This year, in honor of Free Comic Book Day, I started thinking about comic book movies. I myself have only read a few full-length graphic novels, and even fewer long-running series, so my knowledge of the comic book world is mostly dependent on which comics wind up adapted as movies or TV series. My absolute hands-down favorite will always be The Crow, which laid the aesthetic groundwork for every urban gothic film from Blade to Underworld, but it’s not really the kind of movie I think of when I think “comic book movie.” With that in mind, here are just a few of my other favorite comic book movies.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the most cartoonish live-action movie I’ve ever seen. This adaptation is not only astoundingly faithful to the original comics by Brian Lee O’Malley, it looks very much like a comic book come to life. Director Edgar Wright–a seasoned favorite of the nerd crowd–uses split screens, exaggerated computer graphics, and videogame sound effects to create a world where life is literally a game. Sometimes you even get a second life! This type of nostalgia-driven wish fullfilment fantasy is the sort of thing that will only appeal to an audience base that either lived through the era being lampooned onscreen, or the younger generation who wishes they had. It’s a fun, silly, energetic love letter to the 2-bit gaming culture of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and a great ride even if you don’t get all the reference jokes.
When thinking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was difficult to pick just one movie. So, to be fair, I split up the Avengers and the X-Men and decided to pick just one from each franchise. And even that was hard. One of the reasons I think the Avengers movies have been as successful as they have is each individual superhero in the team appeals to a slightly different audience demographic. If you like World World II-era patriotism and Americana, you watch Captain America. If you like high-tech action and snarky one-liners, you watch Iron Man. Or, if you like sweeping, melodramatic space operas paired with an endearingly human research team, like me, you watch Thor. There’s something for everyone! Thor, and it’s direct sequel, The Dark World, were made for people like me. With its ridiculous myth-based costumes and magic posing as “science” and “history,” plus the fact that it brought Tom Hiddleston into my life, there was no way I wasn’t going to fall in love with this branch of the Avengers franchise.
I’ve been following the X-men since I was ten years old, and while some of the films are nearer and dearer to me than others, I have enjoyed every single one. Yes, even that one. However, when thinking of which one was my favorite, it was actually pretty easy to choose. Days of Future Past is so far ahead of the pack that it reset my standards for all the preceding movies. What’s funny is I think that was the filmmaker’s intention, effectively erasing some of the less stellar moments of their cinematic history altogether, and bringing back characters that no one thought should have been killed off in the first place. Also, there’s time travel! Gotta love time travel. Normally I’m not a fan of that particular plot device, going back in time to “fix” previous story mishaps that somebody didn’t like, but somehow, in this context, it just works.
Every time a new incarnation of Batman is introduced onscreen, my first question is always, “Who’s playing the Joker?” Casting the Dark Knight’s biggest, baddest nemesis is very important, and he’s gone through several wildly different interpretations over the years. While Heath Ledger may not be my absolute favorite Joker ever (that’s still Mark Hamill), he is the first and so far only one who really scared me. It’s rare, especially in superhero movies, to find a villain that’s actually scary. Normally they’re hammy, or sarcastic, or clever in some way, which is true for Ledger’s Joker as well, but he’s also legitimately frightening. There’s a lot to appreciate about this movie, and if I get into all the things I love about it I’ll be here all day, but Ledger’s performance alone makes it worth a place on this list.
What about you? What are some of your favorite films based on comics?