sooner than you’d expect…

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