5 Great "Modern Day" Superhero Movies

Oh, superhero movies. I've bitched about them countless times on this blog, but sometimes one must just face the facts that they are here to stay. There was no "great" Hollywood movie this summer, but the one that came closest was a superhero movie: "Captain America: Civil War." As much as that film had cinematic flare it did resort to some of the problematic tropes that make me yearn for better days at the movies. 

You won't find such classic superhero movies as Richard Donner's "Superman II," and Tim Burton's "Batman." Those were released before the money making and commercialized films we got starting in 2000 with "X-Men." That's when it started. The beginning of what would be an important chapter in film history: The mass invasion of a genre that has sucked all the artistry out of moviemaking. 

This is a list that was concocted with both partiality and impartiality. I remember back in my "film studies" days at Concordia University I wrote an essay about the "modern-day superhero genre." A lot of research went into it. I not only consulted token reviews by the likes of Ebert and Turan, but essays that were written by "scholarly" journals such as Film Comment and Sight/Sound. Why is this the most resonant essay of my film school days? Because it's the most relevant genre around. Superhero movies are everything to Hollywood today. 

I have shared my discontent concerning the lack of creative ideas or original thought in today's movie studio system, and of course a lot of the blame has to go to the Marvel and DC movies that have ravaged our screens since the early aughts and have become bigger and bigger with every passing year turning it into some kind of corrupt entity.

However, at its core, a superhero movie still has the potential for greatness.  In a way it's the apex of what the Lumieres and George Melies eventually wanted to achieve with advanced technology at their disposal. Am I far reaching? Of course not. The superhero movie has all of the elements that have epitomized moviemaking since its inception more than a century ago: Science Fiction, Horror, Drama, Film Noir, and, especially in the Marvel movies, a little added dose of Comedy.


(1) "The Dark Knight

"If you haven't heard of Christopher Nolan's superhero classic then you don't live on this planet. Nolan along with an extraordinarily effective cast headed by Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as a Joker to haunt your dreams. This is the way a blockbuster should triumph: character before action. Many have evoked the film as a post 9/11 depiction of a world gone astray with the leader of the free world making concessions to battle terrorism: how much bad must you do to defeat evil itself?  Ledger's joker is so real and intense, but it's Nolan's eye for detail that puts this film over the rise. This is his dark, twisted take and the defining take of a modern day genre."

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(2) "Spider-Man 2"

"Now this is what I'm talking about. After the average "Spider-Man movie in 2002, director Sam Raimi completely redeemed himself by creating one of the best superhero movies ever made. A mind blowing mix of action, heart and character that had viewers on the edge of their seats. The special effects are outstanding and the action sequences -including a thrilling train crash finale- make this a knockout through and through. Raimi knows that to make a great superhero movie you need to care about the characters that are onscreen and, with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst along for the ride, he makes sure every shot counts"

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(3) "Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Forget about "The Avengers" which is cotton candy entertainment when compared to "The Winter Soldier." This film ranks as the most accomplished Marvel universe film to date. Nothing comes close. Not even its high-grade sequel "Civil War." The action scenes are great, there are suspenseful moments aplenty, and the emotional toll the film packs at its conclusion is deeply ingrained in humanism. this film strengthens Just like Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy, Anthony and Joe Russo's film is a cinematic experience through and through, recalling some of the great political thrillers ("Three Days of Condor," "The Parallax View.") while also adding new dimensions to what was starting to become a very predictable and frustrating cinematic genre."

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(4) "Iron Man"

Director Jon Favreau brought a solid mix of action and humor to this 2008 film which basically kickstarted the Marvel Universe, for better or for worse. Favreau's film felt fresh, innovative and just downright satirical about the superhero movies that came before it. It hit a high standard of excellence for the mainstream by combining humor with breathtaking action sequences, it was and still is a cinematic time capsule shapeshifter. In a year that saw the war in Iraq seem never-ending and the market crashing in unxpectedly historical ways, Americans had enough ad chose to elect Barack Obama and Tony Stark to lead the way to the future.

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(5) "Unbreakable"

"This is the ultimate in making a superhero movie "cinematic". "Unbreakable" is the act of not even knowing you're watching a superhero movie until the very last frame. That's the biggest magic trick Shayamalan's movie pulls out of its bag and what's more cinematic than magic? Or as Vulture says it "liberate(d) the superhero from the shackles of licensing constraints and fan-pandering." In a way invented superhero-dom is something that hasn't been tackled that much. "Unbreakable" goes to the roots of what it means to read or watch a superhero story and to get swept up in it without any advanced buzz, or preconceived notions about what to expect. It's the antidote to what we're looking for right now. Thank god they never made that rumored sequel.