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Ranking the Live Action Comic Book Movies of the ’90s

I have an extensive new piece over on Polygon where I rank and discuss all* of the live action comic book or comic strip based theatrical or DTV movies of the 1990s. I know it’s weird for me to be writing on a video game sight, but did you know that I’m actually pretty good at Ms. Pac-Man? You might be surprised.

This was fun because I didn’t really realize until I compiled a list how familiar I am with the topic. I’d seen almost everything that qualified, although I had to fill in a few holes and rewatch several that I hadn’t seen in decades (some of which I’ll be reviewing soon). I have my memories of what I thought of the movies at the time and it’s interesting to look at them all as one movement and consider how different they seem now that they’re artifacts of a bygone era.

Please don’t take the rankings too seriously. I’m already questioning why I didn’t move certain things around. For example, I know I put SPAWN up too high, trying to give it credit for notoriety. Hopefully my write-ups show a joy for what’s unique about this genre even in the lesser ones. Judging from the comments, my low ranking and lumping together of the three TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movies is the most controversial choice. I didn’t see that coming, and I think it’s a generational difference – I’m just too old to understand why it’s so fucking hilarious that they love pizza. I’m more of a cats eating lasagna guy. But apologies for the blasphemy.

I wanted to mention here, since it didn’t really fit in the article, that looking at them all together made me realize one particular artist’s contribution to this genre. That person is not Danny Elfman, because I’d noticed he scored DICK TRACY, BATMAN RETURNS and MEN IN BLACK, plus the theme for The Flash on television, so I already associated him with comic book movies of that era. No, my new realization was that Nils Allen Stewart, guy who played Jesse Ventura in a TV movie and veteran action henchman with the weird hairdo in the ON DEADLY GROUND bar fight, appears in THE MASK, THE SHADOW, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR and BARB WIRE. Not bad.

Anyway, PLEASE ENJOY THE ARTICLE BY CLICKING HERE and let me know what you think.

*Zack Clopton on Twitter pointed out that I fucked up – I missed PRINCE VALIANT (1997). Damn it.

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74 Responses to “Ranking the Live Action Comic Book Movies of the ’90s”

  1. I said it before: The problem is not that SPAWN is too high, it’s that MYSTERY MEN is below RICHIE RICH! Strike one! Don’t make me cancel my Patreon, man!

  2. Congrats on pissing off all those TMNT nerds in those comments!

  3. Seriously Vern, Turtles 1 should be in the Top 10 at least.

  4. A very nice and carefully considered list, although you forgot VENOM, which was clearly made in 1997 and accidentally released in theaters a couple decades later.

    I don’t get why the commenters seem to love that live-action TMNT movie so much, but I agree that grouping TMNT 3 in with the first two is almost straight-up trolling.

  5. I maintain that you have to be imprinted with TMNT as a child in order to make heads or tails of that movie as an adult. Without that it’s an endless barrage of surfer dude voices saying and doing unfunny things in such a way as to imply that they are VERY funny. And just because they have color coded headbands doesn’t mean they will seem like separate characters. I feel like I said more than enough nice things about the movie and was being charitable by putting it above THE MASK. It got extra points because of my pro-ninja bias.

  6. Whoa, Polygon? Way to go, man!

    Since you asked for feedback: as First Reformed was for Ethan Hawke, I think this article is a particularly exceptional showcase for your numerous talents as a seasoned critic of cinema and its films. And if, like First Reformed, this article helps to remind a larger segment of the population that you, like Ethan Hawke, are and always have been awesome, I’d say that can only be a good thing.

    Happy to see The Crow ranked so high, although it’s a bummer to consider that it could now play as wish-fulfillment fantasy for the incel crowd. It is a favorite of mine for nostalgic reasons as well as aesthetic ones. I always considered Eric’s invulnerability and gleeful behavior during his kills to be a mirror and parody of the villains’ during their initial attack, but the movie admittedly does seem to lose sight of that once it starts devoting its running time to either building anticipation for Eric’s violence, or depicting him gleefully and/or righteously committing some. So I’m sure it’s been misconstrued by today’s angry young fear addicts in exactly the way you describe.

  7. Oh yeah, and thanks so much for including GUYVER 2. That one is a personal favorite.

  8. Dope article, Vern.

  9. This is fantastic and congratulations on the freelance gig! I agree Batman Forever is far worse than And Robin. I’m a tad surprised Judge Dredd is as high as it is and I might need to check out Richie Rich (did Dennis the Menace count because it was comic strips, not books?)

    What struck me about this is how many ‘90s comic book movies were based on comic books I’d never heard of, even The Crow. What’s the most obscure comic book movie now? Suicide Squad? It was such a hit or miss genre back then they’d take chances on something really random, like Blade. It seems silly it took so long for big characters like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Black Panther but I wonder if they’re taking less chances now. I guess TV is trying the more obscure characters now.

  10. I had this theory that MYSTERY MEN would have a much higher reputation with the general public if not for that Smash Mouth song, and then I realised that a whole lot of people still like SHREK. So now I’m out of theories. (Vern is correct to point out that the Spleen is unfunny, but he’s not in the movie that much.)

  11. Fred: I’d never heard of “The Coldest City” prior to ATOMIC BLONDE. And I guess there’s also stuff like THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL.

  12. I so enjoyed this piece. I am looking forward to watching Guyver and Vampirella now.

    I appreciate that Vern holds a torch for the 30s-40s superhero movies of the 90s. Also happy to see Judge Dredd, whose mattes and set design gets better each time I’ve seen it.

  13. I was about ready to blast this list for not including Guyber 2 and them there it was.

    Also, I recently watched Crying Freeman. First off, it sucks and is boring (stay out of this geoffreyjar lol). Secondly, the gunfights share almost no John Woo DNA except for some slow motion (though the whole movie is in slow motion) Third, I hate it.

  14. Loved this article. Love that you clearly love this subgenre and find things to love about even the ones you rated pretty low.

    I LOVE the first 2 Turtles movies, and would have ranked them much higher. Turtles 3 however…that ones dead last lol!!

    I agree Batman & Robin is higher than Forever. Really glad it has come into its own as a cult movie over the years. Maybe not to the purists…but to the weirdos its got some love.

    I agree with a high ranking for SPAWN, and probably would have rated it even higher. It too has built a cult following among the weirder corners of fandom over the years.

    I gotta be honest…I know its sacreligious….but I never got the big deal with Blade. I was only mildly amused when it was new, and by no means hated it, but always thought it was somewhat standard stuff.. I do give it props for opening the door to the superhero wave that I think started a couple years later with X-MEN 1, and is still going strong to this day.

    I too really love this subgenre in all its weirder angles. I love the newer Marvel movies, but I also love the odd interpretations or odd choices of subject matter perhaps even more. I loved them in this era when they were a little rarer, a littler weirder and a lot less respected. There were only 3 on this list I hadn’t seen (RICHIE RICH, CRYING FREEMAN and THE CROW 2). The amount I had seen in the theater during their first run…is almost all of them. Considering there is a lot on this list that was DTV…that’s saying a lot!!

    Oh…VAMPIRELLA is a total hoot!! See that shit now whoever hasn’t!! Also, by Wynorski is RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING, which was a year early for this list but a heck of a cartoonish blast!!

  15. Apropos of nothing, but man do I wish Bruce Campbell had landed that THE PHANTOM gig. It prolly wouldn’t have made that much of a difference, career-wise, but it would have been fun as hell to see. I’ll, uh, go read the article now.

  16. I really would like to know how The Crow is “wish fullfillment incel fantasy.” I don’t remember Brandon Lee’s character being a ugly dork with no social skills who couldn’t get a date and then had the chance to defend the honor of the hottest girl in the world and then get to fuck her for the rest of his life. That’s what these fucking idiots want.

  17. You’re right, Matthew, I guess they still do. And they’re good like Atomic Blonde and Diary, not B movies like Steel.

  18. I think that Vern meant that it could be seen that way by those fucking clowns, in retrospect. And I would agree.

    Anyway, great write-up, Vern, really enjoyed the THE SHADOW love. Really the beginning of Baldwin’s comedy chops. “Oh, THAT knife.”

    And I will go to bat for MYSTERY MEN any day. It’s chief sin, as you said, is that it’s deconstructing a genre that hadn’t yet been properly established. It’s a pretty great, sweet little movie with a great cast. Coming from a first-time feature director it always felt to me like kind of a miracle that it turned out as good as it did. And if any producers are reading, I’ve totally nailed the script for a sequel, tho it may need to be retooled for MM20.

  19. Matthew, the weird thing about ALL STAR is that although it was a hit (I’m too lazy to google chart positions. Just saying this based on the heavy airplay this song got), a surprising amount of people don’t seem to know that this song originated in MYSTERY MEN and not SHREK, which says IMO a lot about how big of a box office bomb MM was.

    Also the song didn’t achieve “Best worst song” meme status until the early 00s, when it appeared in a bunch of other movies (RAT RACE ends with the protagonists singing it together with the band on stage!) and commercials.

  20. Going to copy my comments from the Potpourri thread, but with a couple of additions, like Laserdisc extras (get it, cause 90s) (also, removals, like a BLADE RUNNER: DIRECTORS CUT VHS):
    . RICHIE RICH has a newspaper/press montage where our juvenile protagonist is named “sexiest man of the year”. Just throwing that out there
    . THE MASK was one of my favourite films as a kid; loved the movie, had the toys, loved the cartoon, the weekly comic and even had a (I believe sanitised) CD-ROM “Motion Comic” of the original graphic novels. Left me pretty cold last time I saw it sadly. I actually think it’s one of the few “star vehicles” which could have survived and thrived as a franchise without its lead, as the concept opens it up to a revolving cast of protagonists, so its a shame they went for just about the least appealing concept imaginable for the sequel they did make
    . I’ll always have a soft spot for the third TURTLES film, as it’s the first film I was ever hyped for, and at the time it didn’t let me down. The loss of the Henson company is notable, but I think it’s reputation (at least relative to the first two) is overblown mostly because James Rolfe had a viral video taking the film down at a time when that seemed like a fairly novel concept, and it had a big impact
    . I do have a soft spot for BATMAN & ROBIN but I can’t completely bring myself on board with the increasingly popular notion that it’s the product of the unique vision of Joel Schumacher. That’s part of it but there were clearly A LOT of cooks in the kitchen. If anything it defines the “corporate but with a wink and/or a liberal conscience” attitude (as opposed to the 80s more straightforward and conservative brand) that ultimately is perhaps the 90s’ most potent legacy, as much as we may want to deny that.
    . The two DREDD films actually compliment each other quite well, having very different strengths and weaknesses

    . I have to say I just plain didn’t like BATMAN RETURNS on my last couple of viewings. I did like it as a kid

  21. I also think MYSTERY MEN should’ve been higher. It’s a solid movie, and I feel like it still holds up, though I haven’t seen it in awhile.

    I’m surprised GUYVER: DARK HERO punched out the original.

    HARDWARE (from 1990) is kinda a comic book movie… And, as a side note, so is THEY LIVE, kinda. The original author wrote it as a short story and a comic.

    I was also pretty sure that FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED was from the nineties, but apparently not.

  22. Oh, yeah, and I think DENNIS THE MENACE was originally a comic strip.

  23. This would’ve probably been ranked above MYSTERY MEN too…

  24. I think as in the film, Jim Carrey hypnotized us into thinking “Batman Forever” didn’t suck mainly because he was still in the midst of that period where if you weren’t around at the time, you can’t understand how beloved and white hot he was. “Batman Forever” also easily has the least action-packed climax in comic movie history: Batman throws a boomerang at something which for some reason zaps Jim Carrey with some awful special effects, then he throws some coins at Tommy Lee Jones, which causes him to accidentally fall to his death. Oh and he flies the Batplane which crashes almost immediately.

    I do admit to having a soft spot for Sly’s “Judge Dredd,” which also probably contains the most instances in any film of the trope where someone is about to shoot our heroes but then at the last second they get shot, and then after they fall we see who shot them. I think it even happens three times during the cannibal scene alone.

    And CJ Holden, don’t forget the inclusion of “All Star” in 2001’s “Rat Race” when the entire cast gathers on stage with Smash Mouth over the ending credits. Never has the term “all star” been less appropriate:

  25. I have to say, I felt like a moron for not guessing what #1 was going to be right away, but, apropos of absolutely nothing else, I’m about halfway through “Miami Blues” by Charles Willeford, based on Vern’s recommendation and the recommendation of a few of you here in the comments as well, and I just wanted to say- it’s pretty goddamn good! It’s the first thing I’ve read that really puts me in mind of Westlake’s Stark voice, one of my very favorite writers. This has the same light touch, but the prose feels more lived-in, somehow. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the rec, everyone.

  26. Here’s some behind the scenes about where I fucked up. I was originally pitched to do something along the lines of “best super hero movies of the ’90s.” But I felt like it would be stretching it to call many of the ones I was excited to write about (DICK TRACY, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR) “super heroes,” and I cross-checked various lists of both super hero movies and comic based movies, and it seemed to me if I didn’t number THE SHADOW, grouped the NINJA TURTLES together and rewatched MEN IN BLACK and a couple other things I would be able to have everything and still come in at the nice number of 25 they wanted.

    So when I made that decision I guess I forgot about brushing past DENNIS THE MENACE, PRINCE VALIANT and the two ADDAMS FAMILY movies if they came up in my earlier research looking for super heroes. And I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for DICK TRACY and THE PHANTOM being comic strips. Or if I’d used the editor’s idea of calling them the “notable” comic book movies of the ’90s.

    So – sorry about that. I wish I’d watched and included those ones. But I still like the article.

  27. I’m sort of weirded out by the repeated mention of ‘incels’ ruining movies with underdog/nerd themes for you. It strikes me as a bit of a close cousin to a fervor over The Matrix and its lobby shootout and the idea that because a few bozos maybe sorta got off on that scene and committed real world violence, we should all disavow a movie that 99.999999% of people would never be inspired to violence by. Certainly, I think you could criticize the dated aspect of The Mask playing female sexual harassment (in the park scene) and male violation (the aforementioned mechanic bit) for laughs, but I don’t think the core conceit of ‘put-upon loser gets a chance to right some wrongs’ is inherently bad. Venom, for instance, basically did the same thing, just with modern sensibilities, and people were fine with it.

    (Also, isn’t Blood And Bone pretty much the same as The Crow, as far as invincible vigilantes destroying those who’ve wronged them go?)

  28. Thank you for sharing the behind the scenes stuff! Also, great article as always.

  29. Well, I rated both movies pretty high, so I’m not saying they have to be dismissed because of it. But I think both have a sadistic undercurrent that plays differently decades later than it did at the time. THE CROW is similar to the DEATH WISH movies, which I love, and I think in a piece about how movies of the ’90s hold up today it’s relevant to say that it’s disturbing to think of the character appealing to certain people the way Paul Kersey might have appealed to, say, Bernard Goetz. Doesn’t mean we can’t have DEATH WISH or THE CROW, but it’s worth thinking about. And THE MASK is a more interesting case because it’s this underdog nerd archetype that was very familiar from ’80s movies and I think we’ve learned of a dark side to that in the ensuing years and now it’s more obvious (at least to me) where the seeds of that are visible in this story. I’m working on a longer review of THE MASK where I’ll go into some of its themes in more detail.

  30. Well, I’ll wait to hear your thoughts there. And on another note, and not to get too serious, but it’s always weird to me when people play up Batman and Robin as some idyllic gay relationship when it’s, y’know, a thirtysomething man with vast amounts of power and authority, and the teenage boy he literally adopts as his son (yeah, yeah, ‘ward’, but c’mon). I think if we’re going to look sideways at racism and sexism way back when, we should also be clear about this weird subtext of grooming and pedophilia that gets to be seen as ‘subversive’ and ‘diversity’.

  31. Ok, so, this is off topic a little bit but I don’t understand something. We constantly hear people say that violent video games is the cause for violent people. We’ve learned that violent movies really don’t make people violent. However, I keep hearing those same people try to convince me that years of romantic comedies have created incels. So, which is it? Do movies cause people to make poor life decisions or is there no correlation? You can’t have it both ways to create whatever narrative fits your particular cause.

    I think there is a huge difference between Death Wish and The Crow if you ask me.

  32. Daniel, I think the whole “gay subtext” is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY overplayed. It’s literally just a fan theory, that was made up by homophobic assholes, who think two men living together is icky and/or hilarious, because “No homo”.

  33. Well, CJ, I think a lot of it is because Joel Schumacher is openly gay and has been for quite a while, I think. So, yeah, there is a lot of queer subtext-and straight up text-in his Batman movies.

    But what I came here to say is that MYSTERY MEN, Smashmouth aside (and I like the song, personally, pumps me up), has a pretty awesome soundtrack. You’ve got Mark Mothersbaugh doing the score, and you don’t hear Violent Femmes in too many mainstream films. There’s a song “Back in 1999”, by John Oszajca, that always makes me wistful for the end of my teens and what turned out to be the best time of my life thus far. Anyway, that’s what you get when a music video director levels up to feature filmmaking. Uh, sometimes, I guess. Whatever happened to the heroes, anyway?

  34. There is a difference between an openly gay director stating that he wanted his protagonists to look like greek gods and putting some butt and crotch shots in the movie for “male gaze” reasons, and just randomly making shit up, because it’s about two men living and working together. Part AND ROBIN is about them fighting over a woman. There aren’t any scenes of them looking like they are about to kiss each other, no homo erotic double entendres, not even a scene of them hanging out at the beach together.

    Also the whole “Batman & Robin are a gay couple” thing already happened decades before the movie. Started by homophobic assholes, who wanted to ban the comics, because for some reason the sight of two men in tights triggered all kinds of hate buttons.

  35. Yeah, to just piggyback on what Jerome said, The Crow’s (relatively few, let’s be real here) narrative subtleties don’t keep it from also being a movie where an unkillable cartoon of an outsider cool-guy mocks almost every other character in the movie while also tormenting them, and then kills many of them violently, all while being presented as a righteous and occasionally funny hero. The whole thing is painted in broad enough strokes that you can hang a lot of your own personal shit on it and still feel like it isn’t a stretch. In 9th grade, for example, I remember feeling understood by The Crow when an ex I hadn’t gotten over starting dating another guy who I felt intimidated and belittled by. It is a very pure form of ridiculous, mopey bullshit, in other words — the cinematic equivalent of a Cure album. And as such I always considered it harmless. Not to say incel culture is inherently harmful to culture at large (although I think it’s inarguable that it’s harmful to those who participate in it), but I do think there’s other models of processing painful emotions besides The Crow’s approach, and so-called incels might benefit from exposure to some of those.

  36. I was thinking of Blade before I clicked the link.

    Worth noting that just about all the information you need about the hero and protagonists is conveyed in that opening nightclub scene, an introductory scene so good I think almost no film (not just comic book films, I’m talking all films) has ever matched. Maybe Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive 1 may do so but apart from that, I can’t think of anyone else that even comes close.

  37. What about Darkman?

    Who would have ever thought that Temura Morrison would be referenced as anything other than Boba Fett’s dad?

  38. Darkman wasn’t based of existing stuff.

  39. Well, Darkman was inspired by the Shadow, which wasn’t a comic book either, so he’s like three steps removed from being a comic book movie. Get ‘im!

  40. There are different ways to watch The Crow. To me, it does have about as much depth and emotional instability as a Cure song, and that’s what I like about it. The atmosphere takes over, and I don’t think any movie captures that nighttime October-in-the-rain feel as well. When you take its revenge and heroism elements seriously, it’s pretty offensive.

    One thing that is happening lately online, though (and I don’t think anyone here is doing this, it’s more of a twitter phenomenon), is an effort to condemn people and draw conclusions based simply on media they enjoy. Typically, it’s things like Fight Club, Death Grips, David Foster Wallace, because RED FLAG these are the wrong types of people. Well, fuck that. We should at least give people the benefit of the doubt that they can process works independently and that they aren’t all exactly that person you had an argument with in college who also liked that thing.

  41. My bad, I was thinking super hero in general

  42. I think of Temura Morrison as the bad guy from HARD TARGET 2 :)

  43. Daniel – are you talking about me? I’ve heard the “Batman and Robin are gay” thing before but was not aware of anyone saying it was an idyllic relationship. In fact I think that was mostly an attack on comics by homophobes. I just thought it was subversive that Schumacher put a bunch of ass shots and a bat symbol humping itself in a giant expensive toy selling movie and it kind of went over most people’s heads. I am absolutely not holding it up as any kind of ideal of diversity. And I don’t think they’re meant to literally be gay, including in this version where both are adult bros.

  44. George Clooney has claimed in subsequent interviews that he intended to play his version of Batman as gay, actually (to Barbra Walters, no less), but that was years after the fact so who knows if that was really the case at the time or it was just some fun shit to say about a kinda unpopular movie he did a long time ago.

  45. @Sternshein – “You can’t have it both ways to create whatever narrative fits your particular cause.”

    You think that would be the case but ohhhhhh boy, you’d be very wrong.

  46. @Vern – Not you specifically, but I just generally find the joke/subtext/reading/whatever a bit weird, especially in what amounts to a kids’ movie. If we’re going to grill movies on their (unintentional?) subtext, why is this funny or ironic or subversive, and some other movie’s subtext potentially harmful?

    Though Dick Grayson is college age in B&R, he was a teenager in Batman Forever, which is still pretty Woody Allen if you’re doing a gay reading.

  47. But why do a “gay reading” in the first place?

  48. It used to be common for gay men to adopt their partners, as it was one of if not the only way for their relationship to have legal standing in terms of insurance, pensions, hospital visits, etc. Liberace did it with his younger lover, I believe. So while it has unsightly connotations with pedophilia, it’s also a historical fact of gay life during the many decades when gay relationships were in no way considered legitimate. It’s hardly inconceivable that this was on Schumacher’s mind as subtext to the Batman/Robin relationship.

  49. @ CJ- Accusations of gay subtext in Batman stories go all the way back to 1954 and a book called “Seduction of the Innocent”, by a guy named Frederic Wertham. He, among many other things, claimed that Batman and Robin were propaganda trying to influence children to lead “inappropriate” lifestyles. It sounds crazy now, but it was a big big deal at the time- he testified about it before the Senate, and, as a direct result, immediately killed horror and crime comics in America for several decades- stuff like Tales From The Crypt had been hugely popular up until then, but after the Senate hearings, the comics industry decided to self-regulate, establishing something called the “Comics Code Authority”, which laid down guidelines around what was and wasn’t acceptable to publish in the medium of comic books- you can see the seal of the Comics Code Authority approval in the corners of most American comic books published between the mid ’50s and the ’90s. The seal only really went away in 2011, in fact, though it had experienced a big decline in usage since the mid-’90s.

    Anyway, “Seduction of the Innocent” addressed all kinds of stuff, some of it with a certain amount of merit (e.g. accusing Wonder Woman comics of promoting bondage, which was, uh, kind of true), but most of it completely baseless (e.g. the famous accusation that Robin and Batman were in a sexual relationship), and *all* of it predicated on the assumption that merely seeing the suggestion of impropriety would drive children insane. He was for comic books what the Satanic Panic was for D&D or Tipper Gore for rap.

    All that to say, both sincere and ironic “gay” readings of the Batman and Robin relationship are a long-standing element of the franchise.

    Sorry, I get excited when I know history.

  50. The most important question here is IMO: Would we still have the discussion if Robin had appeared in Burton’s and Nolan’s movies or are some people’s gay alerts ringing* and make them jump to conclusions, because of Schumacher’s sexuality?

    *Not accusing anybody here of homophobia or similar assholery.

  51. Kurgan: We had a similar book in Germany about Donald Duck, but that was written in an obviously satirical context, accusing him of being a pervert for not wearing pants in public and the junior woodchucks of being leftovers from the Hitler Youth, because they wear uniforms.

    So yeah, not just because of this I’m always very careful when it comes to seeing things in stories that are most likely not there.

  52. Well, I think all three directors are really playing up very different elements of the Batman mythology in their movies- Burton is the operatic high drama, Nolan is the cool tech-ninja stuff, and Schumacher is, frankly, the super campy stuff. I think “Batman”, as a concept, is incredibly sturdy and supports an infinite number of interpretations- you can play him completely straight (pun not intended), or you can make a joke out of the entire setting, and *the character works either way*. Whether or not any given Batman fan *likes* any particular interpretation is, of course, another question. So, in answer to your question, no, I don’t think the question would arise had Robin been included in Burton and Nolan’s movies, because he would have been used in support of a different interpretation of the mythos (as we in fact see in Dark Knight Rises, when Robin’s purpose is to carry on Batman’s cool gadget-ninja fight).

    Full disclosure- I love Batman in general, I’ve been reading and continue to read Batman comics since I was a kid, and the Batman movie I am *most likely* to put on just to veg out to and enjoy is BATMAN & ROBIN.

  53. I mean, would it be so terrible if a gay director worked some gay themes into his movies? What exactly is wrong with that? I get that most nerds use any homoeroticism in film as an insult, but if the discussion is done respectfully and it’s not just DERP MAN NIPPLES GAAAAAAAAY, why shouldn’t we take a filmmaker’s background into account? For most of Hollywood’s history, up to and including 1997 and beyond, queer themes had to be smuggled into mainstream films by closeted screenwriters and directors (John Wayne’s RED RIVER is my favorite example—no way that macho asshole knew what the movie he was making was actually about). Since Schumacher’s Batman movies are about two handsome men in rubber bondage gear living together with intermittent female company getting in the way of their relationship, they seem like a prime opportunity to subvert some paradigms, and I’d say there’s enough evidence on display in both films to have that reading be more than just immature finger-pointing. And if we believe in the auteur theory, then it is functionally impossible for a director for whom homosexuality is a vital part of who he is as a person to NOT work some gay themes into the film. I fail to see why it seems like such a stretch that this is what happened.

  54. Nah, it just makes me scratch my head that when someone adapts a comic book created in the 1930s, that was turned into different movies and TV shows before and after, people suddenly recontextualize it as: “Oh, maybe they are not just gay, but also in a super unhealthy creep relationship”, as soon as a gay man sits on the director’s chair.

    Not to mention that the overanalysis of any popculture kind rubs me the wrong way for decades. That’s like when a local critic accused LORD OF THE RINGS of being Nazi propaganda, because it’s about “Pretty people who defend their home from ugly subhumans”. And with the dawn of YouTube criticism and clickbait fan theories, that shit got even worse.

    And obviously I don’t know Joel Schumacher personally, but I can imagine he would be pissed if you do a “gay reading” for all of his movies, just because he is gay.

    “Hey, LOST BOYS is about pretty teens who spend their nights together! PHONE BOOTH is about a man getting trapped in something that could be a metapahor for a closet! FLATLINERS is I don’t know, but the director is gay.”

    Subtext is an interesting part of art, but most of the time it’s just bullshit that doesn’t exist.

  55. I mean, I don’t think anyone is advocating that all of Joel Schumacher’s movies are somehow gay propaganda, but I think it’s pretty clear that the Schumacher Batman movies are consciously embracing the purposefully camp style of the ‘60s tv show.

  56. “He was for comic books what the Satanic Panic was for D&D or Tipper Gore for rap.”

    Or Jack Thompson and video games.

  57. CJ, there were gay reading s of the Adam sweat series. It didn’t begin with Schumacher.

  58. Point of order. In SHREK, it is not “All Star” that Smashmouth plays, but rather “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees. Still obnoxious, but less so!

  59. Fred, Adam Sweat is a lot cooler!

  60. And accusations of racism against Tolkien didn’t begin with “one local critic” or that dumb “LORD OF THE RINGS was racist against orcs!” thing, they’re pretty common and they’re pretty old, what with the story being very popular with white supremacists who enjoy the “white people defeating evil, dark-skinned subhumans” aspect.

    But, you know, just because white supremacists love Tolkien doesn’t mean that if you love Tolkien too then you’re a white supremacist, and just because “Batman is gay” was started by homophobes doesn’t mean that if you see gay subtext in Batman then you’re a homophobe.

    It’s ok to appreciate things on the surface level and I don’t think anybody here is gonna accuse anybody else of being racist if fthey enjoy LOTR, but all the dismissive “stop looking for subtext in things I like!” talk is a bit weird on a site like Vern’s.

  61. I expected Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki to be number one! Why wasn’t it ranked?

  62. Just to clarify, I’m not the same Daniel that started the BATMAN & ROBIN thing, but I want to comment on it.

    If they dig up some Bryan Singer type of shit on Schumacher, then we will probably all look at LOST BOYS and BATMAN & ROBIN, and slap our foreheads, and say to ourselves: Duh, obviously. But right now it seems paranoid to go looking for some creepy pedophile stuff in the gay subtext of Schumacher’s work. I mean it all seems pretty innocent and Robin is really far removed from anything convincingly resembling a teenager in both of those movies. Also, problematic, but in a kinda fun way, gay subtext is really comman in genre cinema. FRIGHT NIGHT definitely has some, for instance, and I think it can be both read in a gay panicy/homophobic way and a inappropriate relationship/creepy way. Another thing worth noting is that a critical darling like CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is probably way more questionable in its depiction of a gay relationship than a so-bad-it’s-maybe-kinda-good-or-at-least-fun BATMAN & ROBIN.

  63. Yeah, I didn’t know there was another Daniel when I picked the name. Oops.

    I don’t think anyone is saying not to look for subtext. The debate, to me at any rate, is “is there gay subtext in these movies and is it intentional?” and “if there is, is it harmless, laudable, or creepy?”

  64. Holdencarver – I decided to do only English language movies so I could keep it to a number I could see and write about before the deadline. There are a ton of manga adaptations from all over the world that I would’ve had to track down.

  65. grimgrinningchris

    March 11th, 2019 at 3:17 pm


    Actually SHREK uses both songs. Twice the Smashmouth. Ugh.

  66. Ah. Good grief!

  67. I’ve seen neither Tank Girl nor Sucker Punch, though I’ve heard a lot about each and think maybe a Rachel Talalay directed Sucker Punch would be an interesting thing to speculate about. Or maybe just the prospect of a female helmed Sucker Punch in general. Anyone with thoughts?

  68. Tank Girl certainly has potential. Besides a great cast (Lori Petty, Naomi Watts) there’re things to appreciate here.

    Stay away from Sucker Punch though.

  69. I too forgot there was a Prince Valiant movie.

    I looked it up on IMDB and saw some interesting people in the cast. Any chance of a review for that one soon?

  70. I tried to watch PRINCE VALIANT on a VHS I found in a charity/thrift shop last year (I believe DVD releases are hard to find and possibly not in English). Could have been a poor copy but in general it didn’t seem very good, and in theory it was quite up my alley.

  71. CJ, I wanna apologize if that seemed condescending. I’d had a few beers, if that helps. I’ve been reading Vern since the AICN days and I’ve read almost all the reviews and comments on this site at work and I love the same kind of movies that all of you do. I didn’t mean to offend you and I hope my commenting doesn’t turn anyone off this website.

  72. Nah, don’t worry, I actually wanted to apologize if I came across like I would somehow attacking you, but I was in bed with a bad cold in the last few days and internet comments weren’t really high on my priority list and then I forgot about it. I don’t think you came across as condescending or anything, I just think that subtext is often a slippery slope that leads to people seeing things that aren’t there.

    So in spirit of this websight: Let’s have a beer and fight this Kumite as friends.

  73. Sounds like a plan! I’m just new to commenting here and didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot, that’s all. Hope you’re feeling better!

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