Best Superhero Film

RollaChiefRollaChief wrote on 03 Jul 2013 19:10

Next spring it's time for me to offer Fantasy Literature again at the university. As a primer, I use Joseph Campbell's monomyth and the hero's journey as my thematic unifier for the course. We begin the semester with a unit I call:

Foundations of Fantasy

In this unit we explore ancient tales and myths have provide a basis for modern fantasy literature. We:

1. Read Beowulf
2. Watch a documentary on 1001 Arabian Nights
3. Read "The Weddynge of Gawain and Dame Ragnell," in addition to learning a good deal about the Arthurian myth
4. Read "Snow White" and "Cinderella" from the Grimms' Kinder und Hausmarchen.

Then we read Baum's The Wizard of Oz.

We then move on to Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. At this time, I also introduce the big man. The great one. Tollers. That's him. Therefore,

The next unit is…drum roll, please…

Tolkien, Who Doth Bestride the Narrow Fantasy World like a Colossus.1

We read The Fellowship of the Ring, and spend a couple of weeks examining Jackson's film adaptation.2

After the exhausting but exhilarating Tolkien unit, we move on to the world of J.K. Rowling, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.3.

After Harry Potter, it's time for

Twentieth-Century Superhero Fantasy

We watch a fine documentary A&E put together about Superman,4

And a nicely-done doc about Batman.5

We then read the graphic novel, Batman: Year One, so students can learn about the comic-book literary genre, and how it has shaped superhero fantasy.

We end the semester with a superhero film. At long last, here's my question for you:

What would be, in your estimation, the greatest superhero film to date? My criteria:

1. The film should explore the hero's journey (origin story is important), and Campbells' Monomyth.

2. The film should of course be impeccably cast and superlatively acted.

3. The direction, editing, and production values should be first-rate.

4. The film should be an iconic, quintessential exploration of not only the hero's journey, but the genre elements unique to superhero fantasy.

First, what are the elements "unique" to superhero fantasy, that separate it as a genre from other fantasy?

Second, what film best represents the genre of superhero fantasy?

I sincerely appreciate all input from you, my august compatriots in All Things Worth Discussing About Film and Gaming.

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