There is no doubt that we are in the middle of what many would call a renaissance for hero movies. If there is a comic book odds are it’s going to be turned into a big screen flick in the near future. Some of us (me) are getting a bit bored with the trend, while others are basking in it. While I am certainly not going to say “stop watching the new ones,” I think a few of these “hero” movies from the past deserve another look. And yes, hero is in quotes for a reason, but I am sure you will see why.
Based on the old radio serial The Shadow is just a fun movie. It balances being both a hero movie as well as having a touch of Noir to it, in homage to the franchise. Other than the horrible prosthetic nose (that there is no reason for in my opinion) the movie is just plain solid. It’s well shot, well acted, a decent enough script, and entertaining. No, it’s not the best thing ever, but it’s fun, and that is sometimes enough. Not only that but with the rise of 90s nostalgia, I think a lot of people would enjoy it, even if they haven’t seen it before. A lot of why we love 90s flicks is present in this movie. The next time you feel like something on the lighter side give it a go.
A lot of people do not like this movie, and I don’t know why. It’s a bit cheesy at times, but much like The Shadow, it’s just a fun movie. It’s not going to change your life or make you think, “Now that’s what a hero movie should be,” but it’s a great popcorn flick. It’s well acted, solid enough script, and I am a huge fan of the design of the suit. While I get why this movie doesn’t show up on many “favorites” lists, I don’t get why so many people give it an extremely low rating.
I think the main problem with this movie is the audience fell mostly into two categories. People who had read the graphic novel and expected way more than the movie could ever give. Or people who hadn’t and expected a traditional hero movie and not an esoteric look at the nature of heroes. In the end, the movie was just set up to fail for both, in fact, I was even a little turned off when I first watched it. Watchmen ages well though, if you can set aside unrealistic expectations the movie does a serviceable job of bringing life to a challenging graphic novel. Also, and I know I am going to get hate for this, the changed ending makes a lot more sense. Given the height of the mountain, this movie had to climb, it did a better job than I think it’s given credit for.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
I pretty well hated this movie the first time I watched it, and it has the lowest average score of all the films I am going to list. I am not sure why I ever decided to give it a second viewing, but I did, and my opinion shifted. I went from loathing it to finding it to be a fun movie. It has a lot of flaws, the harsh reaction to it is not completely baseless. Yet, for some reason, I keep going back, and I keep being entertained. I am not sure how I went from disliking it so much to finding it to be one of my go-to “mindless but enjoyable” movies but I did, and furthermore, I have heard of this happening for a number of other people. If you are one of many that had a horrible first impression of this movie I get it. Maybe try setting that aside and giving it another go, and you might be surprised.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
I struggled with whether or not to include this on the list because it seems like everybody that has seen it does love it. The problem I have is that it’s genuinely one of the best Batman movies ever made, but it’s brushed off and forgotten because it’s animated. The struggle is if people don’t like animated movies there is nothing wrong with that, so it makes it hard to convince them that no, this is the one that they should watch. But it really is the one they should watch. I often think good Batman movies get separated into live action lists and then animated on a separate list, but Phantasm doesn’t deserve that… In fact, pretty much everything that Bruce Timm did with Batman stands up to the live action movies.
Like Phantasm it’s hard to say “deserves more love” because this movie got a lot of love, for a moment. It did terribly at first but then built up a well-deserved cult following. The problem is in recent years it seems like that cult following has all but disappeared. Quirky and strange superhero movies are no longer rare, so Mystery Men struggles with standing out. But it does, actually, stand out. It has an amazing cast, is insane in so many beautiful ways, and is just plain good. Watch it again, it may not have aged perfectly, but it’s still a damn good time and something a bit different than what you will see from others.
The Iron Giant
So this might seem like an odd addition, and I get it. The Iron Giant is not really a superhero movie, but it is. It has many of the markings of an origin story, and it’s no accident that it continually references Super Man. The Giant is made for a purpose but finds his own desire and own reasons to fight. He no longer wants to be an instrument of war but one that fights for those that he learns to care about. While once again referencing Super Man the giant chooses to be a hero, and that’s pretty darn beautiful. In a world of gritty movies, it’s rather nice to go back and look at this movie through that same superhero lens and see something more hopeful. This movie is getting a bit of a revival it seems, but I think more people should watch it as a hero movie.
Going in the other direction we have Super. If we are living in a world of gritty and raw hero movies then Super fits right in. It is hardly the first movie to look at the “what if normal people decided to be heroes” fantasy fulfillment, but it doesn’t have a positive take on it at all or superheroes in general. Super shows a slightly ugly picture of the type of people that would want to be heroes. Frank seems to have noble intentions, but the more you break them down the more it’s called into question. Libby is selfish and clearly in it for the thrills. The further into the movie you get the harder it is to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, and that’s kind of the point. Unlike the other movies I’ve listed, I hesitate to recommend this one, however. It’s very violent, has some problematic scenes, and despite being great can be downright hard to watch. While it made me laugh I walked away not feeling great after watching this one. That is what makes it deserving of more love than it gets. If you think you’re up to watching it, do so. In between the laughs is an interesting take on the whole genre.
So what do you think? Do you love some of these movies? Or do you think the hate/dislike they get is well earned?