Top Ten Comic Book Movies- A Mexican Standoff
I’ve been wanting to make this post for a while, but held off until Man of Steel came out to see where it would place on this list. Turns out the movie stinks, and, as you can read at length in my review, it will certainly not be appearing here.
Just about every film blog has their own version of this, so it’s about time I chimed in on the debate because, hey, I, too, like Internet traffic.
Hopefully you’ll see some things here that you haven’t elsewhere, or at least will enjoy hearing from someone who doesn’t talk about the comics BECAUSE THESE ARE MOVIES AND NOT COMIC BOOKS.
I keep this list mostly in the superhero vain, so you won’t find projects like Persepolis or Ghost World here, no matter how interesting they may be. You also won’t find Watchmen, Burton’s Batman films or any Superman films at all, mostly because I don’t think they hold up well or are even very good.
Also, only one film per franchise, so Nolan’s Batman films can only claim one spot on this list.
Movies I Haven’t Seen: Any of the Blade films, Punisher: War Zone, and anything past the first ten minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man
It’s perhaps fitting that the first item on this list is a movie sending up the superhero genre, rather than an actual superhero film. This has kind of become the hip things to do nowadays, especially after this film was basically repeated by (and in my opinion bested by) James Gunn’s Super. But Matthew Vaughn (who would go on to direct the next film on this list) manages to keep the lid on things, working from traditionally over-the-top violent material from Mark Millar with a cast that includes Internet punching bag Nicholas Cage, making this movie not only a satire of the genre, but a worthy entry into the pantheon itself.
9.) X-Men: First Class
Despite what everyone might tell you, X-Men: First Class is only okay. It’s fun and well-crafted, but ultimately there are a ton of plotting issues and some truly poorly-constructed action sequences that involve a Ron Weasley-esque young man flying around on wings using only his lovely singing voice to float himself. What saves this film (and ultimately counteracts a positively dreadful performance by Mad Men’s January Jones as Emma Frost) is the positively breathtaking portrayal of Magneto by Michael Fassbender. Filling in the shoes of the great Sir Ian McKellen is not small feat, considering that through Magneto and Gandalf he basically crafted my generation’s childhood, but Fassbender more than brings the heat as a younger, angrier, and somehow sexier Magneto who is haunted by his past and gets a kick out of stabbing Nazis. Fassbender absolutely nails everything in First Class, and is one of the uncountable reasons we should be excited for Days of Future Past.
8.) V For Vendetta
The thing about V for Vendetta as a comic book is that it’s not very good. Alan Moore has never had much of a gift for making easy-access stories, and the art is drawn in such a way that it is impossible to distinguish one balding white man from another, turning the novel’s third act into an absolutely incomprehensible series of paneled nonsense. But as a movie, anchored by a pair of strong performances by Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, it really holds up, satisfying both our desire to see Matrix-esque bullet time and a superhero movie about a true revolution of spirit in the face of that damn govm’nt. Some will despute V’s criteria as a “superhero,” but I would argue that he’s easily the most useful and super hero on this list.
7.) The Avengers
It shouldn’t have worked. Nothing about this movie should have worked. And yet, here we are, anxiously awaiting the follow-up to Joss Whedon’s impossible blockbuster because we all loved the first one so damn much. Not every blockbuster has the luxury of having five films leading up to it, but that massive undertaking aside, The Avengers still just really works. Every moment our heroes are on screen together is divine, from the interplay between Captain America and Iron Man, to the throw-down that goes down between Hulk and Thor (with Chris Hemsworth still being the only member of this team I feel is truly irreplaceable). No character aside from the always stand-out Tony Stark really gets the screentime necessary to really sink their teeth into this movie, but that doesn’t stop the Manhattan showdown from being wonderful and endlessly fun. Maybe Hawkeye will get something to do next time?
6.) Spider-Man 2
Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film set the template for just about every non-Nolan superhero film to follow. His second made us all cry. Going deep into what it means to be Spider-Man and how that might affect one’s social life, Spider-Man 2 crafted for us a fitfully emotional tale of Peter Parker struggling with his own limitations, a love he threw away, and Alfred Molina playing one of the best super-baddies to date. Before Spider-Man turned evil in Spider-Man 3 or…. ugh, skateboarded through his high school in Amazing Spider-Man, we got what I will always see as the definitive and quintessential cinematic Spider-Man.
5.) Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The first Hellboy is only okay. The second is absolutely fantastic. Steeped in director Guillermo del Toro’s creature feature sensibility, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is stacked with more wonderful moments and memorable monsters than maybe any film I have ever seen. I’ll be incredibly disappointed if this is the only other Hellboy film we get, but if it is it will have ended on the highest possible note. Plus, the open-endedness of Hellboy’s story and future is actually exciting, allowing the audience to fill in the holes with whatever crazy creatures they can conjure up, although odds are nothing you can come up with will be anything near as cool as what del Toro will be bringing us in this summer’s Pacific Rim.
4.) X2: X-Men United
I’m allowed to put two X-Men movies on here because I count these original franchise movies as a totally different beast from the First Class prequels. Probably responsible for my love of movies and the reason I’m in film school studying Scriptwriting, X2 pits the X-Men against William Stryker, a wonderfully perverted villain with a broken home and a lust for vengeance. All of the usual X-Actors are in top form as well, with a particularly good performance coming in from Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler- whose show-stopping storming of the White House opens this film on an appropriately thrilling note.
3.) Iron Man 3
I understand that half of you reading this absolutely hate this movie. I also understand that I don’t care. No trip to the theatre has ever been as purely enjoyable or filled with laughs as when I went to see Iron Man 3. I actually hold the Mandarin twist up as one of the greatest cinema switcheroos in recent memory, it being totally unexpected and a wonderful shakeup of the proceedings. (You can read my review for some expansion upon this opinion). Shane Black gave us what I see as the perfect Iron Man film and the performance from Robert Downey, Jr. that proves that he should be off doing bigger and other things besides pow-wowwing with Don Cheadle in a metal suit and a film that really makes The Avengers boring by comparison.
2.) Batman Begins
Yes, I said it. I prefer Batman Begins to all of Nolan’s other Bat-films. I think it holds up best as a film, being easily the most cohesive whole of the franchise. The Dark Knight is blessed with great performances by Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart, but the story of Batman’s dealings with the corrupt Gotham City Police Department is a story with far more depth and meaning. The creation of Commissioner Gordon and introduction of Scarecrow are both great arcs, and this is by far the most fully-realized and interesting portrayal of Gotham City we’ve been given. It also helps that Ra’s al-Ghul is my favorite Batman villain and Liam Neeson does a bang-up job as the international mastermind, giving us that movie villain which should be most coveted and valued: The one whose crazy, evil plan is two steps away from making perfect sense.
1.) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Call me out as the Edgar Wright fanboy that I am, but I truly think he and the cast have created the greatest comic book movie of all time. Scott is a sympathetic and flawed character, his fight against Ramona Flower’s Seven Evil Exes being something that many of us in relationships have to deal with from time to time, even if it’s just a mental battle. The writing, editing, and direction on this film are top notch, and Pilgrim proves to be endlessly rewatchable. I don’t know anyone who has only seen it once. And that, my friends, is the mark of true greatness.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of apology letters to people who hate Iron Man 3. Be sure to follow or subscribe above. Keep checking back for weekly installments of these Mexican Standoffs, the latest reviews in movies and television, and some Good Stuff.
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But how bad was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you guys? Like, so bad.