Friday Feature: 10 Unlikely Superhero Movies by @destroytheearth

I have said before that the superhero movie is the defining film genre of the 2000s. Almost unheard of but a few years ago, the superhero flick has risen from straight-to-video hell to the biggest of the blockbuster draws. This has meant that the genre has arrived at the point where it can be parodied and spun off from in record time.

To illustrate this point, I present to you ten examples of films that aren't quite superhero movies. Hit the jump to read more:

I define a superhero film as possessing four major characteristics: a hero with a special ability; a secret identity; a costume; and a villain or villains to fight. First of all, I offer five films that have all of these things, but aren't considered superhero movies:

1) Mrs Doubtfire

When a young father lets himself get lax on the job and loses his wife and his kids, he sets out to prove his abilities as a father. Donning a disguise, he becomes a real-life Super-nanny and fends off his ex-wife's smug new suitor, winning back his kids in the process.

2) Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

When a medieval land-owner's father is murdered while he is away in the crusades, the master archer takes on the identity of Robin Hood and some forest greens. With his band of sidekicks, he sets out to overthrow his father's killer and free the land from the tyranny of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

3) Grease 2

When a geeky young student overhears Michelle Pfeiffer discussing her dream, mystery man, he trains in secret to ride motorbikes like a pro and hides his identity with a helmet and goggles to take on a local group of biker thugs and win the girl.

4) The Crow

A young, murdered man returns from the dead with special powers and a goth makeover to avenge the death of his fiancee by beating up another group of thugs, out-foxing a baffled police force who have no idea who he is.

5) Mulan

A young girl in ancient China poses as a man by disguising herself in armour, in order to prove her abilities as a soldier and take on the menacing Hun horde.

On the other hand, sometimes films with all four of those traits still don't quite hit the superhero story mark; like the following:

This suprisingly-enjoyable, modern blaxploitation romp/family comedy doesn't have much respect for the superhero mythos and, instead, is more concerned with instilling the virtues of community in the American "Projects" and overcoming black-on-black crime. Its lead doesn't even wear a mask when in costume!

This crime against the genre forces the iconography into a weak excuse for a romcom. The supervillain (a slumming Eddie Izzard) is defeated at the end, by finally getting it together with the heroine. Dire.

While doing the research for this one, someone suggested to me that The Incredibles was not a superhero film because it was a family cartoon, but this is far from the truth. The Incredibles is not concerned with a hero discovering their powers, but instead with how they deal with their mid-life crisis and family life! The villains know the heroes identities long before they take up their costumes again and the devious Syndrome is more of an embittered arms dealer than a super criminal. In fact, most of the heroing in the film has more in common with James Bond that Spidey and co. Not quite your traditional take.

For something that inspired the creation of the Dark Knight himself, The Shadow is not your traditional superhero. Lamont Cranston is a former Tibetan warlord who comes to the light side at the behest of a Buddhist monk and takes up residency as a New York crime fighter. He operates by blackmailing those whose lives he has saved into becoming his agents and hypnotising the police out of arresting him. Furthermore, the villain of the piece is the psychically-empowered ancestor of Genghis Khan.  

5) Hulk

The Hulk may come from the world of Marvel superheroes, but he has more in common with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Hulk is a rampaging monster who ends up pitted against the bad guys due to their interest in stealing his powers more than any sense of heroism. The sequel/reboot sets Banner's alter ego up as a reluctant hero, but Ang Lee's take is far more in keeping with this unique definition of a hero.

Just a quick note to mention that I am off to Paris for me and @Mdmcherry's anniversary next week, so the blog will be taking a little vacation, but have no fear Gort fans, we'll be back on the 14th!

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