With the latest superhero epic, Man Of Steel due out this Friday, as well as The Wolverine and Kick-Ass 2 on their way over the following weeks, now seems like as good a time as ever to take a look at what is hot or not in comic book movies. Obviously, this is my personal selection and it will no doubt incense many people but, never the less, here it is…
- THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY – THE DARK KNIGHT/BATMAN BEGINS/THE DARK KNIGHT RISES 2005-2012 (Christopher Nolan) I’m not sure that there’s much more to say on this subject as I’ve been a Dark Knight (2008) bore for most of last year, but this is the most revolutionary change to a well established and successful franchise which I have ever come across. Three proper films in a time of blockbusters being made solely because the title will sell. Well Batman sells tickers, but Nolan went a step further and brought us The Dark Knight and he sold even more!
- HULK 2003 (Ang Lee) Misunderstood Marvel masterpiece of which I may be the only defender but in my opinion even though this fails to deliver a Hulk which Marvel fans took too, the early 2000’s was a golden age for Marvel movies, with critical flops such as this and Daredevil (2003), and mega hits such a Spider-man (2002) and X-Men (2000), at least they were trying to bring Marvel to the big screen with style, though this may have had too much for its own good.
- WATCHMEN (DIRECTOR’S CUT) 2009 (Zack Snyder) Criticised for being too close to the source graphic novel, I think, not being a fan of the comic, that Watchmen is a long, detailed and thought-provoking piece of stylised cinema and when you get past it’s fan-boy drawbacks, this is style with tons of substance. A true literary epic and adaptation.
- 300 2006 (Zack Snyder) Snyder is here again, this time with Frank Millers adaptation of the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans sacrifice themselves in order to inspire the Greek armies to fight the Persians off. Again, style rules supreme and this quite literally is fantasy but fantasy done with a look and feel of the graphic novel coming to life on the big screen. And this is the man who’s bringing Superman back later this summer…
- SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE 1978 (Richard Donner) Mario Puzo, Richard Donner and Marlon Brando. Superman: The Movie was when superheroes became epic movie stars. The tagline read “You’ll believe a man can fly” and we did. Superman was a serious and grand take on introducing the Man Of Steel but Superman II was when the fun really began. But with Donner sacked after filming most of the principal photography, the film had a lighter tone than was originally planned. It wasn’t until 2006 that Donner’s original cut, along with Brando’s cut scenes was released, we saw a radical director’s cut and almost a new movie.
- BATMAN 1989 (Tim Burton) Following on Superman: The Movie (1978), Tim Burton would 11 years later, take comic movies into even darker and more serious territory. He would also cement DC Comics as the top comic-book movie adaptations and both the Man Of Steel and The Dark Knight would reign supreme until Marvel returned in the 2000’s that is…
- MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE 3D 2012 (Joss Whedon) The most ambitious gamble in decades off movie making, the plan to serialise a movie comic book franchise, something that hadn’t really being done since the 1940’s, and the early days of Batman and Superman. Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2004) and Angel (1999 – 2005) delivered the movie which brought together the strands from four existing movies and tied them together seamlessly. Success isn’t the word.
- KICK-ASS 2010 (Matthew Vaughn) Kick-Ass is brutal reality check for the genre as whole. Taking the fantastical elements and taking them to their logical and often horrific extremes. The idea that anyone who become a superhero and super villains would be evil to an extent never truly explored in the comic book movie genre and that the consequences would be very real, devastating and quite deadly to anyone who tried. Kick-Ass is a clever piece of writing and well adapted from the silver screen.–
- SUPERMAN RETURNS 2006 (Bryan Singer) Superman’s back, but not for long. This last-ditch attempt to revive and carry on the series failed under Bryan Singer’s direction. The mis-casting of Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and the contrived nature of both rebooting and continuing the franchise in the same stroke, led this film to failure. But personally, I liked it and felt that it got a raw deal from fans. Not perfect but a striking comic book adaptation for the 21st century.
- UNBREAKABLE 2000 (M. Night Shyamalan) The least comic-book of the lot and not an actual adaptation but this is about the genesis of a superhero more than anything else. M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been in free fall since The Lady In The Water (2007) but back in 2001, he was hot off The Sixth Sense (1999) and bringing a new, delicate and sophisticated tone to his genre defying films. Unbreakable is no different, attempting to understand what it might actually be like to be superhero, villain and how this would fit into real life situations, with chilling results in the final act.–
And now for a few which DIDN’T make the list.
The Richard Donner Cut of Superman II (1980/2006) whilst interesting, more for the fact that this is almost a new film created from elements left behind by the original version which was directed by Richard Lester. Iron Man (2008) is just about off the list, but was almost there, as this is the best of The Avengers films, besides The Avengers (2012) that is. Sam Raimi’s Spider-man trilogy is good, the last one not with-standing, but the Mark Webb reboot from 2012, The Amazing Spider-man is good, but none have broken enough new ground for me.
V For Vendetta (2006) was is no way considered, nor was 30 Days Of Night (2008), even though they may well be decent enough vampire movie adaptations, they just didn’t work for me but then there’s The Fantastic Four, the unreleased Roger Corman version from 1994, was never going to make the list, but it’s always wroth a mention.
This list, like all others will please some and anger others, but this is my taste and I have tried to include a varied range of styles. DC is clearly my universe of choice, with Marvel in its purest form, I.E. The Avergers movies, are not really for me, whilst Marvel pushing the envelope with films such as Hulk (2003) and Daredevil (2003) is.
Man Of Steel is released this Friday, with my review due NEXT Friday, 21st June.