We Love… Superheroes: Darkman

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

 

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

 

Darkman

‘… No contemporary superhero effort comes close to maintaining its momentum …’

Darragh John McCabe

 

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Every generation gets the superhero franchise it deserves. Christian Bale is either a giant pair of flaring nostrils or somebody’s nightmare of a merchant banker, so he fits our troubled epoch like a slim fit Brooks Brothers. And Michael Keaton’s Batman was a real Generation X-er; a dropout and a recluse, a mumbler, an awkward sort of hedonist, balding. When Sam Raimi’s Darkman came out in 1990, a year after the first of the Tim Burton Batmans, reviewers were quick to spot the debt: “Darkman wants to be Batman” is how Richard Corliss opened his review, and Roger Ebert remarked with uncharacteristic gravitas that “this Darkman character is just not as interesting as Batman.”

What did Tim Burton’s iteration of the Dark Knight offer viewers that Darkman didn’t? The latter certainly had the superhero setup to beat them all; Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist on the cusp of inventing an artificial form of skin for burn victims. Then, after his attorney girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) finds a memo that might incriminate slimy property developer Louis Strack (Colin Friels), Westlake is brutally maimed by X’s mob cronies. Demented and horribly disfigured, Westlake throws himself into his experiments, literally trying to save his own skin while being hounded by villians and trying to prevent Strack from committing vague and capitalistic crimes. Thanks to his fake skin know-how he can make perishable but verisimilitudinous masks and disguise himself as his enemies in order to get revenge / save the day. So the good doctor’s particular genius causes his collapse, comprises his superpower and could lead to his redemption; this may be the golden ratio for superhero plots in the way it puts origin story and revenge impulse in such ringing harmony. And all without a comic books pedigree – Raimi based the whole thing off a short story he wrote and just went for it, folks.

The film was a hit, but there are reasons why it didn’t do a Batman and one-inch punch the culture – and why its two sequels went off to oblivion via VHS. Darkman is an old-fashioned film about old-style American Savings and Loan community justice, less in debt to Batman, in fact, than Will Eisner’s The Spirit. The Spirit, a comic book phenomenon during the 1940s, was about a hero who returned from the dead to become anonymous and fight the sort of crime that metastasizes in the free market. Perhaps Raimi saw, in the massive discrepancy between have and have-not in the recession-free 1980s, that the country needed a saviour with the community-minded vim of the post-Depression, pre-New Deal Spirit. If things hadn’t gotten any better, Darkman might’ve stuck. I can imagine an alternative history where the decline of the American city didn’t start to stall in the late ’80s, where Hustler lost against Falwell, Pat Robertson beat Bush for the Republican nomination in 1988 and then won the presidency, Bin Laden forgot to form Al-Qaeda, and the world (the North American world) reverted to an earlier and less sophisticated form of existence, devolving into a space of simple federacy and frontier. But lucky for society, bad for art, things got better. Giuliani cleaned up Gotham, and the big city, a source of such horrified fascination for the cinema of the late ’80s and early ’90s, has forfeited its poetry to other needs – social cohesion, globalisation, the spread of capital. These days, we need to keep the international footfall high – vigilantism is difficult to imagine, because the population tends to find itself conscripted into the PR campaign. Bruce Wayne, the vigilante’s vigilante, is a billionaire, so he can do what he likes, plus he’s a playboy in the off-hours. If there’s no crime of a classically black-and-white sort to fight, all Darkman can do is pace around his grotty lair. He couldn’t deal with extraordinary rendition or the NSA, whereas the Dark Knight would have a complex and not necessarily adversive relationship with both.

But even the most cursory google will show how Darkman has earned its own eager and sweaty cult. It’s a thrilling, well-made film, after all; sort of like a comic book that reads itself to you, 24 little cells every second. No contemporary superhero effort comes close to maintaining its momentum – I rewatched The Avengers to compare, and that first hour is like Béla Tarr compared to the twenty minute decline and fall of Peyton Westlake. The action scenes are all classic comics left-to-right jobs, every punch thrown to emphasise the grotesquerie of a 2D life lived in non-stop motion. And there’s a little Tod Browning in the way faces are shot from way below, or high above, during slower-paced scenes. Raimi’s abiding fascination, after all, is with that other great genre launched out of 1930s America, the pulp horror. Most Lon Chaney pictures had Darkman’s Beauty and the Beast / Phantom of the Opera narrative. The visuals are great, too, very Evil Dead, and sort of grisly, psychedelic Harryhausen – another throwback to an earlier cinema. But every single player is miscast and not one of the characters has the gothic complexity of Keaton’s Batman, Nicholson’s Joker – perhaps because a real comic book provides a different kind of depth. By means of repetition, a myth is created, and there’s no need for individual events to make a dent in a character’s past or future. The Spirit and Little Orphan Annie both were mythic cycles with an option for eternal recurrence. By the end of Darkman, our hero has totally disconnected himself from society. If he’s to mean anything, he needs to come back, again and again, and it needs to be mobsters he’s after. It’s eternity or nothing – as our hero himself puts it, “I am everywhere and nowhere, everyone and no one. Call me Darkman.”

 

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Richard Drumm on Catwoman

 

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We Love… Superheroes – The Hulk


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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

 

The Hulk

‘… there is something cathartic, even joyous in those releases of anger, those vents of everyday frustration…’

David Neary

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Long before Batman became all broody and Tony Stark became an out-and-out dipso, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a superhero, or rather super-anti-hero, with an exceptionally relatable gift/curse balance.

Dr. Bruce Banner, typically mild-mannered scientist, first appeared in printed colour boxes back in 1962, when an atomic blast mutated him into a near-indestructible muscle-riddled green giant, the Incredible Hulk. Sure the super-strength and super-leaping and super-rage are what makes the Hulk so appealing, but what makes him interesting is his relationship to Banner. Banner does not control the Hulk, but the Hulk becomes unleashed when Banner is angered – by personal/emotional stress or impending danger.

Banner’s rage becomes the Hulk’s rage – human anger turned all the way up to 11. The Hulk is a colossal adolescent tantrum, a beast fuelled by hyper-masculine lack of control. Banner’s great intellect and genuine decency do not make him immune to human failings and weaknesses – fears, regrets, sexual frustrations and so forth combine to create this terrifying monster. But the Hulk is not a villain, and there is something cathartic, even joyous in those releases of anger, those vents of everyday frustration. Where the average person in a fit of anger might throw a book to the floor, the Hulk can throw a tank – and throw his green-eyed rage can tell right from wrong, so more often than not that tank will get thrown at a villain, if a villain wasn’t already driving the tank…

The Hulk’s relationship with the big and little screens has been more hit than miss. A beloved TV series ran for five years from 1977-82, starring Bill Bixby as the straighter-named David Banner and body-building champ Lou Ferrigno as his alter-ego. Ferrigno’s stagey rage was so convincing that it was all too easy to forgive the rather silly makeup, wig and green bodypaint he had to wear for the role.

TV movies followed, pitting Bixby and Ferrigno against other famous Marvel heroes such as Thor and Daredevil, but Bixby’s premature death in 1993 put an end to the run. Animated series of the character ran in the ’80s and ’90s, pitting the Hulk against his more sci-fi-based (and less live-action-freindly) villains, such as The Leader and evil Soviet hulk the Abomination.

In the ongoing superhero movie boom that followed the digital effects revolution and the success of X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002), a Hulk movie was inevitable, and the result was the oft-and-unfairly-maligned Hulk (2003). Genre-juggler Ang Lee was a curious director to take on such a project, and while he played around with the effects as much he could, he was far more interested in the underlying psychology of Bruce Banner’s rage and the formal constructs of a film literally based on a comic book movie, with editing flowing between on-screen panels – everything short of speech bubbles. Eric Bana, doomed to never become the star he deserved to be (see also his performance in the similarly under-rated Troy) had a superb intensity as Banner, while Sam Elliott stole the show as the well-meaning but empathy-less General Thaddeus Ross, who leads the hunt for the Hulk. The effects were troublesome, and audiences bemoaned the lack of action, but there was a lot to enjoy here, including a superb battle between the Hulk and the United States Army across the American Southwest. The decision to go all-out-Freud on the Hulk’s origin was a mistake however, and as Banner’s father and primary villain Absorbing Man, Nick Nolte didn’t so much absorb the scenery as chew it up.

A semi-sequel reboot followed in 2008, and was the polar opposite to Ang Lee’s effort, drained of drama and intellect but full of Hulk smashing and monster fights. Louis Letterier’s The Incredible Hulk, indisputably the worst film yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, brought very little to the table, but just about managed to outgross its predecessor at the box office. As Banner, Edward Norton didn’t so much need to vent his rage as need a firm smack in the mouth. William Hurt played General Ross as a villain of the week. Tim Roth played a Russian/British soldier on loan to the American military, who morphs into the Ken doll-genitalled Abomination. Not even a stunt cameo by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark could win this one a sequel.

After four years the Hulk made his reappearance in The Avengers, this time in the human guise of Mark Ruffalo, after Marvel fell out with Norton over him being a bit of a jerk. While only a supporting character in that superhero ensemble, The Avengers featured , in one speech about an attempted suicide by Banner, more pathos and character depth than The Incredible Hulk had managed in two hours. The film refused to dwell on the psychological implications of Banner’s powers, but in its final moments delved into the idea that Banner had come to terms with his demons, and was able to not-so-much control the brute, as control himself, and when the beast should be unleashed. “That’s the secret… I’m always angry,” he confessed, as he instantly morphed into the monster and KO’d a colossal alien nasty with one punch. It was the most audience-pleasing moment the Hulk had ever performed on the big screen, and for the first time since Lou Ferrigno last washed that green paint off his body, the Hulk’s live-action self was truly incredible once more.

 

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – James Phelan on Blade

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We Love… Superheroes: Watchmen

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Watchmen

‘… the motion picture remains an ambitious and sharply crafted companion piece to Moore’s game changing graphic novel…’

Anthony Assad

 

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Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen was originally released as a 12 issue mini-series by DC Comics between 1986 and 1987. In it Moore weaves an alternate history where ordinary men and women donning costumes to seek justice in the ’40s and ’60s heralds a culture of superheroes. Their deeds, among them turning the tide of the Vietnam War, inspires another generation of misfits culminating in an assembly of vigilantes calling themselves the Watchmen.

Despite noble endeavours their methods are outlawed and the group disbands into an early retirement to watch helplessly as the powers that be of the U.S. and Soviet Union prepare for nuclear war. When one of their own is murdered however it sparks a series of events leading them to assume their alter egos once more to protect a world that condemns them.

Although termed ‘superheroes’, all but one of the Watchmen have superpowers and the league consists of vagrants and sociopaths among the other well-meaning but essentially flawed characters. As the narrative unfolds, across various perspectives and timelines, Moore subverts our notions of the superhero and successfully reinvents the format of storytelling they were attributed to cementing the status of the ‘graphic novel’ as a serious means of literary expression.

Critical and commercial success meant a live-action adaptation was inevitable but not without its challenges. As soon as the ink was dry studios began to trade turns across two decades to develop the project drawing talented directors as diverse as Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass and Darren Aronofsky only to hit a dead-end effort after effort. During a second run of studio interventions coupled with the encouraging rise of comic-book adaptations in the ’00s the project finally found its home at Warner Bros. and its director with comic-book movie veteran Zack Snyder.

The world of Snyder’s Watchmen is expertly rendered with costume and set design often taking precedence over the screen. Fans of the source material will notice that every detail has been meticulously recreated for the film and the few liberties the filmmakers do take compliment without dumbing down the elaborate narrative.

Each of the Watchmen harbour their own reasons for suiting up and fighting crime but years of social and political duress have left them feeling disillusioned, discarded and defeated as the world counts down to its own annihilation. The performances on show do manage to convey the gravity of this grim reality with Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson (as Rorschach and Nite Owl II respectively) inhabiting their roles with particular aplomb, in addition their scenes are the most credible as they have the most to lose. The Travis Bickle-like Rorschach needs to hide behind a mask, it binds him and defines him from hellish thoughts as an inhuman product of an inhuman upbringing, crime fighting offers the only semblance of meaning in his life and his sometime partner Drieberg / Nite Owl II seems only to live for the past until the love for another forces him into harm’s way once more.

If this wasn’t drama enough, the omnipresent Dr. Manhattan, the result of a freak experiment and one-time Watchman is now Earth’s greatest defence but humanity is proving meaningless in it’s time of need and only a miracle could alter it’s fate while The Comedian appears to have given up years ago and accepted the puppetry of their lives. This is where Snyder’s Watchmen really succeeds, latex and heroics aside, the characters and their trials and tribulations take centre stage and the show is a compelling experience aided by the lack of recognisable stars.

Despite the best of intentions howeve,r the film ultimately falls short of its expectations. While credits are due to the writers for their exorbitant task of adapting Moore’s celebrated material into a cohesive if somewhat bloated two and a half hours, one can’t help thinking some extended sequences may have merited and perhaps better suited a mini-series for TV. While Snyder does exhibit a competent style his recurrent use of slow motion, used to embellish iconic images from the graphic novel, disrupts the momentum of some scenes already plagued by overemphasised music cues.

Notwithstanding these faults, Watchmen the motion picture remains an ambitious and sharply crafted companion piece to Moore’s game changing graphic novel, the visuals are often sumptuous with the material adding some much needed substance to Snyder’s debated but undeniable style. If you prefer anti-heroes over superheroes steeped in philosophical angst then there’s much to be enjoyed watching the Watchmen.

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – David Neary on The Hulk

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We Love… Superheroes: Wolverine

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Wolverine

‘… He bristles with the prickliness and unsociability of a reform-school inmate…’

Tony McKiver

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In the great handing out of superpowers, a set of metal claws and the ability to heal seem like odd-socks, bottom-of-the-drawer leavings next to the absurd overabundance of powers bestowed on that early worm superhero Superman and the flashier attributes of other mutant members of Marvel’s X-Men series. Despite these relative disadvantages, Wolverine (A.K.A. Logan) somehow manages to stand tall amid the comic-book superheroes who have made their way into the movies.

The current cycle of comic-book-superhero films could be credited to, or blamed on, the success of Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000, which removed some of the taint and anxiety surrounding the idea of translating the cheesiness of comic-book storytelling for a cinema audience. At a time when audiences were still recuperating from the day-glo assault of Joel Schumacher’s moronic Batman and Robin, X-Men offered reassurance that you didn’t have to be on Ritalin to enjoy a comic-book movie. Much of the film’s success was down to the central role of Wolverine, the ideal surrogate to lead audiences into this bizarre world of mutants fighting to coexist with or dominate mankind. In a career-making turn by Hugh Jackman, the character of Wolverine earthed the unreality of the superpowered mutants, undercutting the speechy seriousness of the cod-Malcolm-X-and-Martin-Luther-King conflict between Professor X and Magneto.

Operating much like Han Solo in Star Wars (or Marvel’s other breakout cinematic success, Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr.), Logan is initially the sardonic voice of scepticism as we enter the larger-than-life—and annoyingly po-faced—world of comic-book superheroes. If Professor Xavier’s School for Mutants was the Ivy league for a liberal elite of goody-two-shoes A-students like Cyclops and Storm, Wolverine was a fish-out-of-water, Red State, metal-shop, average Joe fearful of where all this mushy togetherness and humanitarianism might lead. For cinema audiences unfamiliar with the Marvel comics, there was a lot of reassurance in seeing that the coolest character on screen shared your doubts about spandex, telepathy and every other fantastical part of the plot.

It wasn’t all irony and one-liners. There are facets to the character. Whereas the other X-Men are mostly as flat as the illustrated panels in comic books, Wolverine carries shades of light and dark, and some of that unknowingness that marks flesh and blood people. He has a painful past that troubles him in his sleep. He bristles with the prickliness and unsociability of a reform-school inmate. Jackman’s brooding, traumatised, yet still quippy hero is an obvious turning point marking the way back from Schumacher’s camp Batman on Ice to the gloom of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. At times, he is also reassuringly a bit of a lunkhead. He confuses “generally” and “genuinely,” and is outsmarted repeatedly by shapeshifting evil mutant Mystique, until he literally sniffs out her deceit and sinks his claws into her belly.

As is often the case in such comic-to-cinema crossovers, some details from the source material have gotten lost in translation. To the irritation of purists, Wolverine on screen isn’t the dinky five foot three inches of the comic books—Jackman is a whole foot taller—and his Canadian identity goes unmentioned as if it’s likely to drive away hordes of patriotic American cinemagoers and affect the film’s bottom line. Iconographically, we are left with his distinctive adamantium claws which shoot out at his knuckles to form foot-long blades; a haircut that is part wolfman, part Pompadour; and the most formidable set of sideburns in popular culture since Amos Brearly departed Emmerdale.

Thankfully, it’s not all about the measuring tape, Maple leaves, hair and nails. Aside from Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, no other superhero has the charisma to match Wolverine. Jackman has done a wonderful job in the role, widening the character’s popularity from a comicbook fans to the general cinema-going public: It is only well-earned audience affection that allowed him to survive the execrable X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as idiotic a film as has ever had the misfortune to be screened publicly. Returning to the character for a tiny cameo in 2011’s X-Men First Class, he made a strong impression once again, with his one-line refusal to join young Professor X and Magneto’s nascent X-Men earning the film’s biggest laugh.

Aside from Jackman, a great deal of the credit for the successful realisation of this character onscreen must go to Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men movies, who forges our emotional connection to the story through the character of Wolverine. Using this device, Singer succeeds in wringing real feeling out of unreal situations. In the past few years, Singer’s reputation has suffered a little, mostly due to the perceived failure of Superman Returns, a love-letter to Richard Donner’s 1978 original. Like X-Men, Superman Returns struck a similarly tricky balance between the real and the fantastical. For some critics, the disappointment with that film centred on the lack of action and this later congealed within the fanboy community into the demand that any subsequent Superman film would need to have our hero “punch somebody,” leading directly to this summer’s woeful Man of Steel. Perhaps Zack Snyder’s blunt-force-trauma Superman movie will renew people’s appreciation for the subtleties of Bryan Singer’s talents in handling comic-book superheroes, especially Wolverine.

Though greatly burned by the unmitigated shrieking horror of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, some of us who remember the triumph of the first two X-Men films awaited this summer’s The Wolverine with cautious optimism. Even more exciting is the return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Wolverine’s mutant gift of healing has allowed the character’s appeal to survive over a decade in the harsh world of cinema, withstanding withering conditions, including the ineptitude of directors Brett Ratner and Gavin Hood and an impatient and greedy studio keen to cash in on a popular character, with scant regard for quality control. Somehow the character’s claws remain sharp. Snikt!

 

 

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We Love… Superheroes: Thor

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Thor

‘… Lightning strikes, hammer blows, super-strength and flying through the air by whizzing Mjölnir about are all fantastically cinematic to watch in action…’

Rory Cashin

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The majority of problems with the majority of superheroes are them hung up on their own issues; Bruce Wayne has his dead family psychological scaring, Clark Kent has his hidden alien alter ego, Peter Parker feels the need to remain a secret Spiderman to protect the one’s he loves, Tony Stark has his excessive ego and either bits of shrapnel or alcohol abuse trying to kill him… the list goes on and on and on. But one superhero stands out from the crowd in this regard, neither hiding who he is nor being overcome by his own power or what is expecting from him.

Thor, like Superman, is an alien gifted with superpowers to the point that they could be mistaken for a god. But Thor, unlike Superman, isn’t infallible, and isn’t almost indestructible. Unless you come packed with a kryptonite bazooka, nothing is going to cause a dent in ol’ Supes, and that’s kinda what makes him boring as a superhero, he’s just SO overpowered that there’s no real sense of danger. However, that is not the case with Thor, as one well-aimed bullet, or one dangerous fall without his trusty hammer, and Thor – even with all of his powers – is done for.

Speaking of those powers, they are A LOT of fun to watch when he decides to toss them around. Lightning strikes, hammer blows, super-strength and flying through the air by whizzing Mjölnir about are all fantastically cinematic to watch in action. Then there’s his entire look, personality and mannerisms; that olde school English accent, his gentleman-ly way around women, plus there’s not many people who can pull of a red cloak, 80’s rock star hair, chain-mail onesies and a lumberjack beard, but Thor does it with aplomb. It helps that he’s played by the stupidly handsome Chris Hemsworth, but the same goes for the comic book versions of the character.

Then, last but not least, there are the villains. You can’t judge how good a hero is until you see what he’s up against, and again, Thor comes out on top. Nothing comes close to matching the power of Superman, Iron Man faces just vague variations of Another Man In A Suit Of Iron, Batman gets drowned in a sea of far more interesting bad guys than he is a good guy, but Thor gets it spot on. Which other superhero movie lately managed to get the villain as spot on as Loki was in Thor and The Avengers? None, and Loki is one of the best big screen bad guys we’ve had in YEARS. The Frost Giants were visually unique when they popped up on screen in the first movie, and The Dark World has The Dark Elves as their lead villain, with Thor and Loki needing to team up to defeat them. Oh yes, that’s gonna be great.

So there you have it; out-and-proud character with a great look, great foes and a very real sense of danger about him. What more could you want??

 

 Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Tony McKiver on Wolverine

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We Love… Superheroes: Wonder Woman

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Wonder Woman

‘… one of the first feminist icons of the male-dominated superhero world…’

Carmen Bryce

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With all the strength of Superman plus all the timeless allure of a beautiful heroine, Wonder Woman has flown the star spangled flag for female superheroes since her creation in the 1940s.

Described by comic writer Robert Kanigher as “as beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules and as swift as Hermes”, Wonder Woman was one of the first feminist icons of the male-dominated superhero world.

Nobody’s sidekick, Wonder Woman goes alone, fighting for justice, peace and sexual equality along the way, making her a modern-day pin up for comic fans and a favoured Halloween costume for women everywhere.

The superheroine was named the 20th greatest comic book character by Empire magazine, ranked sixth in Comics Buyer’s Guide’s ‘100 Sexiest Women inComics’ list and in 2011, was placed fifth on IGN’s ‘Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time’.

Wonder Woman was created during World World II for DC Comics by American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston. Marston struck upon the idea for a new kind of superhero who fought evil, not with fists or firepower, but with love.

Before donning the red and golden go-go boots and tiara, Wonder Woman was an Amazon champion who wins the right to return Steve Trevor, a United Statesintelligence officer whose plane had crashed on the Amazons’ isolated island homeland, to ‘Man’s World’ and to fight crime and the evil of the Nazis.

Wonder Woman uses the alias Diana Prince as her secret identity. During Marston’s run, Diana Prince was the name of an army nurse whom Wonder Woman came across when she came to earth. The nurse is desperate to return to her fiancé, who was transferred to South America, but was unable to arrange for money to do so. As Wonder Woman needed a secret identity to monitor and look after Trevor (who was admitted in the same army hospital Diana Prince worked at) Wonder Woman gave the nurse money to go to her fiancé in exchange for her credentials.

Wonder Woman is gifted with an array of superhuman powers and superior combat skills as well as possessing an arsenal of weapons, including the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and an invisible airplane.

The superheroine is depicted as a masterful athlete, acrobat, fighter and strategist, trained and experienced in many ancient and modern forms of armed and unarmed combat. In a nutshell, she kicks ass. She is portrayed as highly skilled in using her Amazon bracelets to stop bullets and in wieldingher golden lasso. Batman once called her the “best melee fighter in the world”, and he would know!

In the 1970s, schoolgirls (and boys) everywhere sat glued to the television to watch a glossy-haired Lynda Carter fight crime as Wonder Woman, and today, after numerous failed attempts, the heroine may still have her chance in the spotlight as Warner Bros and DC Entertainment toss around ideas tobring her to life again.

Previously, Buffy creator Joss Whedon was working on a 2007 feature, which was cancelled and followed by David E. Kelley’s 2011 failed TV pilot. However, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, President of DCEntertainment Diane Nelson said, “We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now.”

 

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Rory Cashin on Thor

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We Love… Superheroes: Spider-Man

batman signalcopy(1)

  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Spider-Man

‘… the adventures of the web-crawling teenager from Queens has always struck a resonance with audiences of all ages …’

Daire Walsh

 

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Since appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 (a Marvel Comics Anthology) in August 1962, Spider-Man and his alter ego of Peter Parker have become a regular fixture in a number of different mediums. Whether it be the comic books themselves, the world of television (both animation and live-action) or the ever-evolving film industry, the adventures of the web-crawling teenager from Queens has always struck a resonance with audiences of all ages.

 

Having struggled to make it to the big-screen for a number of decades, in spite of its immense popularity, Spider-Man finally made its way into cinemas in 2002 – fresh on the heels of the Marvel-related Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000) – under the guidance of Evil Dead helmer Sam Raimi. As a massive fan of the comic-book series, Raimi seemed an ideal choice to bring his unique style and craftsmanship to a mainstream PG-13 superhero film, and with the highly-regarded duo of David Koepp and Bill Pope on screenwriting and director of photography duties respectively, the signs all seemed positive.

 

With a number of screen credits already behind them, the hiring of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for the roles of Spider-Man/Peter Parker looked like wise moves, as did the decision to cast the excellent Willem Dafoe and James Franco (who was being heralded at the time as the “new James Dean”) as the father-son team of Harry and Norman Osborn.

 

There is always a certain leap of faith needed for films like this, as origin stories can be quite tricky, but Raimi handled Parker’s transformation from a bookish teen to a wall-crawling crime-fighter with a delicate touch. The Michigan native also knows how to crank up the action elements when needed, and with universally solid performances, as well cameos from series creator Stan Lee and Raimi favourite Bruce Campbell, there was something for everyone to embrace.

 

This meant it was completely unsurprising when box-office returns of $800 million dollars were matched by overwhelmingly positive critic responses, making a sequel an absolute certainty. 2004 was the date chosen for Spider-Man 2, and with the shackles now off to a certain degree, Raimi was given the scope to produce a bigger, bolder and better follow-up.

 

Having struggled with an over-reliance on Computer-Generated Effects for the sequences where Maguire was swinging between buildings in the first film, Raimi managed to make this seem more physical at the second time of asking, and having opted for a colourful, campy adversary in the form of Dafoe’s Green Goblin two years earlier, the menacing presence of Doctor Octopus/Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) was now the avenue that was being explored.

 

A number of the film’s set-pieces, including Octavius’ brutal slaying of a medical crew with the tentacles that have become attached to his body, are handled with the trademark brio and energy that we have come to expect from Raimi. The showdown between Spidey and Doc Ock in a bank, as well as the former’s desperate attempts to halt a runaway subway train are other highlights, and due to the nature of the chosen villain, there are many oddly peculiar aspects to the drama.

 

There is much more than Spider-Man 2 than just spectacle, though, as it is also a coming-of-age story, with Peter Parker stepping out of adolescence to become the man he believes he can be. We also see him struggling with his secret identity, which has alienated him from his true love, Mary-Jane Watson, and his best friend, Harry Osborne.

 

Having adapted Uncle Ben’s mantra of ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’, Parker begins to explore the possibility of stepping out of the suit, before finally realising that he can’t escape the superhuman abilities that have been bestowed upon him. This thematic substance, supremely crafted action sequences, as well as further cameos from the aforementioned duo of Lee and Campbell, means that Spider-Man 2 holds up as one of the strongest superhero films ever committed to celluloid.

 

Unfortunately, despite plenty of hype and expectation, 2007’s ‘threequel’, Spider-Man 3, proved to be a major disappointment, as the introduction of Spidey’s black suit fail to achieve its desired effect. A bloated running time of 139 minutes also contributed to its problems, and a few too many enemies, including one (Topher Grace’s Venom) that Raimi didn’t approve of, meant that audiences were generally left underwhelmed by the whole experience.

 

With box-office takings of $890 million, it was the most successful film of the series, but it was felt that a return to the old formula was needed for the expected Part Four. Raimi’s return to the horror genre with Drag Me To Hell appeared to be the perfect tonic ahead of the next Spider-Man outing, but it was instead decided that a re-boot by (500) Days Of Summer director Marc Webb would be the next course of action.

 

With rising British actor Andrew Garfield stepping into Spider-Man’s spandex, and an impressive supporting cast of Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, Sally Field Martin Sheen and Denis Leary joining him, The Amazing Spider-Man was given a Summer 2012 release. Bizarrely, unlike Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Webb’s film echoed many events from Raimi’s original film a decade beforehand, though a successful run at the box-office ($752 million off a budget of $230 million) means that Garfield & Co. will be here to stay for the time being.

 

Whether or not the 2014 sequel will be able to progress the franchise in the same way that Raimi did remains to be seen, but it is clear that there is still a huge appetite for the East Coast’s web-crawling hero. When the character was first written on the page, Lee and Ditko wanted to show how an angst-ridden teenager dealt with the burden of a superhero identity, and that is precisely what has made Spider-Man such a success throughout the ages.

Daire Walsh

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Carmen Bryce on Wonder Woman

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We Love… Superheroes: Superman

batman signalcopy(1)

  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Superman

‘… what makes him so interesting is the combination of this godlike power with a human conscience that is committed to doing good …’

Glenn Caldecott

Superman_logo

Unnoticed by most, the recent success of a certain Christopher Nolan trilogy has caused an important shift in Irish street fashion. The films have seen a rise in those taking to the streets wearing black Ts depicting a flying rodent, silhouetted against a yellow oval.

Once reserved for spotty nerds, now rockers, ravers and Topshop-shoppers alike don comic-book apparel in support of their super of choice. But despite the increase in numbers of black t-shirts, peaked caps and bras with the yellow symbol, there are still more blue ones, proudly displaying a red and yellow S, the insignia of the most iconic superhero of all time!

Let’s get one thing out the way, I don’t think there have been any truly great Superman films. Between some weak storytelling and some dodgy outfits they haven’t got much going for them. (Except that epic theme music, you know the one. The one that sounds like the Indiana Jones theme. Although I might be thinking of the music from Jurassic Park. Or Star Wars. Who cares, they’re all good).

Perhaps my favourite appearance of Superman in a film comes from one he’s not even in. At the end of Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol 2, David Carradine performs a monologue in which he explains why Superman is his favourite superhero. You can read the full speech here but, to summarise, the mythology of Superman is unique because, unlike other supers, he was born as Superman and his alter-ego is Clark Kent. Now if you are a pedantic geek (like me) you will realise that Bill is wrong in both his assumptions that this is unique to Superman and that he was born as Superman in the first place (he was born Kal-El and had to become Superman)

But regardless, while the morality of superheroes can often get a little sketchy (i.e. you can only truly make a difference in this world if you acquire powers, are one of the elite few who are born magical, or you inherit a small fortune – I shake my fist at you dirty capitalists), Carradine’s speech hints at the moral considerations that, I think, make Superman the most interesting superhero.

Our Man of Steel is indeed an outsider, but is committed to helping the people of earth in spite of this. What often makes the alien in red underpants seem boring, and is a concept that I think the Superman films have struggled with, is that it is hard for an individual of near limitless power to be in any real danger. But I think what makes him so interesting is the combination of this godlike power with a human conscience that is committed to doing good – the ‘man’ half of his name.

I mean, imagine having these powers for a day and the psychological headache it would cause. Should I save the OAPs in the falling coach or the landmine-destined toddler? Should I interfere in geopolitical conflicts? Should I look through Lois Lane’s clothing? All difficult ethical questions. These are questions relevant to all superheroes, but are heightened by both Superman’s powers and his strong commitment to righteousness.

For whatever reason, these deeper considerations, that are present in the comics, have failed to translate into films. But this only helps my argument that Superman is the best superhero. Despite the lack of a quality on screen appearance, he has still become one of the most iconic figures of the past century, something that the prevalence of Superman apparel will attest to.

The battle for superhero supremacy will not be waged on the pages of the interwebs or on cinema screens. It is being fought out there on the streets, so take up your blue, red and yellow flip-flops and join me brothers and sisters!

Glenn Caldecott

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Daire Walsh on Spiderman

 

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We Love… Superheroes

batman-signalcopy1

 Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without them.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

 

 

Batman – Ciara O’Brien

Darkman – Darragh John McCabe

The Hulk – David Neary

Spider-Man – Daire Walsh

Superman – Glenn Caldecott

Thor – Rory Cashin

Watchmen – Anthony Assad

Wolverine – Tony McViker

Wonder Woman – Carmen Bryce

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We Love… Superheroes: Batman

 batman signalcopy(1)

  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

Batman

‘… his only real super- power is his dedication to his self-created

ideologies …’

Ciara O’Brien

 image

 

Superheroes are undoubtedly the most enduring of movie figures and recent years have seen them explode onto the silver screen with renewed vigor. With the recent releases of Man of Steel and Wolverine’s latest offering it seems their 15 minutes is showing no signs of slowing down.

 

Of all superheroes, there is one who always sticks out, not least because of his knowledge of the fashion faux pas that is underwear as outerwear.  Batman, or Bruce Wayne, the millionaire playboy with a past and an unshakeable belief in justice. An outsider in his lack of superhuman powers that should make him inferior but somehow doesn’t. Although let’s face it, Ant-Man’s powers are probably not ideal and make Spiderman feel strangely lucky about his own insect-like status.

 

Despite his seemingly vapid alter ego, Bruce Wayne spent his youth travelling and training himself for his future having sworn an oath to rid the streets of Gotham City of evil and crime. This is what sets the figure of Batman apart; his only real super- power is his dedication to his self-created ideologies. Despite the varying stages of ridiculousness the character has evolved through, the idea of a hard-working vigilante remains the focal point.

 

Batman is the epitome of the outsider, positioning himself outside of the realm of superheroes by being a nighttime vigilante, and positioning himself outside the realm of the public by coming across as a dim-witted millionaire playboy. It is the manner in which he exists on the periphery, which has appealed to children and adults alike for over 60 years and looks set to continue that appeal for a very long time. Batman exists as both the anti-hero and the anti-superhero but somehow perseveres as a firm favourite.

 

Superheroes are unlike other movie characters in that they persevere, Batman has been imagined and re-imagined countless times in various guises and yet somehow as an audience we don’t feel like we have been cheated when we see a new story. Regardless of how many times he emerges from the shadows, there will always be a crowd waiting in the cinema.

 

Batman is in good shape for a character who originally appeared in Detective Comics in 1939, and with the announcement that the Batman figure to appear in the upcoming Justice League movie will be an entirely new imagining than Christopher Nolan’s, it is clear that even filmmakers have accepted that Batman is a figure that audience don’t tire of. Public interest in the character of Batman perseveres regardless of how many people we see don the infamous cape.

 

Regardless of how many interpretations of the same character we see, we still care. We have been taken through the camp Batman of the 1960s, George Clooney’s nip-slips and the dark lisping broodiness of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, yet we will still queue to see the next. Who can say they have survived so many re-inventions unscathed?

 

Sit down, Madonna; we aren’t talking about you right now.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Glenn Caldecott on Superman

Check out the all the Superheroes we love…

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