List Day: My Favorite Superhero Movies1. The Incredibles
God bless Brad Bird. God bless him because he made the superhero movie that moviemakers should have been making for years. He respected the audience, and told the story without feeling like he had to fall over himself, and apologetically cowtow to us by giving us an hour and a half of exposition on how the superheroes discovered their powers and how they got to be how they are.
He just gave us the credit that we might be able to comprehend a little bit of make believe without it needing to be rationalized for us.
The animation lent itself to that, I guess. Maybe Joe America was a little more willing to accept flying and stretchy people if they're cartoons.
Plus, the whole argument between Samuel L. Jackson's Frozone and his wife for his superhero suit is comic gold.2. Unbreakable
This one's wandered up onto my personal favorites list. I liked it when I first saw it, but it's grown on me quite a bit, even so. It's one of those I like more each time I see it.
It does pretty much the opposite of The Incredibles, in that it's just
an origin story. Since it doesn't have any comic-based mythology it's adapted from, it's able to tell its story without having to do any particular thing to appease the comic fanboys.
Plus, it's got the benefit of a creepy Samuel L. Jackson performance. I like the whole bit where Mr. Glass is explaining the piece of comic art to the potential buyer at his studio, explaining the artistic rendering of the villain (enlarged head, bigger eyes), and you have Samuel, with his poofy villain's hair and his giant eyes telling all this. I just liked it.
Just a note: both the top movies have Samuel L. Jackson in key roles.
Who can say?
Only Samuel knows.3. X-Men 2
This was the movie, as a former X-Men fanboy, I was looking for. And with the second movie, it got past all that nasty origin, where we had to explain what mutants are, and who the X-Men are, and who Magneto is, and who Wolverine is, and who Rogue is, and who Robert Kelly is, and all that jazz. This one, like most superhero movie sequels, is able to jump right into the story.
Plus, it had Nightcrawler. He's one of my favorite X-Men.
My favorite bit? Rogue, Pyro, Iceman and Wolverine are cornered by the cops, ratted out by Bobby Drake's brother. Pyro attacks, and you can see in his eyes just how much he's enjoying the carnage he's causing.4. The Specials
Go see this movie
, if you haven't. I like the humor. It's a team of C-list superheroes who, in spite of their abilities, are perhaps even more petty and small than a normal person might be. Thomas Haden Church and Paget Brewster are particularly good.
Not a superhero movie in the traditional sense. Still, a good one that doesn't get enough love, for my money.5. Batman (1989)
I'm a Batman freak. Been reading Batman comics for right on 20 years now. So when Tim Burton's movie was coming out, I was stoked. It was really my first big fanboy moment. My friend Nigel and I spent most of the spring talking about what little bit we'd seen in commercial snippets, or on any of the entertainment TV shows. Leading up to the movie, neither of us liked Michael Keaton for Batman, and we weren't enthusiastic about a couple of the pieces we'd seen where Bruce Wayne were to say "Alfred, let's go shopping," or any of Robert Wuhl's readings as Allie Knox.
Still, we both had to admit that it looked cool
. And, at 11 and 12, I wasn't yet on the whole kick on who
makes the movies, but somehow I'd made the connection that the same guy who was making Batman had made Beetlejuice, which was a movie I'd enjoyed very, very much.
I saw Batman 5 times in the theater, over the course of the next three or four months. It ran in the Plaza Twin in Athens for weeks. And in a small town with 4 movie screens, with so many movies coming out, that's a long, long time to run a movie. So I wasn't the only one coming in multiple times.
It still holds up, mostly. The whole Victorian/Gothic Gotham City thing gives it an identity. I've heard people complain about that, but I kinda liked it.6. Superman 2
I was going to stop at 5, but this one's got a goofy charm. I always enjoyed the interplay of the dual personalities Clark/Superman has to use. It's goofy, and it's not realistic. I mean, if I take off my glasses, I don't become a different person.
Or do I? All those neighborhood pets have
But that's neither here nor there.
The bit where Clark has to admit to himself that Lois has figured him out is one of the great moments in superhero moviedom. There are a couple of emotions there that I really appreciate. You see Clark frustrated, first, that he's been found out. Then, he admits it to himself, does a shoulder role, changes his posture, holds his head higher. In that moment, you can see that he's no longer Clark Kent. He's wearing Clark's clothes, he's in his shoes. But even without that Superman Suit, you can see that Clark became Superman.
And then there's one more emotion, and it plays out over the course of the scene, and really for the movie.
You can see Clark's relief. At the very least, for not having to keep that secret, at least from this person he cares about.
I always appreciated Christopher Reeve for that. For showing that Clark and Superman aren't the same person, but they have to be, sometimes. And you get to see how painful that is, sometimes, for the Man of Steel.
I also like General Zod and his Kryptonian compatriots.
What damns this movie, and what keeps it from being in my personal top 5 is the whole thing where Superman gets his powers taken away to be with Lois, and the implication is that he can never go back. He's making an unimaginable sacrifice.
And then, an hour later, when he's needed again, he gets his powers back. It's a little cheap.
I once argued at length with a co-worker who loved what I called the damning factor. He said it made the movie feel like the Silver Age books he'd read growing up, where these huge, monumental things would happen, but at the end of the book, the status quo is pretty much achieved. I can identify, because it's what I liked about shows like The Simpsons, back in the day. So that's cool with me.
Still, I like the movie.
Kneel before Zod.