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Weekend Binge: Unlike Thor Ragnarok, here are 5 underrated comic book movies you forgot were comic book movies

With Thor: Ragnarok bringing the thunder at the box office, let’s take a look at 5 underrated (and underseen) comic book movies. Fair warning: It’s not what you’re expecting.

weekend binge Updated: Nov 04, 2017 10:29 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Thor Ragnarok,Thor,Superman
As great as Thor: Ragnarok is, there are other comic book movies out there for everyone to discover.

Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.

While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.

For the longest time comic book movies were everyone’s favourite punching bag. This was years before the Golden Age we’re currently soaring through - before Richard Donner’s Superman (to this day looked at as an anomaly), Tim Burton’s Batman (a fluke) and Bryan Singer’s X-Men (the only legitimate trailblazer of the three).

They were, thanks in no small part to the ‘funny books’ that inspired them, seen as stuff to pacify kids, and little else. And in many ways, they still are. The legitimacy of comic book movies - especially after Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman, and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (Extended Cut, forever), and Logan - remains a hot topic for debate.

And despite the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has overthrown the likes of James Bond and Harry Potter to become the highest grossing movie franchise of all time, you won’t find any of those movies competing for Best Picture Oscars, even the phenomenal Thor: Ragnarok. But there’s a misconception about comic book films, one that will hopefully be addressed soon: Comic book movies go beyond superheroes.

Perhaps that is why the ‘best’ ones - the serious dramas - try so hard to shed any connection to their humble comic book origins. But is legitimacy really all that important? Is seeking acceptance from people who don’t really understand you worth fighting for? Who knows? In any case, since most of us have seen the superhero stuff, here are five comic book movies everyone forgets are comic book movies:

Ghost World

Daniel Clowes has a very particular style -- overwhelmingly melancholic, off-puttingly surreal, and morbidly funny. Making a movie out of his books hardly sounds like an easy task, but Terry Zwigoff (director of a fantastic documentary on underground comics legend, Robert Crumb) somehow, through some miracle, managed to make not only a respectful adaptation, but one of the best regarded cult classics of the 21st century. Oh, and also, it was nominated for an Oscar.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

The phrase ‘A good Luc Besson movie’ isn’t one you’d hear thrown around too often - not by someone with an ounce of self-respect, and especially not after the spectacularly bad Valerian (another comic book movie). But once upon a time, the enfant terrible of French action cinema showed promise. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec came years after Besson peaked, well into his schlock phase, which made it a rather pleasant surprise. He borrowed heavily from Franco-Belgian comics - like Tintin and Asterix - and made a movie that brought to life Jacques Tardi’s ligne claire style, and bizarre tone.

A History of Violence

While director David Cronenberg has often displayed signs that he is (somewhere deep, deep inside his soul) a comic book fan - his body horror movies seem to burst out of the screen, much like the splashy Thor: Ragnarok - he achieved somewhat of a hot streak in the mid-2000s. In quick succession, Cronenberg made the most un-Cronenbergian couple of films, the gritty crime sagas Eastern Promises and A History of Violence (which was nominated for several Oscars, and the Palme d’Or). Legitimacy, you say?


There is a certain section of the fanboy audience, brought up on PirateBay and Star Movies, that has surely seen Park Chan-wook’s iconic Greek tragedy (by way of Korea) and perhaps even Spike Lee’s underwhelming remake. But did you know that it was based on a popular Japanese Manga?

Road to Perdition

On the surface, there is nothing about Sam Mendes’ period gangster drama that screams ‘comic books’ - least of all the snooty Sam Mendes himself. But it’s a magnificent example of just how diverse comic books can be. As amazing as the Marvel movies are - and they really are quite amazing, aren’t they - some of the best work in comics these days is being done in independent, creator-owned outfits like Image. And that’s how it works in the movies, too.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Nov 04, 2017 10:28 IST