Fantastic Four (2005)—By previews, looks glossy and vapid; Sin City (2005)—Direct transference of comic onto film. Very brutal, slightly derivative comic, but at least an interesting concept. Batman Begins (2005)—Brit director and cast save failing American franchise; Constantine (2005)—From the Hellblazer comic series, Keanu Reeves plays two-dimensional very well, and by keeping the camera on Rachel Weisz, the movie doesn’t fail; Spider Man (1 and 2)—Light but charming comic book fare that critics with children love to praise; Elektra (2005)—A gentle movie based on a violent comic in which the hero has long hair; The Punisher (2004)—A college-try effort on a horrible, brutal 1980s pro-death penalty comic book; Hellboy (2004)—Charming and attractive popcorn film from Mexican directing sensation Guillermo Del Toro; X-Men (1 and 2)—By cutting down humour and pop references and keeping to attractive actors in leather, Brian Singer set up a functional if uninspiring franchise; Catwoman (2004)—Halle Berry plays Catwoman, a woman who wears leather; Daredevil (2003)—Close translation of an overly sincere comic book onto the screen, except Ben Affleck is asked to deliver lines wearing red leather; League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)—Hands-down worst comic movie ever, a misunderstanding of what was meant to be a post-modern comic, a complete and total disaster; Hulk (2003)—At times beautiful, Ang Lee managed to dumb down a dumb comic; Full Metal Alchemist (2003)—A tv-series based on a popular manga, this looks to be the first major crossover to the West, with dozens of manga-based movies to follow; Batman (1 through 4)—Tim Burton started out with a black, white, purple and yellow canvas, and created a melancholy take on an urban superhero. He then fouled it up. Then Joel Schumacher destroyed it; Steel (1997)—Shaq in a really bad comic movie; Spawn (1997)—Based on a comic by the writer who revived Spiderman, this movie is dull, dark and witless, but it has a lot of computer-generated gore; The Phantom (1996)—Based on a newspaper comic strip hero, this movie destroyed the career of the young Billy Zane, who would go on to be the second fiddle to Leonardo in Titanic; The Crow (1994)—With a grunge-heavy soundtrack and a charismatic martial arts star, this moody superhero pic caught the spirit of the times, though now it feels dated and too derivative of Tim Burton’s Batman movies; Blade (1-3)—An unpopular comic translated into a popular movie series because it had the word vampire in the title, and because Guillermo Del Toro directed the first sequel; Conan (1982 and 1984)—Arnold Schwarzenegger brought this series, reinvigorated by Marvel comics, into the flesh. Indeed there is lots of flesh in these movies, which are still surprisingly vivid and pro-steroid pornographic; Flash Gordon (1980)—An extremely colourful and fun comic strip movie in which most heroes wear small outfits; Superman (I-IV)—At first, the series was beautiful and almost campy, then it was dark, then Richard Pryor showed up, then Superman fought nuclear man, still, if you see the 1978 original, you may be surprised at Christopher Reeve’s charisma.
Cult Favourites, Humour and European:
Blueberry (2004, US Release: Renegade)—Only somewhat related to the Moebius French comic, but celebrated in some circles as the best translation of comic onto film, unfortunately, it was a French comic, and few non-genre lovers knew of this release; American Splendor (2003)—With a few nods to Crumb, a fictional piece based on the life of Harvey Pekar every bit as impressive as the original comics from which the film takes its name; Bulletproof Monk (2003)—Underground comic that never earned a fan base was turned into a B-movie that misused Chow Yun-Fat; The Road to Perdition (2002)—A sombre Chicago mob story originally presented in a no frills graphic novel, now presented in a no frills film with no frills acting by Tom Hanks and Paul Newman; From Hell (2001)—By writer of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, humour again lost on director, but Johnny Depp pulls off an appealing performance; Ghost World (2000)—Relaxed and successful film loosely based on a hit cult comic; Judge Dredd (1995)—Based on a precocious and British comic, the humour and charm were lost on the Hollywood scriptwriters; Tank Girl (1995)—Also based on an amusing a stylish British comic, but this production kept some humour and developed a small following; Crumb (1994)—Outstanding documentary about the underground comic artist Harry Crumb and his family; Richie Rich (1994)—The movie that demonstrated that Macauley Culkin was finished as a child actor was based on a comic; The Addams Family (1991)—Not much of a film, but the images borrowed from Charles Addams New Yorker cartoons connect… somehow: Howard the Duck (1986)—An extremely popular comic made into a bizarre but unamusing film, produced by George Lucas, who would later give us Jar Jar Binks.
Inspired By Comics:
The Incredibles (2004)—Amusing Pixar animation take on the Fantastic Four written by a comic book nut; Matrix (I-III)—Manga enters the mainstream as the Wachowski brothers borrow heavily from Akira and other Japanese comics; Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002)—To comics what poetry is to Dead Poets Society; Unbreakable (2000)—M. Night Shyamalan deals with the notion of comics and superheroes with intelligence, then mucks up the ending; The Iron Giant (1999)—A painstakingly perfect animated feature by comic nut Brad Bird, who would later make the commercially successful feature The Incredibles; Mystery Men (1999)—Ben Stiller and Pee Wee Herman combine to form a mediocre super group—the start of the bowling alley comedy genre that would later provide the world with The Big Lebowski; The Ice Storm (1997)—Before Ang Lee directed Hulk, he took on this Rick Moody project, which gently refers to the Fantastic Four as it depicts the tragedy of the 1970s… the tragedy of that age being that it existed at all; Barb Wire (1996)—Pamela Anderson plays Barb Wire, a woman who wears leather; The Shadow (1994)—Based on a radio play superhero first voiced by Orsen Welles, this movie demonstrated that Alec Baldwin was hairy and perhaps not the next Sean Connery.
Coming soon: Art School Confidential (2005)—Ghost World director Terry Zwigoff reteams with Daniel Clowes; Superman Returns(2006)—Superman with a big budget; V for Vendetta (2005)—Natalie Portman in an anti-fascism, possibly pro-anarchist, movie based on one of the best graphic novel’s ever released, from writer Alan Moore, whose other books, From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen did not come off well in film, guaranteed to disappoint; Ghost Rider (2006)—A mediocre Marvel comic rip off of Mad Max that somehow caught the interest of Nicolas Cage. Plus look forward to the following sequels: Hellboy 2 (2006), Sin City 2 (2006), Spiderman 3 (2007), X-Men 3 (2006).