With the arrival of this summer's X3: The Last Stand, a slue of adapted-for-cinema graphic novels and comic book series that have littered theaters for the past three decades, and several upcoming blockbusters set for release over the next year or so already in production, I thought it would be a good time to reveal my Top 10 Comic Book Movies list.
Agree, disagree, or indifferent, the following entries have proven to be more than just fodder for fanboys/girls and comic shop geeks. This is the lowdown on the best movies from the funkiest, funniest and coolest genre around.
Entries are not judged merely on their superior f/x or the accuracy of their adaptation, but again, their impact on cinema and the movie-going public at the time of their release. That's not to say that those attributes have been ignored, just not solely based upon.
I won't take the time or energy to breakdown each film in depth, but will give a satisfactory synopsis of each.
Here we go...
1. BATMAN BEGINS (2005): Although the previous four Batman releases thoroughly beat the Dark Knight franchise with the camp stick, this rendition redeems our hero by maintaining the same dark malevolence and coarse credibility that fuelled Frank Miller's revamp of the comic book franchise with The Dark Knight Returns (DC Comics, 1986). Despite the enigmatic title, this film gave us a cooler Batmobile, a killer cast and great villain in Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow.
2. SUPERMAN THE MOVIE (1978): Richard Donner's adaptation of the most iconic superhero of all time (Spidey and Bats are phenoms, but the Man Of Steel is the big kahuna) is a fantastical story that gave viewers the sense that the story was actually happening - that one would believe a man really could fly. Sure, the effects have dated considerably since the near-30 years that Christopher Reeves soared around the globe (reversing time), but it still has a sense of scale that impresses.
3. X-MEN 2 (2003): Bryan Singer's second stab at the X franchise is the perfect comic book entree which is exciting (Nightcrawler's attempt to assassinate the President), moving (Wolverine's anguish over his past), topical (a feared minority starts global conflict), and intimate (Iceman's 'coming-out' to his family). This edition was smart, funny and complex... and hugely successful for Singer, which bodes well for us as he is responsible for Superman's return later this year.
4. SPIDER-MAN (2002): A by-the-book origin movie that invites viewers to journey with Spidey every step of the way, as he faces off with a giggling Green Goblin. Getting to see the softer side of Spider-Man (Peter Parker) hit such a chord with movie-goers that this film is still the highest-grossing superhero flick of all time.
5. SIN CITY (2005): It was only a matter of time before someone attempted a direct rendering of the bold framing of comic book panels to film. Robert Rodriguez partnered with SIN CITY creator, Frank Miller, in this neo-noir release to produce the most accurate adaptation of graphic-novel-to-big-screen that's ever been done. SIN CITY oozes with style and its black and white film only adds to the style-over-substance design.
6. BLADE (1998): Predating the Matrix's leather chic by a year, BLADE is a slamming slice of high-quality action, dripping with attitude and cool. We see a reinvented BLADE (from the comic book) as a vampire hunter with a serious penchant for kung fu - the opening scene, in which BLADE lays waste to a nightclub full of bloodsuckers, is a veritable classic!
7. X-MEN (2000): This was the first Marvel masterpiece which sees a team of mutant superheroes protecting the very people who fear them. Riddled with spectacular special f/x, X-MEN is a wonderful story that single-handedly relaunched the comic-book-to-film genre after Warner Brothers effectively destroyed it with the horrific "Batman & Robin."
8. THE ROAD TO PERDITION (2002): Didn't know this one was a graphic novel, did ya? Without a cape or pair of tights in sight, TRTP is a classic gangster graphic novel, infusing the violence with fantastic cinematography
- the shootout in the rain is dazzling
- and finding emotional depths in the crux of father-son relationships. TRTP is a meditation on the effects of violence and a heart-wrenching family drama.
9. SUPERMAN II (1980): A multi-layered, multi-toned movie in which Supes falls in love, faces his own mortality and takes on three evil Kryptonians, each as powerful as him. With these three sub-plots in the mix, SUPERMAN II should never have worked... not to mention the fact that director Richard Donner was fired with 70% of the movie in the can, and replaced by Richard Lester, known for his playful streak that by all rights should not have meshed with Donner's straight-faced Americana.
But it did work.
10. HELLBOY (2004): Monstrous, horned and sporting an arm made of solid rock, for all intents and purposes, HELLBOY is the antithesis of almost every superhero you can imagine (save for, possibly, Ghost Rider or Lobo... but most of you have probably never heard of him). He's the spawn of the devil, for one thing, which may be why this labor of love is so appealing - spooky, exciting and romantic. Yes, romantic.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
- A History of Violence
- V For Vendetta
- Conan the Barbarian
- The Punisher (w/ Thomas Jane)
- Ghost World
The Five Worst Comic Movies (in no particular order):
- Superman IV: The Quest
- Batman & Robin
- Tank Girl
- Dick Tracy
- The Punisher (w/ Dolph Lundgren)