Review by: Vittorio "Big Tuna" Carli

28 Comic Films Rated & Ranked From the Last Decade

(020818) It has been three whole years since my Best Comic and Graphic-Novel-Related Films article came out. It was published on another forum but I have decided to do this update or appendix to the original list on the Alternative Reality website.. This update deals with all of the films made over the last decade  right up to the superlative (Wonder Woman) and the abysmal (Batman vs Superman) .

With a few exceptions DC, based TV shows (including Supergirl and Green Arrow) have better scripts and characterization than their cinematic counterparts do. Marvel continues to mostly make both good films and shows (The Inhumans never did that much for me though). Indy based comic films have been more hit and miss.

Therefore, here are all of the recent comic and graphic novel related films rated and ranked in order or quality from best to worst:

Wonder Woman **** (2017)
Gail Gadot (a former Israeli model and Military trainer) is perfect as a transplanted Amazon who joins in the war effort against the Nazis in World War II. A triumph from start to finish. I am eagerly waiting for Gadot to finish the sequel. Perhaps the best DC film ever and this came as a major surprise after the abysmal Batman vs Superman.

Captain America Civil War (2016) ***1/2
This Marvel film fractures the Avengers into two teams that have to fight each other. One side (led by a fascistic Ironman) supports a law that would force superheroes to register with the movement and reveal their identities while the other team (led by Captain America is opposed to the law.) Black Panther and a young Spiderman are introduced well into the avengers universe and the film is chock full of exciting battles (I especially liked vision vs scarlet witch and ironman vs antman.) The film (and the comic series) also bring up controversial issues such as the ethics and legality of the Patriot Act. They left out Thor and the Hulk presumably because each of the two characters could individually demolish the whole cast, but they were in the enjoyable Thor Ragnorak.

Logan (2017) ***1/2
This remarkably effective film which plays out like a spaghetti western was based on Mark Millar’s classic Old Man Logan. The ending seems to be a not to subtle critique of US immigration policies.

Deadpool (2016) ***1/2
This works well as a riotous comedy with a morally ambivalent mutant anti-hero assassin who reluctantly is pushed into a hero role by two of the Xmen. Colossus had never been handled better onscreen (he actually seems Russian here) and his Goth protégé, Negasonic Teenage Warhead is a delight (in the Xmen comics she had different powers and was killed off right away). All of the self-referential breaking/ the fourth wall stuff works and Ryan Remolds was so charismatic in the lead role that he made me forget Green Lantern. My only quibble is the porn loving, murderous Deadpool is a poor role model for kids and after the film was over a seven-year-old kid stood up in the theatre and yelled, “I love you deadpool.” This R rated film is great fun for adults but children should not see it. This was the highest grossing R rated film ever.

Lego Batman *** 1/2 (2017)
Surprisingly witty and well-written 3-D animated deals with the Batman book’s casual sexism by making Barbara Gordon the new police chief (but the Robin here is much less competent than usual and he is used for comic relief). It even features a delightful animated walk on by the highly obscure (gasp) batman villain, condiment king and even a Dalek. Will Arnett from SNL does a fantastic job voicing the cape crusader’s words and the film inspired one talk show a commentator to ask him “Did you start out doing Lego Shakespeare?” The in jokes reward comic fans and the film should also please the kids yet it has some smart under the radar banter for adults. Everyone wins with this film.

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) ***1/2
On a mission Batman meets and clashes with a group of notorious criminals that are secretly working for the government. This ingenious twisted animated film makes much better use of the Suicide Squad than the disastrous live action film. This gem is a delight from start to finish. The film takes place in the Batman: Arkham video game universe in case you care. The title character is voiced by Kevin Conroy, who is primarily known for voicing Batman in animated shows and films.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) ***1/2
This worthy sequel has a fine, scene chewing performance by Julianne Moore as a ruthless homicidal drug lord who has no value for human life (is there any other kind?). The quintessentially English spy heroes use umbrellas as weapons (they can shoot and deflect bullets), and we even get to see Elton John hit people. What more could you ask for? Oh and the pleasingly preposterous plot involves a sinister plan to infect people with a virus passed on through drugs and the drug lord blackmails governments for the only cure. The unsympathetic President (he seems to be a partially a parody of Donald Trump) decides to double cross the drug lord and just let the addicts die. The British agents decide to go against the president and they attempt to steal the only cure from the drug lord. This film also benefits from a first rate cast including Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry (her character is called Lemonade) and Emily Watson. This one divided the critics (The Chicago Tribune person gave it only one star) but I had a marvelous time. This was the last film featuring Meg Foster (she also voiced a part in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.)

Batman and Harley Quinn (2017) ***1/2
 Entertaining animated film in which the clown prince of crime's ex teams up with Batman and Nightwing to prevent her bff Poison Ivy and Jason Woodtrue the floronic man from turning all humans into plants (all for the good of the environment of course). Despite the title, Harley is the main attraction and the star of the story. Melissa Ivy Rauch who plays Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory voices her role. Harley causes a stir when sings karaoke in a criminal hangout bar in a delightful scene. Of course, she is a Debbie Harry fan. Swamp thing has a cameo too. Bruce Timm wrote the snappy script (he also is the voice for Booster Gold in a funny cameo scene).

Thor Ragnorak (2017)***1/2
This somewhat uneven action comedy has much going for it, but there are also a few gaping flaws. For starters this film strays way too far from the mythological basis of the story. Ragnorak was supposed to be started by Loki shooting Balder with an arrow not the return of Hela (I heard it myself in the audio book of Neil Gaiman’s myth reading). Secondly the film’s makers stupidly gave away the film’s biggest surprises and used most of the best action footage in the trailers. Thirdly the changes in the Valkyrie do not improve the character at all (I much prefer the blonde, pig tailed Defenders comic version). If she can fly a space ship why would she need a flying horse? The mix of sci fi and comedy mostly works but this ends up playing more like Guardians of the Galaxy story than a Thor film, and the film gets rid of much of Thor’s rich supporting cast. Now the good news, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor still has less personality than Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark but he has definitely mastered the craft of delivering non chalant one liners (the actor definitely has some comic talent). The villains (Hela and the Executioner) are wonderful and Jeff Goldblum as the grandmaster is a hoot and a half. Loki plays a more heroic role in this film, and he helps save the earth. The cameos are a lot of fun especially the Dr. Strange appearance (although we saw most of this at the end of Thor.) Also the big action scenes (especially Thor vs Hela and Hulk vs Thor) are dazzling, exciting and magnificent. Despite my complaints this is by far the best and most entertaining entry in the solo Thor series. Oh and have never seen a better use of a Led Zeppelin song in a movie (the lyrics of “Immigrant Song” actually go perfectly with the film.)

Dr. Strange (2016) ***1/2
This breaks the marvel mold because it’s hero has powers that are magic rather than science based and the graphics are much trippier and psychedelic than usual. The final showdown with Dormammu, a devil level dark god is ingenuous. The film is slightly too derivative of the Matrix but it succeeded in transporting me to different worlds and dimension. Benedict Cumberbatch is charismatic and believable in the lead role but the love story is a bit clichéd. In addition, there is a Dr. Voodoo cameo. The gender shift of the ancient one did not bother me but the elimination of Tibet from Strange’s origin story was rather gutless.

Spiderman Homecoming ***-(2017)
This succeeds in rejuvenating the sputtering series by taking the title character back to his inexperienced high school days. The film has a decent villain (Michael Keaton’s vulture appears to have found the garden of youth.) This is more than competent but it does not break a lot of new ground. My other quibble is Spiderman has always worked best as a loner (not an avenger) and this film reduces him to being Tony Stark’s understudy.

Sleight *** (2016)
Urban youth/street magician creates a device artificially that give him magnetic powers. He uses his powers against a drug lord and tries to get out of a life of crime. This is a great setup for a superhero series but it resolves just as it starts getting good. I hope that there will be a sequel. Although the basic plot resembles Luke Cage crossed with Ironman the story’s treatment is fresh and original.

Valerian and the Lost Planets *** (2017)
This movie led me the question is it better for a film to be creative and ultimately fail in its actions or successful in a completely predictable way? This time I went for creativity, which is why this is ranked higher than Atomic Blonde. Where else can you see Rianna play a shape shifting alien escort who would rather recite symbolist poetry or Shakespeare (she is much better than the wooden female lead.) The film also has a delightful cameo (unbelievably) by the fusion great, Herbie Hancock. I have a feeling this film will age well and it might go down in history as a great piece of cinematic camp in the tradition of Barbarella and Flash Gordon. The film is based on the French science fiction comic’s series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. Visionary, idiosyncratic and uneven with some great moments.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 *** (2017)
This manages to be fun most of the time and we even get to see a cute baby Groot as well as a deepening of the relationship between Starlord and Gamora. I also liked the way they used David Hasselhoff. In addition, the character play between Gamora and her quasi sister is fascinating. Still this lacks the freshness of the original and Starlord’s and the final confrontation with Ego the living planet is anticlimactic. In addition, it ruins one of my five cult comic characters, Mantis by turning her into a weak Asian stereotype, and the quasi-romantic scenes between her and Drax are just plain stupid.

Justice League Dark *** (2017)
This lively animated film features a gathering of magical heroes ( Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Black Orchid, and Swamp Thing) who team up against an occult menace that is causing mass psychosis. It is great that Matt Ryan, the man who played Constantine (in the ill-fated TV series) gets to lip-synch his character’s words here. The plot is decent (although Batman really is not integral to the story) and I liked the love/hate interaction between Zatanna and Constantine. Nicholas Turturro (who had a fine role on the late lamented NYPD show) does the voice for the slangy dialogue of Deadman (the character will soon get his own comic series produced by the great Neil Adams). If they kept this adult, it would make a nifty TV addition to the UW TV lineup. This is one of the few R rated DC animated films.

Ghost in the Shell *** (2017)
Scarlet Johannsson was ok but they really should have cast an Asian in the lead. Casting Scarlet in such a quintessentially Asian role would be like using a German James Bond. This is exciting but the earlier animated series are superior. The better than average action scenes elevate the film but the way the script treats the human rights of machines theme has been done better in a million films including Blade Runner and the recent Ex Machina.

Wilson *** (2017)
Well acted adaptation of Harvey Pekar's alternative comic features a great cast (Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern are standouts) playing delightfully idiosyncratic characters. A socially dysfunctional and unstable man reconnects with both his ex-wife and estranged daughter (Isabelle Amara). The film will probably either thrill you or annoy you. It did the former for me

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) ***
The film is a decent attempt to tell a classic comic story but the film fails to find an animation style that is as dazzling as George Perez’s art. The film substitutes Blue Beetle and the Damian Wayne Robin for Donna Troy and Cyborg (probably because Cyborg has been switched to the JLA.) Kevin Smith appears in a cameo at the end (Beast Boy goes on Smith's podcast). Incidentally, the Deathstroke character (created by Marv Wolfman) who appears in this film was the inspiration for Deadpool.

Justice League: New Frontier (2008) ***
This straight to DVD film manages to capture some of the gee whiz innocence and sunny optimism of the popular DC mini series of the same name by the late, great Darwyn Cooke (he was obviously inspired by Marvels.) It is really more of a general DC universe story than a JLA adventure. The star-studded voice cast which includes David Boreanaz (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), Lucy Lawless (from Xena the Warrior Princess, the X-Files) the second Battleship Galactica series and Ash vs the Evil Dead), Kyle MacLachlan (from Twin Peaks, Portlandia and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is a cult TV’s fan has wet dream.

Atomic Blonde (2017)**1/2
Charlise Theron is a nifty, convincing action heroine and this film has some of the best stunts and action scenes of the year as well as a fantastic 80s new wave dominated soundtrack. Too bad they did not bother to write an actual story. I hope that there will be a better-written sequel because all the elements are here for a good series.

Justice League (2017) **1/2
After the death of a certain alien hero in blue, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a new team of superheroes. I can’t say I Iiked seeing Bart Allen/the Flash as 13-year-old, but Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman is still magnificent and Ben Affleck’s Batman is far less annoying than before. The villainous Steppenwolf is not one of Jack “King” Kirby’s better creations, but the story of how the characters got together is interesting and I had a good time for about half of its duration. I can’t say this is a total triumph but it’s a hell of a lot better than the abysmal Batman Vs Superman which was franchise killing bad. The worst threat in the DC film universe is still bad dialogue.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) **
Some of the costumes and fight scenes are decent but the flat villain, Apocalypse is a complete bore with no apparent motivation beyond creating havoc and world conquest. Some of the battle scenes are ok, although Olivia Munn is magnificent looking playing Psyclops is completely wasted (but her too brief fight with the beast is a highlight). The most compelling scenes involve magneto’s tragic past and Michael Fassbender continues to show he is an A plus acting talent. Overall, this is one of the lesser entries in a spotty series. In addition, Jennifer Lawrence has weakly written Mystique gives more lofty insincere sounding motivational speeches. The direct sequel, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is scheduled to be released on November 2, 2018. I hope that it will be better than Xmen Last Stand which was based on the same source.

Suicide Squad (2016) *1/2
This starts out rather well (the first half hour is riveting) but the murky script completely runs off the rails very early. The cast is actually good. Margot Robie steals the show in almost every scene. She is a playfully insane and ravishing a Harley Quinn and Will Smith is a more than decent as the tragic Deadshot, but they really should have worked on the script more. Viola Davis who plays Amanda Waller is also terrific, but she is too good for this film. This might have worked better as an R rated cable TV series. Jaret Leto is a wonderful actor, but his Joker portrayal here does not work although it did apparently please the Hot Topic crowd. Heath Ledger has nothing to worry about. The biggest mistake is that this film is not dark enough (most of the time the villains do not do anything a superhero would not do) whereas Batman vs Superman was too dark.

Son of Batman (2014) *
Straight foreword but bland and not particularly artful animated adaption of the Batman and Son comic story by Andy Kubert. The comic is superior to the film in every way.

Captain Underpants (2017 )*
I know this film and the book it was based on were aimed towards preadolescents but I really despised this piece of cinematic excrement. The plot (or what passes for a plot) involves a superhero who wears underwear as a costume (some real life grade schoolers got in trouble for emulating the costume on Halloween) who fights against the villainous Professor Poopypants who wants to destroy all laughter (No he is not played by Adam Sandler). If you want to see a whole film written around toilet humor by all means rent it.

Super Girls Finals Crisis (2017) *
This straight to DVD release features the adventures of both popular (Wonder Woman Batgirl and Supergirl) and more obscure (Bumble Bee and Katana) heroines and villainesses that go to the same high school. This is unwatchable for anyone over six. The title is a play on words referring to the morose intercompany crossover, Final Crisis.

Batman vs Superman (2016) *
This basically crams together plot elements of two of the most significant comic DC series (Frank Miller’s Batman Dark Knight and Death of Superman) and expels them into a dumb, turgid mishmash. The horrible script seems like it was written by a faceless committee for the lowest common denominator, and the dark tone is all wrong for a Superman film. The bombastic fight scenes seem to go on forever and I hoped that most of the two unlikeable lead characters would die most of the time. Words cannot describe how terrible, misguided and hammy Ben Affleck’s lead performance is. The only redeeming feature was a glorious but too brief appearance by Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman. This is a very weak and hopelessly moronic prelude to the Justice League film.

Batman the Killing Joke (2016) Zero
 This takes one of the greatest classic Batmen stories (Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke) and transforms it into a piece of cinematic sewage. The original comic story was dark but the plot and incudes a rape scene. However, the story was not improved by having Batman committing psychological incest with his surrogate stepdaughter, Barbara Gordon. This gives the film a huge ick factor. What were the writer’s thinking? No film with Mark Hammill voicing the Joker role is worthless but his comes awful close. This is the 26th animated adaptation of an Alan Moore story and this film made me understand why Moore hates movies.

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Review © 2018 Alternate Reality, Inc.