Summer Superhero Movie Round-Up

The summer superhero movie season has come to an end. We have seen the release of the Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. So how do these movies stack up against each other?

Let’s take a look.


First off, how do I, as a long time comic book and movie fan feel about each one and compare them?

Cutting to the chase here is how I personally rank them

  1. The Avengers
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. The Amazing Spider-man

When thinking about this ranking I used a simple model of rewatchablity (which I think we can agree should be a word.). This should be true of any Superhero movie ranking, how often do I want to watch it. I saw both Iron Man and The Dark Knight twice in theaters and have watched the DVDs repeatedly. I saw Green Lantern once but have not unwrapped the DVD my wife bought on sale.

With The Amazing  Spider-Man I saw it once in the theater, and I do not think I will be buying it when the home release comes out. For the Dark Knight Rises, I saw it once, and I will be buying it when it is released. I saw the Avengers twice at the theater, would go again if they release the extended cut next month as they have hinted at and will buy it and watch it on September 25th. So from a “do I want to watch it again point of view” the ranking is really clear.

But the big question is why do I feel that way? What makes one Superhero movie better than another?

With Avengers it is simple enough. That movie spoke to the little boy in me whose imagination was set free by reading the comic books he bought at the corner drug store. It was a close to the four color experience as I have ever seen in live action, and the anticipation was built up over 5 previous movies. I fully plan to set aside a day in the near future,  start with Iron Man at breakfast and watch all 6 Marvel films in one day. I still smile when I see pictures from the Avengers on-line.

The Dark Knight Rises works on a more mature level. It is a satisfying wrap up to the Nolen Dark Knight trilogy. But in the end it is not as good a movie as the Dark Knight. The Joker raised that movie from being simply very good, to being great. I doubt I will do a marathon of this series however. I also think that The Dark Knight Rises works extremely well as an intelligent action movie, but not as well as a superhero movie.

So what left the Amazing Spider-man holding the short straw? I certainly enjoyed watching it. I even felt it did some things better than the Raimi series, such as the more complex relationship Peter Parker has with Flash Thompson. The problem is that it doesn’t feel fresh. Spider-Man 3 came out five years ago. I know that Sony has to make a new Spider-Man film every so often to retain the film rights, but I doubt that time frame is five years (I looked but could not find the exact time frame).  So when I was watching the origin portion of the film I was comparing it in my head to how the original Spider-man handled it.

But even without that I felt that in the end it was a good superhero movie, but not a great one.  I smiled during it, but I never clapped or cheered like I did during the other two movies. So I can recommend seeing it, but I have no desire to go out and do so again myself.

So there is how I see it. Next year we get Iron Man 3, Thor: the Dark World, Man of Steel, and The Wolverine. It will be interesting to see how they stack up.

The Dark Knight Rises: A comic fan’s perspective

Like just about every geek in the nation I saw The Dark Knight Rises this weekend. In fact I was at a midnight screening on Thursday. I am not going to get into the tragedy that was happening at the same time, it is being covered enough elsewhere.

I am also not going to give a review of the movie itself other than to say I loved it.

What I want to do instead is look at it in how it represented the characters in it.

The story of The Dark Knight Rises is a mash-up of the comic book storylines Knightfall and No Man’s Land. This was a good choice for the final part of the trilogy. Both storylines represented loss and Batman being brought to his lowest and still prevailing. They gave Christopher Nolan the chance to up the odds from the previous movies and end the series on a high note.

The Batman in this movie could well have been the Batman from Dark Knight Returns. He is beaten down both mentally and physically. It takes a massive threat to bring him out of retirement.

Catwoman in this movie is hands down the best representation I have seen of the character outside of the comics. She is a thief, end of story. Not out for revenge, not a campaigning environmentalist, not a hooker looking for redemption. She is a master thief looking for a big score, who finds she might actually care for something.

Bane is a little trickier. This is a better portrayal than he got in “Batman and Robin” where he was a mindless brute. Here they remember that he is a brilliant strategist and deadly fighter. In the comics his whole goal is to show he is better than Batman and take over Gotham’s underworld. Here they give a more idealistic motivation. It works but it is a deviation for the character.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of John Blake is an interesting take as he is really an amalgam of several characters. He is filling roles in this story that in the comics were filled by Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jean-Paul Valley and Mackenzie “Hardback” Bock.  On one hand it is a good move to have all that action condensed down to one character as the storylines themselves are condensed and Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job with the role. I understand why they made him a new character, but I feel it was a missed opportunity to make him a known character. Spoiler here in Invisotext: it would have been best to have just made him Dick Grayson.

Commissioner Gordon has done well through the whole series. He is taken directly from his comic book counterpart as a man of action.

In the end what I will say about The Dark Knight Rises is this. It is a great movie, but really the entire trilogy is best if you look at it as one whole story told in three parts.