Showing posts from April, 2018

Spider-Man [2002]

By 2002, the superhero genre was making a solid recovery. Blade  had done well, but it was 2000's X-Men  that really jump-started it. Not only did it more than double Blade' s financial success, cracking the box office top ten for the year, but it was a genuine step forward for the genre. Without sacrificing the powers and silliness inherent to the genre (mostly), it effectively grounded superhero films in the best way: by connecting it to powerful real-world themes, something only The Crow  had really managed effectively before. It was a compelling exploration of a group of people downtrodden and excluded from society, working as a metaphor for racism, homophobia, or anything else of the sort. The characters, too, for all their wild abilities, felt like real humans, albeit larger-than-life ones. It was a comic-book movie that relied less on style than on strong writing and acting, even if it did have a solid smattering of style to boot. But if X-Men  started the engine,

Blade [1998]

There are worse things out tonight than vampires. Like me. The Bat Cycle  - - the second cycle of Comic Book Superhero movies was, for a while, substantially more successful than the first. Batman, Batman Returns , and Batman Forever  all set opening weekend box office records and became box office smashes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  was a huge hit and got a series of its own. Dick Tracy  pulled in a ton of cash, and probably would have had a sequel if Disney hadn't dropped a fortune on the marketing and wasn't hoping for  Batman  numbers both at the box office and in merchandising. Darkman  and The Crow  made enough money to get minor sequels.  But it started to spiral as genre films began bombing left and right. Meteor Man, The Shadow, Blankman, Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, Barb Wire, The Phantom ... it became clear that just having a superhero or basing it on a comic didn't guarantee success. Finally, in 1997, even  Batman and Robin  was not only a box offi

Captain America [1990]

It seems the Americans have made a poor choice for their champion. The first cycle of comic book movies died ignobly with the whimper that was Superman IV: The Quest For Peace . However, two massively successful Batman comics - The Dark Knight Returns  and The Killing Joke  - and the obvious talent and early success of attached director Tim Burton kept Batman  on the rails. Burton's film was diametrically opposed to the earlier comic book films; brooding, intense, and often grotesquely violent. But previous films also made a real effort to have their superheroes in the "real" world. Burton had no such interest, and instead created a sensational depiction of Gotham, as though German Expressionism and Film Noir had infused themselves into the very soul of the city. The film was overstuffed with state-of-the-art special effects, but also a deep nostalgia for the 1940s. While Burton's Batman  practically defined style over substance, that style was endlessly cool

Howard the Duck

Given the imminent release of Avengers: Infinity Wars , what could be more fun or appropriate than revisiting all the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (We'll see how I feel three weeks from now, spent, burnt out, and shuddering in dread at the very word "Marvel.") But to help chart the sheer impact of the series, and to add to the fun, I'd like to start at the beginning, with the first attempt to turn a Marvel comic book into a big Hollywood blockbuster: Howard the Duck . Setting aside early serials, low-budget children's films, or failed attempts, comic book movie history splits pretty straightforwardly into decades. The first era begins in 1978 with the titanic release of Richard Donner's  Superman: The Movie . Exhilarating, heartfelt, and spectacular, it was a cultural phenomenon, and everyone wanted in on it. Unfortunately, only Richard Donner seemed to know the magic formula. Rather than heart and verisimilitude, film makers focused on the mostly lighth