Greetings from the Odinson,
A few weeks ago the Odinson did a column entitled Top 10 Movies All Comic Book Fans Must See at Least Once. It was a commentary on the fact that we live in such a Golden Age of comic book properties being adapted into really good movies like The Dark Knight and Captain America: Civil War and TV shows like Luke Cage and Flash and how we as fans in the 70s, 80s, and 90s really did not have that. Oh sure, we had the occasional Chris Reeve starring Superman or Tim Burton directed Batman film and we had television series like Lois and Clark to whet the appetite, but the landscape of live action comic book entertainment was nothing like it is now where there is an Avengers, Justice League, or Spider-Man movie coming out nearly yearly and Television Land littered with fan favorite names like Arrow, Supergirl, and Daredevil.
Ah, but as we learned in my first list above, we were not without theatrical entertainment that possessed comic book sensibilities, and since I had so much fun with my first Must See list I thought why not do what Hollywood does and make a sequel.
Top 10 Movies All Comic Book Fans Must See at Least Once: Part II
10 – The Ice Pirates (1984) – In the distant future, mankind has spread out to the stars. However, their population has grown exponentially so great that one resource above all others has become the most precious commodity in the entire galaxy – H2O. In a galaxy of haves and have nots, water has become the currency of the rich and the most sought after necessity of the poor. That’s where our heroes Jason and Roscoe come in. These dashing “Ice Pirates” make their living by robbing the malevolent galactic dictators and acquiring water for themselves and others. This film has action, over the top humor, sword fights, laser battles, and one of the most absurd climatic final acts in the history of cinema. This is a highly underrated film whose premise would be right at home in the four color medium.
9 – MegaForce (1982) – Right around the same time GI Joe A Real American Hero toys and comic books were launching, this little diamond in the rough hit the Big Screens across America. Set in the future, MegaForce is a super elite Special Forces unit armed with the most high tech and advanced military weapons. They even have motorcycles that can shoot rockets and fly! Led by the charismatic Ace Hunter, MegaForce sets out to protect a small country from a superior military force which is threatening to conqueror it. This film is low budget cheese at its very best, and it is a film way ahead of its time. Take GI Joe, MASK, and the action hero craze that would sweep the 80s and 90s mix them all together and you would get MegaForce! NOTE: MegaForce also had a super cool video game based on the movie for the Atari 2600 which a very young Odinson killed countless hours playing.
8 – Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) – Inspired by the film The Magnificent Seven which was based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, this sci-fi adventure featured a motley team of heroes gathered together from across the cosmos to face down the superior power of a galactic tyrant and his armada of warships. Each member of the team brings their own set of talents and skills to the table. The film has become a cult classic and is a perfect example of a team of heroes assembling to take on a foe no single hero could stand against alone. Avengers Assemble! Or, Titans Together!
7 – Streets of Fire (1985) – As the opening scene suggests, this story takes place in another time, another place. This damsel rescued by the knight in shining armor from the clutches of the evil black knight story would fit right in with any fairy tale, but this tale takes place in a comic book noir world. When pop star Ellen Aim, played by the forever beautiful Diane Lane (Judge Dredd, Man of Steel), is kidnapped by a gang of bikers led by a man named Raven, played by Willem DaFoe (Shadow of the Vampire, Spider-Man) it falls on the shoulders of roguish anti-hero Tom Cody, played by Michael Pare (Eddie and the Cruisers, BloodRayne) to save her. It’s a rough-and-tumble romp of action, romance, and rock n’ roll. And, as if that wasn’t enough pop culture cred, there are also appearances by pop culture legends Elizabeth Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls), Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors), Deborah Van Valkenburgh (The Warriors, The Devil’s Rejects), Rick Rossovich (The Terminator, Top Gun), Robert Townsend (Meteor Man), and, of course, the great Bill Paxton (Aliens, Near Dark, Tombstone).
6 – Enter the Dragon (1973) – Lee is recruited by a British Intelligence Agency to infiltrate a martial arts tournament comprised of the best fighters from around the world in order to topple a drug lord’s criminal empire. Lee also has a secondary reason for accepting the mission. The man who murdered his sister will be in the tournament. It is James Bond meets Hong Kong Cinema as Lee takes his near super human level martial arts skills and proceeds to dismantle an army of kung fu killers all the way up until he finally confronts the knife-handed crime lord himself in a one-on-one battle to the death. It’s the film that made Bruce Lee a star. Unfortunately, it was his final film before his premature death.
5 – Firestarter (1984) – Based on the novel by Stephen King, this tale is about a mother and father who both possess psychic powers, she can read minds and he can control them, and they have a daughter who has the ability to create and control fire. The government wants to use the young girl and her pyrokinetic powers as a weapon. This story answers the question: What if master of horror Stephen King had created the X-Men?
4 – Dreamscape (1984) – Over two decades before Leo DiCaprio was invading the dreams of others in Inception, this science fiction film was exploring the concept. Alex Gardner, played by Dennis Quaid (Dragonheart, GI Joe: Rise of Cobra), is a psychic with the ability to travel into other people’s dreams. Alex is recruited to help stop a psychic assassin, played by pop culture legend David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, Twin Peaks, The Crow), from murdering the President of the United States in his sleep. In the Dream World, these two gifted men have super human abilities only limited by their own imaginations. The films climax is like something right out of a comic book, very reminiscent of the duel between Professor X and the Shadow King in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #117.
3 – Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) – Speaking of like something right out of a comic book, this installment to the long running horror franchise sees the slasher of Camp Crystal Lake, Jason Voorhees, finally coming face-to-face with a true challenger, Tina, a teenager with telekinetic super powers. This was truly a supernatural duel for the ages. Using her ability to move objects with her mind, Tina threw everything she had at her hulking hockey mask-wearing attacker. She electrocuted him, tossed a couch at him, fired a can of nails his way, and even dropped a house on him, but like the Unstoppable Juggernaut, Jason just kept coming. Ultimately, Tina had to use her supernatural gifts to summon forth the spirit of her deceased father to subdue and defeat Jason once and for all. It would not be until Freddy vs. Jason fifteen years later before the slasher of Crystal Lake would once again meet a worthy opponent.
2 – The Warriors (1979) – In an alternate comic book-like reality just askew from our own, all the neighborhoods of New York City are run by colorful street gangs. The Warriors are from Coney Island. Cyrus, leader of the most powerful gang in New York, calls all the gangs of the city to send nine unarmed members to a rally where he plans to unite them all under one banner of unity and strength. However, Cyrus is assassinated and the Warriors are framed for his murder. Now, in one harrowing night, the Warriors will have to fight their way through hostile territories inhabited by hundreds of police officers and other gangs coming for them in order to get back home to the safety of Coney Island. This cult classic film is based on the book of the same name by Sol Yurick who based his story on the classic Greek tale Anabasis. Pop culture royalty, writer/director Walter Hill said that while making the movie he was trying to create a comic book style world. He succeeded. Just in case you may not recognize the name, Walter Hill also directed Streets of Fire and produced the films for the Aliens franchise.
1 – John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) – Writer/director John Carpenter’s name at the head of the title should be enough to get you to watch this film, but just in case you need more reason, here you go. When a team of super tough monster hunters are set up and fed to a master vampire on a silver platter, the group’s leader, Jack Crowe, and his second in command, Montoya, the only survivors of the ambush, are on the run. They have to try and figure out who set them up and how to stop master vampire Valek from becoming an unstoppable monster who can walk in the daylight. This film is full of heroes and villains and scheming madmen, mystery and horror and humor. Not to mention, the film co-stars the sultry Sheryl Lee whom you may remember as the ill-fated Laura Palmer from a little TV show called Twin Peaks. Plus, Vampires features a super cool music score by the director himself.
Honorable Mentions: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), Super Fuzz (1980), Clash of the Titans (1981), The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), Beastmaster (1982), Revenge of the Ninja (1983), V (1983) and V the Final Battle (1984), and Commando (1985).
Hmmm, with an Honorable Mentions list like this could yet another sequel be far behind? Well, people do like trilogies, right? 😉
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell