There's no surprise here. With more than 60% of the vote, The Dark Knight overwhelmingly took the top spot as fan favorite in 2008, and the reasons are many.
Not only was TDK the top-grossing movie of the year (making $997 million so far, it's being re-released in theaters January 23rd) and breaking a plethora of box office records, but it tells a solid story that fully accesses the acting chops of all its talented cast.
Director Christopher Nolan's serious take on the subject matter has clearly revitalized the franchise, making it a viable vehicle for years to come. And bat-actor Christian Bale has been voted by fans as their all-time favorite for the part. Throw in Heath Ledger's Oscar-worthy performance as a believably psychotic Joker, and Aaron Eckhart's heart-rending transformation into Two-Face, and you have the template for one of the best comic book movies ever made.
Also of note, is the exceptional utilization of all the other characters by way of veteran actors Gary Oldman, Michael Cain, and Morgan Freeman. Even replacement actress Maggie Gyllenhaal made you sad to see her get blown up. Although, that makes room for some sexual tension in the next movie, which could be another purrrfectly planned plot point.
Look for Catwoman in the next bat-flick. Our sources say it's a sure thing.
Coming in second with a sizable 30% of fan love is Iron Man. Marvel Studio's first outing in the movie production biz was a HUGE success, and produced the first real blockbuster of 2008, making $582 million worldwide. Note to movie makers: if you want to make a winning comic book movie, study the way this movie was done. First, hire a director who knows comics. Jon Favreau proved to the fans early on that he had the knowledge and love for the source material to make this movie the way they wanted it. He promoted it at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con, started a MySpace blog to connect with fans, and communicated his progress on a regular basis. The result was to make a relatively unknown comics character into a promising new franchise, while jump-starting several other Marvel characters in the process. We'll soon be seeing Captain America and The Avengers in large part because of his handling of the Iron Man movie.
With the proper director at the helm, you can guarantee great writing, great acting, and great SFX. Favs didn't let us down with his casting either. For billionaire, playboy industrialist and flawed, yet redeemable, Tony Stark, Robert Downey, Jr. was perfect for the part. Usually in superhero movies you don't want the actor to overshadow the already larger-than-life character, but in this instance, the likable Downey, Jr.'s real life actually mirrored his comics character! He nailed the part and was tremendously fun to watch both in and out of the armor.
The movie made a boatload of cash at the box office and was exactly what a comic book movie should be about. Sheer fun, and there's more to come.
By coincidence, the number three fan favorite also received 3% of the vote. It is yet another Marvel endeavor, and the first of its kind. The Incredible Hulk also coined a new term that was added to Hollywood's lexicon -- The Reboot.
It's NOT a sequel, nor is it a prequel -- no, not even a remake. The reboot movie is made when there is dissatisfaction with a previous attempt, and the moviemakers feel the subject matter can shine in a second try.
Not happy with Ang Lee's angst-ridden attempt at the green goliath back in 2003, Marvel handed the reins over to director Louis Leterrier and actor Edward Norton -- giving fanboy Norton a lot of freedom to rewrite the script more to his liking. While the comparisons between Ang Lee's Hulk were inevitable, the new movie tried to be more fun and less Greek tragedy than the first attempt. They pretty much started over with new actors in every duplicate role, and succeeded in their goal by adding a super-powered enemy to battle the Hulk. The Abomination helped showcase what was missing from the first movie -- mainly a villain that the Hulk could take out his gamma-irradiated rage on.
It is yet unclear whether there will be a sequel to this year's reboot. Both Hulk movies made decent money at the theaters -- The Incredible Hulk making only a little more than the 2003 Hulk -- $263 million vs. $245 million. But fans all agree that this one is the definitive Hulk movie.
Guillermo del Toro's second Hellboy movie did not disappoint comic book movie buffs. Many liked it better than the first, and so it cements fourth place in our poll.
This one is a fine example of taking a comics character and storyline in a different direction for the movies than what was done in the comic book, yet still doing it justice. With Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Del Toro has definitely put his own mark on the character -- created for comics by Mike Mignola. There are many differences between the Hellboy of the movies versus the comics when you examine him in both mediums, but hardcore comic book readers also appreciate Del Toro's hand in the movies' continuity.
From his first outing, Ron Perlman epitomizes Hellboy, and The Golden Army script along with a cast of otherworldly monsters make this movie both captivating and entertaining.
And the movie made enough for sequel talk. Word is that Guillermo will do a Hellboy III movie right after he finishes The Hobbit.
The fifth super movie on our list, is a departure from your typical comic book movie fare. It is also departure for actor Will Smith, who stars in a role where he is not playing a likable character.
Hancock is a somewhat selfish and hard-living superhero who has fallen out of favor with the public, but is persuaded by a PR guy (Jason Bateman) to clean up his act. Inherently likable Smith actually pulls off this feat, making you dislike him -- a credit to his acting ability.
Further along in the story, things get a little more convoluted as we find out about Hancock's past (what he can remember of it), and who he really is. He discovers that he's had a previous "relationship" with the wife of his PR friend, played by Charlize Theron, and that's when the movie takes a whole different turn.
Whatever you think of the ending, Hancock is a fun movie and very original.
Our third Marvel flick came late in the year (December 5th) and was technically considered a box-office bomb, bringing in only $9 million so far. But Punisher: War Zone delivered exactly what it promised to fans of the ultra-violent comics character, and makes middle ground on our list as the sixth most-loved comic book movie of 2008.
Another karmic coincidence is that the third Marvel movie of 2008 would be a third remake of The Punisher on film. Most recently, Thomas Jane put on the Kevlar vest in 2004, and prior to that Dolph Lundgren played Frank Castle (a.k.a The Punisher) in the first flop way back in 1989. This newest incarnation stars Ray Stevenson and was considered a better portrayal because it made no bones about being a hard "R" -- something fans of the character felt was needed after the other lack-luster attempts.
Punisher: War Zone suffered some bad press when director Lexi Alexander didn't show up to hype it at San Diego's Comic-Con. Rumors flew, saying that all was not well behind-the-scenes. Lexi seemed to be at odds with Lionsgate over the production, and her blog got censored. Add to that the fact that there was very little promotion from the studio and next-to-no buzz about the film when it released, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Despite pretty good reviews from fans, this latest attempt to bring The Punisher to the big screen failed to generate broader interest in the character among moviegoers, so we probably won't be seeing any more sequels, remakes, or reboots for this one. Although, it will probably do well on DVD among the blood-and-guts crowd.
Lower on the list we have Wanted. Adapted from the Mark Millar comic by Russian Director Timur Bekmambetov, it's a fast-paced and exciting movie that stars James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, and yet again... Morgan Freeman. The guy gets around.
A young man destined for obscurity finds himself recruited into a fraternity of assassins after learning that he has inherited superhuman skills and abilities from his father -- who was considered the order's greatest. Now Wesley, must go up against an equally talented killer who is attempting to destroy the fraternity. The climactic finale makes for a satisfying twist.
Impressive SFX and a glimpse at Angie's coin slot surely places this comic book movie on the list of all-time fan favorites, although again, it is an example where the adaptation from comics to the big screen isn't exactly the same. A big chunk of the original story was gutted, and Angelina's character in the book was a short-haired black woman. But seeing Angie's bum is a mitigating factor. Definitely a must see!
Still lower on our list, it's the brightly-colored anime movie that was supposed to be the Wachowski brothers' comeback, Speed Racer.
We had high hopes that this classic cartoon would make for a good movie, and it wasn't all bad, but most moviegoers didn't bite at the box office. It was a little too long, and waaaay too loud. Plus, the fact that those who were around when the cartoon played on TV are now in their 40s probably meant that the younglings might not be that interested. You also kinda get the sense that someone said, "Hey, Nascar is big right now, what comic book movie has racing cars in it?"
Finally, bringing up the rear in our fan poll is The Spirit. Comics legend Frank Miller's directorial debut and tribute to his friend and mentor Will Eisner, who was the character's creator.
The Spirit, a 1940s style cop who somehow becomes an indestructible chick magnet after almost dying, is probably less well known to modern audiences than even Speed Racer. But the fervor for comic book movies is such that these lesser-known characters are getting the big bucks to be produced.
Just recently released on Christmas Day, its poor performance over opening weekend (only $6 million) has already tagged it as a bomb, although comic book movie fans saw this one coming a long way off. The film has been brutalized by fans and critics alike from the get go, and early negativity over previews and reviews have all contributed to this film's demise.
The Spirit's last place position seems to have been a foregone conclusion. Although, to be fair, the movie is still in theaters and hasn't had the same chance to shine as the other comic book movies that have gone before it this year. There are some comic book movie lovers who can forgive almost anything, so even The Spirit has its place on this list.
So there you have it, 2008's crop of fan-favorite comic book movies! Will 2009 produce more blockbusters or flops? Stay tuned next year for the likes of Watchmen, Dragonball Evolution, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, Astro Boy, and Whiteout.
Jim Littler is editor of ComicBookMovie.com
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