Cause it takes a strong man, baby, but I’m showing you the door. Cause I gotta have faith. I gotta have faith. Or do you?
Your uncle Geekly is back with more comic book movie magic and a three list of three. This week we’ll concentrate on comic book movies that are the most and least faithful adaptations to their source material and throw in a third, fun list for kicks.
Usually, a faithful adaptation is better than one that isn’t, but that’s not always the case. 2011’s Green Lantern made the short list for faithful adaptations, and it stunk. Regardless, the following lists will let you know which ones have geek cred, and which ones don’t.
Most Faithful Comic Book or Manga Movies (so far)
Iron Man (2008)
All the main points for Tony’s character are present in 2008’s Iron Man, except that he’s more of a social drinker than an alcoholic. That may be the one part that I’ve never liked about the movie version, but I get it. Marvel/Disney wants to make Iron Man more accessible for a greater audience. But alcoholism is a common problem and that’s one of the things that makes Tony accessible for people.
Oh well, like I said, the main character points are there: billionaire playboy, womanizer, purveyor of the best weapons, regrets the creation of such weapons, and needs a suit to stay alive. One must take the omission of alcoholism with stride. The cinematic Iron Man deals with his alcoholism as much as cinematic versions of Batman deal with the loss of his parents. It’s a peripheral thing.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Yes. This is the second Marvel movie in a row, but it’s a good one that’s very faithful to its source material. The only things the movie Winter Soldier changes are plot points that wouldn’t fit within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Sharon Carter wasn’t introduced until this movie, so Black Widow is part of Cap’s team) and some of the more fantastic or mystical elements (sorry, no Cosmic Cube, this version is more grounded).
Again, the main points are there. Cap’s team investigate the mysterious Winter Soldier, who turns out to be Cap’s former sidekick Bucky. At the end, Bucky sneaks away to find himself. The few deviations make sense and don’t detract from the movie capturing the characters and the feel of the comics.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Some source material was cut or condensed to fit a two-hour runtime, but Scott Pilgrim vs. The World captures the original story perfectly. Over-the-top video game battles? Check. A frenetic pace? Check. Extremely expressive characters? Have you seen Michael Cera’s face? He may have eyes as large as the title character in the manga. The supporting characters are equally over-the-top and animated—but in the best possible way.
Edgar Wright did a fantastic job translating the Canadian manga into a cult classic. Unfortunately, cult classic means that it didn’t do as well as it should have in theaters.
Least Faithful Comic Book or Manga Movies (so far)
Catwoman. Ugh, Catwoman! It’s so different from the source material that I wouldn’t be surprised if a film distributor other than Warner Brothers released this one. The anti-hero’s moniker and character appearance (sort of) are the only commonalities between the two entities.
Patience Philips is Catwoman’s real name instead of Selina Kyle. Patience drowns and comes back to life with the help of a magical cat instead of being a world-class cat burglar. There’s an Egyptian goddess Bastet angle that’s just awful. Who wrote this? How could the actors read the script and think this would be a good movie? Who allowed this to exist?
The Spirit (2008)
The Spirit comic may have had some issues with Ebony White (it’s a product of its age), but the story is a great blend of crime and humor with strong characterization. I like how Will Eisner portrayed The Spirit as an everyman. It made him relatable and accessible.
The movie strips the characters of their personality and clothes. Comic book fans have known for years that Frank Miller (the movie’s director) doesn’t have the most enlightened opinion of women, and it shows here. I would say that 2008’s The Spirit should only be aired on Skinamax, but soft-core porn has more story and does more with their characters. Also, The Spirit can heal like Wolverine, so that everyman quality is lost.
Death Note (2017)
Fans didn’t like the announcement that Netflix would release a live action Death Note and set it in the United States. While I agree that changing the setting and other cosmetic alterations damaged the movie, Death Note’s biggest sin is that the characters are dumb. It’s not that they’re dumb as in they make little sense or have limited characterization, which they do make little sense and have limited characterization, but the main characters have a collected IQ of 30. That’s not ideal for a series that’s main draw is that it plays out like a high-stakes Chess match.
Instead of schemes becoming more complex throughout the movie, they get dumb and dumber and dumberer and dumberest. This movie is so stupid that I’m making up words.
Awesome Animated Comic Book Movies
All-Star Superman (2011)
It helps when the source material is excellent, but 2011’s All-Star Superman is amazing. It captures the essence of the character in a way other Superman films haven’t been able to. It shows what Superman would do if he knew he didn’t have much time left on this planet. He continues to protect the Earth and his loved ones because that’s who he is. There’s even a great Lex Luthor character moment when he sees the world as Superman does, ever the optimist. All-Star Superman is a must watch.
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
Batman: Under the Red Hood was released early in DC’s animated line, but it may be the best animated Batman film ever. Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) is Jason Todd and he may own the role for some time to come. Bruce Greenwood’s Dark Knight and John DiMaggio’s Joker are almost as good as Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, and that’s saying a lot.
This film explores the complex relationship Batman has with killing and with the Robins who have joined him in his crusade. Yes. Under the Red Hood has the prerequisite action and crime fighting, but it’s a surprisingly deep movie.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
I could’ve gone with a lot of other DC animated films with this final move—DC Animated movies are far better than most Marvel ones, they’re the inverse of the live action films—but I had to go with one of the first Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. To me, Kevin Conroy is Batman. Mark Hamill has given one of the most memorable performances as The Joker. There’s a reason the pair have been playing these characters for over two decades.
The original characters in this film are well done too, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm holds the distinction of being the first Batman: The Animated Series film. Any Batman newbie should watch at least the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, followed by Mask of the Phantasm.
I can only list 9 movies in this 3 lists of 3, so I’m sure some readers will differ in their opinions. Turn on the Geek Signal and I may come running if you leave within a fifty-mile radius or leave a comment.