In honor of “The Dark Knight Rises,’ Dustin takes a look at some of the best page to screen adaptations that Hollywood has to offer.
Punisher: War Zone
If you’re judging comic-book adaptations in terms of how well the character is translated to screen and how true to the story they can remain, then “Punisher: War Zone” is one of the best ever. The story is not for the faint of heart; cop Frank Castle’s family is brutally murdered so he becomes an even more brutal vigilante known as ‘the Punisher’ to exact revenge. Just take a second and admire the opening scene of this movie. That’s the opening scene; the entire movie captures that violent, gritty tone that fans of the comics were sorely missing in the Thomas Jane/ John Travolta adaptation. Bonus points for making Jigsaw (no, not the ‘Saw’ character) the main bad guy.
5. Batman Begins-
We’ve come quite a long way from the Batman credit card and it’s hard to imagine that it was 8 years between ‘Batman & Robin’ and Christopher Nolan’s 2005 adaptation ‘Batman Begins.’ Gone were the suit nipples, the tongue-in-cheek silliness and Chris O’Donnell, replaced with a solid origin story, proper handling of a potentially goofy villain (the Scarecrow) and a cast of All-Stars including Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. No actor has been able to bring the quiet, seething to Bruce Wayne than Bale, creating what could be the definitive take on the character and leaving large shoes to fill for whoever dons the cowl next.
4. Iron Man-
It’s unlikely that any actor will better represent a character than the way Robert Downey Jr. embodies billionaire Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Downey almost seems to have been auditioning for the part his whole life, showing an immense talent as well as a penchant to let his vices and indulgences get the better of him. The transformation of Downey from flawed talent to bankable superstar is paralleled perfectly by the story of the first ‘Iron Man,’ as Tony Stark goes from using his intelligence to design weapons for the military that are sold on the black market to insurgent groups, to realizing the horrors he’s brought and becoming the hero Iron Man in an attempt to help fight the crime he’s helped spread. The movie plays to Downey’s strengths as an actor, utilizing his quick wit as well as his over-confident bravado, which makes the movie both an effective origin story and a superhero movie that established Marvel Studios as one of the top studios in Hollywood.
3. The Avengers-
When Marvel released ‘Iron Man’ they began laying the ground work for the ultimate superhero movie, ‘The Avengers.’ This year, audiences flocked to see director Joss Whedon’s take on the Marvel supergroup anchored by Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk (who all had their own movies preceding ‘Avengers’) and featuring Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury and more. The meticulously planned execution led to the most successful movie of the year thus far, a film as critically successful as it was financially. The success came from Whedon’s ability to equally divide time amongst the heroes and present them all with real-world issues to counter the fantastical problems you’d expect a group of superheroes to encounter (aliens, debates on who’s best, etc…) It’s not often a big budget movie with sky high expectations and legions of fans ready to pick it apart at the slightest change, is met with such success, but in sheer spectacle, ‘The Avengers’ set the bar.
2. Spiderman 2-
The recently released reboot of the franchise may just bring fans to think of the disappointing “Spiderman 3,” the film that ended Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s stint as director and Spiderman in favor of an overhaul. That’s a shame because for a while, “Spiderman 2” was arguably the best comic-book movie made. Besides looking like the pages come to life, the film showed the life of Peter Parker and the effect that being Spiderman had on him as he tried to balance his career as a crime fighter with his relationship with Mary Jane Watson. It also added the melodrama with Harry Osborne, son of the first film’s villain Norman ‘the Green Goblin’ Osborne, hot on the trail of Spiderman as he believes it’s his fault his dad died. Oh yeah, spoiler alert. The film also played up its comic-book roots by including villain Dr. Octopus, a genius cursed with mechanical appendages attached to his body as Spidey’s main foil. The entire film plays out like an extended story-arc in comics and the ups-and-downs of Peter Parker and Spiderman have never been more exhilarating.
1. The Dark Knight-
It’s interesting that the film widely considered the best comic-book movie is hardly a comic-book movie at all. ‘The Dark Knight’ is the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and it set the bar; not only for what a comic-book movie should be, but for films in general. Featuring a haunting, Oscar-winning performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker, ‘The Dark Knight’ finds Batman conflicted by his life as Batman but his love for childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes, who he knows he can’t be with as long as he’s Batman. The Joker’s thirst for chaos in Gotham and his willingness to do anything to achieve it, makes him one of the most terrifying villains, as Kanye would say, of all time. The film again boasts a strong cast with Bale returning as Batman, Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman reprising his role as Lucius Fox and Aaron Eckhart as D.A. Harvey Dent. Main characters die, Batman is pushed to the brink and Dent, perhaps the most tragic of all in the film, is fated to become the villainous Two-Face, after aiding Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s fight against crime for most of the movie. Using themes like loss, justice and corruption is nothing new for comics, but no movie has done it better.