4 Underrated Comic Adaptations
BATMAN & ROBIN
Some comic adaptations have been given a pretty bad rap, here's my opinion on why they don't deserve to be overlooked.
So let's start off with a good old classic that will never be forgotten. One of the top movies that people everywhere detest to a significant degree, and it's quite funny because I thought they would have learned with Batman Forever to stay away from this trash. But, let me explain why I feel that this film is underrated. Looking at it as a comedy, and just that, it gets a 3 out of 5 from me. I admit it, I laughed a lot when I rewatched Batman & Robin, but the first 20 minutes or so of the film are also quite entertaining as well.
Yes, Batman & Robin is a bad movie, but it's not THAT bad, and it's definitely not as bad as Batman Forever. People could tolerate Jim Carrey playing Ace Ventura PLAYING The Riddler, but they couldn't take Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze? At least he was trying to play it straight with all of his cheesy dialogue, which made his one-liners even funnier, but Carrey was so obnoxious and intolerable with all of his lines that it ruined Batman Forever completely (although I will admit that Val Kilmer is a better Batman than George Clooney, but neither are very good either).
Arnold Schwarzenegger's the star of this Batman film, like Jack Nicholson was for Batman, and he makes the film funnier than it deserved to be. It wasn't called for, but, for myself, it made it a much better experience. The actors playing Robin, Batgirl and Poison Ivy are terrible, Clooney is tolerable (but definitely miscast) as Batman, some of the action sequences and sets are very cool (pun intended) and the music isn't bad either (gave us two great Smashing Pumpkins songs to boot, the later one was used in the excellent first trailer for Watchmen). All-in-all, I'd watch Batman & Robin again anyday over Batman Forever, just don't consider that to be anytime soon. My life doesn't necessarily require any more Schumacher-made Batman films though.
Saw this film a couple of times on TV as a kid and really enjoyed it, so I watched it again recently and it still held up pretty well. Yeah, this movie doesn't really deserve too much praise either (The First Avenger is definitely the better Captain America movie), it has some bad dialogue and writing, as well as some unintentionally hilarious scenes (like GTA Captain America not once, but TWICE), however Matt Salinger is a very strong lead and Scott Paulin is the best on-screen incarnation of Red Skull yet (even though he's technically only the Red Skull for one scene, the rest of the film it's kind of disappointing to see that his red skull's replaced with plastic surgery, but it doesn't detract from his performance in any way).
Like I previously mentioned, Matt Salinger is really great as Steve Rogers/Captain America and one of the better parts of the movie comes in when he is freed from being frozen and returns home only to discover that his former love has been re-married and now has a daughter. It's darn-near heartbreaking, but the story could have done without the daughter character (who is also played by the same actress who plays the mother strangely enough). Also, Red Skull has a pretty tragic backstory as well, his family's murdered by Germans, he's experimented on and turned into the Red Skull against his will as a child and that's how the film opens. It's dark, scary stuff that makes the character a lot more intimidating than your ordinary stock villain.
With our two lead characters developed and portrayed quite well, the climax is very enjoyable viewing and develops some very good moments of pathos between Cap and the Red Skull. When Cap plays the tape recording of Red Skull being kidnapped as a kid, as a distraction, is a great revenge moment which you can see mentally defeats Red Skull before Captain America says lights out (one of my favourite villain defeats of all-time). Great moments like that make this film a breeze to watch and a reason as to why this film deserves a director's cut.
THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS
Speaking of director's cut, let's talk (or write) about this debacle. In 1996, The Crow: City of Angels was butchered by the studio for one reason: to be direct rip-off of The Crow (not the sequel that it was intended to be). Thankfully, at a young age, I was able to catch parts of the PPV version which featured a much more fitting and tragic ending, better action scenes and a far more coherent storyline. Unfortunately, this version was never released on video (the supposed "director's cut" released only adds about a minute's worth of useless footage to the mix) meaning that the severely damaged theatrical version is all that remains... for now hopefully.
Hopefully the PPV version will be reincarnated someday soon, but, for now, the version released does just fine on being a beautifully-shot, well-acted experience that holds higher emotional stakes than the original Crow with Brandon Lee. In this version, it's a son and father who are randomly killed after witnessing a gang of thugs beating a man to his death. Iggy Pop is the top-dog amongst these loonies and he delivers a bizarrely entertaining performance. Two more key performances worth noting are Vincent Perez as Ashe/The Crow and Mia Kirshner as Sarah (an older version of the young girl from the original). In this version, Sarah is the one who motivates the character to become The Crow.
What I love about Perez's performance is that he doesn't play it like an alternate version of Eric Draven (much like the other two sequels do). Here's a man who falls in love with Sarah, and she falls in love with him too, which makes him question internally whether or not he really wants to leave this new life as an invincible man. That's the most interesting theme added to the familiar formula and both actors play it well, plus it gives the plot an extra bit of emotional resonance, but a lot of the original material is cut from that plot-line which only gives viewers a taste of what could have been even better. Still, with the poor editing aside, this film is brilliantly-shot (the scene where Ashe stands on the pier and dives in to find his son is beautiful), well-acted and the music is still great (it's still one of the best movie soundtracks out there with excellent songs from Deftones and Seven Mary Three added to the mix).
Now here's my favourite film to defend, the one that was nitpicked to death by critics and audiences everywhere. Every time somebody talks to me about why they hate this film, it's the obvious laundry list of things: emo-Peter, not so much Venom, the dance scene, the news reports, Mary Jane's kind of selfish, Eddie Brock is Eric Forman, etc. As a fan of this film, more so than Spider-Man 2, it surprises me that people were able to look beyond Mary Jane's selfishness in Spider-Man 2 and not this one. In this one, where she's beaten up the most out of all the characters, she deserves to be a little bit selfish because Peter is literally pushing her out of his life.
Tobey Maguire plays up Peter's dark side quite well and the dance scene later in the film is a very underrated moment because it's the first-time we really see Peter show-off in public and he nearly, carelessly reveals himself to be Spider-Man all just to embarrass Mary Jane. Her reaction is subtle afterwards, unlike his arrogant showcase beforehand, which gives the scene quite a bit of emotional resonance; especially during the aftermath leading into the beautiful-shot of the black-suited Spider-Man atop of the bell tower.
Thomas Haden Church and James Franco are really good as the film's main villains, and Topher Grace is good as Eddie Brock, but he could have been developed way better and should have had less time revealing his face when cloaked by the symbiote (as the make-up for the symbiote in some of his face shots looked absolutely terrible and incredibly distracting). However, even though I was let-down by Venom in this movie, I respect what the filmmakers were going for, with him giving in and becoming addicted to the power much like Peter did early on. In the commentary, Raimi describes both character's relationships with the symbiote like booze and alcoholics; it makes you do things that feel great the day of, but you may just regret them later on. That angle of the story was very well-played and when Peter finally pulls out the good 'ol red and blue suit to go and rescue Mary Jane, it's a moment that makes you recall the earlier films finer moments of grace and heroism that are hard to top.
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