Like so many others, I grew up reading comic books. Since my older brother seemed to be the only one of the three of us with a dollar or two (Hey, I washed dishes, doesn’t that count at least half as much as mowing the yard?). So I read his leftovers, which were mostly Marvel characters Spider-Man (my favorite), Thor, Hulk, and Fantastic 4. Sometimes I’d see an occasional Superman comic book, and my Batman and Wonder Woman exposure were from the corny but fun TV series.
The first comic book film I remember going blockbuster was “Superman” with Christoper Reeve. While the man of steel is not my first choice superhero (blasphemy, I know), I liked Reeve and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor gave an outstanding performance. The follow up Burton Batman was OK, and then my interest in the follow-ups in these franchises dwindled along with many others. Irritated, I waited for a Marvel film.
Years later enter Spider-Man, by Sam Raimi, a favorite director. (“Army of Darkness” is a work of cheap, outstanding funny art). I liked the actors, the follow up film, and even the third film wasn’t so bad for a third film in a comic book franchise. Then it was remade, too early to me, but it’s watchable. I endured a couple of bad “Hulk” films, and found the “Thor” film to be OK. The “Fantastic Four” franchise was a disappointment. For an “oldie” comic book story, it had strength, but it wasn’t used in the films, exception being the Silver Surfer character. I did like “Iron Man.”
The “Batman Begins” film also discouraged me from the box office due to the previous franchise, but “The Dark Knight” served not only to me as a great film stand-alone, but an inspiration for writing dark stories. The Nolan Batman films I suspect will remain a gold standard a long time for comic book films.
But comic book fans don’t want “OK” or “watchable.” They want what “The Dark Knight” gave them; something reaching out beyond what they already know about these complex characters with supernormal powers (or prowess, in Batman). It’s obviously different for the audience when the fans have an expectation to get what they want, but they want more, but how much more is truly part of the art of filmmaking. I’ve read on many blogs and agree often about Hollywood’s repetition of making bad comic book films. But amongst the bad films, when they hit a good one, it’s a home run and reminds us why we like to watch the super good guys beat up the super bad guys. Growing up reading comic books, I know I have my own feel for the story. When the film is done well, I can feel it from the screen.