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When you sit down to watch a superhero movie, there are a few things you should be able to count on: tights, capes, villains, and action. Well, not so fast. Maybe you can’t count on action. Some superhero flicks are light on that part, but, in rare cases, they work anyway. Which superhero flicks are missing the obvious and still fly, and which ones flop? Read on!
Tim Burton’s Batman is a case where the dearth of action doesn’t hurt. The passage of time is kind of the point. Try comparing Burton’s flick to the The Dark Knight and it’s night and day. The older movie’s Joker (Jack Nicholson) is a devious villain with goons who occasionally shoot stuff. The Dark Knight‘s Joker (Heath Ledger) is a devious villain who terrorizes a city with crazy explosions, renegade cars, and gun battles. One’s got serious action, but both are good movies.
A brief plot summary: Elektra (Jennifer Garner) sits around agonizing over a decision. That’s about it. The screenwriters really goofed up on this one, since the audience for Elektra consists of action fans who want to see Elektra fight people and horny teenage comic geeks who want to see Elektra run around in tight clothing. (Needless to say, there’s a lot of overlap in these two groups.) Having Elektra sitting around all day doing nothing pleases no one. Which goes a long way to explain why it flopped.
Here’s what happens in Fantastic Four: Jessica Alba sits around looking pretty but sad. Then Ioan Gruffudd sits around looking sad, while Chris Evans yells, Michael Chiklis grunts, and Julian McMahon sits in dark rooms looking devious. In between there are a couple of action scenes, but they’re not what we’ve come to expect from the recent spate of quality Marvel flicks like Iron Man and X-Men. At no point is the world in serious peril, and even the battle we finally get at the end is pretty anti-climactic.
What happened in this movie? Nothing. Apparently, director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) decided to make the most boring superhero movie ever. He succeeded! The movie opens with a bang, as we learn the source of the Hulk’s powers. Don’t get your hopes up, though. The rest of the movie is so akin to Brokeback Mountain in terms of pacing that at any given moment it seems more likely that a pair of gay cowboys might wander onto the scene, instead of that the Hulk (Eric Bana) will go wild.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Uma Thurman as a superhero? Well, a gender-role-reversing superhero who saves and intimidates her powerless boyfriend. Plus, Anna Faris gets superpowers. This all sounds very exciting and yet, somehow, it’s not, because My Super Ex-Girlfriend is just a not-so-funny relationship sitcom, sprinkled with even less funny moments during which Uma is pissed off. Frustratingly, we have to wait an excruciating hour or so just to see one halfway decent fight. Better stick with Kill Bill.
The reboot of the Superman franchise is an experiment in merging superhero flicks with Dawson’s Creek. The astounding level of angst means there’s little action. Superman (Brandon Routh) spends most of the movie brooding. Admittedly, he has to stop brooding long enough to engage in some light physical activity, to stop Lex Luthor. That mostly consists of him lifting stuff, like portions of earth. If you want to see Superman participate in a one-man weight-lifting competition, this is your movie. If not, stay away.
When artsy directors tackle the superhero genre, flicks like Unbreakable follow. It’s not a knock on director M. Night Shyamalan. When you ask Shyamalan to make a superhero movie, he makes an Shyamalan superhero movie. What else would you expect? Like most Shyamalan movies, Unbreakable looks nice, is suspenseful, and develops slowly. The difference is that, unlike most Shyamalan movies, it’s a superhero movie, minus the tights and capes.