We appear to be in the middle of what could be described as a Golden Age of superhero films, here’s why this makes me exceedingly happy…
First off, a little bit of history. I am a comic book fan, have been since I was a kid and my Dad peeked my interest by getting me to read Spider-man and X-men comics. I was a huge fan of the Tim Burton Batman films, the Richard Donner Superman films, as well as all the animated TV shows that were on television in the early 90’s when I was a child. I should probably point out that to this day, Wolverine remains my favourite comic book character.
As I got older I started reading comics that weren’t strictly about superhero’s and getting into the work of Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and of course the great Alan Moore. I’ve really enjoyed most of the films based on the work of these three as well, in particular, Sin City, V for Vendetta and Watchman. From Hell and Stardust were both good films that didn’t quite hit the standard of the three I previously mentioned and I think we can all agree that the less is said about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the better…
It was while I was a teenager that this current trend of superhero films got going, in particular when the X-Men and Spider-man films hit. I loved them. Looking back I still think Spider-man 2 is the best film based on a Marvel comics character (and yes I include The Avengers in that), I think Raimi’s first two Spidey films are severely under-appreciated and that people use the huge misstep that was the third instalment to trash them all. Alfred Molina’s portrayal of Dr. Octopus is easily one of my favourite performances in a comic book film. While we’re talking about under-appreciated films, I would like to take a moment to say I think Superman Returns is a very good film. I wish they had made a sequel because I think Singer would have taken the franchise to new heights of which we had yet to see even in Donner’s two films.
I consider myself to be a Marvel boy, but, as far as the films are concerned I think that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are by far the greatest comic book films ever made. Batman Begins is easily the best origins story ever told, the fact that it takes around an hour for Batman to appear and still remains a great Batman film is testament to the talent Chris Nolan possesses. The man just simply knows how to make a great film. I was a Nolan fan before he got started on the Batman franchise (Following and Memento being two personal favourites) but even I was sceptical that this guy that produced a few small scale thrillers was capable of doing the caped crusader justice on the big screen.
Well if Batman Begins proved me wrong then The Dark Knight just hammered the point into my skull. It’s been said time and time again but The Dark Knight really is the best comic book film ever made. It doesn’t stick to a rigid formula and it doesn’t follow the rules most blockbusters do. The part of the film that to my mind illustrated this best is the chase scene. The film has music running throughout (like all blockbusters do) but at the point when the chase starts, rather than ramp up the music to tell us “shit is going down” the music cuts out and all we get is the sound of the vehicles and the street. It’s so simple yet so effective. Not to mention the absolutely superb all round performance from the cast, it goes without saying Heath Ledger was phenomenal as the Joker but I’ve always thought that Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent was very under-rated.
Needless to say I am rather excited about the imminent release of The Dark Knight Rises. My favourite thing about Chris Nolan as a film-maker is his reluctance to use CGI and 3D. Everything you see in his films is real, whether it’s through the use of scale models, controlled explosive or water canons, pretty much everything you see on screen is actually there and not a computer generated image on a green screen and it’s that kind of purity that I hope stays alive in film-making in the future.
Anyone who really cares about film-making will be hoping The Dark Knight Rises is a huge success, so that our blockbusters don’t become an endless parade of CGI and 3D gimmickry.