Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Comic Book Movie Round-Up (Part III)

Here is the third -- and hopefully last -- installment of the Blessed Are the Geeks Comic Book Movie Round-Up. Feel free to check out parts one and two before reading this, or just get right to it:

Superman: Despite its many fundamental problems, the 1978 Superman film is absolutely wonderful. It works for two reasons:

#1. The tone is serious and respectful of the source material. There is a lot of broad comedy here and there, but almost none of it pokes fun at the comic book or the character.

#2. Christopher Reeve is amazing as Superman. His was far and away the greatest performance as a super hero in movie history. He just was Superman.

But he didn't really pull of Clark Kent, but that was because the script called for him to act like a complete buffoon. At least Reeve was still charming and funny even though he was being kind of annoying and nonsensical. The idea that Clark Kent lives his civilian life purposefully as a fool and a clown is completely contrary to the comics and the other portrayals in TV and film serials that came before.

I also didn't understand why they made Lex Luthor so comical and nonthreatening. This is Superman's archnemesis, not some fool living in a sewer hatching schemes that even a schoolboy would know make no sense. Also, Otis just wasn't funny, wasn't charming, and sucked the life out of every scene. And I have nothing bad to say about Miss Tessmacher.

And don't get me started on the whole going back in time nonsense. Or that scene where Lois Lane narrates their fly sequence with that weird poem. Or numerous other story details and plot points that made no sense. It's still a great film because of Reeve's performance as Superman.

Superman II: Now this is one of the best, straight up, no nonsense comic book films of all time. Well, ok, there is some nonsense, but it's still all in good fun. This is just one of those perfect sequels that improves almost everything from the first film and expands on it exponentially. I love this movie. It's big, it's epic, it's funny, it's action packed. Oh, and it's also pretty dumb in places, but it's also very sweet and very poignant as well. And it gave the world Terence Stamp as Zod. How cool was he?

They later released a recut version that was supposedly closer to director Richard Donner's original version, but I haven't seen it. I liked it well enough that I didn't think it really needed too many changed. Also, considering how dumb the first film was, I tend to give some credit to Richard Lester for this film's success.

Superman III: Wait a minute... what did I just say about Richard Lester? Did I just give him credit for making Superman II better than the first film? Because, in reality, Superman III was Lester's only solo effort at directing a Superman movie, and it's terrible. Maybe they should've had Richard Donner come in at the end for reshoots. Richard Lester is a fantastic director of madcap comedy movies (rent A Hard Day's Night to see his talents used for good and not evil), so he always seemed ill at home with these Superman films. You only have to watch the opening credits of Superman III to see how apparant this is. It's a long, madcap, slapstick sequence featuring prat falls, paint cans falling on people's heads, car crashes, and a surprising absence of Superman. However, taken on its own, it's brilliantly choreographed and very funny. But it has no place in a Superman movie.

And neither does Richard Pryor. And don't even get me started on this scene.

Superman IV: On paper, a better film than Superman 3. It's about Superman fighting another super villain instead of a wealthy industrialist with a self-aware super computer (or whatever the hell that movie was about). Also, Lex Luthor is back! Too bad the script was terrible, the plot made no sense, and the special effects were awful. And while it doesn't have Richard Pryor (who is funny), it does have John Cryer (who is not).

The plot is some nonsense about Superman taking all of the world's nuclear weapons and throwing them into the sun, based on the recommendation of some kid. Now, obviously, if there really was a Superman, this would be a logical expectation. But there are some pieces of logic that simply have to be glossed over in order to make a fantasy film like this work. He really took all of the nuclear weapons? What if he missed one? What if some terrorists decide to make just one bomb on their own and then take over the world? Is Superman going to keep grabbing them and tossing them into the sun? Whatever. Anyway, none of that would matter if Nuclear Man was a cool villain (he looks like the guy from White Snake) or if the action and effects were good (just check out this.) Awful movie. It all but destroyed the film franchise and made such a joke of the character that they had to kill him in the comics before he could become cool again.

Superman Returns: Here's a lesson in irony for any would-be filmmakers out there: If you decide to make a film in a film series that ignores the ones you thought were bad, chances are good you'll make a film that's even worse. Intended as a sequel to the first two Richard Donner films (and not the awful third and fourth films), it just ended up as a huge mess that pleased almost nobody. Now, I'm not claiming that Superman Returns is a worse film than, say, Superman III, but if both films were on TV right now and I had to make a choice... Superman III it is! At least Richard Pryor is good for a few laughs and things actually, you know, happen. Superman Returns is just a boring, pretentious, piece of garbage.

You can read my full review of that film here, but keep in mind that I had just scene it and didn't come to hate it as much as I do now after having seen it a few more times.

Swamp Thing: I remember seeing this as a kid and loving it. I watched it over and over again. It was exciting and horrifying. Other than that, I remember next to nothing about it. I think I definitely need to give it another look, considering how much I remember liking it and considering how much I like the original comic by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. They made a sequel called The Return of Swamp Thing, but I never saw it.

Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight: Should I talk about this film now or wait until I do my round-up of comic book based TV shows? I guess I'll talk about it now since it was a film based on a TV show that was based on a comic book. Anyway, this is a cool movie. As adaptations go, it really has nothing to do with Tales From the Crypt -- the comic or the TV show -- aside from the name, an appearance by the Crypt Keeper, and the fact that it ostensibly takes place within the horror genre. Tales From the Crypt was an anthology title that was more like Twilight Zone than anything else, featuring horrific morality tales. This movie is little more than a supernatural slasher film. But it is fun, has a lot of laughs, and some decent scares. And it has Billy Zane and William Sadler who are always fun.

Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood: Now this one just sucked. Who thought it was a good idea to have Dennis Miller (playing, of course, Dennis Miller) fighting a coven of vampires? Does that sound entertaining to anybody? Well, ok, maybe it did back in 1996, but it wasn't. I mean, it's not unwatchable, and Dennis Miller does get a lot of good lines here and there, but if that's all you want, go watch the Dennis Miller show. This movie was just a comedy that happened to have some vampires as comedic fodder for Miller's one-liners. Skip it and watch something good instead, like Demon Knight.

Tank Girl: I'm going to break my own rule and talk about this movie even though I haven't seen it. In fact, I did see the trailer, and that was enough to keep me from seeing it for the rest of my life. Just the sight of Ice T in that dog mask was revolting enough that my skin crawls just from thinking about it. Also, Lori Petty. Thanks, but no thanks.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: If you were a kid growing up in the 80s with a love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you probably thought this was the best movie ever made. It was a near perfect adaptation, with amazing costumes, incredible fight scenes, and a dark moody tone that was inspired more by the original comic book than the animated TV series. Personally, I never really liked the Turtles too much and thought the cartoon was annoying and too silly. But this movie was pretty cool because it was brooding and hyper-violent, probably because it came out right after Tim Burton's Batman. Cool movie, and while the costumes may look silly today, they were ground-breaking at the time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: Remember how I said that first film was hyper-violent and incredibly dark? Well, most parents didn't like that too much so it caused a little bit of a controversy. As a result, this film is little more than a live-action cartoon, with corny jokes, slapstick humor, and a surprising lack of the Turtles using their trademark weapons. Oh, and there's also a cameo by Vanilla Ice. So this movie is pretty dumb, but I liked it and I would watch it again if it was on right now. Go Ninja go Ninja go!!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Ugh. This movie was just awful. It's sad when a valid criticism of a film is that it needed more Vanilla Ice. Skip it. The Angry Videogame Nerd did an amazing review of this movie a few years ago that's well worth checking out.

Timecop: According to the IMDB, this movie was based on a Dark Horse comic book. Who knew? Anyway, this movie is awesome. It's classic Van Damme trash. Go rent it just to watch him do the split on the kitchen counter.

V For Vendetta: True story: The other day I rode my bike past some Scientology center in downtown Minneapolis and saw a (very small) group of protesters outside. They had banners with slogans against Scientology, they were blaring that song "What is Love?! (Baby Don't Hurt me!)" on a boombox for some reason, and they were all wearing masks like that guy from V for Vendetta. I wonder how many of them knew they were actually wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Anyway, that was weird, but it was more entertaining than this movie was. All in all, it was a very faithful adaptation of the comic, but the comic was little more than a reworked adaptation of 1984. I found it boring and pretentious, though some of the performances were very good.

Wanted: This movie was neat, but I didn't really love it or anything. I've never read the comic, but the movie was clever and full of cool, original ideas. But the cast was kind of lackluster and lacking in charisma. But the action set pieces were mostly off the hook. 

Watchmen: Read my full review here, but my basic impression was that it was a very cool movie that wasn't as good as the comic. It was way too over the top and muddled some of the more important themes from the comic, but it was a fairly faithful adaptation all the same. I liked it and thought it was really entertaining. Same director as 300, which I thought was more successful if only because the original comic needed a lot less condensation and reworking. But, visually, Zack Snyder always delivers something amazing.

Weird Science: This really wasn't based on a comic book. Somebody just bought the rights to the old EC Comics title "Weird Science" and made a movie that had nothing much to do with it. I mention it only because it really is a very good movie. It's an 80s comedy classic.

X-Men: The first X-Men movie blew me away. Considering the huge cast of characters and ridiculously labyrinthine plotlines from the comics, I was expecting the worst... so maybe that's why I was so pleasantly surprised and honestly loved it. It was a little too simplistic and the overall plot was pretty stupid, but it worked because the cast was great and most of the characters were captured fairly well. Hugh Jackman stole the movie and made himself a movie star in the process.

But the costumes really did suck.

X2: Bigger and better than the first X-Men movie, director Bryan Singer outdid himself by making one of the best comic book movies of all time. This was just an awesome, badass, comic book movie that felt very faithful to the comics (for the most part) and stood on its own. I loved it and so did all but the most die hard comic fanboys.

X-Men: The Last Stand: Bryan Singer left the franchise in order to make Superman Returns (and we all saw how well that turned out) leaving this film in the hands of auteur Brett Ratner. This change didn't help the careers of either director, since Bryan Singer hasn't made a good film since X2 and Brett Ranter just proved to the world that he can't make a movie that isn't Rush Hour. This movie was just a huge, colossal, mess. Some of the action scenes were neat and we got decent performances from the stalwart cast, but the plot was unfocused and the script was terrible. Main characters were killed off willy nilly (some of them offscreen!) while new characters who weren't even in the comics were introduced for no reason. All in all, just a boring, bloated, bomb.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Lots of people hated this movie, but I enjoyed it. Check out my full review here. I absolutely understand and agree with most of the complaints and criticism leveled against this movie, but I got so much enjoyment out of watching Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that I didn't really care that it was such a stupid movie. And it is stupid, make no mistakes about that. But, again, I liked it ok.

And that's it. Every comic book movie I've ever seen. Coming up next I'll look over the list and create my top ten best and worst lists. Until then, I'm going to go decompress by watching Steel Magnolias or something.


Anonymous said...

The Scientology protestors have adapted the V for Vendetta (Guy Fawkes) mask because he faught a totalitarian system. The protestors, like a number of goverments in Europe, believe Scientology is a totalitarian cult (watch these pictures for example: http://home.snafu.de/tilman/clearwater1998/rpf.epf.html).

They hail from a rather bizarre youth culture, which is why they enjoy playing bad music.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I bought the WANTED comic book miniseries when it came out and I've read it a few times since then. It's hilarious. The movie didn't do too badly with some of the themes and it's fairly faithful when dealing with the main character, but the story is completely different. WANTED (the comic book series) was Mark Millar doing a thinly-disguised version of the DCU in which the villains had won. I think it's great, but given the fact that it's a kind of a deconstructionist meta-reworking, none of that would have made sense on the big screen.

stupescommaruth said...

Lori Petty, thanks, but no thanks.

best line ever.