Comicbook adaptations have clearly become a force at the box office, becoming their own genre. We have reached a point in time were easily four comicbook related adaptations will premiere on the big screen every year for the next five years at least. Such progress has prompted reflection. With the numerous comic related films having been made, which are the best?
That question is difficult to answer and complex to define. There are films based on comics reaching back several decades and different periods of film. Taking these factors into consideration, I’ve compiled a three part Top 5s lists of comicbook adaptations pertinent to a certain period of time. This month will be the past, the Pre-MCU era, before Iron Man premiered in theaters. Next month will be the present, a period defined as beginning with Iron Man’s premiere and ending in the summer of 2015 with the launch of The Fantastic Four. Finally, October will complete the series with a glance into the future as I determine my most anticipated comicbook films of the coming years.
Number 5: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Cowabunga dude! I’m quite positive this movie inspired my love for pizza. TMNT premiered on 03/30/1990. I grew up with the turtles, mainly the animated series. The success of the animated series prompted an adaptation to the big screen. The animated series was clearly aimed at a certain audience. The movie seemed to divulge from that path.
TMNT was darker and more adult than its animated counterpart. The tone was much darker at times, and some adult themes were included into the plot. Raphael even curses on several occasions. For the early 90s, that’s a big deal. These turtles seemed more like teenagers in their later rebellious years which made for a better story. Recent incarnations of the turtles have represented them closer to the pre-teen years. The story and plot of this film is fluid, there is a good amount of character growth as well as action and entertainment. The movie was serious but did not take itself too seriously, allowing for jokes and personality to develop.
This is Sparta! 300, released on 03/09/2007 is a movie of pure adrenaline. There is more testosterone in this film than a locker room full of athletes lifting weights. Yet the action isn’t the only thing that sets this movie apart. It is the beautiful way the action is crafted that defines the greatness of this film. This movie at times was a motion comicbook. The method and way some of the frames were shot brought to life the perception of a comic. 300 isn’t a comicbook adaptation that will be recognized as one of the pantheons of the genre. However, like the Matrix changed the game for action movies, 300 changed the way we viewed comic book films.
The story was also enticing. Yeah the plot wasn’t very complex, but it really didn’t need to be. Combine that with a little help from true events in history and you had a tale worth telling. The characters were enriched with so much personality, you became invested in their fateful failure as one by one they all succumbed to glory.
Xmen 2 premiered on 05/03/20003 and the comicbook genre has never been the same since. This film has one of the coolest opening sequences of any comic book adaptation, nay of most films of any kind. And from that point forward, the story continuously escalates further, culminating in a confrontation of both the body and the mind.
Another element this film nailed was casting. The original cast returned with the addition of a few more mutant characters. The Xmen franchise and this film in particular was able to balance scene time and character roles without inhibiting the flow of the story. Magneto, is arguably the most menacing foil of any comicbook film. He wasn’t the center of attention in this film but his actions had impact.
Speaking of impact, the influence this film had on the comicbook genre can only be matched by Spiderman 2. While the first Xmen showcased how a proper comicbook adaptation could work without being too campy, Xmen 2 proved that those same adaptations could be great films as well.
I have never heard such an elegant elocution of elongated vocabulary as I had with the infamous V speech from V for Vendetta. V for Vendetta premiered on 03/17/2006, a time when the Patriot Act was a hot topic. 9/11 was still a fresh memory in the minds of most Americans. This film wasn’t afraid to take a position on the current political climate of the times. This is mostly due to the source material also strongly tying into political undertones.
However, the V for Vendetta comics were more a referendum on European politics, specifically British politics rather than the American political system. So while the filmmakers took some liberties with the source material, the spirit of the comic was reflected in the movie. Sometimes it’s nice to escape from reality and watch a bunch of superheroes bash some alien or robotic skulls in and save the day. But every now and then, it’s refreshing to explore the richer world of source material that is available. Movies like V for Vendetta prove that comicbook adaptations can be intellectually compelling without the use of capes, vehicles, or iron suits. OK, yeah the character had a trench coat and a mask, kind of close to a cape wearing superhero.
Swinging into theaters on 06/30/2004 Spider-Man 2 has been lauded as arguably the greatest comicbook adaptation of all time. I won’t go that far, that’s difficult to determine. But it is one of the most complete comicbook films as a whole. The story is crisp and well developed with character struggle and growth. There is a villain who has a motive that isn’t taking over or destroying the world for the pure pleasure of it. You have the best friend who both loves and despises the main protagonist. And a main character uncertain with his role in society. The acting was superb, the CGI was excellent, and the direction was spot on. There is little wrong with this film as far as I can see. Spiderman 2 isn’t just a great comicbook movie, it’s a great film in general.