Monday, April 27, 2009

Comics versus The Movies

In my last post, I briefly mentioned how different the two major comic book publishers treat their heroes in the movies. I thought more about it and figured it might be worth looking at in more detail.

Marvel and DC both have a history of making tweaks to their heroes for the movies, but who does it more? And who really messes up big when they do it? Let's go to the movies and see!

First, let's look at Marvel's history of recent film:

Spider Man:

This was the movie that seemed to take forever to see the light of day. Yes, the 70's series saw the web-slinger come to life for a bit, but movies had the big budget and we knew we'd see some cool stuff there. Marvel didn't disappoint with the Spider-Man trilogy of films (though number 3 had some moments that were close to the edge of really dumb...dancing Peter Parker anyone?). They managed to take this flagship hero and turn him into a reality for us. I, for one, was a very happy fanboy when I left the theater after the first one. Of course, I didn't care for the Power Rang...err, Green Goblin look, but whatever. They made up for it with Doctor Octopus and Sandman later.

X-Men:

Perhaps the most drastic appearance change for Marvel's heroes came from this trilogy. Basically, the costumes were gone completely with the exception of Storm.

For the most part I can understand the change, but I do wish we'd seen at least a couple of the costumes. Even if it had been nothing more than a passing shot of a wardrobe laying out, it would have been cool.

HUGE PROPS to Marvel for Magneto though. They left him very close to the comic book version (even keeping the helmet), and I don't think they could have picked a better actor to bring Magnus to life. And Patrick Stewart's Professor X was perfect casting as well.

Fantastic Four:

I never thought I'd see the day when they could pull this off, but they managed to. The movie version of the characters was so close to the comic book version it's scary as far as appearance and powers go. Chris Evans was spot-on as Johnny Storm to me.

The weak spot was, yet again, the villain here. Doctor Doom was a genius in armor. If you can do that in Iron Man, why did you have to screw it up twice in the Fantastic Four films? But again, HUGE PROPS to Marvel for the Silver Surfer! They found a way to make this guy come to life exactly as we saw him in the original comics.

However, MAJOR LOSS OF POINTS FOR GALACTUS! Marvel blew it big time with that one. At any rate, the buzz is that Fox is rebooting the franchise anyway, so possibly they'll get it right the second time around. But the whole "cloud from outer space" thing was horribly lame. I have no idea who's idea that was, but they were very, very wrong.

Captain America:

When rumors began to fly that Captain America had a cameo in the new "Incredible Hulk" film, folks were more excited to see that than the Hulk himself! After the killer Nick Fury cameo at the end of Iron Man, this was going to be the icing on the cake. Well, we left the theater pretty disappointed since he was nowhere to be found, but he did eventually make it to the DVD version.

Now this was literally a "blink and you'll miss him" cameo, but thanks to the modern miracle of the internet we can stop the film long enough to catch the frame he's actually in. Too early to call this one, but it looks like they have the right idea for his appearance so far.

And yes, I remember the Marvel live-action film they put out a few years back, but like most everyone else, I choose to ignore it.

Iron Man:

All right, who thought they'd get this so close to the comic books? Not me, that's for sure. And yet, Marvel took this one and kept him so close to the comic book version you got chills watching him move.

They even managed to get Tony Stark right in this film. Robert Downey, Jr. was the absolute dead-on choice for Stark, and that's another thing that made this film a hit and ripe for a sequel. They honored not only the hero's appearance, but that of his secret identity.

With Iron Man 2 coming out next Summer, here's hoping they keep the magic alive on this one!

Hulk:

Ok, let's pretend like Ang Lee's crap-fest never happened and go straight to "The Incredible Hulk", shall we?

Marvel kept this one more in line with the comics and the character's design was flawless. Yes, he was CGI, but there's just no other way to make that character come to life. Lou Ferrigno was awesome, but that was then and this is now.

Even down to the purple pants, this was the Hulk come to life. Just like the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four movie, however, they made some pretty drastic changes to his core villain, Abomination. It didn't look anything like the comic book version. But I realize that would have probably been almost impossible to pull off onscreen.

Ghost Rider:

If there was ever a character they could really mess up in live action, it was this one. Come on, a flaming skull riding a motorcycle? But Marvel proved once again that they have a good idea of what their fans want to see.

Like the Hulk, Ghost Rider was CGI all the way (for obvious reasons), and yet they managed to keep him true to the comic books. As a matter of fact, I don't think they could have come any closer to the comic book version in any way.

Punisher:

Again, we choose to ignore Dolph Lundgren's first incarnation of the character, and we also ignore the latest one from last year. Instead, let's look at the Thomas Jane version in "The Punisher".

Ok, so there was no black-and-white spandex, but they kept the skull emblem at least. Also, this one was very much like the Max version of the character rather than the Marvel U. version. Marvel did tweak the appearance of this character a little, but they still managed to get a few nods in for the fans.

Daredevil:

No denying it, this one was a hard one to call. Marvel really tried to stay close to the character, but at the same time they got "The Batman Movie Syndrome" as well. In the comic books, he's a guy in red spandex who fights crime with nothing more than his amazing skill and radar sense. Unfortunately, they didn't feel confident in that for the movie version so they gave him red leather to run around in.

I'm not trying to be ugly here, but have you ever walked around in leather pants? You have a tendency to squeak a little as it rubs together and it also gets pretty hot. Now imagine an entire costume of that. Better yet, imagine a character who is supposed to use stealth wearing something like that. Doesn't work at all.

And again, the weak spot here is the villain. Bullseye doesn't look anything like his normal appearance, and there was a little something different about Kingpin as well. While Elektra's little change was nice, overall Marvel dropped the ball on this one.

Blade

This is actually the film that is credited with making super-hero films cool again. It's hard to imagine taking a D-list hero and giving him a major movie, but Marvel did just that. It paid off in spades for them! Three movies and a failed television series later, the character is still popular in the comic books (though his big screen days are probably over).

Marvel did tweak the appearance of this character substantially, but for once they got it right. Blade's success brought us other C-list characters like Daredevil and Ghost Rider.


And for DC, it's not always quite so simple. There's definitely not as much to choose from since they were very slow in recovering from the fiasco that was "Batman and Robin". That kept them from film for years on end, but when they returned did they learn from the mistake?

Superman

Another movie that seemed to be floating around forever, Superman Returns finally saw the light of day. Christopher Reeve truly did the character right in the first three films (and no one blames him for that last one that sucked big time), so Brandon Routh had his work cut out for him. Unfortunately, Superman's costume was considered "too bright" for the feel of this film and they proceeded to darken up the colors and shrink his chest emblem down some as well. Neither of these were massive changes, but when you have such an iconic character, it's not wise to do too much.

The buzz around this one is a reboot too, but with a darker version of the character. No longer the wide-eyed farm boy visitor out to help the city, he'll become the angst-ridden alien trying to fight his personal demons. Sounds like a stinker in the works to me.

Batman:

More actors have tried their hand at this character onscreen than Hamlet! We've had West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, and Bale. One thing remains constant: the costume makes or breaks the film.

For some reason, DC will not stay faithful to the comic book here. Maybe it's the thought of Adam West's bulging tummy flopping over his utility belt, but they stay far away from the spandex. Yes, I understand they're trying to make him more real-world here (how would any man survive on the street without armor, right?), but you have to admit the character is cool as-is.

But I'm not complaining too much. At least they keep the newer outfits tough and mobile. The outfits from "Batman and Robin" were horrible.

Watchmen

While not technically a DC team, they still fall into the movie category. Since we're dealing strictly with the appearances here, you have to say DC went the right direction here.

This one is so hard to call because they took liberties with Ozymandius (thank goodness), Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre, but then got Rorschach dead-on (and unfortunately left a little too much showing of Doctor Manhattan). Overall, you'd have to call this one a success. The minor tweaks they made to the characters really were good moves for the most part, and they were far more faithful to the comics than not.

And I don't care what he says, you know as well as I do Alan Moore snuck into a theater somewhere to catch a late-night showing of this.

And the hands-down award winner for all-time worst movie tweak has to go to...

Catwoman:


Ok, how hard is it to mess this up? You have a girl who is an athletic cat burglar with a thing for cats. Pretty simple, right? Holy cow, did you see that movie?

And they said "Batman and Robin" was the worst DC movie ever made...I say this one beats it hands down. Completely reinventing the character in every detail has to be a crime somewhere. But at least they got it right one time in their movie history:

Michelle definitely brought the cat back to the public eye with her performance in "Batman Returns". The entire romantic angle between the characters had never been really explored up to that point, but after that movie they have formed a tragic relationship that has kept going to modern day.

17 comments:

Nathan said...

Nice article. You might want to take a look at your picture positioning though.

Rocky H said...

Agreed for the most part. Daredeveil, Punisher, Ghostrider, Catwoman and Spiderman 3 were all terrible in my opinion but I still watched them. Guess I am a victim of HOLLYWOOD!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Ghost Rider was stayed real close to the comic books. Nick Cage is a joke and having Ghost Rider eat jellybeans out of a martini glass instead of drinking whiskey is retarded.

Anonymous said...

As far as Silver Surfer is concerned, His powers were changed so dramatically that he might as well not have been the same character. His powers do NOT come from his board! They come from the cosmos. The stars are his source of power and thus gives him virtually no weaknesses. He was my favorite comic character growing up and they go and screw it up.

Anonymous said...

I know Spiderman was/is a commercial success but I really did not like them Spidey was not humorous I found Mary Jane unattractive, venom was a weak joke, Eddie Brock was un-intimidating. I know it was aimed at children and adults but wasn't Eddie/venom large and muscular?
Did'nt venom eat brains and generally be able to kick spidey's ass as swell as avoid spider sence or was that carnage?

Anonymous said...

Hellboy?

League of Extrodinary?

V for Vend?

Pisthetairos said...

Ugh, I hated that Watchmen movie. What the hell? Ozymandias getting into a free-for-all fight in Karnak was silly enough, but, did they have to change the ending to manhattan bombs? What's the point of that?

I guess all movies suffer a little pressure from Hollywood.

Tony F. said...

I'm sorry I don't know how you blew past Punisher: War Journal. I have been a fan of this comic since it was a black/white magazine in the 70's and didn't get the Comics code approval rating because of the adult subject matter.
Punisher: War Journal was dead on the Punisher and Marvel made another smart move ignoring the
Thomas Jane fiasco and telling the story correctly.

Tony F. said...

Oh yeah you also left out the Mask and the Crow...

sr B said...

hey man cool blog
i think ironman is the most real caracter in the heroes movies.

marvel dark reign gratis aqui

william said...

Good article, I enjoyed it a lot. As far as the X-men and their costumes go, they did mention Wolverine's Yellow Spandex.

En route to the Statue of Liberty Wolverine complains about the leather costume. Cyclops asks him if he would have preferred yellow spandex instead. I got a large chuckle from the scene.

Anonymous said...

We most certainly CAN blame Christopher Reeves for the 4th Superman, considering that was the one that *he* wrote.

Matt said...

yeah but he died not to long ago, im thinking cut him some slack

Anonymous said...

Watchmen is by Dark Horse not DC dude

the imp said...

really nice article, but i think you missed out on a major character her: the Joker. but then, that might be because i completely loved Heath Ledger's Joker

Anonymous said...

Yeah they did the fantastic four characters right...Except that they used a hot young latina jessica alba instead of a more mature/mothering white actress plus she had no chemistry with mr.stretch. Bring her on as X-23 I say. Sue Storm? not so much.

Anthony G. said...

I totally agree with you Tony F.

I dont know what this guy was thinking but the Punisher movie with Thomas Jane was TERRIBLE. Im a huge Punisher fan and ive been reading the garth ennis graphic novels for the past 5 years. I loved that character and the stories, and they finally did an excellent job capturing that with Punisher: Warzone.

Also the action was FREAKIN AWESOME.

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