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10. Iron Man (2008)
2008 was a great year for comic-book adaptations and Iron Man started it off. It was everything you would expect from a comic book adaptation: action-packed with a good amount of drama and comedy. Jon Favreau was able to keep a quirky, independent spirit throughout and had a cast of talented actors to work with. Robert Downey Jr. has become an unexpected action star. This is a film that shows what a summer blockbuster should be, entertaining and good quality storytelling.
9. Superman Returns (2006)
After years of development hell and nearly $300 million spent on various projects, Bryan Singer was given the challenge to bring Superman back to the silver screen after 17-years away. Although this film has it critics, Singer was able to do something other directors could not: bring emotional depth to the Man of Steel. It does have it problems, but there are compelling characters, excellent action set pieces and more of a story then in the original Superman films. Kevin Spacey was perfectly cast as Lux Luther.
8. X-Men (2000)
X-Men has been underestimated for its place in film history. This was the first mainstream comic-book film after the disaster of Batman and Robin. X-Men started the trend in Hollywood that blockbusters can be darker in tone, focusing on character development and plot. It also shows that serious filmmakers can make entertaining blockbusters. X-Men introduced the world to Hugh Jackman, so a blockbuster does not always need a big name star.
7. Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man is Marvel’s most recognizable superhero, and a film adaption was inevitable. Luckily Columbia-Tristar got it right, hiring horror expert Sam Raimi to direct and his passion for the material was brought to life. Audiences got to see Peter Parker’s origins as Spider-Man and like X-Men focused on character development. Raimi set out to have a strong mix of drama, action and a general sense of fun. This is a film for everyone to enjoy.
6. 300 (2007)
300 is an example of a man’s film, filled with bloody action, grand speeches and one-liners. Here is the fun fantasy version of the Battle of Thermopylae,a cross of Gladiator, Lord of the Rings and Sin City. Director Zack Snyder gives the audience a visual treat with excellent action, great art direction and showing more going on then you would originally think, like the background fighting in the battle scenes. Gerard Butler offered an excellent performance as King Leonidas, and it has been his best role to date.
5. Batman Begins (2005)
This was another film that set new highs for comic-book films. Christopher Nolan set out to tell the dark psychology of Gotham’s protector, and brings in gritty realism to the genre. It’s clear Nolan wanted to bring Batman back to his roots and give fans of the comics the film they wanted after Joel Schumacher’s disastrous reign of the series. Nolan was clearly influenced by Frank Miller’s Batman Year One, one of the best Batman graphic novels. Batman Begins had a perfect cast, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanbe and Tom Wilkinson. Who can argue against that?
4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Whilst Spider-Man was good setup and had a very complex villain, Spider-Man 2 was truly Peter Parker’s story with his difficult double life and the consequent burden he carried. Raimi shows even more character depth and tells an excellent story. It is everything a sequel should be: more development of the characters and a wider story arc. The action scenes are fantastic, the subway fight was one of the best scenes in a comic book film.
3. Sin City (2005)
Frank Miller, along with Alan Moore, is a comic-book institution, giving the world some of the best graphic novels in the world. His Sin City series is his best work, and with Robert Rodriguez he set out to create the most loyal adaptation possible. These two wanted a dark, film-noir atmosphere told in a stylistic way and using the graphic novels as storyboards. There is a brilliant cast, with Mickey Rourke started his acting comeback, Bruce Willis showing he can be a deep brooding anti-hero, Clive Owen getting some action credentials and it’s the best film that Jessica Alba has ever done. To top it all the audience get three stories in one film.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
With Batman being made respectable again, Christopher Nolan was convinced to make a sequel. Having introduced the world to a new, gritty Batman set in a more realistic world, Nolan thought it was best to bring in Batman’s arch-rival, the Joker. Heath Ledger in his last full performance gives the audience a truly menacing villain, someone who does not care who get hurt when forcing Gotham in a new reign of terror. The Dark Knight also shows that dark, serious and gritty action and drama with a complex story can be very successful at the box office.
1. X2: X-Men United (2003)
When Bryan Singer filmed “X2” he kept mentioning The Empire Strikes Back as the type of sequel he wanted to make, a film that expanded the original ideas and of course, becoming better then the original film. With all the backstory dealt with in X-Men, Singer was able to jump straight into the action and with a bigger budget, he gave X-Men fans the sequel they truly wanted. Singer expanded on the themes of homophobia and discrimination, allowed more new characters and the further exploration of existing ones and a new faction was brought in: humans. It was a shame that Tom Rothman was so short-sighted to not allow Singer to complete his saga and forced through an inferior sequel.