The news that the Sox will be unveiling new unis and today’s release of The Dark Knight on DVD got me thinking–perhaps a bit too much–of costumed super heroes. Specifically, those times when Hollywood got it right, and moved a comic book property to the big screen with style and finesse. It don’t happen much, to be sure, but here are five instances where I feel they got it right, in very particular order.
1. Hellboy II: The Golden Army: If you’ve ever read a single panel of Mike Mignola’s brilliant Hellboy series, then you know it’s a rich story full of over-the-top characters and situations just begging to leap off the page–a sort of X-Files meets Where the Wild Things Are. Director Guillermo Del Toro–the dude what did Pan’s Labyrinth–nailed it with the first Hellboy, but kicked it into orbit Ortiz style with the second one, which is the best job anyone’s ever done in recreating a comic book on-screen.
2. The Dark Knight: Definitely the best Batman film ever made, and even light years beyond its predecessor, Batman Begins. After watching that quick scene in which the Joker rides in the back of a police car, his head out the window and twisting eerily in the breeze as the soundtrack goes limp, can you really go back to Jack Nicholson chortling, “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”? And I’ll offer that the infamous interrogation scene offers more tension and revelatory acting than all two and half hours of The Departed.
3. Spider-Man 2: The first Spider-Man was fantastic, but hog-tied by a goofy villain and the need to explain Spidey’s origin. The second one gets right down to business, offering an intriguing and well-done villain and some truly stunning visuals. How this all lead to the abomination of Spider-Man 3 is inexplicable.
4. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Okay, the storyline is pretty sad and the characterization of Doctor Doom is worthy of an Ed Wood feature. But, man, did they nail the members of the Fantastic Four in these movies–I mean, Michael Chiklis as the Thing? Brilliant! The first one is almost unwatchable, but this one pulls me in every time it shows up on cable. Go ahead and kick my ass.
5. American Splendor: Okay, not a super-hero movie, per se, but based on a comic book and featuring Paul Giamatti as the irascible Harvey Pekar, whose previous claim to fame was freaking out audiences on Late Night with David Letterman. It’s the “curmudgeonly hospital worker and wannabe comics writer as hero” story the world had been waiting for!
And the worst…
1. Batman and Robin: If Batman Forever was a long, middle finger extended to comics fans everywhere, this one was the follow-up kick to the pills. Turgid.
2. Spider-Man 3: After the brilliant SM2, which avoided the dreaded “Batman plague” by focusing on just one super villain, SM3 decided to pack in three, resulting in a truly disjointed and spiritless outing. I can only hope that after watching The Dark Knight, the filmmakers hung their heads in shame.
3. Daredevil: Ben Affleck as a lawyer-turned-superhero! Or, you may just want to sit on a chair made of nails and fire.