Friday, October 17, 2008

10 best super-hero and comic book movies of all time...

You've already had my pick of the ten best sci-fi and fantasy movies and my top ten best feel-good movies of all time, so now it's time for one of my personal favourite genres, the world's greatest super-hero movies and comic book adaptations.

Batman logo movie poster
Tim Burton's big screen adaptation of the Caped Crusader captured the imagination of cinema goers in the late 80's and really paved the way for the glut of superhero and comic inspired movies that followed, from Marvel's Spider-man and the X-Men, to less well known comic books and characters like Blade, Hellboy, Sin City, 300 and 30 Days of Night to name but a few.

Fans were initially wary of the casting of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego the Dark Knight, but soon warmed to him, although he was totally upstaged in the acting stakes by the wonderfully OTT Jack Nicholson as Batman's arch-nemesis, The Joker.
Tim Burton's Batman movie poster
Burton's wonderfully dark movie introduced fans to a very gothic Gotham City, an all black heavily armoured Bat-Suit (no tights here), an awe inspiring Bat-Mobile and Bat-Wing, and turned the Batman logo into a pop icon.  He set a much darker tone for comic book movies and made them less 'pow-wham' and much more grounded in reality.

To this day I often wonder if I use the wrong combination of cosmetics will I die with a Joker grin on my face!

Favourite moment: When The Joker is being strafed by machine-gun fire from the Bat-Wing baring down on him, he calmly reaches into his trousers and draws out a pistol with a preposterously long barrel and shoots Batman's plane out of the sky. 

Superman II movie poster
Now this was a great super-hero action movie.  In Superman - The Movie we'd been introduced to mild mannered Clark Kent and his heroic alter-ego Superman, but all he got to do was avert natural disasters and rescue people.  

In Superman II we are presented with the three exiled Krytonians (who we saw imprisoned in the first movie, in what I always think was a great special effect for the time) who want nothing less than revenge and world domination.  They all have the same powers as our titular hero and they are not afraid to use them to destroy and hurt people.  

We get manhole covers getting tossed like frisbees, buses of commuters thrown with ease and super-breath wreaking havoc on the streets of Metropolis. They really are worthy adversaries and make this a true battle of good versus evil.

In the end though it's brains over brute strength that triumphs. 
Superman 2 Movie poster
Favourite line: 
General Zod (Terence Stamp):
"Come and kneel before Zod. ZOD!"
 

X-Men 2 movie poster
Ah Wolverine, be still my heart.  Even though Hugh Jackman is a tad too tall to play the diminutive comic favourite, after the first movie he made the role his own and now he is he embodiment of Wolverine.  Rippling muscles, vest, claws and all.

This sequel to Director Bryan Singer's X-Men builds upon the strength of Jackman's leading man status and delves deeper into the history of one of Marvel's most popular mutants, revealing some of the secrets of the Weapon X military program.
X2 -X-Men United movie poster
In a truly fantastic and frenetic opening sequence we are presented with a staged assassination attempt on the American President's life by the teleporting Nightcrawler (played by Alun Cumming).  

The wispy smoke special effects of Nightcrawler's signature teleportation method is really original in X2 and a wonderfully realised interpretation from the comic to movie screen (which can sometimes be a problem when these characters have such die-hard fans with their own expectations).
X-Men 2 movie poster
The teleporting blue mutant's attack on the President allows the films main protagonist, William Stryker, to use this anti-mutant sentiment to allow his Weapon X program to attack the Xavier School for Gifted Children.

From the forgotten memories that Professor X has helped him uncover, Wolverine has journeyed back to Canada and the place where Weapon X laced his skeleton with unbreakable adamantium and turned him into a killing machine. However he finds the base apparently long abandoned. 
X-Men 2 movie poster
The soldiers storm the mansion, their main goal not only to capture mutants, but the mutant locating device Cerebro.  Cyclops (unfortunately relegated to a supporting role) and Professor X are trapped by Stryker's agents when they go to visit the imprisoned Magneto, leader of the Brotherhood of Evil mutants

Then during the course of the film Professor X is manipulated by the illusions of Stryker's own mutant son to use Cerebro to track down all the mutants on Earth and kill them in an instant.

Wolverine saves some of the kids at the mansion (in some great fight scenes, but without shedding a drop of blood with those claws, it's a family friendly film after all), including the mis-cast Anna Paquin as Rogue (don't get me wrong, I love her, but she's not the sassy character from the comic books), Iceman and Pyro. They escape and head to the safety of Iceman's family home.

Using the analogy of the gay coming out experience, we see Iceman's parents reaction to their outed mutant son, whilst jealousy and the rising anti-mutant distrust and fear, causes his brother to call the police and report his sibling and fugitive mutant friends.
X-Men 2 movie poster
In the meantime, Storm and Jean Grey have tracked down Nightcrawler to an abandoned church, where they learn he was being mind-controlled when he attacked the President.

There are so many different strands to this movie, but they all come together to make a cohesive whole and try to service the large cast of new and returning characters.

At the end of the movie the X-team comes together and are forced to form an alliance with Magneto's Brotherhood in order to defeat Stryker and his minions, with a claw-tastic Lady Deathstrike versus Wolverine action sequence and a battle between lovers when a mind-controlled Cyclops attacks Jean Grey.

Magneto betrays the X-Men and tries to use Xavier and Cerebro to kill all non-mutants and one of Xavier's students (Pyro) defects to the Brotherhood, but our heroes prevail and one of the X-Men, Jean Grey, makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the others (setting things up nicely for her return in the third movie installment).

Favourite special effect: It has to be Nightcrawler's 'bamf' teleportation effect - they not only created an exciting visual, but nailed the sound too.

Sin City Movie poster
Once in a while a film comes along and takes you by surprise. Adapted from the Frank Miller comic series, Sin City has a gritty film-noir like style.  Filmed predominantly in black and white with tinges of bold colour in places to give the movie a unique look, it follows several interweaving tales of crime, corruption and gangsters.
Sin City poster - Jessica Alba as Nancy
Along with its interesting visual style and strong story strands, Sin City also has a great cast.  Jessica Alba firmly establishes herself as a hot pin-up girl in her role as Nancy, long absent from film Mickey Rourke returns to the screen in a convincing performance as the brutish Marv, whilst Bruce Willis is great as Hartigan, the unjustly framed cop and Nancy's protector.
Sin City film poster
I wasn't expecting much from this movie after all the hype surrounding it in advance of its release and I initially thought it would be a bit one-note and rely too much on the different way it had been filmed or that it would be a relentless shoot-em-up with little to vindicate it.  

Imagine my surprise when the dreary rain soaked Basin City with its gun-toting hooker gang wars, characters like 'The Yellow Bastard' and gripping storylines and action turned out to be a bit of a revelation.

Favourite special effect:  It has to be the unique black and white colour effect throughout the movie which was revolutionary at the time and has been much emulated since.  As with The Matrix, once in a while a movie comes along which changes the film making landscape and Sin City was one of them.

Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer movie poster
After the disappointing first Fantastic Four movie which introduced audiences to the fabulous foursome, this movie really tried to be much more of a fan pleaser. 
Fantastic Four - Invisible Woman
They've up the action and menace quota, made Sue Storm's hair blonder (although this is no necessarily a good thing), injected some more lore from the FF comic books such as the 'Fantasticar', played up Mr. Fantastic's scientific genius, and introduced fan-favourite The Silver Surfer (obviously with a view to a franchise spin-off).
Fantastic Four - The Silver Surfer
It's still played for laughs and targeted at the family-friendly audience, but unlike the uninspiring first movie there are some real wow moments in Rise of the Silver Surfermainly down to the wonderfully realised CGI Silver Surfer flying through buildings and racing The Human Torch through the skies of New York.
Fantastic Four - The Thing
A lot of people weren't that happy with the interpretation of the planet-devourer Galactus in the movie, but I thought the effect they chose was far more believable and menacing than a giant man in a big pointy hat.

Faced with such an alien threat, the film makers do a nice job of creating a sense of global crisis as the team city hop around the world to witness the impact of Galactus' impending arrival. 
Fantastic Four - Mr Fantastic
Rise of the Silver Surfer is a fun, light-hearted action-adventure movie, that's a favourite of mine mainly because of the vast improvement from the FF's first cinematic outing and the fact the director and writers obviously listened to the fans concerns and criticisms and tried to address them in the second movie.
Fantastic Four - The Human Torch
Favourite scene:  He kind of steals the show in the movie (you can tell his star is rising in Hollywood) and so as well as a more integral role in the plot, we're treated to another gratuitous naked torso shot of Chris Evans as Johnny Storm after a steamy shower, to keep the gay and girl audience more than happy (I know I was).

V for Vendetta movie poster
I absolutely loved V for Vendetta when I saw it at the cinema. 

Just like with Watchmen I borrowed the graphic novel a few years before and enjoyed it, but as it was written in the 1980's the movie has been slightly tweaked to make it more relevant in today's more contemporary landscape. 
V for Vendetta movie poster - V
Set in dystopian near-future Britain governed by an oppressive regime, a self styled masked vigilante 'V' (adopting the visage of the infamous Guy Fawkes) rescues young Evey (the wonderful Natalie Portman) from an attack by the state police.

The next day V takes over a television station and broadcasts a message urging the population to rise up against the oppressive government on 5th November, one year from that day when he will blow up the Houses of Parliament.
V for Vendetta film poster
The indebted Evey helps V escape and is targeted by the police, so V takes her into hiding with him.  When she learns he is killing the people in power, she flees and finds safety in the home of a friend, but when his home is raided she is captured, incarcerated and tortured for days.

Her only solace are the notes she finds from a fellow prisoner that she never sees. Evey refuses to give up any information about V even when threatened with execution (and has her head shaved to boot).  It's a real surprise in the story when we learn that she has actually been imprisoned by V who has staged everything to show her what his life has been like.
V for Vendetta - Freedom Forever
Favourite scene: Throughout the movie we are shown how corrupt and evil the government are, so by the end of the film you are cheering along when the streets of London are flooded by thousands of people wearing Guy Fawkes masks and the Houses of Parliament are blown up in a pyrotechnic spectacle.  It's a very powerful image (especially when you live there).

Hellboy comic artwork movie poster
As I'm a bit of a Marvel Comics aficionado it's always great to be exposed to different concepts, universes and points of views, hence why I love Hellboy so much.
Hellboy movie poster
Mike Mignola's comic creation from Dark Horse Comics is a breath of fresh air as it has a mix of super-heroics as well as the paranormal, with a FBI style government agency thrown in for good measure.
Hellboy film poster
Ron Perlman brings Hellboy to life convincingly and makes him a likable, though not your conventional heroic figure, protecting the world from the forces of darkness.  We are presented with a gentle soul in the form of a monster (red skin, horns, tale, giant hand) protecting us from other monsters.
Hellboy - Here to Protect movie poster
Surrounded by a team of weird and wonderful supporting characters and facing evil clock-work Nazis, mystic Russians and tentacled demons, what more could you ask for in an action adventure romp?

Favourite special effect: Baby Hellboy is so darn cute - who wouldn't want to adopt him?

Wanted movie posterJames McAvoy is a real revelation and Angelina Jolie as sexy as ever, but check out my Wanted movie review for the reason why I liked this film so much.
Wanted film poster
Favourite action sequence: James McAvoy's action-packed dash, guns blazing, through the loom factory at the end of the movie is spectacular. 

Iron Man face movie poster
Marvel Comics characters on the big screen have been a bit hit or miss.  We've had the good - the likes of X-Men, Spider-man and Blade and the mediocre - the disappointing Hulk, Daredevil and Elektra.
Iron Man movie poster
So I was absolutely thrilled when they were able to take a a relatively unknown character by the masses, let's face it Iron Man doesn't have the instant recognition amongst non-comic book fans of the likes of Superman, Batman or Spider-man, and make it one of the 2008's summer blockbuster hits (that is, before The Dark Knight came along).
Iron Man teaser movie poster
Robert Downey Jr. just is Tony Stark, I can't imagine who else could have embodied the character so perfectly.  His scandalous true-life public persona helping to bring a believable quality, as well as bucket loads of humour and charisma, to the playboy billionaire inventor.

Iron Man is just such a fun, action-packed movie and for once with these big Hollywood blockbusters, we care more about the man inside the suit, rather than getting lost in the hi-tech suit itself (although that in itself is super-cool). 
Iron Man movie poster
I can't wait to see what they do with the sequel, but for now follow this link for my full movie review and exclusive Iron Man costume pictures.

Favourite scene:  There are so many favourite moments in the movie, from the updating of Iron Man's origin, the comedic timing of robotic arms with the fire extinguishers and frankly any line to come out of Robert Downey Jr's mouth, but the one scene which sums up the fun spirit of the movie has to be the pole-dancing air stewardesses on Tony Stark's private plane.  

The drunken scene made Tony and Rhodey's relationship seem believable, set an irreverent tone for the movie clearly stating that it wasn't going to be all angst ridden and serious, and just put a smile of my face which I found hard to lose the rest of the movie.

Dark Knight - The Joker poster
We began my selection of the ten best comic book movies with Tim Burton's classic Batman movie and so it's quite appropraite that we finish with the latest installment from this famous DC Comics character, the sensational Dark Knight
The Dark Knight film poster
But where to start with this year's clear box office champion and cultural phenomenon?
Dark Knight Batman poster
This film benefits from not having to tell an origin story, which Batman Begins successfully did (although it was a bit slow at times), so can launch straight into high-octane action.
The Dark KNight - BatPod movie poster
I won't waste time babbling on about the plot here, so don't forget to check out my full movie review and exclusive costume photos from The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight movie poster
Favourite character:  It simply has to be Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker. From the brutal pencil trick at the start of the movie to the disturbing visual of him in a nurses outfit that was truly freaky, he clearly stole the show and gave us a truly anarchic adversary that could believably frighten and terrorise a city.

As ever, now I want to re-watch all the films I've mentioned above.  I also have to give credit to other films like Constantine and the Spider-man trilogy (well maybe not the third movie), but even though films like Ghost Rider, Catwoman and Daredevil are not so great, it's always a joy to see super-heros on the big screen.

Don't be afraid to post a comment and let me know if you have any favourite comic book movies.

I can't wait until 2009 when we'll see the mutant X-Man Wolverine go solo and Watchmen finally makes it to the big screen after many years languishing in development hell.  

It's going to be a super year...

2 comments:

JJ said...

I like Christopher Reeve's version of Superman. Superman II is one of my favorites. To me Mr.Reeve is the Superman. The old Superman was charming and witty. Lex Luthor was hilarious to watch. It has a nice storyline as well.

I'm a big fan of the X-Men comic. But in contrary to most folks, I enjoy The Last Stand more than the first and the second.

So far, Hellboy movies are my most favorite comic book movies. The movies grabbed me with such an awe. Charming witty characters with exciting darker storyline. The villains are actually scary and realistic to look at. Less CGI and more latex characters in Hellboy makes Hellboy movies more realistic and believable to watch.

I haven't watched Iron Man's movie.

My least favorite is Spiderman series. I do enjoy the first one though.

Jason in Hollywood said...

Thanks for your comment!

I loved Hellboy, but was less enamoured with The Golden Army.

Iron Man is well worth watching! It's witty, fun and a great action movie too.

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