Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Comic book movies

Kirsti and I saw Iron Man on Sunday, and without giving anything away, let me say that it was great. (94% on the Tomatometer - the critics agree.) The thing is, I was only really looking forward to this one when I started to hear about who was involved. I mean, I figured that I'd probably see it one way or another, as I check out most comic book superhero movies whether they look good or not (except Catwoman - even I have my limits). Still, Iron Man has never been one of my favorite characters, so I didn't originally expect much from a movie. (Unlike Daredevil, who has a lot of really great comic book stories, but the movie was a bit of a turd.)

I did get excited when I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. was going to play the lead, as I'm not only a fan of his work, but I felt that he was right for the part (as most comic book fans did - just like how we all knew that Tobey Maguire was perfect for Spider-Man). The rest of the cast seemed pretty solid. What added to my enthusiasm was seeing director John Favreau talk about the film at WonderCon. He seemed to have genuine enthusiasm for the character, and he seemed interested in making something that was true to the comics.

So, Iron Man was good stuff. How does it rank up with the others? I'd say that it's up there with Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2, and the original Superman. I don't consider it to be just a good comic book movie (like I do with Hellboy - although I have hopes that its sequel will transcend it above the genre a bit); I consider it to be a good movie, period. It had genuine human emotion, characters that I cared about, a definite arc for the character, inner conflict, etc. Not only that, but it had some really fun dialogue, and it was genuinely funny. Some of the older comic book movies (looking at you, Batman and Robin) would try and interject humor into the story, but it only made the characters seem like clownish buffoons. Iron Man's humor just made the character seem more human, so it definitely worked.

The thing is, many people will look at me funny when I say that I read comics, although these are the same people who will see movies that are based on comic books - movies that they really enjoy. Yet which ones do I hear the non-comic fans rave about the most? The very ones that I mentioned. And why are those ones so good and so much better than some older adaptations (looking at you again, Batman and Robin)? They're better because they're true to the source material. While they may change some plot elements, they always get to the heart of what the character is all about. That's why they're so good, and yet they still don't seem to bring more people to the comics. Ahh well, their loss, I guess.

Still, it's nice now that there are some movies that I can point to when I want people to understand what comic book superheroes are all about. I remember trying to explain to people how the Batman movies (even though I still like the first two) didn't really capture the character as he is in the comics. (In fact, I'd have to point to the Animated Series to let them know what the "real" Batman is really like.) People seemed to think that they knew what superheroes were all about, but they clearly had no idea. Now though, I have several movies that I can point to. What's great about superhero comics? See Iron Man and you'll get a good idea.

Oh, and I've been meaning to work this in here somewhere, but I couldn't manage it. So, I'll just shoehorn it into the end: Transformers sucked ass.

1 comment:

ShaneShock said...

I agree, Iron Man was very good, and probably 90% due to Robert Downey Jr. and his Robert-Downey-Jr.-ness.

Transformers...well, I think it was really good up until the last third. It fizzled into an unsatisfying conclusion.

As for the upcoming Hulk movie, I just cannot get excited. I think I'll wait for the DVD (though my wife really likes Ed Norton, so that statement may be revised in the near future). The same for Speed Racer; wait for the DVD.