dueling equalizer equal and opposite superpowers

June 19, 2008

You know how Ironman builds himself a suit, then improves the suit, then sort of perfects the suit, and then Obadiah goes off and builds his OWN evil version of the suit (inevitably bigger than Ironman’s suit), and then they fight to the death?

This is the Achilles heel of superhero movies. Who can beat a superhero but another superhero of equal, and sometimes identical strength and power? For example, the scene where Ironman fights Iron Monger is easily the worst scene in the movie. The magic is when Tony Stark is building his suit, and experimenting with it. The “discovering your powers” scenes in superhero movies are akin to the training scenes in Rocky, or the “let’s build the booby trap scenes” in all those A Team episodes.

But the actual fight scene is often a letdown. Some movies rise above it, some do not. Some sidestep it neatly altogether by not succumbing to the trap of having an equal and opposite villain.

Some examples:

Good: Superman (1978). Superman fights Lex Luthor. This is awesome. Lex Luthor is smart and crazy, but he’s got NO superpowers. Inspired. In Superman II, the three bad guys, in a bit of outrageously spectacular coincidence, are released from their weird prism prison right above the earth. Equal and opposite superpowers times three. But Superman II (1980) does it with panache, and the sub-plot of Superman giving up his powers saves it from the normal mano a mano doldrums.

Bad: Incredible Hulk (2008). While I enjoyed the new Hulk with Eddie Norton, and I love Tim Roth’s oeuvre, the whole “hey, I stole your secret, now I’m a bigger, badder Hulk and you have to fight me and smash stuff” thing was a let down. Good movie, bad face off.

Good: Aliens (1986). One totally bad-ass alien, vs Sigourney Weaver and a Newt. Oh, sure, we had a team of marines, but fat lotta good they did, and they didn’t even make a dent. Not exactly equal and opposite. Nobody grew a “good” alien in a lab, nobody recruited another alien to fight the first alien. And while Ripley donned a loading dock forklift suit for the final fight, that hardly qualifies as equal and opposite. More like old fashioned ad libbing. (And I guess Aliens isn’t really a superhero movie. But the principle is the same. And this is my blog. I’m sure there is an entire passel of really great blogs in your daily read list. Go visit one of those. Neener.)

Bad:  Spiderman III. Ack. Venom was sniveling, boring, silly, and did I mention boring? Add New Goblin AND Sandman? What a mess. These guys should be forced to watch Superman II ten times before they’re allowed to make another movie. IF they’re allowed to make another movie.

Other Good: Batman, Batman Begins, Terminator, Terminator II (nicely done, other equal and opposite show downs should take notes), Hellboy, X-Men.

Other Bad: All other Batmans (Batmen?), except this new one, The Dark Knight, looks awesome–not equal and opposite, although, that’s the cool thing about Batman, not super, just smart. And of course, Ironman–great movie, lame final battle.

2 Responses to “dueling equalizer equal and opposite superpowers”

  1. bikemike Says:

    smallville does a fairly decent job, especially last year when they brought in the justice league. thought they did an awesome job with the flash and green arrow. the whole teenage romance thing, not so much.

    i mean, really, there shouldn’t be anyone here on earth to compete with superman and yet…

    i think iron man will rule the roost for the next few installments. kinda neat how much he has in common with batman.
    oh, heck yeah, gotta see the new hellboy.

  2. Bob Says:

    Here’s what bothered me the most. In Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin basically had superhero strength. And the details are foggy because it’s been 30 or so years since I watched it, but a bad guy was given similar powers. Naturally, Steve Austin and this other bad buy faced off, and they punched each other in the face. I repeat — THEY PUNCHED EACH OTHER IN THE FACE. To my knowledge, their faces weren’t reinforced, so the first good superhero punch should have cause a sickening splatter. I tell you, I’ve just about had enough of that show.


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