Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comic Book Movie Round-Up (Part I)

Just because I can, I'm going to give my brief thoughts on every movie I've ever seen that was based on a comic book. I'm guessing this will be multi-part, take forever, and probably go unfinished. But let's see how it goes. I'm only going to talk about the films I've seen, obviously, and the list will be in alphabetical order because I'm going off of this -- except for when I talk about a series, in which case I will discuss them in chronological order.

Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, or just to let me know if I missed anything. Also, I'm only going to discuss live-action movies. I'm not a big animation fan, and I will leave TV series for their own post some other day.

Let's go:

30 Days of Night: I didn't love this. Great premise about vampires living in Alaska where nights can last months at a time, but it just wasn't all that fun or scary. I've also never read the comic book. I've glanced at it, but the artwork seemed too abstract and off-putting.

300: Cool comic, even better movie. This seems to be one of those love it or hate it movies, but I loved it. It had a cool story, fun actors, awesome action sequences, and incredibly visuals. This is why I go to the movies.

Barb Wire: Remember this movie? Remember the comic? This was a bad comic that premiered at the launch of Dark Horse's failed superhero imprint "Comics Greatest World." This one got a movie because it had a main character with big breasts. Not a whole lot to hang a plot on, so it sucked. The comic book -- and entire line -- vanished as well.

Batman (1966): This was the Adam West film based off of the 1960s TV series. If you loved the show, you'll love this movie. I did and I do. It's very campy and very tongue in cheek, but it's also very funny and very entertaining. Great movie.

Batman (1989): Tim Burton's Batman film was probably my generation's Star Wars. It was huge, it was everywhere, and it transcended cinema and comic books. It was a phenomenon even more than just a movie... but it still holds up in my opinion. There were some wacky ideas that didn't really make sense or fit the character, but all in all it was a gorgeous movie with an amazing cast and awesome set pieces. This is probably my favorite comic book movie of all time. And, yeah, I think Michael Keaton was the best Batman and Jack was the best Joker.

Batman Returns: After the phenomenal success of the first Batman, Tim Burton was able to do whatever he wanted with the sequel, so he just went insane. This is seriously one of the weirdest films ever produced by a major Hollywood studio. How else can you explain how the Penguin went from being a character who was short and fat and wore a tuxedo... to a disgusting fish man who drools bile and lives in a sewer? I just don't get it. But I still like this movie because it's funny, great looking, and has a cool cast. But boy is it weird.

Batman Forever: And then Tim Burton passed the franchise over to Joel Schumacher and things got ever weirder. All in all, I like this movie ok. Jim Carrey is fun to watch as the Riddler and Val Kilmer was a fairly decent, if bland, Batman. But it's pretty dumb.

Batman and Robin: This movie is not without its charm, but you'll never hear anybody else say that. This is probably the most reviled and despised comic book film of all time -- not only because it was so bad, but because it all but ended the Batman film franchise for the next decade or so. It's a bad film, it's completely over the top, moronically stupid, and George Clooney sucks as Batman. But still... I kind of like it. It makes me smile. And Arnold as Mr. Freeze always makes me laugh.

Batman Begins: It's me against the world on this one, but I didn't enjoy this movie at all. I'm not a fan of Christian Bale's performance and I just didn't buy director Chris Nolan's interpretation of the character. Also, the story was dumb and the action sequences were some of the worst I've ever seen. Still, it was a huge hit and people loved it.

The Dark Knight: I liked this one even less than Batman Begins, but it went on to be one of the most successful movies of all time so what do I know? I just know it was pretentious, over written, and featured a main character that wasn't anything like the Batman from the comics I grew up reading. Still, the action sequences are better this time around and Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is deservedly well praised and worth watching. Still... I dunno. I'm not a fan.

Blade: After Batman, this is my favorite comic book film series. Actually, this is probably my favorite comic book film series, considering how they are all great while only the first Batman film was actually all that good. Anyway, this movie is awesome. It stars Wesley Snipes as a vampire slayer. It has kick ass action, a great cast, and a dark, moody tone that really sucks you in. Pardon the pun.

Blade 2: This movie is amazing. It took everything that made the first Blade so great and kicked it all up ten million notches. The special effects are better, the fight scenes are among the best I've ever seen in any movie, and the story is epic. It's also kind of dumb and makes no sense, but who cares because it's so damn fun. This is the best movie in the Blade series and one of the best comic book movies ever.

Blade Trinity: This movie was a step down after Blade 2, but I still like it a lot. It's funny and entertaining, but the story is weak, the guy who plays Dracula was so lame, and the ensemble cast downplayed Blade way too much. Still, Ryan Reynolds is funny and Jessica Biel is super hot... but where's Blade?! Long-time series writer stepped in as director, and he maybe wasn't the best choice. Still, I like it.

Bulletproof Monk: Fun movie. Never read the comic. Worth checking out, but don't run to the videostore or anything.

Captain America (1990): I remember reading about this film's production in Stan Lee's Bullpen Bulletins when I was a kid. According to him, it was going to be just about the best movie ever made. Well, it wasn't. At some point, Stan just stopped writing about it and it just disappeared. I don't know if it ever came out, but I finally saw it years later on TV. And it's awful. This is pretty much the vanguard of bad comic book movies. Captain America was played by Matt Salinger, who was more famous for being the son of J.D. Salinger. I'm pretty sure this film was the reason why his father became such a notorious recluse.

Catwoman: Now this is a bad movie. I have it on this list if only because it shares a name with the comic book character, but the similarities certainly end there. Nothing else about this film is even remotely based upon any comic book featuring the character called Catwoman. And even forgetting all that, this is just a terrible movie.

Constantine: I've always been more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, so I don't know a whole lot about John Constantine. I've seen him in a few comics, but I've never read any issues of his solo comic Hellblazer. Having said that, I liked this movie. I thought it had a cool story and some neat ideas. Still, had I been a huge fan of the character, I probably would've been annoyed with the casting of Keanu as the blond, British John Constantine. It's worth checking out.

The Crow: Overrated but still pretty entertaining. The Crow is notable for being the last film by Brandon Lee, since he died accidentally during the film's production. As legacies go, this was certainly a better film than Showdown in Little Toyko. It's a good film that is better than the comic upon which is was based, in my opinion, but it's still a little overrated. But it's well worth checking out, and it is sad that Brandon Lee came to such an early end, because he was a really talented, likable actor. They also made a whole bunch of sequels with different actors, but I don't think I've seen any of them.

Daredevil: What a mess. How did they screw up Daredevil this bad? What makes this film so bad is that it's really not that bad of a film. It's just a huge mess with almost every major character detail done wrong. But you could tell they really tried to treat it all seriously, and Ben Affleck could have been good as Matt Murdock. But the story was bad, the script was terribly, the costume sucked, and the action scenes were appalling. Awful movie.

Elektra: This was actually better than Daredevil, but it was still terrible. The best thing I can say for this movie is that some of the action scenes were neat and Jennifer Garner is very pretty.

Fantastic Four: Although it's relatively unknown among most non-comic fans, the Fantastic Four is maybe by favorite comic ever, so it was with some trepidation that I saw this film in the theater. And while it was pretty bad and had made some wacky character changes, I mostly enjoyed it. But it wasn't all that great and could've benefited from a much better director. Still, Chris Evans was fun as Johnny Storm, and Jessica Alba sure was pretty, even though she was way miscast.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: More or less the same movie as the first one, just with a slightly more epic plot. If you liked that one, you'll like this. If you hated that one, well... skip it. I thought it was still ok, but maybe more satisfying if only because they did so well with their interpretation of the Silver Surfer. But why no Galactus?

From Hell: Never read the comic, liked the movie ok. It's about Jack the Ripper. Johnny Depp. Kind of boring, but worth checking out.

Ghost Rider: Rented it, but it was so bad I never finished. Why make a Ghost Rider film anyway? The character hasn't even been able to keep a comic book series profitable so they really thought he could carry a movie? Not a bad visual design for the main character, but where was the script?

Hellboy: I'm a big Hellboy fan. It's my favorite current comic book and I think it's one of the most brilliant things I've ever read. I also thought this was a great film. It's another one of my favorite comic book movies. Director Guillermo Del Toro (who also did Blade 2) made it as a labor of love and it really shows. The visuals are amazing and the casting was perfect. Still, the script could've used some work and it kind of lacks a real ending. But I still love it.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army: I prefer the first Hellboy film if only because the ensemble cast is better and it is a little more rooted in reality while this one is all out fantasy, but it's still a great movie. Del Toro is a brilliant director and this is one of his best bar none.

History of Violence: I liked this movie, even though I was only mildly aware of its origins as a comic book. Worth checking out.

Howard the Duck: One of the most notorious bombs of all time. It really is a terrible movie that is going to be be unwatchable for most people. Still, I've probably seen it a few dozen times. If it was on TV right now, I'd watch it again. But don't let that fool you... it's a terrible movie.

Hulk: I liked Ang Lee's Hulk film, even though he probably wasn't the best choice to direct a big budget comic book action film. Most people hated this for being too cerebral and too slow and too full of psychological mumbo jumbo. And they're all right, but it's still fun to watch the Hulk smash stuff. There just isn't nearly enough scenes of the Hulk smashing stuff.

The Incredible Hulk: This really wasn't a sequel to the first movie. It was just another Hulk movie. All in all, it was a much better, more action packed, more satisfying film than the original. But still, I preferred Eric Bana to Edward Norton and I liked the visual design of the first Hulk more than the giant monstrosity found in this film. But it's a pretty kick ass action movie, with the final fight being one of the coolest action sequences I've ever seen. I'm sorry it was a flop because I love watching the Hulk smash stuff.

And that seems like a good place to stop and take a break. Stay tuned, true believers, for part 2 of our astounding round up of comic book movies!


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I agree with most of this. Only objections would be that I liked Ang Lee's Hulk better than the Incredible Hulk, and I thought The Dark Knight was pretty good (which is odd, because I thought Batman Begins was just a big mess).

Donald said...

I liked the second Hulk better because it just had more action. But as far as action scenes go, that scene in the desert from the first film was just about the best thing ever.

And I have a friend who also hated the Dark Knight, but he has since watched it a bunch of times and now loves it. He keeps encouraging me to see it again, and I will as soon as I have five hours or so to spare. No, I'll check it out someday again. Or not.