It's finally upon us, a mere eleven days from now and the 'greatest gladiator match' in history hits us like a freight train stinking of sweet, sweet money. Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice may just be the most eagerly anticipated comic-book film of all time, and for good reason. Whilst Marvel may have cut themselves a nice slice of that cinematic money pie, Superman and Batman have, for a long time, been the two most recognisable comic-book heroes on the planet.
There's a good reason we've seen Superman or -Batman TV series since the 50's while it took until 2007 for a live-action Iron Man to appear, though that may have been a case that they knew one day a guy called Robert Downey Junior would fall from the skies, reeking of rum and Cocaine, and be the perfect fit for a cinematic Tony Stark. The more sensible option of course is that Iron Man was, for a long time, considered a B-list property. Bats and Supes however have always been guaranteed blockbuster properties, eternal commercial juggernauts. Now, for the first time in history, we'll see these two icons collide on the big screen. Not only that, but bloody Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Cyborg have all crept their way in as well, alongside Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and seemingly a dead Robin.
Whilst this over-saturation of characters may plausibly lead to a clusterfuck of a motion picture, you can't deny that they've grabbed fan interest. This is going to be, regardless of quality, a massive movie. Hopefully, it will also be a damn good film and erase some of the problems with the divisive Man of Steel. In honour of this momentous cinematic undertaking, I've decide to undertake a momentous challenge of my own, ranking every live-action feature length featuring Batman and Superman.
Now, first, some clarification. Independent or fan-made films are out, so no Superman and The Mole Men (1951), I'm afraid. Yes, that is a thing that happened..it's, well, it's really something, certainly worth checking out one lonely drunken weekend when you quite literally have nothing better to do with your life. This also means no animated films, otherwise I would be here listing until the film itself has been released. They are, more often than not, pretty good though, so I'd recommend you check them out. This leaves, by my count, six major outtings for Superman, and eight for the Bat. So, follow me on a journey from the tripe to the glorious, from the shit to the awesome, as we head down cinematic memory lane. Buckle up buckaroos, you're in for a ride.
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (Sidney J.Furie, 1987)
Ah, Superman IV...what the hell happened here? Made, seemingly, on a super 8 home video-camera for about $20, with the production values of your drunk uncle playing on Windows Movie Maker, the film was destined for failure from the very start. Featuring a half-hearted performance from Chistopher Reeves, an emotionally unstable Morgot Kidder trying to her best to put in a respectable performance as Lois Lane yet failing miserably, and a clumsy cold-war storyline that was about ten years too late.
To summarise; Superman is guilt tripped by a poorly dubbed child into throwing all of the Earth's nuclear weapons into the sun (yes, seriously). Then, old Hackman, in his hammiest performance yet as Lex Luthor, somehow nicks some of Superman's indestructible (ergo not possible to cut) hair and sends it into the sun alongside one of the Nukes, creating a strong contender for worst villain in cinematic history, Nuclear Man.
Nuclear man then takes on Superman in some of the worst fight scenes ever committed to film. It's like watching two paraplegics get into a scuffle over a parking space. (Was that a filthy joke at the great Reeves expense? Sure it was. Not sorry...). Anyway, the fight was so unfathomably awful that I can't think of the appropriate terminology, so I'll let it speak for itself.
Watched it? Good...now, let's all move on quickly, not talk about this anymore, and pretend it never happened. I could go on for hours about everything that's wrong with this movie, but I won't subject you to anymore of this than necessary. Surely the next film can't possibly be equally poor, right?...
BATMAN AND ROBIN (Joel Schumacher, 1997)
....WRONG! This is arguably as atrocious as that film we're even now trying to forget we just spoke about, and choosing between them is like deciding whether you'd prefer a hammer to the balls or hot wax to the tip of your little fella. In the end, this just shades it, primarily because, for all it's flaws, at least this looks like a professionally made piece of cinema, and not your younger brother's birthday party where that drunk guy turned up as Superman and had a sissy fight with your stoned father.
Make no mistake about it though, this is terrible. From the odd-neon sets, seemingly left over from the Blade Runner universe, to the sheer amount of incredibly stupid puns, this film has everything you need to be an undeniably terrible movie.
Bat credit-card? Check.
Wasted superstar names? Check.
Two villains who team up despite their motives being incompatible? Check. (Seriously, one wants to cover the world in flowers, the other in ice. Did neither of them ever think teaming up may not be the greatest move?)
Not only did this film brutally murder the careers of Alicia Silverstone and Chris O'Donnell, it also sent the Batman franchise into a temporary hibernation. When you're a film that is so terrible you can kill the fifty years of credibility of Batman in under three hours, you know you fucked up. That's a bad movie...bad, bad movie.
So terrible that the director apologised, and George Clooney has disowned it, this will, hopefully, forever be remembered as the worst Batman film of all time.
In at Number 12.....
BATMAN FOREVER (Joel Schumacher, 1995)
Goddammit Joel Schumacher, how did you manage to go backwards? Whilst Forever is far from even being a decent film, it is unquestionably a better outting than Batman and Robin. With a pretty stellar cast, less of a neon set, and far less bat-nipples, Schumacher's first outing into Gotham was poor...but not catastrophic. Carrey manages to steal the show as the campy yet oddly entertaining Riddler, Kilmer is a better Batman than Clooney, and Chris O'Donnell's Robin is considerably less annoying.
Problem is, the problems that would plague Batman and Robin started here. After Burton's Batman Returns made Gotham into a dreary and depressing Victorian Village in an eternal winter (More on that later), Schumacher's decision to bring a bit of life and campness back to Batman was almost warranted. Problem was, he went way overkill on it, and turned the camp dial up to levels we hadn't seen since the Carry On series died a merciful death. This is, quite literally, one 'POW' sign away from being the '66 Batman. Difference is '66 Batman didn't take itself seriously, and this tries to, in the process making it near impossible for us to do so.
Carrey's Riddler feels like he fell out of a cartoon, and not in a good way, and is only saved by Carrey's mercurial brilliance. Tommy Lee Jones, however, could not save this depiction of Two-Face, who was effectively a tamer version of The Joker, and completely missed the point of Harvey Dent's deep characterisation. The two villains together feels like an odd meshing of motives that doesn't gel together, and the Riddler's plot is..well, ridiculous. Not ridiculous in a fun comic-book way, but ridiculous in a flat-out awful way.
The love story is also absolute tosh, and this is one of the biggest wastes of the talented Nicole Kidman I've ever seen. Bad Schumacher, that's a bad...wait, I've already done that, haven't I? Batman Forever reminding us how not to make a Batman movie. Let's move swiftly on......
In at Number 11.....
SUPERMAN III (Richard Lester, 1983)
Question time for you readers, and I've got two for you;
1) Have you ever wanted to see Superman wise cracking his way through a movie as part of a comedy duo?
2) Have you ever seen a Superhero film and thought to yourself 'You know what this film needs? A stand-up comedian turned actor' ?
If you answered no to both of these questions, then congratulations, you automatically have more sense in that wee brain of yours than Richard Lester, who seemingly thought that we were screaming out for both of these things. Low and behold, Richard Pryor found his way into a superhero film, and the seeds of crap that would blossom into a large crappy tree by Superman IV were planted. In fact, it was because this film flopped so hard that the budget was cut drastically in Superman IV, leading to it being so damn poor.
I'm not even sure where to start with this. The plot was, frankly, both nonsense and regrettable, including THAT sequence when Superman becomes a temporary drunk asshole. Something that, like a stand-up comedian, absolutely nobody was asking for out of their Superman movies. In fact, critiquing this plot is somewhat asinine, as it's a muddled and convulated mess that makes little to no sense under even the lightest scrutiny.
The tone was far camper than the previous two entries, or one and a half, but we'll get to that later, and went far more for the comedic than the serious. This, in turn, destroyed any credibility Superman had left by this point, and was a huge reason for the film's critical mauling and commercial failings. Silly, pointless, and a waste of everybody's time, this film deserved all the flack it got. Let me make one thing clear though; I love Richard Pryor. This was simply a case of a talented person in completely the wrong film. A film that, in hindsight, was the first nail in the Superman coffin, the rest of which would be added by it's successor. After these two, we wouldn't see Superman on a big screen for nineteen years. Think about that.
They say Superman cannot be killed, Superman 3 and IV gave it a damn good try though.
In at Number 10.....
BATMAN RETURNS (Tim Burton, 1992)
We finally reach that point we get to in all film lists where things get a bit more subjective, and we begin to approach films that many people may well consider to be decent movies. As it is with Tim Burton's Returns, which is liked and hated by seemingly equal numbers.
The Batman fans who enjoy it will claim the bleak depiction of Gotham captures the dark essence of the Batman mythos in a way that even the first arguably failed to.
The Burton fans who like it will just say 'Fuck off, I like Tim Burton. Alice in Wonderland wasn't that bad... something, something Sweeney Todd..I like Hot Topic, isn't that place great?'
The Batman fans who hate it will usually say it fails to capture the true spirit of Batman, instead leaning lazily on the 'dark side' in aesthetics alone without ever approaching decent characterisation. That the depiction of The Penguin is so far removed from the comics it only has any resemblance in name alone. That taking a cockney gangster and making him a literal Penguin is shit, as well as kind of gross. That scene where he bites a guy...what the hell was that?
The 'Fuck Burton' club will claim that this is simply Burton doing the only thing he knows how to; taking other peoples ideas, painting the entire set black and making everybody super pale, and then letting his fanbase paint him out as a renegade genius.
Truth is, if you ask me, somewhere in the middle. This is certainly Burton being Burton and doing all those Burtony things you either love or hate. (Guess which side of the fence I fall?). The Penguin is ridiculous and a waste of Danny Devito's talents. Catwoman has dated horrifically, and I'll go on record saying that Michelle Pfeiffer is equally as hammy and horrible as Halle Berry's best-forgotten attempt. Gotham has also, for no explicable reason, seemingly horrifically shrunk in between the first and second movie. The sweeping skyline is gone, now replaced with what appears to be a tiny Victorian village.
I'll be honest though, this isn't a 'bad movie'. Not really. It's certainly head and shoulders above the two that followed it in this particular series, which perhaps isn't saying much, but is nevertheless some sort of minor achievement. Tim Burton - master of turning mediocre ideas into all the damn money.
In at Number 9....
SUPERMAN RETURNS (Bryan Singer, 2006)
After the car-crash that was Superman IV managed to effectively kill Superman for almost twenty years, the man of steel finally returned to the big screen in the not-great-but-not-as-bad-as-you've-been-told Superman Returns. With a stellar director in Bryan Singer and the always incredible Kevin Spacey, big things were expected from Superman's return to the big screen. Unfortunately, it didn't quite pan out as expected.
There are, actually, quite a few things to like about this outing from DC's original powerhouse. Kevin Spacey is the best Lex Luthor on screen yet, Brand Routh is a decent Superman, and the plane sequence in particular is absolutely stunning. It was, at the very least, a huge improvement from what came before it. Problem was, after Nolan's Batman Begins the year before had made us fall in love with a grittier depiction of Superheroes, this felt like a formulaic step backwards for the genre.
Hampered by a so-so script and a less than engaging plot, Superman Returns never quite manages to reach the lofty heights of the original, whilst never being explicitly terrible enough to be considered a poor piece of film-making. It simply existed, and failed to excite the crowd enough for the planned sequel, meaning Superman would be shelved for another seven years before his latest cinematic resurrection. In many ways, this is possibly the most forgettable film on the list..but make no mistake about it, it's far from being terrible.
In at Number 8....
BATMAN ( Leslie H.Martison, 1966)
READY? NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA BATMAN...BATMAN.....BATMAN. Come on, you all know it, you all loved it, and you've all seen it. Forget Burton's 1989 adventure, this is the original film debut of the caped crusader, in all his 60's camp glory. An extension of the iconic Television show, this sees Bats at his most batty.
Starring the eternal Adam West, and his glorious side kick Burt Ward, as Batman and Robin respectively, this a glorious fun that never stops to take itself seriously for even a minute. Featuring shark repellent, pow-punches galore and all those things from the sixties that we loved so darn much, this is pure cheesy bliss, but the good kind of cheese.
Is it a great film objectively? Probably not. It also could not physically exist in any other time zone that the glorious sixties. A time of LSD, hippies and chaos, this could serve as a glorious microcosm of everything right and wrong with that magical moment in history. Nevertheless it's full aware of it's inherent sillyness and embraces it, in the process becoming thoroughly entertaining. It knows it's dumb, it knows it's campy, and it knows it's silly and it simply does not care. For that, it will always stand as a glorious depiction of forgotten time. A simpler time, a happier time. A less cynical time, to say the least.
In fact, it's only because it's so bizarre that I didn't place it higher. In fact, I almost didn't place it all, but remembered that it is, like it or not, historically very important. It was the first ever large studio Batman outing after all. Problem is that Batman, at his core, is a very dark and broody character. As such, on a list of greatest Batman films, it would be more than a bit fan boyish to place this any higher, because it is unarguably a terrible depiction of the character. I love it, but I also love Highlander, and I'm sure that's not making many greatest movie ever lists. So, for the sake of objectivity, this film sits at a respectable 8th. If you haven't see it though, I highly recommend that you do. If for no other reason than to see Batman fighting a shark. Suck on that Aquaman, you little bitch.
In at Number 7.....
BATMAN (Tim Burton, 1989)
Not only did Batman 1989 restart the superhero blockbuster after Superman had laid it to waste with it's awful sequels, but it also redefined the Blockbuster as we know it today. Stripping away the 80's camp muscle bound heroes, this paved the way for darker tentpole productions with more cerebral characters, and basically killed the 90's careers of both Arnie and Stallone.
It was also the debut of the tie-in single, as Prince dropped an entire goddamn album to co-inside with the film's release, alongside Danny Elfman's more traditional score. Thus, the shitty film cash-in song was created. Ironically, considering his later career, Burton didn't like the idea claiming 'My films aren't commercial like Top Gun'. Considering the 'quality' of his latest work, this statement will almost certainly have haunted Burton in later years...resonating in his mind...while a tiny version of Johnny Depp screams 'What have you done to me?' Sorry...got a bit side-tracked there, where was I? Oh yes, Batman '89.
Honestly, whilst the film hasn't aged that well, there is a lot of good in this. It made Batman dark and broody again, which was a welcome change of pace by this point from Wests' 60's outings. Jack Nicholson was interesting, playing 'Jack Nicholson dressed as The Joker' to some decent success. He never really steps outside his comfort zone, but Nicholson is legitimately as insane as a pond full of Ravens, so he managed to pull it off well. Keaton is easily the second best Bruce Wayne so far, and arguably the best Batman. His performance is great. His iconic line 'I'm Batman' is immortal, and Gotham actually looks somewhat like Gotham. Unlike in the sequel, where it looked like part of 1800's London.
This launched the franchise, made Batman HUGE again, and brought back superhero films in a big way. Far from perfect, but far from awful, this is at least an historically important piece of cinema, one that all fledgling film students will undoubtedly be taught about. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience here. Unfortunately, the collaboration with Prince would lead to Seal's Kiss From A Rose appearing in Forever. Great song, but so out of place it hurts. So, for that crime against cinematic logic alone, I refuse to place this any higher. Oh, and also....that let's get nuts scene. What the hell was that?
In at Number 6...
SUPERMAN II (Richard Lester/Richard Donner, 1980)
If this list was ranked entirely on director's cuts alone, Superman 2 would probably be a lot higher. As it is, this is an unfortunately muddled production that saw one talented director leave (Richard Donner), before a seemingly less talented director (Richard Lester) took the reigns and proceeded to crash the whole project into the first and campiest tree he could find.
If you've caught the director's cut, the Donner version, you've seen a fantastic Superman film, that may possibly supersede the original. Zod is great, the cast is on fire, Reeves puts in arguably the best performance of his career, and the whole thing is a glorious endeavour.
Catch the theatrical cut, however, and everything goes horrifically wrong. The tone jarringly becomes extremely camp around half way in, the storyline stops making any logical sense, and the whole thing stinks. Why does Superman give up his powers only to regain them a scene later? Why does he nastily beat up a mere mortal in a bar? (I mean, I know the guy wound him up, but isn't Superman supposed to be above petty fist fights?). Why does he disarm Zod of his powers and then boot him down to oblivion, again seeming like a bully? And who in the bluest of blue hells let Richard Lester anywhere near this thing? As we saw again in Superman III, this was no blight on an otherwise stellar career. This was, in fact, a perfect depiction of Lester's incompetence.
So my advice to you is simple; if you're going to watch Superman 2, make sure it's the good version, The Donner Cut. If you do, you'll have a blast. If you unfortunately pick up the theatrical cut..then, well, you're in for a bad time. Fortunately, that theatrical cut still isn't as bad as Superman III or IV, so either way this is a step up from that. Unfortunately, because of the two separate versions, this couldn't climb any higher on the list. So, say it all with me, loud and proud - Fuck Richard Lester.
In at Number 5...
MAN OF STEEL (Zak Snyder, 2013)
After turning Batman into a bona-fide cinematic juggernaut, and bringing back all of the character's coolness and credibility, Christopher Nolan turned his sights on Superman, and everybody everywhere lost their collective minds. Then, he decided he would merely produce, and Zak Snyder was brought into the director's chair, and everybody sort of went '...Awwww. Well, Watchmen was pretty good'. In the end, Man of Steel falls into a strange place seemingly between the two very distinctive directorial styles of these two industry giants.
The first half of the film is actually great, and easily the best Superman story ever told at the multiplex. Featuring a more grounded take of the character, it deals with his descent to Earth from Krypton, and how his powers have led him to become an isolated character, afraid of becoming too close to anybody after the death of his adoptive father, and quite emotionally damaged.
It's easy here to see where Nolan's fingerprints lie, as the film is emotionally moving and engaging. The idea also that Superman has left a sort of breadcrumb trail behind him, creating a mythos before revealing himself to the world, is an awesome touch in particular. Lois Lane is also allowed to become much more than just a love interest, as her investigations into the mystery behind Superman causes her to land slap-bang in the middle of the story. Russel Crowe also makes a great Jor-El, and Michael Shannon is incredible as Zod. So why is this film not higher on the list, or even the highest Superman movie? Because of the second half.
The second half of this film is nothing more than a glorified CGI fuckfest, full of super-powered people punching each other, flying, smashing through buildings, punching each other through buildings, flying through buildings, flying whilst punching each other through buildings.... Basically, a lot of buildings got destroyed, a lot of CGI was deployed, and a lot of people quickly lost interest when they realised this fight scene was somehow going to stretch out over about fourty minutes. This is, clearly, where Snyder came into his own and all the Nolan elements were thrown out of the presumably now-smashed window.
'But Moulinie!' I hear you scream 'Isn't that what Batman Vs Superman is going to end up being?' Possibly, is my reply, but isn't the idea of Superman and Batman fighting far more intriguing than Superman and Zod's random henchmen, followed by Zod himself, like some sort of video game boss? I'd say 'Without doubt'
Effectively, Man of Steel is half a great movie, and half a naff one. But, that good stuff at the start is more than strong enough to elevate it above most of the films on the list. It doesn't deserve half the critical slamming it received, in all honesty, and thankfully the upcoming gladiator battle seems to be addressing, and potentially fixing, a lot of the film's larger problems. Hopefully, within this new context, Man of Steel will be remembered more positively in retrospect. Either way, it does enough to justify it's lofty position on this list.
In at Number 4....
BATMAN BEGINS (Christopher Nolan, 2005)
God bless you Chrissy Nolan, you beautiful, beautiful man. After Batman and Robin managed to freeze the legacy of Batman for almost ten years by being a strong contender for the worst film of all time, we wondered when, if ever, we'd see the caped crusader return to the multiplex. Finally, then relatively unknown indie director, at the time best known for the incredible Memento, Christopher Nolan, would present his ideas to Warner Bros, who lapped it up like a newborn lamb sucking his mother's sweet tits.
Shaking off all of the silliness and stupidity of the last two entries in the franchise, Nolan took us back to Batman's roots, ironically, considering this was the sixth Batman film, showing us the origin story of Batman for the first time. With the casting masterstroke of Christian Bale as a much more serious and broody Batman/Bruce Wayne, alongside the acting talents of Cilian Murphy and Liam Neeson, Begins was the kick in the ass the franchise desperately needed.
Whilst over time it perhaps isn't as well-received as it was then, with some dwelling on the stupidity of the water dispensing tactics towards the end, it is still easily one of the finest Batman films ever made, and potentially the most under-rated. Besides, when the only criticism fans can muster of the film is the 'silly Bat voice' and water logistics, you know you've done something very well, because that reeks of clutching at straws and actively trying to find a reason to dislike something.
A glorious piece of blockbuster magic that brought Bats back from the cinematic scrapheap, all Batman fans out there should at the very least appreciate this film, even if they can't quite bring themselves to respect it the way it commands. You remember that period of time where, outside of comic book circles, because of Batman and Robin, you would be chastised and ridiculed for liking Batman? You can thank this film for putting that to bed.
In at Number 3....
SUPERMAN (Richard Donner, 1978)
Finally we reach the film that began it all, in terms of serious big budget escapades for comic-book heroes. Yes, it may have been pre-dated by the 66' Batman, and yes it may not even be technically the first Superman film (Superman and The Mole Men has that dubious honour, as mentioned earlier), but it was the first blockbuster outing for a superhero franchise, and shockingly stands the test of the time.
This is the one, for those who don't remember, when Hackman's Lex Luthor wanted to sink California into the Ocean in order to generate profit from real estate. Perhaps this isn't the greatest narrative in the history of cinema, in fact it's downright silly, but that wasn't the attraction here. The attraction was seeing the iconic character finally flying on the big screen, and in that case, boy does it deliver. Even now the flying scenes don't look outwardly terrible, and the film has a certain charm to it.
Reeves is great as Superman, playing the iconic character to a tee. What makes his performance great though is that he equally nails the character of Clark Kent, seamlessly blending between the two without major effort. It's a wonderful performance by the man who will always, be for a vast majority of people, Superman. For the rest of his career, no matter what else he tried to do, this is the role he was always intrinsically linked to, and that's in no small part because of his stellar performance. The rest of the cast also holds up nicely.
In many ways, this is and will be for some time, the Superman movie against which all others are judged. Launched in an era of non-cynicism, the film has gained a glowing legacy that it may or may not entirely deserve. Unfortunately ridiculous moments, like Supes spinning the Earth back to turn back time, in the process defying all known laws of physics, hold this back from being a truly fantastic film. As it is, it's an enjoyable blockbuster that surprisingly hasn't become extraordinarily dated. It launched an entire genre of cinema (Superhero blockbuster) and convinced an entire generation of cinema-goers that a man can truly fly. You just couldn't repeat that kind of affect in today's jaded age.
In at Number 2....
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
Please believe me when I say I tried oh so hard to not go for the predictable 1-2 of the latter two thirds of the beloved Dark Knight trilogy, I really, really tried...Unfortunately, there's just no logical argument against this. Like trying to say that 2 + 2 = 5 merely to fly in the face of conventions, putting these two films anywhere lower in this list than the top two positions would have been awfully silly.
If any film recently has suffered from the backlash of ridiculously inflated expectations, this is it. After The Dark Knight went down as possibly (definitely) the greatest comic-book film of all time, by actually being a clever crime thriller masquerading as a comic-book movie, when the announcement of the third was made expectations shot through the roof. Simply put, if this was anything less than the greatest film ever made, then people would be pissed. It wasn't, and they were, but I'm here to tell you this is the greatest blockbuster of this decade not called Interstellar, and criminally underrated.
The narrative is relatively simple but effecive. Batman, portrayed by Christian Bale in his best personal performance of the trilogy, has retired after the events of The Dark Knight. Eight years later, a mercenary Bane (Brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hardy, but more on that in a bit) heads to Gotham and quickly bankrupts poor Brucey. Enraged and excited by the new challenge, Bats comes out and of retirement and gets his ass handed to him by the younger animal. After being dropped in a pit, and his beloved Gotham placed in peril, Bats must find himself again, learn to rise stronger than before, and come back from the dead to save his beloved city.
Whilst there is a lot more going on, involving Talia Al-Ghul, Catwoman, John Blake and a host of other characters, at it's core this is a very simple and powerful tale. The old hero proving he still has what it takes to take down the young lion. A battle, for power and control, both physically and psychologically. It is, actually, a masterclass in storytelling, heavily inspired by Charlies Dickens' masterpiece A Tale of Two Cities.
Unfortunately, fan expectations caused them to scrutinise this film more than perhaps any other in living memory, and while Avengers Assemble was praised to the rafters despite being clearly a far simpler and less adventurous film, they absolutely tore this to shreds. In the process they proved once and for all why not just anybody can be a critic. 'How did he get back from the pit to Gotham?' they asked, despite Nolan showing you that many weeks had passed, and this being a man who in the first movie traveled from America to Asia with no wallet or passport. 'I can't understand Bane!' they screamed, although he was actually pretty clear for about 90% of the film if you paid any attention.
In fact, the criticism of Bane is one of those things about this film I just don't understand. What we had here, effectively, was a super-ripped Hannibal Lector. A sociopath driven purely by cause; both hyper intelligent and ludicrously powerful and skilled in battle. This was, for all purposes, a good old-fashioned horror movie villain, dropped into a revolutionary war movie. I'd go as far as to say he easily stands toe to toe with Ledger's Joker in terms of iconic stature. Face it, every time you see Bane in a comic panel now, you're going to hear that voice, like it or not. Personally, I loved it. Tom Hardy also puts in the greatest performance by any actor behind a mask that I have ever seen. He does more with his eyes than most actors can manage with their entire bodies. He is, well and truly, one of this generation's greats.
So Rises sits second on my list, the second greatest Batman film ever made. A wonderful piece of Blockbuster cinema that I believe, over time, will be better reviewed and accepted, as we retrospectively look back on it without the hype cloud surrounding it. Was it a perfect film? Not by any stretch, it certainly had some minor issues. Was it a great piece of Blockbuster cinema that was without doubt the best tent-pole release of 2012? You bet your sweet ass it is. Sorry Marvel, but it's true.
In at Number 1.....
THE DARK KNIGHT (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
Was there ever going to be any other option? Christopher Nolan's masterpiece changed the game for superhero films in a big way. The first comic book movie to break a $billion worldwide, it also topped many 'best of' lists for 2008, reached an apex of 14th in Empire's List of greatest films of all time, it currently sits at 4th on the IMDB Top 250 which is, frankly, insane. To put this into perspective, Schindler's List (1992) sits behind it. Not only that, but it only went and won a bloody Oscar for Ledger's character defining performance as the iconic Joker, leading everybody to ask 'Jack who?'.
The brilliance of this film is that, beneath it's superhero wrappings, lies a tasty present that is effectively a crime/psychological thriller that breaks down the walls of genre conventions and grinds it to dust under it's highly polished boot. The crime thriller elements are up there with the works of Michael Mann, one of the defining directors within the genre, and the psychological war for 'Gotham's soul' between The Joker and Batman is one of cinema's all-time great cat and mouse chases.
Except, in this instance, nobody knows which is which. That's the beauty of it. It's also incredibly well paced, never dragging despite the marathon run time, and the script is probably the best Nolan's deployed in his career. The Joker dialogue, in particular, will resonate for hours after, and is still quoted regularly today. I also can't talk about this film without mentioning THAT performance...
Now, there's been so much written on Ledger's excellence here that anything I say is pretty much covered. What I will say then, is very simple. This is the performance that blew my mind more than any other in cinematic history, because, in all honesty, I never knew Ledger had it in him. It was note perfect and in many ways has caused The Joker role to become a poisoned chalice, as everybody will now be compared to this, and frankly, they can never hope to top it. Certainly, right now, if I was Jared Leto, I'd be terrified of the reaction when Suicide Squad hits later this year. No matter how good he is, how much he makes the role his own, he'll never be THIS good, but I'm sure he will put in a fantastic performance.
The film in general is a masterpiece, and broke boundaries for this genre forever. Now comic book films are taken seriously, respected as a genre, and have the potential to crash the awards ceremonies if done right. In death, Ledger gave us the greatest gift of his career, and we will always be forever thankful. R.I.P Heath, and long-live Christopher Nolan, the man who made Batman cool again.
So, with everything wrapped up, what did you think of my list? Did I make a massive mistake? Was everything spot on? How would you rank the films yourself? And, most importantly of all, where do you think Batman Vs Superman will end up on this list when all is said and done? I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say it will end up sitting nicely in fifth. As always, thank you for reading.