This week saw the drop of the latest episode of the Lambcast, on which the topic of discussion was Iron Man 3. Not only did I appear on this episode (something I’ve been making a bit of a habit of lately), but I only went and hosted it too! Apparently it didn’t go too badly, so I urge you all to listen to it, but only after going to see the film (which is pretty damn good), as Dylan, Lindsay, Bubbawheat and I got into some fairly heavy spoiler territory. Anyway, as I’ve been doing recently, I’ve tied this week’s Top 10 into the theme of the podcast (as will also be the case for the next two weeks, anticipation-lovers), and this week that means counting down my list of Top 10 Movie Superheroes. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean my favourite superhero movies, although in some respects they do pair up. No, this is more a list of the heroes themselves. I’ve tried to take into account if the character has been played by more than one person, although on occasion this hasn’t always worked in the character’s favour. Also, this is entirely based upon the character’s depiction in cinema, mainly because I’ve never read a comic book (the closest I’ve come are graphic novels Sin City, Preacher and Watchmen), and I’ve done my best to block out every Saturday morning cartoon I ever saw in the otherwise culturally empty void of my so-called childhood. I’ve tried to steer clear of sidekicks too, that’s a whole different list, as is super-villains.
I think the position that’s hardest for me to decide upon each week is the Honourable Mentions. There are generally an awful lot of viable entrants, and this week is no exception, and as such I feel the need to offer the position to be shared once again. This week the honours go to Thor, a surprisingly funny chap (“How dare you attack the son of Odin!”), Hellboy, Big Daddy and, on occasion, Spider-Man. I was tempted to include the Human Torch too, because Chris Evans does a good job with him, but he’s just such a dickish character that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
10. Dr. Manhattan
As I mentioned, I’ve read Watchmen, and having read it I therefore loved it, and couldn’t wait for the film. One aspect I was tentative about, though, was how they would handle radioactively modified super-being Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), a scientist destroyed to an atomic level when he gets accidentally locked into one of his experiments, but somehow re-builds himself back together, although this time with powers beyond anyone’s imagination. With the ability to change everything – including himself – to a molecular level, he is the ultimate superhero, or at least he would be if he hadn’t become quite so nihilistic and lost any kind of faith in doing things. As such he is worthy of a place here, because you just can’t get any more super than Manhattan. Wow, I wrote a paragraph on him without using the word penis. Ah, nuts.
9. Crimson Bolt
Recent years have seen a slew of amateur, power-less, ‘regular’ guys having a go at being a superhero. Kick-Ass was probably the most commercially successful, but as a character Dave Lizewsky’s alter-ego wasn’t all that great. This doesn’t mean I’m not greatly anticipating the sequel, despite a director change, but it does mean that the guy gets bumped for Rainn Wilson’s Crimson Bolt from James Gunn’s Super. Granted, the Crimson Bolt is less a superhero and more of a crazed nutjob with a wrench who doesn’t take kindly to people cutting in line, but dammit if he isn’t entertaining to watch. “Shut up, crime!”
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is unquestionably the best thing to come out of all the X-Men movies so far. Jackman was far from a household name when he was cast for Bryan Singer’s X-Men, but his spot-on depiction of the character shot him onto the A-list. It helped that the first film was almost entirely devoted to him, and that his arc was the driving force of X2, and he even went on to earn his own spin-off, although it is just as terrible as everyone says it is. I caught the tail end of it on TV a few weeks ago, and it was just dreadful. Ugh, the effects. And there’s a bit where… no, wait, this isn’t a Top 10 Worst Things About X-Men Origins: Wolverine list. His cameo and f-bomb in X-Men: First Class was the highlight of that film too, and I’m overjoyed to hear he is returning for Days of Future Past, though I’m a little wary of his next standalone project, entitled simply The Wolverine. More Logan please, but as part of a team, not on his lonesome.
Before Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy Batman wouldn’t have been such a certainty on this list, although that’s probably more because I hadn’t seen any of the other Batman films at that point, and in fact didn’t really care all that much about movies. Ah, simpler times. Now, however, I’ve seen them all, and could put forward a case for the most enjoyable of the bunch to be the 1966 Batman: The Movie starring Adam West. My reasoning being that it’s just so ludicrously ridiculous and features such dialogue as “It happened at sea…sea…C for Catwoman!” and has an impending-bomb-explosion finale far superior to that seen in The Dark Knight Rises.
Despite only being in one film, and even then for only a relatively short amount of time, Nightcrawler (Alan Cummings) is one of my favourite of the X-Men, but I can’t really say why. His ability to teleport short distances and superior close quarters combat skills hardly make up for the fact that he’s blue, has clawed limbs, pointy teeth, yellow eyes and a prehensile tail, meaning travelling incognito is all but impossible. However, he’s just so damn cool, despite the lack of retractable claws, eye-lasers, psychic powers or advanced magnetism.
And speaking of cool, if Samuel L. Jackson plays a superhero, then I only have nine other places to fill on my Top 10. You could argue his Nick Fury is a more prevalent character, but as far as the movies have shown so far he isn’t actually all that super, whereas Frozone can spout waves of ice from his fingertips, upon which he can skate, surf, skid and help bring giant out-of-control robots to justice. He’s a much better character than any of the eponymous Incredible family, although this could be because we don’t see that much of him, so all his scenes and are gold, without any filler. His brief argument with his wife before going to fight crime is always quoted, line for line, whenever we watch it here (“Where’s my supersuit?”).
Nightcrawler and Wolverine may be two of my favourite X-Men, but the top spot goes to Beast, or Dr. Hank McCoy, as he’s otherwise known. He’s the perfect blend of a genius intellect with an animal ferocity, plus he’s bright blue and furry. It also helps that the two actors that have played him onscreen are two actors I really like, Kelsey Grammer and Nicholas Hoult. A lot of people were annoyed at Grammer’s casting in X-Men The Last Stand, but personally I thought it was inspired, and he is easily oen of the better aspects of that otherwise disappointing film. In First Class Hoult ably portrayed the origin story – that classic tale of a ‘different’ kid attempting to fit in but distancing himself further in the process, but for once he became a hero rather than the usual villain path (this, of course, is how The Lizard came to be in Spider-Man)
Watchmen again! Of the less ‘super’ of the superheroes, Rorschach is an easily liked character, although that would definitely not be the case were you to know him personally. He has, shall we say, questionable methods for acting out judgement – chaining a perpetrator to a radiator and leaving him with a saw to cut his hand off, before setting fire to the house – but you cannot question that he is effective. He also has a badass mask that continually changed using oppositely charged particles between layers of fabric which, whilst soudning cool, would be very difficult to retain the symmetry of durign use. The fact that he’s mastered this without the use of a complex arrangements of magnets just shows how resourceful the guy is.
When it comes to having a superpower, owning the ability to become a giant, unstoppable, ridiculously strong behemoth could be seen as an advantage, especially when it comes to saving the world from any number of attacks. However, that’s only really useful if you retain a control over the ability, which alas isn’t necessarily the case with the Hulk’s default persona, Dr. Bruce Banner. No, he just needs to get a little angry and he’ll hulk out and destroy everything you’ve ever seen. One of the best moments in the recent Avengers film was the reveal that, after many years of suffering with his Hyde-like dilemma, Banner (Mark Ruffalo) had devised a way of keeping some modicum of control over his alter ego – by remaining angry all the time, thereby controlling when he hulks out or not. And I’ll never get tired of watching the altercation between Hulk and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
1. Iron Man
As I mentioned in the recent Iron Man 3 Lambcast, Tony Stark and his metal-clad alterior persona are my favourite superhero. As I said then, the reason I love his character so much is that he doesn’t have any powers other than a hefty bank account and an intellect to match. However, if you leave him in a cave with a bunch of scraps, he’ll still be able to MacGyver his way into creating the greatest weapon the world has ever seen. He’s also the funniest superhero, and the one it would be great to know, of only for the parties he throws. Robert Downey Jr. was an unconventional but inspired choice for the casting of a guy who has to essentially be the most likeable arsehole in the world, and Downey walks that line perfectly, never straying into the insufferable territory that Chris Evans falls into with Johnny Storm. His Avengers contract may be up, but I’d rather they not make any Iron Man films in the near future rather than casting someone else. Downey is too big a presence to be replaced so quickly. Of course, the optimum solution is he (and the rest of the Iron Man cast) remain for as many films as they want to make, and Shane Black writes and directs them all.