Movie Article

Heroic Efforts

Of all the comic-book superhero movies, going back to 'Batman' from the 1940's, what's your 'Best of' and 'Worst of' list and why? Check out today's Ask the Critic question and post your own

'SUPERMAN II'
Image credit: Superman II: Kobal Collection
'SUPERMAN II'

What are the best and worst comic book superhero movies?

Hey Ken, of all the comic book superhero movies, going back to the Batman from the 1940's, what's on your best and worst list and why? —Brandon B. Holmes

This is a tough question, since there have been so many comic book-based movies, some animated, some live-action, some comic-book-derived, and some with movie-original superheroes.

Anyway, you've laid down the challenge and I cannot wuss out. Straining for the highest (and lowest) standards, here's a crack at a 5 Best and 5 Worst. (And you other readers — please bring on your own lists.)

The Best

1. Superman II (1980) As a pure, non-camp attempt to capture the spirit of the best-known superhero, this Richard Lester/Richard Donner-directed movie is the most purely pleasureable example of its genre, as far as I'm concerned.
2. American Splendor (2003) The most original comic-book-based movie, with Paul Giamatti playing Harvey Pekar, the real-life comic book writer. Some would say this isn't a superhero movie (Pekar has in fact said he hates superhero comics), but I consider Pekar's accomplishments heroic, and Giamatti's portrayal of this working-class hero is also super-human.
3. Mystery Men (1999) It was a commercial disappointment, but there hasn't been a movie that worked better as both affectionate parody and straight-up adventure tale than this genial flick about misfits starring everyone from Greg Kinnear to Paul Reubens.
4. X2: X Men United (2003) Noses out the original on the strength of more streamlined storytelling and less screen-time for my least-favorite portrayal of an X-person, Halle Berry's over-acted Storm.
5. Spiderman 2 (2004) Again, superior to the original, this time primarily because I enjoyed Alfred Molina's expressive Doctor Octopus more than the original's rigid-masked Green Goblin of Willem Dafoe.
Runners-up: Darkman, Sin City, and Blade

The Worst

1.Teenage Mutant Ninja Tutles (1990) The ickiest heroes ever, in a sloppily-made mess.
2. Catwoman (2004) There are few things worse than an unintentionally campy, dumb superhero movie whose sexy central character isn't sexy.
3. Supergirl (1984) Poor Helen Slater — I remember when this was being filmed and people thought she'd become as big a star as Christopher Reeveā€¦ until the listless movie was released. And to think, they could have emulated the wonderful Supergirl art of either Curt Swan or Kurt Schaffenberger and the whole thing would at least have looked better.
4. Batman and Robin (1997) I'm far from alone in considering this sludgy epic, which tried for a homoerotic subtext and failed miserably, to be the most flamboyantly bad Batman movie.
5. Daredevil (2003) After dumping on a number of DC Comics-derived movies, it only seems fair to point out this Marvel-born mess, with Ben Affleck mummified behind his mask as the blind-but-super-sensitive superhero.
Runners up: Son Of the Mask, Spawn, Elektra

(Got a DVD-related question for Ken? Post it here.)

Originally posted Apr 18, 2006
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