The decent, mostly positive tier (continued)
39. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer, Batman Forever, 1995)
As I said with Robinís entry, I have a strong overall dislike for this film, but thatís mostly because of the villains, the incredibly idiotic plot (brain waves being sucked out from the TVÖsure, buddy), the ridiculous sets, lame attempts at comedy, and so on. Kilmerís portrayal of Batman itself for the most part wasnít really the problem, and for the most part Iím trying to look at the characters on their own accord individually. I think Kilmer did a okay job, acting wise, even if itís a bit wooden at times.
In any case, hereís my reasoning for why this character is overall in the ďpositiveĒ category despite being in a movie I otherwise hate. One of the biggest problems with Batman films is that itís hard to think of ways to make the story about Batman, or give him character development.
Really, thereís only three storylines that are really on tap that are used as ways to grow Batman as a character. The first is obviously his origin story, as Bruce Wayne grows and learns to become Batman (which was interestingly enough actually Schumacherís original pitch, a movie based on Year One). The second is the storyline where he meets Dick Grayson and brings him into the fold, learning to work as a team after working alone previously. The third storyline on tap is giving him a struggle where he contemplates if itís all worth it and considers hanging up the cape.
As the movie had Robin in it, the movie obviously incorporated the second storyline. However, it wasnít quite as fleshed out as one might think, and doesnít drive too much of the conflict Ė he doesnít really put up too much resistance to Dick wanting to become Robin and join him, and doesnít ruminate all that much on the differences between working alone and now working as part of a team. Their chemistry was alright and I thought the story worked okay, but it wasnít the central internal struggle of Batman in the film.
Interestingly enough, despite the inclusion of Robin, itís actually the third storyline I mentioned that drives Batmanís character development in this film. Partially inspired by the fact that he sees Dick as being in the same position he was, Batman contemplates his reason for being a superhero. He wonders about why heís really doing this, and if itís just out of some sort of sense of achieving revenge on crime in general because of his parentís death, or if heís doing it more altruistically because he has the ability to save people and fight crime and uses them for the
In the end, he comes to realization that heís mostly come to peace with his parentís death and heís doing it mostly because of the latter. This results in him saying ďIím both Bruce Wayne, and Batman. Not because I have to be, but because I choose to be.Ē
I appreciate that they did that, I really do. It wasnít pulled off incredibly well or anything, thereís a subplot about a red book that is introduced and then dropped without further mention (as the scene resolving that issue was cut from the film since it involved him interacting with a giant bat in a scene with horrible special effects) but I appreciate the fact that in theory they actually tried to give Batman some character development and a storyline, something the previous films didnít really do. So, Iíll give the character a deal of credit for that.
That being said, this is still a terrible movie. I canít give a character too much credit if the end of the movie involves that character stopping Ace Venturaís plot to suck peopleís brainwaves through TVs. Even though I admire that they gave Batman a personal plot and conflict during the times heís on screen, heís obviously not onscreen as much as he should be thanks to giving way too much time to the idiotic villains.
Batman himself as a character is brought down by having a ton of cheesy lines (his first line in the movie, as you may remember from every McDonalds commercial in 1995, was ďIíll get drive through.Ē) A lot of his interaction with Nicole Kidman is ridiculous and mostly based around cringe-worthy sexual innuendo. (Her being a therapist is a lot of what causes him to open up about his feelings to some degree so Iíll give the relationship credit for that, but when it also consists of lines like ďItís the car, right? Chicks dig the car.Ē)
Despite all that, I did like that they actually tried to do give him a plot and conflict and it worked okay, so when considering the character in and of himself I can put him in the overall positive category.
38. The Punisher/Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson, Punisher: War Zone, 2008)
In order to talk about this character, Iím going to have to describe what the movie is. This movie is literally nothing but non-stop, over the top, ridiculous violence to an insane degree. It really never stops with the constant gore and death. The Punisherís confirmed kill count in the movie (not counting people who have even a slight chance of surviving and only being maimed) is 81. 81 for the character alone, not the movie itself which is also filled with other characters killing people constantly.
Itís not even an origin story Ė even though it doesnít keep continuity with either of the previous two Punisher films, Stevenson starts out as already being the Punisher, and the killing starts right from the get go. There is a brutal decapitation in the first few minutes of the film. People are dismembered by grenade launchers. Kidneys are yanked from peopleís bodies. Faces are blown off in graphic detail. Elderly, innocent old women get their heads blown off. It is a bloodfest, and more or less violence porn. It is, by far, the most brutal, violent and gruesome movie included in this entire list. The last line of the film is ďOh god, Iíve got brains splattered all over me.Ē
A lot of people absolutely hate this film. Thomas Jane left the franchise when he read the script. However, it has become a bit of a cult movie, who appreciate the fact that it knows exactly what it wants to be, takes it to extremes, and causes you to stop and say ďI canít believe what Iím seeing right now.Ē
A little back story: when Lexi Alexander was signed on to direct this film, she had little knowledge of the Punisher and sought out to obtain as much information as possible. She ordered box loads of Punisher
comic books to read, and the first comic she picked up depicted a character having his testicles ripped off and fed to him in graphic detail. Thus, she decided to go with that for the tone for the movie.
Personally, I was never a huge fan of the Punisher in the comics. I understood the appeal, but considered him a bit of a one-note character. I knew that at a few points that he was given titles that were able to work around the Comics Code and get away with more violence, but when I saw this movie I had absolutely no idea that there was a period of time where the Punisher comic was allowed to get away with such incredibly gruesome detail like showing a person getting their testicles fed to them, so I was pretty shocked by this film.
Another note of backstory: When Alexander first met with the studio executives to discuss the potential of her directing the film, it was only a few days after the Virginia Tech shooting spree that claimed the lives of 32 people. To all of their horror, it was discovered that the Virginia Tech killer, Seung-Hui Cho, had a poster of the Punisher in his dorm room and was inspired by the character.
Largely due to that fact, Alexander decided that all of the violence in this movie would be absolutely off-the wall absurd and ridiculous. She set out to make the violence so ridiculous, implausible, and absurd that psychos like Cho couldnít even come close to recreating it in real life in their wildest dreams.
In that sense, she succeeded.
Like I said, this movie is absolutely off the wall and ridiculously violent in the most absurd of ways. When I first saw this movie in theaters, I wasnít entirely aware of all of the Punisherís history so I had a mostly negative opinion of it as I thought that it was mostly ridiculous violence porn that went way beyond the parameters of the Punisher character itself. I knew it was trying to be ridiculous over-the-top schlock, but I didnít think much of it.
A lot of that, however, was largely because I was completely unaware at the time that at a few points the Punisher comics were given the liberty of being just as ridiculously violent and brutal. I knew about the character and his history in the comics and various cartoons, but didnít realize that at a few points, despite being a part of the Marvel superhero universe, he was given the liberty of appearing in comics that were so absurdly graphic that it was allowed to show a man having his testicles ripped out and fed to him in graphic detail.
With that said, hereís another important thing to know about the film: according to Alexander, every single action, gore and violence sequence except for one is lifted directly (shot for shot in many cases) from the comics. I canít verify this, but Alexander states that the scene where Punisher shoots the parkour guy with a heat seeking missile is the only original concept she came up with, and all the others are taken directly from the comics. Over the top gore and violence isnít my cup of tea, but I absolutely have to respect that meticulous effort.
So, while I did find this movie a bit over the top and a little ridiculous and it wasnít my cup of tea, I can respect what it was going for, and I understand why the film deserves to have picked up a cult following.
That being said, this is a ranking of characters, not movies. And as a character, The Punisher in this movie mostly exists as a mindless killing machine. We do get some back story as to his wife and children being killed and his motivation, but itís mostly glossed over. For the most part, he goes into rooms, kills lots of people in gruesome ways, and then moves on to the next room to kill other people in gruesome ways. He has very little emotion or character development besides a half-hearted "contemplating hanging it up" storyÖand hell, I donít even think he even has that much dialogue in general. Jigsaw probably has more dialogue than him. The Punisher just goes in and does his thing, and doesnít even open his mouth for long periods of time. Which, for the purposes of an all out gorefest, I understand is what they were going for and they wouldnít change anything. But from the purposes of a character, even if I understand the reasoning, I canít rank the character when taken on his own any higher.
On a final note, knowing about the movie and its history, it is absolutely hilarious that Stevenson later went on to reprise the role of the Punisher one other timeÖ.as the voice in a G-rated Marvel superhero Saturday Morning cartoon show.
37. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen, Iron Man 2, 2010; The Avengers, 2012)
In case you couldnít tell from my Invisible Woman entry, Iím not exactly a huge fan of female characters who exist solely to be sex appeal.
Black Widow, for the most part clearly fits that role Ė in every bit of Avengers promotional material, the other five heroes are in some sort of heroic or epic pose, while Widow is, invariably, posed in some sort of position that shows off her ass.
If this character only appeared in Iron Man 2, she would be much lower on the list. In that movie, she had no character or development whatsoever, and was pretty much just blatant sex appeal with a Mary Sue complex. She comes in, does her job effortlessly, and shows all the other characters how awesome she is at everything. Ho-hum.
In the Avengers, however, the character is given more depth. Likewise, if she only appeared in the Avengers and not Iron Man 2, she would be higher on the list. She displays some self-doubt and complexity, and is certainly given justice in the movie. To be sure, Johansenís sex appeal is put on display in a very blatant manner, both in the film and in all promotional material, but at least she has a character that works quite well in the movie. Despite not having powers she more than holds her own in the battles. I liked that they gave her a bit of wit, tricking the mob guy in the beginning into revealing his plan and information and then pulled a similar trick with Loki later to get him to reveal his plan. So for that, she works well and is a good character in a great film. Still, the blatant sex appeal and the appearance in Iron Man 2 bring her down a bit.