Claire’s Top Ten live-action comic adaptation films!
“Comic book” movies are superhumanly sustaining their moment in the sun, with plenty more to come. But as previously discussed, comics have been adapted for the silver screen since 1898! I haven’t watched anywhere near most of them, but I’ve seen plenty, and here’s.. my top ten.
10: Ghost Rider
So you didn’t like Ghost Rider? Look again, friend. Nic Cage as an earnest motorcycle uberstuntman who eats candy from cocktail glasses without it being an overt joke. A flaming skull over the archetypal studded biker jacket (unf). One (two) sweet ride(s). Rebel Wilson stealing her scenes. Eva Mendes being as charming as always. Man friends who care for each other tenderly. Some really nice, semi-subtle effects work on Gressil, Abigor, and Wallow. Sam Elliot’s long hair and drawl. The freakin’ bike/horse/skeletons on fire/desert/guitar bastard scene, you uncultured funhating swines.
9: Witchblade / Timecop
Joint entry – and visual lulz because why the heck not! Above: Yancy and Jean Claude in Hard Target, 1993.
Witchblade is a comic that features, or featured, a lot of nipples visible through sweaters. It’s not really girl-friendly; I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone based on my 2005-ish era readership. But Witchblade the tv series, for which there was an introductory film, is another matter! It doesn’t have a particularly great showing for female support characters (they’re there, but “there” isn’t “up front with all the dudes”) but it doesn’t objectify Sara (Yancy Butler) and she remains the supernaturally empowered protagonist. Her primarily emotional relationship is with her male police-partner, for whom she does not lust. I dig it. Maybe you will.
As for Timecop, I didn’t know it was based on a comic until I was researching this list. My sweetie and I both assumed it would be a French one, but it’s not! Its inclusion is almost cheating. But dang, man, I love me some JCVD.
I spent several of my teen years proving my geek cred by telling people that Blade was “based on a comic book. A Marvel one! Like Spider-Man. You know, the old Spider-Man cartoon? Blade was in that.” I felt that people, generally, being completely unaware that Blade was in a comic book first was a win for the film, and for comics in general. If you can’t TELL it’s comic-y, then that proves that comics are legit! Right? Maybe.
So there’s a scene where Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) gives April (Judith Hoag) a mutually irritated shoulder massage, and she isn’t wearing a bra. That’s not why I rate this film so highly, but the proximity/distance inference in their body language, the camera focus and the sudden close presence of the room they are in is an example of the humanity that lifts this film above others in the franchise. Plus, the animatronics are fantastic.
Check out this in-depth review on thesewerden.
6: Richie Rich
Oh we ain’t got a barrel of, money! Maybe we’re ragged and, funny! But we’ll travel along, singin’ our song, siiide! Byyy! Siiiiide!~
Classic 90s family movie Culkin capers. And who doesn’t love Cadbury?
5: Kamen Rider ZO
Having just collaborated on an as-yet unpublished commentary for this film on my other podcast, I have a lot to say about ZO. Plug plug.
You might call foul and say, that wasn’t an adaptation! That was an original film in a live-action franchise that was originally based on a manga, and which had it’s own manga adaption after release! And I would say, okay. That’s true. But also, reader, also, I would say that ZO is such a pure reimagining of Ishinomori‘s original vision that it counts, dammit. It counts.
Organic vs technological, nature vs nurture vs ‘my personal decision that I’m making right now’, how uninterrupted biology and medical/transhumanist science relate to each other – all of these were writ large across the pages of Kamen Rider, the manga. All of these are dead front and centre in ZO, with little extraneous plot or contrivance to distract or divert (a la Kamen Rider: any series). Give it a whirl.
Coming in on Beck after ZO is neat, because I wouldn’t have watched Beck if I wasn’t such a freak for Kamen Rider; three of the series’ main characters (Tendou, Ryotaro, Ankh) appear in this film. Two in main roles. But that’s not why it’s great!
It’s great because it’s got heart and yearning, the desperate need to succeed. To become more than the you that you don’t enjoy; to find your place. The actors are fantastically matched to the original character designs, and the conceit of ‘silent montage to convey perfect voice’ is, even if you don’t rate it, bold. Grow with these boys. Exclaim “Oh no, he’s going to miss their set! Oh no! No!” Set aside three hours and learn to rock from an old fisherman in his vest and pants… Mongolian Chop Squad style.
Also, there’s a dog.
3: Kozure Ôkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma / Lone Wolf & Cub: Babycart at the River Styx
I want to tell you truthfully that you will never see a cuter baby than the baby in Babycart at the River Styx. Trust me. I clutched at my boyfriend, kicked my feet and made a “hnnnng” sound, despite my deep investment in ensuring that he knows I am 100% averse to being impregnated.
If you like stoicism, you’ll like Babycart. Or Lone Wolf & Cub, as you might know it. If you like blood an’ killin’s, you’ll like Babycart. If you, like me, like Kamen Rider, keep your eyes peeled during this film as well.
But for those of you with triggers to do with personal violation, there is a scene (shown in a MUCH shorter cut in the trailer) where Lone Wolf appears to be attempting violent rape. In fact he’s not, but the asshole doesn’t tell the woman – an enemy – that his plan is for a warmth huddle… he just tries to over-power and strip her. It’s pretty horrible.
2: The Crow
Sometimes you’ll hear about a film for so long that believing it’s as good as they say becomes impossible.
Until you watch it.
I don’t even know what to say. A film so thick and real you could wrap it around you for comfort. It wouldn’t give you any. It’s compelling anyway.
Tales from the Crypt and Heavy Metal both have their shining moments – Peter Cushing is a gem as always in TftC while the B-17 section of HM is just gorgeous – but anthology films are always a hard sell against full-length features. Tank Girl is a fun watch (marathon The Legend of Billie-Jean, Tank Girl, and then Clueless for some technicolour girlpower hijinks) but not.. Tank Girl-y enough to really rank highly.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a TV movie, so not really qualified, Death Note had pacing issues, and The Mask, iirc, is homophobic. The Phantom is not “a good film” despite Billy Zane, his wig, and the whole matter of a grudging friendship between the female villain and the female love interest being what saves the protagonists from death at the end. Danger: Diabolik is excellent for mood, and From Hell has a sleazy atmosphere that’s just the thing, sometimes, on a rainy sunday afternoon.
So how many of these pass the Bechdel test?
I don’t know. Not many. Maybe actually none. I’m feeling positive and disinclined to count!
Even in a top ten list, there’s so much more to do.