Star Kid 1997
Once again I’ve come across a film that straddles the line of what would be considered a superhero movie. I think the biggest argument that I could make in favor of this film being a superhero movie is partly based on something that I read in the IMDb trivia section that I completely agree with. Apparently, this was inspired by the Guyver and if that movie series is considered a superhero movie, than this kid version of the Guyver definitely should be as well. It’s basically a 90’s era typical kid wish fulfillment fantasy that contains pretty much all the tropes. And similar to the Guyver in general, pretty much everything about the movie is pretty bad except for the creature effects.
Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight 2008
This is the second to last documentary style special that’s available to watch on the DC Universe streaming app, two of them were connected to Superman Returns and this was the second one that was attached to the Dark Knight. One of the interesting things that I noticed about the three that I’ve watched so far, and I believe it continues onto the last one, is how differently they handle their source material. In the Superman special, it embraced all sorts of different variations of Superman across movies and television. But the two Dark Knight specials seemingly prefer to completely ignore Batman’s past outside of the comic books and only show clips from Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. Just like the previous two specials, this has a mix of interviews, clips from the first two Nolan movies, and comic book style graphics as they discuss different aspects of Batman’s personality as well as some of his villains and how they relate to psychology. It’s fun, but similar to Batman Tech, it felt less like a stand alone documentary, and more like just promotion for the Dark Knight.
#46: Doctor Strange
Movie-Goers, We’ve Come To Bargain
Well folks, we’ve finally hit the first proper MCU film in the list. So, let me get a few things straight before we continue:
- I love the MCU. I’ll admit that happily. However, I want to be clear that I will still be looking at the MCU films (as much as possible) as individual entries and judging them by how they hold up, any flaws and/or great parts, good/bad acting and so on.
- I am a Cumberbatch fan. Sherlock is one of the best TV shows created as far as I’m concerned, he was fantastic as Hawking in the TV film of the same name and he’s an overall lovely man. Again, I bring this up to be transparent. But also I hope it’ll help you give me a little slack a bit further down the article…
Ok, on with the review!
This film was one that I really was looking forward to when I heard about it. I was not a comic reader, though I did know a few things about it through basic osmosis and the fact that I’m a nerd with an internet connection. I heard the rumours, I really enjoyed hearing the casting news and I was a little thrown by the controversy surrounding The Ancient One. However, I went into the cinema to watch this very ready. What followed was a visual feast and some interesting choices. I have rewatched this film twice since then, for two different reasons, and it remains essentially unchanged as far as I’m concerned. So, how did it do?
This film marked a bit of a risk for the MCU. Where as GOTG had a whole team of funny (for different reasons) characters to use for comedic effect throughout the film, thus making the “lesser known” gang easier for new audiences to digest, Dr Strange is different. The premise and ending are just as out there as GOTG, but we only really have Strange to lean on throughout the film. Perhaps it was a mark of Marvel realising that we will happily watch new IP’s, since GOTG did so well, or a sign of how much the studio trusted the actors and director, but what we got was a film stepped in fantastical spiritual messages, a couple of sequences that were clearly dreamt up after a very good LSD trip and some stunning visuals. All this, including symbolism and setting from Tibetan culture, led by a cast that’s primarily Western. I will say that I feel kinda conflicted about that. I refuse to believe that there were not many great actors/actresses who could have done the job, though I do understand that the studio clearly wanted well known and established actors/actresses to help deliver the strangest (pun-intended) MCU film of them all to date to the average patron with the minimum of difficulty. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as the live action GITS film. That one hurt. As in physically hurt…
- Dr Strange
BC is a joy to watch, in everything else. He’s also very good at what he does in this one. He’s smarmy with just the right amount of character development throughout the film, he’s really good at reacting to the incredible things with distrust/disbelief/acceptance and he really does look cool once he gets fully decked out as the Sorcerer Supreme. So I’d say he totally killed it. Well, 95% killed it. There’s one small, tiny, little thing. That accent. In case you didn’t know, BC is English. Even his name, Benedict Cumberbatch, is a HUGE giveaway. But whoever decided that he needed to put on an accent that harsh, that extreme and that strong needs to be talked to. It’s VERY distracting. Every scene where he has a lot of dialogue just has you watching knowing that he’s putting on a show. As I said, everything else is great! That voice is simply grate…
- Sorcerer Supreme (The Ancient One)
Tilda Swinton is always fun to see. She’s played a rather wide range of characters over the years. And I thought she did very well as the leader with a dark secret. However, I was kinda surprised to learn that the community was very thrown by her casting. The character is designed to be gender-neutral in the film, and I feel that they do that well. But the character in the comics was of Tibetan descent and many people were dismayed that a white actor was playing the role. Again, I think that the studio had a reason for doing this and I fully acknowledge that the MCU is a different beast to the comics, but it would have been nice to see a more accurate representation (although a little research will tell you that the director felt that the original comics treaded too close to racist territory in that regard and didn’t want to risk that in the film). Regardless, what we got was still very good and I appreciated that the character clearly acted using their own morals and rationalisations. It was kinda fun to see a character die without a solid, neat ending to everything.
I really liked Wong. He was the comic relief, he was a straight man to Strange’s rogue manner and he had some of the best lines in the film. And despite being used mostly for comedic effect, he was possibly the character that most people were drawn to. There’s not much else to say here, he’s just a great character that was used well. Go Wong!
I know that this actor has done a lot of stuff. However I will say that I’ve seen him in just this and Serenity. So he has a type apparently. Anyway, this character felt a little stiff. He only existed to be the one that gets disillusioned and leaves the path of righteousness. And we already had that with the primary protagonist. They did give him the WiFi joke though, so there’s that.
Mads, Mads, Mads. You were perfectly cast, though this villain was a bit of an odd one. He was powerful, more so than most of the main characters, and he knows it. However he’s also adept at using said power, which actually makes most of the film turn into a chase scene when he’s on screen as Strange runs away. He actually is interesting and could have had some fantastic moments, but this film had to hold back. I would have been more interested in having him in the second film, possibly connected to a different entity. that way you could have spent more time on his story. Ah well.
Yes, that’s BC again. Bet you didn’t notice that one! Anyway, this character is VERY interesting and this film only touches on him a little. But it REALLY uses him well. Anyone who doesn’t start grinning during the “I’ve come to bargain” scene just doesn’t know funny. I’m very intrigued to see what they do with him moving forward. That’s it, moving on.
The MCU had already taken its big risk with GOTG, as I mentioned earlier. However this film was possibly a bigger risk than that. It has by far the weirdest visuals in the entire franchise, it’s based on characters that can work on paper but would actually be tricky to get properly balanced on film and the main villain is only actually on-screen for less than 5 minutes (that’s 13 minutes less than Beetleguese!). All-in-all, this would have been THE film that showed Marvel if they had earned enough clout with audiences to get bums in seats when it’s not a more well known character. There’s no gang of intrepid heroes, there’s no space battles and there’s no talking tree. It’s a man who loses the use of his hands and simply wants them back stumbling into the mysteries of the cosmos and coming away with astonishing magic powers. Benedict Cumberbatch is the face of the film, and he’s the one who needs to carry it forward. The film made roughly 3 times its budget in the Box Office and really showed Marvel that they were doing things right and could now not worry about bringing in other characters. And bloody hell, did they! But that’s a conversation for another time.
While I had only watched this film once before, it always stuck with me. In part because I had watched and enjoyed the cartoon version of Doctor Strange’s origin story that had come out several years before so I knew more or less what I was getting into. Benedict Cumberbatch was an obvious choice for the role and he plays the arrogant know-it-all as well as anyone. And while the MCU didn’t really need another rich and talented white guy superhero alongside Tony Stark, it’s nice to bring in a mystical element to the MCU, and Scott Derrickson brought a unique visual style that really captured the mind bending alternate dimensions that the Doctor Strange comics are known for. That, and I’m a sucker for a little time travel mixed into a movie. The love story was a nice touch that didn’t overwhelm the narrative, it was given just enough weight to ground the character and the visuals are just absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s a fun movie with a handful of serious moments.
As far as its place in the MCU, there was a bit of controversy in the form of the Ancient One. While the character was traditionally a stereotypically elderly Asian man in the style of Confucius, the filmmakers decided to avoid the stereotype while still taking the role away from an Asian actor and instead gave it to Tilda Swinton. For my part, I think she does an amazing job, and at least they kept one Asian actor with Wong, but for a story that has so much to do with Asian culture, it was a bad call to have so few Asian actors in it. In terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and box office, this actually ranks in the lower third but that still comes with an $85M opening weekend and a $677M overall take, certainly nothing to sneeze at. It’s a little early to tell how much of a role he will play in the later Marvel movies, though he is definitely coming back for a sequel. This also continued somewhat of a trend with horror movie directors given superhero movies like Sam Raimi before him and James Wan after, as Derrickson was most well known for Sinister before this film.
Our Epic Conclusion
Alrighty. So, we’ve reached the main 3 questions again. Just in case you weren’t sure what they were, we wrote them down here beside the Wi-Fi password:
1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?
And, without further ado, beating around the bush or other idioms, here we go:
- Yes. If you’re an MCU fan, you need to see this. The character is quite important, for one, and the entire cast is really fun to watch. If you’re not an MCU fan, you need to see this. The creative decisions within this film make it a visual joy to behold and need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.
- I would say yes, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Though I think you guys could probably have worked that out by now!
- Good question me! Here’s the current rankings:
1) Dr Strange
2) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
3) Batman: The Killing Joke
4) Superman 3
5) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
7) Batman & Robin
8) The Amazing Spider-Man
9) BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
Yeah, I couldn’t justify placing this anywhere else. The visuals, the cast, the subject matter, the overall feel of the film and more just add up to a fantastic and very well made Superhero film. Congratulations Dr Steven Strange on your victory over Dr Horrible!
And so another review draws to a close. We’ll be back next month with a look at another film on the list, one that many will assume that I won’t like. As if I would be that catty…
Anyway, always be sure to carry your Sling Ring with you, just in case!
Avengers: Endgame 2019
Even though it’s only been out for a little over a couple weeks, it feels like everyone has already seen this movie considering that it’s about to top Avatar to become the second highest grossing movie in the US of all time. The MCU in general has become the biggest franchise of all time in short order, offering up 22 movies over the course of only 10 years, and while most of the films follow a similar overall formula, the specifics of each film tends to vary wildly among secondary genres. The MCU films are safe, and yet they still manage to take chances, whether it’s giving unknown characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy a chance to shine, or what it does in this movie: it spends time to show the audience how the characters react to loss. This film feels like a culmination of all the previous MCU films in more ways than one, it revisits moments from earlier movies, and it generally offers closure for the majority of the original six Avengers in a rather satisfying way. And while the official spoiler has ended, I am still offering my typical spoiler warning from here on out.
This is another somewhat interesting story when it comes to comic book movies. When this film was released in 1990, the comic book publishers of 2000 AD which was the home of Judge Dredd noticed the striking similarities to a short story they published years earlier called Shok. It was a very short 7 page story but the similarities are striking. Both the movie and the comic feature a guy bringing home a robotic head that reassembles itself to terrorize a woman who is holed up in a highly secured apartment. There’s even a moment in both stories where the woman uses a freezer to disguise herself against the robot’s heat vision. As for the film itself, it’s very much schlock, ultra-violent horror which oddly enough reminds me of another comic book movie Virus that would come out 9 years later. Those two stories both have killer robots that reassemble themselves, have a slow start, are trapped in a relatively small space, and ultimately have a low body count. And while there are some major issues with this film, it’s actually much better than the latter movie.
The Science of Superman 2006
One of the shows that I used to enjoy when I was a kid was the early programming of the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel back before they became the go-to channel for reality TV freak shows. There were plenty of shows on those two channels that were full of cutting edge technology and the like and in a way, this special follows that format. And while it does remind me of the Batman Tech special that I watched on the DC Universe app a couple weeks ago, where that felt very much like the promotional material for the Dark Knight that it was, while this was released in a similar way as Batman Tech, being shown on the National Geographic channel the day after the theatrical release, it really spread out the clips used between all sorts of Superman shows and cartoons alongside a fair amount of Superman Returns clips. It also helps that it was inspired by an actual book of the same name and they included the author alongside several of those interviewed for the special. Overall, it was a pretty good doc with a lot of interesting information and theories backed up by the shows and comic books of Superman that weren’t just Superman Returns.
With Brightburn coming out later this month, I thought it was high time that I wrote a blog post looking at a specific trend in superhero movies. And as Brightburn basically seems to be a movie that asks the question: what if Superman wasn’t raised in such a good home and turned out to be a person with good morals and great intentions. Instead, what if he was a more troubled child and used his powers to become more or less a horror movie villain. And while superhero horror isn’t a widely expansive genre within superhero movies, there are actually quite a few different superhero movies that could be considered horror, or at least have several horror elements within them. Some of the best ones are more within the action/horror genre or they play more like a monster movie, the few that fall more towards the thriller side of horror tend to be very light on the superhero element and the film itself focuses more on the circumstances rather than the super powers. Also, I will be steering clear of comic book based horror movies since they have nothing that restricts them in terms of story and can be as horror as they want to be.
Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics 2010
There’s still a few more DC comics based documentaries on the DC Universe streaming app that I haven’t watched yet so I did a quick little Twitter poll to see which one I should check out next and this one won. I didn’t really know anything about this specific documentary but I pretty much assumed that it would cover the history of DC comics, which it did in a much better way than I anticipated. It was full of comics artwork, film and TV clips, and interviews and archival footage with many different important personalities in comics. The story that the film told was mixed with information that I already knew about sprinkled with some that I didn’t. It was interesting, informative, and entertaining. And even though it specifically calls him out on the poster, I didn’t realize that Ryan Reynolds narrated the doc until I saw his name on the end credits, and this film would be right around the time where he was filming Green Lantern.
#96 Superman III
The First Intentionally “Funny” Superman
First and foremost, I apologise for the slight delay in this review. Life events (including a rather annoying change of flight plans) got in the way. However, we’re here now to discuss Superman 3, the one that tried new things and couldn’t quiiiiite stick the landing. Does that mean it was a bad film? Let’s delve right into that, shall we?
This film was my second ever Superman film. Full transparency, to date I have seen (though not in this order) 1-3, Returns and Man Of Steel. I’ve seen Justice League too, but let’s leave that alone for now. This film was one of the two that stuck with me after watching it and it did so due to one scene, which I will get to later. However, I recall enjoying it enough when I was younger that it kept my interest. On this rewatch, I found that many of the old-school cliches are there (mostly limitations of the time, but some were just what you did back then in these types of films), the villains were kinda lesser copies of Luthor and the like and they managed to water down Richard Pryor. Does this make it a film that held up well? No. However…
I would argue that you shouldn’t worry about that. Yes, there’s cliches but those cliches are only there because this film was one of those that laid the foundations that became the cliches. The villains were effectively Luthor 1.5 (plus some eye candy, because reasons), but that actually lets them have fun because you know exactly what they are. There’s no need for any real development, there’s no attempt at fleshing them out. There’s only “I’m clearly evil and want to rule the world” followed by “Curses! It’s Superman!” followed by “I’ve beaten him!” until finally “Oh, no I didn’t.”. Everything else is just the filmmakers trying something new, injecting humour and different scenarios into a well-used machine. I actually admire them for that. And there’s not much else you can take from the world that is presented other than it being a real product of the time. We don’t see much of the world, only Metropolis (or a few buildings in it), a couple of disaster sites, a scrapyard and the people. You’ve got a hero, many, MANY bystanders, some villains and a “love interest”. So, to get a better grip on how this film fared, let’s look at the characters themselves.
This version of Superman is what you’d expect. He’s nice he’s clean cut and he’s got random powers (I don’t care how hard you blow, you cannot get every single drop of oil back into a tanker. And furthermore, how the hell did it not explode when he sealed it?). But here’s where the filmmakers decided to take a risk. They made Superman selfish, grumpy, brooding. Basically, they turned him human for a while. And it actually works well. Really well. They use a slight colour shift in his suit to help with this too (unless my copy was just messed up) by having his suit be a few shades darker blue while under the influence of the MacGuffin, fake Kryptonite, until he ends up defeating himself. The final showdown with himself was a little boring, but I think that’s more to do with my having seen it before than anything else. So yeah, all in all they did quite well here!
- Lois Lane / Lana Lang
I’ve lumped these two together because they’re basically the same character. A LL for Clark to pine for and a distraction for Superman. Lois vanishes for 98% of the film due to a trip to Barbados (holding up some swimwear that probably had many people wishing we could simply follow her instead of Clark for this film) that feels pretty random. But don’t worry, we have another fairly thin woman who’s Clark’s age and happens to be nearby. Despite them spending so much time together in the film, the problem with Lana is that she felt like exactly what she was: a stand-in for Lois. The end of the film basically has what should feel like a shoulder-shrug, look to camera from Clark as the two meet, but ends up feeling like “Oh, I guess that whole thing didn’t really matter” as there’s zero resolution and you can easily surmise that Lana will be nowhere to be seen in any future films (She isn’t). To be honest, I feel like this film didn’t need her.
- Ross + Vera Webster
As I said before, these guys are basically Luthor 1.5, just without the intellect. Imagine any bad guy who wants to make loads of money and doesn’t care who gets hurt. Well done, you’ve imagined these two. And as I said earlier, I don’t think that’s a bad thing for this film. There’s no time spent on character development, no time spent on backstory, no time wasted on trying to understand them. We see them enjoying a few bad news stories, we see them scheme to beat Superman and we see them almost win. There you go, Superman villain 101 achieved. However, that lets you do anything you want to them and we don’t care. The sister (the joke is that she’s mean and ugly, yay) gets turned into a cyborg by a super-computer. And we basically go “Huh. that sucks for her” and then just wonder what Superman was doing flying away at that time. Effectively you have the perfect foils and they perform their roles to a T. So not good, not bad, simply there.
- Lorelei Ambrosia
Ok, first things first. I had NO idea who played this person until I looked up the cast after the film. So, in case you don’t know, she was played by a comedian from New Zealand who was well known in England for Not The Nine O’Clock News and also for being married to Billy Connolly. So yeah, that surprised me! Secondly, this character is one of the first that I can recall actually being a well written female character in a superhero film. Well, about 90% well written. It kinda goes away at the VERY end of the film after she’s lifted by a random telekinetic ball thing, which I promise makes sense. But anyway, she’s actually smarter than the other two villains and does very well at hiding it. She uses her looks to get whatever she wants and fools everyone until the end. I really do think it’s a well made character that could have been a good call to come back in the sequel in some way. And who knows, she might have been an inspiration for other filmmakers down the line to include more nuanced female characters!
- August “Gus” Gorman
Yep. They took Richard Pryor, a legendary blue comedian, and asked him to do comedy in a PG film. Anyone who’s seen him in stuff like See No Evil, Hear No Evil will know just how silly that is to ask. And yet, he managed to do well. Not great, as any real frustration rants were going to be dialed down to 2, but good enough. And really, it’s just fun to see someone actually act the most like a real person in the entire franchise. This guy just wants to make some money. He does, but ends up being blackmailed into this ridiculous scheme that he has to go along with. So he does, as best he can, until he realises what the ultimate goal is. He’s got the best arc of the entire film and I actually was rooting for him. So yeah, way to go Mr Pryor!
As you can tell, I did enjoy this film. It’s clunky in places, it’s loaded with what we now know as cliches but were actually fairly new and interesting at the time, and has a real need for more character depth. However, it’s still a fun Superman film. Oh yeah, one more thing…
The Cyborg Scene
This scene messed with my head as a kid. Bear in mind that I didn’t catch Doctor Who until the 2005 reboot, so Cybermen were a total unknown to me. For some reason, the act of total transformation into an external component of a computer was actually a little off-putting to me as a kid. And watching it back now, I still had a slight twinge as the sister’s voice gets cut off and the eyes opened. Now, the actual applying of the components are hockey as anything (imagine placing a fork on a thumb and a cheese grater on an arm, you’ve got the basic gist) and it’s totally undone by the end. But still, it’s actually a moment that was surprising to me as a kid and actually was VERY well done. Kudos to the filmmakers!
Ok, time for Mr Bubbawheat to give his two cents. Over to you, my very own Mr Webster!
When I first started this website the very first movies that I watched and reviewed were the first four Superman films starring Christopher Reeve. I think that it was the last time that I’ve seen this film. While the first two Superman films were pretty great, this was the first one that didn’t have any input from Richard Donner and was completely taken over by Richard Lester and his comedic touch. Due to the change in director, Gene Hackman refused to return and Margot Kidder was only in the film for about five minutes and was replaced with Annette O’Toole’s Lana Lang. Lester’s comedy starts straight from the opening scene with Richard Pryor in an unemployment office followed by a comedy of errors with a series of pratfalls and other physical comedy. Later on in the movie there were a couple potential action scenes where one was mostly replaced with Richard Pryor describing the series of events and another replaced with video game style graphics. Lex Luthor was also replaced with a Lex Luthor-esque villain played by Robert Vaughn. Everything in general felt cheaper than the first two films and Richard Pryor felt like he was basically the second lead.
As far as its importance within superhero cinema history, this was the start of the downfall of the Superman franchise. After the first two Superman films were successful grossing a combined $235M, this film dropped quite a bit down to only $60M. It was still considered a financial success at the time with its $30M budget, but still a big dropoff from the first two combined with very poor critical reception. But this film also has one significant element in it when Pryor doses Superman with a chunk of black tar Kryptonite and turns him evil. Or more technically, turns him into an all around jerk until he battles himself as Clark Kent in a big junkyard fight scene. Jerk Superman doesn’t really do anything evil, he just acts like a sleaze toward Lana Lang, straightens out the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and gets drunk flicking peanuts to break bottles in a bar. This was also the first movie where Christopher Reeve started having a more creative role in the Superman movies, something that would continue in the fourth movie where he would get a story by credit.
Alrighty. I’m back and it’s time for our 3 questions. And heeeeeeeere they are:
1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?
And in numerical order, here we go:
1) Yes. Totally. This film, despite any flaws, has a defined place in the Superman canon and needs to be seen by anyone who desires to see a Superman film!
2) Yes. Again, there’s a lot of cliches that are found in this type of film. And the reason is that they originated around this time and from these films. So watch the original, get a sense for the time and see why they’re there. And if only for that, it does deserve a spot on the list.
3) Well, this took some thinking. As always, I try to focus more on the film’s importance, relevance and overall quality over my personal feelings. However, I feel like they’re fairly well aligned here. So, for all the reasons listed above, the updated rankings are as such:
1) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
2) Batman: The Killing Joke
3) Superman 3
4) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
6) Batman & Robin
7) The Amazing Spider-Man
8) BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
Well folks, it’s time for us to vanish again into the ether until the next review. And I’m looking forward to it, since it’s the first MCU film to drop in our series and the first film that I’ve already reviewed on my podcast (Shameless plug: The BlokeBusters Podcast!). So, until that time, make sure to keep that tar out of your Kryptonite lumps. You never know what will happen…
Vincent Has No Scales 2014
And finishing up with Aquaman April I decided to watch this movie that I didn’t even realize was French until I looked it up right before watching it. This is a film that I just happened to discover on the library streaming app Hoopla by searching for “superhero”, and based on the description it sounded basically like a low budget French Aquaman movie. And after watching it, that’s pretty much exactly what it is. There’s not really much action, instead it’s a bit more of a combination romance with a little character study. But honestly there’s really just a whole lot of nothing going on in this film aside from the main character Vincent swimming a lot, eating, and getting himself wet in one way or another. There is a bit of super powers here and there and kind of an action scene in the second act, but there’s also just plenty of shots of scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous most of the time, but it’s still just scenery and Vincent swimming or chilling.