We find ourselves in the midst of the most saturated superhero market in film history. The projected titles from Marvel and DC extend all the way into the next decade and show no sign of slowing down. Every other TV series appears to feature the Marvel stamp of approval and some viewers are finding themselves impervious to the powers of entertainment, demanding “no more superheroes please.”
With the craze still so popular, it is unlikely that the polished cast of supermodels that make up the Avengers are going anywhere fast. So why not indulge in the films that regularly get overlooked in the genre. Sure, everyone knows about The Dark Knight (and had that friend who claimed they could ‘identify’ with the Joker), but what about Japan’s Ultraman? Or the director’s cut of Daredevil that is considerably better than what we saw in cinemas?
A few of these films were huge financial and critical successes, but have been somewhat forgotten and retired to the back of people’s minds thanks to the 2008-and-beyond wave of hero movies.
Already the tide is changing, with Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy both being hugely successful and slightly alternative comic incarnations, and the trailer for Logan, which looks more like a powerful Daniel Day-Lewis drama than a superhero film. Perhaps the traditional superhero movies have had their day? Probably not just yet though, there’s still another Thor movie to come.
So, if you’re yawning at every other trailer, or currently reside in super-film heaven and just want more, try out some of these titles. They are seriously worth your time.
10. The Rocketeer (1991)
The 90’s was an interesting decade for superhero films. They were sort of working out the kinks, so to speak. 1997’s Steel starred Shaquille O’Neal and was laughably bad (seriously, go watch it), The Shadow was pretty forgettable and the only major successes were the Tim Burton Batman films.
However, The Rocketeer was able to offer an entertaining love letter to the genre and is a must-see for any comic book fan. Modelling itself on afternoon serials from the 30’s and 40’s, this film is as squeaky clean as they come (even with the Nazi villains). It is great fun and offers an old school portrayal of what superheroes used to be like back in the day.
9. Ultraman: The Next (2004)
Kazuya Konaka’s reimagining of the Ultraman franchise was part of an initiative to redefine the Ultraman character and broaden his appeal to older audiences. Shunichi Maki is an elite jet pilot, with a wife and sick child at home. His aircraft passes through a mysterious red light in the sky and, after a collision, Maki discovers he is receiving telepathic messages from a being within the light.
Despite some uneven pacing, the film shapes up to be loads of fun and Konaka does a great job of maintaining a sense of mystery throughout. The Ultraman suit is awesome and is a great improvement on previous incarnations. The film has all the CGI silliness to match most Hollywood action flicks and is totally worth a watch.
8. Blade 2 (2002)
This is the first of two anti-hero films directed by Guillermo Del Toro to feature on this list, for good reason. His direction clearly lends itself to the genre. Blade 2 is a stylishly bleak journey into an underworld at war. Often forgotten as a superhero, Blade is a human with vampire traits, protecting humans from vampires. He battles his blood thirst whilst attempting to do what’s right in a hellish environment.
This film was a step up from 1998’s Blade and Del Toro’s visionary direction is largely to thank. Blade 2 is packed with phenomenal one-liners and featured a huge amount of practical effects, using CGI sparingly and where necessary.
Occasionally the tone drifts between action and horror, however the solid portrayal of the character keeps the film steady. Blade 2 is fun throughout, but is able to convince the viewer of seriousness at key moments. Wesley Snipes did a fantastic job of portraying Blade’s icy cold manner and brutal skill with, you guessed it, blades.
7. Daredevil (Director’s cut) (2004)
Daredevil is largely remembered for that Evanescence song and Colin Farrell’s bald head. Quite a shame when viewing the director’s cut which is R-Rated and has 30 minutes of extra footage. It becomes crystal clear that Daredevil 2003 was subjected to studio meddling. Meddling that rendered the final product dull and heartless.
How much of a difference can 30 minutes make, you ask? Well in the director’s cut Matt Murdock has a personality and is a truly fleshed out, tortured soul. Present in this version is darkness, much needed darkness for a character like Daredevil. The relationship with Elektra is bypassed and instead, the consequences of Daredevil’s actions are heavier and the fights are longer and nastier.
The most noticeable addition is a subplot featuring a gangster who is framed for murder. Cutting this very well-crafted and conflict-driven plot might have seemed like a good idea (teenagers wanted to see Affleck and Garner get it on), but it leaves a multitude of loose ends in the cinematic version. The director’s cut of Daredevil is the film we should have been given. It’s well-rounded, gritty and is a far better film than the cinematic version.
6. Hellboy (2004)
Who better to direct a film about a demonic-beast-turned-superhero than Guillermo Del Toro? This is a rare example of a comic adaptation that truly feels connected to its source material.
The energy pulsing from each shot is infectious, managing to replicate some exact frames from the graphic novels. Hellboy speaks deeply to our perception of roots; where we are born, who our parents are and what society decides about us based on that information. Hellboy is a bad kid trying to do good. Ron Perlman delivers a brilliant performance, and made Hellboy simultaneously lovable and badass beyond belief.
Hellboy did well at the box office and spawned a sequel; however, perhaps due to the lack of affiliation with Marvel or DC, it is largely forgotten when discussing superhero greats. With a visual master such as Del Toro commanding the project, Hellboy simply cannot go unrecognised.