To start our 2 week voyage into the 20 best Comic Book Movies as decided upon by our contributors here at Monsters of Geek. Before we get into the main list, each contributor had a movie that made their personal list that didn’t make the final cut. Below are those movies with each contributor telling you why the film is worth your time even if it didn’t make the Top 20. Enjoy!
Few people realize however that the 2007 movie is actually a continuation of the live-action trilogy from the 90s. It excels as a sequel where the second and third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies failed. Rather than try to wow viewers with Super Shredders, Vanilla Ice, or time-traveling hijinks, TMNT concentrates on its characters first and then builds a decent story around them. That being said, the story is still fantastical, but also very fun.
In TMNT, the turtles have become complacent without a big baddie to fight and each has found new distractions. Leonardo is training to become a better leader in Central America; Donatello is working technical support; Michelangelo entertains kids at parties while dressed as…a giant turtle; and, as you might expect, Raphael is a crime-fighting vigilante.
April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who is no longer a reporter, and Casey Jones (Chris Evans) are antique hunters in search of mythical statutes for client Max Winters (Patrick Stewart). It turns out that Winters is working alongside the Foot Clan and new their leader Karai (Ziyi Zhang). Winters’ motivations aren’t revealed until the end of the movie, but suffice to say that the Turtles are called back into action to protect the world from destruction.
As I noted, the story itself isn’t as interesting as the characters that bring it to life. Where the movie shines is in its portrayal of the relationship and rivalry between Raphael and Leonardo. This conflict drives the story, as it did in the original live-action movie, and leads to some excellent fight scenes between the two.
While everyone else takes a backseat to Leo and Raph, everyone gets their moments. April is a decent fighter now and Casey dons his signature hockey mask more than once. Michelangelo has some laugh out-loud moments and Donatello gets to show his technical wizardry.
The voice cast is excellent as well: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kevin Smith, Patrick Steward, Laurence Fishburne, and a who’s who of voice actors.
If you haven’t seen TMNT, but enjoy any of the original movies, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. It’s a short movie, clocking in at around 80 minutes, but never feels like its rushing through its plot. There is also a particularly awesome bit of fan service at the end as the audience is treated to a shot of the Turtles’ trophy room filled with items form the original trilogy.
This movie didn’t make it on our Top 20 list, but it ranked high on mine. Give it a try and you will not be disappointed.
300 is based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name. Filmed for 65 million and grossing 450 million, it is a shot for shot transfer of the comic. The movie is visually stunning with around 10,000 special effects used. It was made to be shown in high definition.
The story follows King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan Warriors, going up against Xerxes vast armies. His Armies encompass all the countries he has concurred, and he takes each nation’s best to help build his force. Xerxes wants Leonidas to bow down and join the Persian Empire, but Leonidas refuses. The 300 Spartan Soldiers defend themselves against wave after wave of assault, using their phalanx formation. The movie received mixed reviews by critics for being visually stunning and overly violent.
Some people have been critical with the lack of character development, but the few main characters that you should care about are fleshed out pretty well. Xerxes makes you hate him. He presents himself as a god that no-one can stop, and he is very arrogant and egotistical. On the other side you have King Leonidas the Spartans. They are the elite, raised to be Warriors from birth, they are trained to be fighting machines. The Spartan Council is corrupt, and Queen Gorgo will do anything for her husband and Sparta.
To me this movie is an intense adrenaline rush, which makes you ready to go to war. The camaraderie between the 300 warriors is admirable, just about anyone who has played an organized sport can relate to. They also have that underdog feel to them. Their homeland is being invaded, they are outnumbered, but they are elite. You want to see them defeat an entire Persian Army. It will make you want to stand up and pound your chest as you are instilled with a sense of pride.
Not to mention that if you want to get a good workout in, then try the Spartan workout. Every Spartan in the film had to transform their bodies, and they are ripped.
Rurouni Kenshin (2012)
Let me go ahead and put this out there: I never really got into comic books. I saw the big Hollywood movies and watched the numerous Saturday morning cartoon adaptations that were everywhere during the 90s, but, aside from Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog, I literally can’t think of one traditional comic that I read as a kid. I can, however, remember the day that nine-year-old me awkwardly walked out of the local Bookland with the first volume of Sailor Moon in hand (I told the cashier it was for my sister). From then until the end of high school, manga was king and American comics were just an afterthought for me. So, when us Monsters were asked to make a list of our Top 20 movies based on comics, I was torn—do I go with American or Japanese?
I eventually realized that my passing interest in American comics gave me a unique perspective: I went into American comic book movies (I never realized just how many I had seen) with a more open mind. I mean, I really didn’t have anything to compare them to in the first place. With that in mind, I thought it might be more fun to step outside of my comfort zone and focus on American movies instead of trying to fit Japanese adaptations into the mix. So when I compiled my Top 20, it was really cool because I focused on thinking of these films less as comic book movies and more as movies that just happened to be based on comic books.
That being said, I want to take this opportunity to mention the one Japanese film that I was dying to include: Rurouni Kenshin. Whether it’s Dragonball: Evolution or the 1990 version of Captain America, I think all comic fans know the pain that comes with seeing one of their favorite franchises transformed into complete abominations. The Rurouni Kenshin series was a very important part of my teenage years—I even used a piece of Kenshin fanfiction as a forensics speech in high school—so I was very hesitant going into the 2012 live-action movie. Although I did have a few issues with the film’s adaptation, I’m pretty sure that it’s the best live-action anime/manga translation that I’ve ever seen. It might even be one of the best action films to come out of Japan in the past five years. Kenshin managed to capture so much of what made the series so interesting in the first place; the historical drama, intense swordfights, and even the charming moments of levity (that admittedly may come off as a little corny to Western viewers) were all there.
It’s funny—I enjoy the modern Marvel movies, but I could never understand why people go so unbelievably crazy over them. After seeing Kenshin, it finally hit me. There’s just something about seeing a character, story, or franchise that you care about so much being treated with the same kind of respect that you’ve had for as long as you’ve been a fan.
I’d definitely recommend Rurouni Kenshin to both people who read the manga or saw the anime on old-school Toonami and anyone who’s into action films in general. Take a look at the trailer for the first movie (they made two sequels!) and give it a shot. With the current trend of quality comic-to-film adaptations, both Japanese and American, I have high hopes for the future. With films like the upcoming adaptation of Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson in the pipeline, I’m pretty certain that I’ll get the best of both worlds.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
I admit it, the year was not as long ago as one may think. Although this movie came out in 2006, it wasn’t until many years afterwards when I became interested in more pop culture things that I began expanding my palate in the worlds of music, movies, and books. Ultimately, I can’t even remember how I came upon this movie – probably TBS or TNT – but I fell in love with the X-Men from that point onward.
This movie made it to #6 on my personal list of Top 20 Comic Book Movies – it quite possibly could have ranked even higher if the MCU hadn’t released some really good movies in the past few years – but it certainly does not deserve the 5.9 out of 10 rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The plot is one that many can relate to, long story short, it’s about changing a part of yourself that you don’t like. Now, we see this every day in some form: we diet to look better, we dye our hair to cover gray (or to be more unique), people get plastic surgery to fix physical imperfections, et cetera and so on. The list of these faults we try to change in ourselves is endless. And it is the same premise in X-Men: The Last Stand as mutants – that’s such a harsh word – across the globe line up to take this “cure” to rid themselves of the mutant gene.
The X-Men, undoubtedly, are torn at this news. Many – including fan favorite Rogue – are intrigued by the idea of being cured of this “disease” that has plagued them their whole lives. Some are wary of such a cure, and who are proud of their unique genes. However, there were others – Magneto and crew – who weren’t so very enthusiastic of this ideal so they create the Brotherhood of Mutants with those who oppose this cure. Of course, in true X-Men fashion, a battle is imminent between the two sides with only one being the victor of this particular battle.
For me, this movie is way underrated in the comic-to-movie franchise for several reasons. Firstly, the cure was a really good plot point, and caused a lot of people to relate to it – well, not the whole mutant part. Secondly, the writers had the audacity to kill off characters – which was before the George RR Martin massacres on HBO – and that was something I did not expect in a beloved comic series. Then they introduced a character I learned to love – Phoenix! (If you’ve not been introduced to Phoenix, do yourself a favor and wiki-search her.) Lastly, the action wasn’t that bad, in my honest opinion. I mean, Nightcrawler’s attack on the White House was pretty epic. And the culmination of events when Jean Grey turned into Phoenix? That’s probably the part of the movie I like best. (But then again, there was the whole moving of the Golden Gate Bridge…)
There you have it, my pick for a personal favorite that didn’t make the Top 20. Haven’t seen it? Give it a shot. Seen it, but didn’t hold much regard for it? Check it out again, it may change your mind.
The Spirit (2008)
I remember going to see it a couple days after Christmas with only a married couple sitting a couple of rows down from me. I imagine this is how most theaters looked during the movies theatrical run, which is the true shame.
The film is visually stunning and led to the initial excitement for the on-screen adaptation of Will Eisner’s everyman super-hero. With Miller coming off of the enormously successful, and similarly styled, Sin City, everyone expected this film to be more of the same: A gritty and violent noir. The audience received the noir part, but Miller replaced all the dirty, street level story points of Sin City with goofy, silly, and, at times, slap stick humor that most found ridiculous.
I, on the other hand, found it’s sense of humor a breath of fresh air and, along with the highly stylized look, enjoyed it immensely. And, yes, I’m fully aware that I may have been the only one.
Miller can go off the rails at times when left unchecked, but that is when I find Miller the most entertaining. Basically, when he has no one to harness his creativity so everyone can keep up.
That can be dangerous, see Holy Terror, but it can also be extremely refreshing and entertaining, see All-Star Batman and Robin. The Spirit falls into the latter for me as I was thoroughly entertained by Miller’s silly story that came wrapped in noir and had a dark comedy bow on top.The first ten minutes of the movie gives us a Looney Tunes inspired fight scene in which we see a metal bar bent over a head, a nut-shot with a post of some sort, a toilet seat used as a weapon, and even the classic kitchen sink. That sentence alone describes what to expect from a film that, in my eyes, was unfairly critiqued.
Miller runs the thin line between a babbling madman and evil genius with his stories, and The Spirit represents that line for me. Sure it lost a ton of money, it deviated from the source material a bit (though Miller was very good friends with Eisner), had characters that were over-dramatic and chewed every piece of scenery that they could get their hands on, and the plot was just a simple hero vs. villain story. Yet, for some reason, it clicked for me and became one of my favorite comic book movies of all-time.
The Spirit never wanted to be Sin City, and Miller’s end product showed he didn’t want it to be either, but the audience expected it to be. Whether that is Miller’s fault for shooting it in the same style and giving the audience false hope or the audiences for not adjusting their mindset after that awesomely goofy fight scene, the movie flopped and you can see it as a taking up residence on “Worst of” and “Biggest Flops” lists.
Regardless of the reason, The Spirit was wrongfully buried.