Between the “Matrix” and “John Wick” franchises, Keanu Reeves took a stab at another franchise with “Constantine” (2005), based on the DC/Vertigo comics antihero (invented in 1985) who can see demons in their true form. It didn’t launch a movie saga – perhaps because it gets overblown in the back half — but it was followed by a TV series (2014-15), and both the film and series have loyal fans.
Blade: Trinity” (2004) gives Blade (Wesley Snipes) some friends, and what a great decision that is. Blade retains his badass loner persona, but now Ryan Reynolds is in the mix, laying down one-liners like he’s auditioning for Deadpool, and a buff and sexy Jessica Biel also signs up. David S. Goyer, the ubiquitous (some say too much so) superhero film writer who also penned the first two installments, adds director duties here and pares “Blade” down to its essentials. The wonderfully staged action sequences, snort-worthy quips and game performances combine to make this the best of the trilogy.
Supergirl” (1984) starts in cheesy fashion on a Kryptonian outpost, with Kara Zor-El (Helen Slater) impulsively deciding to chase a doodad that she has carelessly dropped into a timewarp (or something along these lines) all the way to Earth. Without pausing to shed a tear for the family and friends she leaves behind, she’s Supergirl – she can change costumes and hair colors with her mind, which technically makes her more powerful than Superman. And this seems like a really dumb movie out of the gates.
Iknew there would be some tough movies to watch on this Superhero Saturday project, but damn. “Swamp Thing” (1982) is as bad as a movie can be while having a coherent narrative and a reasonable budget. It’s paced so slow that the 90 minutes seem interminable. The swamp-boat action sequences are laughably bad and the monster-versus-soldier fights are just plain bad. “Swamp Thing” briefly comes to life here and there, for instance when the titular beast (Dick Durock, doing yeoman’s work in the suit) says “Everything’s a dream when you’re alone.”
Watchmen” (2009) completes a spiritual trilogy of standout graphic novel adaptations in the Aughts – along with “Sin City” (2005) and “V for Vendetta” (2006) – in which we feel like we’re watching comic panels come alive on the screen. By a slight margin, “Watchmen” is the least effective of the three because it juggles so many big ideas and it lends itself to an “Ending Explained” video more than the others. But it’s never anything less than engrossing as it adapts the 1986-87 comic series by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins.
Similar to “Kick-Ass,” which preceded it by a couple months in 2010, “Super” takes on the elephant in the room of superhero movies. In 95 percent of genre films, the violence is stylized so the good guy knows the exact degree of punishment to dole out so the bad guy is subdued, but not dead; and in fact, the bad guy will probably make a full recovery – but he’ll be safely locked away by then. In real life, such expert control is almost impossible. “Super” aims to be more like real life.
The New Mutants” has been drawing buzz for a few years for being a superhero/horror mash-up, but as it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that movie will ever be released, “Brightburn” – from James Gunn’s (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) production team – steps in. In the “Superman” and “Roswell” sagas, the kids from other planets are benevolent and the humans are potential threats, but “Brightburn” asks “What if the roles were reversed?”
Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) turns into Dark Phoenix for the first time on the new timeline in “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” but nonetheless, I’ve seen this story before. Granted, this is a more robust telling than the one in “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), which was on the previous timeline. Jean’s possession by an evil cosmic force, based on the famous 1980 comic arc by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, was (weirdly) a B-plot in that movie; it gets all of the focus this time around.
After the solid “Hellboy” (2004) laid the groundwork, director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro and his team get to play in their sandbox in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008) – and boy, do they have fun, as did I while watching it. The top-shelf production design is still there, but now with a steampunk-meets-fantasy flavor. We visit a troll market that’s like an underground version of “Valerian’s” open-air market, and meet a secret agent named Johann (for some reason voiced by Seth MacFarlane) who is literally a cloud of vapor contained in a deep-sea diver’s suit.
Director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro and his team wonderfully bring Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” comic book to the big screen in a 2004 film that has such top-shelf production design that it almost overshadows the story and characters. But not quite; Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is a likably gruff hero whose relationships with his adoptive father (John Hurt as Dr. Broom) and the woman he loves (Selma Blair as Liz) shine through.