It’s said that in a franchise, the first film sets the rules and the sequel breaks them. Such is the truth about Sam Raimi’s follow-up to his sensational hit Spider-Man, with 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Set two years after the first film, we follow Peter Parker, now a college student, as he tries to juggle both his personal life and responsibilities as Spider-Man. While the first film had the Green Goblin, the sequel has another one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies: Dr. Otto Octavius, more commonly known as Doctor Octopus. During an experiment with mechanical arms that had been grafted to his back, Dr. Octavius is forced to watch as the machinery malfunctions, failing the experiment and killing his beloved wife. Consumed by sorrow and rage, Dr. Octavius must also deal with his mechanical arms which have gained sentience and seek their own sinister ends. Spider-Man faces off against Doctor Octopus in some of the genres tightest and most exhilarating fight scenes, resulting in one of the decade’s greatest climaxes.
After the monumental success of X-Men, the world demanded a sequel. Director Bryan Singer more than delivered the goods, producing what is frequently considered one of the best sequels ever made. The film involves both political intrigue and mutated menace as a government operative named William Stryker raids the X-Mansion, kidnaps many of the mutant children, and uses them in a plot to kill all of the world’s mutants. As if that wasn’t enough, Magneto escapes from his prison only to seek out Stryker’s machine, a powerful telekinetic device capable of locating and killing anyone on earth. Magneto plans to take the device and use it to kill all of the world’s non-mutated humans. It’s up to the X-Men to stop both Magneto and Stryker from using the device, keeping the world safe for both regular humans and mutants. Singer ups the ante with this film, throwing even more mutants, powers, action scenes, and character development than the first film could handle.
Directed by Richard Donner (whose previous work included The Omen), the original Superman is considered by many to be the very first modern superhero film, thereby establishing the superhero genre. The film focused largely on the Man of Steel’s (Christopher Reeve) origin: the scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) on the doomed planet Krypton puts his infant son in a rocket ship to earth to save his life. When he arrives, he crash lands in Smallville, Kansas where he is adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent who raise him as their own son. As he grows, he starts to display great powers. He leaves his family and goes to work in Metropolis as a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. But soon he must use his powers to fight against his greatest foe, Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), who is embroiled in an evil scheme that would destroy the entire Western seaboard. Along the way, he must woo and save fellow reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).
If Superman established the modern superhero genre, then Superman II helped perfect it. While the first film established his origin, the sequel explored him continuing to try to make his own life while facing a newer, greater threat. This threat comes in the form of three Kryptonian criminals named General Zod, Ursa, and Non who crash-land to earth after their high-tech prison, the Phantom Zone, is destroyed after being hit by a shockwave from a hydrogen bomb from earth. They go to earth and begin a conquest of the peaceful planet. What’s worse is that in an attempt to live a normal life with Lois Lane, Superman had previously used red Kryptonian sunlight in a crystal chamber to strip him of his powers. Things are made even worse when Lex Luthor joins up with the terrible trio and helps them in their quest for world domination. The film is available in two forms, the original form which featured additional footage and reshoots by director Richard Lester, and the Richard Donner cut made up of the footage filmed by the original director.
Before his film debut, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man had appeared in several cartoon and live-action television shows. So the world eagerly awaited Spidey’s silver screen debut. Director Sam Raimi did not disappoint as Spider-Man would go on to become one of the highest grossing and best critically received film of the year. The film tells of Spider-Man’s origin story: mild-mannered high school senior Peter Parker is bit by a radioactive spider which gives him arachnoid superpowers. He soon discovers that with great power comes great responsibility, as he is forced to fight against his best friend’s, Harry Osborn, father Dr. Norman Osborn. After a failed scientific experiment, Norman gains an evil alter-ego named the Green Goblin which uses incendiary bombs and a flying device to terrorize New York City. Things are made even worse when Parker’s heartthrob Mary Jane Watson is involved in the evil genius’s plot.
After the magnificent success of the original Batman film, the creators were hard pressed to up the ante and make a good sequel. They succeeded, in large part to director Time Burton, with Batman Returns. While the first film had one villain, Batman Returns threw two sinister foes at Batman: Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. The film itself is much darker in tone than the original, managing to make the Penguin into a nearly sympathetic villain. Abandoned since birth, the deformed Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin) seeks the identity of his parents. But instead he becomes embroiled in a scheme to take control over Gotham City by having the Penguin elected as mayor. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle, a secretary, is murdered by her boss named Max Shreck, only to be revived as Catwoman. After Batman exposes the Penguin’s villainous ways, he embarks on a plan to kill all of Gotham City’s first-born infants. It’s a race against the clock to stop the Penguin and to catch the thieving, manipulative Catwoman before it is too late.
What can be said about The Dark Knight? Upon release, it was hailed as one of the greatest films of all time by fans and movie critics. It was so popular and well made that when it failed to be nominated for Best Picture, the outcry caused the Academy to change its rules and allow ten nomination spots instead of five. While the first movie featured two villains (Ra’s al Ghul and the Scarecrow), Nolan threw two more villains at audiences: Two-Face and the Joker. Batman must face off against the Joker, who wants to “spread a little chaos” by causing mass murder and destruction throughout Gotham. However, he must also contend with Two-Face, once a sterling district attorney warped after an attack by the Joker into a psychotic killer. The film features incredible writing and special effects, but it was Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker which solidified The Dark Knight as both a classic film and a cultural phenomenon.
After the catastrophic failure of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, it seemed as if the Batman franchise was dead and would never produce another film. Thankfully, like an angel from on high, director Christopher Nolan appeared and rebooted the entire franchise with his amazing Batman Begins. While the previous Batman movies had all existed in a clearly exaggerated comic book world, Nolan tried to make his film as close to reality as possible, asking the question of what would happen if the Batman story took place in real life. Batman Begins follows Bruce Wayne as he trains in Bhutan with the League of Shadows lead by Ra’s al Ghul. After he separates from the League after refusing to kill, he becomes Batman and fights Dr. Jonathan Crane, the corrupt administrator of Arkham Asylum. Crane, who develops a toxic hallucinogenic that makes people live out their worst fears, dons the mantle of Scarecrow and seeks to infect Gotham’s water supply with his fear toxin.
Having appeared in countless television shows and video games, the X-Men were primed for their big screen debut in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. The film introduced many of the world’s favorite mutants, including Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Storm (Halle Berry). The film follows Xavier as he gathers mutants to his Institute so they can train their powers for the betterment of mankind. Their opponents are led by the master of magnetism Magneto (Ian McKellen), who believes that mankind and mutants can never co-exist. He hatches a sinister plan to attack a rally of world leaders and use a new device which would turn them all into mutants. In order for his plan to work, he must capture Rogue and use her as part of his deadly device. It’s up to the X-Men to rescue their comrade and stops Magneto’s evil scheme.
There had been several Batman movies before Tim Burton’s 1989 film, but none of them quite reached the same level of technical wizardry and spectacle. The film briefly touches on Batman’s origin: as a young child, Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) watched his rich parents murdered in an alleyway outside of a movie theater. He swears to avenge their deaths be becoming Batman and fight crime. But interestingly, the movie seems to pay more attention to the creation of the Joker (Jack Nicholson). After suffering from a terrible chemical accident, petty criminal Jack Napier becomes the Clown Prince of Crime. The film follows Batman as he squares off against the Joker’s machinations to take over Gotham City and spread chaos all throughout. Key to the Joker’s plans is the spread of tampered hygiene products laced with chemicals that make the users laugh to death and a plot to kill thousands of people with poison gas during a parade.