Comic-Con International began on Wednesday in San Diego, and ... who am I kidding? I don’t care what’s going there other than I want to know who the next big superhero is.
Because we need another one.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” which opens Friday, is Christian Bale’s third and last movie as Batman. According to the Los Angeles Times, Warner Bros. “will need a new hero to invigorate its DC Comics brand on the big screen, now that director Christopher Nolan’s successful Batman trilogy is coming to an end” with the movie. Blah, blah, blah.
I’m what most of the more than 120,000 Comic-Con attendees detest: the casual superhero fan. In other words, I only care about those who save the world during the height of blockbuster movie season. I see a lot of movies, just not many with budgets that rival the size of LeBron James’ contract.
Summertime changes my viewing habits.
When Ang Lee’s “The Hulk” was released in June 2003, I wrote that I didn’t want to see a computer-generated Hulk that was as tall as two-story buildings. I prefer a Lou Ferrigno kind of Hulk. Of course, during the beating I took from fan boys, I learned that the Hulk’s size varies depending on his anger. Blah, blah, blah. I’d still take the TV show over the three films that have featured the Hulk in the last decade.
The following is a list of superheroes that I have followed into the theaters, not always in the summer. Some I don’t want to let go of, like Bale’s pensive Batman. Some make me cringe to remember, like Clooney’s aloof Batman. I’ll miss Batman until he returns.
I hear “Man of Steel” is getting buzz at Comic-Con. I can’t wait for next summer to get here.
“Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992)
Michael Keaton, then known for comedic roles in “Beetlejuice,” “Night Shift” and “Mr. Mom,” was a surprising choice for Batman as interpreted through Tim Burton’s blackened lens. Keaton played it straight while Jack Nicholson, as the Joker, played it loose. The sequel introduced Catwoman and The Penguin. Can you recall who played those roles?
“Batman Forever” (1995)
Val Kilmer’s attempt was admirable, but we prefer him masked — well, as a master of disguise — as he was in “The Saint.”
“Batman & Robin” (1997)
There should have been a shark in this movie starring George Clooney as Batman and Chris O’Donnell as Robin. (Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze had some of the best worst one-liners in the history of cinema. The accent was just right, though.) And what was with all the skin and cleavage? Batman seduces inquisitive reporters or lawyers, not audiences.
“Batman Begins” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2008)
Nolan’s reboot, starring Bale, is like a Rick Owens collection: the silhouette is slim, reveal a sleek and dark design and look. It pays to look good on camera. It also helped the franchise to pay a brooding character actor notorious for not being fun to work with. Fun to watch, though.
“Spider-Man” (2002), “Spider-Man 2” (2004) and “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
Tobey Maguire flew out of nowhere — and stuck. The transition from Peter Parker to Spider-Man was a fantasy we could root for.
“The Amazing Spider-Man”
While Maguire’s Spidey was aging, this movie dips into the fountain of youth by returning him to high school. Peter is like Peter Pan because he never wants to grow up. We want him to stay young forever. Quick, who is the new Spider-Man? (It’s Andrew Garfield. I had to use Google, too.)
“Superman” (1978), “Superman II” (1982), “Superman III” (1983) and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”
Christopher Reeve is a prime example of an iconic superhero — and why three films is enough before a cast switch. (In “III,” the comic relief of Pryor in the face of danger, we’re convinced, led to the “Rush Hour” franchise.) The “Superman” franchise did give cinema Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, a wonderfully haughty villain.
“Superman Returns” (2006)
The Man of Steel returned to theaters, but the returns weren’t enough to have Brandon Routh return as the Man of Steel.
“Man of Steel” (2013)
Can Henry Cavill take on the super role? Who is Henry Cavill? That might be a good thing.
The superheroes Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Loki, Black Widow and Hawkeye combined their box office powers to produce a record-shattering $207.4 million opening weekend. Is it time for the Justice League of America to come out and save the day? Better yet, what if The Avengers and the Justice League clashed? Hey, there’s going to be a playoff in major college football so it could happen.
Ben Affleck’s superhero turn as a blinded martial arts master was released the same year as the career-stunting “Gigli.” (Jennifer Lopez took a beating for it, too.) At least he and Jennifer Garner, who starred as Elektra (she got her own film in 2005!) in “Daredevil,” learned they could work together. They married in 2005.
“Iron Man” (2008, 2010)
Robert Downey Jr. has the perfect mix of charm and snark to act as Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist who has a side job as a superhero. The role has been especially successful because Downey, considered a comedic actor, didn’t project as a superhero until he took the role. The third installment of the franchise is due next year.
Which superhero role was Chris Evans better suited for? He’s known as Captain America now (the second is due in 2014), but in 2005 and 2007 he played the Human Torch Johnny Storm in two “Fantastic Four” movies. Is anyone else confused?
“X-Men” (2000), “X2” (2003), “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) and “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
Five movies in eight years. Obviously mutants are likeable.
Ryan Reynolds gets an alien ring that grants him out-of-this world powers. Yawn. Blake Lively couldn’t liven up this franchise.
“The Green Hornet”
Sometimes the unlikely actor chosen for the superhero never gets off the ground. The Green Hornet can’t fly — and Seth Rogen as a masked crime fighter didn’t fly either.
“Ghost Rider” (2007)
Nicolas Cage acts as Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle stuntman who makes a deal with the devil. He becomes the demon-possessed Ghost Rider with a flaming head. I believe in the rapper Method Man’s alter ego Johnny Blaze and his ghost writing skills. I don’t believe in this franchise. Still, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” was released in February.
“The Hulk” (2003)
Remember Eric Bana, like Routh, was once the next big thing? Did the Hulk crush Bana? Probably not, because he was honorable in 2004’s “Troy.” Still, when “The Incredible Hulk” wreaked box office havoc in 2008, Edward Norton played David Banner. Mark Ruffalo had the role in “The Avenger,” so maybe who plays the role isn’t that important.
“Judge Dredd” (1995)
Sylvester Stallone, as Dredd, the ultimate law enforcement officer, was a very wooden comic superhero. The more limber Karl Urban will be Dredd in the reboot. Hope he’s not dreading the opening, slated for later this year.