I love comic books. Hell, who doesn’t? Theoretically some people don’t, but I’m convinced these people are really just shapeshifting alien invaders in disguise. Anyway, comic books are just fun. They’re action packed, exciting, inventive, and full of people of both genders who wear very… exciting clothes, so you’ll be happy whatever your preferences are. Then, one day, some bright film producer looked at a comic book, and said “this would make a brilliant movie!” He was right. Following is a list of my top five favorite comic book movies, though I can’t vouch for complete accuracy. There’s a lot of great comic book movies out there I love, and choosing between them was very, very hard.
Yes, 300 was, in fact, based on a comic book of the same name. Like the comic, 300 is a wildly and intentionally inaccurate portrayal of famous Battle of Thermopylae, aka the Battle of Three Hundred Spartans. Now, I could rant for hours about how inaccurate and downright silly 300 is, but after watching it I found I really did not care one bit. 300 is fun, above all else. It’s powered by 100% pure manliness and testosterone, and it positively revels in it. It is fully aware of how stylized and over-the-top it is, and it takes every advantage of it. The story is actually a morale-enhancing propaganda speech being given to a massive Greek army before their final battle with the Persians, telling them a glorified tale of how King Leonidas bravely fought to give them time to prepare, so the over-the-top nature can be excused to an extent. Either way, 300 is a glorious romp of absurd violence, astounding visuals, and lots of highly quotable lines.
4. The Crow
Unlike a lot of other movies on this list, there’s a chance you haven’t heard of the Crow. It’s easily the oldest movie listed here, and while it did very well both critically and commercially it never really became a huge hit. It’s biggest claim to fame was that its star, Brandon Lee, son of Jet Lee, died towards the end of filming due to a prop malfunction. Regardless of this oddly appropriate tragedy, the Crow remains an amazing film, with a breathtaking sense of style that really hit it off with the gothic community. Its story is altered quite a bit from its comic version, but that’s for the better; the story is far more clear and easier to follow, and it gave the hero a lot more direction and made him more sympathetic and likable. It didn’t have the visceral punch of the comic, but that’s to be expected; the comic was essentially its creator’s mental breakdown caught on paper, and thus is impossible to reproduce. They gave it a mighty fine effort, though, and came up with a movie that’s dark and edgy without going over the top into gore-and-sex-ville, darkly amusing without being disturbing, and emotionally gripping without leaving us feeling hollow inside.
3. V for Vendetta
Sadly, V for Vendetta appears to be even less known then The Crow, despite it doing very well both in the box office and with the critics. Even the stuffy Roger “Hates Everything” Ebert liked it. Unfortunately, it seems to have vanished from the public consciousness immediately upon leaving theaters, and anyone who wasn’t able to see it then, because they were to young for example, has likely never even heard of it. This is a shame, because V for Vendetta is a masterpiece. It has a little bit of everything, for every kind of viewer. It has action, mystery, cerebral philosophy, political undertones, even some humor here in there. It’s deeply psychological and emotional, and heavily loaded with political satire and commentary, but it refuses to let any of this interfere with the plot. It changed a great many things from the comics, changing major character Evey’s age, eliminating some of the side plots, removing the less important bits of V’s backstory and skipping over some of V’s more flamboyant scenes. Thankfully, none of these changes really impact the movie as a whole, except making V less of a humorous, Joker-like psychopath fighting for good, and more of a sympathetic anti-hero. The movie is neither better nor worse off for these changes, except in that it distills the movie down to what is truly important to the story, which any good movie will do. The best part of this movie is definitely the actor who plays V, who fits the role so perfectly it’s almost scary. His face is never seen, of course – that’s kind of the point – but his voice is an absolutely perfect match for the one you hear in your head when you read the comics.
2. The Dark Knight
Now we move back into the realm of well-known blockbusters, with the sensational Dark Knight. Even people who don’t like Batman and have never read a single comic adore this movie. I’ll tell you what, though. It’s not because of Christen Bale’s throat-cancer Batman voice, or the constant speech-giving every character seems prone to – not that these are bad elements, mind you. It’s not the dark, gritty visuals that are exactly what Gotham should look like, the brilliantly cerebral story, the constant struggle not between good and evil but between order and chaos; it’s not even having luminaries like Gary Oldman and Morgan “God” Freeman on the cast. It’s the Joker, and Heath Ledger’s portrayal of him. Without Heath Ledger, this would still be a great movie. With Ledger, however, this movie is propelled into the stratosphere. Every comic book fan knows it’s the villain who drives the story, and boy does the Joker deliver. He’s loads of fun to watch, but he makes you feel guilty every time you laugh – which is really his whole point. He’s the very essence of the Joker distilled down to his essentials, then viewed through the lens of harsh, gritty reality to discover what a mind like that really wants. The answer? As Alfred so eloquently put it, he doesn’t want anything except “to watch the world burn”. Heath Ledger portrays that unhinged psychotic nature with chilling accuracy, which is widely agreed what led to his untimely death – he got a little too in touch with the character. The thought that the Joker’s madness can even reach out and touch his actor lends the movie a sort of meta-horror that only makes it more gripping to watch.
1. The Avengers
Come on, you all knew what was gonna go here. I hardly even had a choice. Avengers just came out relatively recently, and boy was it a hit. Why? Its plot wasn’t particularly intelligent, even having a minor hole or two. Its characters were interesting and had depth, but nothing Earth-shattering. The villain was great, but we’d seen him before and he didn’t have much new to play with except a new mind-control power. The visuals were excellent, but actually below everything else on the list. So why give it such a prominent spot? Because, more then any other movie on this list, it knows what the comic it was based on was about, and captures its spirit perfectly. To be more direct, Avengers is just fun. It has some of the greatest one-liners I’ve ever heard in a movie. The action was fast-paced, exciting, and perfectly executed. The characters had enough time to breathe before being flung back into the action, and no scene, be it quiet or action-packed, overstayed its welcome. More to the point, Avengers had explosions. All over the place. Everywhere. Big ones, small ones, loud ones, quiet ones, obvious ones, surprise ones; every variety of explosion appeared and was used to its full extent without reaching Michael Bay-like levels of stupidity. In fact, that’s a perfect comparison – if Michael Bay could actually had talent or directorial ability (and wasn’t obsessed with fan service) he probably would have made this movie, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Out of all the movies on this list, Avengers was the one that left me with the biggest smile and the most enjoyment, and that’s really what a movie is supposed to do – entertain you. In that respect, Avengers is not only a great comic book movie, it’s possibly one of the greatest movies made in the past few years.
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