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YES! Weekly’s ten best comic book movies…

by Sharon Armstrong

Batman, Batman Returns

Progenitor of a series of questionable sequels, Batman and Batman Returns nevertheless forged the way for new and more adult interpretations of comic book heroes on the silver screen. Tim Burton’s slightly macabre vision of the dark, conflicted hero brought Batman and its immediate sequel closer to the comic book version of the playboy crime-fighter than had previously been shown on film and despite brief recidivism – who could forget the Bat-butt close-up in Batman Forever? – Batman once more became everybody’s favorite vigilante. And the villains, don’t forget the villains. Jack Nicholson’s psycho Joker, Danny DeVito’s strangely tragic Penguin and, of course, Catwoman. Men everywhere, whether they admit it or not, still have a place in their hearts and trousers for the not so fluffy Catwoman, circa Michelle Pfeiffer in black vinyl.

X-Men

Arguably the breakthrough movie that made admitting that you read comic books cool again. Ostensibly dealing with themes of prejudice and discrimination, X-Men featured great special effects, beautiful incarnations of the characters and a sense of humor. It also managed to get rid of the spandex costumes, that bane of superheroes everywhere. And yes, we know Hugh Jackman is too tall to be 100 percent on the money but when you have a leading man who appeals to all age groups, genders and sexual orientations, what can you say but, “Go Wolverine!”

Hellboy

Ignore the convoluted plotline; it’s not important. All you need to know is that the huge, red, cat-loving demon who battled on the side of the angels against full-on betentacled Lovecraftian monsters is cool. Hellboy walked that thin line between camp and crap with no apparent effort, making every monster cliché it threw at you fun and fabulous. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) inhabited the character as if he were born to it. Is it me or is that man always in a mask?

The Crow

They say that art imitates life and that was certainly the case in The Crow. Dark, savage and elegant, The Crow gained instant notoriety and a strangely gothic authenticity due to the accidental death of leading man Brandon Lee while filming. With a chart-topping soundtrack, the picture became the rock star of comic-book movie adaptations, just like Lee’s character Eric Draven. When Lee’s face was digitally added to a stunt double to complete unfinished scenes, in a strange way the actor himself managed to come back from the dead, at least on film. The Crow remains a genuinely eerie monument to a tragically shortened life.

Sin City

Director Robert Rodriguez had to work hard to get Frank Miller on board with his celluloid adaptation of Miller’s hugely popular Sin City graphic novels; Miller had his reservations about releasing the rights to Sin City thanks to the third Robocop movie, and who could blame him? Rodriguez managed to convince him by shooting an introduction that showed just how good a graphic-novel movie adaptation could be. Various critics condemned Sin City for its nihilism and extreme violence and even for being shown in black and white. But hey, that’s what film noir is all about: shadow and light, moral ambiguity, far-fetched plots, over-the-top dialogue and lots of beautiful femme fatales with guns and great one-liners. Look out for 300.

Spiderman

Spidey was always easier to draw than to film but in Spiderman the webslinger achieved joy. The combination of CG effects and expensive costuming made the inhuman gymnastic abilities of the New York wall-crawler shine as we watched quiet Peter Parker become the Amazing Spiderman, dancing with the city as only Spidey could. Never knew what he saw in Mary Jane, though.

Blade

Never in the history of comic book movies has the difference between the original source material and the screen version been so marked. Blade in the movie is sleek, laconic and deadly; all black leather/shiny weapons/martial art cool; the original comic book version? Not so much. Blade dragged vampires out of the graveyard and into the dance clubs, businesses and city streets where unfortunately they seemed to be having a better time than the hero. Oh well.

Alien vs. Predator

Sometimes graphic novel/movie adaptations take themselves very seriously and sometimes they don’t. Based on the Dark Horse Comic books, Alien vs. Predator is all about the monster melee and there is nothing wrong with that.

Men In Black

The infamous “men in black” have been reported by eyewitnesses of paranormal events from UFO activity to demonic possession, so it was only a matter of time before they made it to the big screen in this clever and conspiracy theory- validating movie. You did not watch that movie. Will Smith being battered against the roof of a car and up-chucked on by a newborn baby squid was not funny. Zap! Memory erased.

Howard the Duck

Only kidding.

The Road To Perdition

The graphic novel The Road to Perdition was based on the story of a real-life enforcer for Al Capone who went on a vendetta with his son after the rest of his family was murdered. Differing somewhat from the graphic novel, the extraordinary thing about the movie adaptation was the attention to detail that went into its production. From scene construction to the actual manufacture of the textiles from which the costumes were made, the age of the gangsters in Chicago lived again.

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