Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Top Ten: Top Ten Live Action Comic Book Films

Before I trek out and see the latest (and rumored greatest) "Spider-Man" film in theaters, the urge to craft a 'best comic book film' list drew upon me like a delirious shadow of insanity. Thusly, the Blood Brothers' "Top Ten Live Action Comic Book Films" took shape. The choices made for this list will probably have some of you up in arms shouting obscenities at us and honestly, that's the point. So enjoy it for what it is and feel free to post comments below as we love to hear from our readers. Feel free to click the title of the film for an individual review for each film. Enough explanation let's spit some blood...

The first "Blade" film makes the list for a couple reasons. First, it was a success despite the massive drop off in quality for comic book films in the late 90s and it certainly does it with charm and a dark streak a mile wide. Secondly, it's perfectly cast (Snipes and Kristofferson are gold together) and it blends just enough horror and action elements to compliment its more cartoonish comic parts that it would sit well with a variety of audiences whether or not it had its "comic" tag on it. It's blend is stellar.

The first of many sequels on this list, you will see a repeated pattern starting here. "Iron Man 2" is just as good as all of the elements in the first film, but it really runs with it. It doesn't have to worry about really setting foundations or characters. That was done and this one, pardon the pun, really takes flight. It has a stronger and crazier villain (a hero is only as good as their villain right?) and the cast of character is simply stronger all around including a brief but awesome secondary role for Black Widow. Downey Jr once again owns a role he was made for and the story is bigger and badder. I might be one of the few that believes that this sequel was better than the first, but I will make that argument until the end of time.

Sam Raimi's ability to balance fun and excitement with strong moral issues and characters hits home run in this second film of the web slinging New York superhero. As the scene and genre gradually morphed into darker and more realistic films, Raimi and cast kept it light hearted and family oriented with this series and it was a brilliant counterbalance. The bright colors and visual flair of the film hones in on the goofier elements of the comic book film (that he previously toyed with on the 'faux' film "Dark Man"), but the film's strong writing and fantastically built villain make "Spider-Man 2" one of the best.

As with the last couple, this is a sequel that simply out performs the original in all manners. Where the original "X-Men" film played hesitant with devotion to its idea and characters, "X2" full on sprints with it. Between it's expertly crafted action set pieces (the opening assassination by Nightcrawler still holds up as one of the best shot action sequences to this day) and the superbly built cast that executes a very massive story, "X2" was the film that truly set the next level of standards for comic book films in this day and age.

Nolan's reboot of the "Batman" franchise caught everyone's attention with its significantly darker tones and realistic elements. Yet "Batman Begins" found itself caught trying to still be too comic book like to be truly embraced by its idea. Not "The Dark Knight". Even though it still retains much of its silly comic book elements (the sonar computer anyone?), Nolan really pushed the film into new territory and epic new levels. The film is pushed to the edge by a psychotic and driven Joker (played expertly by Ledger) and the massive atmosphere it creates as something that could happen makes this one hell of a watch.

Very rarely does this film ever show up on any 'comic book' list because people forget that it is one. This is due to the fact that despite some ridiculous concepts and a very visual style to the film, it rarely feels like one. Yet, "The Crow" remains the ultimate Gothic tale of vengeance and hope that is centered on a ghostly performance from Brandon Lee and sports a slew of great cult actors in its ranks. Not only that, but the film has a beautifully dark and atmospheric art design that would have earned director Proyas and his film a slot on this list no matter what.

Following in this trend of epic Gothic films sits Tim Burton's genre defining '89 spectacle "Batman". Now I'm going to probably take a lot of flack for this one, but this is the essential Batman film experience in almost every way. It redefined blockbusters that were engaging, dark, and family friendly while the sheer epic look of the film remains intact even over two decades later. It's eclectic casting and strong sense of symbolic structures of detail make for gobs of unforgettable moments. Although Burton would never be able to top it (even with the charming if not flawed "Batman Returns"), this film remains one that is a must see for comic book films.

You were probably all wondering if this epic film (and newest on the list) would make the cut and I should slap you for even asking that. OF COURSE IT DID! How could it not? Despite my sheer terror that no one could ever pull off a film of this magnitude (with budget, casting, and writing), the first phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe films was built perfectly to set this up and Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to knock it out of the ball park. The only thing stronger than the epic action set pieces featuring all of our favorite charming comic heroes in true form is how fun and incredibly efficient the banter dialogue is. This just goes to show you that a strong writing foundation can really set up great things and deliver results.

Here's another one that many of you probably forgot was based on a comic book. The dark dystopian vision of the future is so disturbing and well realized by "Matrix" protege McTeigue, that its hard not to be completely dismayed by the moral issues that are beaten into the completely relatable characters of the film. The film is an emotional roller coaster for those willing to be swayed and its all rightly anchored on the gut wrenching performances of our two leads Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving who does the whole damn thing behind a mask with voice inflection and body language. This is not only one of my favorite comic book films, it's one of my favorite films ever. If there is anything that might dismay people from seeing it, it might be its lacking action. But the film is so strongly written and executed with its moral issues and characters that, to me, its irrelevant.

Even though I ranked "Batman" higher than "The Dark Knight", this will easily be my most controversial choice for the list. People bitched that it didn't follow the critically acclaimed graphic novel enough and people bitched that it followed it too closely (making the film clock in at 215 minutes in its extended form). Yet I have a hard time agreeing with either side. The balance of visual flair, character driven moral choices, and societal commentaries is perfect. It's beautifully cast, expertly executed with visuals, and written like an epic piece of literature that's depth allows for hours and hours of discussion. It never shys away from its darkness by embracing the extreme violence and offensive characters all the while playing it off as something of a giant comic book Shakespearean tale of woe. Instant classic.

There you have it. The controversial, but thought provoking "Top Ten Live Action Comic Book Films" from Blood Brothers. Feel free to spit some blood and leave comments below on what you think I missed or accomplished with this list.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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