Friday, August 8, 2014

Top Five Films Based on Alternative Comic Books

Stan Lee is laughing all the way to the bank with every blockbuster film that’s based on a Marvel title. And while Spider-Man and company have gotten a lot of big-screen exposure in recent years, there are a wealth of films out there that were based on lesser known comic works that don’t get the attention they deserve.

Here’s guest writer Brandon Engel's top five movies based on alternative comics:

5. Snowpiercer (2013)
Based on the French comic La Transperceneige, the film takes place in a dystopian future where climate change has wiped out the global population, except for the microsociety that has  formed aboard the Snowpiercer (a commercial train). The story focuses largely on the issues and class warfare that becomes a problem on the train itself. The film features excellent performances from Tilda Swinton, Chris Evans, and John Hurt.

4. Heavy Metal (1981)
This classic animated feature based on the adult-fantasy publication Heavy Metal (which was itself based on the French publication Métal Hurlant). The film is an anthology of pulpy science-fiction and fantasy stories, each involving the Locnar, a strange green orb that has magical powers. It’s got a little something for everybody, and by everybody, I mean 14 year old boys: cartoon sex, buxom warrior women riding pterodactyls, zombies aboard a World War II bomber, and vintage heavy metal music. However gendered and overwrought with cliches, the animation is excellent, and it evokes the paintings of Frank Frazetta and the sword and sorcery pulp literature of Robert E. Howard. A must watch for genre fans.

3. Fritz the Cat (1972)
Animator Ralph Bakshi purchased the rights to underground comic Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat in the seventies and set about making the world’s first X-rated animated feature. Crumb himself didn’t shy away from vulgarity, and Bakshi seems to revel in it. The film reflects much of what the counter-culture was starting to develop a reputation for, and it is filled with profanity, animated nudity, and blatant references to sex and drug use. It was an extremely audacious piece of filmmaking, although Crumb was famously displeased with the film.

2. Tank Girl (1995)
Lori Petty plays Tank Girl, the heroine of the underground English comic series who is sort of like a riot girl vigilante in a post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce. She’s part of a team that tries to steal water from the corporations who hoard it (and the villains like Kesslee [Malcolm McDowell] who harvest it from human bodies). Although the film Tank Girl was met with lukewarm reviews upon it’s initial release, it’s being re-embraced by a whole new generation of young viewers, thanks largely to the fact that it’s streamable online (check this website) and it’s recently been re-released on Blu-Ray.

1. The Crow (1994)
This is the film that will, unfortunately, be best remembered as Brandon Lee’s final film (Lee died tragically during production when the shell of a blank penetrated into his stomach). The film is an adaptation of a comic by James O’Barr, which tells the story of Eric Draven, a young musician who is murdered alongside his girlfriend. Draven is resurrected by a crow (a spiritual median in the story) so that he may take revenge on the gang that harmed him. The film is one of a kind, creating a world that is almost evocative of Tim Burton’s work, without all of the cutesy elements.


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