The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Cinematic crusaders leap from comic page to screen

Sean Sweany | Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Some of the most popular films and movie franchises of all time find their origins in comic books. When superheroes and villains leap from the comic page to the silver screen, stories develop that all can enjoy, whether they’re comic fans or not.

Batman (1989)

This Tim Burton film is often described as cheesy, but it remains important because it ushered in the modern era of comic book films. Michael Keaton plays a respectable Batman, but Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Joker makes this film truly memorable. The box office success of the caped crusader set the stage for numerous Batman sequels and sparked the genesis of many other comic book movies to take advantage of the new market. Burton’s imagination keeps the proceedings enjoyable, and his talent at bringing to life the varied aspects of the comic book world makes the film worth seeing.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

This adaptation of the Marvel Comics franchise is the second in the series, which concerns the struggle between mutants and humans. Director Bryan Singer crafted “X2” into a fine film by combining extraordinary fight scenes with an intelligent, coherent story. Well known characters like Wolverine and Professor X are well acted by Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart and a large group of supporting actors adds interesting subtleties and nuances to the complex story. “X2” stands out as a good comic book film because it blends action and story into a serious movie, and because it prompts thought and discussion about treatment of those different from everybody else.

Sin City (2005)

An adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels, “Sin City” is a movie with a very distinct, violent style that is hard to forget. The movie has a large cast of talented actors, including Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Elijah Wood. The stories of all these characters intertwine almost seamlessly thanks to Frank Miller’s writing and the directing abilities of Robert Rodriguez. Almost completely in black and white film except for certain moments, “Sin City” has such a unique style and method of storytelling that it becomes a must-see in the genre.

Batman Begins (2005)

The most recent Batman adaptation, this film depicts the Dark Knight in a different light for a new generation. Christian Bale gives a dark, troubled performance as Bruce Wayne and forces audiences to sympathize with the conditions that shape his path towards becoming Batman. Overall, this is a much darker film than any of the previous Batman installments and brings a serious, adult tone to the series. Director Christopher Nolan is already planning a sequel to follow the same lines of realism set forth in “Batman Begins.”

Superman (1978)

This film version of the Man of Steel stands out as one of the great comic book movies of all time. Filmed in an era before digital effects, “Superman” withstands the test of time and remains a benchmark for the genre. Christopher Reeve put on one of the best superhero performances ever as both Clark Kent and Superman. Reeve became the face of Superman and embodied truth, justice and the American way for countless fans. “Superman” spawned three sequels starring Reeve and a new adaptation coming to theaters this summer.

Spider-Man (2002)

Rising above all the rest of the comic book films to set the bar for any future movies is “Spider-Man.” This film gets it right on every level and is truly what a comic book film should be. Director Sam Raimi gave attention to every detail to create a fantastical world for the comic book characters to inhabit. Tobey Maguire stars as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and earns the sympathy of the audience for the fate that befalls him. The film’s slick combination of action, humor, drama, and tragedy leaves the audience craving more of the web-slinging hero.

These big screen versions of popular comic books are some of the most loved and successful movies. Films adapted from comic books will continue to dominate the box office, sparking the imaginations and inspirations of viewers both young and old.