Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The (Updated) Comic Movie List

To be frank, updating my my last ranking of films based on comic books might be a waste of time. Sure, it's been three years, but there is not a ton of new quality entering the field here. Put it this way --- there are six entries in the bottom two categories against only four combined in the top two categories. I'm basically taking time out of my busy (?) schedule to give you breaking news about mediocrity….then again, I also cover Toronto FC games, so this is old hat.

I've made a few minor adjustments to my original rankings, plus included longer descriptions of the new additions to the list. I'm going to continue to omit the Ninja Turtles movies because a) I forgot them on the first list, b) I haven't seen any of the movies in almost 20 years and c) I'm turning 30 years old next months, for god's sake, I'm certainly not going to go back to watch them because they're in all likelihood secretly awful. In fairness, we did name our family turtles 'Michelangelo I' and 'Michelangelo II' when I was seven years old, so I figure that's a decent enough tribute.


50. Batman & Robin
49. Jonah Hex
-- This movie was so bad that I gave it some genuine consideration for the very bottom spot. Of course, "Batman & Robin" was probably the worst movie ever made so its spot was safe, but still, the fact that Jonah Hex actually made me think about it is a victory in itself, since I never thought I'd see anything approach B&R in my lifetime. The biggest thing going in JH's favour is that it's a purer failure. I can buy the fact that, during the making of B&R, Joel Schumacher or some of the cast and crew might've bought into the concept and thought they were actually making a fun, tongue-in-cheek comic book movie. With Jonah Hex, I find it hard to believe that this was considered to be a good idea at any point during its production. The screenwriters must've thought it was half-assed, the studio felt they had to go ahead with production because of deadlines, the director was just trying to get a credit, the cast had already spent their paycheques, etc. Truly a horrific film all-around and very worthy of the fact that it was a tremendous box office disaster.
48. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
47. Wolverine
-- The best part of Wolverine occurs in the first five minutes, when we see the montage of the near-ageless Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting in various wars through the 20th century. After that, holy crap, does this thing fall off a cliff.
46. Fantastic Four
45. Superman IV
44. Superman III
43. Hulk
42. Blade Trinity
41. X-Men 3
40. The Green Hornet
-- I just don't get why this movie wasn't witty. It tries to be funny, in the sense there are jokes and Christoph Waltz's character is a joke himself, but there's no tongue-in-cheek wit whatsoever in Green Hornet. It's baffling since Seth Rogen actually co-wrote the thing and, more importantly, even the original Green Hornet show was very aware of itself as being a silly Batman ripoff. Also, Cameron Diaz is at least a decade too old to be playing the sexy love interest in….well, anything.
39. Daredevil

38. Punisher: Warzone -- The original Tom Jane Punisher movie is a guilty pleasure, but this one, yikes. To save you the time, here's every kill in the film, helpfully put together in a YouTube montage. (#40 is inarguably the best, and a genuinely funny scene.) Fun fact: I saw this movie before I saw 'The Wire,' so sadly this was my first impression of Dominic West. He gives a GOD-AWFUL performance in this movie. Just terrible. He plays Jigsaw as the Joker, if the Joker was a swaggering Bronx tough guy. West was so bad and it took me at least three episodes into The Wire to stop hating Jimmy McNulty. Not that McNulty is an inherently loveable character anyway, but still.
37. Green Lantern -- Incredibly, I may be being generous with this ranking, since it seems like GL has been universally panned. Hey, don't get me wrong, it was a bad movie clearly made to sell toys and 7-11 souvenir cups, but it was only bad, not an abomination in the eyes of God and man. There's a chance that the sequel could be an upgrade, right? Right? /power ring generates a green tumbleweed
36. Blade II
35. Ghost Rider
34. Wanted
-- The last line of this movie is literally, "What the fuck have you done lately?" Hey, get over yourself, Wanted. I live a full life writing about comic book movies on the internet. This last line is spoken directly into the camera, too, like Dr. Hibbert asking Chief Wiggum if he can solve Mr. Burns' shooting. If Green Hornet takes itself too seriously, then Wanted's whole "hey, let me make the unique observation that working in an office SUCKS" schtick definitely needs to be dialled back a ton.
33. Superman Returns
32. X-Men

31. 300
30. The Losers
-- An almost-instantly forgettable action movie that's basically a homeless man's version of The A-Team, and ironically it came out literally a week or two around the time the actual A-Team movie was released. Still, it gets a higher nod than Green Hornet or Wanted since, unlike those other films, 'The Losers' at least had a sense of humour about itself and doesn't try to be anything but a straight-forward action movie. Bonus Wire points for casting Idris Elba. By the way, I am heavily on board the "Idris Elba as the new James Bond" train. Make it happen, Sony.
29. Men In Black
28. Iron Man II
-- The first, and most irritating, manifestation of Marvel focusing all its attention on next year's Avengers movie. Fortunately they toned down the tie-ins for Thor and Captain America (I'll get to them later) but geez, Iron Man II makes us care way too much about Clark Gregg's character. The Avengers stuff sums up the basic problem with this film, in that there's just too much stuff going on. You have two villains, Tony Stark acting more like a drunken douche than a charming superhero, Gwyneth Paltrow walking around doing nothing, and things just never really get on track. A real letdown given the quality of the first Iron Man movie.
27. Superman II
26. Blade
25. Hellboy
24. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
-- Confession: I remember almost nothing about this movie other than the fact that I liked it. So, what the hell. Ignorance is bliss.
23. Ghost World
22. Punisher
21. Spider-Man
20. Spider-Man III
19. Watchmen
-- Part of me thinks the movie should've just stopped after the opening credits, which are phenomenal and easily in the conversation of the best opening sequences in movie history. (Only slight hyperbole.) There was so much hand-wringing over how much Watchmen would have to be altered and 'ruined' on the big screen that Zack Snyder played it safe by pretty much sticking straight to the original comic text, albeit with a modified ending. Probably the smart move given that, well, Zack Snyder ain't much of a filmmaker so at least he knew to not over-extend his reach, but it leaves you with basically just a filmed version of the graphic novel, rather than a unique entity unto itself. Basically the only extra emphasis Snyder seemed to add was devoting way too much time to the Nite Owl/Silk Spectre sex scene. I picture Snyder on the set with an old-timey director's megaphone, yelling "More thrusting!" at a visibly uncomfortable Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson.
18. Thor -- A thoroughly solid film that, unlike Iron Man II, incorporates the Avengers stuff in a relatively painless and logical way. I get the feeling that the movie included a bit too much stuff that wouldn't make sense unless you were already familiar with Thor and, by extension, Marvel Comics (like the whole backstory of the Asgardian Destroyer or Sif and the Warriors Three) but since I know this stuff anyway, it had no effect. My basic rule for Kenneth Branagh is director = good, actor = bad, and 'Thor' continues the streak.
17. The Mask
16. Road to Perdition
-- A note about Road To Perdition, which made a noticeable jump up from the original list. I recently saw the movie again and quite enjoyed it, so I think my first viewing was coloured by the fact that I was expecting A Classic and was therefore let down, whereas if you just expect A Good Movie, you'll be certainly satisfied. Hmm, maybe I should similarly give Jonah Hex a second chance and NOPE.
15. X-Men: First Class -- Hey, I don't know if you realized this before, but I THINK (call me crazy) that being a mutant is a metaphor for teenagers not fitting in. I figured out this hidden secret of the X-Men series! Anyway, thematic hammering aside, this was a solid, safe reboot of the X-Men franchise, which was definitely needed after the lousy X-Men 3 and the failure of the Wolverine spinoff. I think everyone was eager to restart things after X-Men 3, but the only question mark would be how the new guys (James McAvoy and Michael F. Assbender) would live up to the iconic performances of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Xavier and Magneto, respectively. They both did fine work, and also had the added bonus of getting a few more women into the theatres. My friend Sarah's Twitter review: "It was a good movie but I kept wanting Professor X and Magneto to make out."

14. Superman
13. Batman Returns
12. Kick-Ass
-- The ending gets a little goofy and not really true to the nature of the "this guy dresses like a superhero but doesn't know what he's doing" story, but overall, yeah, this movie is pretty frickin' awesome. I am not exaggerating (or, looking the IMDB page, lying) when I say that this is Nick Cage's best performance since 'Adaptation.'
11. Captain America -- From my original review: "Captain America is basically sold by the fact that Steve Rogers is a genuinely good guy. He's five-foot nothing, a hundred and nothing (tm Notre Dame football), but he wants to enlist in World War II more than anything because he just straight-up feels it's the right thing to do. He's short and tough without a Napoleon complex, and while his parents both served in WWI, Steve isn't enlisting just to follow in their footsteps. He's just a class act all the way around. While we've been indoctrinated to believe that all superheroes (especially Marvel characters) need to be driven by angst and conflict, Captain America has always been presented as the most clean-cut and noble of heroes and you know what? It totally works."
10. Batman
9. V For Vendetta
8. X-Men 2
7. From Hell

6. Iron Man
5. Sin City
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
-- Probably one of the most pure adaptations of any on the list, as Edgar Wright went out of his way to capture the comicky atmosphere of the original Scott Pilgrim books. It's just a fun, fun, fun movie. It gets bonus points for incorporating so much of Toronto into the setting, more bonus points for including Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza in any way, and even more bonus points for the hilarious Tom Jane/Clifton Collins cameo. Minus one bonus point for the fact that a lot of my London friends won't watch it because "it just looks too hipsterish," thus making me question for a brief moment that I might be a hipster, which is a reality too terrifying to imagine.
3. Spider-Man II
2. Batman Begins
1. The Dark Knight
-- Not a lot of suspense on this one. What more is there to be said about TDK? It has probably become 'the' iconic pop culture image of Batman, moreso than the other films, the cartoon or even the original comics themselves. Underrated example of Dark Knight's influence: since the Academy faced so much backlash for not nominating it for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2008, the Academy Awards have basically gone nuts with their nominating process. For the last two years it was a 10-movie Best Picture field, which led to such gems as The Blind Side being recognized in history as a BP nominee. Now, this year, there is no set number of Best Picture nominees, other than we know it will be a minimum of five and a maximum of ten; basically, if any film is ranked first on at least 5% of ballots, it makes the list. Just think, all of this nonsense could've been avoided had the morons at the Academy considered TDK to be a better movie than goddamn Benjamin Button.

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