Film adaptations of comic books have an amazing and troubled history. Amazing when they work â€” like the first â€œBatmanâ€ by Tim Burton or â€œX-Menâ€ by Bryan Singer â€” and â€œtroubled, painful, awful, crummy and disappointingâ€ when they donâ€™t. See â€œThe Punisher,â€ â€œDaredevil,â€ â€œHoward the Duckâ€.
In the last few years, the quality and scope of comics-based films has surged to an all-time high. Here are a few films that transcend the usual expectations of comic book movies:
â€œBatman Beginsâ€ (2005)
â€”Directed by Christopher Nolan
Longtime fans hoped and hoped for this one â€” the most intelligent and thrilling film of the 1939 character yet. Returning to the seriesâ€™ (very dark) origins and offering detailed, powerful performances (in and out of masks), Nolan made this an unexpected critical and box office success.
â€œGhost Worldâ€ (2001)
â€”Directed by Terry Zwigoff
From Dan Clowesâ€™ super-hilarious and painful story of two young friends. Maybe the best and most true film on teenage life ever made.
â€œSpiderman 2â€ (2004)
â€”Directed by Sam Raimi
The veteran horror director and gorehound makes this sequel really live. Michael Chabonâ€™s addition to the script brings out the generous humor and humanity of the title character. Also â€” Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus? Hell, yeah!
â€œAmerican Splendorâ€ (2003)
â€”Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Adapted from the great indie-comic biography of Harvey Pekar, this film won wide acclaim and remains one of the best collaborations between books and films.
â€”Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
A robust imagining of Mike Mignolaâ€™s incredible and beautiful work. While missing the sheer graphic pacing of Mignolaâ€™s line art, the film obviously respects and believes in the original book in every frame.
â€œFrank Millerâ€™s Sin Cityâ€ (2005)
â€”Directed Robert Rodriguez (with Frank Miller)
Maybe the most literal translation of any comic to film, this largely black and white movie confidently creates its own reality of death, sex, glamor and amorality. Many loved it, many questioned it. For sheer audacity, it recalls the most debased and strange EC Comics of the mid-20th century. What is that dog eating anyway?
And a couple most people donâ€™t know were based on comics:
â€œThe Road to Perditionâ€ (2002)
â€”Directed by Sam Mendes
A melancholy story of youth, violence and fatherhood from the director of â€œAmerican Beautyâ€ and â€œJarhead.â€ Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner.
â€œA History of Violenceâ€ (2005)
â€”Directed by David Cronenberg
The master director brings us the quiet and dread of normal life as it falls apart. Based on the comic by John Wagner and Vince Locke, this Oscar-nominated film won wide praise and started angry debate last year. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine picked it as his No. 1 favorite of 2005, while others called it harsh and meaningless. Either way, a bold and personal work.