Thirty Batman/Superman Movies, Ranked: Part 1

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Thirty Batman/Superman Movies, Ranked: Part 1

By Last Caress.

BRWC tasked mild-mannered reporter Last Caress with donning some tights, boots, cape and cowl – which for reasons not made entirely clear he happened to have on his person at the time – flying out into the cosmos and training his powers of super-criticism on as many Batman/Superman-headed movies as he could. It’s not a complete and definitive list but he managed to get through thirty pictures which he presents to you now, ranked in order of his personal preference, from worst to first. Excelsior! (No, that’s not them, that’s that other fella. Oh well):

30. Batman & Robin (Schumacher, 1997)

Well, which movie did you think would be propping up the rest at the bottom of the pile? A big pile of bumsh*t, from nipple to codpiece.



29. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (Furie, 1987)

SupermanIV

I feel a little sorry for Superman IV, if I’m honest. Defeated before it was even born, the producers of the Superman franchise up to that point sold Superman to Cannon Films following the box office failure of Supergirl (Szwarc, 1984). Cannon Films afforded Superman IV a budget ($17m) which was less than half that of its f*ckawful predecessor Superman III (Lester, 1983), which itself only had a budget a little over two-thirds that of the two far more illustrious movies in that cycle of pictures (Superman: The Movie, Donner 1978 and Superman II, Lester 1980). Cuts were made everywhere. Sequences supposedly taking place in the world-famous 42nd Street in New York City had to be shot in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK. Christopher Reeve said, “Even if the story had been brilliant, I don’t think that we could ever have lived up to the audience’s expectations with this (fiscal) approach.” Unfortunately the story was a pile of old cocksniff too, involving as it did poor Mark Pillow in an outfit resembling something his nan might have sewn together for him as “Nuclear Man”, hewn from the DNA of Supes himself, a nuclear missile, and the sun. Somehow.

28. Superman III (Lester, 1983)

In many ways Superman III shouldn’t even be on this list because, far from being a Superman pic, it’s really a Richard Pryor comedy vehicle, and a f*cking atrocious one at that, given how funny Pryor usually is. Christopher Reeve is still wonderful in the role as the last son of Krypton; in fact, some manufactured Kryptonite substitute turns Supes mean, giving Mr. Reeve an opportunity to really cut loose from his Big Blue Boy Scout persona, which he does with relish. But Mr. Reeve’s performance aside, Superman III has nothing about it whatsoever.

27. Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)

Oh, I was really looking forward to this one. Batman Returns (Burton, 1992) had been the movie I wanted the overrated Batman (Burton, 1989) to be, The Riddler had always been one of my favourite villains as a kiddie, Jim Carrey was at the height of his considerable abilities in the mid-nineties and Tommy Lee Jones… well, who doesn’t like Tommy Lee Jones? So imagine my disappointment when Batman Forever (what’s that name all about, anyway?) turned out to be a pile of old bum-squeezings. Robin has only been done well in a limited number of instances and it sure to Christ isn’t here, Carrey shook all menace out of his character and Jones seemed disinterested, aware that the movie was turning egg-shaped around him. And in Val Kilmer we have the worst Batman performance ever committed to film. Yes, worse than George Clooney’s in the movie which followed this one. Worse even than David Jason running around as Del Boy in fancy dress in Only Fools and Horses. Mange tout, Rodney!

26. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (Montgomery, 2010)

A battle between Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman and the villainous Darkseid for the heart and soul of a mysterious humanoid alien girl, crash landed on Earth and seeming to possess powers similar to Superman’s. Given that her name is Kara Zor-El, she’s Superman’s cousin and the whole picture is based on the comic-book story The Supergirl From Krypton, it’s fairly clear which way she’s going to fall. Features a cameo from Krypto the Superdog, Superman’s pet, complete with little doggie cape. Ruff!

25. Batman (Burton, 1989)

I imagine Batman would be further up the list for a lot of people, but the movie many feel kick-started the cinema-going public’s voracious hunger for superhero blockbusters doesn’t do it for me (and in any event, I personally think the movie which kick-started the cinematic superhero craze was Bryan Singer’s X-Men eleven years after Batman, but I digress). I’m old enough to remember the hoopla surrounding the release of Batman, how the media were trumpeting about how dark it was, how much more suited to the character. And, I suppose in comparison to the Batman TV show of the late sixties, it was. Sort of. But I felt Tim Burton’s picture didn’t go nearly far enough. In fact, I felt that that entire cycle of Batman pictures wanted it both ways: Dark AND camp. At least the show wore its silliness on its sleeve, out and proud. As a result, only Batman Returns (Burton, 1992) really hit the mark for me from that batch. Danny Elfman’s score has become iconic but I can’t stand it (hour after hour of hearing it while my son played Lego Batman on his PS3 may have done that to me though, in fairness to Mr. Elfman), that thick rubber suit of Batman’s left him looking almost completely immobile and Jack Nicholson just seemed to be doing a fatter impression of Cesar Romero to me. And Batdance by Prince was frankly crap. Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees represented a titanic theme song upgrade for Batman Returns.

Any plus points to take from Batman, then? Well I wasn’t keen on the characterization of Batman because of the restrictive outfit but I really liked Michael Keaton’s distracted portrayal of Bruce Wayne, Michael Gough made an excellent Alfred Pennyworth and Jack Palance was… well, Jack Palance. What’s not to like? It was good to see that there was at least an interest from Hollywood in making The Dark Knight darker, but this wasn’t the movie that would successfully do that, for me at least. That came later.

24. Son of Batman (Spaulding, 2014)

Oh dear. I mean, Son of Batman is well made and the basic premise of a son being raised as an agent of death, bred solely to rise up and kill his father, is an oft-explored and – if it’s done well – potentially fascinating dynamic. It’s Shakespearian, it’s Arthurian, it’s primal fear and fantasy. But when the son in question is a perma-scowling over-entitled snot-nosed pooh-stain of primary school age, it doesn’t f*cking work. Not for me, anyways. Son of Batman introduces Damian Wayne into the Batman fold and I couldn’t be more underwhelmed. I mean honestly, who in sh*tting crikey looked at Batman and thought, hm, yeah, he’s good and all that, but what this guy needs to really put him over the top is to turn him from a terrifying symbol of fear for every criminal in Gotham into the beleaguered dad of a mouthy noodle-armed misery guts with a Napoleon complex? In the next movie, Damian gets bollocked on The Jeremy Kyle Show while Batman, now a regular panellist on Loose Women, tearfully confesses on live daytime TV that he hasn’t had a girlfriend, bunch of flowers or meaningful orgasm for ten years.

23. Batman vs. Robin (Oliva, 2015)

Now, Batman vs. Robin is better than its predecessor for sure, but in a way it’s almost more frustrating for having a potentially good story in there (Batman vs. Robin loosely follows the Court of Owls comic book story, amongst other things). We’re well used to Batman taking a back seat in his animated pictures by now, but there’s taking a back seat and then there’s playing second fiddle. The know-it-all ten year-old sociopath Damian Wayne is still front and center serving a sneering “Whatever!” apprenticeship as the new Robin under his dad, who’s attempts to retrain his murderous offspring as an elegant emissary of justice are hamstrung by Damian approaching every circumstance like the petulant little wanker he is and then having his ignorance justified by repeatedly coming up smelling of roses. I’ve never seen Batman in the sh*t as often as he is here and, time and again, it’s his ten year old son pulling The Dark Knight’s hapless fat out of the fire.

22. The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)

See, in The Dark Knight Rises Batman struggles to get out of a big hole festooned with ropes but when he finally makes it, he gets from the hole to Gotham in an instant. That’s all tits-up, isn’t it? I mean, that hole would’ve been a doddle for Adam West’s TV Batman, who ably scaled walls with his bat-rope every f*cking week! But whereabouts was that hole anyway? It looked a bloody long way from Gotham. Batman has no money, no passport, no ID, no provisions. So how did he get home? Just one of the questions raised in this movie, the answers to none of which make a lick of sense. Tom Hardy is excellent as usual though as Bane, even if he’s reciting all his lines through a mouthful of humbugs. “Mfftr Wff!” What’s that, Tom?

21. Superman: The Movie (Donner, 1978)

I suppose in many ways Superman: The Movie should be much, much higher on this list, and certainly would be for most. The grand-daddy of the modern superhero movie, Superman: The Movie served as a direct inspiration for many of the filmmakers who followed in the genre, including Bryan Singer with his X-Men pics as well as Superman Returns (2006), and Christopher Nolan as he formulated his Dark Knight trilogy. The late, great Christopher Reeve was the living embodiment of Superman and remains the blueprint for the role. Alas, I just don’t especially care for it. I love what Mr. Reeve did in the movie, particularly as Kal-El’s human alter-ego Clark Kent, but I didn’t find it an especially engrossing storyline past the “origin” portion, I’ve never been a fan of Lex Luthor and in this cycle of Superman movies he’s about as sh*t as he’s ever been thanks to Gene Hackman’s comedic spin on the character, turning him into little more than a middle-aged spiv as far as I can see, and the whole spinning-around-the-world-fast-enough-to-change-its-rotation-and-subsequently-reverse-time bit was… well, rubbish. I didn’t even buy it back in 1978, and I was six.

Our rundown continues with Part 2 HERE and Part 3 HERE


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