Yeah, yeah, we know that we are running really late with this installment of our ongoing overview of comicbook movies, but you know, life happens. So, as have previously mentioned, we are essentially only discussing live-action films that either started off in comics, are clearly influenced by comicbooks themselves, or by comicbook superheroes. Films that we are not considering for this series include anything that originally appeared on TV (live action or animated), theatrically-released animated films, or films based on properties adapted into comics, but were best known for initially appearing in another medium (e.g.: toys). We are also not considering films that were released direct to video or DVD.
The films discussed below (after the links section) are listed in the order that they were released during the year. The links that follow immediately categorize films as the titles indicate; those links are followed by links to the films chronically by year with the most recent year listed first:
Top 10 Superhero Movies of the Millennium (2013 list)
Top 10 non-Superhero comicbook Movies
The 10 Worst Comicbook Movies of the Millennium
Superhero Movies that are not based on comicbooks
Other articles in this series are located via the below links:
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2013
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2012
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2011
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2010
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2009
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2008
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2007
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2006
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2005
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2004
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2003
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2002
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2001
Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2000
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.
Sin City 2
Back in 2005, Comicbook writer/artist Frank Miller adapted (with the help of Director Robert Rodriguez) Miller’s 1991 Dark Horse comicbook series, Sin City into a film of the same name. Then in 2014, the pair finally gave us a sequel to the film (there have been several Sin City limited series issued by Dark Horse over the years — each of the films covered a couple or so of each of the storylines). Why it took nearly a decade to bring the sequel to the big screen is anyone’s guess, but this outing again weaves together stories (replacing Clive Owen’s Dwight with Brolin, but keeping much of the cast from the first film in their original roles), as the hard boiled town’s most dangerous citizens cross paths with some of its more notorious inhabitants.
As with the first film (as well on the comics which they were based), the stories in these films are very dark, violent, and stray towards the Tarantino splatter-punk end of the entertainment spectrum. To be sure, when we first read these comics (and saw the original film) we were in absolute awe of not only Miller’s vision, but in Rodriguez’s ability to translate such to the screen. However, a decade hence, we found ourselves not quite so moved by the on-screen imagery. Which is not to say that we didn’t enjoy this film, but rather that is simply didn’t move us as much as did the first, which is just sad as far as I’m concerned as the first one was so mind-blowingly spectacular. Still, this outing is still well worth checking out if you happen across it.
Big Hero 6
Set in a fictional futuristic hybrid metropolis called San Fransokyo — which is a wicked-cool mashup of San Francisco and Tokyo — that is a place where the tech out-strips anything currently in either city. Hiro Hamada (voiced by Potter), and his big brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney), live with their Aunt Cass (voiced by Maya Rudolph) because their parents died when Hiro was only three years old. At 14, Hiro is something of a robotics progeny, who wants to spend his time building and fighting battlebots, that is until Tadashi takes Hiro to his college — which Hiro refers to as “Nerd School”. There Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends, Gogo Tomago (voiced by Chung), Honey Lemon (voiced by Rodriguez), Fred (voiced by Miller), and Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) where he finally gets excited about the possibility of what an education can actually do for him. Tadashi’s school project is Baymax, a robotic healthcare nurse. Well, some bad stuff happens (there is a suspicious explosion in the school with some very nasty repercussions) setting Hiro on the path to upgrading Beymax, and becoming a superhero (along with Tadashi’s school friends) in order to save the city from a villainous individual.
The film — based on a short-lived Marvel Comic from 2008–09 — is fun, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable. Combing way-cool anime -style digital animation, a very compelling storyline, and yes, even great acting (kudos go out to Richard Kind’s uncredited cameo as a San Fransokyo desk cop). Like the original Toy Story, and The Incredibles before it, this film is really more than just an animated kid’s film as it manages to transcend its own origins and become a truly engrossing film that often makes you forget that it is essentially a feature-length Saturday morning cartoon.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In this updating of their original origin story, the city desperately needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as they mysterious Shredder (looking quite a bit like the Silver Samurai, and voiced by Tohoru Masamune) and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future looks especially grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise up from the sewers (yes, literally) and achieve their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. To save the city the Turtles must cooperate with fearless reporter named April (Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Arnett) in order to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.
Like most of the other comicbook movies out there this one proves to be a rip-roaring success with its share of laughs, tension, superheroic antics, and mind-blowing, wicked-cool over-the-top CGI action. Not just a film for kids, but serious fun for adults (especially those of us who discovered the comic, and then lost track of it as it became more and more targeted for kids). Check it out. Not so serious as Captain America, nor nearly as cosmic as Guardians of the Galaxy, but fun enough.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
As we enter this new X-Man film it is the near future and mutants are being hunted down by an army of robotic soldiers who have been tasked with either capturing or destroying them, and those heroes that are left are staging a holding action to attempt one last desperate measure to rectify the problem and end the insanity, by sending one of their member back into the past in order to stop the mutant-hunting sentinels before they rise to become an unstoppable power that will wipe them all out. To this end, the ultimate ensemble X-Men must fight a war for the survival of, not only their species but for humans as well that spans across two time periods.
This series of films continues to reinvent itself as it taps into one of the comic’s epically legendary storylines that not only ties together all of the previous films, but continues to successfully tap the source material for filmable stories. As with both Captain America: Winter Soldier, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past understands that a quality film isn’t all just “Superhero stuff” there is action, yes, but there is also drama, pathos, and even humor. As with those films so too does this film have the stuff to elevate the movie above just “another” superhero flick, into an actual movie that simply happens to be about people with extraordinary powers who wear spandex.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Here it is, kids, the blockbuster comicbook movie of the year. Yep, that’s right, as good as you might have thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, or X-Men: Days of Future Past was, Guardians of the Galaxy not only knocks it out of the park, it sends it out into the stratosphere. Yes, this movie was really that good (if you haven’t seen it yet, or are going to see it again, make sure you sit through all of the credits for both (yes both) end trailers). Unlike the other Marvel comicbook films (the ones mentioned, as well as all of the previous ones stretching back to the beginning of this millennium), as well as on the eponymous comicbook on which this film was based. This particular movie simply doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as all the rest (Hey, there is a talking raccoon and a walking plant man in this one that utters only a single phrase throughout the film).
While that all sounds like a straight-forward action flick, the entire film is clearly having way too much fun with itself to become preoccupied with setting up and delivering on a “serious” tone. To those who inhabit the halls of Geekdom, the film is a true runaway hit garnering very positive word of mouth from fans who have seen it during its opening week. While some “mainstream” critics have savaged the film for not looking or feeling like virtually every other Marvel comicbook film, both hardcore fans and casual observers have been singing the praises of how well this film has not only plumed the breadth of Marvel cosmic lore (it really is chock-a-block full of Easter Eggs and visual references to Marvel Comics characters, plots and storylines) but how easily it is accessible to even the most casual of audience member, offering up the feel of both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope (to which Guardians has been favorably compared).
In this new film — adapted from the Radical Publishing comic — re-interprets the “myth” of Hercules as not so much the actual son of an actual god, but as just a really, really strong guy with great PR. So we now have Dwayne Johnson playing Hercules, the legendary “son” of the Greek god Zeus and a mortal woman. What we really did like about this film is that it took a slightly different tact than virtually every other film about Hercules ever made, as it “humanizes” him, playing down his “godlike” origins and presenting him more akin to a man buffeted about by the vagaries of fate, mystics, and kings.
At any rate, most of us already know the broad strokes of the legend of Hercules and his twelve labors; this story begins after the completion of most of the labors, and after the legend of his prowess has grown. Haunted by a sin from his past, Hercules has become a mercenary. Along with five faithful companions, he travels ancient Greece selling his services for gold and using his legendary reputation to intimidate enemies. However when the “benevolent” ruler of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules’ help to defeat a “savage and terrifying” warlord, Hercules finds that in order for good to triumph and justice to prevail he must again become the hero he once was. Now he must embrace his own myth, and actually become Hercules in truth.
Edge of Tomorrow
We realize that we are going to be in the minority when we say this but we found this film to be — while not entirely uninteresting — largely bloodless. It is a videogame set on endless repeat, where no matter how many times you die; you simply re-boot back to the starting point and have another go at it. While everyone who reviews this film is inevitably going to make the Groundhog Day reference, we could cite a half a dozen other “time loop” films that essentially do the same thing. The protagonist gets so far, runs into an impasse, then dies/wakes up/whatever, and is reset to the beginning only to try something slightly different and manages to get a little farther in their quest until Bingo, we’re there and resolution. The film is based on the Japanese Young Adult Manga novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka about an alien race that has invaded the Earth in an unrelenting assault that has proven to be nearly unbeatable by any military unit.
Sorry kids, this is one of the reasons why we don’t play videogames any more. The repetition is killing us. Actual forward plot movement is replaced with the illusion of forward movement. Don’t get us wrong, the action is spot on, the acting is engaging enough, there is a fair amount of gallows humor to make the endless re-boots entertaining enough, but we simply can’t get past the sameness of it all coupled with the obvious derivative nature of both the story itself as well as all of the visuals (the alien race looks like a cross between the Matrix creatures and Transformers, while the “drop wire” nature of the attack riffs on Starship Trooper (the book, not the crappy film adaptation); while the invasion of Normandy harkens back to Private Ryan; and then there’s the whole Groundhog’s Day thing again — yeah, this one didn’t do anything for us especially as the ending of the film is telegraphed all the way through the film itself due to the very nature of the “Time Loop/Re-boot” scenario built into the plot.
Again, the visuals are interesting enough, the story isn’t all bad, and the acting is fine, the characters themselves have depth; it is just the underlying package that leaves us cold. Your mileage may vary.
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, that was made into a South Korean sci-fi action film in 2013, then brought to the U.S. and distributed by the Weinstein Company. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic climate-change future where an extreme temperature change dropped the world’s temperature dropped rapidly to where the entire globe was covered in a new ice age. According to the back-story, it was an experiment to counteract global warming gone awry that caused the ice age which killed virtually all life on Earth. Now, with all life on the planet — except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that circumnavigates the Earth annually — houses all the remaining survivors.
This is a brutal and bloody rebellion that shakes up everything those in revolt know about their life on the train. The film depicts class struggle and makes all sorts of parallel comparisons to the state of the modern-day world. Unfortunately, the film is currently only in limited release (mostly in art houses around the U.S.), but it is available on-demand through some cable networks. Despite its relatively poor PR, knowledge of the film is rippling through the Sci-Fi, film, Geek community, and gaining an on-line audience and very positive buzz, as it is an exceptionally thrilling film with a solid cast of American actors. The film is depressingly bleak, utterly harsh, and totally brutal in its depiction of its dystopian future, but it is also stunning brilliantly in its execution of this darkly compelling vision of a future gone mad. Not necessarily for everyone, but we do strongly urge those looking for not the usual synthesized Hollywoodland action film, to seek out this amazing film and watch it.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
This film is not really what it seems to be, really. It is pitched as black comedy telling us the story of an actor who became famous for portraying an iconic superhero on film for four blockbuster movies, then walked away from not only the franchise, but from fame itself. As the film opens, it is several years later, and the actor is older, and yet, perhaps not so much wiser. He is shown attempting to mount a dramatic Broadway play that he has written, directed, and in which he is staring. The play, a new retelling of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As the film unfolds, we are witnessing the run-up to opening night, as he battles his own ego, attempts to recover his family, his career, and ultimately, himself.
As stated, Riggan Thomas (Keaton), was once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called Batma…er, the Birdman, and had turned down yet another installment of the franchise, as he saw it as hollow and soul-crushing. Now, years later, he is all but completely washed up, and is attempting to reinvent himself as a Broadway director by staging a new retelling of Carver’s classic play. Unfortunately Riggan is a mass of nerves as the events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another. During a dress rehearsal, the original lead actor is injured while on set forcing Riggan to scramble in order to locate a replacement for him. As it turns out, the replacement proves to be precisely who Riggan needs — a strong-willed, method actor Mike (Norton) who takes the job way too seriously (interrupting the preview reading — in front of an audience — in order to protest the lack of actual gin in the prop bottle of gin).
The film is not only told in essentially a single take (the camera following Riggan and others as they walk through the various sets, with a only couple of dissolves to show the passage of time), but is powered by a driving soundtrack often punctuated by a killer drumbeat that works its way up to a crescendo as the on-stage action ratchets up. What the single-take filmography does is make the film appear to be more of a play, and increase the intimacy and immediacy of the film itself. Another aspect of the film that is important to remember (especially in light of the rather spectacular ending of the film) is its subtitle, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. This is because there is a certain amount of ignorance that is going on throughout the film, but basically each of the characters.