16 July 2008

Superest Sequels

With the arrival of The Dark Knight, its time for people such as myself to assemble the obligatory "Top Superhero Films" lists. I thought I would put a little twist on the topic by ranking the Top Superhero Sequels. Many filmmakers say that once the origin story is "out of the way," they can dive into the meat of the character and deliver movies that improve on the original. We shall see. One asterisk, since I have not yet seen Hellboy 2, the big red guy is ineligible. Here we go:

10. Superman 3

Although Superman 3 really doesn't have any business being on any Top 10 list, there really aren't THAT many superhero sequels. Besides, the movie is not completely devoid of redeeming moments. After 2 films focusing on the relationship between smoker-teeth hag Lois, it was great to see Superman going for the upgrade in Smallville with Lana Lang. The main villain of the film being a plain old computer as opposed to Brainiac is a let down, but when the computer turned the villianess Vera into a cyborg... that was some scary stuff. The fight between Clark Kent and Evil Superman in the junkyard was also one of the great Superhero clashes in any movie - even if it doesn't really make sense. When that Superman theme chimes in at the end, you can't help but feel excitement! (Better than Superman? - No)

9. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer did all he could to save this sequel from disaster. I am not sure he was successful, but the character was easily the greatest part of the film steeling every scene he was in, and looking "fantastic." If only the Fantastic Four had had someone to fight other than a cloud or a Ferris wheel, this movie may have been better received. I must also admit to enjoying the power swapping scenes, and the super powered Johnny that takes out Dr. Doom. In spite of everything, the movie gets marks for improving on the original - even if the bar was set awfully low. (Better than The Fantastic Four? - Yes)

8. Batman Returns

Now I know that some people praise this movie as being the greatest Batman movie ever made (or at least they did until Batman Begins came along) but there are a lot of things wrong here. Its just a little too goofy thanks to Tim Burton's "wild imagination." The 1989 Batman set up a great world, but this movie seemed to slip into an alternate fantasy dimension. Also, pretty much every Penguin related subplot was awful. I mean, why are Emperor Penguins living in the Gotham City sewers? I have to admit though, I think Penguin is one of the worst supervillains ever made, so I am a bit biased. On the other hand, Catwoman was incredible. As far as I am concerned this take on the character can never be topped, and her portrayal alone makes this a worth watching film. (Better than Batman? - No)

7. Superman Returns

What a gorgeous movie this was. It plays homage to the first two Superman films and includes the memorable Superman themes. The airplane rescue was jaw dropping, but unfortunately, one amazing scene does not a great movie make. All of the Super-stalking and bastard child subplots sullied the hero. The lack of a superhero throw down was also disappointing. Sure, we saw plenty of heavy lifting, but zero punches and that is criminal. After Superman 3 and 4, this was a pretty good return to form for Superman, but they probably should have freed themselves of the 30 year old film baggage and gone for a reboot. (Better than Superman? - No)

6. The Incredible Hulk

This might be a bit of a cheat because Marvel call this a reboot, but to me it seemed like it could just as well have been a sequel. Hulk end with Bruce Banner speaking Spanish in Central America, and The Incredible Hulk opens with him a bit farther south, still on the run from Thunderbolt Ross and the Army. Finally, we got to see the Hulk fight a real enemy. Watching him thrash tanks is also fun, but once the Abomination showed up, Hulk actually had a non-canine challenge. Though I enjoyed the dark, slow, physiological build of Hulk, a lighter more action packed follow-up is just what audiences wanted. (Better than Hulk? - Yes)

5. Spider-Man 3

Though this film had far too many coincidences and handled Venom poorly, it was overall pretty good. The Sandman character was handled great, and I even enjoyed the dark Peter Parker, who try as he might, would never be cool. Venom wouldn't have been that bad either except Eddie Brock's face kept popping out. And while this chapter could have been stronger, the movie resolved elements from previous films, such as the Goblin story, and wrapped up a strong Spider-Man trilogy. (Better than Spider-Man? - No)

4. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Even if it had been better than this, no X-Men 3 movie could ever have been as good as people were hopping - which is a testament to the brilliance of X-Men 2. Having said that, this film is greatly under appreciated. The additions of Beast, Shadowcat, and Juggernaut were excellent and the whole ending sequence with Jean / Phoenix was pretty amazing. Maybe it could have been better, but this movie avoided the steep decline in quality that befell other 3quels (see Batman Forever, Spider-Man 3, and Superman 3). (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

The top 3 movies were the cream of the Superhero crop. Oddly, they were all "part 2s" with "2" in the title.

3. Superman 2

General Zod and his crew were a viable threat for the Man of Steel. They easily stole the show from Lex Luthor and gave audiences a reason to cheer for dude that is practically perfect in every way. The movie has an interesting story as well with Superman deciding if he really wants to be a the hero. The fight on the Streets of Metropolis was high stakes and my vote for the best Superhero fight on film. "Kneel Before Zod" is an all-time great movie line and seeing Zod bested is a delight everytime. (Better than Superman? - Yes)

2. Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 kept it simple. It didn't try and give us twice the villains or twice the explosions, it just built on the foundation of Spider-Man. We got to see the characters grow and Doc Ock was a better villain than the original's Green Goblin. The clock fight / train sequence stands out as an action highlight. But the best aspect of this film is that we can really identify with Peter Parker . Spider-Man 2 stole a page from Superman 2 with the hero finally embracing his powers and responsibility. When Peter finally catches a break from MJ at the end, we get to cheer for him. and not just for his alter-ego. (Better than Spider-Man? - Yes)

1. X2: X-Men United

X-Men was good, but no one was prepared for the epic X2. The film seemed like it could be overstuffed like many sequels are, but the additions of Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike did not rob the other heroes of their moments. The opening scene of Nightcrawler's White House infiltration is a perfect action sequence and Magneto's plastic prison escape was also awesome. Though the subtitle "X-Men United" is awfully cheesy, seeing the X-Men have to team up with Magneto, and then be betrayed by him, was great. The film's cliffhanger ending was a perfect final note for this near flawless sequel. (Better than X-Men? - Yes)


Lee said...

Not bad, nothing horribly misguided, just a couple of things I could squabble over...

1. X2
2. Spider-Man 2
3. Superman 2
4. Superman Returns
5. Hellboy 2
6. Incredible Hulk
7. Batman Returns
8. X3
9. TMNT 2
10. Batman Forever

Of course, if direct to DVD can be counted, then I'd put Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and Justice League: Starcrossed in my top 5.

And Hellboy 2 is better than the original!

Chip Chief said...

You know, the one I actually overlooked was TMNT. That was a true sequel and was pretty good. I should give it the number 8 spot and say goodbye to Superman 3.

Anonymous said...

Superman 2 should be number one.