History of Superheroes in Movies

superman

While there were superhero movies in the 1940s, 50s and 60s it wasn’t until the 1978 film Superman opened the door for comic books and their characters to be taken as serious movie ideas, but that faded over ten years until 1989’s Batman put them back on the map again. Unfortunately, with the exception of Batman Returns (1992) the popularity of superhero films declined again until 2000 when X-Men got it right.

xmen

Since X-Men superhero movies have been on the up and up. Production companies started taking the concepts seriously again rather than trying to make it comical and camp (I’m looking at you Joel Schumacher). 2002 saw Spider-Man swing on to the silver screen and both the X-Men and Spider-Man films spawned major film franchises for Fox and Sony respectively. But we’ll get to the major production companies later. Fox continued it’s push with Daredevil (2003), X2 (2003), Elektra (2005) and Fantastic Four (2005) while Sony (Colombia) released Hellboy and Spider-Man 2 in 2004. Following the success of
these franchises DC and Warner Bros. took a different angle and rebooted the popular Batman franchise with Batman Begins (2005) which had a much darker tone to it than the Marvel films that were being released at the time. Superhero films cashed in on the success of the early 2000 hits for a few more years X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns in 2006 and Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 (which might I add were all franchise killers) but come 2008 something clicked in the minds of Marvel, DC, production companies and audiences… Superhero Movies could be better than exciting. They could be exhilarating the perfect escape for people young and old just like the comic books they were based on were for people years ago.

darkknight

2008 was a big year for Superheroes, with Marvel’s start of their Cinematic Universe (Actually owning the rights to these characters this time) Iron Man blasted on to the screen, reviving the dwindling superhero audiences and Robert Downey Jr.’s career at the same time. On top of that the reboot of the Hulk franchise with The Incredible Hulk re-established another character for something in the future. Iron Man would have been the walk-away hit of superhero films that year had the follow-up to Batman Begins not been released. The Dark Knight wowed audiences and box officenumbers proved that superhero movies were not just a sub-class of action films. They were their own genre. Mixing comedy and drama with action, visual effects and the characters people of all ages could enjoy. The superheroes were here.

avengers

The late 2000s brought us a prequel to X-Men in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a surprise cult classic with Watchmen. The start of the new decade brought in more of the independent heroes in to the spotlight, Kick-Ass and Super depict average joes standing up and answering the call against villainy and Iron Man 2 delved deeper in to the mystery behind S.H.I.E.L.D and why they were showing up in all these Marvel movies. 2011 was another big year for Marvel with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger setting up for the biggest superhero team up in film history. Fox released a re-invigoration of X-Men going back to the early days of Professor X in X-Men: First Class and DC unfortunately missed the mark with Green Lantern. Last year blew me away though with The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises three of the four big superhero movie powerhouses put everything they had in to these films and they were incredible.

The superhero film genre has risen over the last twenty or so years to become films that provide drama, comedy, explosions and an all round entertaining visit to the cinemas.

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Batman & Robin – Review

PART FOUR: Batman & Robin

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Written By: Bob Kane and Akiva Goldsman

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone and Michael Gough

Gross: $238,207,122

Production Co: Warner Bros. Pictures(Worldwide)

Release Date: 26 June 1997 (Australia)

Runtime: 125 min

Although, in my opinion not as bad as Batman Forever (story-wise), this movie ultimately failed the Batman franchise and is yet another reason why Joel Schumacher is blamed for so much. Batman & Robin is full of disappointing one-liners and really obvious continuity errors as well as poor acting from almost the entire cast. The film opens with Batman and Robin (George Clooney (who should never have been Batman) and Chris O’Donnell respectively) going toe to toe with Mr. Freeze (played by Arnie), a new villain in Gotham City. Then in a “Meanwhile in South America” type scene the two other villains, Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Bane are introduced. After a series of events with Ivy causing the dynamic duo to fight over her affection and Mr. Freeze stealing a vast amount of diamonds, the evil pair team up and plot to freeze Gotham and allow Ivy’s plants to rule the world. Also on the scene is Alfred (Michael Gough) ‘s niece Barbra Wilson (Alicia Silverstone), who becomes Batgirl.

All in all the storyline in this move was better than the one in Batman Forever, however the rest of the movie was rueful. Alicia Silverstone won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. For those who don’t know the Golden Raspberry (or the Razzie’s) is an awards organisation for the worst movies of the year. Other nominations at the Razzie Awards included Schumacher (Worst Director), George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell (Worst Screen Couple), Akiva Goldsman (Worst Screenplay), both Chris O’Donnell and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Worst Supporting Actor), Uma Thurman (Worst Supporting Actress), and Billy Corgan (Worst Song for “The End Is the Beginning Is the End”). Batman & Robin also received nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property. Ultimately, out of 11 nominations, this movie garnered only one Razzie Award, a disappointing feat in it’s own right. Clooney said himself, that he might have killed the franchise and that Batman & Robin was a waste of money.

1.5 Stars

Batman & Robin is available on DVD and BluRay and can also be bought in a Batman Anthology with the other three “80′s & 90′s” Batman Films (Batman, Batman Returns and Batman Forever).

Batman Forever – Review

PART THREE: Batman Forever

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Written By: Bob Kane, Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler and Akiva Goldsman

Starring: Val Kilmer, Jim Carey, Tommy-Lee Jones, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough and Nicole Kidman

Gross: $336,531,112 (Worldwide)

Production Co: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date: 29 June 1995(Australia)

Runtime: 121 min

The critic on the back of the DVD of Batman Forever is quoted in saying “The Best ‘Batman’ Yet”… Maybe they put it on the back of the wrong movie? Batman Forever picks up a few years after Batman Returns, the city is now over run with criminals of all shapes and sizes. Now, Batman must battle Two-Face and The Riddler with help of an amourous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.

Although this film is good in it’s own way and enjoyable, it sadly lacks the qualities that the original films had and I’d say that one of the main qualities was Tim Burton at the helm as director. Schumacher transforms Burton’s Noir-Expressionistic world into a rave-meets-gothic-architecture-type Gotham City. However that’s not the only down point… Although the acting was good from Jim Carey and Tommy-Lee Jones (Riddler and Two-Face respectively)(You maybe thinking ‘but Harvey Dent was in Batman and he was played by Billy Dee Williams’, and you’d be right, you have one man to blame for this… Joel Schmacher (I blame him a lot) Billy Dee Williams was very ready and excited to play Two-Face however Schmacher decided after working with Jones on The Client, replaced the one and only Lando Calrissian… Shame Schumacher, Shame) the characters they played were below par. The dialogue was to stilted and fake and lets not get into the one-liners that start cropping up and end up being (pretty much) the entire script in the next film.

Warner Bros. wanted to make this film more main stream because Batman Returns was not the box-office success they hoped for and because of this decision and a few others i.e. removing Burton almost completely and telling Schumacher what to film, the movie despite a decent box-office taking (making it the second highest of 1995, Toy Story taking the top spot) received mixed reviews and in my opinion while had some good points was not overly fantastic.

2 Stars

Batman Forever is available on DVD and BluRay and can also be bought in a Batman Anthology with the other three “80′s & 90′s” Batman Films (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin).

Batman Returns – Review

PART TWO: Batman Returns

Directed By: Tim Burton

Written By: Bob Kane, Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters

Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michael Gough and Michelle Phiffer

Gross: $282,800,000 (Worldwide)

Production Co: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date: 19th June 1992 (Australia)

Runtime: 126 min

Batman Returns is more dark, more whimsical and more cartoon like than its predecessor, despite this it is a very good quality movie and definitely worth watching unlike some of the other Batman movies. Danny DeVito plays a very unusual Penguin but a perfect character for the movie. The Penguin plans to make his presence in Gotham City known and masks his true intentions to rule the city with heroic acts that make the city fall in love with him. Meanwhile Media Mogul, Max Shreck’s assistant is murdered and is resurrected by cats and becomes a feline vigilante who brings her own form of justice to Gotham City.

This movie gets closer to the unrealistic and campy form of Batman and unfortunately is probably a reason and the penultimate push that sent the Batman series spiralling in to a world of… wait for it… Joel Schumacher (shudders). Another thing that could have something to do with the downward turn of this movie is Catwoman. To be honest she looked like a character that didn’t really need to be there and again it was a hark back to the 1960’s show where two villains would team up to take down the caped crusader. Her whole existence in the movie seemed, to be honest, a side plot. The imagery in this film is brilliant as Tim Burton turns Gotham City in to his world, a mix of film noir and german expressionism (which are some of my favourite genres and movements) which suits Burton’s Batman so well. Acting is rather alright with the show stolen by Danny DeVito and to an extent, Michael Keaton, who hangs up his cape at the end of this movie to make room for Val Kilmer (but more about him later). Michelle Phiffer… ehh… she was ok and well how could you not love Christopher Walkin? There is just something about him that makes you like him even though he plays the weak Max Shreck.

3.5 Stars

Batman Returns is available on DVD and BluRay and can also be bought in a Batman Anthology with the other three “80′s & 90′s” Batman Films (Batman, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin).

Batman Month Begins

The blogsite will be undergoing a change tonight… To celebrate May, the Month Batman was released to the world in his first comic book appearance. NFB will be reviewing 5 Batman Movies!

Batman

Batman Returns

Batman Forever

Batman & Robin

Batman: The Mask of Phantasm