The 5 most underrated comic book films in history
With the film market consumed by comic-book adaptations, it’s inevitable that not every cape-wielding property will get people’s attention. Whether it’s due to poor timing, a lack of publicity or requiring an acquired taste, some of the genre’s most enjoyable films have never enjoyed the mainstream success of the big-name Marvel and DC superheroes.
Most audiences have probably never even heard of them, but that doesn’t make these five underrated comic adaptations any less entertaining as standalone films that have stood the test of time. So let’s slap on our rose-tinted glasses and assess which basement-dwelling comic book movies belong in the limelight.
Ask anybody who’s seen Dredd and they’ll say it’s a pitch-perfect recreation of the source material that delivers gripping action and a definitive portrayal of the titular character, courtesy of Karl Urban. The only tricky part of that request is actually finding somebody who saw Dredd. Ultimately, no matter how much good will was spread, there just wasn’t an appetite for this property. Its plot coincidentally mirrors another film released around that time, The Raid, which became a successful cult hit that spawned a sequel. So far, there’s been no such optimism for a Dredd franchise returning to the screens.
Despite a coveted summer release slot and some big named to boot, this underrated comic book adaptation was most likely a victim of bad timing. Debuting after the Batman franchise fizzled out and before the massively successful X-men, audiences were indifferent to the superhero genre and didn’t connect with Mystery Men’s tongue-in-cheek approach. This movie might be a little niche, but it’s a fun parody of a superhero genre that often takes itself too seriously. If this film were released 10 years later, we’d all be dressing as The Bowler’s Daughter for Halloween and slurping from individualised Big Gulp cups with your favourite Mystery Man on the side.
Blade may sit atop unstable ground in this list considering it was successful enough to warrant two sequels, but what makes this film under-rated is that while many assume X-men or Spider-Man were the godfathers of the superhero genre revival, such talk could get you pilloried by comic book fans who recognize Blade as the true comic adaptation that set the genre in motion. David Goyer penned the script, which seems to have set the table for his later work on The Dark Knight trilogy. Blade was a grim, edgy film that featured a dynamic hero, and, most importantly, took its subject seriously. After Blade, the campy, childish comic book adaptations like Batman & Robin became few and far between as studios began shifting the tones of their superhero films to be more realistic and gritty.
Though by no means a flop, V for Vendetta may be one of the most important comic book movies to have the smallest cultural footprint. The author of the comic, Alan Moore, notably expanded upon the superhero mould with V for Vendetta and Watchmen by challenging his youthful audience to think deeper about the purpose of heroism in society. In a fictitious, dystopian reimagining of Britain, the superhero of this film is a terrorist, which was a bold character to lionize just five years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Though perhaps too cerebral in both message and dialogue to strongly resonate with massive crowds, this film is stylish, atmospheric, and well crafted, but the themes of this story are what should stir up conversation.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a director’s showcase that blends humour and imagination with masterfully choreographed film techniques. Adjusting to the high-energy filmic language of Scott Pilgrim can be jarring to some viewers, so maybe don’t watch it if you’re prone to light-induced seizures. But once you become accustomed to the razor-sharp, expertly directed style of true auteur Edgar Wright, get ready for a lot of fun. As a result, it’s not exactly understood why this movie tanked. Perhaps people were reluctant to flood the box office for such an ostentatious movie mostly falling within the narrow purview of gamer-culture. Maybe people were just sick of Michael Cera. Fortunately, this one-of-a-kind movie is finding an audience as it gets longer in the tooth.