If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This past decade has seen more superheroes on the big screen than any other. Whether you're into DC or Marvel, original or comic-based material, men in armor or men in tights, you've probably seen most if not all of the films which fall into this slowly-but-surely maturing genre. So, without further ado, let's piss off some fanboys!! Uh, I mean, let's begin the countdown of the 5 greatest superhero movies these past 10 years had to offer!!
5. The Dark Knight (Directed by Christopher Nolan)
The Dark-Fucking-Knight!!! This is the film that gave fans a serious and almost incurable case of Batman-fever back in 2008 (some have never fully recovered). The late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker is an example of a truly legendary performance. Ledger fully deserved his posthumous Academy Award. My favorite thing about this film was the idea of Joker coming into existence for the sole purpose of being the complete antithesis to everything Batman was and stood for, an agent of chaos. With a director who took his source material very, very seriously and a superb supporting cast (Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman), I’m sure many of you are wondering why this is so low on my listy-list. The Reason: Christian Bale. Apparently, Bale decided it would be too much of a good thing to have an awesome Batman along with an already badass Joker and Two-Face. When he’s Bruce Wayne, his dialogue is sparse and unoriginal, he tries WAY too hard to look intense, and he has a fucking lisp. As Batman, his costume looks like utter shit and he substitutes his lisp for a growl which I’m sure even the most hardcore of fans found cringe worthy. When he’s offscreen…GREAT!
4. Spider-Man (Directed by Sam Raimi)
Anyone who knows me, or at least, knows my secret identity, knows how much I love the ‘ol webhead. They also know that when it comes to our friendly neighborhood Spidey, I tend to be a bit biased. The rights to who was legally allowed to make this 2002 film were fought over in courts for almost two decades, and while the film itself is no masterpiece, fans of the character left theaters that May fully satisfied. The infinite flaws to be found in this film aren’t invisible to me, they just happen to be flaws I’ve managed to both overlook and enjoy over the years, mainly just because I love the character so damn much. But don’t get me wrong, there’s a LOT to love about this movie. Despite all its exciting WHAMS, BAMS, explosions, and battles ‘high above the city streets,’ I’ve always found the movie’s real charm and heart stemming from the chemistry between Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson. It’s the sort of romance you rarely sensed between the characters in the comics, and was completely absent in Nolan’s Batman films.
3. Spider-Man 2 (Directed by Sam Raimi)
Seriously, is ANYBODY disappointed to see this make the list?! Its friggin’ Spider-Man 2!! Director Sam Raimi did an excellent job of improving every aspect of the first film with this sequel. We have a better villain in Alfred Molina’s Doc Oc, more character development, mind-blowing action sequences, the works. One thing I noticed about this movie is how much it reminded me of the 1960’s Jack Lemon movie The Apartment, that sense of heart-wrenching loneliness in a large city full of people. Another similarity to that film is how the comedy in this Spidey flick is in all the right places and makes the world’s most popular science nerd all the more endearing. James Franco always seems to get overlooked in most of this film’s previous praise, but he deserves mention as a much darker Harry Osborn. All in all, the good far outweighs the bad (too few to mention) in this movie and its definitely my favorite superhero sequel. EXCELSIOR!!
2. Batman Begins (Directed by Christopher Nolan)
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had the biggest problem with Batman’s origin story. A guy kills his parents when he’s a kid and he decides almost immediately to study and train like a mofo to one day become the world’s greatest superhero detective??!! Most unlikely. I was forced to accept that bullshit origin until I saw Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Allow me to coin a new phrase here when I say this movie rocked the socks off my cock. This movie puts all previous films based on the character to shame (well, Tim Burton’s films anyway, Joel Schumacher didn’t need any help in that department). Unlike in The Dark Knight, Christian Bale is amazing as both Bruce Wayne and Batman (even his growl was considerably less annoying). We gain much-needed insight into Wayne’s psychology and his motivations behind becoming a crime-fighting avenger. The polar opposite to Raimi’s Spider-Man films, Nolan’s first Batman movie is grounded firmly in reality and it’s obvious that he has a strong desire to make everything in this world make sense. After all, Batman, not having any powers, is probably the most realistic superhero out there. The theme of fear is present throughout and works beautifully in retelling Batman’s origin. What Frank Miller did for the character in comics back in the 80’s is what Nolan is doing through film. With this 2005 release, Batman truly begins.
1. Unbreakable (Directed by M. Night Shymalan)
The date was November of 2000. There had been 2 great Superman films, 2 passable Batman films, and a recent X-Men film. The coming decade would provide plenty to satisfy any comic-book-based-superhero-loving movie-goer’s appetite, but it was in this particular year that the best and most original film of the superhero genre emerged, and from the most unlikely of filmmakers.
M. Night Shymalan’s The Sixth Sense had been released the previous year to overwhelming praise. The studio as well as most audiences expected his next project to be another supernatural thriller. While it was, it still defied everyone’s expectations.
Using his previous film’s dark, suspenseful tone, Shymalan tells a brilliant superhero AND supervillain origin story. It avoids the corny, silly traps even the best superhero films always seem to fall into and instead focuses on the mystery of whether Bruce Willis’ character, David Dunn, really is a real-life superhero. Many will disagree with me, but with Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of the mysterious, disturbed Elijah Price, Shymalan has created one of the greatest movie characters of all time, and certainly one of the greatest villains. He is infinitely interesting and unpredictable, delivers a handful of memorable, quotable lines (‘They called me Mr. Glass,’ ‘Now that we know who you are, I know who I am’) and everything about him just looks so iconic, from his Frederick Douglas hair to his purple overcoat and glass walking stick. I don’t know about you, but I want an Elijah Price action figure.
The thing I absolutely love about this movie is how, save for David’s touch-based visions, we are never shown anything out of the ordinary, anything that could never happen. The film maintains its tone of dark, somber reality, and I think, in many ways, tries to get across or suggest to the viewer the strange and mysterious nature of reality and the hidden secrets within it. The kind of secrets you would have to be insane, like Elijah Price, to figure out.
So yeah, Unbreakable is numero uno on my list. If you’ve vowed never to watch a single of Shymalan’s films due to word-of-mouth, break that vow just for this movie. If that doesn’t convince you, Quentin Tarantino recently named it as one of his favorite movies since 1992, calling it a ‘masterpiece.’ Yeah, Tarantino said that. Not lyin’. Anyway, I doubt I’ll ever see a superhero movie not based on a comic book or TV show that’s this original and mature. I’ll have to make do with Hancock, I guess. :(