It wasn’t a great year, but it wasn’t an awful year, for comics at the movies. 2012 brought some really great ones (The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises) and a few middle-of-the-road ones like Dredd and the Justice League: Doom animated film. But 2011 had Thor, X-Men First Class, Captain America, Batman Year One, and All-Star Superman (of course, it also had Cowboys and Aliens), so saying 2012 wasn’t “as good” isn’t such a bad thing.
How did this year fare? Short answer: It wasn’t an improvement, but we didn’t lose any ground.
As an aside: Comic book fans are big pains in the ass when it comes to moviemaking. We scream and holler about how we want to see our favorite characters on the screen, but then we act all indignant when the movie story isn’t the same as the comic story. I’m of the mind that the movie HAS to be different from the comic because (a) I already know the comic story, and I want to be surprised; and (b), more importantly, movies are a few hours long. Comics can be decompressed, or can tell the same basic story multiple times over multiple decades, adding nuance, spice, flavor. Or, in the case of DC’s New 52, adding nothing. So, as long as a comic book movie is true to the character, I’m fine with the story being different. That’s why I loved Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man: Even though he had organic webs, the character had the same motivations, the same drive. It’s also why I hated the skateboarding pretty boy of this year’s Amazing Spider-Man.
Here’s my thoughts and rankings…
The Lone Ranger, BPRD, and, of course, Man of Steel. It wasn’t just a bad Superman movie, it was a bad movie overall. The characters weren’t just not true to the comic, they didn’t even make sense. From the motivations of Zod in the opening (too long) sequence, through the extended battle that Superman intentionally directed into a major metropolitan area, and everything in between. Why were they doing these things? This movie actually made me hate Superman.
Also, the Jason Statham vehicle Parker, based on the novels that have been adapted by Darwyn Cook into phenomenal comics, was a crashing bore. And Statham is my man-crush, so I was very disappointed.
The Wolverine, R.E.D. 2, and GI Joe: Retaliation came and did no harm to their franchises. Not great, not terrible.
2 Guns. I didn’t like the comic. The movie relied completely on the fact that Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are two of the most charming actors in film today, but you can’t fault the film for playing to its strengths. Way better than I expected (the previews were terrible), and way better than it should have been. Well done, Boom! Studios!
Kick Ass 2. Not only was this a better movie than the comic (which I found pretty bad), but it was in many ways a better movie than Kick Ass 1: It had more of a story to tell, being able to build on the exposition in the first movie, and Hit Girl truly carries the movie.
Iron Man 3. It caused much consternation, but I think this is a perfect example of how comic book fans—not movie makers–can fail when they go to the movies. A magical ring-bearer simply does not work in the Iron Man franchise, which has been about science and technology, and at its core is the story of a boy-child learning to be a responsible man. But giving a nod to the character, while keeping the neorealistic focus of the series, was brilliant. And as for all the complaints that there was too much Tony Stark: There was nothing but battles and FX in Iron Man 2, and the movie felt thin because of it. They focused on character here, and it made for a much better film. Get over it, comic book fans: Movies aren’t comics. They interpret comic books. Just like, for example, Grant Morrison reinvents every character he works on. It’s not “not true” to the comic, it’s a new creation.
Thor: The Dark World. The most fun I’ve had at the movies since Avengers. I loved this movie.
And finally, I want to mention Ender’s Game. I know it’s not a true comic book movie, but there have been comic books based on the novel, and I thought the movie was a terrific sci fi film but, more importantly, a very faithful and nuanced interpretation of the novel. I know it’s probably not “okay” to appreciate the anti-gay Mormon Orson Scott Card, but the message in Ender’s Game is one of tolerance and acceptance: It doesn’t promote an exclusivist, homophobic or racist agenda in any way. In fact, it’s basically sexless.