We all know The Avengers, and, love it or hate it, Man of Steel remains fresh in our minds. Superhero movies are the new Americana, and they show no sign of disappearing anytime soon, despite what idiots may tell you. “Ooh, Age of Ultron failed to match the gross of its predecessor, therefore it is an epic flop right up there with Ishtar and John Carter!” Shut up, idiot.
Anyway, here are five superhero-themed (sometimes loosely-themed) movies which have unfortunately fallen into varying degrees of obscurity, and why they deserve a better fate than they ultimately got.
5-The Incredible Hulk
This one’s at the top of the list because, as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to consider this movie “forgotten.” Still, it’s the lowest-grossing MCU film by a wide margin, it was overshadowed by the massive success of Iron Man, and it’s mostly remembered for the fact that Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers. Now, I love Mark Ruffalo. He seems like a really nice guy, and his performances in The Avengers and its sequel are great, but he doesn’t have the simmering rage that Edward Norton’s powder-keg-version of Bruce Banner had. Plus, it should be obvious that Edward Norton saved hismovie from being a pile of trash. I mean, who do you think was responsible for the level of characterization onscreen, Edward Norton, or Louis Leterrier, director of Clash of the Titans and Transporter 2? While it would be an exercise in sad futility to imagine today’s MCU with Norton as The Hulk, it’s worth rewatching this underrated gem just to wistfully wonder, “what could have been?” Also, William Hurt’s General Ross will be returning to the MCU in this summer’s Captain America: Civil War, which will hopefully boost the profile of The Incredible Hulk.
4- Punisher: War Zone
The Punisher on screen is a very polarizing figure. Some people love Dolph Lundgren’s 80’s-style kill-em-all action, and some people love Thomas Jane’s introspective approach. I say, screw Thomas Jane. He has no idea what makes the character tic and his Punisher movie was a disgrace to the character and everything he stood for. Gimme a break.
With that off my chest, we can get into my favorite celluloid depiction of the character. As a massive fan of Garth Ennis’s run with the character, I can easily say that Ray Stevenson absolutely nailed it with his take on the character in director Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone. He spends the first half-hour completely silent, a rampaging killing machine, like Jason Voorhees, but on the side of righteous justice. The first scene, in which he sneaks into an elderly mobster’s party to assassinate him (lifted straight from the first issue of “In The Beginning,” but somehow made even more violent), is a chilling reminder that this is what a vigilante hero looks like. Cold, efficient, merciless. The rest of the movie doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first act, but it’s still a great romp through a combination of Ennis’s Max stories crossed with the black comic sensibilities of his earlier take, the equally seminal Welcome Back, Frank.
I’m just saying, Jon Bernthal has a lot to live up to when he takes up the mantle in the upcoming season of Daredevil.
Joel Schumacher is fine. Yeah, I said it. True, Batman & Robin is a terrible atrocity which can barely be called a movie, but for those who blame Joel for everything, I ask you to re-watch Batman Forever, a film which takes the visual palette of Tim Burton’s movies and turns it up to eleven, without sacrificing the all-important characterization of hero Bruce Wayne. In fact, an argument could easily be made that Batman has more characterization in this film than he does in any other Batman films, including those of Christopher Nolan, especially when it comes to romance; Nicole Kidman’s Dr. Chase Meridian has a complex relationship with both Bruce Wayne and Batman, easily the best romance in any Batman film to date. Val Kilmer is underrated in the role, and the way he is shown to be both Batman and Bruce Wayne, that neither of them are ‘the mask’ calls to mind George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman, the seminal superhero story by which all others are judged. Sure, Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face is basically The Joker with crazier suits, but Jim Carrey’s Riddler picks up the slack, and it helps that the movie is not about the villains, but the heroes. Even Chris O’ Donnell’s Robin works in Forever, and it seems he has some fans, as Tim Drake in Batman: Arkham Knight is the spitting image of O’ Donnell.
Like Punisher: Warzone and our upcoming number one pick, Kick-Ass stretches the definition of the perceived genre of “superhero movie,” as they are all vigilante stories. Said vigilantes just happen to wear costumes. Kick-Ass was beloved by those who saw it, but it didn’t really click with audiences until it released on home video, at which point the decision to make a sequel was made. Director Jeff Wadlow (taking over for Matthew Vaughn) really gets to dig deep into the characters of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, exploring them in ways the first film was only able to hint at. Hit-Girl, in particular, really gets room to breathe, having moved from being a skilled apprentice to a master in her own right, who makes the decision to try to be a normal teenage girl. Drama, comedy, violence, and antics ensue. Unfortunately, Kick-Ass 2 performed even more poorly at the box office than the first film, meaning it will take a miracle for the trilogy to be completed. But I never thought we’d actually get a new Rocky, Mad Max, Star Wars, and new episodes of The X-Files, all within the span of a year, so… Stranger things have happened.
Guardians of the Galaxy fans dying for more of writer/director James Gunn gave a nice boost to earlier superhero-themed film, Super. Even more than Kick-Ass, Super is less of a superhero story than it is a story influenced by superheroes. Nobody plays pathetic better than Rainn Wilson as Frank, a low-energy everyman whose drug-addled wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a charismatic kingpin, played by Kevin Bacon. Frank decides to don a sweet costume, buy a heavy wrench, and beat the sh*t out of evildoers until he is strong enough to get her back, by force. Along for the ride is Ellen Page as his sidekick/fangirl. It’s a wild, surreal, empowering, and dangerous journey; it’s one of those movies, like all the best ones, where the viewer feels different after watching it, like they are now somehow enlightened, changed.
Now if only we can get Frank to join The Avengers, or at least show up on an episode of Agents of SHIELD…
Alright PopCultureGalaxy, are there any other underrated, forgotten, or otherwise overlooked superhero gems that fell through the cracks? Make your voice heard in the comments below! Or don’t, see what I care.Cool Posts Around The Web: