Five Superhero Movies We Somehow Still Haven’t Seen

The indecision that has plagued the superhero film world has particularly affected the silver screen fortunes of five extremely popular superheroes.

Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.

This week…

Five Superhero Movies We Somehow Still Haven’t Seen Yet

Many people will bemoan the glut of superhero film adaptations in the last decade or so but I would argue that we haven’t had enough. Actually, that’s not true. I just mean we haven’t had enough of the RIGHT superhero movies (to say nothing of “we haven’t had enough of the GOOD superhero movies”). I mean, if we’re going to do this thing, let’s go full throttle and get it all done at least once in some fashion, yeah?

Chalk it up to constant shake-ups in studio hierarchy, creative differences, the Writers’ Strike, and the delicate practice of acquiring film rights to certain characters but look at it this way: we’ve gotten as many Elektra films since 1987 as we have Superman films (one). …huh? Who’s making these decisions (or, more importantly, hesitating to make any decisions)?

I understand there’s a lot that goes into all of these projects but as a comic fan, I would rather see some decisiveness, above all; just commit to an idea. I would rather have a lackluster superhero film that comes out after three years of development than having to wait through eons of development hell with a revolving door of writers, actors, and directors that ultimately gives us… a lackluster superhero film. At least with the former, we just to get it out of the way so that we can move on to an improved portrayal of a beloved hero with lessons learned (and if the recent news of a Spider-man reboot coming is any indication, there are absolutely no studio qualms about trying to quickly atone for a superhero misstep). Does this make sense to anyone else?

Anyway, the indecision that has plagued the superhero film world has particularly affected five extremely popular superheroes for whom audiences have been clamoring for years and years.

5. The Flash

Though I’ve always loved the classic, simple, romantic comic book nature of The Flash (I have a nearly-60-year-old issue of his comic book, if that’s demonstrative enough of my interest), I sort of understand the delay in bringing the Scarlet Speedster to the big screen.

Of all the characters on the list (and really, of all the Golden Age superheroes still prominent in the comic world), his story and persona lacks a real “this would make a great movie” quality. Let’s briefly examine the two most famous incarnations of The Flash:

  • In the case of Barry Allen, a freak accident involving a lightning bolt and chemicals turns a slow scientist into the fastest man alive.
  • As for Allen’s nephew Wally West, he encounters the exact same freak accident, becomes “Kid Flash,” and eventually takes on the full-time role of The Flash when Allen dies.

So, just in terms of the origin stories and allegorical nature of the mythology, The Flash pales in comparison to guys like the X-Men or Iron Man – chemicals fell on a dude and now he’s fast all the time. All right, what else do you have for me? It’s like The Hulk without the inner struggle with anger, or the Fantastic Four except without the endless themes of family and public profile and an awesome villain.

To that villain point: the average person has definitely never heard of any of the supporting characters (including all the villains) from the Flash franchise. The most memorable stuff involving The Flash tends to be when he challenges Superman to a footrace.

That being said, I’m still surprised we haven’t gotten a Flash movie. At the least, the character is recognizable and has an iconic costume (which is more than could have been said for characters in a property like Ghost Rider or Blade). Plus, all it takes is one writer/director to re-imagine (or “increase the coolness quotient of”) the character’s origin and motivations in an entertaining way. If you toyed with Batman’s history, people would lose their minds but if you tinkered with The Flash? I don’t know, if the movie was good, I don’t think that many people would mind. I’m just surprised they haven’t put a movie together after a Flash television show lasted a full season in the early 90s.

The project has been batted around Hollywood going as far back as 2004 with names like Ryan Reynolds and Adam Brody attached to star, at different junctures. Recent news has linked director Greg Berlanti (who was previously signed to direct the Green Lantern movie which he helped to write and produce) to the movie but whether this puts us any closer to a green light for the man in red is anybody’s guess.

4. Green Lantern

The closest we came to the realization of this character on the silver screen is this awesome fan-made trailer from last year, which featured Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan, which largely made up for the lack of a feature-length adventure.

Because Warner Brothers has confirmed that Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale) will direct Ryan Reynolds, Peter Sarsgaard, Blake Lively, and Tim Robbins in a Green Lantern movie due out in 2011, I won’t spend a lot of time belaboring this point. I just want to know how, with all the box office money rolling in for superhero, science-fiction, and fantasy/magic properties in the last decade, a Green Lantern tale (a universe that combines all of those elements) wasn’t fast-tracked YEARS ago.

3. Wonder Woman

While I’ll be the first to admit I know very little of Wonder Woman’s mythos and have not seen much of the beloved Linda Carter television series from the late 1970s, if we all looked at this character’s blockbuster potential purely from a business standpoint, we would all agree that DC and Warner Brothers have really dropped the ball on this one, yes?

First of all, Wonder Woman is easily the most famous female superhero in history and with this character, the creative forces behind the movie could instantly corner the market on appealing to half of the interested-in-superheroes public. Spider-man 2 and Hellboy may have been great films but what, in either of those movies, speaks to the girls (of all ages) in the audience? Mary Jane Watson’s constant screaming while in distress? Liz Sherman checking herself into a mental hospital while being stalked by a demon who’s in love with her? Though Wonder Woman is superpowered and Amazonian, the female audience can at least relate to her more than any man in tights.

Secondly, let’s say you cast a moderately famous actress to play the lead. And yes, I said “moderately famous”. It doesn’t have to be Angelina Jolie – what about Jessica Biel or something? You don’t think casting the right name would draw in the “I don’t read comic books” crowd just as well as those who know every bit of continuity about she who wields the Lasso of Truth?

On top of all that, consider this: in 2005, Warner Brothers had Joss Whedon (he of Buffy, Firefly/Serenity, and having-a-massive-and-rabid-following fame) lined up to write and direct a Wonder Woman live-action feature film. Two years later, Whedon and the studio parted ways after they couldn’t agree on a script. Whether Whedon’s vision for Wonder Woman would’ve turned out well or not is obviously something we don’t know but to have The Name Amongst Names (as far as a great many comic book/sci-fi fans are concerned) firmly attached to a potentially massive film franchise and let that get away? Warner Brothers… explain yourself.

The last word on a Wonder Woman flick came well over a year ago when Beyonce Knowles expressed interest in taking on the lead role while rumors of McG helming as director surfacedy’know, maybe we should hold off on it, after all.

2. Silver Surfer

We were given a taste of the most famous Herald of Galactus in the second Fantastic Four picture back in 2007 but even with the guy’s name being in the title, the end result was only about 35 minutes of active Norrin Radd screen time with the other hour regrettably filled with material that rivaled the worst parts of the original Roger Corman Fantastic Four effort for the “I would rather be watching anything else” crown.

Regardless, if you’re at all familiar with the long history of attempts to get a Silver Surfer movie off the ground, you already know why this is at #2 on the list. Long story short: it’s been about 20 years since interest in adapting the character to film began (the effective computer-generated T-1000 from 1991’s Terminator 2 was a pretty big visual inspiration for any Surfer adaptation, as you’d guess) and in that time, names like Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, Andrew Kevin Walker, Baz Luhrmann, and J. Michael Straczynski have all been linked to the project(s), only to see all plans ultimately fall through. I don’t know how two decades and repeated big name interest yielded only a half-hour of memorable Silver Surfer live-action but that’s exactly what happened, here.

The most recent Surfer film-related news came in September 2009 when a Variety article very vaguely and non-specifically noted that 20th Century Fox (who still holds the character’s movie rights) was “working on” the film while in the process of rebooting the film franchises of both Daredevil and Fantastic Four. We probably shouldn’t hold our cosmic breath.

1. Captain America

(For the record: yes, I know that there was a very bad Captain America film made in 1990 that history has almost completely forgotten. Like Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher and David Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury – Agent of Shield, we are just going to pretend it never happened.)

Without question, Captain America has been and will be one of the most famous superheroes of all-time, whether we’re talking Marvel or DC. His popularity dates back to World War II (where he famously floated an absolute haymaker that caught Hitler square), his costume is legendary, his motivations always very clear, and his origin story translates even if the United States is no longer locked in combat with the Third Reich.

Whether the story was a period piece or updated for the modern age, how did we not finally get the big screen adventures of Steve Rogers after the swell of American patriotism at the beginning of the 21st century (work on producing a Cap movie began in 1997)? At that time, we so badly wanted to associate a masked defender of justice with the red, white, and blue that Spider-man assumed the responsibility almost by default.

How, exactly, do you whiff on that opportunity? What else needed to happen? Well, lawsuits, apparently (court disputes over the character rights halted production). Way to go, America. That’s how you really thank The Captain.

Ultimately, it looks like we will be getting a Marvel Studios-produced, Joe Johnston-directed Captain America movie in 2011 (news recently broke with a short list of who may be the one to join the Super Soldier program). Great. Just in time for all of us to be completely cynical about patriotism again.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

  • http://primermagazine.com Andrew

    Of all of these I like Captain America and Flash the most. Part of me thinks a CA franchise wouldn’t do well overseas, which may be why the studios have held off on it. For Flash, the lack of a cool origin story could have it’s benefits: they can skip right to the action instead of taking 45-90 minutes to set up the character a la Spider-man and Batman Begins.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Five Superhero Movies We Somehow Still Haven’t Seen =-.

  • http://www.silversurferfilm.com Darren Albert

    Of all of those Silver Surfer is the hardest ‘in development’ film to get info on, and Wonder Woman is a close second. All are in development, so that’s the consolation at least.
    .-= Darren Albert´s last blog ..Marvel Lodges Lawsuit to Counter Lawsuit Lodged by Jack Kirby’s Estate =-.

  • Cody

    Not Anymore!