The top five entries in my list are here. Read, enjoy, and possibly throw stuff at your monitor…let the flame wars begin.
Be sure you read The 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies (part 1), then enjoy below.
5. Dredd (2012)
Did you see Dredd this year? Based on the dismal box office returns, chances are that the answer is ‘no’. But if you avoided this hidden gem, you truly missed out on an awesome cinematic experience. It’s a fast-paced, violent crime story that takes place in futuristic Mega City One; bullets fly in slow motion, things explode, and general badassery takes place.
The most unique use of slow motion I’ve ever seen is thanks to the drug called SLO-MO, which gives users the sensation that their surroundings are moving at 1% of their actual speed. The effect (especially in 3D) is very cool, and leads to some gorgeous looking shots.
Far and away the most overlooked movie in any genre this year, Dredd is a must-watch for comic fans, action junkies, and anyone who was horrified by Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 train wreck Judge Dredd, and want to see the character redeemed.
4. Kick-Ass (2010)
Kick-Ass was a cult hit with comic book collectors, but it was hardly a household name. Still, in April of 2010 it opened #1 at the box office, and quietly went on to gross almost $100M worldwide.
Why is it underrated? Because so few movies have dared to take the kind of chances that creator Mark Millar and director Matthew Vaughn took while bringing this story to the screen. Pre-teen assassin Hit-Girl is a perfect example; she curses like a sailor, slices and dices bad guys with reckless abandon, and basically pushes the envelope farther than any comic book movie has dared to go. And it’s played for more than just shock value – it’s the performance that put Chloë Grace Moretz on the map, and with good reason.
Nicolas Cage was a standout as Hit-Girl’s father “Big Daddy,” and the always entertaining Christopher Mintz-Plasse – known as “McLovin'” in Superbad – goes against the grain as mob boss’s son Chris D’Amico, AKA: Red Mist (Keep an eye out for the sequel…Mintz-Plasse will be playing a much larger role in 2013’s Kick-Ass 2.)
I don’t think I own a more re-watchable movie on Blu-Ray, and this one should be in every comic book fan’s collection.
3. Batman Returns (1992)
The movie that changed the way comic book movies were made? Undoubtedly Tim Burton’s Batman, from 1989. While it was a runaway hit, the fans and critics were not so kind to the sequel in 1992, Batman Returns.
I get it: the movie was weird. Danny DeVito as the Penguin, little penguins with rockets strapped to their backs…basically everything penguin-related in that movie was kind of strange. But if you can get past all of that, there is so much greatness to enjoy.
First of all, the cast is fantastic. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman stands out as one of the best comic book movie performances ever (and I’m sorry, but she blew away Anne Hathaway from The Dark Knight Rises). Michael Keaton kicked some serious ass, the late Alfred Gough is the quintessential Alfred, and freakin’ Christopher Walken as Max Shreck?! It doesn’t get much better than this.
Gelling beautifully with Burton’s signature style is a screenplay by Daniel Waters (the genius behind the cult classics Heathers). The highlight for me was Selina Kyle slowly unraveling throughout the movie, being torn apart by her double-life as Catwoman. Bruce Wayne tries valiantly to convince her that she can balance her two personalities, but she’s too far gone – there are some people even the Dark Knight can’t save. All the while Batman envies The Penguin’s quest to discover his birth parents, while The Penguin wants to attract the seductive Catwoman, but realizes that she could never love a monster. Unlike the Bat he doesn’t have the luxury of removing his mask and living a normal life.
‘The Bat, The Cat and The Penguin,” wasn’t just a tagline on the poster, it was the essence of the story – that the three main players were inextricably linked. Within the triangle, everyone clandestinely longed to be each other in some way, and it resulted in a satisfying story that gets far too little credit.
2.Blade II (2002)
Another franchise tarnished by one too many sequels and a failed television show, the series peaked in 2002 with Guillermo del Toro’s criminally underappreciated Blade II.
Expertly blending martial arts, shootouts, and some very disturbing creature effects, Del Toro also injects a healthy dose of horror into the series. This is about vampires in the pre-sparkle era, after all – these bloodsuckers don’t fall in love with you, they tear you to shreds.
Standout performances from Ron Perlman and Norman Reedus steal the show, and we get kung-fu fighting courtesy of Asian martial arts legend Donnie Yen. But it’s Wesley Snipes that surprises by delivering a very convincing performance, balanced with a touch of humor that adds some very interesting layers to the Blade character.
After the abysmal third Blade movie all but destroyed the franchise, the fantastic second chapter is often forgotten. Do yourself a favor and re-watch Blade, and then check out Blade II…and then stop.
1. Hellboy II – The Golden Army (2008)
The second film on my list by director Guillermo del Toro, and it’s here for a very good reason: it’s all different kinds of awesome.
Sometimes unnerving, sometimes thrilling and always entertaining, Hellboy II deftly builds on the original and even adds a few new wrinkles. The relationships evolve. The stakes are raised. And Hellboy – growing tired of living life in secrecy – begins to take unnecessary risks, and introduces himself to the outside world against the instructions of the government.
Aside from del Toro’s direction, the costumes, make-up, special effects and the martial arts sequences are all flawless. Still not sold? Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane is the voice of Johann Krauss, a disembodied ectoplasmic spirit who inhabits a containment suit…and the movie opens with an attack by a swarm of killer tooth fairies. This might just be filmmaking at its finest.
The relatively meager performance at the box office didn’t guarantee a third and final installment of the Hellboy Trilogy, despite pleading from diehard fans. But if this turns out to be the final time we see Ron Pearlman as Big Red, it will still be a great send-off.
I hope you enjoy the list. If you want to agree with me or complain about how Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was omitted from the top 10, this is your chance to let your voice be heard.
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle). You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com.