It comes as no surprise that comic book adaptations are all the rage right now. Many of the most popular franchises have made millions at the box office. Now the rights to every property are being purchased and made into a movie. This year we have The Losers, Jonah Hex, Iron Man 2, and, my most anticipated, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World still to come out this year. However what are the best? Which ones have held up the test of time? Just how brilliant is Tank Girl? All of these questions will be answered with this list of the Top Ten Comic Book Adaptations.
#10 – Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I find it refreshing to start a franchise that I know nothing about. I wasn’t alone in really enjoying the first Hellboy entry and Guillermo del Toro is to thank for that. His love and energy for this series really shines through in both movies. Both of the movies are really fun, but the second one stands out just a little bit more. They lost the unneeded FBI character and they focused more on the relationships within the team. The scene with Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) drunkenly singing “Can’t Smile Without You” is a real treat.
#9 - 300
All right, everybody. This is a comedy, okay? I usually don’t respond to Frank Miller’s madness, but this one I found to be a lot of fun because it recognizes its ridiculousness. It’s about 300 SPARTANS who attack the entire Persian army in an incredibly violent fashion. Intentionally hammy performances fit in well with concepts like having a giant pit and random rhinos.
#8 – Men in Black
I am not a Will Smith fan and this may be his only movie I completely like. The movie is often silly, but so many of the jokes completely work. There is a good measure of wit as Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are fighting big buggy aliens. The casting for those two were really inspired because they end up being able to play off each other really well. This had the potential to be a really great franchise if only they didn’t botch up the second film so poorly.
#7 – Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man has been a character that has been well liked but never extremely respected. Batman is the type of character who has the deep emotional issues while dealing with the gritty atmosphere. With this film Spider-Man jumped up to the proper ranks. This movie managed to be dark without compromising its central element of fun. The birth of Doctor Octopus is violent and even a bit disturbing and his presence leads to some of the better action scenes in the genre. This ranks up there as one of the best Raimi films.
#6 – Iron Man
Like Hellboy I knew nothing about Iron Man. He was never one of the most familiar names in Marvel’s lineup. However, they really took this project seriously. (Unlike Ghost Rider or Electra). The cast was amazing (Robert Downey Jr., Terence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges) and the movie had the right element of humor. It’s one of the rare examples when Tony Stark was as entertaining as his Iron Man counterpart.
#5 – American Splendor
This was the breakout movie for Paul Giamatti for me. He plays Harvey Pekar, a grumpy cartoonist who lives in Ohio. He decides to make a comic book series out of his own life. His books gain a bit of a cult following and he becomes an odd celebrity. The movie is shot in a fun style as it jumps from real footage to cartoons and back to the movie itself. It’s a story that I haven’t seen told and it’s really captivating.
#4 – Road to Perdition
Many people forget this one is a comic book adaptation and that’s too bad. This was a great graphic novel by the crime writer Max Allan Collins. Tom Hanks plays a gangster during the time of Al Capone. His son witnesses a murder and his boss (Paul Newman) orders a hit out on his son. Hanks defies the mob and goes on the run with his son. The violence and the suspense never takes away from the importance of family. It’s a surprisingly touching story.
#3 – X2
This was the first film that made me respect comic book films. The first X-Men film was fun, but this one really amped up the intelligence. Everything gelled perfectly as the characters served a purpose to a complex story. The subject matter was once again handled respectfully and wasn’t downplayed to the audience. All of the mutants used their powers in a way that made sense. Like in the abominable X3 the characters walk a mile through the fog before someone says something to Storm. None of that is here. The story is smart, the action is great, and there is true emotions connected to the characters.
#2 – A History of Violence
David Cronenberg has been a fascinating director for decades and this may be the film I’ll label as his best. Viggo Mortensen plays a family man whose dark past abruptly resurfaces when Ed Harris’s character comes into town. The film examines the ways we use violence in modern society and the duality of all human beings. The film is able to be entertaining and academic.
#1 – The Dark Knight
It’s almost a cliché, but this really deserves to in the number one slot. This movie elevated the possibilities for comic book films. It chooses to almost ignore the genre, but instead place the characters with the realm of a crime drama. The focus isn’t on the superpowers and the master plans, but instead on the unsettling relationship between Batman (Christian Bale) and The Joker (Heath Ledger). It is often said that these two complete each other, but that hasn’t been fully explored in this medium until this film. The film not only challenges this relationship, but all superheroes in general. Batman is constantly at odds against his own city and its people. He desperately wants to the city to be enforced by someone who isn’t a vigilante. The movie never falls back on familiar devices and tells this masterful story in its own unique structure. This is a triumph.