Rooktopia rates the superhero movies, Part I

After totally jonesing on the Iron Man movie, and then hitting the shops on Free Comic Book Day, I just cannot take my mind off of superheroes and superhero movies in general. The last couple of days, my girlfriend and I have been discussing back and forth how and Avengers movie would look, and when in the world will a Wonder Woman movie come out? (She’s thinking Hillary Swank would be perfect, while I cast my discerning eye at Summer Glau.) So to help get it out of my system, here’s a look at some superhero movies past. Sit back and reminisce with me, won’t you?

Batman (1966) — So before they turned him all dark and gritty (which is how I like the consistency of my basement flooring), Batman was running around in ill-fitting tights that looks like something sewed together for the San Diego Comic Con. Modern movie-goers like to complain when a movie features more than one villain, as if one villain per superhero movie was a hard and fast rule. The 60’s Batman movie featured four, and they were played by top-notch actors like Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero. Unfortunately, the movie was actually more corny than the TV show for some reason. By the way, Batman pioneered the whole “the longer the gag goes, the funnier it gets” humor card when trying to dispose of a comically oversized novelty bomb without harming innocent little ducks. Suck on that, Family Guy! Rating: 3/5

Hulk — I don’t hate Ang Lee. In fact, I rather enjoyed Sense & Sensibility. But the Hulk movie was such a big, ponderous mess that Marvel had to reboot the franchise and start all over again in record time. Some people — mostly hipsters — are convinced that the mope-fest is a hallmark of superhero cinema, touching on psychological issues that few of these testosterone-fests fail to touch. To which I say: please explain away the last 15 minutes of the movie. You know, when Hulk’s dad turned into a jellyfish. Besides, hipsters are the kind of people that like terrible things just because it’s ironic, so their judgment should never be considered gospel by anyone. Rating: 2/5

X-Men 3 — Screw the haters. I really liked this movie. Sure, it has its flaws, but on the whole I felt it was more cinematic than the previous two entries. The first movie felt a little claustrophobic with its set pieces. The second was Weapon X heavy, and I’ve always hated those stories in the comics. (And I don’t particularly hate Wolvie, either.) But the third finally captured a lot of the spirit of the X-Men comic books. The long lines of mutants being pelted by protesters. Mageto introducing himself to a bunch of freaks at what looks like the Tenderloin in SF. Juggernaut calling Kitty Pryde a female dog. Some of the action was confusing, sure, but aren’t most comic books? Rating: 4/5

The Shadow — Um… I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world who saw this movie. It was release around the time the 1989 Batman movie was spearheading the first wave of super-mania, which also resulted in The Phantom movie and the Mystery Men. I don’t remember much about this movie except that Alex Balwin was supposed to be a Mongolian or a Chinese man, which he most definitely is not. Rating: 2/5

Spawn — This is the sort of movie where you look back and absolutely hate everything that made you anticipate it in the first place. When it came out, Image Comics was sort of this rebel outfit that stood up for creator rights and gave the big middle finger to the Big Two. Now I see them as a bunch of sniping prima-donnas and the main perpetrators of the 1990’s “extreme” aesthetic to the detriment of storytelling. Todd McFarlane was seen as a regular joe with a strong creativity streak instead of some iracible multi-millionaire who sells toys, designs ugly hockey logos, and purchases overpriced baseball paraphenalia. And then we have the Spawn movie, a dark, lifeless movie that ends in the most confusing showdowns with Satan ever committed to CGI. Rating: 1/5

Spider-Man — I remember reading in the 80’s where the big thing was to have Spidey fight some sort of cosmic threat. There were similar stories when James Cameron was attached to this movie. So it’s always been a wonder that this movie turned out to be so right. My personal hallmark, though, is when the movie first shows us the curmudgeonly editor of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson. In the theater, you could hear the widespread gasps when everyone stared at the screen in collective recognition. It’s the sort of nerd-joy that won’t be felt until the post-credit sequence in this year’s Iron Man. Rating: 5/5

Blade 2 — Despite some super-cheezy special effects (like when Wesley spilts a villain in two), this is a fine vampire movie that had enough heartbreaking betrayals and twists to keep it interesting. Too bad it will be best known for Harry Knowles’ sad, sad perversions and how they ruined AICN. Rating: 4/5

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