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Commentary: Top 10 superhero, comic book films

The Lantern will have daily coverage this week of “The Avengers,” which is scheduled to hit theaters Friday.

“The Avengers” is slated for release Friday, and based on its early reviews, there’s a real possibility it could go down as one of the best superhero films of all-time. Until we can decide for ourselves, here are The Lantern‘s 10 best superhero and comic book films.

10. “V For Vendetta”

Had it not chopped core elements from the graphic novel on which it’s based, “V For Vendetta” could have been much higher on this list. As it stands, “V For Vendetta” still managed to help Guy Fawkes become a cultural staple, despite the film’s flaws.

9. “Batman”

It might be easy for you younger folks to overlook any Batman films made prior to “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” but Tim Burton’s 1989 film was, until “Batman Begins,” the franchise’s best, led by Jack Nicholson’s Joker and Burton’s visually striking take on Gotham City.

8. “Captain America: The First Avenger”

I struggle to find many Marvel properties particularly worthwhile – Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men just don’t do it for me – but “Captain America: The First Avenger” is so schlocky and pulpy that I couldn’t help but find it a nice change-up from the more gritty superhero films, even if Chris Evans, who plays Cap, is largely a bore.

7. “The Rocketeer”

Lost in this current superhero zeitgeist is “The Rocketeer,” a fun, adventurous early-’90s Disney adaptation about a guy (Billy Campbell) who stumbles across a highly coveted jet pack. “The Rocketeer” feels equal parts Indiana Jones and equal parts serial pulp, so it should come as no surprise the same guy, Joe Johnston, directed “Captain America: The First Avenger” 20 years later.

6. “Hellboy”

“Hellboy” has Guillermo del Toro’s fingerprints all over it, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, as this stylish, fantastical 2004 flick, led by Ron Perlman’s splendid performance, is a welcome breath of fresh air compared to the derivative, action-packed superhero fare of the last decade.

5. “Superman”

Long ago, in the year 1978, one of the best casts ever assembled in a superhero flick came together on “Superman,” starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, Gene Hackman as super-villain Lex Luthor, Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Ned Beatty as Luthor’s henchman, Otis. “Superman” never took itself too seriously and is one of the most outright enjoyable comic book films to grace the screen.

4. “The Dark Knight”

Regarded by many as the pinnacle of superhero films, Christopher Nolan’s second Bat-flick has become a cultural icon, chiefly because of the late Heath Ledger’s Joker. I adore “The Dark Knight,” but minor quibbles – a Gotham City that looks nothing like Gotham City and plot holes the size of Wayne Manor, for example – keep it from the top of my list.

3. “The Incredibles”

Probably not the first thing you think of when you think of superhero films, but “The Incredibles,” while not even one of Pixar’s best, has so much going for it, including a wonderfully fun script with enough charm to make this tale about a family of superheroes a classic film accessible to all audiences.

2. “Watchmen”

Few films in the last decade have been as divisive as “Watchmen.” You either love it or hate it. I’m in the former camp. As a fan of the graphic novel, director Zack Snyder’s workman-like faith to the source material makes “Watchmen,” an unconventional “superhero” tale, a worthwhile watch, even if it’s a long one, clocking in at almost three hours.

1. “Batman Begins”

It’s hard to pinpoint a more important comic book film in the last decade than “Batman Begins.” Not only did it start the whole gritty reboot trend, it also brought Batman back from cinematic death after Joel Schumacher’s disastrous “Batman & Robin” in 1997. Origin stories don’t get much better and more faithful than this, as “Batman Begins” served as the catalyst for Nolan’s highly successful Bat-trilogy.

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