Comic book movies. There are a lot of them. Some say there are too many. Some say there aren’t enough. But I say let's look at – and review – every single one of them in alphabetical order to create a broader picture of comic book movie-dom in general. For this list, I used Wikipedia's list of comic book-based films, so if there are gaps, I'll fill them in at a later date. But for now, let's start off. This…um…this initial list isn’t the best opening. But we'll dive in (Also, if you aren't reading the final scores in the same intonation Adam Sessler used on X-Play, you’re doing it wrong).
SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL OF THESE.
1. 2 Guns
It's so weird that the first comic book movie on this list is this little-seen buddy action movie based on a Boom! Studios comic.
And it’s"¦fine. A little less than good. Honestly, it's just kind of a nothing movie. But at the same time, it’s weirdly complex.
Denzel Washington and Marky-Mark co-star as thieves who are trying to steal money from the mob, they think. But it's actually from the CIA. Oh, and Washington is secretly DEA, and Marky-Mark is secretly Navy? This movie is so complicated, and yet so dumb.
There's some snappy dialogue and fancy shooting? I think? I watched this whole movie from beginning to end immediately before I sat down to write this, and the details of it are already pouring out of my head like sand through an hourglass. Um. Let me think. I liked the beat in which Washington comforts the baby while wearing the Frankenstein mask. That was good.
How It Compares to the Comic: I dunno? Look, guys, I’ve read a lot of comic books. I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of comic books. But I haven't found the time to sit down and give 2 Guns a read. It might be great! Maybe the next one will be good?
But for this one, it's a"¦
…2 ½ out of 5
2. 30 Days of Night
This might have been a mistake. Some comic book movies are great. Really great. This isn't one of them.
30 Days of Night is maybe the worst vampire movie I've ever seen. Its vampires are basically just 28 Days Later fast zombies. They don't turn into bats, they don't fly, they don't do anything fun. They just jump on people and bite their throats out in some terrible-looking creature effects.
If you needed evidence of how hard it is to sit through this film, the vampires speak in hisses that are subtitled. No one believed me when I told them that. They just laughed and said, "Sure, man, right."
The vampires attack during Barrow, Alaska's 30-day period of darkness. The townsfolk go into hiding and try to find a way to survive. And that's the whole movie. It's boring and overly long and just unpleasant. The vampire screeches made me worry for my sound bar's integrity.
How It Compares to the Comic: It's worse, but not by much. 30 Days of Night is a great high-concept premise that was turned into a boring, terribly executed story. The only difference between the comic and the movie is that reading through the comic didn't take two hours. So I guess it's a fine adaptation, but it clocks in at a"¦
…1 out of 5
3. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days
A direct-to-DVD sequel, Dark Days is also an adaptation of the identically titled follow-up to the original comic book. In it, Stella Oleson (now played by a new actress) has been trying to spread the word that vampires exist following a government cover-up of the events of the first movie. When she's welcomed into a clique of Los Angeles-based vampire hunters, she has to resume her vampire-killing ways.
And that's kind of what makes this movie more enjoyable than the first. The dumb, trashy tone gives it a texture that the original failed to capture. While the first film is boring, overlong, and completely devoid of excitement or scares, this one is"¦only mostly boring, way shorter, and has maybe three good scenes? And all of those are still dumb; they're just fun dumb. Also, this is actually a film about killing vampires? Instead of just hiding from them until they kill you? Doesn't that sound like a better time?
The effects budget is a massive downgrade, but they still do some gory s**t with what they have. The vampires now mostly look like rejects from episodes of Buffy, but at least they've knocked off the awful subtitled hissing. They still do the dumb screeches, though.
How It Compares to the Comic: While I've only read the first 30 Days of Night miniseries, and from what I’ve read about it, this seems like a faithful adaptation. I kind of respect that. Getting trashy really does pay off, as this film's grindhouse-ier elements earn it a still completely unrespectable"¦
…1 ½ out of 5
Adapted from Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which is in itself a deeply fictionalized version of the real-life battle of Thermopylae during the Persian War, this is maybe the most accurate Frank Miller adaptation of all time, or at least the second next to Sin City.
Unfortunately, it's faithful to Frank Miller's post-crazy period, when he stopped making good things and devolved into the reactionary racist he is today. At least this isn't an adaptation of Holy Terror.
The movie itself is boosted by great action sequences. Snyder's speed up, slow down style works better here than it has in any other movie he's ever done. The film is occasionally pretty to look at, and unlike the last two, I wasn't incredibly bored at any point in the film. That"¦that's about the end of the good.
Look, 300's source material is fascist. And I don't mean that in the pejorative sense, I mean that it is a work about the strength in power over anything else. Manly man strength is the only thing of value to the Spartans. Leonidas acts as king and dictator, and has full regulation over every man in Sparta. That's fascism. Also, this movie sure does have a bunch of lily-white dudes murdering black people in it. Not going to make a further comment on that, but it's present. All in all, the action is fun, but the film in itself made me feel gross. It's just so self-serious and angry that it feels more like a barely cogent rant than a movie.
How It Compares to the Comic: They both look pretty much the same, have similar themes, and have the same amount of plot. If you like one, you'll like the other. But I personally have to come down on the other side of the fence with a"¦
…2 out of 5
5. 300: Rise of an Empire
It's kind of weird that this movie even exists. I mean, I know 300 made money, but this sequel was released eight years later. Who cared at that point?
Rise of an Empire is a pre-mid-sequel to the original, focusing instead on Themistocles and the Athenian army. As the last movie told us, the Athenians were less fighters and more brilliant strategists. This film shows us that by having all the Athenians we meet just be Spartans wearing blue capes instead of red. Also, their brilliant naval strategy is to "smash our boats into their boats, and then just stab them a whole bunch in the meaty parts".
It's like the original, but it’s lesser in every way. It's less interesting, less visually appealing, the works. Oh, and I know narration is neat and all, but holy heck, it gets to be a bit much in this movie. Why show us anything subtle when you can just narrate it to us?
How It Compares to the Comic: Well, this film was supposedly based upon Frank Miller’s graphic novel Xerxes. How it compares is impossible to know, because it literally never came out. Because Frank Miller is too busy not writing All-Star Batman and Robin to not write a 300 sequel. But this movie actually got finished, so that at least earns it a"¦
…1 ½ out of 5
6. A History Of Violence
Heeey, it's the first good movie I've watched for this project! That's fun! It's also the first serious prestige movie that’s wound up on this list.
But that's because it's a Cronenberg movie. In the film, Tom Stall is just an average guy with an average life. That is, until two robbers try to take his diner hostage one day, and he brutally murders both of them. In the media frenzy that follows, some new people take notice of Tom. People who insist that they know him. People who keep calling him "Joey". People who want him dead.
What ensues is a brutal drama about the nature of violence and the horrors it brings upon our lives. It's tense, it's thrilling, it has a truly unique story structure that it still (mostly) pulls off. It occasionally gets a bit silly (especially with the son's bully, Jesus), and the last action climax feels a little tacked-on, but it’s 100 percent worth your time if you like weird, dark, violent dramas.
How It Compares to the Comic: Well, the first half is pretty darn close to the same (even if they do change my favorite action beat from the comic), but the second half is radically different. It's actually much less brutally violent than the comic is, which is weird for a gorehound like Cronenberg. But despite the diversions, this grim bloodbath earns a respectable"¦
…3 ½ out of 5
7. The Adventures of Captain Marvel
Well, here begin the film serials. For those who don't know, film serials were broken up into chapters, which would run weekly before films. Wikipedia counts them as movies, and they're movie length (way longer, actually) so I'm counting them here. This is also probably the oldest movie that will be on this list, dating back to 1941.
Based on the at-the-time Fawcett Comics character named Captain Marvel, the film is mostly about Billy Batson holding people at gunpoint. Oh, and the villains try to carbon monoxide him to death at one point. I honestly wish this wasn't a serial. If this were an hour and a half, it'd be a blast and easily recommendable, but at three and a half hours (3.6 hours, to be specific), it’s a hard sit.
Maybe pick a random segment and pop it on; see if you like it. Also, it’s a piece of media from 1941, so maybe the portrayal of some racial groups isn't the best.
How It Compares to the Comic: While I've read a decent amount of Captain Marvel comics, I haven't read many from this time period. But I feel safe in assuming they're a little more action-packed, and I know some of them feature a talking tiger, so they are by default better than this. It might be too long, but for being fun, decent looking, and ahead of its time, this one gets a"¦
…2 ½ out of 5
8. The Adventures of Tintin
People need to spend more time talking about this movie.
It's a Steven Spielberg movie involving Edgar Wright, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Peter Jackson, and Kathleen Kennedy. That's my mother****ing Justice League. The movie itself is the only good-looking one of those the whole thing is mo-capped movies that used to be a big deal. And it looks phenomenal. Some of the shots and transitions are simply breathtaking. And that one-er is so magical that it feels like you're on a theme park ride.
It's also incredibly funny. My favorite running gag is how Snowy solves pretty much everything, and Tintin is completely oblivious. He's a good boy. But don't let the presence of a dog fool you; this one occasionally gets hardcore. There's some super violent stuff in there that's a little shocking if you aren't ready for it. Tintin is an adventure hero, and he’s not afraid to pull a gun on his enemies. It feels oddly timeless, and that's really cool.
How It Compares to the Comic: I’ve read a little bit of Tintin, but none of the volumes that were adapted into this movie specifically. But from what I have read, it appears that they updated it for the modern day and removed some of the casual racism that was commonplace for the time they were published.
A great adaptation by some phenomenal filmmakers, this one is an easy one to recommend at a"¦
…4 out of 5
9. Alien vs. Predator
That's right, folks, this technically counts!! Neither the Alien nor the Predator franchise has comic book origins, but their first fight happened in the pages of the Dark Horse Comics, so this all counts for this list.
Look, I'm not happy about this, either. Do you think I wanted to watch this movie? Or it's sequel? Hell, no, I did not.
AvP stars a group of people who are sent to investigate some mysterious tomb. Turns out that it's the site of an ancient Predator ritual devoted to hunting Xenomorphs. And then one of the humans becomes best friends with a Predator, and they team up against the Alien Queen. Look, I LOVE Alien. It's a favorite of mine, and one of the best horror movies of the 70s. It's incredible. Predator, I can take or leave. But this movie takes a massive dump all over both franchises. The Predators are reduced to heroic figures, and the Aliens are just turned into mindless drones of evil. It's such a waste of both.
How It Compares to the Comic: The Dark Horse Alien/Predator comics are one of those things that are just outside of my personal knowledge base. I've read the Predator/Batman crossover. That thing's rad.
But this mishmash of bad and horrible, this boring piece of franchise assassination, this thing gets a"¦
…1 out of 5
10. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
HOW IS THIS WORSE THAN THE FIRST ONE?! And not just worse; sooooooooo much worse.
This ranks among the worst movies I've ever seen. This movie is bad on every conceivable level. It's cluttered with too many characters without enough likability between them. It's repugnant and gross. The R rating just means that one of the first deaths in the movie can be an eight-year-old, because hardcore, man. The lighting is maybe the worst I’ve ever seen in a motion picture, to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to decipher anything occurring on screen, even with my screen brightness on full. Aliens fight Predators on Earth, and there's also a hybrid Predalien. That's the plot.
Also, it ends on the single worst franchise tease I’ve ever seen. One that made me yell at my laptop like it had robbed me of a family heirloom. I said the first one takes a huge dump on beloved horror franchises, but this one is even worse. There is nothing redeemable about this film.
How It Compares to the Comic: As I said, I haven't read any of the AvP comics, but I feel confident in saying that none of them are this f**king bad.
An irredeemable piece of trash, it absolutely EARNS a"¦
…½ out of 5
And there you have it: the first chapter of my long look at every comic book movie ever. This time, we had only one superhero movie, shockingly enough. Next time, we get way more capes and tights, some great movies, and some very recent additions. If you're curious about how all of these movies compare to each other, I've taken the liberty of setting up a ranked Letterboxd list, and I'll be adding to it as I make my way through this column. Just click HERE to check it out.