It’s natural to think that a movie about a superhero (or superheroes) will be an action movie. In all honesty, the vast majority are, because having characters with superpowers can create plenty of thrilling action sequences and explosive settings. These are characters who often find themselves responsible for saving others – or even the entire world – and as such, fighting some sort of terrifying threat usually involves just that: fighting.
But that doesn’t always have to be the case. Superhero movies can offer satisfying stories featuring powerful heroes and villains without an emphasis on action, as the following 10 films demonstrate. Some of the following have small amounts of action here and there, but all ultimately deliver stories that are more heavily beholden to other genres, in turn helping to add variety to the superhero genre as a whole. .
“The Batman” (2022)
When it comes to live action Batman movies, 2022s The Batman is far from the only film to portray the character in a dark way. the Tim Burton the films contrasted with the campy, low-budget 1960s version of Batman, and by Christophe Nolan trilogy also aimed to take the character into grittier territory (especially with 2008 The black Knight).
But all the Batman movies released before 2022 still functioned as action movies. The Batman shifts gears by focusing on Batman’s detective skills more than his physical prowess, meaning viewers saw a version of the character who didn’t get his hands dirty as often. The slower pace, focus on solving a central mystery, and nearly three-hour runtime also meant it was a lot less action-packed. Batman than normal, but the change was welcome (and rewarding).
With Unbreakable, M.Night Shyamalan remarkably successful in delivering a dark deconstruction of the superhero genre before it began to completely dominate the cinematic landscape. It’s a grounded and original look at the idea of superpowers, centering on two men: one who seems almost invincible, and the other who is afflicted with a condition that makes his bones extremely fragile.
Rather than an action movie, Unbreakable is a tense psychological thriller that happens to have main characters with unique physical conditions that make them look like superheroes/villains. It resisted well and benefits from the committed performances of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in the main roles.
While Superman (1978) is one of the first – and most iconic – superhero films of all time, watching it more than four decades after its release makes for a startling experience. That’s mainly because it’s a movie that’s essentially devoid of fight scenes, making it a stark contrast to most modern superhero blockbusters.
That’s far from a bad thing, though. If anything, it does Superman even better, because the focus on the main character saving people and preventing disasters rather than fighting bad guys makes it surprisingly wholesome. It’s a thrilling film and features many great special effects moments and sequences, even if it lacks “action scenes” in the traditional sense.
“The Toxic Avenger” (1984)
A gloriously messy mix of horror, crude comedy and superhero movie, The toxic avenger is a cult classic that remains the best-known work released by Troma Entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, though: this main character is definitely not one of the most well-known avengers.
It parodies the typical comic book hero’s origin story by having its protagonist be a skinny young janitor who falls into a vat of toxic waste, which turns him into a super-powered mutant. From then on, he becomes a vigilante, violently dispatching criminals and intimidating anyone who crosses his path. It’s certainly an acquired taste, but it’s clearly found an audience, given that it spawned a franchise and has a remake that’s currently in post-production.
“The Specials” (2000)
One of the first (and unfortunately the worst) films written by james gunn, The Specials is a super low-budget movie featuring a cast full of superpowers who spend the whole movie fighting nothing. The titular crew members sit around a house for most of the film and argue over various things, given that their personalities are all quite large and therefore prone to clashes.
It’s a new concept, and there are brief bursts in the movie where everything works pretty well. When considered a sort of precursor to better superhero comedies like Great (2010) or the guardians of the galaxy series, it’s interesting, but otherwise it’s not a particularly great non-action superhero movie.
‘Sky High’ (2005)
sky high combines a high school movie narrative with superhero characters to relatively entertaining effect. The main character juggles his new school, respects his parents, and battles a mysterious villain, all while dealing with the fact that he hasn’t yet developed superpowers (which is unusual in the world of film, and considering his parents are legendary superheroes themselves).
It certainly feels like a movie of its time and is a little hokey, but pulls it off thanks to a good heart and a surprisingly stacked cast. The action is minimal, this is much more of a family/teen movie than one that features an intense and violent struggle between good and evil.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” (2022)
the guardians of the galaxy movies can usually be counted on to deliver equal amounts of comedy and action, but 2022 Holiday special gone in a slightly different direction. The adventure here wasn’t about saving the galaxy, it was about giving Peter Quill (AKA Starlord) a Christmas to remember.
Even if getting there involved a slightly dangerous mission centered around kidnapping Kevin Bacon, this 45-minute special was still very light in action. It mostly worked, being a nice low-stakes adventure for fans before the heavier and more intense. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is released.
For anyone who’s ever wondered what a found footage superhero movie would look like, Chronic Your answer. It centers on three high school friends who suddenly gain superpowers and document their shared experience, which starts to get exciting before things take a darker turn, leading to violence and tragedy.
Even though there are serious life and death stakes in the Chronicle, its presentation of found footage ensures that it still feels more like a psychological thriller than an action movie. It’s a grounded, unique take on the standard superhero origin story and executes its simple premise in a direct and satisfying way.
“The Iron Giant” (1999)
The iron giant features an unlikely superhero who breaks convention by being a giant robot, rather than a human (or humanoid) being. It may not come out as a superhero movie, but given the titular character’s arc throughout the film, it no doubt qualifies as one, as it ends up saving the lives of many people at the end of the movie.
Hogarth, the young boy who befriends the Iron Giant and teaches him morality and humanity is arguably just as much a hero, for without him the Iron Giant would not have been able to sacrifice as he finished. To do. Overall, their bond makes The iron giant a very wholesome animated film that also functions as an unconventional superhero movie, and without much traditional action to boot.
Glass is the sequel of the two Unbreakable and 2017 Divide, combining the main characters of these two previous films to create a grand finale. It’s largely set in a mental institution where the three main characters interact and eventually go head-to-head, feeling like a superhero-themed film on a very small scale and claustrophobic because of that setting and premise. .
It’s a frustrating movie at times, but it can’t be faulted for its originality and willingness to subvert most likely expectations of the superhero genre. While it doesn’t feel like the kind of large-scale, action-packed finale you might expect from a concluding chapter to a trilogy, it does at least feature some interesting characters and solid performances. Also, the fact Glass is intentionally provocative means it ends up being hard to forget, whether you end up loving it or hating it.
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