Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ranking the Comics Adaptations - 2015 Update

Last year I took it upon myself to rank the comic book adaptations. I did it about a year ago, so I figured that it was time to revise the list, as there are some notable additions including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

My original list included 53 movies based on comics that were originally written in English. I didn't even consider it at the time, but when I sat down to do this update, it occurred to me that I didn't even think to include movies like The Adventures of Tin Tin, Persepolis, and those adaptations of the Asterix comics. (I would have to leave the last ones off my list because I don't think that they've ever been released in the United States on video or otherwise.) To save my sanity, I'm not going to be adding those to the list.

Also, I'll only include comments on the new additions for the most part. If you want to see what I had to say about all the other movies, check out my original list. Also, I will link the titles of the movies for which I have written full reviews.

Before I proceed, I'll just go ahead and get it out of the way that the 2014 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles won't be on the list anywhere. I didn't see it. I don't plan on seeing it. I don't want to see it. I might even go out of my way to avoid it. I'd be really surprised if it found its way out of the bottom fifth of the list.

So, here's the revised list:

61. Batman and Robin - still sucks
60. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace 
59. Blade: Trinity 
58. X-Men Origins: Wolverine 
57. Fantastic Four
56. Superman III 
55. The Punisher 
54. Green Lantern 
53. Spider-Man III - Sam Raimi even admits it sucks.
52. The Crow
51. Daredevil 

50. 300: Rise of an Empire - Does this even belong here? It's an adaptation of a comic book that Frank Miller hasn't made yet, and who knows if and when he'll ever make it? It certainly wasn't horrible, but although Eva Green was entertaining, everything else was pretty forgettable. The first one, as silly as it is, at least gave some visuals that we've never seen before, and some of the battle scenes were pretty damn intense. This one just felt like a bit of "been there, done that" even if we did get a naval battle instead.

49. Batman Forever
48. Hulk  
47. Kick Ass

46. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - Does this even belong here? It's an adaptation of a comic book that Frank Miller hasn't made yet, and who knows if and when he'll ever make it? It certainly wasn't horrible, but although Eva Green was entertaining, everything else was pretty forgettable. Okay, yeah, that's exactly the same thing that I wrote for 300: Rise of an Empire but it's true for this one as well. (Okay, the main story was based on an actual comic that Miller did, but about half of the movie is new stuff.) I loved the first one, and I think that it holds up, but this one feels like leftover ideas from the first. It's not bad, and if you loved the first, it's worth checking it out at least once. Other than that, I don't think that I'll remember much of this one.

45. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - This one also was not horrible, but it was lesser than the sum of its parts. Imagine Batman Forever if it had better acting and dialogue, and that's basically what you have here. Sure, Spidey looks better than he probably ever has in the movies, but overall there's an overly crowded story filled with uninteresting villains. Plus, the bit of tragedy winds up not feeling very tragic. Looks like I'm not the only one who feels like this was a misfire, considering Marvel Studios now has a special deal with Sony, and we'll be seeing a new Spider-Man in the next Captain America movie. It's really too bad, because I saw a lot of potential with this particular version of the character.

44. 300 
43. Punisher War Zone  
42. Blade  
41. X-Men: The Last Stand - I still think that this one is unfairly maligned.

40. Kingsman: The Secret Service - There's so much good about this movie, but man, the ending just gets me. I'm not even talking about the bit of CGI that completely took me out of the story. I'm talking about the bit of ridiculous sexism. I suppose that this is objectively better than a lot of movies that are higher up on the list, but I'm too bothered by that to get it any higher. Check out Maryann Johanson's evaluation of how it handles its female characters.

39. Superman Returns
38. Superman II

37. Hercules - I had a hard time ranking this one, mainly because it feels weird to put it on the list in the first place. Yes, it was based on a comic book series, but it's not like Thor, where an old myth inhabits a shared comic book universe. This was just a new tale of a classic character, and it was originally told in comics form. Anyway, I enjoyed this one a lot. I cannot argue that it's a great film, but it's solidly entertaining, and there is much to appreciate. It's basically a really well-done B movie.

36. Blade II 
35. Batman 
34. Batman Returns 
33. From Hell 
32. The Rocketeer 
31. The Incredible Hulk 
30. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 
29. X-Men 
28. Iron Man 3 
27. Man of Steel 
26. Thor 

25. The Dark Knight Rises - This one has gotten bumped down upon repeated viewings. It was all the way up at number 8 on my previous list. Looking back, I think that much of it had to do with all of the good will that was built up in the previous two installments. There is still much that this movie gets right, and I still think that it's better than any of the Burton/Shumacher films. Still, the plot is a bit of a mess, and Bane, who is a great villain at the start, winds up getting tossed aside at the end too easily. He was awesome when it was all part of his master plan, but it turns out that he was just a glorified flunky? Lame sauce.

24. Watchmen 
23. V for Vendetta 
23. Thor: The Dark World - This one dropped a bit, but just a bit.
22. Hellboy 
21. Dredd 
20. X-Men: First Class 
19. X2 
18. Iron Man 2 
17. Sin City 
16. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army 

Guardians of the Galaxy - I'm curious as to whether I'll feel the need to promote or demote this one on the list as time goes by. I think that if it wasn't for the fact that the third act kind of fizzles, it would have probably made it into the top ten. Not enough can be said for how brilliant it was to make Rocket Raccoon into such a likable and sympathetic character, and I still feel like the entire film would have fallen apart if they wouldn't have gotten this right. (Same goes for Groot.)

14. Spider-Man - I recently re-watched this one, and it's jumped up significantly on the list. I think that I was far too harsh with it when I made my original list. It was all the way at 29 the first time out, and as you can see, it's cracked the top 15. I guess those clunky bits of dialogue stuck out in my head too much, and I still think that it was much more natural sounding in The Amazing Spider-Man. Still, watching it again reminded me of just how much Sam Raimi got right the first time around, and there's a lot of love put into this film. Who knows? In time, I might even rank it higher than "Amazing", and we'll see which one holds up better.

13. Scott Pilgrim Versus the World 
12. The Amazing Spider-Man 
11. Captain America: The First Avenger - This might be a bit high simply because I love the character so much.

10.  X-Men: Days of Future Past - I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone in calling this the best of the X-Men films. However, I'm probably in the minority for thinking that The Wolverine is still a bit better. Anyway, I think that the reason why this one was a step up from even Bryan Singer's previous endeavors, was that he really injected a real sense of fun into the mix. Plus, it looked right to the comics for inspiration. Sure, things were changed, but it really got to the heart of what some of those wacky X-Men stories were all about.

9. The Wolverine 

8. Big Hero Six - Even though it was from Marvel, I know very little about the comic inspiration for this Disney film. From what I understand, this movie is pretty different. I'm okay with that even if the comics are awesome, because this movie really hits the nail on what makes superhero stories great. I'd include The Incredibles on this list as well if it weren't for the fact that there wasn't even a comic with that name before the movie came out. Anyway, I saw this one in the theater with my four year old son, and he loved it. We've been watching it since it came out on video. There's so much to like about this - the characters, the story, the humor, the imaginative look of the whole thing, etc. Maybe it'll drop a bit on this list as time goes by, but I can't see it dropping very far.

7. Superman: The Movie 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I've watched this one quite a few times since it came out on home video. I think that the only problem with this one is that there are just so many great superhero films out there now that it almost gets lost in the shuffle. Imagine if something like this came out before Batman Begins. It would have been a revelation that a superhero film can not only directly look to the source material for inspiration but also create an action movie that addresses some real world issues. It's amazing how different this one is from the first film - almost to the point where it seems like a completely different genre. However, the personality of Steve Rogers remains consistent.

5. The Dark Knight 
4. Spider-Man 2 
3. Iron Man 
2. Batman Begins 
1. The Avengers 

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