by Luke Hickman
Over the last decade, it's become standard form to see several comic book adaptations take the big screen each year. With the bar having been raised extremely high by Christopher Nolan's 'Batman' reboot, the majority of the comic book movies are less than comparable. Revving up for the launch of 'The Avengers' next summer, Marvel Studios' productions have kept up with Nolan's heightened expectations.
Marvel has dominated the quantity of comic book movies, but DC - more specifically, the 'Batman' franchise - has given us five-star quality with theirs. But just because those two are on the forefront of the comic book movie box office battle, let us not forget the other noteworthy candidates of the recent past.
Below are my picks for The Top 10 Comic Book Movies. While numbers one and two are probably the same on your lists, the others leading up to them are most likely not. Before getting into it, know that I am not an avid comic book reader and have probably read less than a dozen graphic novels in my life.
10. X-Men 2 (2003)
Give credit where credit is due. Bryan Singer's 'X-Men' movies did something magical for comic book movies, they paved the way for the box office successes that followed its lead.He set them in a believable reality and knocked out the cartoonish garbage. Singer's 'X-Men' movies were beloved by everyone, especially those who knew nothing about the original comics. While hard-core fans of the 'X-Men' comics were up in arms about the movies' unfaithful adaptations, everyone else was in awe at how cool and action-packed they turned out. 'X-Men' made comic book movies entertaining and appealing to general audiences, and it only got better with 'X2.' It's too bad the same cannot be said for 'X-Men 3: The Last Stand' and 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.'
9. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi's 'Spider-Man 2' got everything right that his original 'Spider-Man' did wrong - it removed the childish 'Power Rangers' feel, supplementing the generic action for story-driven action sequences. The villain, Doc Ock, felt like an actual threat, unlike the goofy and cartoonishly over-acted Green Goblin from the original. 'Spider-Man' no longer felt like it was made for 8-year-olds. Just like the 'X-Men' movies, it began to draw in adults with its strong screenplay, great effects and genuine nature. There are very few cases where a sequel is better than the original, but just like 'X-Men 2' and one other film found at the bottom of this list, 'Spider-Man 2' is an exception.
8. Thor (2011)
Easily the hardest of the necessary pre-'Avenger' set-up flicks is 'Thor.' How on Earth do you explain a banished hammer-wielding God in our reality? You make him an alien. You explain his powers as science. And you don't ignore how odd the idea sounds. Marvel is very aware of the fact that they're asking you to stretch your imagination and disbelief with this one. For that reason, they openly tackle the issue in the film, almost poking fun at it. Doing so makes us feel more comfortable accepting the impossible and unbelievable. Combining the light-weightedness of 'Thor' with its brilliant Shakespearean script and solid action makes it one of the best comic book films leading up to 2012's 'The Avengers.'
7. Iron Man (2008)
Honestly, who doesn't love Robert Downey Jr.? Just as he was born to play Tony Stark, Jon Favreau was the perfect fanboy to act as director. My only beef with this origin story was the forced villain crammed into the third act. Aside from that, it's nearly flawless. Following the lead of 'Batman Begins,' 'Iron Man' bases its seemingly impossible technology on (somewhat) realistic science. It's a shame that 'Iron Man' could not follow suit with 'X-Men' and 'Spider-Man' by producing a sequel better than the first. At least we still have plenty of future opportunities for the character to grow.
6. Sin City (2005)
Making a comic book movie look, feel, and read exactly like the pages of the graphic novel can be a dangerous thing. See 'Watchmen.' The lack of adapting made 'Watchmen' the longest, most boring comic book movie to date. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's adaptation worked surprisingly well for 'Sin City.' Perhaps it was the color scheme and bringing to life the simple comic book visuals that made 'Sin City' work so well. Or perhaps it was just the gruesome tales of graphic violence and revenge. Whichever it was, 'Sin City' is easily one of the most creative, fittingly stylized examples of the genre to date.
5. V for Vendetta (2006)
After seeing 'V for Vendetta,' did you want to go out and start a revolution? I sure did. I saw it as a call to arms. Have I followed through? No. Am I going to be under investigation for posting these thoughts? Probably. But it's worth it. 'V for Vendetta' is more of a cat-and-mouse detective drama than the usual action-packed comic book movies. It scarred November 5 into my American mind as if I were a British Guy Fawkes enthusiast. 'V for Vendetta' has a heart and soul. Unlike most other comic book movies, it carries a heavy-handed message of hope, inspiration, and rebellion. Although I am not the rebellious type, 'V for Vendetta' will always remain as one of the comic book movies I am most fond of.
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
'Scott Pilgrim' should not have flopped. It's one of the best pieces of bubble gum cinema. It defines a generation of kids who grew up with better gaming skills than social skills. While judgmental first glances may give the impression that it is played only to a small group of geeks, in reality, 'Scott Pilgrim' speaks profoundly and symbolically to anyone who has ever dated someone with relationship baggage. The unique stylization is just a plus for those who grew up in the nerdy world of gaming. If Ramona Flowers was an actual person, I'd fight seven thousand evil exes if that is what it took to win her over.
3. Kick-Ass (2010)
'Kick-Ass' looked like nothing more than a comic book movie made by comic nerds for an audience of comic-book-reading nerds. Watching a group of powerless children become ass-kicking superheroes didn't sound enticing. Boy was I wrong. 'Kick-Ass' turned out to be the most well rounded of all the comic book movies. It has humor, action, violence, intensity, heart, drama, romance and emotion - each one having its own unforgettable defining moment. The blending of these different elements occurs naturally and perfectly. Unfortunately, 'Kick-Ass' is hard to recommend. It is made simply for those strong enough to digest something extremely heavy.
2. Batman Begins (2005)
I am positive that both 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight' lie in the top five of nearly every single Top Comic Book Movies list out there. Christopher Nolan raised the bar so high with his take on the 'Batman' series that nobody has been able to out-do him yet. Not only did he introduce us to a different take on the billionaire playboy superhero, but he gave us comic book villains that had not yet come to life on the big screen - Ra's al Ghul and Scarecrow. Unlike the 'Superman' movies, 'Batman Begins' did not need to rely on his arch nemesis The Joker for a powerful villain. Like everyone else, I hardly expected another comic book movie to top 'Batman Begins' - but along came its sequel.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Some argue that 'The Dark Knight' would not be as popular had it not been for Heath Ledger's untimely death. I call B.S. on that claim. Yes, Ledger was unprecedented. He was one of the major ingredients that led to its success - but 'The Dark Knight' had a lot more working for it than just Ledger. 'The Dark Knight' is one of those films that you will never forget seeing for the first time, one that you wish you could see again for the first time. The story was unpredictable. Killing off a safe character made it uncomfortably unsettling. Taking the terrorist threat on a large scale level gave eerie tones reminiscent of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Shooting major scenes in IMAX was a brilliant decision. For those who saw it on IMAX, it was one of the most memorable, all-engulfing movie going experiences. The action sequences were upped. The massive visuals of IMAX placed you square in the action. From that skyscraper fight, to the underground Batmobile chase, and above ground 18-wheeler flying end-over, you hadn't seen non-CGI action stunts like this before. My only worry for 'The Dark Knight' is that it will be dethroned by next summer's 'The Dark Knight Rises.' Afterall, Nolan said he would not make a third if he could not top 'The Dark Knight.'
30 Days of Night (2007)
Blade II (2002)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
A History of Violence (2005)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Superman Returns (2006)