I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!
So, lets kick off with what’s widely accepted to have kicked off the modern superhero film, Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film.
What’s amazing about watching this for the first time in probably a decade is how amazingly cheap (if one can call a 75 million dollar film ‘cheap’) it all looks,with only the opening set in Nazi Germany looking even remotely cinematic at all. It is for all intents and purposes a glorified TV film with a bunch of actors who were unknowns (Hugh Jackman, James Marsden), famous for TV or theatre acting (Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart) so the only person coming close to being an Established Film Star is Halle Berry who even then wasn’t at the level she is now.
The plot for what it is, is standard superhero stuff for the comics. Bad guy Magneto wants to mutate world leaders and help start a race war. Good guy Professor X and his X Men want to stop them and bring together mutants and humans through peaceful means. There’s a few vague set-pieces and a showdown in the Statue of Liberty that’s a bit underwhelming followed by the promise of something larger happening should there be a sequel.
If it sounds like I don’t really like the film as I’m concentrating on the more negative aspects of the film, then that would be wrong. I do like the film but it’s snuck itself into my top 20 because although the plot is awful, it’s the first time that Marvel managed to get it’s superheroes to work in film. It showed that not only would they work, but they’d emerge onscreen in the same one or two dimensional glory of their comic book counterparts. There’s also the excellent performances of McKellen and Stewart which do a lot of heavy lifting that the other actors fail to do mainly because their parts are so painfully underwritten they have nothing to work with.
It’s an enjoyable bit of fluff that opened the door for some very good films indeed, and not just from the superhero genre but from the wider world of comics. It forced producers to look at comics more seriously so for that and the two central performances it’s in my top 20.
There, I didn’t even mention the shonky CGI……
Next time, dig out the black eyeliner and black trenchcoat…