Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the genre of comic book movies extends beyond Marvel Studios and DC/Warner Bros. While these two are certainly responsible almost entirely for the boom in superhero film popularity, there are plenty of other comic book stories that have been adapted to the big screen. And while most such movies not associated with Marvel or DC have met with limited success, there are a handful that are worth checking out a second time.
5. Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance: The 2007 Ghost Rider film was a combination of things that didn’t work. On one hand, it was a traditional superhero origin story that seemed tired even in 2007, before superhero movies as we know them now really even came into being; on the other, it was straining to show a dark side to comic adaptations, and the strain was evident. It’s no surprise that critics and fans pretty much dismissed the sequel. But as pointed out on a list of underrated superhero films, the sequel kind of just let loose. A smaller budget, an R-rating, and pretty much no pressure led to an absolutely ridiculous exhibition of pure fun and Nic Cage at his over-the-top best. It’s by no means a terrific movie but for people who like a certain kind of action movie—and take such movies with a grain of salt—it’s a lot of fun. Also, don’t think of this as just another Marvel movie. Yes, Ghost Rider is a Marvel character, but the film was made by Marvel Knights—a sort of failed side studio to Marvel Studios—and distributed by Columbia Pictures.
4. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: This 2003 film made some noise upon its release, though many may not have realised it was based on a comic. But indeed it is, and the comic actually has decent reviews. The movie, however, was smashed to pieces by critics and generally dismissed as a nonsense piece of steampunk fantasy. Fair enough, but give it another go with no expectations and you’re liable to appreciate it a little bit more. It’s a wildly adventurous film packed with colourful characters, and like Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance it’s just fun to watch.
3. Dredd: Despite struggling among critics and at the box office, 2012’s Dredd has gained an enthusiastic following of action fans who appreciated its dark, dystopian atmosphere. The film remains popular in a few different ways today. You’ll find a listing here for a Judge Dredd slot machine game that exists at a few different online channels, which are traditionally populated with more mainstream superhero characters. For instance, the Avengers, X-Men, and DC characters often feature in slots that are meant to draw on the interests of existing fans. That Dredd has a place among them proves the movie’s enduring popularity. And then there’s the fact that there have been fan petitions begging for a sequel! Give this movie a shot. It’s not for everyone, but it’s sort of like RoboCop meets The Punisher in a Matrix-esque atmosphere, and that’s fun for a lot of action fans.
2. Punisher: War Zone: The Punisher is bigger than ever thanks to Jon Bernthal’s introduction as the character in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil series. But he was actually brought to the big screen well before Daredevil, by the same Marvel Knights studio that made the Ghost Rider films. Thomas Jane took up the role in the first Punisher film, but Ray Stevenson’s take in Punisher: War Zone (the sequel) should absolutely delight everyone who wishes superhero movies would were darker. This film’s a bloodbath, plain and simple. Incidentally, the game that followed the film’s release was kind of a blast as well.
1. Constantine: This film seemed to have a lot going for it. It was based, at least in part, on a DC Comics series. Really, it was taken from a series called Hellblazer that was later turned into a Vertigo property, though DC continued with adaptations based on main character John Constantine. More importantly, the film starred Keanu Reeves in a darkly lit action flick (tinged with green), just two years after the conclusion of the Matrix trilogy. Nevertheless, it earned distinctly average reviews and has been largely forgotten among comic book adaptations. Plus, if nothing else, there’s the blurb quoted from a Time Magazine review here: at one point, Keanu Reeves steps into a small pale of water, sits on a chair next to it, and holds a cat in his lap. Is there anything more fun than Keanu doing strange Keanu things?
As you may have noticed, the thread connecting all of these movies is that they’re just pure fun. They’re not terrific productions, but if you’re the type who likes to let loose and allow a film to take you someplace absurd, these are worth another look.