Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ranking the Comics Adaptations - Part VIII - Smells Good

Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII

My biases are probably showing more in this list than any other, as I realize that the ones that score highest are ones that speak to me on a personal level, many of them even provoking an emotional reaction - but I suppose that's okay with a list like this.

13. Sin City -  With the possible exception of Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, this might be the closest you can get to reading the comic by watching the movie. Panels jump out on to the screen, and lines of dialogue are pretty much word-for-word. The smartest move was making it three stories rather than one lengthy tale; that enabled fidelity to the source material along with keeping the audience's attention. And for as much as I like this one, I'm somehow not optimistic about the sequel. This sort of a thing stands out for its uniqueness, and a follow-up might be tarnished by that.

12. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army - As a fan of mythology, I absolutely loved the storyline in this one. I don't believe in taking myths as actual history, but I still believe that they're important, as they tell us a lot about ourselves. The villain in this one has a great motivation, and it very well WOULD be sad if all the fairy tale creatures wound up forgotten. Also, this one gives Hellboy a great inner conflict as he's been wanting to be part of the regular world for so long, but the problem is that he'll always be a monster - and maybe that's not so bad. Once again, here's that link to my thoughts on both movies.

11. Scott Pilgrim Versus the World - Confession time: I've never read the comics. When I flipped through the graphic novel at the comic book store recently, I set it down because it was pretty much exactly like watching the movie. I'll probably still get it one of these days, but this is a great movie that didn't get its proper audience. The humor is quirky, the performances are fun, and Michael Cera is most fitting playing his usual role of Michael Cera. There are all sorts of sudden jumps, cuts, and it really requires a suspension of disbelief as it's a romantic comedy that exists in a comic book/video game world. And the most important lesson? Chicken's not vegan.

10. The Amazing Spider-Man - I had a hard time placing this one. If it had been the original Spider-Man movie, then it might have been higher. The fact that a reboot was unnecessary makes it tempting to put it much lower. I'm not sure which way I'm over-compensating. Anyway, this got a lot more right than the original, and the thing that really bumped it past the original is that the dialogue is much more natural - as natural as it gets for this kind of a film. I was a bit disappointed in the costume change, but it looks like it's going to be even more true to the original design in the sequel than it was in the previous series of movies. Here's my full review.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger - This one probably gets bumped up higher than it might have normally for a couple of reasons. The first is that Cap is one of my all-time favorites, and they got his personality right. The second is that I think the first third of this movie is pretty much perfect. The second half is pretty good, and the third half is just okay. Yeah, they were trying to shoehorn it into being a prequel to The Avengers, but that doesn't bother me as much as it does some folks. I was disappointed that Chris Evans got the role when I first heard about it, but he quickly won me over. Steve Rogers is a tough character to play, because you can't do him with even an ounce of cynicism. Evans had me on board when he said, totally convincingly: "I don't want to kill anybody. I don't like bullies." I believed him.

8. The Dark Knight Rises - It says a lot that the lowest-ranked Christopher Nolan Batman movie is 23 spots higher for me than the highest-ranked Burton/Shumacher film. It has its flaws, but they got one thing absolutely right when Bane broke the Bat. It was intense, and I was emotionally invested in the story. It's amazing how little Batman was in this one, but it still felt like he was the main character. I'm a fan of stories that feature a broken character who finds his purpose again (see the next entry) and this one did a good job of it. Bane was kind of wasted at the end, but this all came to a satisfying conclusion. Ben Affleck is no doubt going to be a very different Batman, and that's good, because all that can be said about this one has been with this trilogy. Here's my full review.

7. The Wolverine - This one might get knocked down several rungs as time goes by, but right now I love this movie. Sure, the final battle feels like your typical superhero movie, but the movie as a whole is really about something. It begins with Logan having completely lost the will to live, and as the movie goes on, he not only finds purpose again, but he WANTS to live. I don't think this approaches the same level of high-art of Hamlet, but it's a similar arc in that sense, only the Danish Prince meets death once he embraces life. I feel as though I've been on that path as well, and that's why this one speaks so much to me. Perhaps if there didn't need to be more Wolverine movies, that would have been a more appropriate ending for this one. Also, enough good things can't be said about Rila Fukushima, the actress who plays Yukio. Pay attention to the quick look on her face when the drunks make their move on her at the Canadian bar scene. Priceless.

6. Superman - Yeah, it's dated. Yeah, it gets silly at the end. But could the origin story that takes up the first half of the film be any more perfect? Even the silliness at the end doesn't overwhelm the picture, and even though having Kal El turn back time makes him more of a god than a man, it's still the one picture that showed you could make a serious movie about a superhero. Too bad it took Hollywood a long time to figure that out again, but every one of the better movies on this list wouldn't be as good as they were without this film. No doubt my memories as a kid push this one up quite a bit, but I still enjoy watching it now.

5. The Dark Knight - Speaking of setting new standards in superhero movies, this movie completely changed the whole idea of how they should be done. I don't feel as though I have anything original to say about it, but I guess if you're wondering why it scores lower than Batman Begins, that's because the resolution of the Harvey Dent story, while necessary, feels a bit anticlimactic after Batman finally takes down The Joker. Anyway, just like any other good genre film, the story relates to real life issues like surveillance technology, terrorism, etc. My original review is in two parts.

4. Spider-Man 2 - Yet another story on today's list that features a hero who has lost his way, Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire really nailed the essence of the character with this sequel. Here's a movie where if somebody was unwilling to read the comic books but wanted to know what Spidey was all about, I could sit down and watch this with him or her. It took everything that was good about the first one and gave you more (particularly J. Jonah Jameson) while also giving less of the bad stuff. Being a superhero is tough, especially if you don't have the resources of a Bruce Wayne, and this movie really gets to the heart of it, while still touching on the important motivation for why he'd continue with it all if it was so damned tough. Here's my full review.

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