Another summer of chock full of superhero movies began recently with the release of Iron Man 3. This will be followed up over the next few months with comic-based films The Wolverine, Man of Steel, and Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall. As a bonus, the year rounds out with the release of the Thor sequel Thor: The Dark World in November.
Superhero films are big business these days and are seemingly now a staple of the summer movie lineup, so this week we want to take a look at some of our favorite superhero films and more importantly, why they were important to the genre.
Let’s be honest here, the original X-Men film really wasn’t all that great as far as storylines go. It was primarily carried by special effects and the wonder of seeing some of our favorite superheroes finally portrayed well in a live-action film. But back in 2000, X-Men kicked off the current superhero movie craze because it had crisp writing and acting and showed that movie special effects had finally gotten to the point where they could make super powers look good.
While there had been successful superhero films before like the Superman films of the 80s and the Batman films of the 90s, they were a bit campy and not really produced by comic book lovers for comic book fan boys. X-Men proved that superhero films could be big hits that dropped the campiness and appealed to mass audiences, paving the way for 13 more years (and counting) of nerd-driven films.
When X-2 came out in 2003, it gave superhero films a precedent that would be last for at least a decade: it gave us a superhero sequel that was leagues better than the original, basically improving on every aspect of the first film. Now, every superhero film, regardless of how much money it makes, plans on continuing the story with a sequel in not many sequels. Most films actually end with bonus scenes that hint at what comes in the next film. Also, while X-Men: First Class was incredibly enjoyable, we still think X-2 is the flagship X-Men storyline and film of the series so far. No X movie has weaved it characters and comic book roots together in one great film quite like X-2 did.
And this is still one of the greatest opening scenes of any superhero movie ever.
After the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man films, superhero movies started to draw some bigger names to star in them. The shining example of this is Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. Downey Jr. showed us that we could have just as much fun watching a superhero when he’s out of his costume as we did when he was all suited up.
Additionally, Iron Man proved that when done properly, even heroes that were not as well-known outside of the comic book community could be a huge success. Put another way, without the foundation and success of Iron Man, we never would have gotten The Avengers film.
For the record, Spider-Man 2 is a fantastic film! It took a popular storyline familiar to comic book fans and translated it perfectly for the mass audience to create a great film. It also did a wonderful job of incorporating some of Spider-Man’s trademark quips and witty dialogue, truly bringing the wall-crawler from panel to screen.
Additionally, Spider-Man 2 took superhero movie villains to the next level. Alfred Molina was perfectly cast as the diabolical Doc Ock and the special effects showed movie-goers that we could see just about any villain out there make the jump to the silver screen without giving him a major makeover like the Green Goblin had to do with his green jumpsuit and mask from the first Spider-Man film.
Spider-Man 2 is so good, if we try real hard to just focus on that, then we might forget this ever happened:
This past summer, Marvel’s The Avengers took the entire planet by storm, shattering box office records worldwide. Now, by 2012, we already knew that superhero movies could make bookoo bucks, but Marvel took the biggest collection of heroes since the X-Men and pitted them against a relatively unknown villain (traditionally, bad villains mean bad movies) and made the whole film feel like you were watching a comic book. This felt different than previous superhero films because in those, it felt like the characters were pulled from the comics and translated to a movie format, but The Avengers pacing, scenes, dialogue, and action felt like you were watching a live-action comic and it was awesome!
The comedic timing on this was ripped straight from comic panels.
I think by now everyone knows that The Dark Knight was amazing. But do you remember what you thought when you first saw it? Sure, we had already seen Batman Begins, but Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman was so unique, because it started to make us think that it might be possible for a superhero like Batman to really, truly exist in our world. No other superhero movie has done that. It was dark and gritty, but in many ways it felt realistic. No one had superpowers, just a lot of money and resources. What if there really was an insane criminal mastermind clown out there?
Speaking of which, Heath Ledger was absolutely captivating as the Joker. Every scene he was in, he stole the show and viewers couldn’t take their eyes off him. He is the only person to win an Academy Award for a role in a superhero film. His performance alone could set this film apart as the most memorable