Many of us came of age in the 2000′s – exposed to a nearly constant, ubiquitous stream of media. This audio-visual assault on the senses manifested itself most egregiously with the genre of the modern-day superhero film – which is probably the most coherent and/or recognizable film movement for the Generation Y era. Now general opinions on the overall value of this genre of film varies strongly from person to person. However, I think it is safe to say that even the most ardent of superhero film advocates would probably recognize that while there have been powerful, artistically complex films produced that focus on men (and women) in tights, there have also been a quite a few stinkers. At best it’s been a mixed bag. This is why after 12 years of bombastic web-shooting, cowl wearing, rights-trampling, spandex-wearing fun it is time to open up that bag and zero in on the best and worst moments that the genre has produced this century so far. This is Best/Worst: Scenes in Superhero Cinema of the ’00′s.
Worst Scenes in Superhero Cinema
5. ”It’s Overtime!” – Catwoman (2004)
Just three years after delivering a spectacular tornado of a performance in Marc Forster’s Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry experienced an epic fall from grace. Donning the most ridiculous and impractical costume of all time Berry headlined what very well might be the worst superhero film of all time – 2004′s Catwoman, directed by the illustrious Pitof. Of all the stupidity on display, of all the horrific lines and atrocious acting the worst scene in the film is probably the dubious “climax,” where Berry’s idiotic feline faces off against Sharon Stone’s bore of a baddie, Laurel. The scene is one of the worst in all of superhero cinema because it encapsulates everything that is abrasive about the genre in addition to being just terribly conceived and executed. The frantic, ugly editing, mind-numbing choreography and lack of emotional investment in the characters contribute to the scene being about as fun as getting your eyes scratched out.
4. “Back to Back!” – X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
As everyone with half a brain knows X-Men Origins was a totally crappy movie that squandered a prime opportunity to delve into the titillating history of one of the greatest comic book characters ever produced. Filled with over-the-top scenes that are obviously striving to be ”cool” yet fall more into the “hopelessly clichéd” category (such as when Wolverine becomes the living embodiment of the SNL parody “Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions“) Origin’s abrasive silliness truly knew no boundaries. One of the worst insults to the mythology of its source material is the film’s final treatment of Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool. In the film Wilson is transformed from his comic-book identity of being a jive-talking, fourth wall breaking, smart-ass to a silent, mouth less killing machine with all of the X-Men’s powers and none of his original personality. The unfortunate result is that in the final battle (which pits Wade against Logan and Sabertooth) there is very little in the way of drama. Also, the scene is unintentionally hilarious. Watch the close-up shot of Logan’s face as Wilson leaps on top of him and stabs him in the back. It is PURE, COMEDIC, GOLD!
It is difficult to figure out which scene is more disgusting. Each one of these sequences is riddled with such saccharine moralizing and sanctimonious nationalism that it is like getting punched in the face with a red, white and blue fist and then getting hauled to your feet and forced to snap off a salute to the stars and stripes at gunpoint. I mean, shit, I know that New York was trying to heal from the trauma of 9-11 during the first half of the past decade but this is just way, way too much.
If you want a film which sums up the industry’s apathetic and borderline contemptuous attitude towards producing faithful adaptations towards revered comic book properties one needs to look no further than the adaptation of Alan Moore iconic book, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This is the film which only managed to secure 007 himself, Sean Connery, for the lead role of Alan Quatermain through respecting his perpetually increasing explosion clause in his contract. This casting decision alone should be painfully indicative of why The League of Extraordinary Gentleman stands as one of the worst comic book films ever made. The film completely disrespects all the most interesting facets found in Moore’s original books. The only thing it really maintains is the basic concept (a team-up of Victorian-era literary characters) of Moore’s original text. It reshapes characters in incredibly unimaginative ways (Mina is now a vampire… snore) and puffs up the narrative not with character development but with eye-rolling action scenes (such as the one below) defined by tranquilizer-like intensity.
1. Saturday Night Spiderman or Peter Parker: Member of the Rat Pack – Spiderman 3 (2007)
There is no scene in all of superhero cinema that matches this loathsome sequence from what was supposed to be the darkest and most emotionally complex entry to the franchise. There is no scene that so conclusively destroys one of the most celebrated storylines in the publication history of one of the most famous of all pop-culture figures. Now, it is not like this sequence came out of nowhere; Raimi’s gonzo brand of tongue-in-cheek weirdness had begun to rear its head in Spiderman 2. However, 2 never crossed the line like 3. I will never forget walking out of the theater all those years ago, despondent and fighting back tears, flanked by hundreds of others who had been similarly hoodwinked into attending the midnight showing of this stinky travesty. I believe that even back then, a couple of years before Marvel would open the floodgates and deliver a barrage of mediocre films, I was starting to become aware that my initial infantile thrill of living in a time of endless superhero films was maybe just that, an infantile thrill. I thought, “Shit, maybe this ISN’T such a great thing.”
Best Scenes in Superhero Cinema
5. ”Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” – Spiderman 2 (2004)
This bizarre sequence, which is certainly incongruent with most of the film, represents Raimi dancing on the line which was so brutally crossed later on in the franchise’s final installment. What was so tonally wrong in the “Evil Parker” sequences of Spiderman 3 works perfectly here. Here, the goofiness is acceptable for the character’s current situation. The scene conveys a great deal about both Parker’s carefree elation (due to the jettisoning of the Spiderman persona) and his inner-struggle to remain out of the fray of combating crime. It is a sequence that is stylistically wacky and one of the most innovative ways that the wearisome angsty superhero archetype has been depicted on-screen.
4. Night Flight – Superman Returns (2006)
Haters of this movie really don’t know what they’re talking about. I mean, I guess nobody got their head knocked around by super punches so people’s’ ravenous appetites for bone-crunching violence went unfulfilled. It’s very sad that this film seems to be so universally reviled because it is defined (at least for me) by its impressive acting, (barring Bosworth), sublime effects and a storyline that zeroes in on the basic mythological appeal of the Superman character. He’s a man, burdened by the screams of a world in need of a god. This idea is beautifully conveyed in the powerful conversation between Supes and Lois during their nighttime flight.
3. “As a Symbol I Can be Everlasting.” – Batman Begins (2005)
Similar to the effect that Frank Miller and Alan Moore had on the medium of the graphic novel, Christopher Nolan can be credited with pushing the medium of the comic book film forward. He reshaped the genre in many ways, including imbuing his films with a more somber tone and a higher focus on grounding Batman’s world with a sense of hyper-realistic plausibility. Even more important however was how Nolan tied the actions of his films vigilante strongly to the potential effects they would have on the films fictional society. Nolan treated the Batman character as not some sort of perpetually isolated crime-fighter, but a symbol whose theatricality is designed to inspire a more universal sense of social justice and collective good in Gotham City. It is in this thematic specificity where an iconic film was born.
2. “The Rules Were Made a Long Time Ago…” – Super (2010)
James Gunn’s Super (along with The Dark Knight) is the cinematic equivalent to the Watchmen graphic novel, that is, it is a film which deconstructs the mythology of an entire genre. However, Super accomplishes this heady notion without transforming itself into some sort ponderous, slow-moving affair. The film is one of the funniest and most entertaining of its genre ever produced. The scene below encapsulates perfectly how the idea of a costumed adventurer is one that is inherently problematic. The extreme nature of the actions of a vigilante (and the rigid moral code that defines/structures these actions) are so disturbing because they eliminate all shades of grey in how people should behave. There is only black and white and it is the vigilante who has absolute authority being the judge, jury and (in this case) executioner.
1. “I Think You and I Are Destined to Do This Forever.” – The Dark Knight (2008)
As everyone on Planet Earth knows, Heath Ledger’s final completed performance in The Dark Knight is the stuff that dreams are made of; his Joker is one of the most disturbing characters ever brought to the screen. Of all the great scenes in The Dark Knight (there are one or two) the Joker’s final speech to Batman (after he has been finally subdued by the Caped Crusader) stands as probably the greatest in the film and in all of superhero cinema. In this scene The Joker not only reveals his full intentions (to break Gotham’s spirit through corruption of one of its symbols) but also seems to make meta-film references to how the dynamic between Batman and The Joker is one that is so deeply ingrained in our cultural imagination that it will be continually explored in every conceivable artistic medium until the end of time. This scene also lays bare (in an even stronger fashion) what the character of The Joker represents, not just to Batman, but to the viewers as well. The Joker is not only a dark reflection of Batman, but the personification of rampaging, destructive insanity, and as he states in the scene before bursting into his final demonic burst of laughter, all it takes for a person to get there “…is a little push.”
What did you think of our Best/Worst picks? What should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!