The comic-to-film trend isn’t going to end anytime soon. Hollywood now sees the comic book world as a previously untapped gold mine, and they’re going to milk it for all its worth. I say let them milk it! I’ve been a reader of comic books since 1992, and there are enough stunning and mystifying story arcs and comic characters out there to produce another 50 top notch pictures. In fact, that’s what we’re hoping the future brings us: more riveting transfers of legendary tales.
We’ll see how that all plays out in the years to come.
For the time being we thought we’d sit down and examine a series of feature length comic films and aim to assess each for those who haven’t seen these films yet. 2015 and 2016 have produced some eye-opening treats; why not celebrate them?
Unfortunately not every transfer is a homerun transfer.
Below you’ll find a breakdown of the majority of marquee superhero movies to collide with the market over the last two years. From Ant-Man to Superman, we’re putting these pictures under the microscope – all fanboy obsession put aside so as to offer you the most honest of opinions – and you may find yourself surprised at a few of these scores.
Deadpool (Grade: A)
Directed by: Tim Miller
Tim Miller’s Deadpool was a surprise in the fact that it actually lived up to the obscene hype that bubbled over in social media circles and blogs in advance of the movie’s arrival. Wade Wilson, as it turns out, is every bit as bad ass we’d all hoped he’d be. The quality of the production made the years we’d waited to see the pic (Ryan Reynolds campaigned for the flick for a number of years) seem suddenly less painful. Once the movie finally arrived, it blew all of our minds in the greatest way possible. Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool. This really is the role he’ll be remembered for. Great gore, plenty of action, admirable cinematography, solid humor – it’s all here and it’s firing on all cylinders.
Captain America: Civil War (Grade: A-)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
A complex story that leaves The Avengers split and feuding, Captain America: Civil War is the best Captain America tale (it feels closer to an Avengers film than a Captain America film, for the record) we’ve seen on screen yet. It’s so wildly tense it borders on pure drama (sometimes melodrama), closer to a Batman Begins than a Green Lantern. And while old Cap has never been the owner of the finest sense of humor, he can take a good joke, and that makes for a plus in this instance as a few moments beg for comedic relief and it typically goes answered, often by Captain America. Not that his sense of humor means all too much in the grand scheme of things, when he’s engaged in grueling and lengthy battles with his own teammate, Tony Stark, AKA, Iron Man. Epic collision.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Grade: D-)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
What a sad, sad excuse for a Superman story (and Batman, for that matter). It’s all wrong. No one in the movie is likeable. Neither Superman nor Batman are heroes. They’re just two very different individuals harboring animosity for one another. They’re just beating the hell out of each other, destroying countless structures all in a bid to knock the chip from the other’s shoulder. And the combined destruction created between these two no doubt claimed a great number of unfortunate victims who just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That doesn’t feel like Superman or Batman, or what they represent. And to top it all off, the flick takes itself dead serious. Dead friggin’ serious. There’s no humor to be found anywhere in the film, leaving it feeling lifeless – two robots battling one another. That’s not only a strange tactic to employ, it also damages the movie beyond repair. No laughs, no happiness, no humanity, no relatability… no fun. No fun at all. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the worst superhero film we’ve seen since… well, since Man of Steel.
X-Men: Apocalypse (Grade: B-)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
X-Men: Apocalypse could be argued as the strongest picture in this lineup. It could also – quite easily – be seen as the strangest picture on this list (I wouldn’t necessarily regard it as the strongest or the strangest). Engaging in a showdown with Apocalypse of course makes for good fun, and viewers will have to admit he looks amazing for being like 5 billion years old… and blue. The digital effects are solid and the acting is crisp, no cues missed or exchanges blundered. And yet something feels as though it’s missing. It’s not within the finale, as that’s balls out crazy. It’s… well, a mystery and a slight disconnect; I can’t put my finger on what element it is that was severely neglected, but something isn’t right here. X-Men: Apocalypse is a decent film, make no mistake. It’s not something I’d call bad by any means, but it feels noticeably inferior to every other X-Men film to date. I can’t help but feel someone dropped the ball, and ultimately missed a great opportunity to bring one of the X-Men’s most feared foes to life in a memorable – potentially ageless – battle.
Ant-Man (Grade: C+)
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Ant-Man isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. The production values are certainly there, and both Paul Rudd and Corey Stoll are both terrific performers who turn in the expected polish we’ve come to anticipate. Hell, even the CGI is stunning and robust. The problem, for me, was the fact that neither the titular character nor the storyline itself were stimulating. For as impressive as the production looks, it left me feeling bored and disinterested, more prone to get up for a cold beer than keep my eyes glued to the screen. I hate to speak negatively on anything even related to Paul Rudd, because the man is a certified stud times 10, but Ant-Man really didn’t do it for me, at all. Although – full confession – I did dig his appearance in Captain America: Civil War. Here’s hoping Marvel dumps a whole lot of extra love and emphasis on this character; Ant-Man has huge potential, but he’s going to need major nurturing from Marvel.
Fantastic Four (Grade: F-)
Directed by: Josh Trank
I refuse to waste a single second more than necessary on this wretched, heartless pile of fecal matter. I understand the studio did a good job of chopping it to pieces (according to rumors), and if that is indeed true, to an extent, the burden can be lifted from director Josh Trank’s shoulders; there’s only so much a filmmaker can do when narrow minded executives decide to butcher their projects. But at the end of the day Trank still didn’t give us anything good to gawk at. Painfully boring + cardboard characters + depressing dialogue + a finale so underwhelming it leaves you feeling a bit angry = Fantastic Four. This is the worst superhero film to hit the market in a solid half-decade, if not more. It even makes X-Men Origins: Wolverine look like Citizen Kane.
Batman vs. Robin (Grade: B)
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Surprised to see an animated film on the list? Don’t be. Batman vs. Robin is one of the strongest animated Batman films in existence (I expect Batman: The Killing Joke to knock Batman vs. Robin from its pedestal in swift, decisive and easy fashion). The relationship between Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman, and Damian Wayne, AKA Bruce’s son – AKA Robin – is strained, and it creates a compelling dynamic between the two. It all boils down to Batman’s inexperience in serving as a father figure as well as naiveté, a general lack of experience and a rebellious attitude on the part of Robin. That tests Batman in ways he’s never known. It turns out being a father isn’t all that easy. This is an exciting picture that opens with one of the greatest introductory scenes I’ve ever seen in an animated feature (I won’t spoil it for you, but know that the opening five minutes are as close to a full blown horror film that you’ll find in any Batman tale), and Jay Oliva does an excellent job of directing the film. Even if you’re not a big fan of animated features, you just might find yourself entertained by this extremely unorthodox yet thrilling and action-packed piece of work.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Grade: C+)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
This is likely to come back around to bite me in the rear, but in all honestly I wasn’t remotely near as entertained by Avengers: Age of Ultron as I was by its predecessor. The sequel feels as though it’s attempting to stuff too many details into a single film. It’s so busy that at times keeping up becomes a task in itself. Sure, the action scenes look pretty wild and explosive. And yes, it’s a treat seeing all of these bad ass crime fighters going to war, side by side. But when it comes to comics and the movies based upon them, I prefer a story that makes me think, but not so hard as to lose track of frames, or scenes. That’s also how I want my comic book movies, thought provoking yet simplistic to a degree. Sometimes less really is more and I think it could have been wise to contemplate that adage when assembling the second Avengers film.