Not all of the best superhero movies are inspired by comics and as such since the revival of the comic book movie, the superhero film has taken on a sub-genre of its own. There are plenty of films out there based on anime, manga, and comic books, but sometimes directors and studios pick up original properties that take on a life of their own as potential comic book bait. From the animated to the cult, these are the best superhero movies not based on comic books.
One of my all time favorite superhero franchises, “Black Scorpion” became a comic book much later in to its shelf life. But before it, it was a cult camp classic that transformed from a one shot superhero movie to a schlocky series that also became a short life science fiction television show. The movies have just been an excuse to feature busty women in scantily clad costumes who can emit sexual vibes to one another, but on its surface, “Black Scorpion” is a very fun and absolutely engrossing story of a cop who becomes a Batman-like avenger when she tires of following the law and decides to don the costume and strike down the underworld. The later films in the franchise are campier and much more erotic, but all films hold a special place in my heart as being that goofy female super heroine series with potential to be something so much bigger.
Yet another not necessarily tale about a superhero, M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” took some time to become completely appreciated among the mass of movie-goers. Not a horror movie and definitely not a movie with a shocking ending, “Unbreakable” is instead a love letter to the comic book mythology we all grew up on. Bruce Willis plays David, a man with amazing power that allows him to remain invulnerable to bodily damage. Samuel L. Jackson plays Elijah, a man capable of breaking at every turn. With this “Unbreakable” unfolds the classic conflict of good and evil in a realistic world where new abilities aren’t always appreciated and excellence must become mediocrity to avoid being shunned like a monster. But Elijah realizes his role in this grand dichotomy, thus Shyamalan unleashes a hell of a dissection of the comic book formula that works as a meta-movie and tale about good ultimately breeding evil.
Not surprisingly, “Push” isn’t the most critically admired film, and that may be because the film doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Nor does it seem to understand its own premise. But at the end of the day I was so utterly enamored with the superhero story behind this and the super powered beings in this world that it didn’t matter too much. At least not to us. Pushers are people who can move things with their minds. And there are groups of others who can do incredible things like envision things with their minds they lay out through pictures on a pen and a paper. And of course they’re on the run from the corporation that wants them for nefarious purposes. Surely it’s a routine Fugitive flick, but it’s a dazzlingly shot and well acted bit of superhero cinema that works as pure entertainment if you’re willing to forgive its flaws.
Not necessarily a tale about a superhero, but we count this if only because it’s one of the best indie representations of the modern comic book mythos we’ve seen in years. An indie production we’re constantly raving about, “Sidekick” is the story of a man with the capability for amazing super powers and the comic book nerd who decides to become his Obi-Wan. But things take a turn for the worse when the man wielding the powers ends up being bitter, power hungry, and downright murderous and now his mentor must figure out how to stop his amazing power and hopefully undo the damage he’s done now that he’s unleashed an incredible power on the world that could corrupt society. What’s so fantastic about the comic lore is that whenever a major evil is born, a major good is also born. So as this tells the tale of a villain, you can only imagine across the world a great good is being created to put a stop to it. That’s how the universe balances itself out.
Influenced by the classic era of DC Comics and the over saturation of superheroes in the universe, “Sky High” is an original family film that also manages to be damn entertaining. Essentially the world is divided in to heroes and sidekicks. Super Kids go to a special school to decide if they should be treated as heroes or sidekicks. But in the face of an ultimate nemesis and their plans to rally a string of power hungry kids to their side, the son of The Commander and JetStream rises to the occasion to become a true superhero and teaches other rejects how they can implement their powers to fight against ultimate evil. “Sky High” has a lot going for it including creativity, a sense of originality, and its eye firmly placed on the cult. There’s supporting performances by Bruce Campbell, Lynda Carter, and Dave Foley, features a central role by none other than Kurt Russell who dons the cape and costume of The Commander. And of course there’s a role by then unknown Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It’s tough to enjoy comic books and not enjoy what this movie tries to put across for fans.
Director James Gunn’s film about fan boys becoming crime fighters is a very similar to its predecessor to “Kick Ass” and ultimately much more superior. Where as the previous film glorified the fan boy becoming a superhero, “Super” exposes the violent cruel nature of crime fighting and what it can do to people whose fetish becomes pain and human torment. Director Gunn spotlights a man tired of being pushed around after losing his girlfriend, and dons a red costume to shut up crime once and for all. But the shit hits the fan when the consequences of his crime fighting become all too real, and his blossoming sidekick ends up becoming a psychopathic rapist with a penchant for sadism. “Super” is a marvelous film that puts to use much of its prime talent and in the end I’ll take it over the previous monstrosity called “Kick Ass” any day of the week.
Obviously based on the classic comic books of yor and the genre defining graphic novel “The Watchmen,” director Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles” is a love letter to the classic comic books of the golden and silver age that demonstrates what life would be like if amazing power had to be restrained in a ho hum world. After Earth’s greatest superheroes are sued by a man who was attempting to commit suicide, they’re all brought down by the government and re-located to different towns where they’re forced to live day by day on ho hum jobs and family life. Mr. Incredible aka Bob Parr is one of them. He must deal with a world that demands the bare minimum where he once stood as the almighty savior who helped bring down Earth’s greatest foes. And must also deal with a family of super powered beings all of whom are struggling to find their place in the world. When a new villain garners interest in Mr. Incredible and his family. Bob must help them come to terms with their abilities and hopefully save the world. It’s a dazzling spectacle and one that remains one of our favorite animated films of all time.