Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Reel Opinion: The Top 10 Superhero Films

Each year, this Blogger re-evalutates his list of Top 10 Superhero Films, and makes adjustments if neccessary. This past year made a valiant effort to crack the upper-echelon of Super-films, but unfortunately for the genre, could not do it. This list is almost a re-post of last year, however as time passes, your perspective changes as slowly as your beer see things a little differently and a movie or two from the past, prior to 2013, sneaks its way into the list.

To be clear, said Blogger judges superhero films the same way he judges any other movie; story, character, entertainment. And no, Reel Speak does not give a Catwoman’s ass if the film deviates from its comic-book origins. So here we go…
Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) is an automatic entry to any top 10 list. Full of heart and capitalizing on the characters and themes established in its predecessor, SPIDER-MAN 2 takes a kids’ comic concept and grows up while managing to be a ball of fun at the same time.

Bryan Singer’s X-MEN (2000) grounds its ridiculously powered characters by inserting real-world themes of racial and social divide; an area which not many films outside of the superhero genre have been willing to go. It was ballsy and ahead of its time, and very much relevant twelve years later.
M. Night Shyamalan's UNBREAKABLE (2000) was a stroke of genius for many reasons; it was the most mature and real-life Super-film ever made, it poked fun at the genre without becoming a parody, and most of was a Super-film in disguise. Not only did it have a fresh perspective at the genre, but it was also a finely crafted movie, with every single line of dialouge relevant and a slow-burning, deliberate pace which made for great and classic storytelling.

Not only is THE INCREDIBLES (2004) the only animated film to make this Blogger’s list, but it is also the one and only original film amongst the battalion of comic-hero adaptations. It is visually striking, hits all the right points in the superhero mythos, and has the right balance of feeling modern and classic at the same time.
Sometimes casting the right lead is all you need to succeed, and that is why IRON MAN (2008) is a great watch. Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect Tony Stark, and the film carries style and substance all the way through. It is clever and thick, and the blend of practical FX and CGI is outstanding.

Christopher Nolan’s first entry into his Batman trilogy, BATMAN BEGINS (2005), is by far the best superhero origin story this side of Krypton. It is easy to grow impatient watching those origin tales; it’s natural to want to see the hero put on the damn mask right away. BEGINS avoids any of that by focusing on the guy beneath said mask, who is really what the hero is all about.
All you need to know about the granddaddy of all superhero films is this: Christopher Reeve, John Williams, and Gene Hackman. That alone makes SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978) a solid film which still feels relevant and modern despite its age. Since this movie, there has never been a more rousing rescue (who’s got me, who’s got you?), or a better soundtrack in a superhero film.

Bryan Singer’s mutant sequel, X2 (2003), capitalizes on the important themes established in the first film while dishing out enough screentime to its ensemble cast to care about each and every one of them. There is a gentle and magic touch in Magneto’s seduction-of-Pyro-scene, a compelling story in Wolverine, and again, the idea to make mutants a metaphor for social injustice ventures into frightening territory for many filmmakers.
It is fair to say that THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) is the equivalent of THE GODFATHER in the superhero movie-world. It is a character study and a crime drama, and would work just fine without a guy in a cape and a dude in white makeup. Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of the film is that the villain (The Joker, played by the late great Heath Ledger), seems to have a better understanding of the state of the world than the hero we’re supposed to be pulling for does. Nothing is more unnerving than a villain who makes more sense than the hero.

If KNIGHT is THE GODFATHER with its crime drama sprinkled with character study, then the adventurous nature of Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS (2012) is naturally THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of superhero films. It is whimsical while dancing around the dark side, and its multiple storylines are driven by character, character, character, character. The real triumph is not just its ability to juggle multiple character arcs, but it is the one superhero film with the ability to jolt the asses of audiences out of their seats to yell, clap, hoot, holler and shout at the moon. THE AVENGERS may not be as deep as some of its peers, but there are none which are as much fun.

The Top 10 Superhero Films
3. X2
9. X-MEN

What say you?

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