Five Good Actors Making Good Superhero Movies

You may or may not realize this but they’ve been making superhero and comic book movies for some time. Sure there were flashes of brilliance such as Christopher Reeve’s Superman, but the crap far outweighed the good. The Phantom, The Shadow, Howard the Duck…it hurts the eyes and ears. Not until recently did movie studios realize that they could make a truckload of cash if only they took these films a little more seriously. That theory was reinforced by Toby Maguire’s Spider-man ($821M) and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-men 2 ($407M), which each have spawned numerous sequels and reboots.

Today is also the DVD/Blu-ray release for Dark Knight Rises, the last part of a pretty amazing superhero trilogy. So I thought it would be fun to look at that and a couple of other superhero movies that benefitted from some decent acting. It can’t just be all special effects you know.

Dark Knight Rises (2012) – you don’t like the typical superhero flick and origin story? Tweak it to make it your own. That’s exactly what Christopher Nolan did with the Dark Knight trilogy, and he had the right accomplice in Christian Bale. Sure the voice got to be a bit much in the first film and yes, there were some pretty big plot holes in this latest installment, but Bale owned the physicality, the intensity and the emotional burden necessary for Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Iron Man (2008) – you could not have dreamt of a better choice for Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr., circa 2008. I don’t think he could have been nearly as effective ten years before that but I guess your personal demons can come in handy sometimes. The humour, the confidence, the swagger, the brilliance…the movie was better for it and so were we.

Hancock (2008) – there’s a lot of discussion over whether this is a good movie or not. Most of it is because the second half of the film doesn’t flow as well as the first half, and I can totally see how much the movie is uneven. However, Will Smith does a great job as a “loser Superman” coping with his self-esteem and lack of social skills while trying to do the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing. (Yes, I know this wasn’t based on an actual comic book, but it is a super hero movie)

Hellboy (2004) – I won’t begin to understand how A) Guillermo Del Toro got this C-level superhero from the fourth biggest comic book publisher made into a movie, nor B) he got a studio to agree to let Ron “Beauty and the Beasty” Perlman to be its leading man. That’s financial risk times two. But he did and he did, and we are able to enjoy the epitome of a demon “working-class stiff” trying to win the girl, drink a beer and take care of his cats. The 2008 sequel was even better.

V for Vendetta (2005) – how do you portray the tragedy, loss and anger of an avenging icon without ever being able to show your face? Ever. Hugo Weaving had that challenge as the symbol for freedom fighting, “V”…and he was amazing. I loved that they treated the character as a representation of what he was fighting for, as opposed to ruining it by revealing the man behind the mask. Not many actors could have pulled it off, but then Weaving is pretty awesome.

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  1. Nice list Russel. I saw V for Vendetta recently and I thought Weaving did a great job too. I really liked the political message of the film as well.
    Peter recently posted…10 Good Greek Mythology Movies from 1963 – 2013My Profile

  2. Thanks for the comment, Peter. The thing I really liked about V was that Weaving never revealed his face. Studios are too quick to make sure their stars aren’t hidden (Tobey McGuire in Spider-Man, Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, Sylvester Stallone in Dredd…yes I said that last one). This movie and Judge Dredd (latest version) proved good actors can overcome a restriction like this.

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