Dear Mr. Movie:
So your top two all-time favorite superhero movies, not counting that Batman cheat, are from the last three months?
How can you possibly expect to have the critical perspective to make that call when the figurative paint's not yet done drying on The Dark Knight's metaphorical barn?
You young critics have no sense of cinematic history, that's your problem. So impressed by the latest thing you mistake what's new for what's good. If you'd take a look at my careful, much more reasoned list, you'd see that...oh, wait. I agree completely. Iron Man and The Dark Knight kick crazy ass, and along with The Incredibles, they're head and shoulders above the rest of the genre.
The real surprise for me was you putting Iron Man all the way up at No. 2. It's thoroughly great, but I thought I was going out on a limb giving it the second spot, so to see it there on your list as well made me sit back and think.
That you must be spying on me! It's either that or great minds think alike, and though I expected there'd be some overlap, Mr. Movie — if that is your real name — I didn't expect the extent to which we'd agree.
As for the rest of it — ugh, Superman. I don't object to this one on cinematic grounds, I object to it on conceptual ones. Superman's a damn punk. First off, he's invincible, and though you won't find this in any dictionary, "invincible" is a synonym for "boring." Remember The Matrix Reloaded? Yeah, well everyone else wishes they didn't, and a big part of that was once Neo became leather-caped Superman, all the tension flew away faster than a speeding bullet.
I did just catch Superman for the first time, though, and I'll agree Gene Hackman rocked the proverbial house. Also delightful: Superman flying so fast around the world he turned back time. I've been hearing about that scene for years, and it was everything I hoped it would be.
Less awesome, however, was its length and general cornball aura. Christopher Reeves didn't even get into Superman mode for a full hour. That sluggishness may have flown back in '78, but 30 years later, I'm expecting more. I actually got into an argument with my friend about whether the first hour had any action whatsoever, and I was the one arguing the explosion of a planet counted! (Which it does, Jason, you moron. What planet do you come from where total terrestrial destruction isn't action? One that gets blown up soon, I hope.)
Now, onto shakier ground. I expect to take some punches on this one — literal ones, because most of my friends are much larger than me, and besides, I'm not paying them to not hit me — but I just don't think Tim Burton's Batman is that great.
Don't get me wrong. It's fine and all. I appreciate Burton's dark whimsy to the extent I'm required. But you say it doesn't matter who plays Batman, and there I diverge. The thing I like about Christian Bale is, for him, both Batman and Bruce Wayne are an act. He clearly doesn't care about the things Wayne's supposed to, but he knows that, in order to be the best Batman he can be, it's his solemn duty to drunkenly burn down his mansion and score with a nonstop succession of gold diggers. That's the sacrifice he's willing to make for Gotham.
But he isn't really Batman, either. He just knows he needs to be Batman because the city needs him — well, that and he's an emotionally wrecked semi-psychopath whose only therapy is beating holy hell out of the kinds of people who killed his folks. He doesn't have the confidence of Superman, though. He knows he's walking a tightrope and that the very things that make him need to walk it are the same things that threaten to push him off the side. Bale's Batman has remarkable depth, especially in The Dark Knight.
I didn't get that out of Michael Keaton. Burton's Batman is more about taking superheroes in a weird new direction than in humanizing them. It's interesting; it's entertaining, it's just not in the same league as what we've had in the last few years.
Also, it should have had more explosions.