50 essential comic-book movies, with Edgar Wright: part 4

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It's the Top 20, and we're getting all doom-laden and existential: Tom Hanks resents having to shoot people in 'Road to Perdition', Raymond Briggs is giving us all radiation poisoning in 'When the Wind Blows', Eric Bana's embracing his dark side in 'Hulk' and there's one mightily pissed off octopus in 'Oldboy'. Thank God Heath Ledger and Brian Blessed still know how to have a good time...

20. Road to Perdition (2002)


Directed by Sam Mendes

Grampa and the grumpy gangsters
Oscar-nabbing luvvie theatre director goes graphic novel? The Nicest Man In Hollywood as an implacable Mob hitman? Jude Law miscast again? It might not have worked on paper (excuse the 'pun'), but the classiest of all comic-book adaptations went like gangbusters up on the silver screen. Wonderful photography, a richly detailed yet mercifully restrained Depression-era setting, a sterling cast (apart from Law, and even he, to be fair, gives it a fair shake) and a mean streak a mile wide meant that Max Allen Collins and Richard Piers Rayner's original, hardbitten vision (itself a homage to the manga mainstay ‘Lone Wolf and Cub', which was already the basis for several films, including ‘Shogun Assassin') was in no way leavened or softened for the mainstream and immediately set about clearing a place for itself at the very top table of all-time gangster films. ALDWatch the big shootout here

Read the Time Out review

Watchmen.jpg

19. Watchmen (2009)


Directed by Zack Snyder

Desolation row
Given that this adaptation of Alan Moore's subversive superhero epic had perhaps the most painful gestation in modern movie history, going through countless drafts and a fistful of directors, among them Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass, and also given that the lucky helmer ultimately hired had, at this point, released one shaky horror remake and one near-unwatchable puce-coloured gay-porn sword-and sandal effort, no one in their right mind would have bet on ‘Watchmen' being any good. But Zack Snyder had one guiding instinct when it came to ‘Watchmen', and it saves the film. In sticking as close to the source as he could (barring a slightly improved ending), Snyder all but took himself out of the equation, creating a film which takes not just its narrative and dialogue but its visual style, its colour palette, its soundtrack, even its editing from Moore's masterpiece. Snyder doesn't come close to capturing the emotional intensity and raw political fury of the novel, but his film nonetheless remains awe-inspiringly grand, entrancingly bleak and utterly enthralling. THWatch the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon version

Read the Time Out review When the Wind Blows.jpg

18. When the Wind Blows (1986)

Directed by Jimmy T Murakami
Farewell to Old England
Ah, the '80s. Deely boppers, legwarmers, Kajagoogoo and the kids from ‘Fame'. Ron, Maggie and the Miners. Greenham Common, Menwith Hill and the impending, inevitable nuclear holocaust. Halcyon days. Cartoonist Raymond Briggs was a cosy cultural icon by this point: his ‘Father Christmas' and ‘The Snowman' had brought a certain salty English charm to the festive season, while ‘Fungus the Bogeyman' was a book both dads and five-year-old boys could totally get behind. Then he went all political. ‘When the Wind Blows' capitalised on Briggs's post-‘Snowman' popularity to present a realistic portrait of nuclear war, a mile away from the duck-and-cover bullshit. His book took the archetypal all-English couple – ageing, fusty, conservative, affectionate and slightly confused – and subjected them to all the disease, despair and degradation that surviving the holocaust would inevitably entail. The film version – directed by the man who brought us ‘Battle Beyond the Stars', for some reason – was scripted by Briggs himself, and is a faithful, beautiful and completely devastating adaptation. THWatch the Bowie theme song video

Read the Time Out review

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17. Blade II (2002)


Directed by Guillermo del Toro

When will I, will I be famous? Not quite yet, Luke.
The hero is half man, half vampire, the Daywalker, samurai-sword-wielding bane of all Satan's minions. The director is one of the most revered fantasists in modern cinema. The sidekick is a country-singing legend with a voice that could strip a sideboard. The villain is... one half of Bros? Yes, the one thing everyone remembers about ‘Blade 2', apart from the fact that it's about 100 times better than it had any right to be, is that Luke Goss made his big comeback in the role of Nomak, the mutant king of the sub-vampire Reaper sect, whose creepy three-way jowls and unbreakable anti-stake breastplate made them Blade's trickiest adversaries to date. So shocked were we, in fact, that we almost overlooked the fact that The Cat from Red Dwarf, Danny John-Jules, was in it, too, getting all acrobatic and appropriately toothy. Goss would return as some kind of sad fairy prince in Del Toro's next sequel, ‘Hellboy 2'. Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson would be back for deeply underwhelming third and final outing ‘Blade: Trinity'. The Cat would be back on Dave. THWatch Luke get serious with Lorraine Kelly

Read the Time Out review

 

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16. Persepolis (2007)


Directed by Vincent Parronaud and Marjane Satrapi

Iran all the way home...
At a time when computer-aided graphics are reaching unimagined levels of reality, ‘Persepolis' could strike one as crude or heavy-handed. Instead it proves itself to be the perfect adaptation of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel autobiography. These images are unique in their ability to convey the hilarious highs and soul-crushing lows of Satrapi's early life in Tehran and Vienna, while also giving a memorable and shocking account of the Iranian revolution. Coming-of-age tales are commonplace in modern cinema, but ‘Persepolis' tells its simple story with a grace and visual intricacy that would be unthinkable in live action. Entertaining, tear-jerking and never preachy. BR
Watch the trailer

Read the Time Out review

The Dark Knight.jpg

15. The Dark Knight

Directed by Christopher NolanOne final act of LedgerdemainOK, cool your jets, people! Yes, despite all the box-office lucre, gale-force fanboy dementia and undeniable cinematic quality, ‘The Dark Knight’ didn’t quite make it into our top ten. Perhaps it’s that while it’s a very easy film to like and hugely impressive in every way, it’s ultimately a somewhat difficult movie to love. There’s absolutely no faulting the breadth of its imagination, the commitment of its makers or the undeniable grandeur that haunts every frame, but there eventually comes a point where it all gets a little too insistent, a shade too oppressive for its own good. That’s not to say it’s not thumping good entertainment. From the initial bank heist to the Caped Crusader’s headlong burn into third-act redemption, ‘The Dark Knight’ brings home the bacon and fries it in the pan. Building on the excellent ‘Batman Begins’, Nolan constructs a wonderfully layered film that works as everything from a thunderous action movie to a mystery worthy of the World’s Greatest Detective to a treatise on the War on Terror. And while it might be nice to read just one review of the film that doesn’t gush over Heath Ledger’s showing as The Joker, it would be remiss not to mention the startling performance that gives proceedings more edge and bite than a hundred Ra’s al Ghuls. ALD

Edgar Wright says:

‘I thought "The Dark Knight" was great. It's a real testament to Chris Nolan as a director. What's great about it is that it fashions a new story out of familiar origins. It's more like a crime saga than a superhero movie. It feels more like "The Godfather 2" than just another Batman film.'

Watch Dark Knight Lego here

Read the Time Out review

 

X2.jpg

14. X-Men 2 (2003)


Directed by Brian Singer

Os mutantes
Yet another example of the age-old superhero-sequel-beats-original axiom, ‘X2' shrugged off the heavy-handed civil-rights symbolism (and terrible Joss Whedon punnery) of its predecessor, kept the superb top-line cast, added a few new mutants to please the fanboys (Alan Cumming's Nitghtcrawler is particularly welcome) and opted for a breezier, more direct and considerably more action-packed romp. Which isn't to say there's no subtext here, it's just more intelligently handled, dropping in a little Bush-era Patriot Act antics here, a touch of sympathetic coming-out trauma here (‘Have you tried not being a mutant?'), but never letting any of this overwhelm what is, at heart, just a cracking good adventure. A disappointment, then, that Singer opted to step back and let Brett ‘Rush Hour' Ratner take the reins on the enjoyable but underwhelming third instalment, and an even bigger disappointment that ‘Wolverine' got made at all... TH

Edgar Wright says

: ‘"X-Men 2" is indisputable. The first one looked like it was slightly compromised, like they ran out of money at the climax. But "X Men 2" feels fully realised, and it was a real shame that Bryan Singer didn't get to do a full trilogy. The scene in the White House, with Alan Cumming bouncing around, is fantastic. It's such an amazing set piece.'
Watch Alan Cumming in the White house

Read the Time Out review

Flash.jpg

13. Flash Gordon (1980)

Directed by Mike HodgesBlessed be!
If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Mike Hodges’s glorious kitsch folly, try to imagine a 'Star Wars' movie filmed through a wall of Vaseline the breadth of the Hoover Dam, starring the cast of a Children's Film Foundation episode dressed in red liquorice costumes, directed by Kenneth Anger and on sets built by Ken Adam on a bad 'shrooms super trip. This, sir, is 100% pure concentrated camp, and all the better for it. Based on American cartoonist Alexander Raymond’s comic strip started in 1933 as a rival to the intergalactic imperialist likes of Buck Rogers, this version of ‘Flash Gordon’ saw actor Sam J Jones (unfairly) nominated for a Golden Raspberry for his take on the eponymous Aryan fancy boy who blasts off in to space to save Earth from the death ray of Max von Sydow’s Ming the Merciless. Shout outs go to ’70s TV fave, Peter Duncan who gamely gets stung by a Treebeast before being roughly speared by Timothy Dalton; ‘Manimal’ regular Melody Anderson as Flash’s yapping, scantily-clad beau; Topol, who brings some much-needed chutzpah to the proceedings as exposition spouting scientist Hans Zarkov; and who could forget Brian Blessed as all-flying, all-bellowing, all-barking Wagnerian cliché, Prince Vultan. And then there’s that theme song… DJ

Edgar Wright says:

‘Some of the films which are derided by comic-book fans, which are dirty words, are the ones I really like. And the best of those has to be "Flash Gordon". It's the same writer, Lorenzo Semple, as the "Batman" TV series, which is still really fucking funny. With "Flash Gordon", there's just no attempt to make it look realistic. As soon as they get into space and you see those red clouds, the red ink... And the costumes, and the music... it's amazing! Its bubblegum camp, and I love it!'
Watch how to win in a dust-up... with football!

Read the Time Out review


Hulk.jpg

12. Hulk (2003)


Directed by Ang Lee

Moss side story
There's a scene in Ang Lee's strange, metaphysical, Oedipal reading of the Hulk myth that perfectly sums the whole loopy enterprise. About half way through a typically outrageous action scene in which the green machine has just shitcanned a few tanks and is bounding through the desert in an attempt to outrun a couple of Comanche attack helicopters, he stops, has a little sit down and catches his breath while staring long and hard at a small green patch of moss. Yes, folks, moss – the stuff in your garden that blocks the drains. Fully refreshed, he gets back up and continues his way to San Francisco to fight his own father who transforms himself into, first, a radioactive thundercloud and eventually a frozen lake. And yet, for all the lunacy that comes both before and after it, the strangest part of the film remains that little bit of business with the moss. The 2008 Edward Norton version contained no moss whatsoever as far as we recall, and that was bobbins, so... ALD

Edgar Wright says:

‘Both versions of "Hulk" have their moments, Ang Lee's film and Louis Leterrier's. Somewhere between the two of them is the perfect Hulk film. I really love the character. I did like the Ang Lee one. I think the stuff with Hulk bouncing around in the desert, in full colour, that was really good. And I liked some of his attempts to make the film look like a comic, to do the panels. But it's not a film I've revisited.'
Watch our hero, smashed, here

Read the Time Out review

oldboy-hammer-fight-corridor-scene1.jpg

11. Oldboy (2003)


Directed by Park Chan-wook

Stop! Hammer time
Few know that the Cannes Grand Prix-winning central instalment in Park's Vengeance trilogy was in fact inspired by a manga by Garon Tsuchiya, though by all accounts the adaptation was very loose. Both works involve a man locked away for 15 years for no reason he can understand, before being unleashed to wreak havoc on his captors. The film version has become famous for two things: an extraordinary single-shot side-view battle scene in which our hero batters a corridor full of thugs with a hammer and his fists, and the scene where he bites a chunk out of a live octopus. Yes, animals were harmed in the making of this movie, though apparently that's not such a big deal in Korea, where according to Wikipedia they eat live octopi all the time. Either way, the film was a smash, an international directing star was born, and rumours of a Hollywood remake (though probably not the one directed by Spielberg and starring Will Smith) continue to circulate. THWatch the fight scene. What else?

Read the Time Out review

See 10 through to 6

Author: Derek Adams, Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, Tom Huddleston, David Jenkins and Bethany Rutter



Users say

5 comments
SKYLER
SKYLER

WHAT!!!!! Are you kidding me. Hulk and Xmen before the DARK KNIGHT!!! Clearly you shouldn't be making best film lists. Because they have NO idea what is good or not.

Mickah
Mickah

Actually, Nick Nolte turns into a giant placenta at the end of Hulk. The Ang Lee film is boring, too long, poorly acted, and the Oedipal stuff is nonsense (actually everything Nick Nolte says is nonsense)... but the sequence when the Hulk finally lets rip in broad daylight is terrific, and puts most crappy action movie directors to shame (all right, I just mean Michael Bay). It seemed to me like the Louis Leterrier film took out the stupid psychology stuff, but couldn't figure out what to put in its place - the result is just empty. And anyone who thinks that the ending of the Watchmen film is an improvement over the giant squid is just clutching at straws, I'm afraid. It's just a weak-piss imitation of Heroes season one (oh, but with extra cities being destroyed, I forgot!).

AC
AC

Agree that Ang Lee's Hulk is HORRIBLE. I have tried to watch it several times and have never made it through the entire movie in one sitting. When I saw it in the cinema I actually fell asleep. The only other movie I've done that in is Spawn (which, given the stupidity of this list will probably be in the top 5).

AriochRIP
AriochRIP

Ang Lee's Hulk is a travesty, an utter disaster, one of the worst films ever made. So bad, you can still smell its stink while watching Ed Norton's Incredible Hulk, which is a damn good movie.

JYHASH
JYHASH

I'm sorry, but you don't IMPROVE upon the original "Watchemen" ending. And it's height on this list makes this whole endeavour a waste of time.



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