Not too long ago, comic book fans were considered nerds, geeks, and pariahs -- it was socially damaging to make it known that you’re a comic book fan. Comic book movies are becoming more and more mainstream now. These properties that were once obscure in the public eye have now become common knowledge. The same comics that were only known to a particular sect of society are now being consulted by filmmakers who look for inspiration and fans who are looking for references. However, no matter how popular comic book movies and shows become, they’ll always draw on the source material for inspiration. And this tendency to take from the source has led to some truly impressive adaptations before.
There have been a great deal of comic book storylines that have been adapted into movies over the years. And, as with anything, there have been some good versions and some bad versions. From the classic stories like “Knightfall” and “Planet Hulk” to the more obscure ones like “Panther’s Rage” and “Dangerous Habits”, adaptations have made their way into numerous comic book movies And have presented fans of the comics with some familiar elements that they can get excited about. Some of these movies are worthy adaptations that capture the spirit of what these storylines were about while others botch up the execution completely. With that, here’s ten stories that superhero movies got right, and ten it got wrong.
20 RIGHT: WATCHMEN
The success of this movie and 300 is what led to DC officials to appoint Zack Snyder as the initial czar of the DCEU (or Worlds of DC as it’s called now). Under Snyder’s direction, Watchmen was a beautiful, thought-provoking, and well-directed affair that gave audiences action but also made them think.
It’s easy to see why Snyder did so well with this, this was a match made in heaven. The Watchmen graphic novel fits Snyder’s style so well. The material is dense so it required a long runtime, there are so many philosophical questions for him to explore to his heart’s content, and it’s all about deconstructing the superhero trope and we all know Snyder loves to deconstruct.
19 WRONG: AGE OF ULTRON
Ultron has been a major Avengers villain for many years. A perfect example of his menace is in the 2013 alternate reality story "Age of Ultron", which saw him defeat Earth’s heroes and take over the world, leaving the remaining heroes with virtually no hope of victory. The movie version failed to instill the same dread.
The movie is called Avengers: Age of Ultron, not “Avengers: A Couple Days of Ultron”. The second Avengers movie failed to capture Ultron’s true menace. And on top of that, it didn’t even hint at the possibility of Ultron succeeding. We knew he wasn’t going to cause an extinction-level event, so the movie had audiences waiting to see how he’ll be defeated instead of fearing that he actually might pull it off.
18 RIGHT: KNIGHTFALL
The Dark Knight Rises may not have been as good as The Dark Knight, but it still managed to pull off a fantastic adaptation of a classic storyline. Knightfall is one of the most well known Batman stories in history. It introduces Bane, a powerful and intelligent foe, who goes on a crusade to defeat Batman.
This movie gave audiences an excellent yet realistic interpretation of Bane that also made sure to keep the main points of "Knightfall", including Bane being an unstoppable mix of brain and brawn, him waiting until Batman is not at his prime in order to strike, and, of course, the infamous back breaking moment that put Batman out of commission. In both stories, Bane broke the Bat in spirit and body.
17 WRONG: DEMON IN A BOTTLE
After the success of the first Iron Man , Marvel decided to just go bigger for the second one. They tried to stuff in several classic Iron Man villains, S.H.I.E.L.D lore, a redesign, and a big comic book storyline. With all of those in only the second movie, some things were bound to fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, the most egregious thing that they shortchanged was the 1979 storyline, "Demon in a Bottle".
This was one of the darkest but most well done storylines in Iron Man’s history. It features Tony’s battle with his drinking. His sickness is affecting his company, superheroics, and personal life. Iron Man 2 only gives us one scene of this and then we’re back to normal.
16 RIGHT: PANTHER’S RAGE
The 2018 Black Panther movie took the whole world by storm for several months due to its amazing story, beautiful cinematography, and fantastic cast. A lot of the elements in this movie, we owe from “Panther’s Rage”, a massive Black Panther story spanning 13 issues over the course of two years.
Killmonger usurping the throne by hurling T’Challa off of a waterfall and T’Challa’s dogged determination to reclaim the throne from Killmonger were the two biggest elements drawn from the story. However, they also touched on the unrest between T’Challa and his top advisors and T’Challa exploring a different part of Wakanda than he’s used to. “Panther’s Rage” was all about how T’Challa was one with his people. He fought for them and they fought for him.
15 WRONG: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA
X-Men: The Last Stand was a disaster. It’s just a shame that they tried to force the X-Men’s most ambitious storyline into a bad movie that had too much going on anyway. There was the resurgence of Magneto and the Brotherhood, a mutant cure, and then the Phoenix storyline. Something was going to get lost and that happened to be the Phoenix storyline.
In The Last Stand, the Phoenix Force was no longer an extradimensional energy force, but instead just Jean’s repressed power. And there wasn’t a massive space-faring arc where the X-Men desperately try to stop their friend and get through to her, but instead she was just Magneto’s lackey on Earth and didn’t do much until the very end when Wolverine just walked up and ended her.
14 RIGHT: CIVIL WAR
The MCU has been escalating ever since the original Avengers movie. Several movies have tried to top the movie that made the MCU a powerhouse and the first successful attempt at this was Captain America: Civil War.
Some detractors will argue that this movie didn’t have any physical stakes, but people forget that Civil War didn’t either. They fought hard against one another, but nobody wanted to kill anybody. When they were teleported out of prison 42, they immediately called a quick truce and made sure that everyone landed on the ground safely. On top of that, the movie correctly translated both the spectacle of all these superheroes clashing and the more personal tragedy of friends fighting until they’re almost beyond reconciliation.
13 WRONG: LAST HAND
“Last Hand” was one of Daredevil’s most iconic storylines (which is impressive considering he’s had a lot of them). The storyline followed a complicated plot involving Bullseye, Elektra, and Daredevil where Bullseye kills Elektra and a grieving Daredevil tries to get revenge.
The elements of this storyline were all there, they just didn’t mean much. Daredevil and Elektra had only had a few days worth of history. This means her demise was nowhere near as gut-wrenching as it should’ve been -- it just felt like the motivation in a generic superhero movie. Also, Bullseye and Daredevil had not had time to develop their rivalry. Bullseye harbors a deep hatred for Daredevil and that comes from years of a violent rivalry, not from making him miss a couple times.
12 RIGHT: NO MAN’S LAND
This was the second storyline that Christopher Nolan snuck into The Dark Knight Rises under most of our noses. When you actually break down Bane’s plan, it reads a lot like the 1999 story, "No Man’s Land" in which the government declared a recently ravaged Gotham City a “no man’s land”.
This story shares many similarities with The Dark Knight Rises. In both of them, all of the bridges leading in and out of Gotham are destroyed, the bravest of the police stay behind to try and keep whatever order they can, chaos reigns as criminals take advantage of the situation, and Batman is absent for months until he returns to help make things right. The movie perfectly captured the desperation of this situation.
11 WRONG: THE PUNISHER WAR ZONE
Hollywood hadn’t been able to get The Punisher completely right until Jon Bernthal’s take on the character in his appearance in season two of Marvel’s Daredevil. Most other iterations of The Punisher have failed to capture the depth that Frank Castle has as an inherently troubled soul. The most egregious of these missteps happened in 2008 with Punisher: War Zone.
The movie is entertaining for sure, but it fails to actually explore who Frank is other than a vigilante. The way he responds to adversity reveals nothing that we didn’t know about who he is. On top of that, Punisher: War Zone isn’t even remotely based on the comic that it’s named after. The movie actually shares more in common with The Punisher’s exploits during Punisher: MAX.
10 RIGHT: THANOS QUEST
There’s something engrossing about watching Thanos’s inexorable journey to collect all of the Infinity Gems. Watching this incredibly powerful force of nature march across the cosmos to collect the stones in different ways was intriguing even without any of the Avengers appearing.
Avengers: Infinity War captured this feeling because an argument can be made that Thanos is the protagonist of this movie. We watch him travel across the galaxy to do what only he has the strength to do. Audiences watch him decimate whole species to take a Stone, strong-arm others into giving him the Stone, and solving a puzzle to take the Stone. He used both his might and his intelligence to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet, just like he did in Thanos Quest.
9 WRONG: DANGEROUS HABITS
Hellraiser is an under-the-radar comic series about everybody’s favorite demonologist, exorcist, and petty dabbler in the dark arts, John Constantine. The “Dangerous Habits” storyline saw him battling lung cancer and trying to redeem his soul which was destined for hell.
Constantine actually did some elements of this comic correctly, namely Constantine using his wit to get his way out of an impossible situation. However, when you miss the mark on the actual character, there’s no way you can do any of that character’s stories correctly. Keanu Reeves plays the same zen messiah character he always played in the years between The Matrix and John Wick. John Constantine is a smart-mouthed, quick talking Brit who was unmatched in manipulating others and Reeves was way off the mark.
8 RIGHT: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
After The Last Stand failed to embrace the insanity of the “Dark Phoenix Saga”, you would be forgiven for being nervous about the movies tackling the “Days of Future Past” storyline which heavily featured time travel.
Luckily, Bryan Singer returned to the series and delivered a fantastic adaptation of the classic storyline. There are a few changes to accomodate the movie featuring the characters they’ve already introduced. However, Singer does a fantastic job with what he has available and actually follows the story pretty closely with only a few alterations to characters. X-Men: Days of Future Past presents us with a hopeless future and follows a tense time travelling mission launched by Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, and the remaining X-Men in order to prevent it.
7 WRONG: PLANET HULK
Yes, Thor: Ragnarok is a Thor movie, but the inclusion of so many plot elements from “Planet Hulk” means that, as long as the MCU exists, there won’t be a movie about it, so we’re counting it. Thor: Ragnarok was very entertaining and even developed the Hulk into an actual character.
However, the movie still missed the mark of what made “Planet Hulk” special. Gone was Hulk’s struggle to survive in a foreign land where his strength was only an asset in an arena. Also banished was the tyrannical Red King who ruled Sakaar. Nobody got to see Hulk lead a Gladiator-esque rebellion against the Red King and become the new king of Sakaar. So much cool Hulk action is now out of reach for the foreseeable future.
6 RIGHT: OLD MAN LOGAN
Logan is another superhero movie that was made better by vowing to stick to its genre. A lot of movies stick with a standard sci-fi genre backing up the movie, however, Logan was determined to be a Western and it happened to be an amazing one.
Despite its commitment to being a Western first, the movie still managed to be a fantastic adaptation of perhaps Wolverine’s most memorable storyline, "Old Man Logan". The story was about an aging Wolverine who wanted nothing but peace but was never really allowed to have it. The performance by Hugh Jackman perfectly portrayed this version of Wolverine who went from weary to fed up to fighting for his family.
5 WRONG: EXTREMIS
Iron Man 3 gets a lot of flak for deviating from the source material, especially since "Extremis", the storyline it was based off of, is universally loved. This storyline saw the introduction of a virus created by ambitious Maya Hansen and weak-willed Aldrich Killian that grants powers. This virus empowers Mallen and Tony is forced to inject himself with it to defeat him.
Despite it being a good movie, Iron Man 3 is very cavalier with the source material. Still, the alterations to the storyline were, for the most part, used to better the movie. Mallen was scrapped completely, Killian was the more ambitious one, and Tony never injected himself with Extremis. But the end result was a solid and actually surprising movie.
4 RIGHT: THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did a lot wrong, but Gwen Stacy was not one of them. Emma Stone has given us a version of Gwen Stacy that may never be topped. Devilishly smart, driven, quirky, and extremely likeable, Stone was everything that Gwen was supposed to be and more. And the chemistry she had with Andrew Garfield, Peter Parker, was nearly tangible.
That’s why her passing had as much weight as it did in the comics. Though the writing seemed to be on the wall for her character, it still hurt us deeply when she was gone. Plus, the method in which she fell, with Peter being unable to save her despite his absolute best efforts, had the same effect it did in the comics.
3 WRONG: THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN
There are many reasons why an easy slam dunk like Batman v Superman turned out to be a jumbled mess. The biggest had to do with the studio stuffing the some of the best Batman and Superman stories into one movie so they can catch Marvel.
Audiences did NOT have enough time to endear themselves to Superman by this point, and that’s why audiences didn’t feel much when Superman made his heroic sacrifice. The comic drew genuine sadness from audiences because they had come to know and love Superman over nearly 60 years of material. Batman v Superman killed him after only a few hours of a Superman who hadn’t even developed into the hero he was destined to be yet.
2 RIGHT: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best movies that Marvel Studios has produced, and is the superhero spy thriller that put the Russo Brothers on the map. It’s very well done and adapts one of Ed Brubaker’s best runs on Captain America, complete the introduction of the Winter Soldier, a formidable foe of Captain America with a sick metal arm.
The comic is a tense thriller that sees Captain America investigating the mysterious Winter Soldier only to discover that it’s Bucky, his supposedly long-gone best friend from the ‘40s. Cap desperately tries to save his friend, risking his life over and over to help Bucky remember who he is. Both the comic and the movie display Cap’s iron will and dedication to people rather than the mission.
1 WRONG: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
Once again, Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. messed up an iconic storyline from one of its flagship characters. It’s really impressive that they managed to mess up two storylines in one movie -- Batman v Superman adapted so many elements of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns it should be considered an adaptation.
Also once again, they missed the mark of what made The Dark Knight Returns so special. This story features an older, embittered Batman who struggles to take his city back while dealing with his old age. And the battle between Batman and Superman in that one is much more philosophical than anything, with Superman being the puppet of the country and Batman representing the individuals who revolt against this totalitarianism.