I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love superhero films! I’ve always been a huge fan of superheroes and I dig it when I can sit down and enjoy something with masked vigilantes in it! Of course, we’ve gotten to a point where there are TOO MANY superhero films. At least 8-10 are pumped out on a yearly basis by many different studios. It’s gotten pretty ridiculous, but it wasn’t always this way.
In fact, superhero films were floundering quite a bit in the 90s. Audiences found the cheesy concepts of these superhero films to be a bit too much to handle and this resulted in a lot of said films floundering in the box-office. Today’s subject is no different, since it’s yet another victim of the general audience’s disinterest with superhero films in the 90s. So, let’s talk about “Mystery Men”, the best superhero film that nobody saw.
Let’s flashback to 1999, a time when cinema was in an awkward transition period. Big budget blockbusters had become a mainstay and everyone was lining up to see films like “The Sixth Sense”, “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”, and “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”.
During the summer was when we got a truly interesting and underappreciated film, the aforementioned “Mystery Men”. Mystery Men told the story of a bunch of loser superheroes with lame powers, all of whom had very little skill in fighting crime. The original team consisted of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy), and The Blue Raja (played by Hank Azaria).
The film revolves around these three heroes forming a larger team filled with other lame superheroes, all so they can stop an evil villain named “Casanova Frankenstein”. I always dug “underdog stories”, especially when said underdogs are incompetent. The film shows these heroes stepping up and learning how to work better as a team, while also honing their bizarre super-powers.
Oh right, I forgot to mention their powers! This film features some of the most ridiculous super-powers of all time. For example, Blue Raja is literally just Bullseye from Marvel’s Daredevil comics, but he throws kitchen utensils instead of ninja stars. There’s also “Invisible Boy”, who can only turn invisible when nobody’s looking.
These powers and abilities definitely made these heroes stand out, while also painting them as rather goofy caricatures of classic superhero stereotypes. In fact, parodying superhero cliches is what this film does best! One notable scene in the film involved an argument about whether or not wearing glasses can disguise a superhero, which was a good knock against classic Superman stories.
I also dig how the film combines a futuristic sci-fi setting with a more mundane and modern (at least for 1999) setting. This world has high-tech gadgets and a city of the future, but people still listen to disco and Smash-Mouth. To be fair, who doesn’t listen to Smash-Mouth?
The film had a pretty basic story, but the silly and zany characters peppered throughout made up for it. While the effects and costumes may not have aged super well, it’s still a fun watch for any fan of superhero films. While I do enjoy this film, I was always annoyed that it flopped in theaters.
People just were not interested in another superhero film, especially one that reminded them of “Batman & Robin”. That being said, Mystery Men is still a fantastic film and is considered a cult classic by many people. Heck, the film even gets screenings at the “Alamo Drafthouse”!
I feel Mystery Men is a film worth watching. It’s some good light-hearted fun and is generally a good watch. Sure, it’s not on the same levels as Deadpool or Spiderman films, but it’s still great! If you’re looking for a fun Ben Stiller superhero comedy, then this is your film!