Comic books are very popular for film studios to adapt because they already have a built in fan base, which is half of the job done already. There are long lists of comic book film adaptations that are considered the archetypes for the genre. Christopher Reeve as Superman, Tim Burton’s amazing vision of Gotham City in Batman and films that came along later like X-Men and Spider-man are all considered some of the best in the genre. However what I prefer when watching a film adapted from a comic book or graphic novel is something that doesn’t hold back on the violence (probably with a 15 or 18 certificate) and that may not have made a lot of money yet still has a cult following. Yes, the clean-cut family friendly adaptations are good, but dark stories with a brooding anti-hero are better.
Here are my top 5 comic book film adaptations:
Frank Miller wrote, produced and helped Robert Rodriguez direct Sin City, which just goes to show that when you want something done right, it’s best to do it yourself. With a number of adaptations in the past being butchered by a director with a different vision, Miller was able to make the film exactly how he intended it to be. The film was shot entirely in front of green screen, giving the film a black and white neo-noir effect identical to the novel.
Keanu Reeves plays John Constantine, a cynical man who is trying to work his way to heaven by exorcising demons back to hell. Based on the comic Hellblazer, the films protagonist is not your typical comic book hero; Constantine drinks, smokes and often comes across as not giving a damn. There was potential for a sequel with the after credits scene, but seven years on its looking less and less likely.
Adapted from the Marvel comic of the same name, Wesley Snipes plays the half man, half vampire character Blade, who kills vampires alongside Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) with a cool looking sword. Two dubious sequels followed but it was this film that first made me look at comic book films differently, seeing that not every hero had to be all hugs and smiles, but some were tortured in other ways and had to worry about more than keeping their identity a secret.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight was a triumphant sequel to Batman Begins and Heath Ledger’s maniacal portrayal of the Joker was near perfect. Christopher Nolan’s brilliant re-working of the Batman legacy seems to be a commercial and critical success. Once in the hands of the talented and eccentric Tim Burton, only then to be temporarily decimated by Joel Schumacher, Nolan seemed to go back to what fans originally loved about the comic book. By getting rid of the camp and colourful and replacing it with the dark and gloomy; the series is now back to how it should be.
A History of Violence
Based on the graphic novel by John Wagner, this film is definitely a comic book adaptation for adults. Director David Cronenberg definitely takes the word ‘violence’ from the title and runs with it. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall a man with a violent past which is brought to the surface when he has to defend himself from two robbers.
An honorary mention goes to:
I can’t say I enjoyed this film completely but I have to tip my hat to Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) who seemed to film the un-filmable. A very complex and lengthy story like this could only really be enjoyed by devoted fans of the comic. However while dozing in an out of naps while watching it (Do not watch if you are feeling even remotely tired!) I did notice that the film was beautifully shot and a lot of scenes appeared as if they had been taken straight from the comic book itself.