COMIC BOOK MOVIES: GOOD, BAD OR GUILTY PLEASURE
by Blake Spears
Batman Begins managed to do what no incarnation of the 90's Batman movies could (who could forget George Clooney's famous nipple suit in Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin). The first part of that movie is light on in action and instead we are presented with what I think, is the best introduction to a character in this genre of movies. You totally forget that you're watching a Batman movie and that there should be explosions and henchmen at every corner. Instead you get a fantastically told story from Nolan on the man who is Batman, Bruce Wayne.
None of the previous Batman movies have managed to give Bruce Wayne a presence of character that is so strong that you could easily just sit and watch a movie about him, no bat suit needed. This was fantastic, because who the public see as Bruce Wayne, is in fact a ruse. Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy, is the mask. Batman is the real Bruce Wayne and Christian Bale's performance, succeeds in allowing he audience to understand this. Understanding Batman is the key to understanding why he makes the choices he makes and does the things he does.
The action was intense, the Bat Mobile didn't look like a car from a Speed Racer cartoon anymore and the villains were solid. Finally, a comic book movie that actually gave it's villains substance and a reason for them being evil. Begins was a solid film that had a real dramatic element to it that it's predecessors lacked and really established the Dark Knight as a hero for villains to fear.
Spiderman 2 continued the success of Raimi's first outing of everyone's favourite neighbourhood webslinger and upped the ante in the villain department, with Alfred Molina's performance as Doctor Otto Octavius, the brilliant scientist who goes mad after an accident and the death of his wife and becomes the menacing Doctor Octopus. Continuing with it's themes from the first movie, Raimi's sequel again reigned supreme at the box office, taking over a whopping $500 million worldwide.
Yet, the series success didn't continue as planned, with the third instalment (2007) over filled with villains and a bizarre emo like turn from Peter Parker as he pined over his failing relationship with Mary-Jane and convoluted feelings for Gwen Stacey, his first love in the comics and a character who has been dead for many years. Yet despite it's drawbacks, Spiderman 3 was still a success at the box office, but legions of fans were left feeling disgruntled. Let's be honest, Venom (Topher Grace), should have been so much tougher to defeat.
Comic book adaptations have robustly continued over the last few years. Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy, whilst not a major box office draw, was well received and in my opinion one of the best adaptations to date. Keanu Reeves turn as John Constantine, based on the Hellblazer graphic novels, was enjoyable even if it did veer away from a lot of the source material. The Fantastic Four movies, whilst not great in terms of their scripts and Julian McMahon's cheesy performance of Doctor Doom, were a success and truly touched on the source material fundamentals. Both films didn't take themselves seriously and were funny and a fun ride, very much like the comics.
Sin City saw comic books looked at in a new way, along with a fantastic ensemble cast the script was written by the man who wrote the graphic novels. Frank Miller's unique story telling style, kept the movie compelling and gritty and the "noir-like" visuals and tone of the movie made it the most unique adaptation to date and this continued when Zack Schnyder directed another Miller adaptaion, 300 (2007). 300 had a solid story, a great cast led by the awesome Gerard Butler and it visually eclipsed Sin City.
We've been thrown numerous other comic book stories over the last decade, with mixed reactions, but generally most have been well received by the fans and some critics. Marvel's Blade trilogy is probably their most consistent franchise. Each movie keeps exploring the same themes on different levels and Wesley Snipes lives his character with the same ferocity in each movie. The thing that makes the Blade trilogy so well, is that they are completely mindless and fun movies that you don't have to think about. The theme's are simple, the villains are cool and the action sequences are effective and fit the continuity of the narrative. But seriously, what was up with the dismal Blade t.v. show they made?
Next Week: The League Of Not So Extraordinary Gentlemen