In the last twenty years or so movies based on comic books have increased in popularity to the point that they now dominate the summer the box office. There are many factors to consider for this boom period.
For one, computer generated effects have become more affordable so filmmakers can fully translate the imagery from the printed page to screen without it costing the earth, but another reason may be that the fanboys and fangirls who grew up with these stories are now getting to an age where they are the ones in control of productions. They now have the power to create the extended universes and authentic portrayals they dreamed about in their youth.
Whatever the reasoning comic book movies have become far more profitable in recent times, from tent pole superhero franchises to one-off graphic novel adaptations, and as a result movies studios are tending to treat the original stories with more respect. After all, it is the comics that have kept characters such as Superman and Batman in the public eye for almost eighty years.
Here are ten comic book movies that stuck closely to the source material, be it in terms of visuals, story, or feeling like it could fit as part of a pre-established world.
10. Tamara Drewe
Starting life as a newspaper strip by Posy Simonds and later released in its entirety as a graphic novel, Tamara Drewe is a modern day reworking of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Maddening Crowd.
It tells the story of the once ugly duckling Tamara returning to her quiet home village in the country. Now stunning and single Tamara starts to cause all sorts of chaos and mischief upon her arrival.
In 2010, screenwriter Moira Buffini and director Stephen Friars had great success bringing the tone and feel of the strip to life thanks in no small part to the brilliant casting. What with the choice of actors, such as Gemma Arterton as the title character, Luke Evans as handsome farmer Andy Cobb or young Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie who play the bored teenage schoolgirls who like to stir the pot, they all nail their designated roles both terms of performance and look. One could be forgiven for thinking the comic is, in fact, an adaptation of the movie itself.
9. Batman Begins
Chronicling Bruce Wayne’s journey from orphaned millionaire to Dark Knight Detective, Batman Begins was the first Batman movie to give us a full look at the origins of the character despite it being the sixth live-action feature length film in the franchise.
Many Bat-fans still regard this as the truest motion picture telling of the cape crusader’s adventures. Directly lifting scenes and dialogue from beloved Batman stories such as Frank Millar’s Year One and Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween all aided director Christopher Nolan in creating a Gotham City that felt new to the cinema yet familiar to long time readers who had been aching to see their favourite superhero be represented correctly for years.
Batman Begins was the starting point for one of the biggest movie trilogies of all time, not only in terms of box office but also critical acclaim. A lot of that success can be put down to the cast and crew treating every aspect of the creative process with the reverence it deserves and not as another silly superhero movie.
8. V for Vendetta
Set in a dystopian world where nuclear war has plagued the Earth, Britain is now controlled as a police state. It’s up to Guy Fawkes masked protagonist and anarchist V, alongside his young protégé Evey Hammond, to try and take back the power.
Original writer Alan Moore once criticised the movie on being too faithful to his work, his reasoning being that the comic was created as a response to post-Thatcher Britain. His belief is that if the film was intended as a commentary on the George W Bush administration (which was in power at the time of the cinematic release) then perhaps the setting should have changed over to America and have been a more direct voice against the controversial President.
Either way, the movie resonated with audience and V’s smiling plastic face has since gone on to be a symbol for activists trying to make changes to situations they find unjust and corrupt. To quote V himself “Behind this mask is an idea, Mr Creedy, and ideas are bullet proof.”
7. Superman The Movie
Many consider the Richard Donner directed Superman The Movie to be the first true blockbuster Superhero film. The special effects, although slightly ropey by today’s standards, were ground breaking for the time and Christopher Reeves portrayal as The Man Of Steel is still seen by many as the definitive big screen interpretation of the character.
A lot of the comic book mythos stays intact for the film. Concepts like Kryptonite and The Phantom Zone, settings such as The Fortress of Solitude and The Daily Planet, and characters including Lex Luthor, Perry White, Jimmy Olson and Lois Lane are all represented.
The epic three act structure, which follows baby Kal-El from the doomed planet Krypton, to his upbringing on the Kent farm all the way to Metropolis and beyond not only gave a faithful nod to his comic book history, but also remains the go to blue print for most DC origin films including Batman Begins and Wonder Woman.
6. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Director Edger Wright did his utmost to bring all six of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novels to life in the runtime of a feature length film.
It follows the story of Scott (played by Michael Cera) trying to win the heart of his crush Romana Flowers, but in order to do so, he needs to battle her seven evil exes.
Despite the ending varying slightly (the sixth book wasn’t released at the time of the movie’s production, although O’Mally did give his production notes and suggest endings), Wright made sure to stay true to the series cartoony, bombastic style.
Computer enhanced visuals and over the top battle scenes felt like they were ripped straight from the pages of the books and a bright, hilarious and well-directed cast (including super hero alumni Chris Evans and Brandon Routh) enhance the comic-come-to-life feel.
O’Malley was involved in the script writing process, and due to the long production time of the film (Edger Wright and Michael Bacall started work the screenplay in 2005) lines from original draft were even recycled and used by O’Mally in later entries to the books series.