The coronavirus crisis continues to keep most of us indoors, but the lockdown conditions are the perfect time to catch up on some long-forgotten TV series and movies.
With boredom levels likely to be rising and frustration at not being able to see friends and family growing all the time, binging on some old superhero films might be the ideal distraction.
Most new superhero flicks from DC or Marvel are well received from both cinemagoers and critics alike. But what are some of history’s most underrated films from the superhero genre?
- Sky High (2005)
Cast your mind back to 2005, if you can. Do you remember seeing Sky High at the cinema? If you missed it at the time, it is definitely worth trying to dig it out now.
The film, which stars Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as heroes the Commander and Jetstream respectively, follows their son Will Stronghold on his first day at his new school. It is not any normal school, though, as Sky High trains up the superheroes of the future. The big problem is that Will does not seem to be showing any signs of having any superpowers himself.
Sky High did not totally flop at the box office, but it was overshadowed by the release of Batman Begins – the first film in the Christopher Nolan trilogy – which was out a couple of months earlier.
- Push (2009)
Push is not the first, second, or even third superhero film starring Chris Evans that you might think of. Evans, of course, went on to superstardom by playing Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Push was one of his earlier movies that helped to make his name.
Starring alongside Dakota Fanning and Camilla Belle, Evans plays Nick, who can move objects thanks to his telekinetic abilities. Push is a wild ride with a complicated and twisty plot that is far too convoluted to be able to explain here. But it is well worth a watch, especially for Evans fans.
Another way to keep busy during the lockdown could be to play the free spin slots while you watch movies like Push. Plenty of cool superhero-themed online slots are available, such as Playtech’s Spider-Man and Justice League games. There is even one about ThunderCats!
- Defendor (2009)
Defendor had a great cast topped by Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings, Sandra Oh and with a cameo from Tatiana Maslany, but it failed to make a splash at the box office after only receiving a limited release in a lot of countries.
That is not to say the 2009 Canadian superhero flick is not worth finding online, though, with Harrelson in particular giving a powerful performance as Arthur Poppington – the titular Defendor.
An inconsistent tone was highlighted by critics reviewing the film, which was written and directed by Peter Stebbings, but it still stands up to scrutiny by the biggest superhero film fans today.
- Hulk (2003)
At the time, Ang Lee’s Hulk was not considered to be a great superhero movie. That is despite the fact it made nearly $250 million worldwide, making it one of 2003’s biggest cinema hits.
It is easy to forget that superhero films were not usually serious affairs. The tone of Lee’s film perhaps therefore caught some people off guard, though many movies like Nolan’s Batman series and Logan from DC have taken the genre to darker and more challenging areas.
Should this version of Hulk from Oscar winner Lee come out today, it would likely be an even bigger smash at the box office, enjoying a high level of critical success to boot. It was probably ahead of its time and the inventive editing alone makes it worth the effort.
- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
The final flick on our list of underrated superhero movies to binge is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. This superhero film came out in 2011 but it continues to find fans to this day thanks to an amazing lead performance from Nicolas Cage.
Cinephiles usually either love or hate Cage and films like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance show why. It is hard to imagine anyone else in the role of antihero Ghost Rider, with the film managing to feel like a classic B-movie despite enjoying a fairly hefty production budget.
It is easy to forget Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance made a decent amount of money at the box office even though it got a mauling from the critics. Its fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes stands at a lowly 18 per cent, but in reality the film is a lot more entertaining than those reviews suggest.
Fun fact: one of the co-writers of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was David S. Goyer. In his career, he has had a hand in crafting superhero films as diverse as the Blade trilogy, Nolan’s Dark Knight movies and Man of Steel and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.