Thursday, August 17, 2006

When Spandex Meets Celluloid

Hello, True Believers!

If you have been reading Earl’s site, then you probably have read his post where he revealed the sordid accusation that he and I used to be some seriously Big-Time comic book collectors.
Well, I’m here to stand up and say that it’s true (shocking, I know, since typically only dweeby guys like Earl are into that, and hot, sexy, model-type guys like me usually don’t go near that kind of stuff.).

But it’s the truth. There, I said it. That was really hard to admit. It would have been so much easier if I had just admitted to being gay, but fortunately for my wife, I’m not.

Anyway, a friend of mine who knows about my extensive knowledge of all things Spandex a while ago asked me to write an article about what I considered to be the best Comic Book-to-Movie adaptations of all time. I’ve been promising myself to do this for a while now, but boredom has finally overtaken me enough that I finally decided to put fingers to keyboard and give it a go.

Keep in mind that, true to form, I have given no real thought to this list beforehand, so I’m doing this from the top of my head. I’m just putting that disclaimer out there since I know that by tonight I’ll have to post in the forums something along the lines of “Crap, I forgot about…..”

But let’s not let anything like the facts dilute the issue here. The list below is what I consider to be the top 5 comic book to movie adaptations of all time:

5) V for Vendetta – Alan More is a master of comic book writing, and even though I read the comic a long time ago, and my memory of it is quite fuzzy, I remember remarking to myself at the time what a great movie this could be. The Wachowski brothers took their Matrix-style, over-the-top take on what is really a politically driven, and not action-oriented, story and made it their own. I didn’t agree with how the entire movie was represented, but as a whole, I have to give credit where credit is due. This movie is a damn fine comic book adaptation.

4) The Crow – This might appear to be an odd choice, since while I think much of this movie is outstanding (The parts with Brandon Lee), the rest of this movie can be pretty much disregarded. The original Crow stories, from back in the 80’s were so dark and sad and compelling that they just sucked me right in. I had never in my life before, or since, read a comic that had “cold revenge” as it’s only plot motivation, but that in a nutshell is exactly what James O’Barr’s black and white story was all about. Lee played the Crow perfectly, and his tragic death while filming one of the movie’s action scenes only served to further underscore the sense of pointless loss prevalent throughout the film.

3) Batman – In the mid 80’s Frank Miller reinvented Batman, changing him from his campy beginnings into the dark, brooding, slightly-crazed Dark Knight that the first movie is based on. The movie really did a fine job of capturing the depressing intensity and violence of Batman’s life. Fans questioned the choice of Michael Keaton in the role of the caped crusader, but Beetle Juice pulled it off. Adding the genius of Jack Nicholson as the Joker instantly made this movie a classic in the eyes of the comic book community. The recent reinvention of the series, Batman Begins, was an admirable return to form for the series, which had gotten worse and worse with each successive sequel. In a close race between BATMAN and BATMAN BEGINS, I will give the “Best” award to BATMAN.

2) X-Men – Brian Singer’s love of comic books really shines in the X-men movies. Singer did X-Men 1 and 2 before leaving the franchise to work on the new Superman movie. X-Men 3, directed by Brett Ratner, doesn’t come close to the magic of the other two. In terms of character development, I would have to give X-Men 1 the nod as my favorite in the series. Singer was constantly pressured by the studio to provide a superhero movie at almost NO budget, and he really came through. Comic book fans were RABID when they learned of an unknown at the time, Hugh Jackman, taking on the key role of Wolverine, but damn did he nail it as good as can be done. Singer had a real handle on the personality of the characters, which X-Men 3 really lacked. From the early moments of X-Men 1 when Wolvie pops his claws in front of a frightened Rogue and she asks “Does it hurt?”, and Wolverine responds sullenly, “Everytime”, I knew this movie was on the right track, and I wasn’t wrong.

1) Sin City – Robert Rodriguez is a comic book fan, and clearly loved Frank Miller’s classic film noir style of gritty storytelling. Never has a comic book (or series of comic books, in the case of the Sin City stories) been so faithfully transposed from paper to film as with Sin City. There are even scenes of the movie that look completely identical to panels from the comic. Transferring this movie from the comic was a true labor of love for Rodriguez and Miller, and it shows throughout the film. I am EAGERLY awaiting the sequel, due out next year.
The more I write, the more I realize I COULD write about some other great comic book movies. I’ll stick with my top 5, but here are some...

Notable mentions:

Superman 2 – What a superhero movie SHOULD be about. Great for it’s day. I’d also give some props to this Summer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS. Aside from what I thought was a cheesy ending, I felt Brian Singer again did comics proud.

Road To Perdition – Great movie, and solid book.

Blade - Parts of it felt like a cheezy made-for-TV movie, but Wesley Snipes really sunk his teeth (get it?) into making the Vampire Hunter come to life.

And before I sign off, here are some of the comic book movies that should NEVER have been made:

Garbage:

Hulk - Being a Hulk fan for about 30 of my 37 years, I SO wanted to love this movie, but I couldn’t leave the theater fast enough….

Aliens Vs Predator – Double points for throwing two great franchises down the toilet.

Fantastic Four – Jessica Alba as the invisible girl? Are you kidding me?

Constantine – The main character is supposed to a smarmy Englishman, and they pick Keanu Reeves? Huh?

Swamp Thing – Ouch! Yuck! Barf!

I could keep going. I could do this for hours, but I’ll stop here.

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