Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Superhero Movie Through the Ages: A Video Journey

Since today is my birthday, rather than doing a full fledged entry I thought I would present a video journey of superheroes on the big screen, from the Golden Age to the present. As usual, the vids are courtesy YouTube.

First up is the trailer for The Adventures of Captain Marvel, the 1941, twelve chapter serial produced by Republic Pictures and based on the popular superhero from Fawcett Publications. I am not absolutely certain, but it may well have been the first time a superhero appeared in a live action film (Superman beat Captain Marvel to the big screen in the classic Fleischer cartoons by about a year). Sadly, Superman could have been the first, but negotiations broke down between National Comics and Republic Pictures. Republic then went to Superman's archrival, Captain Marvel...




From the Golden Age we go to the Silver Age. This was the age of camp and the era of the enormously successful Batman TV series, which debuted in 1966. The following scene is not from the TV show, but rather from the 1966 feature film. The movie was originally going to be released in theatres in the summer of 1966 to launch the TV show which would debut in the fall, but then the American Broadcasting Company decided to debut the new series that January. The movie then premiered between the first and second seasons of the show.

Those few of you unfamiliar with the show will notice that it is largely played for comedy. As I stated earlier, this was the era of camp, which is essentially the appreciation of that which can be considered outrageous, kitschy, or corny. The Batman TV series was an attempt to create camp for the Sixties television audience.



By the late Seventies superheroes were being taken a little more seriously, allowing for the existence of the first two Superman movies. I have always thought the second Superman movie was superior to the first. Indeed, even after nearly thirty years and many superhero movies since, I still think the battle between Superman and General Zod's gang ranks as one of the greatest superhero fight scenes on screen. Sadly, I couldn't find the fight scene itself online, but I did find its opening (with the best line of any Superman movie).



By 1989 Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns had been published. Superheroes were being taken a lot more seriously than they had been. As a result, in the 1989 movie Batman, the Caped Crusader was not played for camp. Indeed, this is the first movie in which we get a rather darker look of the superhero than we had before, if not as dark as that of The Dark Knight or, well, Watchmen. Here is the trailer.



Finally, we have a trailer to Watchmen. Watchmen is not only darker than the 1989 Batman, but even The Dark Knight. It is rated R for violence and sex, and features heroes who make Batman look downright sane. Indeed, I think even Heath Ledger's Joker would be scared of Rorschach....

4 comments:

J. Marquis said...

Happy birthday, Merc! I hope you have a good one. It's been nice getting to know you.

Raquelle said...

Happy Birthday!

Jeremy Barker said...

A nice roundup, Terry - and nice to see so much colour around here! I had a debate on Twitter the other day about this very topic. We concluded that superhero movies had to have this evolution to be able to arrive at the Watchmen. It never could have made it to the screen back when it was published and certainly not in the current form.

Mercurie said...

Thanks to J. and Raquelle for the birthday wishes!

I definitely agree, Jeremy. I think the evolution was absolutely necessary if we were to get from The Adventures of Captain Marvel to Watchmen. Indeed, it's taken my whole lifetime. I was only three when the Batman TV show debuted and now, well, I am a whole lot older than three!