by Patrick Bromley
I've been reading a lot of comics lately, so this week I'm picking some some alternative superhero movies. Bam! Thwak! Sleep.
Super (2010, dir. James Gunn) I was a huge fan of James Gunn's sophomore effort when it was released in 2010. I love its dirty, low-fi aesthetic, the violence that doesn't tell you whether it's meant to be funny or horrifying, the genuine pain that informs Rainn Wilson's performance, the demented energy of Ellen Page's sidekick. It's a divisive movie, sure, but also one that felt like a refreshing bit of subversion and the antidote for the glut of superhero movies when it came out in 2010. That's even more true now after another six years and two dozen more superhero movies. Long live The Crimson Bolt.
Darkman (1990, dir. Sam Raimi) I love Darkman. It's a movie that has aged well, arguably working better now that it did when it came out in 1990 (though maybe that's because we're able to make better sense of what Sam Raimi was up to now). I know the movie was compromised and that Raimi had a tough time making the movie he wanted to make at Universal, but enough of his vision made it to the screen for this to be a really rare thing -- a superhero movie starring a completely original superhero complete with his own "powers" and mythology. It's a love letter to old horror movies and comic books, so naturally it speaks directly to me. For more on my thoughts on Darkman, listen to the podcast on the movie from myself and JB.
Constantine (2005, dir. Francis Lawrence) I have never read Hellblazer, but I know that most fans of that book and its chain-smoking, demon-fighting hero John Constantine feel that this American adaptation starring Keanu Reeves in the title role is blasphemous. But because I don't have that connection to the source material, I've always found this movie to be underrated -- not great, but pretty fun with a lot of things to like about it. Yes, it has an obnoxious sidekick performance from Shia LaBoeuf, but what movie in the early 2000s didn't? Keanu is enjoying himself, Rachel Weisz is always great, Lawrence's direction is solid. Plus, Peter Stormare does an awesome devil and Tilda Swinton plays herself. It's one of those movies where if it's on, I'll stick with it for longer than I probably should. Makes me wish I watched the short-lived NBC series.
The Crow (1994, dir. Alex Proyas) I'll be honest. I'm not actually the world's biggest fan of The Crow, but I wanted a fourth movie to round out this week's picks. I think it's incredibly stylish and a really important movie in terms of taking what Tim Burton did with Batman and pushing it forward, demonstrating that comic book movies could go even darker and more gothic. It meant a whole lot to me in 1994 when I was reading James O'Barr and listening to the soundtrack on repeat. Most of my fondness for the movie now is born out of nostalgia and a genuine love for Brandon Lee, whose life was tragically cut short during the making of The Crow.
If you're looking for more traditional superhero stuff, Netflix has a number of good comic book shows: Arrow, The Flash, Daredevil and Jessica Jones.