Saturday, October 15, 2016

Playing Favorites...

Just for the heck of it I thought I'd list my favorite comic book movies of all time (hey, everyone else does it! :) The films here are the best of the best, in my opinion, regardless of if they're superhero flicks or something else in the genre.

Here they are now, in no particular order...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The original live action interpretation of the popular indie comic. This film borrowed heavily from the early comics to great success. It was my introduction to the TMNT and I've had a fondness for the concept ever since. The subsequent efforts missed the mark and even the more recent Michael Bay produced films just aren't as special.

Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980)

I consider Superman: The Movie to be the granddaddy of them all. Sure, there were a few superhero movies before that but this was the first to go big budget in its era and transcend the genre. Superman showed us studios could take men in capes seriously from a budgetary and storytelling perspective.  Superman 2 was half done by Richard Donner as well before he was fired by the film's producers and replaced with Richard Lester. Regardless, his efforts shine through in the sequel as well.

Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Technically, Transformers was a toy line first but the comic dates back to 1984, well before the first big screen effort. Transformers: The Movie is what got me seriously into Transformers. It raised the stakes for the characters, killing several off and introducing new ones. The animation was top notch in its day and the music was both great and fun.

Spiderman 2 (2004)

Sam Raimi's Spiderman film was very good. It was an excellent proof of concept but ended without Mary Jane discovering Peter's secret and their love going unfulfilled. Spiderman 2 changed all of that while introducing us to Alfred Molina's excellent Otto Octavius. All of Raimi's Spiderman films are simultaneously realistic and fantastic. Spiderman 2 is the best of the series and hits all the right marks.

Captain America (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

What impressed me about Captain America was how they got the character totally right. Chris Evans nailed the portrayal of the character and the story was very good. Haley Atwell was both gorgeous and capable as Agent Carter, a great counterpoint to the idealistic boy from the Bronx who just wanted to make a difference.

The first film worked great as a period piece but could the sequel match it? Fortunately, yes. The Winter Soldier is an action movie and a spy film at the same time. A juxtaposition of Steve Roger's classic American morals versus the modern cynicism that has seemingly permeated our society. Cap's unwillingness to give up on his friend, despite his programmed killer tendencies, is touching and powerful. The film also expands upon the Black Widow in meaningful ways, proving she's a complex character and not just another pretty face.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

People loved the first Iron Man film. The second? Not so much... the third film, written and directed by Shane Black, proved polarizing. Many loved it however some did not (mostly because of the whole Mandarin plotline). I've seen it a few times now and the writing is excellent. Tony Stark has to deal with post traumatic stress, without his armor and out on his own while dealing with an incredible new enemy. This film, while relying on technological enemies, avoided the cliche of the second film's need to have more Iron Man-like villains. In Killian we also get an intriguing antagonist. He's out to cause chaos but we wonder if things could've gone another way if Tony had helped him initially (contrast this with IM2's largely forgettable foe). Tony is still whip-smart and fun despite his predicament and the story is interesting.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

Pretty much every X-Men movie is "Wolverine and friends" but this film got very close to the best of the X-titles Marvel has done (while still spotlighting Logan). The film is involving and we get to see Magneto (sort-of) on the good guys side. Magneto is a complex grey character and I appreciated this nod to that aspect of him. He's a man who thinks he's doing what's best for his people as opposed to a cartoony super villain (sadly, X3 got this really wrong, among other problems).

X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)

This film was Bryan Singer's triumphant return to the X-series. And it works very well...again, spotlighting Wolverine but it works well in the context of the story. Both generations of actors come together to tell a past-future tale with the fate of mutant and humankind alike in the balance. Despite Wolverine's presence this is more a tale of Charles, Magneto and Raven with Mystique coming to terms with her own conflicted loyalties. And Quicksilver was awesome too! (Sadly, Apocalypse just wasn't as good by comparison).

The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012)

Batman Begins started this trilogy and is a solid film, introducing a Batman set in a much more realistic world. Bruce Wayne needs justice from the world and goes to extraordinary lengths to attain it. The second movie introduced us to Heath Ledger's amazing Joker and the third film wrapped up the storyline with Bane and Catwoman. All three films are long and packed with story. A lesser filmmaker might have not been able to make it work but Christopher Nolan does an amazing job of each film. The movies are dark in tone but each have an aura of hope. In the end, Gotham can be saved and Bruce Wayne will find his peace and his vindication.

The Rocketeer (1991)

This movie came out at a time when cgi was barely even in its infancy but they managed to pull off some amazing special effects. It's also set during the 1930s and is an entertaining period piece. In many ways, it's old fashioned in its approach (compared to today's films) but it's well done with a good story and characters.

Batman (1989)

It's a film of its era, but the Tim Burton film is an interesting and entertaining pulp superhero film. My only real complaint is that Batman is more of a killer then he should be. Despite this, it works very well overall. Nicholson's Joker is unique, scary and entertaining all at the same time. I also love both Danny Elfman's instrumental score (one of the best superhero ones. Period) and also Prince's music. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

It's a movie about a lot of characters I'm not that familiar with and despite it all works better then it should. The comedy really sells this film. We like the characters and their journey as they slowly become a team. Also, some of the visuals are amazing (like the bazaar world they go to inside the dead Celestial's head). Also, 99% of the film is not about Earth, which is a welcome change.

The Crow (1994)

When it was released, this film got a lot of press due to Brandon Lee's tragic death during the filming. This was the first time I'd ever heard of the Director, Alex Proyas. This is a simple revenge story with a supernatural twist. But Proyas' vision of this dark, ethereal world is fascinating and really sells the story. It's a fairy tale and a horror story, combined with an action movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010)

My initial reaction to this movie was that it was unlike anything I'd ever seen. Watching it again several times, I can see the clear video game influences here. This movie is full of great characterization and some truly entertaining fights. It's a unique entity in its own right and deserves to be seen!