With superhero movies now bringing down box office records and garnering mass critical acclaim, the genre has transcended TV schlock and has now become a legitimate cinematic sub-genre. From it, auteurs all over Hollywood from Christopher Nolan to Taika Waititi have lensed some of the best superhero movies of all time.
But back in the nineties, Hollywood didn’t always want to put money behind a movie starring caped superheroes and crime fighters. A long time superhero buff, Felix Vasquez, editor of Cinema Crazed, takes a look at the decade where superhero movies were considered very risky gambles for FOX and Warner.
“Everyone knows Iron Man, Superman, Captain America, and Batman.
They are some of the biggest cinematic icons of the modern era.
But do you remember the technological hero M.A.N.T.I.S.? How about the super powered being known as Meteor Man? The Master of the Unknown, Doctor Mordrid? Ever met the super model crime fighter known as Lady X? How about the Roger Corman leather clad heroine Black Scorpion?
In the 90’s, the prospect of superhero entertainment was still in its infancy and considered a big gamble for major studios like FOX and Warner, thus superheroes were confined to television movies, and low budget films. Prepare to go back to a decade where the time of The Avengers, and Iron Man were still very far off.”
“Hell to Pay” is chapter two in what is one of the more under appreciated animated DC series currently in stores. While DC mainly focuses on Batman and Superman, we’re given a second shot with “Suicide Squad” who DC is thankfully not above sharing for the home entertainment audiences. After the very good “Assault on Arkham,” the team known as Task Force X return with a premise that—let’s just say it—should have been the premise for the live action movie. It’s a small covert team, they should do small covert operations that involve the DC Universe, for crying out loud.
After “Batman and Harley Quinn,” the cinematic adaptation of “Gotham By Gaslight” feels like a breath of fresh air. It brought me back to the time when Batman animation was mature and accessible, and we got entertainment like “Mask of the Phantasm” and “Return of the Joker.” Warner follows up with the aforementioned horrendous DC team up movie with what is a charming, creepy, and wholly creative twist on the Jack the Ripper legend that ponders on what would have happened if he and Batman were foes during the time he wrought havoc in the 1880’s.
It’ll take more than a bad movie to bring the “Suicide Squad” down. Deep down there’s still a great movie to be made with this concept. “Assault on Arkham” showed it, and “Hell to Pay” proves it. You don’t have to make this group the center of the DC Universe fighting massive gods. They can just be super powered thugs doing the slimy stuff like stealing Lex Luthor’s chunk of Kryptonite, or breaking in to Batman’s fortress to steal incriminating evidence he has to bring down Amanda Waller. Something neat in the same vein happens in “Hell to Pay” when the group are assigned to track down a maguffin that is both silly and clever.
Boyd Kirkland’s “SubZero” stands as not only one of the best animated Batman films of all time, but one of the best Batman films, period. In a time where Warner were handing us goofy films like “Batman Forever,” behind the scenes, Bruce Timm took the material seriously, delivering entertaining mature fare like “SubZero.” Something of a sequel to “Deep Freeze,” Kirkland’s film is also a stark contrast to last year’s “Batman and Harley Quinn,” choosing to expand on the hit episode, rather than repeat the same beats ad nauseum like the latter chose to.
At the end of the day I think “Justice League” is a very—okay movie, with glimmers of greatness. But that’s the problem, sadly. Fans waited and waited, and didn’t want an okay movie. We fans wanted a great movie, and despite bringing in Joss Whedon in the final hour, “Justice League” feels less like the beginning of an epic saga of superheroes, and more like a throwaway episode of a mediocre superhero series. And what with “mustache gate” and the continued controversy over the original cut of the film, “Justice League” will carry a lot of baggage with it forever. Which is sad, because I still didn’t hate it as much as I did “Batman v Superman.”
“Supergirl” never really fit in on CBS, since the channel has almost always avoided genre fare since its renaissance in the early aughts. “Supergirl” finally found a great home at the CW network, avoiding being cancelled, and gets a chance to bloom and fit in with her fellow superheroes at the channel. For the second outing of the “Supergirl” series, the writers and producers are so much more devoted to bringing in new viewers. Not only did the network give a whole season marathon over the course of the summer before its debut, but season two finally introduces this iteration of Superman.
If “Batman v Superman” was Zack Snyder’s own way of exploring how antiquated Superman is, “Justice League” is the proof by Joss Whedon that Superman is actually a bad ass with the right mind behind him. I won’t pretend that “Justice League” is a masterpiece of the comic cinema boom, but I can’t claim it to be one of the worst movies of the year, either. With some spit and polish, it could have risen to be a fantastic film, but in its final form, it’s a neat diversion with a manic energy, and the return of a modern cinematic Superman who presents an iota of positivity, charm, and hope. Finally.