We’ve recently brought to your attention some facts about the history of superhero movies and how it became the cultural juggernaut it is today, a sentence whose end we totally forgot because the word juggernaut gave us flashbacks of the horror. No, wait, we can work with that. X-Men: The Last Stand is a good illustration of pretty much the entire history of the genre. It is both very modern and very old. Its effects are pretty good, its cast is impressive, and it has a team of superpowered people kicking ass. Yet it is also a sad attempt at taking its source material seriously, as well as a cheesefest that is all over the place tonally and visually. It is a sort of anomaly belonging to the time when the superhero movie code hadn’t been cracked – except X2 had already cracked it, hence why it doesn’t get any love. Also, nice “cracked” reference, me.

In a word, superhero movies have come a long way. By now, it is undeniable that we live in a golden age of superhero movies. Contemporary classics include Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, Logan, and The Eternals (just kidding). But they didn’t come from nothing. Previous and absolutely satisfactory experiments at the outer limits of the genre like Men in Black, Mystery Men, or Unbreakable helped refine the cinematic language needed to make superhero movies actually good. And if we go further back in time, even acknowledging the quantum leaps meant by Donner’s Superman and Burton’s Batman merely proves that superhero movies spent most of the history of cinema just being dumb fun for kids at best, or unworthy punchlines at worst. Like X-Men: The Last Stand. The point is: the further back we go, the stranger (and frankly, worse) superhero movies get. Some icons might pass the test of time while others might be forgotten, but comparing superhero movies then and now offers good insights into the evolution and streamlining of the genre. Let us take a look, then, and try to forget the way they killed friggin’ Cyclops.

Mainstream

Superhero Movies Then VS. Now Going mainstream Superheros were aimed at younger audiences, and were very rarely taken seriously. They still sometimes fight for that, but things radically changed after Bryan Singer's X-Men in 2000. CRACKED.COM

Iron Man

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now Metal Men Before Iron-Man kickstarted the MCU, we saw The Rocketeer fly in 1991, anticipating many of the same ideas and visuals. And it was directed by Captain America: The First Avenger's Joe Johnston! CRACKED.COM

Source Material

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now S Respect for the original Back in the time, even fine movies like Richard Donner's Superman took strange liberties. By now, creators respect the comics much more (just don't ask Tim Burton what he thinks of comic books). CRACKED.COM

Universes

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now Isolated vs. shared universes. For a long time, shared universes were at most hinted at. It was only with Samuel L. Jackson's cameo at the very end of Iron Man that the possibility became real. CRACKED.COM

Conflict

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now Personal vs. group conflicts Isolated universes meant superheroes were all alone. By now, with X-Men, Justice League, and Avengers, plotlines can focus on more dynamic group conflicts. CRACKED.COM

Source: RetroZap

Batman

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now From fun Batman to gritty Batman Tim Burton's dark, moody Batman was a stark contrast with Adam West's Batusi- dancing Batman. The Lego Batman proved the character can still be fun, but most modern incarnations prefer the tortured- man-of-silence approach. CRACKED.COM

Hellboy

Superhero Movies Then VS. Now Hellboy vs. Hellboy Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy movies stood for wild creativity, before the MCU set the current by-the-numbers template. The cost of this Marvelization was clear in 2019's non-del Toro Hellboy. CRACKED.COM

Punisher

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now A bunch of Punishers The Punisher was a skull-less Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane's tortured heartthrob, and, erm, whatever Ray Stevenson was. With Jon Bernthal, Marvel has finally figured out their own character. CRACKED.COM

Catwoman

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now A lot of of Catwomen We've had three Catwomen in the classic TV show, and four in movies, with Halle Berry's version being a low point (the high point is Michelle Pfeiffer going meow before an explosion). CRACKED.COM

Daredevil

Superhero Movies Then VS. Now Daredevil vs Daredevil In between Rex Smith in 1989's The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Charlie Cox today, Ben Affleck played a grinning, douchey Daredevil in an awful 2003 movie. CRACKED.COM

Hulk

Superhero Movies Then VS. Now From body paint to photorealistic CGI Lou Ferrigno's painted body was probably the best Hulk we could have back in the '70s. After some dodgy CGI in the 2003 movie, things picked up in the 2008 one. CRACKED.COM

Doctor Strange

Superhero Movies Then VS. Now Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Pornstaches In 1978, a made-for-TV movie had Strange fighting Morgan le Fay with only his magic and John Holmes-like mustache to protect him. Benedict Cumberbatch, please take the issue seriously. CRACKED.COM

Source: Syfy Wire

Non-DC and Non-Marvel

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now Outside of DC and Marvel We see efforts like Invincible and The Boys, but also Vin Diesel's Bloodshot. The '90s also had other superhero movies like The Rocketeer, The Mask, The Shadow, The Crow, Tank Girl, and The Phantom. CRACKED.COM

Marvel's Evolution

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now A A Marvel vs Marvel It's shocking to compare Marvel's quality and dominance to their old, awful movies (Howard the Duck, anyone?) Hey, 1979's Captain America II: Death Too Soon, you're not cool enough to pull off that name. CRACKED.COM

Female Representation

Superhero Movies Then VS. Now Female representation Sexism in the industry has led to distrust towards female-centered superhero movies. Supergirl, Elektra, and Catwoman simply sucked, while Captain Marvel was military propaganda, and Black Widow still struggled with objectification. CRACKED.COM

Respect

Superhero Movies Then vs. Now From escapism to respect Superhero movies were just considered cheesy escapism, with Adam West's Batman as a prime example, By the time Christopher Nolan made The Dark Knight, the film was universally praised as a serious artistic achievement. CRACKED.COM

Join the Cracked Movie Club

Expand your movie and TV brain--get the weekly Cracked Movie Club newsletter!

Tags

Forgot Password?