Ten Best Non-Superhero Comic Book Movies

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Article, Top Lists
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There is a flaw in this list. I’m hoping if I point it out in the introduction, I’ll be forgiven for the flaw. See, this isn’t really the best movies based on comic books that aren’t superhero themed, just the best ones I’ve personally seen. Ghost World is supposed to be really good, but I’ve just never gotten around to watching it. As a result, it can’t get on the list. That fact flaws this list immensely, but hopefully not to a point where it becomes unforgivable.

10. From Hell
Okay, wait. Hang on, put down the pitchforks for a second and let me explain. Now, I will agree with anything anyone wants to say about this being a terrible adaptation of the Alan Moore comic book. Yes, you’re right. The original comic is a fantastically fascinating story and the movie is a terrible waste of an amazing opportunity. If for no other reason than because the comic exposes who Jack the Ripper is in the first issue and mostly follows him through the story. The movie isn’t anywhere near as ground breaking as the comic book is, being a fairly straightforward mystery with some gothy Victorian London worship thrown in for good measure. However, if one hasn’t read the book, then the movie is actually decent. Maybe it’s not great, but it can be pretty enjoyable, you just have to divorce it from the source material, which isn’t hard because they’re almost nothing alike. It’s at least better than that horrific thing they called LXG. THAT movie is probably the worst comic adaptation I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen the Corman Fantastic Four.

9. Battle of Wits
I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of this manga or this movie either. Even if you buy things from the Asian section of your video store you’re probably not familiar since it was sold in this country under the title Battle of the Warriors, which doesn’t make much sense as Andy Lau’s character isn’t really much of a warrior. He’s more of a stand-in general/philosopher. It’s far more about the strategy and the philosophy behind the battle than the actual fighting itself. It’s actually a pretty interesting little movie, even if there are a few places where you’re sort of smacked in the face with the fact that this is based on a comic book. A few scenes just jump out at you, since they don’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie. However, this is still a film worth watching. I’m not sure how much of an advertisement it is for Mohism, a claim I saw when I first heard about the movie, but then it could just be I don’t know enough about it.

8. Lone Wolf and Cub
Yeah, there’s a bit of manga on this list. I’m letting them all gather in a clump though, so that’s got to be worth something. I’m sort of putting all the movies in the Lone Wolf & Cub series in here as one. I’ve already reviewed the first movie in this group, so I can just link to that and give you my quick review for it. They’re good action movies, which influenced the Invincible Hero movies of the 80s and to some extent beyond. While it’s got good action and story, it is heavily marred by misogyny and violence towards women. Yes, those are two separate things, one might be an expression of the other, but they both need to be mentioned. I can only guess that all the sexism is in the books, since people have said the movies are very accurate. I’ve never read the books. Still they are good exploitation flicks if you want buckets of blood and the clashing of swords.

7. Azumi
Another samurai flick, but a girl samurai this time. Another movie I’ve reviewed, and it’s pretty good too. Again, I’ve never read the book, but it’s supposed to be pretty close. This one is way more obviously a manga though. Just from watching the movie, it’s pretty clear that this is based on a comic book. At least, having a working knowledge of Japanese film and manga, like I do, it’s clear to me. Since I didn’t know it was based on a comic when I first watched it, and I guessed correctly that it was, I’m going to go with that. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is a good deal of fun and it really does capture the feeling of being a live action manga better than most movies that try the transition manage.

6. Transformers
Yeah, I said it. No, I’m not thinking of the live action versions. I am, in fact, thinking of the 1986 animated movie. Transformers was a comic book first, at least that was where I first saw them. The first Transformers thing I saw was an ad for the comic book, which I thought was a rip-off of Gobots. You may not remember this, but Gobots actually came out a full before Transformers did. The problem is that Transformers turned out to be the better toy, the better show and over all the better franchise. Much like G.I. Joe before them, Transformers had a tie in comic as well as the TV show. In fact, Transformers was just supposed to be a four-part mini-series, which Marvel had a habit of doing in those days. Almost any toy could come along and ask for a limited series to promote them, that’s how we got US 1 and Crystar comic books. And no, this isn’t a superhero comic, it’s a Sci-Fi comic. Just because the Autobots are heroes that doesn’t make them superheroes.

5. Dick Tracy
No, Dick Tracy isn’t a superhero either! Yes, he wears a regular outfit, but it’s not a costume to protect his identity and he doesn’t have any super powers unless you count an amazing ability to get shot in the shoulder. I expressed my admiration for this movie already in my review, but if you want the short version then I can give it to you here. A great movie with a full and complete feeling world that fully encapsulates the comic strip feeling of the original source material. Yeah, it’s not perfect. Madonna’s participation in the movie pretty much derails it every time she’s on, but it’s still good.

4. Old Boy
This Korean revenge flick is an example of what can be done if a person decides to see how far they’re willing to go in the confines of reality. There is nothing in this movie that couldn’t happen in reality. The likelihood of it happening is probably fairly small, but there is nothing that would prevent it from happening as it does in the movie. To give too much of an explanation would be to spoil the movie as it requires you to be almost as in the dark as the hero is at the beginning. Suffice to say though, by the end you will understand and be able to tell others what the phrase ‘mindfuck’ means, because this movie provides you with an excellent example.

3. Road to Perdition
The comic was meant as an American version of Lone Wolf and Cub, which is interesting because the movies are almost nothing alike. Sure the story is slightly similar, but not by that much. In tone, they are entirely different. Perdition has a far more realistic, dramatic and measured tone while the Lone Wolf and Cub movies are exploitation themed action movies. I’m sure you’re getting tired of me mentioning that I’ve never read the book, but again I have to say it. Mostly because it helps me to mention I have no idea how close the book is to the movie or how close the books are to each other. The two movies aren’t very close though, you can barely see the shadow of one in the other.

2. Creepshow
Okay, I’m cheating on this one. See, there is a Creepshow comic book, but it was written after the fact and is sort of like the novelization to the movie. The movie, however, is so incredibly inspired by EC horror comics that they even included comic panels and the old “lines coming out of the head” reaction shots you used to get in those days. It’s like a living comic book, with all that saying that entails. The performances are goofy, the dialogue is over the top and the stories are just plain bizarre. However, you couldn’t ask for a better adaptation of that style than this movie. It is a true classic, even if it’s not directly based on any one comic book’s story.

1. Sin City
This gets the number one slot for one reason really. It IS the book. It’s hardly an adaptation and more like a translation into another medium, if I may paraphrase what Robert Rodriguez said about the movie. It’s rare that you can hold up pages of a comic book and have the frame of the movie match almost perfectly. What’s interesting about this version, as opposed to other slavish adaptations that we’ve seen, this one isn’t lifeless and wooden. A lot of the word for word adaptations I’ve seen recently have been so boring to watch, and they look like everyone was bored while making it. This one seems bright, alive and vibrant, even if it is a black and white movie with just a few bits of color. I’m willing to admit that some might argue this movies inclusion though, since Marv, Hartigan and Dwight are about as super powered as anyone else in comics. Marv is practically The Hulk, Hartigan is as close to Capt. America as you can get without a shield and Dwight is just The Goddamn Batman in a pair of Chucks. We can discuss the accuracy of my character analogues later, since really they’re Percival, Galahad and Lancelot respectively.


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