The best comic book adaptations
539 7.2 7.51. American Splendor (2003)
Here's a movie that captures the spirit of the original comic to the T. It also happens to be a great american drama movie. It's a charming story about the life of Harvey Pekar, played by Paul Giamatti. He just sort of drifts on in life, collecting vinyls and working a desk job as a file clerk. One day, he decides to start doodling comic book stories. Infamous indie comic book artist Robert Crumb happens to be his friend, and he starts making comic books based on Pekar's stories. So, essentially, American Splendor is a movie about making the comic books that depict the making of comic books and the life of Harvey Pekar. And it knows this. From the deepest pit of self-acknowledgment, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini manage to create a wonder; a truly innovative film that's essentially about nothing else but living a dull life. Giamatti is fantastic as Pekar, and his young pessimism is comparable to the old pessimism of the real Harvey Pekar, who narrates the entire film. "Here's me. Well, the guy playin' me anyway. Even though he don't look nothin' like me." he states as the film opens. This sets a humorous and honest note to the movie that flows as the movie goes on. If there was ever a comic book that people thought was relatively unadaptable to an enjoyable film, it's the books Pekar and Crumb made together, sketch comedy-like short stories about everyday life. But American Splendor adapts them and their fantastic collaboration "Our Cancer Year" as well into a very clever, innovative and enjoyable whole that truly is a great film.
5973 8.4 92. The Dark Knight (2008)
As an adaptation of an entire fictional world, The Dark Knight is possibly the best example to exist. It's the perfect example on how to adapt things to the silver screen; you make something of your own, but you keep the soul, the essence of the original character intact. The Joker is a fantastic homage to his initial appearences in the comics, Batman is majestic in appearance and often manages to create a superhuman appearance to himself with realistic methods, something the comic book Batman relies on as a way of life. The storyline in general has a wonderful feel of sadness to it throughout, making somewhat depressing and "unnecessary" decisions on quite a few things that have no other purpose but to make it more lifelike in a very sad way. The only flaw it might have on the adaptation scale is Two-Face. He is used by the story, not so much as Two-Face, but as something different that the film needs for it's plot. I don't think it's a film flaw, but anyone going into this expecting to see your average Two-Face villain will be disapointed. It's still far more true to the original than Tommy Lee Jones's version, ugh.
2664 7.3 7.63. Watchmen (2009)
I said that American Splendor was essentially unfilmable because the end result would be unenjoyable. With Watchmen, the comic is essentially unfilmable because it's one of the most metaphor-ridden, wide and open-for-interpretation stories of all time. Hence, it is impossible to actually adapt the entire novel, and that isn't what Zack Snyder did. He realised that he would have to cut certain things and add certain things. Just thank god he cut the right things and added the right things as well. The narrative structure is probably the most noticeable thing he didn't cut; the film is clearly still structured the same as the book, which works surpisingly well. One could anticipate that a narrative that relies so heavily on flashbacks couldn't work at all, but Snyder did it; by cutting some, shortening some, he made a very good overall narrative for his film. All the characters remained faithful to the original story, except for a far more aggressive Rorschach, who apparently is on some serious roid rage. Snyder's film also manages to emphasise the satirical aspect of the original book, probably due to the fact that those costumes do really look ridicilous live-action, no matter how modernised they are. But in the end what matters is that Snyder didn't really fail the fans of the original graphic novel. He made a film that kept the feeling, mood and message of the original, even if it didn't keep all of the metaphors and deeper meanings of the story.
2152 5.1 5.74. Hulk (2003)
Yeah, people do tend to hate this movie. I love it. There are quite a few reasons for that, and the big one is that while it does modify a lot of stuff from the original comic, it keeps intact the subtext which I think was never expressed enough in the comics. Ang Lee's version of Hulk is an exploration into the philosophical content of the story, and it's fantastic as one. You could say Hulk is not an adaptation of a story, but of it's subtext and underlying meaning. So yes, it's a talky and a long picture. It's directorially rather bizarre at times, using comic book paneling to showcase action scenes, but overall I do think it very well maintains a nice, solid story about manhood, broken families and the curse of being The Hulk, rather than being a story about "HULK SMASH BIG TANK ARGH!" Eric Bana also does a far better job playing The Hulk than Norton and that bodybuilder combined. With the aid of an excellent director and a thoughtful script, he manages to bring a new layer to the character. He's flawed and sad, a product of a broken home, someone who when finally reaches the power he hasn't had in his life actually loves the feeling of having it, even if it is in the form of The Hulk. In short, Ang Lee's The Hulk is a superb Marvel-movie, and probably the most thoughtful film that will ever be produced by said company.
1850 7.2 7.75. Road to Perdition (2002)
I consider Sam Mendes's Road to Perdition a fantastic adaptation because it overcomes every issue of the original graphic novel, even if it does make some new ones along the way. The convoluted, boring and drab visuals are replaced by brilliant and beautiful cinematography, as the rather confusing storyline gets chopped into bits, leaving a straight-as-an-arrow story about a man and his son. And it really is a rather wonderful story. The scenes with Hanks explaining his job to his child are genuienly intriguing and touching at the same time. I think that if your original story is not that good, the best thing you can do is improve on it. Don't retell the story, just make the bad things better with various methods, and that's what Mendes, with his screenwriting team, have succesfully done with this adaptation. And well... that's all there is to say about this one really. As a film it's pretty good, but as an adaptation it isi truly suberb because it raises far above what the original is using all the right methods to get there.
1741 6.1 6.66. Blade II (2002)
As happened with Hulk, the Blade-series is also an excellent example on how to keep the characters true to the original, while still adding or emphasising different things in them. The comic Blade really isn't a very deep character - He's sort of a one trick pony. He kills vamps and every five issues his sidekick turns into a vampire that he has to kill, and that's the entire story for you. In the first Blade, the screenwriters had added a sidekick that appeared permanent - until they pretty much offed him too. But he came back in the second one, adding more conflict to Blade's life as he had already replaced him. Another interesting conflict presented in Blade II is the fact that Blade now had to work with the vampires that had been training to kill him for two years. The reapers also were a very interesting type of villain, providing much needed variety to the vamp-slaying of the first one. Blade II is quite the adaptation since it adds a lot to the original character, but doesn't take anything away from it. Also, it has some of the most kickass action in decades and a fantastic score, and the best possible person was chosen to play Blade. If you don't like Snipes as Blade, just compare him to every other person who has voiced or played the character; he is spectacular in the part, looks as if he was born to play the daywalker.
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