It doesn’t mean it sucks nor does it mean it’s DC.
With Avengers: Age of Ultron on home release this week, a film which I will be in no way endorsing by the way, and with myself dying to indulge in my love of comics, I wanted to look at the best comic book based movies outside of the Marvel and DC Universes. Avengers was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and sadly the biggest disappointment not only in the world of Superhero’s, as we all knew Fantastic 4 was going to suck, but just as a film in general. I’m a massive advocate of Whedons’ work but this was clearly not his, you could sense Marvel’s hand hovering over the project twisting it into the money making blockbuster they wanted rather than the ultimate superhero experience it wanted to be, which you could see squandered within the whizz bang flashiness of it all, and even that didn’t hold up. But once again, like normal, I digress.
With the advent of the DC Universe launching into full swing next year there has been a lot of discussion recently surrounding whether the Superhero ‘genre’ is just a fad and will eventually go the way of the Western. Which many have declared wrongly a ‘dead’ genre by the majority of the internet. So let me start by first saying the Western genre faded it didn’t die. As in recent years it has been making a huge comeback on the indie circuit with the likes of The Proposition and Meek’s Cutoff as well as also on the big screen thanks to the likes of Tarantino and with more to come next year, Jane Got a Gun, it is far from dead but this is all beside the point, the Western never ‘died’ nor truly disappeared but merely faded and also mutated into other genre’s and persona’s delivering us the likes of El Mariachi, Drive, Blood Simple and more. But again beside the point, many are prophesying the same will happen to the Superhero movie and I’m sure it will. It won’t die but some day it may fade, as every genre does, for a long time hard Sci-Fi was on the wane with the action Sci-Fi picture masquerading as the face of Sci-Fi but again this is changing with the release of pictures like Interstellar and the upcoming The Martian but again this sub-genre lived on the fringes of the indie circuit within such titles as Primer. The Superhero movie has done this, it’s been through the mill already, it’s been the blockbuster, it’s delved into the world of indie, before breaking out and returning to the blockbuster form, so no it will never die, just like no genre truly will, it may fade and wane but never die and if it does let’s hope the killing bullet is laced with time travelling serum.
But alas allow me to get to the true point of this piece with Marvel and DC dominating the cinema screens and set to do so for a considerable period of time. However throughout the decades there have been a multitude of great films based on comics outside of the Marvel and DC imprints and I’m bored and if not a little peeved that these are the only two publishers the wider public know of as there are a range of fantastic properties out there that need not only be seen but also read so without any further rambling here are my favourite comic movies outside the Marvel and DC franchises.
SIN CITY, Frank Miller’s masterpiece was brought perfectly to life thanks to Robert Rodriguez, a noir rain and blood soaked thrill ride of a movie. This is a rather well known property inside and outside of the comic world thanks to Rodriguez’s Troublemaker production. Both are beautiful pieces of pulp fiction perfectly complemented by Miller’s stylised visuals, as we follow a collection of morally ambiguous characters and their exploits within the titular city. A must watch for film fans and comic lovers as well as a must read and a great way in to the works of comic mastermind Frank Miller writer of The Dark Knight Returns and 300 Spartans.
KICK-ASS, violence, a foul-mouthed ten year old, a thousand pop culture references, and seeing every fan boy’s dream come to life. Who doesn’t want to be a masked vigilante? Kick-Ass has it in spades and potentially the most fun you can have without resulting to Lizewski’s other favourite hobby. This is the franchise that put both Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn on the map, respectively. Kick-Ass broke the mould not only in it’s content but in how it was released with the comic and film releasing side by side both to much fan fare and both veering very differently from one another in their climatic conclusions making both worth a read and a watch.
THE CROW, probably the lesser known film on this list it has garnered a lot of interest for all the wrong reasons thanks to the infamous death of Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, on the set of the film. This aside the film should be appreciated for a multitude of reasons as upon it’s release it failed to gather much interest but fell into the world of cult fandom. But one which really deserves to see the dank dark light of day, a true film of it’s generation and a comic of it’s time, we follow Eric Draven, a man who is brutally murdered along with his fiancée who is also raped in the gang attack but Eric is brought back to life by a magical crow on the anniversary of their deaths to avenge himself and his fiancée. The film is darkly brutal infused with a punk rock mentality much like James O’Barr’s original piece of the same name, inspired by the loss of his own fiancée making both piece’s oddly sentimental and with a dark and infamous past but one’s that deserve recognition for their greatness.
HELLBOY, another series released under the publisher Dark Horse and from a stand alone creator Mike Mignola much like my first entry on this list Sin City. Hellboy is the ultimate monster crushing demon, following the titular hero as he works for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence. Mignola’s dark and supernatural turns were the perfect fit for the imagination of Guillermo del Toro, and having Ron Perlman don the horns of big red makes for a cinematic treat unlike any other, while many prefer the sequel; The Golden Army, I still prefer the original for its undying gothic tones and relentlessly inventive action, as well as introducing a wider audience to Mignola’s brilliant creation.
THE MASK, yes the Jim Carrey one, which should not only be noted for its awesome zaniness but also for introducing Cameron Diaz to the world of film. Detouring dramatically from the books, the film was a comic caper for the ages and tremendous fun with Carrey on form as Stanley Ipkiss. The pair held a core concept at heart centring around a magical mask that imbued the wearer with magical and limitless powers while also altering his appearance. The film kept the mischief maker light, and jovial whereas the books followed various persons who upon wearing the mask turned into violent profane anti-heroes, looking at the implications that unlimited power granted upon the everyday Joe. The comics produced by Dark Horse are ones I have only encountered in passing but the film remains a staple of the action comedy genre.
I could mention, like usual, a thousand more titles but have tried to limit myself, having decidedly left out manga franchises, but some honourable mentions must go to the likes of Kingsman, Men in Black (albeit technically Marvel), The Rocketeer, V for Vendetta and R.E.D. As well as me wanting to recommend the original superhero movies, just because; Superman The Movie, Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, Blade and many others.
That is all. It’s been Ssssssssmokin’