Anghus Houvouras with his 10 best comic book movie scenes…
As I watched X-Men: Apocalypse this week, I marveled at a particular thought that was swimming around my cerebellum: Bryan Singer has directed four of the best comic book scenes ever staged. This seems somewhat surprising since the finished films end up being a mish-mash of success and failure. More like ‘the X-Mess’. Am I right? And yet, within some of those X-Men films are sequences that are so perfect you begin to wonder how Singer’s brilliance doesn’t extend to the rest of the movie. Like Paul Maclean in A River Runs Through It, a character who achieves perfection while fly fishing but is never able to find that kind of grace in the rest of his life. It kind of makes Singer’s X-Men films kind of tragic. Flashes of brilliance ultimately smothered in mediocrity. Like an ice skater who achieves the perfect triple sowcow only to plummet through the surface of the frozen lake as they land.
But it would be difficult not to bring Singer’s name up when discussing the best comic book scenes ever put to film. So let’s take a look at my take on the 10 best comic book scenes ever put to film.
10. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -Batman versus Superman
No matter what you think of the final film (and most of you didn’t think much), the final smackdown between the Last Son of Krypton and the Bat of Gotham was craze-mazing. An absolute amazing sequence of brutal, pugilistic action that recalled the best moments of Frank Miller’s masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns. Ben Affleck’s unhinged Batman is almost frightening. A man driven to betray his core principles because he fears what this alien could do to his world. Zack Snyder makes the scene smash through the fourth wall with a sensory assault of sight and sound.
9. Spider-Man 2 -The Train Sequence
One of the biggest complaints from hardcore comic book fans is the how rarely the cinematic adaptations get the character ‘right’. In Spider-Man 2, Sam Raimi gets it all right. A harrowing sequence where a train full of passengers are in danger of being killed. Spider-Man has to reach deep into the reservoir to find the strength to prevent catastrophe. As the scene unfolds, he has to take off his mask revealing his identity: but it doesn’t matter. The legacy of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ is perfectly portrayed in this amazing sequence.
8. X-Men – Magneto’s Origin
One of the first great modern superhero films shows off Bryan Singer’s ability to direct a masterful scene. Young Eric Lensherr and his parents are being rounded up by the Nazis. When separated, he reaches out to them, his magnetic powers erupting for the first time. Multiple soldiers try to hold him, sliding through the mud as the gate begins to twist and warp. One soldier is smart enough to realize what’s happening and cold cocks Magneto with the butt of his rifle ending his outburst. It’s a scene or raw power and emotion with barely a word spoken. A true moment of perfect cinema telling us everything we need to know about Magneto and the tragedy that has created him. Of course, Matthew Vaughn would totally try to ruin that in X-Men: First Class.
7. V for Vendetta – Evey learns the truth about her captor
V for Vendetta is a solid adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal work, even though some would argue the Wachowski’s really managed to muck up the ending. In a story about the value of freedom, the most important moment comes when Evey (Natalie Portman) finally understands it’s meaning. She has been captured, tortured, and left in an isolated cell. Her only form of communication comes from notes being slipped to her which becomes an anchor for her sanity. Eventually she learns that she has not been captured by the despotic forces of the British Government, but by V himself. His gauntlet of punishment, both physical and emotional, was his final lesson to her. The moment she realizes the truth is both haunting and beautiful.
6. Green Lantern – Fighting the giant poop monster from space
Was there ever a more thrilling moment in any comic book movie than when Ryan Reynolds takes on a giant brown pile of amorphous feces from the far reaches of the galaxy?
Just kidding. NEXT.
6. American Splendor – The Grocery Store Line
American Splendor is a work that evokes both beauty and melancholy. Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) is the crustiest of curmudgeon who sees the creative value in the mundanity of day to day life. As he waits in line at a local market, his inner demons come to life in the form of cartoon versions of his inner monologue as he fumes about the cheap old woman who drones on about a set of glassware. It’s a moment that perfectly captures Pekar’s sense of humor and authorial style of his American Splendor series.
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