The summer of 2014 will probably be known as the summer of the superheroes. With both DC and Marvel Comics ramping up production outputs for their movie studios, it won’t be a surprise if the top ten blockbuster movies this coming year to be dominated by superheroes. Many people already have a preconceived notion that comic books are only for superheroes and children’s fantasies, that they aren't aware that more mature, non-superhero comics have a strong hold in the comic book market. I’m sure many movie writers, critics and bloggers will be making their top ten comic book superhero movies yet again, refining them to include last year’s many entries. So I am going to do something different. This is my list, in no particular order, of comic book movies that don’t involve superheroes. My list might seem limited, as I’m only writing about the movies that I’ve seen..
This movie by Zack Snyder is based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel. While not the most historically accurate depiction of King Leonidas and the battle of Thermopylae, it is pure testosterone action. You can’t help but watch this movie and get pumped up. This movie is full of men in ridiculously good shape doing crazy, over the top action with just spears, swords and shields. I have read the graphic novel and felt that it was a close interpretation of it. If you’re looking to kick back and watch some great action, this is a definite go to movie.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (series):
Let’s face it, these movies defined a generation. I can’t help but watch any iteration of these characters and immediately be taken back to my childhood. The first live action movie was a miracle. It was something so ridiculous that it works. It plays to any child’s imagination, whether it be a child or a man remembering what it’s like to be a child. The second movie was typical 90s shlock, complete with Vanilla Ice. I haven’t seen the third one, but have heard that it is an improvement on the second. The latest movie, which was a computer generated movie, was my favorite thus far. It picks up where the live action movie series left off. The turtles are adrift without an enemy to fight. It has such a great family dynamic to it that plays the fact that the four turtles are brothers. The scene where Leonardo and Raphael are fighting on the rooftop is one of the greatest scenes ever written.
This is one of those roles that Keanu Reeves was born to play. John Constantine is a rough, weary and crude character. He has seen much of this world and others that he’s become calloused to everything. While I didn’t care for the comic book series, Hellblazer, too much, this movie was a great departure from typical comic book fanfare. It also takes many religious theologies and spins them on their heads, which of course caused some controversy. I am disappointed that there isn’t a sequel in the works.
Road to Perdition:
This movie is a great, unique mobster movie. Tom Hanks plays a mob hitman. When his family is murdered except for his oldest son, the two go on to rob banks of their mob money. Of course, the mob eventually catches up to them. Not only was this a great mobster movie, but it is also a great father/ son movie, a coming-of-age movie, and a great movie that showcases that era in American history. Unlike my previous few entries, this one doesn’t feature anyone mutated, has spiritual powers, or built up to near superhuman strength. Just regular people trying to live their lives.
Another great Frank Miller creation, this time adapted by Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez manages to stick faithfully to the comic in both story and style. Keeping the black and white look and feel of some of Miller’s stories from the Sin City series, it manages to create a believable, yet crazy world in which the equally crazy characters live in. All of the actors manage to not only look like their comic book counterparts, but also to act just like them. This movie also signified the return of Mickey Rourke.
Judge Dredd series:
The series consists of only two movies. Both are very different from each other. The first is a Stallone vehicle when he was on the downward curve of his earlier popularity. While it gets some things right, it gets more wrong. With an overly complicated plot and too many clichés, it failed to get the fans of the comic book on board. The second movie is led by Karl Urban, an underrated newer action star. This movie is far better than the first, not only for it’s use of the newer 3D technology but in terms of keeping to the core character that is Dredd.
V For Vendetta:
This comic book, brought to us by the wonderfully talented Alan Moore, was a faithful adaptation, despite much being taken out of the story and the Hollywood feel of the movie. Centered around a future that could very well happen, it is a movie about oppression and breaking free. Whether it be free of an outside oppression or the oppressions we create for ourselves. The release of this movie, which features the main character, a terrorist, bombing a famous London building, was mired in controversy due to a series of bombings in London that occurred at the same time. I applaud the producers for going through and putting the movie out anyway.
This movie features Johnny Depp as the inspector for Scotland Yard trying to catch Jack The Ripper. This movie takes on the theory that the Ripper was a doctor that was hired by the Queen to hide the fact that the prince had a child with a hooker. The Hughes brothers do a great job recreating turn of the century London and Depp manages to do what he does best, play a drug addicted character.
A History of Violence:
One of my favorites on this list. Sadly, I have not read the comics that this movie is based on. David Cronenberg brings us this story as only he can, unapologetically violent and dark. Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson bring us a story of a simple man whose complicated past catches up to him. Mortenson expertly plays a character with two sides to his personality, the kind and simple side and the dark and violent side. These two parts collide in this movie and the ending was perfect as Mortenson sits down to dinner with his family after violently dispatching his past and you don’t know who it is that is sitting down.
The summer this movie came out three movies came out that were almost exactly the same. The Losers, The Expendables and The A-Team. The Liam Neeson led A-Team was typical Hollywood schtick and The Expendables brought the over-the-top action expected of Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, which meant that the little known Losers slipped by without being seen. But The Losers was a far superior film than the both of them. While all three brought crazy action and witty banter, The Losers felt like a more cohesive and put together film. Plus, it brought us Captain America singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.
My favorite comic book movie ever. James O’Barr’s deeply personal story about loss and depression is amazingly dark and gothic journey into madness. It is filled with great art, both with the pencil and the writing, and O’Barr manages to pour all of his emotion and soul into each painful panel. The movie manages to capture that feeling. Then newcomer Alex Proyas puts his own personal style while keeping faithful to the source material into the movie. The movie does change some of the storyline, but the pure, raw emotion of the original story are all there. The Cure’s song that plays when Brandon Lee’s Eric Draven finally remembers his final minutes is perfect. Brandon Lee, in his last movie role, gives us a great performance as Eric Draven, a soul whose only purpose is to seek revenge on those that killed himself and raped and killed his fiancée. A pure dark revenge fantasy.
I know there are many more great ones out there that I haven’t seen, such as Ghost World and American Splendor, but one day I will be able to get to those. What have you seen that’s based on comic books but don’t have superheroes that you feel are great movies?