Posted on May 10, 2007 - by MG
Let’s count down.
10. The Shadow (1994)
I like that The Shadow isn’t a victim of a horrible accident or scientific experiment gone wrong. I don’t quite understand where his powers come from and the film doesn’t really explain properly, which is all to the good – leaves some ambiguity. Is he some reincarnated warrior, or an immortal? Why does he change from handsome Lamont into ugly-mug Shadow? But the psychic aspect is really intriguing. The 30s-art-deco thing is done perfectly here, not overstated but consistently elegant. Alec Baldwin when he was still very hot, is deliciously inaccessible to the feisty blond sidekick who wants to get her paws on him. This movie is under-rated as far as I’m concerned. A certain amount of cheesiness is called for in superhero movies.
9. Batman Returns (1992)
Utterly classic! For Batman fans, this has it all – the scenes of Arkham Asylum – the lunatic, disfigured baddie (Penguin), the introduction of the sublime Catwoman (Michell Pfeiffer giving Julie Newmark a run for her money), and Batman before he became, as he is wont to do, a self-parody.
What is about The Bat that makes him eventually descend into bad self-parody? The new incarnation of Batman was allegedly influenced by Frank Miller, great reinventor of Brucie as a tough, angsty crusader. But by the third movie all that was forgotten and we were lurching back into Adam West territory. So now, with Batman Begins, we’re back with the Miller-esque Batman. Let’s hope it sticks. But 1992 was still a heyday for long-time Bruce Wayne fans like me.
8. Batman Begins
Comic books films grow up! said the critics. hey! Who said we wanted them to? This explores not just the origins of Batman and his early years, allegedly based on Frank Miller’s Batman Year One (and presumably Year Two, not written by Miller, but which introduces Ras Al Guhl to the early-Batman lore). Quasi serious and quite violent action movie. Brilliantly explores the psychological dimension of Bruce Wayne’s incarnation as the Batman, in a similar way to the best Batman comics.
7. X-Men (2000)
Now I’ll confess to never having read X-Men comics. I don’t like multi-protagonist comic books; there I’ve said it. With the exception of the brilliant Watchmen. This is my beef with Marvel. If one hero is good then two is better, seems to be the prevailing thinking. I always worry when I pick up a Daredevil that shows MM battling a few demons with the help of Spidey et al. Oh, boo, demons v the Marvel crowd, I go. So I don’t read JLA or XMen or Fantastic Four.
I prefer my superheroes to fly solo and preferably to be in big trouble, suffering. (Which is why Miller’s Daredevil is my favourite stretch of comic books stories ever)
This meant that I didn’t expect the movie of X-Men to be so damn great! Who knew?! It’s awesome. If I had time I’d go back and read the comics. But I don’t. And now I’m probably too old to properly enjoy them.
Part of the movie’s brilliance are the performances of Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman, amongst others. But the writing and effects are also terrific.
6. Superman (1978)
People forget how amazing this was. It was fabulous! Christopher Reeve made it look simple to be goofy Clark Kent and Superman too, but it was a genius performance. And Marlon Brando as Jor-El, the whole Krypton thing, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. This is where great superhero movies all began.