Strong Starters

by Conner Schwerdtfeger

Thrilling movies – particularly those of the comic book genre – need to grab the audience right away. They need to tap into something primal, and get us to care about the implausible adventure unfolding before our very eyes. While many comic book movies grab us from the first frame and manage to hold our attention for the entire film – see: The Dark Knight – other films cannot sustain the energy of their introduction. Here are four comic book movies that peaked within their first ten minutes, and could not recapture their lost energy.

The Wolverine – Nagasaki

While most certainly the superior of Hugh Jackman’s two outings as the clawed mutant, The Wolverine’s quality has a steady downward trajectory after its opening scene. Opening on August 9, 1945, we find Wolverine in a Japanese prison camp in Nagasaki. Even bomb falls, we can tell that some nasty stuff has already gone down – unlike the other prisoners, a cell is not enough for Logan, and the Japanese soldiers have fearfully locked him away in a well. It doesn’t give us too much insight into what kind of man Logan was in WWII, instead alluding that he fought savagely enough to instill that sort of fear.

Then the bomb drops. We should give the film some credit – it takes its time, starting with the air raid sirens, and then slowly showing the bomb drop, the fear rises as many Japanese begin to commit seppuku right there on the beach. When we think young Yashida will die in the blast, Logan miraculously appears and gets him into the well. The sound design – accompanied by the screams as Wolverine protects his former enemy – really conveys the haunting devastation of the blast. Finally, when the dust clears we get to see arguably the greatest visual display of Logan’s healing factor on screen to date.

The Amazing-Spiderman 2 – Chasing the Rhino

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets judged somewhat unfairly at times – while it is certainly overcrowded and spends far too much time setting up a Sinister Six movie that we will never see, the parts of the film that work are really well done.

Cue the opening scene. Somehow it took the fifth major Spider-Man movie to finally show us a fully realized, committed Peter Parker in action as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Everything showcased in this sequence is quintessentially Spider-Man: he’s agile, he’s got an even quicker wit, protecting the citizens of New York comes before stopping the bad guy, and he jut genuinely loves being Spider-Man. Accompanied by a booming score by Hans Zimmer, and some awesome aerial cinematography, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lived up to the amazing title for a few short minutes.

Batman Forever – Two-Face

Batman Forever really is an oddity of the franchise. While not of the laughably poor quality one finds in Batman and Robin, we will never hold it to the same regard asThe Dark Knight trilogy. Its biggest problem comes from its tonal inconsistencies later in the film, but the opening scene never gets enough credit.

It all has a very “James Bond” feel to it in the way it wraps up one adventure before starting the hero out onto the main one. Tao Face has escaped from Arkham Asylum and is holding hostages in Gotham; Batman gears up and goes in to stop him. It’s simple! , and ripped straight out of a comic. What’s noteworthy about the scene is how much more subdued Tommy Lee Jones is as Two-Face when compared with the rest of the film; he does his knock-off Joker cackle here and there, but for much of the scene he slowly growls on about the dichotomy of luck.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – War through time

Again? Poor Logan… It’s safe to say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine probably marks the lowest-quality film on this list, but that does not mean it has no merit. The opening credits sequence portrays the lives of Logan and Victor as they fight in what seems like every major American war. Without any actual dialog the film manages to carefully exhibit the love and loyalty these two men have for each other, and how while the war may change, they stay the same. A sense of tragedy permeates the sequence, as it becomes obvious that war has affected the two of these men very differently; while Logan retains his humanity, Victor slowly loses himself to the thrill of death and battle. From here the film devolves into mostly snide comments and bad special effects, but it’s hard not to believe a wholly better film would have resulted from examining these years of our character’s lives.

More links that may interest you:

10 Superhero Films That Were Almost Made

6 Awful Things About Star Wars

4 Ways to Improve The Dark Knight Rises

The 10 Best Superhero Films of All Time