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Underrated & Overrated Films Based On Graphic Novels

March 6th, 2009 9:41am EST | Andrew Payne By: Andrew Payne favorite Add to My News
300It's rare that commercials are actually right, but today they are when they claim that a film based on the "Most-Acclaimed Graphic Novel of All Time" will be released.

That film, and novel, is "Watchmen" of course. The movie comes from the 12-part comic series from Alan Moore ("From Hell", "V for Vendetta") that was quickly packaged into a graphic novel upon its completion. Many consider this series the greatest in the history of comics and the subsequent novel actually made it onto Time Magazine's 100 Greatest Novels of the Century List. Needless to say, there's no doubting its acclaim.

As for the film, however, only time will tell. Will it live up to the promise of its source material? Will fanboys deride it for being unfaithful? Will it obliterate box office records and propel Zack Snyder to the A-List? Who knows.

What is certain is that whether it's good or bad, public perception will be incorrectly skewed. Isn't that the way it always goes with any comic novel? That fanboys (who normally lead the internet buzz charge) quickly resort to hyperbolic statements one way or the other? Yes, it's basically impossible for a film based on a graphic novel not become either overrated or underrated. In fact, below is a list of the top five in each category!

Note: For the purposes of this article, limited run comic book series are considered graphic novels.

UNDERRATED

Timecop5. "Timecop" (1994)

Jean-Claude Van Damme will be underrated no matter what he does. It's true, his acting ability is poor at best, but that doesn't mean he only makes bad films. "Timecop" is one of the few that is actually entertaining and doesn't insult your intelligence. Sure, it's a bit hokey and starts with people killing Civil War soldiers with sub-machine guns, but it was also a massive hit in its time that garnered some surprisingly good reviews. Despite this, its star will always doom it to a reputation of being the type of movie you buy at a truck stop.



Road to Perdition4. "Road to Perdition" (2002)

This movie came incredibly close to a Best Picture nomination. It has Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law in a transformational role and is directed by the great Sam Mendes. It deals with a father and son evading Al Capone's ruthless underbosses during prohibition. Seems like it should be a classic, but it's actually been all but forgotten since its release. This despite being a gorgeously told story that transcends the normal territory for graphic novel adaptations. Plus, it's Paul Newman's final live action role in a feature film, you'd think that would count for something. Instead this remains an excellent film that did quite well at the box office that everybody's forgotten. What a shame.



Men in Black3. "Men in Black" (1997)

This is the hip, funny, and riotously entertaining blockbuster that everybody forgot. It has Will Smith at his most Will Smith-y, Tommy Lee Jones seeming strangely cool, and enough cool alien beasties to keep George Lucas up at night. It also spawned a dismal sequel co-starring the guy from "Jackass," which basically obliterated any of the goodwill its predecessor had built up in the minds of moviegoers. Still, people should remember the original. The perfect marketing campaign, the exquisitely tailored suits and the guy from "Monk" repeatedly getting his head blown off. Plus, this was the last film to successfully pull of a dialogue filled with nothing more than one-liners like "I make this look good", and "roaches check in, but they don't check out" to actually be funny. Something that has been imitated to the point of cliché ever since. Kind of like the look, feel, and ultra-cool humor of this film. Guess that's why nobody remembers it, it gets lost in a galaxy of imitators.

From Hell2. "From Hell" (2001)

From the underrated team of the Hughes Brothers came this spellbindingly dark Jack the Ripper tale featuring the likes of Johnny Depp for cryin' out loud. Perfectly placed at Halloween, and capturing the grim London slums of the time, this film a chillingly graphic portrait of a serial killer terrorizing a town, and fine mystery to boot. It get slammed because of its drastic departures from the novel (making the movie a mystery rather than a psychological study of the supposed Ripper) and the fact that it failed at the box office. Neither of those things should matter. Looking at the movie by itself, one finds a taught and visually exhilarating thriller. Plus it was the last movie of any consequence to feature Heather Graham. That has to count for something. Right?

A History of Violence1. "A History of Violence" (2005)

Not only is this the most underrated movie ever adapted from a graphic novel, it's also the best of those films. Impeccably acted from Viggo Mortensen's subtle yet deeply layered creation of Tom to William Hurt pulling off the rare 15-minute role that actually deserved its Oscar nomination, this is one of the most richly performed films of the genre. It also radically changed much of the source material for a thematic impact exploring issues as universal as family and heroism. Surprisingly, a lot of people severely dislike this movie. A quick stroll through its IMDB message board finds more detractors than supporters. Very strange for a brilliantly constructed film that never lets up while it develops a story with considerable mass appeal. This appeal never really translated over to a wide audience either, leaving the vast majority of moviegoers without their dose of Viggo in this instance. Luckily, you can still discover this movie on VHS, it was the last major motion picture released on that format. If that's isn't a positive, then nothing is.

OVERRATED

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen5. "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman" (2003)

Okay, so this movie isn't exactly rated highly by, well, anybody. But consider the following three points. It made over $175 million at the global box office (a pretty big hit). The mere fact that it's based on such a successful and acclaimed graphic novel means legions of fanboys will feel compelled to watch the movie for generations, just to see what it is. Worst of all, this is likely Sean Connery's last movie, and it will always be referred to as such. This leaves those who haven't seen it to say, "Wow, if someone like Connery went out on that movie, it must be pretty good." So the overratedness of "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman" is born more out of perception than it is truth, as nobody who actually saw the movie would rate it any higher than dreck. Exactly what it is.

The Mask4. "The Mask" (1994)

This film is one of those movies that are overrated due to nostalgia. We flip by it for 15 seconds when it's re-run on USA at one in the afternoon, and quickly think, "Wow, I used to love that movie. Shhhhamooookin'!" Then we keep on flipping and never realize that now that we're no longer 14 years old, it really isn't a very good film at all. Sure, Cameron Diaz is at her hottest, Jim Carrey his most manic, and suits at their most yellow, but that's really about it. It's simply an obnoxious film that we all loved when we were young, but never revisit after our tastes mature. This leaves a movie that we all think we love, but really would hate if we just stopped on USA for five minutes.




Sin City3. "Sin City" (2005)

This movie is overrated in much the same way as "The Dark Knight." It's a good film, a very good film even, but certainly not the massive life-changing experience that fans purported it to be at the time of its release. In fact, when you really get down to it, it's a lot like any other film noir, except that it's shot on a so-called "digital backlot", giving audiences the impression that it was some sort of visual break through. Except it wasn't. It wasn't at all. Robert Rodriguez used the exact same techniques employed on the mega-bomb "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," but had much better source material with which to work. This means the result is simply a rattling good noir without the so-called "breakthroughs" that found many to hail it as the cinematic triumph of the age.

Ghost World2. "Ghost World" (2001)

This film is the darling of the indie kid. It does have plenty of good elements, most notably a superb performance from Steve Buscemi, but it falls flat overall. This is because its main character, Enid, is so unreasonably consumed by venom towards everyone around her that she's impossible to support. She simply meanders around what appears to be fine suburban setting, fuming at some unknown bit of bother in a manner that is totally irrational. It simply never works as satire, because it makes no specific statements, nor does it function as a character study as we never really get to know Enid. Despite this, critics adore the film. So much that it came in 3rd on Rotten Tomatoes' ranking of comic book movies and MSN called it the greatest comic book movie ever made. For our purposes, it is the second most overrated film ever based on a graphic novel.

3001. "300" (2007)

This is not really a movie, so it barely qualifies for this list. Since most people actually consider Zack Snyder's "masterpiece" a film, we'll sneak it in hear anyhow. What "300" really is is a two-hour music video in which bare-chested men inflict massive carnage on a see of masked intruders. That's really all it is - the music screams, the blood flows, and the men seem to fly, but after about 15 minutes, nothing actually happens. Sure, the movie is a visual stunner, but didn't that impact wear off after the fourteenth time we saw the trailer? It would have been nice to have something of a story, something more than an endless battle scene that actually becomes boring before long. Everybody ignores this and chooses to focus solely on the visual accomplishment, and with that they hail it as a masterwork of filmmaking. If that were true than Tarsem's torpid "The Cell" would be the greatest movie ever made. It's not and it isn't. "300" is barely even a film - not the next evolution in cinema as its fans claim.

What do you think are the most underrated & overrated graphic novel movie adaptations? Let us know in the comments!

Andrew Payne
Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer


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