Friday, July 15, 2005

Best Comic Book Movie Ever? (cont.)

This post is in response to the question of what is the best comic book movie ever? Or more to the point, is Batman Begins the best of all time?

Batman Begins is a good movie and I would recommend anyone to go see it. But frankly I have no desire to see it again. When you get right down to it, that's the only measure of greatness that matters.

I agree with everyone that the backstory is great. In fact, it may have been too good. I really enjoyed the early scenes in Japan (?), and when we got back to Gotham I just felt like things went downhill.

I had a couple of specific, though minor, complaints. I didn't like how Bale's face looked squeezed into the bat mask, or how he did the cheesily gruff bat voice. And, as most reviewers have noted, Katie's performance was weak. But in general, the story, set/SFX, direction, and acting were all spot-on. And yet, I couldn't help feeling that the whole was less than the sum of its parts. As the movie went on, my interest waned (no pun intended). I don't often agree with Ty Burr, but I think he has correctly identified part of the problem:
The climax features the hero and villain battling each other aboard a bullet train carrying a doomsday device toward the heart of the city at out-of-control speed. There is no part of that last sentence that is not a cliche.
Rather than being completely immersed in this version of Gotham and caught up in the dramatic climax, I found myself acutely aware that I was sitting in a movie theater, and not having a great time. Contrast that feeling with my experience of Revenge of the Sith. There was a movie that clearly leaves something to be desired in the acting and directing categories, and yet it somehow managed to be more than the sum of its parts. In spite of its myriad shortcomings, I was wholly caught up in the dramatic arc as Anakin became Vader.

But I digress. Star Wars is not up for nomination in the best comic book movie category, so let me get back to the argument at hand.

Out of all the Batman movies, I think we can safely narrow down the choices to 1989 and 2005. My vote is for the 1989 Batman. On the Prizblog, Ed argues that Nicholson was a poor choice for the Joker, because he stole the show. I personally feel that a good villain is one of - if not the - most important elements, and the villain all too often comes up short. The only reason Batman is in contention is because of Nicholson's performance. And killing him off could only be a mistake if there was a chance he would do the sequel. As it is, I think it was smart to kill him off. No one is going to top that performance. (Well, we may get a chance to find out....)

So then we have Superman, Spiderman, and X-Men. For simplicity I'm going to choose the best of each series and pit the champions against each other. Hmmm...that sounds like a good movie, or probably a video game.

I agree with Ed on Superman 2, so I won't go into details.

Over on the Spiderman bracket, if we go with my villain test, they were both pretty lame. So I'm picking the first Spiderman because Kirsten Dunst was hotter in that one. In the sequel I swear she had a bad cold or something. She seemed heavily medicated.

For X-Men, I'll pick the first one, but it's a tough call. In the sequel I felt like they addressed some of the shortcomings of the first and it was really clicking. But I have to stand by my villain test and it doesn't get any better than that last scene of the first one between McKellen and Stewart.
No matter how you trap me, how I am contained -- I will always find an escape.

And I will always be there, old friend.

So now it's time for the main event: Batman, Superman 2, Spiderman, and X-Men. How should this be decided? Well if I'm gonna dance with the girl who brung me, I can throw out Superman 2 and Spiderman for having weak villains. So do I like my villains crazy and over the top, or calculating and pitch-perfect? And the winner is....Sir Ian McKellen lifts X-Men to the top!

Wow. When I started this I honestly didn't know where I would end up, and now that I'm here, I'm not entirely convinced that I've picked the best movie. But looking over the rest of the nominees, I don't see another candidate that I feel is more deserving.

But in the end, I have to come back to my original measure of greatness. What movie will I sit down and watch whenever it's on? What movie do my friends and I quote to each other? What movie do I still enjoy today just as much as I did when I first saw it? The answer to all of these questions is my surprise dark horse candidate, The Crow. What can I say, the movie has it all. An original and interesting main character, a really creepy and completely evil villain, immersive set design and costumes, great action scenes and memorable dialogue....
Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.

And yes, since I brought up the Crow, there were plenty of other less-mainstream comic book movies I didn't mention. Blade should get some sort of honorable mention. I tried watching the Hulk on one of the movie channels, and I literally couldn't watch it. I forced myself to watch it for about 30 minutes and then I had to shut it off.

No comments: