Darkman is what you get when your unable to secure the rights to Batman or The Shadow. You get an original “superhero” from the mind of Sam Raimi. An R rated story about a man who gets horribly beaten by a gang of criminals, has a life changing operation, gets revenge on the criminals, and eventually confronts the evil businessman responsible. Oh wait that’s Robocop. Well Darkman still has its own unique style. Although it sounds just as dark as every other superhero movie that came out in the 90’s, the tone is actually very campy and darkly comedic. Similar to the Evil Dead movies it’s sandwiched between. In fact, the role was intended for Bruce Campbell, but it ended up going to Liam Neeson instead. Making this his first action role. Darkman is about a scientist named Peyton Westlake who creates a synthetic second skin. A gang led by Durant leaves him horribly burned and disfigured. After which he gains superhuman strength and an immunity to pain, but he also loses his mind. Going on a gleeful quest for revenge that requires the use of his second skin to frame the criminals that wronged him. While at the same time trying to win back his girlfriend Julie. His appearance is like a cross between The Phantom of the Opera and the Invisible Man. As he himself gradually becomes a monster. My parents were actually the ones who introduced me to the movie. They frequently quoted lines that they thought were funny. The most infamous one involving a pink elephant at a carnival. The most impressive action scene involves Darkman swinging from a helicopter. Really a lot of moments are similar to Raimi’s mainstream superhero flick Spider-Man. Darkman is just as underrated as it sounds.
Constantine fights a battle that puts him in direct conflict with Heaven and Hell. Since DC seemed to only care about their darker stuff in the 2000’s, John Constantine was the next “superhero” to get his own unnecessary movie. As part of DC’s Vertigo imprint that was of course written by Alan Moore. Constantine first made his debut in a Swamp Thing comic. Before getting his own graphic novel series with Hellblazer. John Constantine is a chain smoking British occult detective with blonde hair who always wears a brown trench coat and tie. So they cast the very American dark haired Keanu Reeves for the part. It’s like the character leapt off the page! But seriously, how hard is it to get a character with such a basic appearance looking the way they’re supposed to? They couldn’t even give him a brown trench coat. As if anything other than black would make the film less edgy. Constantine is R and full of demons as well as angels. Specifically another androgynous performance by Tilda Swinton. This time playing the Archangel Gabriel. Constantine attempts to save his eternally damned soul by doing good for those in need. The effects don’t quite make it convincing and this is a mid-2000’s Keanu performance. So don’t expect his comeback just yet, because he couldn’t be more miscast in the part. At least Djimon Hounsou played his first of many comic book roles as villain Papa Midnite. Despite the gothic material that I prefer to stay away from, Constantine is bad enough for it to become bland. At least Matt Ryan managed to save the character.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D is just childish. Instead of simply making movies for his kids, Robert Rodriguez went directly to the source. Most of the movie was actually thought up by his 7 year old son Racer. He drew up storyboards and everything. I came up with my own superheroes at a young age too, but my ideas weren’t nearly this silly. Sharkboy is a half shark half boy hybrid. While Lavagirl is a girl with volcano powers. A very young pre-Twilight (pre-muscles) Taylor Lautner plays Sharkboy. Another Taylor named Taylor Dooley plays Lavagirl. They’re technically not the main characters though. That “honor” actually goes to Max. A kid who dreamt up the young superheroes along with a dreamworld called Planet Drool and versions of people he knows in the real world. Like villainous versions of his teacher and bully named Mr. Electric and Minus. While there’s no denying the imagination put into the story, Sharkboy and Lavagirl ultimately suffers from an over reliance on lousy special effects and the use of obnoxious 3D. Spy Kids 3-D wasn’t much better, but at least the story was built around it. This movie is just trying to punish the parents who unwilling took their kids to see it (myself included). The humor is often juvenile and the performances are all painfully cringy. Although the kids are trying a lot harder than the adults. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl proves 7 year olds might not be the best people to get story ideas from.
Catwoman is one of the most relentlessly bad superhero movies ever made. Catwoman first made her appearance in the 1940 comic Batman #1. Establishing herself as one of Batman’s greatest enemies and love interests. Since then, Catwoman has been portrayed numerous times in TV, movies, and animation. A Michelle Pfeiffer solo movie was discussed, but since it never materialized, they did something original instead. Winning Razzies for Worst Picture and Worst Actress in the process. Oscar winner Halle Berry stars as Patience Phillips (instead of Selena Kyle). She actually showed up to accept the Razzie in a hilarious way. Patience is an “unattractive” woman with the most stereotypical job imaginable. Working in a cosmetics company where she has a gay sidekick and Lois Griffin as her wacky best friend. She also has not Batman as a love interest. In fact, forget about everything DC related since Gotham City or anything else is tossed out. In the comics, Selina Kyle is simply a cat burglar who dresses like a cat. What do they do here? Patience dies and is brought back to life by a magical Egyptian cat. She develops the ability to hiss, jump, enjoy catnip, and eat tuna just like a cat. You can’t make this crap up, but it gets worse. Being a guy, I can’t complain too much about the costume, but it’s clearly something only a stripper would wear. With its bra, striped pants, and whip. Looking even worse with horribly rendered CGI jumping. Catwoman has terrible acting, stupid moments (like the infamous basketball scene), and the dumbest villain in any superhero movie. Sharon Stone who has diamond hard skin as a result of makeup. It was only the second female lead superhero movie ever made. The 2000’s truly were a dark time. It just doesn’t get any worse than the purrfectly awful Catwoman.
Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 is the worst reviewed superhero movie ever put to screen. You literally can’t sink any lower than 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. After the “masterpiece” that was Baby Geniuses, a sequel was apparently in demand. With the “clever” premise of having superpowered babies. Brain Boy, with the ability to out think people! Courageous Boy with the ability to lift heavy objects! Cupid Girl, with the ability to shoot love arrows! And Bounce Boy, with the ability to… bounce!!! There’s also another baby that never ages and has a bunch of special gadgets named Kahuna. Shocking no one, Superbabies is just embarrassing. The acting is bad, the effects are TV quality, and it makes a joke out of Oscar winners like Jon Voight and Whoopi Goldberg. The former playing a ridiculously cartoonish villain and the latter phoning in a cameo. Since I was still naive enough to enjoy the first movie, I saw the sequel at least twice. Which I also didn’t totally hate at the time. Then again, the selection of superhero movies was a lot more limited at the time. So I settled for nonsense like this. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 speaks for itself.
Preceded by: Baby Geniuses
Glass is the grand conclusion of M. Night Shyamalan’s unexpected Eastrail 177 trilogy. Unfortunately I found out about it before I saw Split. So there was really no way to avoid the twist unless you’ve seen Split when it was brand new. When I finally did watch Split, I was curious to see the two worlds collide. Especially since Unbreakable came out 19 years ago and a sequel didn’t seem like a possibility as long as M. Night Shyamalan had a bunch of crap to get through. The title Glass definitely made it sound good. Considering Mr. Glass is the third primary character not to get a movie named after him. Plus it follows in Shyamalan’s tradition of having very literal movie titles. Then I saw the trailer, and I still think it’s one of the best trailers I’ve seen in a long time. Glass brings David Dunn (The Overseer) and Kevin Wendell Crumb (The Horde) together when “The Beast” attempts to kill a new set of teenage girls. It attracts the attention of the same institution that’s currently holding Elijah Price (Mr. Glass). Leaving all three men stuck in one place. Every other supporting character returns as well. David’s son Joseph, Kevin’s victim Casey, and Elijah’s mother Mrs. Price…
I don’t often disagree with critics when it comes to Shyamalan, but I think they beat up Glass too much. It is an M. Night Shyamalan movie afterall. I expect it to be mostly talk heavy. Sarah Paulson’s character is a psychiatrist who tries to convince the three of them that they aren’t superheroes. By also exploiting their weaknesses. Exposing David to water, using lights to bring out Kevin’s other personalities, and keeping Elijah sedated. Bruce Willis is his usual half interested self. Although I did feel like it wasn’t too different than his performance in Unbreakable. This is probably the easiest money Samuel L. Jackson has ever gotten. Since he spends most of his time in a wheelchair and it takes awhile for him to talk. When he does speak, he lives up to having the movie named after him. Just as expected, James McAvoy steals the show. This time displaying every other personality that was missing in Split. Seamlessly changing from one persona to another. Even elisiting a few genuine laughs out of me. When the action does come in, it’s mostly exciting. Although the occasional comic book talk in between can make it a bit awkward. Along with Shyamalan’s, still present, unusual camera work and dialogue. The twists range from unexpected to frustrating, but I won’t say what they are. In the end, Glass was exactly what I was expecting. A part superhero, part thriller, slow building crossover of Unbreakable and Split. For me it’s enough just to see all these unique characters together in one movie.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen brings together many characters from great works of literature. It’s also yet another early 2000’s comic book adaptation that should never have been made as soon as it was. Long before Watchmen (see that review here) was released, LXG was the Alan Moore team up movie hated by its own creator. It’s a lot easier to see why he hated this so much. I never read the graphic novel, but you can tell his usual dark wit and nuance is missing. This is from the director of Blade afterall. So it’s definitely style over substance. Like so many other superhero related movies, I first saw LXG on FX. It seemed somewhat promising at first, but it wound up boring me to death. LXG is notoriously the movie that made Sean Connery quit acting. Let’s just say turning down the role of Gandalf was the worst career decision he ever made. Connery plays African adventurer/hunter Allan Quatermain from King Solomon’s Mines. Never heard of him. He’s recruited to be the leader of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A team which consists of: Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a vampire version of Mina Harker from Dracula, an Invisible Man not from The Invisible Man, Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Tom Sawyer (for some reason). They’re up against the Fantom from The Phantom of the Opera who turns out to be Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes. Bad special effects, lifeless characters, and an unappealing look make The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen another waste of an interesting premise.
The Spirit is another really old comic book superhero nobody’s heard of that they felt needed a movie (not made in the 90’s for a change). Despite DC and Marvel being full of superheroes to make movies for. The Spirit is as old as 1940. He made his debut in a newspaper comic that was either light hearted or dark. The character the Spirit was always dressed in a suit, with a fedora, gloves, domino mask, and a distinctive red neck tie. Apart from coming back to life, he didn’t have any powers (in the movie he has a healing factor). I assume the character was popular back in the day, but some of it hasn’t aged well. Specifically his blackface sidekick Ebony White. Making a movie adaptation seemed like a bizarre choice. The Spirit is directed exclusively by famous graphic novel writer Frank Miller. It proves that he’s clearly lost whatever made him so good in the first place. As he’s obviously trying to recreate the success of Sin City. By once again using black & white mixed with color and silhouettes in key areas. Only it seems much more random and less artistically crafted. It’s not like the Spirit comics had that visual style to begin with. Storywise, The Spirit is one big bombastic mess. Half the time it was trying to be a comedy. With an over-the-top performance from Samuel L. Jackson as archenemy the Octopus. This is clearly the worst performance of his career. Made even worse by him and Scarlett Johansson dressed as Nazis. Meanwhile Eva Mendes is the sexy femme fatal who is constantly objectified. I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish with this movie, but The Spirit is just plain damn weird.
For those who came in late… The Phantom just might be the most important superhero ever created. The Phantom debuted in a 1936 comic strip. He was the first superhero to wear spandex, a mask with white eyes, a power ring, to have a secret hideout (the Skull Cave), and the first superhero with a mantle. Needless to say superheroes wouldn’t be who they were today without The Phantom. Unfortunately the character faded into obscurity until (you guessed it) the 90’s. Billy Zane plays The Phantom in the only heroic role I’ve ever seen him in. In the 16th century, after a run-in with pirates, a boy washed up on an African island called Bengalia. He becomes their first of 21 masked avengers known as The Phantom. While I was interested enough to read a comic beforehand, The Phantom just doesn’t work in the 90’s. It’s cool that he presides over a jungle like Tarzan, has a pet wolf, and rides a white stallion, but the biggest problem is his costume. Which is purple! It’s fine for a comic, but ridiculous in a movie. The movie is also unfocused, has some hammy acting, and feels too familiar. There’s also barely any Africans in it. Billy Zane is just not enough to save the movie. I still believe The Phantom could work, but this movie is no excuse.
The Shadow knows! The Shadow is one of the earliest superheroes ever created. Back before there was spandex, superpowers, or even comic books. The Shadow made his debut on a radio show all the way back in 1930. Then he made his official print debut in a pulp magazine 1 year later. The 90’s was a dark time for comic book movies. Even though The Shadow is older than Superman, they still felt a movie was necessary. I literally never knew this adaptation existed. Unlike other lesser known superhero movies. Probably because The Shadow is basically just a clone of 1989’s Batman. Which is ironic since Batman was actually inspired by The Shadow back before his creation. The Shadow is recognized for his black cape, suit, fedora, and red scarf. The movie does do a good job recreating it (right down to the big nose). The main problem is just how cliché and dull it is. His origin involving Genghis Khan makes no sense without context. The title character is barely in the movie, and when he is, he’s just laughing maniacally. Alec Baldwin should never play a superhero. The shadowy aesthetic and disappearing looks fine, but some of the effects look like a video game. The Shadow is just too forgettable.