Top 10: Film’s Based on a Comic Book

The release date to Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated adaptation of “Watchmen” is just over three weeks away. When the original graphic novel was released monthly for a full year starting in September of 1986 it shattered the preconceived notions of what “superheroes” were and raised expectations for comic writers and artists everywhere.

I will have a write up of the comic and subsequently the movie once it’s released, but until than admire “Watchmen” the film’s ten best predecessors.* As any fan of the comic knows, expectations could only be met if “Watchmen” sits at the top of this list come March 6….

10. X-Men 2: X-Men United- Pardon the clumsy title, but besides that minor misstep Bryan Singer’s sequel to his ho hum original attempt at the material was a vastly superior effort. The absence of “Beast” and “Gambit” still boggled many fans minds, but Alan Cumming’s “Nightcrawler” is such an excellent addition you forget about your other favorite mutants instantly. Also, if you noticed that the kill count for “Wolverine” throughout the original remained at a flacid zero, he ups the ante in the sequel considerably. So does the rest of the team, and the director. As it stands, the only truly great, or really even above average, X-Men movie to date.


9. Batman Returns- Tim Burton’s original was such a success that Warner Bros. pretty much gave him complete creative control. This meant a wonderfully depraved Danny De Vito as “The Penguin” and a beautifully explicit Michelle Pheifer as “Catwoman”; in them Burton had found two more characters even more interesting to him than Michael Keaton’s “Batman”. It also meant penguins with rocket launcher backpacks and a scene where De Vito breaks a reporters nose with his teeth. Take that for what you will, but Batman’s wonderful mythos hasn’t been met with such feverish imagination since.


8. Spider-Man- Sam Raimi, director of such cult fare as”Evil Dead” and “Army of Darkness”, would seem like an odd choice to launch a new franchise based on one of the most popular comic characters of all time. Than again, Peter Parker would seem like an odd choice to be a superhero, and Tobey Maguire an even odder choice to play him. And what of Willem Dafoe and that awful “Power Ranger’s” attempt at a villains costume. Well the entire thing is pretty ridiculous, but so is Spider-Man.


7. Dick Tracy- If Al Pacino hamming it up as a mob boss under heavy makeup and a Madonna-in-her-prime slinking around for Warren Betty doesn’t excite you than I don’t know if we would agree on a lot of things. All joking aside, Tracy was about ten years ahead of it’s time. What mistakes it makes in clumsy genre overkill it more thank makes up for with great performances aided in no small part by fantastic makeup work, and even better set design.

dick tracy

6. Sin City- The Dick Tracy for the new century, complete with nihilism and over the top action! One of the rare genre films that deserves every bit of overzealous praise it first recieved, it provides excellent characters for Bruce Willis, Benecio Del Toro, a smoldering Jessica Alba and confidently sexy Carla Gugino, and Mickey Rourke’s “first” comeback role. The high contrast cinematography by Robert Rodriguez was handled suprisingly well, with best bud Quentin Tarantino reportedly directing a scene (it’s the one with Del Toro in the car) for a friend fee of $1. The extreme dashes of color and hyper attentiveness to the source material was a breath of fresh air before being beat into submission by 300 and The Spirit.

sin city

5. Iron Man- Great for it’s unanticipated success and the icing on the cake for Robert Downey Jr.’s string of comeback roles, not to mention “The Dude” as the bad guy. Even better for it’s perfect special effects and perfect comic book tone, the sequel should be even better.


4. Spider-Man 2- Topping the original in every conceivable way and creating a memorable movie villain out of “Doctor Octopus” is no mean feat, but Sam Raimi and Co. did just that with this sequel. Completely underrated in every aspect, and briming with personality from the credits onward, it was one of the best films of it’s year.

spider-man 2

3. The Dark Knight- Nearly a billion world wide doesn’t lie, and truth be told Christopher Nolan’s  crime saga is one of the few big budget extravaganza’s that exceeded the hype; a truth even more surprising considering the death of Heath Ledger only added fuel to the fire. By the time The Dark Knight was released everyone and their mother were going to see it. What they witnessed is one of the most mature and confident blockbuster in recent memory, with one of the darkest mainstream villains of all time and a surprisingly strong interpretation of the Bruce Wayne/Harvey Dent relationship, not to mention the risky choice of killing off the only real female character in the franchise. The only problem with this is that it has raised the bar for the (inevitable) sequel to a truly ridiculous height.


2. Superman- Infamous for Christopher Reeves and Marlon Brando’s bit role for a large cost, the first big comic book movie got it near perfection the first time. Superman and Lois’s midnight stroll through the stars is the epitome of cheese, but somehow that, and a man dressed in red and blue tights, come off as sincere. The sequel is actually pretty decent as well, just don’t stray past that.


1. Batman- Tim Burton’s original bat film (as entertainingly campy as the Adam West movie from the 60’s was, it’s best to try to forget about it, like Batman & Robin…) starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as The Joker is still the best. The performances and action are great, but it’s all secondary to the mood Burton was after. Modeling Gotham as a mix between avant-garde and film noir, he used a mixture of a Prince soundtrack and Danny Elfman’s greatest score to bring us to a world unlike anything we’ve ever seen or will again. Completely original and endlessly imaginative: from the credit sequence to the final shot, it’s pure cinematic excitement. And for my money no comic book adaption has a set piece that’s been able to match Vicky Vale’s rescue from her museum “date” with the Joker; ending with the greatest Batmobile ever created racing at full blast to the most evocative soundtrack in Batman’s history.  Inspired by the dark renaissance of the superhero genre that  Moore’s “Watchmen” and Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” spearheaded, “Batman” is an under appreciated classic.


*Only live action releases we’re counted.


~ by rozco on February 11, 2009.

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