Monsters of Geek’s Top 20 Comic Book Movies: #15-#11

comic-book-movie-collage

Welcome back fellow Geeks! Today we will look at #15-#11 on our list of Top 20 Comic Book Movies the list. If you missed any of our previous posts you can play catch up by clicking the links below:

#20-#16

Movies that Just Missed the List

The Ranking Process

I hope you continue to enjoy our list. If you agree or disagree with our picks, leave a comment below. And don’t forget that there may some spoilers below. You have been warned. Enjoy!

Aaron Collier/EIC


Sin City

#15) Sin City (2005)

The 2005 comic book masterpiece, that was co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, was a shot for shot comic to movie adaption of Miller’s original series that follows the stories from his 1st, 3rd, and 4th graphic novels (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and The Yellow Bastard). Filmed entirely in front of a green screen and in color, the film was transferred into black and white, with certain aspects in color or added emphasis.

Basin City, or better known as Sin City, is overrun with crime. There are a few honest people in the city, and a lot of corrupt ones, from all different aspects of life. The city is divided into different sections, with someone running things behind the scenes for each part. The movie follows four main characters trying do what is right. First, you have John Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis who is trying to stop serial a child-killer from raping and killing his fourth known victim, Nancy Callahan. Hartigan is framed and sent to jail. After years, he is released and finds adult Nancy Callahan, played by Jessica Alba, who is being stalked by a yellow man.

Second, there is Marv, played by Mickey Rourke, who is set up for the murder of Goldie. He eventually finds out the killer is part of the Roark Family. The Roark Family has been a political influence over Basin City since the old west. Marv finds out that there is a serial killer named Kevin, who slowly consumes his victims.

Last, the film follows Dwight McCarthy, played by Clive Owen, as he defends girlfriend Shellie from ex Jackie Boy, played by Benicio del Toro. He then peruses him to Old Town, where Jackie pushes the limits of what can be done there. Old Town is ran by Gail and her band of prostitutes, they have their own law and the cops do not get involved. After the confrontation Dwight is in charge of putting the matter to rest.

Sin City is an incredible movie. It is ripped straight from the comic pages, and pausing the screen at any moment you can imagine the image printed on the page. The acting is great and Sin City revitalized Mickey Rourke’s career. Nick Stahl and Elijah Wood are truly creepy, and will make your skin crawl. You get invested in each character and in the end you care about the final decisions they make. I believe that Roger Ebert put it best:

“[Sin City is] a visualization of the pulp noir imagination, uncompromising and extreme. Yes, and brilliant.” ( Sin City Review/Ebert/March 31, 2005/ Chicago Sun-Times.)

Jarred Collins 


Batman Begins

#14) Batman Begins (2005) 

Definitely the weakest of the recent trilogy (hint hint), Batman Begins gave us a fantastic origin story and our first glance into the Nolan Batman universe.

What you knew right away was that this wasn’t the same Batman we’d last seen on the big screen in the awful (repeat for emphasis: awful) Batman and Robin. No, this Batman was intent on staying grounded and exploring a more believable experience. As such, Batman Begins soared to new heights that few comic book movies before it had reached.

We’ll start with the performances, which were all pretty excellent. Cillian Murphy brought Scarecrow to the big screen in a way I had never imagined, and while I wish he’d been a little more fear-obsessed/fanatical, the more grounded and believable Scarecrow fit the mold of Nolan’s Bat-verse quite well. Of course, the main villain, Ra’s al Ghul, gave us a pre-Taken Liam Neeson. As it turns out, he could kick butt long before a bunch of Eastern Europeans tried to sell his daughter as a sex slave. And you can’t go wrong when Liam Neeson’s voice is telling you to overcome your fears and use your anger as a weapon. Okay, that could go very wrong. Don’t do that. But anytime, Liam Neeson is training your main character, you can’t go wrong. Okay, you can, but we’re all pretending The Phantom Menace didn’t happen now, right? But nothing went wrong with Neeson in this film. He was as surgically menacing as you would expect Ra’s al Ghul to be.

This brings us to Christian Bale’s Batman/Bruce Wayne. I do have to draw the distinction because he played the two characters quite differently. Bruce is played as the deep-thinking, caring, but often aloof man we’ve known him to be since forever. But Bale’s Batman is a bit more focused on fear and a lot angrier than most previous iterations. This is most exemplified by the now famous Bat-grinder voice. In Begins, however, Bale found the right amount of grit to add to Bat’s voice. For me, it was perfect. The voice displayed the anger, fear, and determination that drove Bruce to don the mask. And since by necessity, we can’t see Bale’s face while in costume, the raspy voice is what drives the audience to feel and understand what Bats is experiencing. So while The Dark Knight’s version of the Bat-voice went too far off the deep end, Bale hit it just right in Batman Begins, and his portrayal of the brilliant, but tortured Bruce Wayne/Batman should be commended, even a decade later.

All that said, Batman Begins wouldn’t find itself at #14 on our list if it didn’t have problems. Rather than plod through several of them, I’ll just point to the more egregious failing in the climactic finish. (Spoiler alert!)

If you don’t know, one of Batman’s biggest “things” is that he does not kill people. It’s his fatal flaw. His life would be easier if he’d just kill his enemies, but his moral code won’t allow it. This is a routine issue for Bats in Begins. He saves Henri Ducard when he burns down the training facility for the League of Shadows. As it happens, Ducard was the real leader of the League of Shadows, Ra’s al Ghul. So quite literally, Bats put his own life at great risk to save the life of the man who wants Gotham to tear itself apart. In the final fight of the film, Ra’s is counting on this same compassion as the train they are fighting on is racing to a major crash. However, Batman finds it acceptable to not save Ra’s, even though it’s well within his power. While you could argue that this doesn’t break Batman’s code, I’m not buying it. It’s a big issue when your hero who won’t kill anyone kills someone via neglect. And while it’s no Superman-kills-Zod-by-breaking-his-neck in Man of Steel, it’s still a mistake to let Batman let someone die. I may be in the minority on that, but it’s the biggest issue I have with the otherwise excellent film.

Batman Begins was a great start to a great trilogy, and that’s why it made our Top 20 Comic Book movies.

— Andrew Fultz 


Captain America

#13) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

I was so disheartened to find out that Captain America: The First Avenger (TFA) didn’t rank higher on our list, but I accept that my fellow Monsters and I have differing opinions on what makes good movies even if I don’t happen to agree with their choices. (Just kidding! Gentlemen, I love you, I truly do. Just not as much as I love Steve Rogers.)

That’s right. I will admit it in the here and now: I think I am slightly in love with Steve Rogers. But can you honestly blame me? It’s not the looks; although, Chris Evans isn’t bad to look at. It’s the strength of his character that really draws a person in: he is brave, kind, ready to help someone in need, and certainly does not stand up for any type of oppression.

Steve Rogers started out as a scrawny boy in Brooklyn that only wanted to join the military to kick some Nazi caboose for being bullies to those different to Hitler’s “ideal” race. However, due to various health reasons, Steve was never able to join the Army until a chance meeting with a German ex-patriot scientist who was working with a secret governmental group, the Strategic Scientific Reserve – or SSR – that was aiming to create super soldiers to assist the US in winning the war. Steve was not the first test subject to enter a super soldier project, but he was the only successful result to come from one; Johann Schmidt, leader of Hydra, was a previous test subject in which testing left him disfigured, thus giving him the alias Red Skull.

Newly amped up Steve, with his Howling Commandoes – a rag-tag team of fighters – and fierce SSR agent Peggy Carter, is now tasked to journey across Europe locating and dismantling Hydra bases before Red Skull and his minions can succeed in their plans for world domination. One thing that I find intriguing is that although the movie may be called Captain America, the Howling Commandoes have quite the input regarding the destruction of these bases. Each member brings a certain skillset to the group dynamic that the rest play off of, and they work as a well-oiled machine to get the job done.

This movie is a good origin story for Steve Roger’s character that we see in The Avengers. In that movie, he acts like a man from a different time because he is a man from a different time, and Steve brings a different type of power to the group as well, just as he did with the Howling Commandoes during World War II.

There are so many elements to this movie that I like, and, unfortunately, I don’t think I can accurately describe why. One reason has to be because it’s so steeped in history and lore that it makes my mind active while watching it and I’m not bored by it. Another reason is that there’s just the right amount of romance between Peggy and Steve to make things interesting; there’s the whole will they/won’t they, and it is not so in your face that it distracts from the rest of the storyline. The humor is just right, and the actors play very well off of each other, and it’s refreshing to see chemistry between actors that isn’t forced. Lastly, the action is just the right amount to keep this Monster interested, but not too overly boring with just explosions, battles, and war. (If I wanted that type of movie, I’d just go find my Dad’s old DVD of Saving Private Ryan.)

I truly think that this movie encompasses all of the elements that make a movie great, and it is a good foundation that that Marvel Cinematic Universe can certainly continue to build upon for future movies in the franchise. Captain America: The First Avenger may not have cracked the Top 10 of our compiled list, but it did make the Top 5 of my personal list of comic-to-film movies, as well as the Top 5 of my all-time favorites list. — Jenna Johnson


Dark Knight Rises

#12) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was what DC needed to help catch up to Marvel in the cinema universe. Unfortunately, they are still playing catch up, but not at the fault of Nolan. DC seems to take a dark approach to their cinematic universe so these aren’t Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies.

The Dark Knight Rises starts out with us seeing a strong Commissioner Gordon speaking on the behalf of Harvey Dent eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Through the whole movie we see the strength that Gordon has and we find hope through the movie in the Commissioner as he never gives up hope and will personally see that the city will be saved.

Bruce Wayne has been shut up after the death of Rachel and taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s death as the Batman. We find him on a cane after years of fighting. But when Bane rears his head at a stock exchange all of that changes and Bruce feels the need to confront the masked man. With the help of Catwoman, Bane leads Batman to the sewer where my favorite scene  starts. It’s maybe the best fight scene in the trilogy, for the simple fact it shows that Bruce is just a man and not a super hero. He has never had an issue with an opponent, but he’s never meet someone like Bane who ultimately breaks Batman’s back.

With the announcement of Frank Miller writing a sequel to The Dark Knight Trilogy, one can only hope we will see Nolan return to take the helm of another Batman movie.

In conclusion, The Dark Knight Raises is a great movie that deserves to be higher on the list. And it gets an award for the creepiest national anthem ever. — Joe Collier


Men in Black

#11) Men in Black (1997)

I’m not going to act like that one guy that read Men in Black before it became a big Hollywood movie. Ironically, I didn’t know the film was based in the comic book publishing world until Wizard Magazine posted their Top 100 Comic Book Movies list back in the mid-2000s.

Even though I’ve never read a MIB comic, and couldn’t tell you if it was anywhere near the comic’s original content, as a film you can’t deny its place on this list.

The team of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, or Agent J and Agent K as they are known on the big screen, played off each other perfectly. The hot shot new agent paired with the by-the-book veteran story we’ve seen before, but MIB gave us a sci-fi twist on that tried and true buddy comedy formula. Smith and Jones’ comedic chemistry was on point throughout the movie, and I can’t imagine Agent J and Agent K being played by any other actors and the movie being anywhere near as entertaining. Whether its Agent J using his “cricket” gun in the line do duty or Agent K wiping memories without warning with his Neutralizer (to J’s horror), the duo never ceases to make each scene they share entertaining for the audience.

Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t anything to write home about as it was a standard hostile alien life form comes to earth in search of a weapon to help him rule the galaxy. The good news is that the big alien bug baddie is played masterfully by Vincent D’Onofrio and he makes the character memorable with his disgusting ambling performance. He does a great job of playing a mean alien bug forced to use a hunk of human flesh as a disguise to get closer to his ultimate goal of becoming ruler of all.

Luckily, the lackluster story is made interesting by the world built by writer Ed Solomon and director Barry Sonnenfeld. My favorite aspects of the entire movie are the scenes in the MIB headquarters as you see different alien species walking around and little bits of info about them dropped by MIB leader Zed (played by the awesome Rip Torn) on each of them. It really gives a bit more life to the MIB universe and makes the viewer believe how important the agency is to Earth’s security and safety.

And there is a talking pug. Named Frank. Nuff said. — Aaron Collier

2 thoughts on “Monsters of Geek’s Top 20 Comic Book Movies: #15-#11

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