Some time ago, a geek-pal of mine asked me about my favorite super hero movies. (If I remember correctly, it was right after we had gone to one of the more recent super hero movies–Batman Begins, maybe?) Now, there is no shortage of lists like this (or like this) on the internet. Unfortunately, they are all wrong. (Sorry– but it’s true. “Spy Kids?” Really? You must be joking.) My list is not right either, so don’t get your hopes up.

In trying to come up with this list, I’ve paid attention to a few things.
1 – Was the movie enjoyable? A good, entertaining movie experience?
(Unfortunately, this weeds a good many of them out.)
2 – If based on an established hero, does it do the character justice?
(I’m not saying it has to be absolultely faithful– just not shockingly divergent.)
3 – Do they give away the Secret Identity?
(Don’t get me started on this one. Seriously. I’m this close to a massive brain aneurism when I start talking about his topic. C has threatened to buy a taser–and to use it on me when I start down this path.)

So, without further ado– here is my list:

1. The Incredibles
In a world where Super Heroes have been sued into obscurity, one super powered family tries to live in absolute secrecy.
Why: Normal family dysfunction mixed with super powers. Many, many in-jokes about comics and super powers. The scene with the super heroe costume designer is worth the whole movie. Especially the capes, part.
Why Not: It is animated. It is so much easier to make supers all super-like when you can just draw them that way.

2. X-Men
A group of mutants, outcasts in society, fight to save a world that hates and distrusts them.
Why: One of the best demonstrations of the allegorical power of supers movies.
Why Not: Some of the acting is less than stellar, but the movie still shines.

3. X-Men II
Our mutant friends are back, this time in a loose movie adaption of one of the best graphic novels in the X-Men series, “God Loves, Man Kills.”
Why: The allegory of anti-mutant fear as homophobia. It was timely in 1982. It is still timely. Sigh. Also, Nightcrawler, my favorite X-men joins the team.
Why Not: They take some liberties with the storyline, but not enough to object.

4. Spiderman
Our favorite web-crawling hero comes to big screen in a big blockbuster.
Why: Amazing camera effects. Wonderful acting.
Why Not: Some objections from rabid fans about web-slinging being biological rather than gadget-based. But I thought it was better this way. Main objection is really the silly metal suit for the Green Goblin. Over acted. Over designed. Over played. Hideous costume.

5. X-Men III
A “final” installment in the mutant franchise. Another great allegory. This time: What if there was a “cure” for being different?
Why: Two favorite X-men show up. Beast (played by Kelsey Grammar, quite well, I say) and Angel.
Why Not: It really is the weakest of the three movies. Too much going on– and the final battle is kind of a let down. Magneto is more powerful than they give him credit for.

6. Spiderman II
Spiderman matches up against his most famous villain, Dr. Octopus.
Why: The special effects, again. The acting, again. The story is well told. The scene on the elevated trains in Chicago are a masterpiece.
Why Not: The revisionon of Doc Oc is questionable but ultimately works. What is really wrong with this movie? (Ready your tasers if you got ’em.) HE REVEALS HIS SECRET IDENTITY. Not once (the people on the train). Not twice (Dr. Octopus). But, three times (MJ, Parker’s girlfriend).
Why is this offending movie still on the list?
First, because it is that good.
Second, because there is some basis in the comic books for this flagrant disregard for secret identity protocol.
–Spiderman doesn’t reveals his identity on purpose on the train, and they respect his wish to be anonymous. Nice touch, actually.
— In the comic books, Doc Oc actually does figure out Spiderman’s identity.
— In the comic books, eventually, Peter and MJ get married and she knows about Spidey.
I can’t fault them for breaking the rule when the rule was already bent in the comics.

7. Superman II
Superman has a run in with three visitors from his home planet. And, whoa, do they have an attitude problem.
Why: For it’s time, the fight between Superman and the other three kryptonians was rockin’.
Why Not: The reveal Superman’s identity to Lois Lane in the movie. (unintentional, and they decide it is a mistake– so they wipe her memory. No memory, no foul.) They also decided to have Superman give up his powers, sleep with Lois Lane, and play with some bizzare toys in the fortress of solitude. Odd choices, really.

8. Batman
A Tim Burton interpretation of a classic.
Why: Dark, brooding, gothic– exactly the way Batman should be. And Jack Nicholson as The Joker? Wonderful.
Why Not: 1. A little campy at times. 2. Music by Prince? 3. They give away his secret identity. (I would go on, but this is the start of this horrible trend and I just… I just can’t continue… )

9. Superman: The Movie
The first of the modern day superhero movies. 1978. This was an event. It was Superman–the way he was meant to be. Larger than Life!
Why: Christopher Reeve was a brilliant choice and understood the character.
Why Not: This movie was almost on the top of my list. Almost. I’ve said it before, so it should come as no surprise– EVEN AS A CHILD, I KNEW THAT SUPERMAN COULDN’T SPIN OUR WORLD IN REVERSE; AND EVEN IF HE COULD, IT WOULDN’T MAKE US GO BACKWARDS IN TIME. Were these people stoned? Brain damaged? Insane? People assume sometimes that comic book movies don’t have rules– they do and when you don’t follow them, you end up with young children saying “WTF!

10. Unbreakable
Ordinary Joe Schmoe (Bruce Willis) discovers he has super powers– and, unfortunately, some other trappings of the Super Hero biz.
Why: Excellent portrayal of a guy trying to come to terms with this oddness. Excellent portrayal of an evil genius super villian. Also reminds me of my favorite Spiderman comic cover (I’ll spare you.)
Why Not: Well, no tights, no cape, no costume–unless you count a rain poncho. Is it a Super Heroe movie?

Honorable Mentions:
Blade – Based on a Marvel comic character. Hated the fat vampire scene, though.
Batman Returns – Love Danny Devito as the Penquin and Michelle Pfeifer as Catwoman.
Mystery Men – Hilarious spoof of comic books, but The Spleen was highly unpleasant.
The Shadow – People hated this one, but I really enjoyed it. Could have been better.
Batman Begins – Great story. Nice acting. Good atmosphere. The Batmobile was just plain stupid. And he gave away his secret identity, AGAIN. Unforgiveable.
Hellboy – nominated by jinnis. Good adaption of a cool hero. More to come, I hear.

Hall of Shame:
Superman III & IV – Almost killed super hero movies single handedly.
Batman & Robin – So many reasons. One would be the Batsuit’s nipples.
Daredevil – A great comic turned into a horrible movie. And he reveals his identity!

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