With the giant stream of recent superhero films, I wanted to take a look at some lesser known and older superhero films that you may not have seen yet…
Michael Rapaport plays Les Franken, a comic book enthusiast who decides to try a new experimental anti-depressant. At first the pills don’t seem to be doing anything, but soon after, Les feels that he now has super powers. After discovering his new abilities, Les decides to quit his job in order to become a crime-fighter. Special is a big departure from the typical superhero movie and that’s why I recommend it. It’s much more of a psychological film in the vein of Black Swan or the recent Side Effects. Michael Rapport does a terrific job portraying a character that straddles the line between sane and insane and the film benefits from his depiction.
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A mentally ill man (Woody Harrelson) is a wanna-be superhero that calls himself “Defendor”. He believes that he has to protect the city from his archenemy which is a corrupt cop (Elias Koteas) that he calls “Captain Industry”. Defendor uses unorthodox weapons such as marbles, a slingshot, and a glass bottle full of bees in order to try to protect the city from the evils that corrupt it. This film is a dark comedy in every sense and doesn’t shy away from hitting on topics such as mental disorders, police corruption, as well as prostitution. Defendor might be somewhat of a hard film to find, but I must say that if you have the ability to see it, you won’t be disappointed.
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The Shadow (1994)
Stemming from the 1930’s radio show and then translated into print, The Shadow character has been seen in several different mediums throughout its history. The 1994 film adaptation starring Alec Baldwin as “Lamont Cranston/The Shadow” is the most recent version as of now. The film is about a 1930’s gun-toting superhero that must try to stop his adversary known as Shiwan Kwan (a descendant of Genghis Khan) from detonating an atomic bomb. The Shadow has the power of hypnosis and can persuade people’s thoughts so that they do what he wants or even so they don’t see him at all. Even though the film had a big release, it came out nearly 20 years ago so I thought that a lot of this generation of movie-goers may not have seen it yet.
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Super is an independent film from the mind of James Gunn (Slither, Movie 43) that stars Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Live Tyler, and Kevin Bacon. Frank Darrbo is an everyday guy that works as a cook. His beautiful wife Sarah decides to leave him for Jacques who is a charming strip club owner. Frank is infuriated about what has happened and decides to take down Jacques in order to try and get his wife back. He goes about doing so by donning a handmade superhero costume and fighting crime with his comic book clerk friend Libby. The film is crass, bloody, and hilarious but with a great redeeming quality in the end. If you are looking for something in the vein of Kick-Ass, this would be the film.
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Mystery Men (1999)
A satirical look on the superhero genre but an unfortunate flop at the box office was Mystery Men. After the savior superhero of the city goes missing, a group of wanna-be superheroes must stop a supervillian named Casanova Frankenstein from destroying their city. An all-star cast rounds out the film including Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, and Geoffrey Rush. There are incredibly memorable scenes throughout that reference the comic book genre phenomenally. One such scene has two characters talking about the city’s main superhero not also being a well-known billionaire because one of them wears glasses and the other doesn’t. This is a great family friendly superhero film that comic book enthusiasts should enjoy immensely.
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