In anticipation of the release of Iron Man, Entertainment Weekly provided a selection of the best comic book movies here. The list, seemingly in no particular order, is as follows:
Batman Begins and Batman Returns
X2: X-Men United
V for Vendetta
Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2
A History of Violence
Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance
Ghost in the Shell
For once, this is a list that is actually rather good; I only have a few complaints (naturally), which I am compelled to reveal.
Firstly, the positives: resounding yes to Spider-Man 2 (with special honorary status to the first film) and X2: X-Men United, hell yes on the non-superhero front to Oldboy and A History of Violence. Respect to Blade II (although there should be a special mention of the opening scene of Blade where he attacks the vampire rave club with the blood showers – the rest of the film isn’t as good), and I’ll accept Hellboy for everything about it being so right without it being a particularly great film.
Now, to my qualms. Although Batman Returns is a good film, I don’t think it deserves to be in the category of ‘best’ – I can’t help but think that it is remembered for Michelle Pfeiffer in a catsuit more than anything else (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
From Hell should be in a separate category because, although technically a film adapted from a comic book, the film itself is a normal (if well-made and interesting) police procedural based around some of the ideas and characters in the book but without actually being like the book at all. I enjoy the film (apart from Heather Graham and her accent) but it’s like saying that South Park is an adaptation of the New Testament because it has Jesus in it …
In a similar vein, V for Vendetta is an enjoyable film but not in the upper echelons of comic book films, and it loses points by completely missing the point of the source material, which is really rather important.
Personally, I wouldn’t have any of the Superman films in the list – III and IV are awful, the first one had the ridiculous ending and the second one was just silly (yes, it was) – but I could be biased by the fact that I don’t like them.
I haven’t seen American Splendor, Lone Wolf and Cub or Persepolis (yet), so I won’t comment (how very noble of me) so I will console myself with pointing out the glaring omission: Sin City – a more faithful adaptation it is impossible to have and it is also a damn good movie in its own right. Not only has it stopped Frank Miller going near an actual comic book, but its green screen approach has allowed the Watchmen movie (however good or bad it may actually be) to be made, and we even get to see a translation to the silver screen of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. But then perhaps they left it off the list to spark debate – or because it committed the faux pas of having a stripper, in the form of Jessica Alba, not actually stripping because of her no-nudity clause …