Comicbook Movies of the Millennium: 2015: The year in review
Comicbook Movies of 2015
What are we doing here?
Since 2000 (the year that Marvel’s first X-Men film came out, and fundamentally altered the way that both Hollywood and — by extension — all of pop culture) viewed the comicbook genre. Since then there have been between four and a dozen comicbook-related films released per year. Over the past decade-and-a-half we have been tracking comicbook movies, (we have a 30+year history or reporting of actual comics). In 2015 there were five comicbook-related movies that hit the theaters. As we’ve reported in previous installments of this column, we are only discussing live-action films that a) either started off in comics, b) are clearly influenced by comicbooks themselves, or c) 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 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:
Kingsman: A review
Based upon Mark Millar’s acclaimed comicbook published by Marvel Comics Kingsman is not so much a Marvel comic as it is a creator-owned title that is published by Marvel much in the same way that Millar’s Kick-Ass was also a creator-owned comic published by Marvel. (Millar also penned the very ground-breaking comicbook series Civil War, which is the premise for the upcoming Captain America movie. The premise for the film is that the Kingsman: The Secret Service which tells the story of an über-secret British-based but independent spy organization that for the past 100 years or so, has served at the highest level of international protocol in order to keep the peace.
This is a well-told tale that is about how the agency recruits an unrefined but promising street kid, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) who happens to be the son of an agent who died in the line of duty some 17 years earlier, due to the screw-up of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) — who goes by the code-name of Galahad. As it turns out, Eggsy runs into a spot of trouble and (finally) calls a number that was given to his Mum upon the death of his dad. The call (and the use of the proper password) alerts the agency to his plight and sends Hart to his rescue and ultimate recruitment into the ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius named Valentine (Samuel Jackson).
Here come the Mighty Avengers!
The second Avengers film, has the team going up against not only the terrorist group, Hydra, but a software protocol program turned sentient killer robot named Ultron. Once again the film is based upon the Marvel comic, and follows the (cinematic) lives of those heroes. As was its predecessors, the film is bigger, brassier, and bolder than those that came before it, upping the ante as it ratchets up the spectacle. The film is dense, packs wall-to-wall with dynamic CGI action-packed heroics, espionage-lever subterfuge, and more Easter eggs than you can shake a fanboy’s dreams at.
Still, it is clear that this film being packaged by people who not only respect the source material, but have the vision to elevate it to a plateau beyond what their original visionaries dreamed. Thus, the film is amazingly cool, and hits on all cylinders, so yes, this film bypasses the over-blown, over-stuffed middle issue tale of trilogy superhero films, and manages to be every bit as exciting and entertaining as the first Avenger film and makes us hungry for more.
Marvel's biggest little hero
While this is yet another (Marvel) comicbook it is just a tad different than most of the other Marvel films that have been produced thus far. Even though Ant-Man is one of the original heroes of the Marvel Universe. he is probably largely unknown by the general public, as he simply hasn’t had the kind of longevity of a solo run in the comics as most of the other heroes thus far on the screen. Unlike his comicbook version, Pym, while working for SHIELD created Particles that allow him to shrink down to ant size, but he had a parting of the ways with the spy organization.
Flash forward some 30 years to find a much older and semi-retired Pym now looking to (once again) keep his Pym Particles out of the hands of someone who is less altruistic than himself; only this time it is protégée (and current head of Pym’s company) Darren Cross. In an effort to stop him, Pym (along with his daughter Hope and scientist and ex-con Scott Lang who is something of a tech-genius himself to stop Cross. Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. What ultimately makes this film different from the other marvel movies it that it is noticeably much lighter in tone than all of the others (save perhaps for Guardians of the Galaxy), giving it entirely a different feel.
Fantastic Four Trailer
Fox's Fantastic Four
OK, kids, while this incarnation of the FF purports to be yet another rendition of Marvel Comic’s Fantastic Four, only (sadly) is isn’t the iconic fantastic quartet of heroes that we met in 1961 as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, nor is it the characters we saw in any of the various TV cartoons we’ve seen over the year, nor the live-action characters who appeared in the first two Fox films. Hell, these aren’t even the folks who appeared in the “lost” Roger Corman film that was made in ‘94. No, this is the cinematic version of the “Modernized re-imagining” of Marvel's long-running Fantastic Four comicbook franchise that were created by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, and Adam Kubert which debuted in print early 2004, and was part of the company’s Ultimate Universe imprint. So what we’ve wound up here is not so much the Fantastic Four, but “an incredible simulation” of Stan and Jack’s fictional children.
So what we wind up with is that this incarnation of the team is simply not the FF. Further, the film takes itself so seriously that everything is done ponderously slow, and with great weight, so as to show you how serious the film takes itself. Gone is the human, family element of connectivity that we saw in all previous incarnations over the past 50+ years, the feet-of-clay every-man-turned-hero that imbued the various characters with life, gone is the playful frenemy bi-play between Johnny (The Human Torch) Storm and Ben (The Thing) Grimm. All of it tossed aside to rush yet a new reboot of these characters to the screen. Our advice is to shine on this version entirely.
Attack on Titan trailer
Attack On Titan: Part One
Based on a Japanese Magna Attack On Titan, is the story of a teenage boy named Eren Jaeger who is living in a post-apocalyptic world where over 100 years ago what was lefty of civilization built a series of three walls to keep out a race Titians from mankind. Now mankind is on the brink of extinction when those man-eating monsters re-appear to terrorize everyone and destroy the last of human civilization left in the world. Now Jaeger and his friends who have all joined the military must fight alongside each other in order to defeat the titan race.
In this subtitled film, humanity lives in fear of the Titans who are a race of human-looking beasts who take the appearance of humans but are much larger and lack sexual organs. For the past 100 years, mankind has been living peacefully behind giant walls that protect them from the Titans. One day, an enormous Titan not only breaches the wall but leads a horde of Titans inside who proceed to kill and eat everyone including Eren's girlfriend, and force Eren and his friends to retreat to the inner walls. Feeling vengeful, Eren joins the scouting legion in order to wipe all Titans from the world. The film is terrifying in its visual effects (this is a Japanese film, remember, with a different set of sensibilities, but you simply can’t look away as the film unfolds across the screen. This is Part One, with both Parts One and Two available on Blu-ray.