By Christian DiMartino
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is almost here. I’m not as excited as I am curious. Is it going to rock? Or is it going to fall on its fat one? Early word of mouth is positive, but I won’t know for myself until Thursday night. In the meantime though, I am going to run through both Batman’s and Superman’s movies. Both have had their ups, and their downs. Who’s better? Well, I’ll leave that up to you.
Let’s jump past the Adam West days and get right to it. I grew up with these early films, so of course I enjoy them (well, almost all of them). Tim Burton, a filmmaker I have always enjoyed, adds just the right amount of kooky energy to this live-action comic book. Michael Keaton never really does anything mind-blowing, but yet he owns the role. Jack Nicholson is the real life of the party here, obviously having a blast in the role of The Joker. I never really sense him as a “pure evil” type, but he’s great fun to watch. It’s a classic. It’s probably worthy of more than 3 stars, but oh well.
Batman Returns: 1/2
I’m still on the fence about my ratings of these movies. In terms of enjoyment, my heart belongs to a different one. But the actual best film in this original series is Tim Burton’s darkly bizarre Batman Returns. I’m not sure why, I just love the creepy-ass vibe I get from this one. From the opening scene, to Danny DeVito’s fugly face, to Danny Elfman’s awesome score, this one is just such a Burton movie. Which might not work for some, but I am not some. Not to mention, Michelle Pfeiffer is hot as hell as Catwoman. Who would’ve known? Her and Keaton (also strong once again in the role) are dynamite. It’s not one for everyone, considering the backlash it got during its original run, but I dig it.
There’s a lot of hate for Batman Forever. I get it, but I’m not with you. When I said my heart belongs to a different one, I was referring to this one. Why? Allow me. Yes, some of that dialogue is rough (I blame Chris O’Donnell’s Robin, but come on, Robin sucks anyways). But Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey add just the right of over-the-top-ness to their performances that, to me, it works. It’s also a great looking film, and I have seen it so many times that I could probably recite the whole thing. Plus, Val Kilmer is a fine Batman. Plus, it’s Jim Carrey. I will watch Jesus Carrey in anything. Bring it. I know I may never sell some of you on this one. So be it.
Batman & Robin:
There is no selling Batman & Robin. It’s a turd. A big, fat, visually dazzling turd. I give it props in the visual department, and I also like Uma Thurman’s cartoonish work as Poison Ivy. But argh, it blows. George Clooney, one of our best actors, is a dull, wooden, and lame Batman. Chris O’Donnell sucks too. So does Alicia Silverstone, which makes me sad. Arnold Schwarzenegger gets the worst of the dialogue, and it’s already pretty horrible to begin with. The plot is ridiculous, even for a Batman movie. Bane is stupid. It’s all stupid. But yet it’s kind of one of those movies that’s so bad it’s fun. Well, depending on who you are.
Batman & Robin killed Batman… for a few years. And then, a genius named Christopher Nolan, known at the time only for indies like Memento and Insomnia, came in like a wrecking ball, and gave us the Batman film we’ve always craved, but didn’t know it. Batman Begins is pure genius. It’s dark and utterly fascinating, just like the title character himself. The cast, which includes Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Wilkinson, to name a few, is stellar, the action sequences are dazzling, Wally Pfister’s cinematography is gorgeously bleak, and so on. Justice was served, finally, and the funny thing is: this is the weakest in the trilogy. To me, at least.
The Dark Knight:
I was tempted to add another star, just to stress how amazing this film is. I see a lot of people call The Dark Knight overrated. Pa-lease. It makes me wanna punch them in the ovary. The Dark Knight is cinematic perfection. A dark, haunting, fascinating, thrilling, powerhouse work of art. Hailing this film gets really tiring, considering I have done it so much. I will write about the entire trilogy in my “Great Movies” segment someday. So before I wrap up, just let me say that this is definitely my favorite film of the last decade, and that Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is one of the greatest to ever grace our presence. Nolan changed the game here, and honestly, there probably won’t be a better superhero movie… ever. Yeah, I said it. It’s that phenomenal.
The Dark Knight Rises:
This is a bold statement, but I’m gonna say it: The Dark Knight Rises is almost as tremendous as The Dark Knight. Not quite, but it’s damn near close. That being said, the two are pretty different. The Dark Knight was a tragic, thrilling, and somewhat moving portrait of a city in desperate need. The Dark Knight Rises is a big, sprawling epic, not only in scope, but also in terms of storytelling. Nolan ups the ambition ante here, which really says something, considering this is the guy who brought us Inception. Is it perfect? Maybe not. There are a few holes. But it’s a face melter, I’ll admit it. A great conclusion to a fabulous trilogy.
To this day, I still say that Superman is one of the great comic book films. Here is a film that runs on its charm alone. Christopher Reeve is so wonderful in the title role, he makes the rest of the film easy to fall for. Gene Hackman hams it up wonderfully as Lex Luthor, and really, the whole thing is just so much fun. Sure, some of it is a tad outdated, but it’s still awesome.
Same thing. Here is yet another film that works on its charm alone. It’s a shame that director Richard Donner had a falling out. But it doesn’t make the film any less excellent. Here is a comic book film that wonderfully playful. It also features an excellent villain out of Terrence Stamp as General Zod (played in Man of Steel by Michael Shannon). I’m not sure if I prefer this one, or the original. Both pretty awesome though.
What a letdown. Considering just how good the first two are, and they got Richard Pryor on board, not to mention the fact that it has a somewhat fun premise. Sadly though, Superman III is deeply mediocre. The idea of Superman getting drunk and what not is amusing, but yet the first hour doesn’t really come to life. It’s also a waste of Pryor, who even admitted that he did it for a paycheck. It shows.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: 1/2
What an unfortunate film. Considered a passion project for the late Reeve, this is a film that damn near fails on every level. I only give it the 1/2 because, well, I found myself laughing my ass off at the awfulness of this film. Is that fair? No, but guess what: Life isn’t fair. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace has some of the worst visual effects you will ever see. The studio tried to cut corners to save money. It truly shows. The film is an embarrassment, not only in the visual department, but in terms of storytelling and dialogue. This is definitely the Batman & Robin of this series, but hey at least that movie was pretty.
Superman Returns is about as memorable as…uh… well, um… yeah I got nothing. I saw this film about ten years ago, so maybe that’s why it’s not coming to me. What I do remember is that it’s completely exhausting, and Brandon Routh is a lame-ass Superman. But Kevin Spacey redeems the damn thing as Lex Luthor, and in terms of visuals, the film hits its marks. But it misses the mark in too many other fields.
Man of Steel:
With Man of Steel, they tried adding the grimness of The Dark Knight trilogy to Superman. Did it work? Yes, and no. This is some bleak stuff. At times, a bit too bleak, and exhausting. But yet I liked this one, mostly because of the casting and action sequences. Henry Cavill is fine as Superman, an upgrade from Routh. I also enjoyed the casting of Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, and so on. Overall, it’s a bit too much of a movie, but I dig it. I guess we’ll have to see if Zack Snyder can pull Batman vs. Superman off.