It seems like every year we're introduced to a new great super-hero movie. Some great ones came from nowhere (300, Iron-Man), while some comic book characters deserve much better (a new rev of Superman, Punisher, Catwoman). Well, on to the festivities:
African-American comic book heroes are far and few but in 1998, the "daywalker" brought an end to the drought. Wesley Snipes as Blade was one of the great surprises in comic book films and started a trilogy of movies based on the vampire vigilante (the third film was almost unwatchable unfortunately). The studio's decision to go rated-R for this violent film was an excellent choice.
9: The Incredible Hulk
After Ang Lee's strange adaptation of the Hulk in 2003, we feared the long hibernation of the big green monster. Despite having good ideas and intriguing cinematography, the Hulk failed to bring audiences what they wanted: a good Hulk-smashing time. 2008 changed that with The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton. It was exciting, fun, and wasn't too emotionally or cerebrally draining (exactly what we expect from the Hulk).
Sam Raimi surprised everyone in 2002 with his first attempt at a Spider-Man movie. As a kid, I always wondered how you could have a guy in a Spidey suit swinging off buildings in a huge city look realistic. After James Cameron dropped out of the production, I figured no one could do it if the "Terminator guy" couldn't. I was wrong.
Not only was Spider-man a lot of fun, but Peter Parker was brought to life terrifically by Tobey Maguire along with the other characters by a terrific cast. But give Raimi all the credit; the city looks great with Spidey swinging around it. It was a fresh ambitious start that led to an even better sequel.
7: Batman Begins
After a 1990's littered decade of Batman running around with bat-nipples, butt shots, and increasingly lower quality installments (Batman and Robin remains one of the worst comic book movies ever), most forgot that Batman was one of the most intriguing comic book characters. The comics had the caped crusader in a dark Gotham City fighting some of the most popular villains in all comics.
Christopher Nolan changed that in 2005 with Batman Begins, the new start at the Batman franchise with a more realistic approach. You can feel Bruce Wayne's pain (wonderfully played by Christian Bale)and his journey in becoming the Dark Knight. Most importantly, it restored respect to the Batman name.
Despite it's rather obscure source as being a lesser known comic, Frank Miller's 300 was brought to life by a great up and coming director Zack Snyder (of 2004's Dawn of the Dead, an excellent film). The movie was a visual masterpiece; a feast for the eyes. The vision of the movie was one of the most original since the Matrix movies and had a legion of really bad-ass warriors against the huge Persian army.
"Spartans! Tonight, we dine in hell!"
In 1978, Superman arrived to the screens in huge anticipation. It was a complete wonder how realistic in would be on film to see Superman saving Lois Lane from danger with the special effects available at the time. Richard Donner made it work with a great origins adaptation of Superman. Most of the film focuses on his childhood, growing up with unexplainable powers and his journey from Smallville boy to Metropolis news reporter Clark Kent/Superman.
With a recent viewing, the movie does admitted work at a slow pace compared to today's films, but this movie will be remembered for at least one thing: that a rather unknown actor named Christopher Reeve made a man fly.
4: X-Men 2
Perhaps the most ambitious of the bunch, the X-Men movies require a lot of effects for all the various mutants it features. X2 captured the feel of the comic exceptionally with all the super powers of the mutants, and a great cast led by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Sandwiched by 2 great, but not as awesome entries in the franchise, one can only hope to see more X-Men movies with the same cast.
3: Iron Man
Not much was expected out of this Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man. The movie didn't have much of a buzz and the character's popularity is lesser compared to the others. But credit must be given to this highly entertaining, contemporary look into Iron Man. Jon Favreau's direction is excellent as apathetic, but brilliant millionaire Tony Stark (played excellently by Robert Downey Jr.) experiences a new direction in life after being held by Taliban-esque terrorists. With his production of a nearly invincible suit, Stark attempts to repair the wrongs of his weapons company. Downey bring Tony Stark to life and Gwyenth Paltrow (as Pepper Potts) hasn't been this good in a long long time.
2: Spider-Man 2
Could Raimi capture lightning twice with this sequel? On nearly every level, Spider-Man exceeds its predecessor. The characters are better, the plot is more expansive, and most importantly Peter Parker is conflicted and given a realistic dilemma. Most sequels fail because it forgets that the main character isn't one-dimensional; they are always evolving and changing. Peter Parker's abilities are inconsistent as he ponders whether being Spider-Man is right for him. But between the city in danger and his love for Mary Jane, Peter must make a decision.
1: The Dark Knight
Everyone thought Heath Ledger was a strange choice to portray the Joker during the production of the Batman Begins sequel. Could the guy that played Ennis Del Mar in "Brokeback Mountain" play the totally different, maniacal villain the Joker? The Oscar award explains it all. Unfortunately Ledger's death from overdose prevented him seeing the fruits of his labor.
Even so, all the people at work here, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman are excellent in their respective parts. Aaron Eckhart is perfect as the emotionally and scarred Two-Face. Director Christopher Nolan creates a masterpiece that will be nearly impossible to be eclipsed by future comic-book movie adaptations.