Bigger Screen :: 5 Great Comic Book Movies
June 2nd 2011
Nick La Rosa
Today sees the release of one of the greatest superhero movies ever made, Matthew Vaughn’s X Men: First Class. Because that movie has me so excited, I thought I’d look back on the best films the genre has thrown up.
You could argue that the modern age of superhero films began with Richard Donner’s Superman in 78 or Tim Burton’s Batman in 89. I would argue though that it really began with Sam Raimi’s Spiderman. The early Superman and Batman series existed in isolation, but the crazy success of Spiderman led to just about every dopey hero getting their own movie. Most have been rubbish. Movies like Ghost Rider, Wolverine, Catwoman… I could go on. Occasionally they throw up a good action movie, like Batman Begins or Thor. On five occasions though they have come up with truly great movies*. In order they are;
5: X Men 2
Singer’s second X Men movie likens accepting your mutation to coming out of the closet, something that the new film does as well with a sneaky “Don’t ask, don’t tell” joke. It’s a great angle. I think I more remember this movie for three magic scenes than for the whole. But those three, the opening attack on the president, Wolverine's fight with the stupid claw lady, and most importantly Magneto’s escape from the plastic prison, elevate this above just about everything else the genre has produced.
4: Iron Man
Iron Man works because the most interesting person is the lead. These movies usually rely on some teenager or twenty-something whose entire character is built around how awful it is to have superpowers, and how huge their responsibility is. The bad guy is the only one having fun. Tony Stark treats being Iron Man like being a rock star. Downey Jr’s casting was bold (I believe he may have had some run ins with the law), and he nailed it. Big cast, director just hitting their straps (Jon Favereau), and an origin story that was actually interesting. Too bad about the sequel.
3: Spiderman 2
There is no surprise that three of the movies on this list are part 2’s. The origin story has to do all of the heavy lifting. Spiderman 2 wisely keeps Peter Parker at the centre of the story and gives him a genuinely interesting arc. They hired a great actor (Alfred Molina) to play the bad guy with a straight face, despite his name being Otto Octavious and him turning into an 8 limbed super-villain. There is some great action but what sets Spiderman 2 apart is its conclusion. Firstly, it has the guts to finally reveal the hero’s secret identity to the girl. Superman has been pussyfooting around this for literally almost a century. Then, against his wishes, she leaves her astronaut asshole at the alter to be with him. For a genre that consistently sidesteps any real resolutions in the hope of generating endless sequels, this was a rare narrative payoff for the audience.
2: The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is a great crime movie. The film is so grounded in organised crime, city politics and legal proceedings that the whole man dressed as a bat bit requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than maybe it should. Image if Al Pacino spent half of ‘Heat’ dressed as a squirrel. At the time it was easy to get caught up in all of the hype and the fate of poor old