Friday, July 25, 2008

Breakdown of the Superhero Summer Blockbusters

Well, there can be no doubt it's been a banner year for superhero movies. Three major heroes have had movies this year, and they were all met with open arms. With The Dark Knight rounding out its first week setting record sales, I wanted to glance back at the three films and see what made them work. Hopefully the studios will take this trend and keep it moving into the next films.

Iron Man

Ok, I confess I've never been an Iron Man fan, and it really seemed weird how Marvel turned him into this really heavy character right before the movie came out, but I walked out of the theater loving what I'd just watched. Robert Downey, Jr. was the absolutely perfect choice for Tony Stark, and the fact that they stayed so true to the comics in the costuming was great. I was afraid we were going to see some weird Sci-Fi look, but it was the comic book come alive! They set themselves up nicely for a sequel as well.

What Worked:
They stayed true to the comic book. No angst-ridden killer disease that forces him to create armor to save the world from himself, or anything. This was straight from the comics for the most part (with some creative license thrown in for fun). Iron Monger was tweaked a good bit, but it all made sense in the end.

It was sort of realistic. No, it could never happen, but they managed to keep it so close to possible it's scary. As we watched Tony Stark trying to learn how to maneuver this awkward suit and make it fly, we actually believed that's what it would be like. He didn't just jump into the suit and fight like he'd been there all his life...there was a learning curve.

The stinger after the credits. If you didn't stay until the credits were over, you missed the biggest comic movie character cameo in years. When it comes out on DVD, fast forward through it all and prepare to enjoy 90 seconds of geek happiness. "Avenger initiative"...heh.

The Incredible Hulk

After the incredible letdown of The Hulk, this movie had so much going against it that I don't see how it ever got off the ground. Still, I'm glad some executive somewhere saw the potential in this character and decided to give it another shot. This one had a lot more action than the first, and the Hulk actually talked! Very nice!

What was weird was how this movie paid homage to the first film in a lot of ways, yet still managed to stay as its own. I can't say I was stoked to hear that Edward Norton would be taking over as Bruce Banner, but he managed to turn in a great performance. That final scene in the cabin was absolutely incredible for setting the stage for future movies.

While this one made the least amount of money of the three, I still think it was a nice addition to the Summer.

What Worked:
We saw the hero in the first 15 minutes of the film! For some reason, Ang Lee thought we were paying good money to see a movie call "The Hulk" but we didn't really want to see the big green guy, so he held out for the first hour before bringing him in. Bad move.

Action! Yes, we saw the inner struggle of Bruce Banner, but there was smashing in this one! The Hulk/Abomination fight was just like you'd imagine a real comic book smackdown to be like. He fought the army and the bad guy, and looked cool. I think Lou Ferrigno was a great guy, but his Hulk never jumped through the city at high speeds, or clapped out a fire. And yes, I know the Hulk looked like a video game character, but it's still better than getting some professional wrestler to wear green body paint for an hour!

Iron Man! To have a cameo like that from a movie that came out a month earlier was a home run! It helped build on the stinger from Iron Man, but they gave it to us before the credits this time.

The Dark Knight

Put aside the fact that Heath Ledger is dead and Christian Bale beats his mom...this movie would have rocked without all the publicity. Take the gritty parts of Batman Begins, jack them up five notches, and throw in a version of the Joker that truly is psychotic and scary, and you have a perfect comic book movie.

I'm thankful they gave up on trying to give Two Face a make-up job and just went with straight special effects. Yes, it was over the top (why wouldn't his eye have dried out, or burned up?), but it was better than the purple glop monster Tommy Lee Jones was supposed to be.

The only thing wrong with this film was their choice of a replacement Rachel Dawes. I know Katie Holmes was locked away in a Scientology camp somewhere, but you can't tell me they couldn't find someone who looked decent to take the role! Maggie Gyllenhaal looked better suited to play Aunt May than Batman's love interest.

And Aaron Eckhart has my vote for the role of Captain America in the upcoming film. Watch the movie and see if you don't see the resemblance there.

What Worked:

The villains. Jack Nicholson was crazy, Caesar Romero was the clown prince of crime, but Heath Ledger was scary psycho! This was the Joker I could see if they ever filmed a movie based on The Killing Joke. It would be easy to see him walk in, shoot Barbara Gordon and slowly torture Jim Gordon into crazytown. And the tragic creation of Two Face really gave depth to the character we'd never seen before. Yes, both villains had been in other Batman films, but they'd never been given the weight of these two. I love how they scrapped both villain's origins and made them their own, but still managed to stay faithful to the concept.

The hero. Christian Bale manages to do what no other Batman has done before: he makes the character human but still tough. We see him recover from his bruises and cuts, but at the same time you honestly believe he could hurt you. The beating he gave the Joker in the interrogation room was proof of that.

The secondary characters. Jim Gordon keeps developing as a character even more than Batman. He's a family man devoted to protecting Gotham City, and he manages to be a hero in the midst of "supers" all around him. Lucius Fox was great as this quiet, stalwart bastion of right, but still managed to get his gearhead moments in there as well. Alfred was good, though severely under-used this time through compared to the last film.

In case you didn't notice, this film gets my vote as best of the three. The thing that amazes me is how DC continues to put all their eggs in this basket. They have just as big a stable of characters to pull from for possible movies, but they never move on anything but Batman.

Coming Attractions

This year still holds the Punisher War Zone movie, but I'm not holding high hopes for it. Marvel is even snubbing the San Diego Comic-Con this year because they say they have nothing to preview (not good news for Wolverine fans...if they aren't wanting to hype their only hero movie for next year, how good could it be?). However, next year promises us Watchmen (if you can judge it from the previews it's going to be HUGE!), The Spirit (there's still hope for this one), and the aforementioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It may be a quiet Summer for superheroes next year, but we still have a couple of nice highlights to look forward to.

1 comment:

Ryan Meehan said...

I haven't seen Hulk yet, but Batman just kicked ass. Heath Ledger didn't just play the joker, he became the joker.

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