Good Films: Superheroes

James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy," via Walt Disney Studios.
James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” via Walt Disney Studios.
Our occasional “Good Films You May Have Missed” series calls attention to movies new and old. Titles are available from Netflix and other streaming services, and you can also find them at your good old-fashioned public library.

As another summer full of superhero movies comes to a close, here are five of our summer intern’s favorites.

USA/UK • 2014 • Director: James Gunn
I have seen this movie twice now, and I’m planning on dragging my family to the movie theater to see it again. It’s a sci-fi action film about five ragtag characters who have questionable morals, but who are thrust together and have to overcome their differences to save the galaxy. Peter Quill, the self-appointed leader, is a human who travels across the galaxy as a thief. Gamora is an orphan who was raised to become the perfect weapon by the most powerful man in the galaxy. Rocket is a bounty hunter and the result of a genetically altered, cybernetically enhanced experiment on a raccoon. Groot is a walking tree who has incredible strength and limited communication skills. Drax is a man whose family was killed and he will stop at nothing for revenge. Together, these characters create a powerful band of misfits who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. The result is hilarious, dramatic, and heartfelt. As Bradley Cooper, the voice of Rocket, says: “There’s nothing like it, that’s for sure.”

James Mangold's "The Wolverine," via 20th Century Fox.
James Mangold’s “The Wolverine,” via 20th Century Fox.
USA/UK • 2013 • Director: James Mangold
I love the Wolverine. He’s one of my favorite characters on the screen, and ever since the first X-Men movie in 2000, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has managed to stand the test of time. He’s cranky, moody, and prefers to be alone, but he doesn’t stand by when the going gets rough. In this film, Wolverine (Logan) is living in the mountains of Alaska, occasionally chilling out with a Grizzly and hallucinating about Jean Grey (the woman he loved but had to kill in “X-Men: The Last Stand.”) Then a badass Japanese girl, Yukio, shows up and tells Logan that her rich boss is dying and he wants to thank Logan for saving his life during WWII. Once Logan gets to Japan, he ends up protecting that man’s granddaughter Mariko from assassins and a budding romance ensues. Logan also begins to lose his healing power and is faced with one of the hardest battles of his life. The action is fantastic and the landscape of Japan is a great shift in setting for an X-Men film. A must see for any X-Men fan and for anyone who likes Hugh Jackman. (And his abs, ooh!)

Robert Schwentke's "R.I.P.D.," via Universal Pictures.
Robert Schwentke’s “R.I.P.D.,” via Universal Pictures.
USA • 2013 • Director: Robert Schwentke
I saw this film right after a breakup. It was exactly what I needed! It got bad reviews, but it pulled on my heartstrings and it is so funny. Ryan Reynolds plays a cop who gets killed by his partner and instead of just dying, he gets sent to R.I.P.D., the Rest in Peace Department. It’s full of “dead” people in the afterlife who protect the world from the dangerous undead who create chaos. His R.I.P.D. partner, played by Jeff Bridges, is a former U.S. Marshal and soldier who hates working with others. Reynolds’s character can’t accept his death and while trying to communicate with his wife, he stumbles upon a plot by the undead to take over the world, led by his former police partner – the cop who killed him. In order to protect his wife and the rest of the world, he and his R.I.P.D. partner go rogue. The result is hilarious and sweet, and it shows the pain and release of letting go of someone who is gone.

Joss Whedon's "The Avengers," via Walt Disney Studios.
Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” via Walt Disney Studios.
USA • 2012 • Director: Joss Whedon
What I love about “The Avengers” is that it puts all of the characters from Marvel films made in 2008-2012 together. It’s genius. It’s funny. And the character interaction is fabulous. Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all team up to stop Thor’s brother Loki from taking over Earth. Every character’s flaws and strengths are on display; we see them at their worst and at their best. And because each character has already been developed in previous films, the character backstories don’t have to take up screen time. There aren’t many films that have successfully tackled a large group of superhero main characters quite like this.

Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass," via Lionsgate.
Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass,” via Lionsgate.
UK/USA • 2010 • Director: Matthew Vaughn
“Kick-Ass” is a dark comedy. One of the first scenes is of a father shooting his 11-year-old daughter with a high-powered pistol (she was wearing a bullet-proof vest) so that she knew how it felt and could learn how to fight through the pain. The main character is a nerdy high schooler named Dave who decides to become a vigilante. He calls himself Kick-Ass, the irony being, of course, is that he is anything but. The father and daughter call themselves Big Daddy and Hit-Girl and they end up helping Kick-Ass learn to fight. Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are trying to bring down a very powerful drug dealer Frank D’Amico whose son tries to impress his father by becoming the super villain Red Mist. It’s a complicated story and it’s packed with a mix of normal high school drama and angst as well as the many problems that come with vigilantism. The stakes are high and the villains may be a bit outlandish but they are grounded in reality. There are no superpowers at play; this isn’t a movie where everybody survives.

Rebecca Horwitz earned her B.A. in theatre from UC San Diego. She volunteers as a marketing assistant for Filmworks.