The Best of the Decade pt. 2: Indies and Non-Superheroes
We’re onto part two of this three part look back at the past ten years of comic book and superhero movies that I’ve been watching for this site and I decided that I’d leave the heavy hitters for the end. Last time around, I looked at the best animated films, both ones specifically from DC Animation as well as all the others. This time around I’m looking at some of the more indie films that have come out as well as the movies based on comics and graphic novels that aren’t about the superheroes. There may be some action mixed in here and there, but no one wearing costumes with super powers. Now let’s get onto the lists!
Now when I say “indies” that isn’t exactly a clear definition and I don’t exactly have a clear definition. I don’t have a specific budget amount in mind, nor do I mean that there can’t be any studio involvement. There may also be some crossover into the next list with some lower budget movies. In general, “indie” is more or less a feeling. Many of them are quite obviously low budget, some were released straight to home video, others started out as a lower or mid-budget project but were picked up by a studio and given a bigger marketing campaign. But they all feel indie to me in one way or another.
This is one of the more bizarre superhero movies that I have ever seen. Plus, it’s incredibly obvious that it was made on a shoestring budget. It’s about a man who gets powers from microwaving some old spaghetti and other stuff and is able to extrude spaghetti from any part of his body. His costume consists of a paper bag, and he generally requests money from the people he saves and it only gets weirder from there. The low budget is its charm and it takes that budget and injects the right amount of humor to extend this bizarre concept to a movie that actually works for the most part.
I had never seen any of the Sid and Marty Krofft shows as most of them came out a little bit before my time but I was aware of many of them. I was not aware of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and yet a couple YouTube personalities as well as the original creators of the series team up to make this movie that was originally released as a webseries. It takes a kid-friendly property and gives it a bit of comically extreme violence in a couple places but mostly sticks with meta style YouTube humor that works for the most part.
This was a Swedish horror movie that takes a darker look at teen girls in high school and apparently Lacrosse is a popular sport in high school in Sweden. There is a twist that I was able to see a long time coming, but I think that’s partially due to my taste in movies rather than a specific fault with the movie’s writing. It’s stylish and while it spends a little too much time with the high school drama, when it gets to the horror scenes, they are stylish and effective.
There have been very few movies to take the superhero concept into romantic comedy territory and this one is a much better version than My Super Ex-Girlfriend. It’s a superhero comedy that takes a closer look at a superhero’s personal life and bureaucracy in a very British way while still able to get a few superhero moments in. It’s not a comedy for everyone, but it’s interesting and charming all at once.
6: Squid Man
Something that many of these low budget superhero movies do are to eschew a lot of fights and special effects and focus on the more down to Earth elements of superheroes like the interpersonal drama and comedy. This movie really sells both of those quite well by taking a look at a real D-level superhero who lucked into fame without having any significant abilities. It makes the film seem like a standard low budget movie about people who barely have powers doing mundane things as superheroes, but as the film goes on, it actually does some interesting things that you wouldn’t expect from a movie like this.
This is one of the higher budget of the low budget films on this list, with some low grade named actors and decent special effects as it was released without much fanfare as a home video or streaming release. It’s a highly stylized hyper-violent action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and makes everything tongue-in-cheek as possible. It takes place in a bizarre world with villains wearing animal masks or possibly villains with animal heads. There’s nudity, violence, swearing all at maximum levels and usually for humor. If you enjoy grindhouse style movies, this should fit right in.
4: The Chair
This was a horror film that was at least partially funded through Kickstarter and was the last role of Roddy Piper. It’s a dark film filled with several practical gore effects and plenty of psychological horror. It’s much more about the tension throughout the film rather than any jump scares and it’s quite effective with some great characters especially the aforementioned Roddy Piper.
3: Accident Man
This is another slightly higher budget indie movie filled with several recognizable names including Scott Adkins who was Ryan Reynolds’ stunt double in Wolverine Origins. The film itself is more or less a revenge movie about a hitman who works his way up his own organization after the woman he loved gets killed in a suspicious way. It’s filled with great characters and fantastic fight sequences mixed with a touch of humor that hits just the right spot.
2: The Subjects
This is one of the most unique takes on superheroes that I had seen in a long time. It takes the form of a group of strangers who take part in a clinical drug trial with an experimental drug that gives them each super powers. They are locked into a room for 24 hours and while many of the super powers are ones that we are familiar with, it tends to have more drastic consequences that come with having extraordinary power without control, starting with one guy who spontaneously explodes, or the teleporting woman who leaves her arm behind. It’s a growing mystery with an air of horror combined with an interpersonal drama as many disparate personalities are forced to work together.
This is probably the most well known movie on this list as it had the widest release and made the most money in the box office. But it was still made for a relatively low budget as it used the found footage style and brought it to the superhero movie and away from the horror genre where it more or less started. The writing, directing, and acting are all great as we get to see the spawning of basically a supervillain as a trio of kids gain telekinesis and use it much like many teenagers would in that situation: irresponsibly. Despite the fall from grace that the writer and director have had after this film, it still remains an impressive film on its own, and one of my favorites of the past ten years.
Comic Book Films
The next list is full of films that aren’t the typical superhero fare, but are still based on comic books and graphic novels. There are a few that could probably fit into the previous list as they might be lower budget films, but its my list and I put them where I pleased. But besides the fact, it’s always important for me to occasionally remind people that “Comic Book Film” isn’t really a genre in and of itself, but it can be any genre whatsoever just like a comic book can be any genre whatsoever.
10: I Kill Giants
This film got a lot less press than the very similar film thematically A Monster Calls. This involves a quirky young girl without any friends who basically lives in a fantasy world where she traps and kills giants that are attacking their little town. Over the course of the film she befriends a new girl but we get to see how this fantasy is all just a defense mechanism for how she deals with some of the troubles in her life and we get to see how she uses it to cope and help overcome some of these fears and struggles.
And in this film we get a very different teenage girl that’s copes with life’s struggles in a very different way by using sex and drugs. But it’s not the Hollywood version of sex and drugs, it’s presented in a much more realistic and mundane way. It’s never glorified or villified, it just is what it is and we get to see this from the perspective of an actual teenage girl. Or at least a filmmaker adapting a graphic-ish novel adapted from a teenager’s diary. So there’s still some level of Hollywood-ification but it’s much more realistic than most movies and still fascinating to watch.
Judge Dredd itself has had an interesting film past. It originally was adapted into a Sylvester Stallone movie that was unsuccessful both critically an in the box office and this film was much more successful critically but a bit of a wash in the box office. This takes the character much more seriously and takes an action concept where the hero and his sidekick are stuck in a large building. There are some great special effects moments involving the drug slo-mo and the acting throughout is great too. It’s still a shame that nothing has really come of this property since this film’s release.
Edgar Wright is a pretty beloved filmmaker with a very unique style. He has quick writing and a very dense and stylistic filmmaking with scenes packed with jokes, imagery, references, and symbolism. The biggest downside to this film is that the main character can be hard to relate to as he is wrong on many different levels but learns to become a better person by the end and is absolutely hilarious throughout with tons of quotable lines and a cast of incredibly unique characters.
Mark Millar has had some great movie adaptations of his works and while this is very superhero adjacent with a lot of action, it crosses over from the superhero movie to the spy movie and feels very much like a satire of James Bond. There’s plenty of action and tongue in cheek humor alongside some pretty gruesome violence played in some parts for laughs. It’s really helped by the charisma of both Taren Egarton as well as a seemingly odd choice for an action hero with Colin Firth playing the James Bond-esque mentor.
Often in a superhero series (or in this case, superhero-adjacent) the third movie in the series is the worst while the second movie in the series is the best. This is one of the exceptions to that rule as the second film was (for a while) the worst film in the series and the third is on par with the original. It brings in the concept of time travel and has Josh Brolin playing a spot on version of a young Kay as played by Tommy Lee Jones. Jermaine Clement also does a great job at playing a menacing villain that still is able to get some humorous moments. It captures the right amount of action, humor, and sci-fi as well as the heart of the original.
This is probably the farthest from a superhero movie on this list. It’s a drama about a trio of pre-teen girls who live in Sweden and become an amateur punk band with much more spirit than talent. It’s a real coming of age movie that focuses more on the relationships of these pre-teens and how they handle fights, boys, and their home life all while trying to become a band despite two of the three members having very little actual musical talent. The friendship feels palpable and the drama is riveting and heartfelt despite the stakes being incredibly low.
3: The Losers
This is another superhero adjacent movie with a group of basically action heroes on their last job to make a quick buck and by proxy, save the world. The characters are what really make this film stand out with plenty of actors who would go on to more prominent superhero roles like Chris Evans, Zoe Saldana, and Idris Elba. There are plenty of double and triple crosses, but they’re easy enough to follow and it’s laced with enough humor throughout to keep things going.
In opposition to several of the other action films on this list, this has much less humor and a much stronger action feel to it. Charlize Theron feels like a much more real character with flaws and struggles despite way more double and triple crosses throughout the film. The climactic action set piece is something that is awe-inspiring while also feeling completely exhausting for the viewer as well as the main character. Plus, it’s all wrapped up in 80’s neon nostalgia for good measure.
This was the first English language movie from Bong Joon Ho who came out with the critically successful film this year with Parasite. This was the sci-fi oddity about a train full of the only survivors in a world where a fix for global warming went haywire and froze the entire world over. It’s also a metaphor for class warfare where the lower class were subjugated in the tail end of the train and create a civil war where they try to make their way up to the front of the train where the upper class reside. But the social commentary is hidden behind some brilliant action scenes, satirical comedy, and interesting-yet-incredulous sci-fi concepts.
And there you have it, two more top tens of the past ten years. Will hopefully finish this out with two more lists of the most popular superhero movies next week. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.