Well it’s the end of the decade where superhero and comic book films finally got their due. Top filmmakers and top stars attached themselves to all sort of characters that first appeared in the pages of Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or all sorts of other publishers. Some were great. Some not so much. But there was a lot to love in the past ten years. On that note, I figured I would list off my five favourite comic book films of the decade. Now I know that some BBP contributors and friends of mine will look at the list and at least utter a few random “wtf”s” about my picks. But like any list, this is purely subjective. At its most base, these are the films that I would happily throw on at any given moment, and I can’t say that about every comic book that came out, even the ones that scored lots of acclaim and roped in big box office dollars. So here we go:
5) Constantine (2005) – staring Keanu Reeves and directed by Francis Lawrence, Constantine is based on the DC/Vertigo comics character who first appeared in Swamp Thing and has had his own long running series. A personal favourite character of Biff Bam Pop’s JP, who was himself quite satisfied with this film, even though Reeves’ Constantine wasn’t British, which would have been a deal breaker to many a fan. But the strong script, with multiple intriguing plot points (a mysterious death, demons on the trail of the protagonists, and Constantine’s battle with his own mortality) made this not only a great comic book film, but a great man vs The Devil story, Speaking of Lucifer, Peter Stormare is absolutely riveting in his brief appearance as the Prince Of Darkness. A visually strong film, it’s a shame we have yet to see a sequel.
4) X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – yes, I heard the collective grown but I really enjoy this film, in large part because of the minimal character development it features, instead replaced with balls to the wall action. The first two X-Men films spent a lot of time allowing us to get to know Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, etc – the pay off comes in the third film, which is admittedly lacking in depth but in my mind makes up for it with a lot of battle. I realize that it isn’t as strong a film in terms of story or depth as X2: X-Men United, but for me it was a fitting wrap-up to the first trilogy. As for the deaths that occur that set a lot of fans off, I say bring them on. In the X-Men world, death is never permanent.
3) Spider-Man (2002) – while most would argue (myself included) that the sequel is superior in almost every, the first Spider-Man holds a special place in my heart. Sam Raimi’s film literally captured the brilliance that Steve Ditko and Stan Lee created all those years ago, and in one significant way improves upon them as well (organic webshooters! Makes total sense). Tobey Maguire is the perfect Peter Parker, while Willem Dafoe veers “this” close to over the top, but he never quite loses it as The Green Goblin. While all of the films have merit to them (yes, even the third, which while disappointing does have a fantastic performance from James Franco), the first Spider-Man film is simply that – the first, and in some ways the most endearing.
2) Superman Returns (2006) – I wrote my love for this film in one of my first Biff Bam Pop posting last year and my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s a beautiful film from beginning to end, with a stellar and should have been star making performance from Brandon Routh. While it has its flaws, like every film on the list, Superman Returns admirably grapples with the character and his standing as an alien among everyone around him. Yes, I too would have liked to see Superman hit a few things, but that’s not what this particular film was about and I’ve always had no problem accepting it. A fitting end to the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner films and one that I think could grow in stature over the years.
1) The Incredible Hulk (2008) – after the innovative yet thoroughly convoluted Ang Lee-directed Hulk, this reboot from Edward Norton and director Louis Lettiere was a breath of fresh air and excitement, but even I’m surprised that it’s topped my list. In my world The Incredible Hulk is everything I want in a superhero film: great effects, a solid story, a great villain in Tim Roth (and to a lesser extent William Hurt’s Thunderbolt Ross), and a stellar performance from the lead. Norton nails the plight of Bruce Banner throughout the entire film, and his contribution to the script clearly demonstrates his love of the character and the comics. Though the Hulk is far from my favourite character, at the end of the day I think the Incredible Hulk is not only endlessly watchable, but features everything great about comic book movies.