Yeah. OK. So comic book heroes and cartoons and even some movies that may not be specifically based on comic books and comic strips might not be the normal definition of an Essential Movie. But as I’ve written most every week, my posts, my rules. One thing about many of the movies this week – they were probably not critically acclaimed by any stretch of the imagination. Some of them in fact were roundly trashed. But I find them fun watches, no matter how bad they might have been to the critics.

Now, I’m going to screw everything up right from the beginning with a couple of movie series that aren’t based on Comics, other than as homages to the Saturday movie serials of the 1930s. Even though Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are not specifically based on a comic strip or comic book, the stories are the type of fun that comics have long epitomized.

The other series of movies that I’ve enjoyed that while not specifically based on a comic book hero (at least not that I’m aware of) are three TV movies from TNT starring Noah Wyle; The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mine, and The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice.

Now to start with a couple of comic strip heroes. While there was an earlier Dick Tracy film, the one I’m most willing to watch again is Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (with Madonna). The Phantom is another comic strip hero that came out of the 1930s. The Shadow is also out of the ’30s and has appeared in radio, comic books, comic strips, and multple movies:

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Now then. Marvel or DC? Or Marvel and DC? I read comics from both growing up but as I got older, became far more of a fan of the Marvel universe than I was of DC. I think maybe DC represented the establishment in those days. I do know that the movies based on Marvel characters seem to hold up a bit better for me. I enjoyed the first Superman and the first Batman but the sequels and later versions have not done much for me. Except for Catwoman but that’s probably the vestigial remnants of sexism coming through.

Marvel has had a lot of movies and as far as I can remember, most of the movies seem to have stayed true to the original stories from the comics. I know that Spiderman and Spiderman 2 both seemed to follow my memory of the early comics. Same with the Fantastic Four and the Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I have to admit though that I still don’t see Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. I’m not real sure who I would have cast there so don’t mind me.

The Hulk seems to be a Marvel character that gets re-cycled often and I have to admit that I’ve watched neither of the recent movies, Hulk (from 2003) and The Incredible Hulk (from 2008). I would hope they were better than the TV series (though since Lou Ferrigno is in both, who knows?).

Daredevil is definitely true to the original story. I’m not sure if I ever read any stories about Elektra from the comics, but the movie makes good background noise, even if it is a bit pretentious sometimes. Iron Man has been updated a bit to make the “bad guys” be the semi-standard Middle Eastern types instead of the Russians but over all still stays relatively true to the basics.

One sad fact is that many movies from comic books turn out to be bad, even if the movies turn out to make money. Are there more than in the normal scheme of movie making? Probably not. But one of the hallmarks of movies based on comics is the dedicated fan who has probably mentally cast a movie, who has awaited the movie, almost as a validation of being a fan. Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer are two that I watch still but think could have been so much better. I think Ghost Rider (with Nicholas Cage) and Kull the Conqueror (with Kevin Sorbo), while I find them somewhat entertaining, could have been a bit better with different casts. I’m not sure who I would have preferred in those roles, but am fairly sure that both could have been better.

Then there is the TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (with David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury). From der Google results, it looks like Nick Fury is coming around again only with Samuel L. Jackson as the title character. He should be able to do better, that’s for certain.

Howard the Duck had so much potential. Sadly, unfulfilled. But you can see a young pre-Nuke LaLoosh Tim Robbins.

For lack of a better place for these, I’ll end with two strictly animated films I do enjoy; Aladdin and Cars. Otherwise, I’ve managed to avoid most of the “blockbuster” Disney animated films from the last couple of decades.

Other posts in this series are Essential Movies, Westerns, Historical Settings (pre-1500), Historical Settings (post 1500), Sword and Sorcery, Science Fiction, War Movies, Crime and Punishment, Music, Song and Dance – and Elvis, Sports, Spies, and PI’s.

And because I can: