In comic book movies, writers and directors have to strike a careful balance of remaining true to the source material, while making a still original story. That being said, there are some classic moments from the comics that are taken very closely, if not verbatim, in the movies. Sometimes this is done very well. Sometimes it’s done poorly. Here are ten examples where the movies took almost verbatim from the comics.
I tried to get youtube videos for as many as I could find, but for the older movies I had some trouble with that.
Bullseye kills Elektra
This is the big example of taking almost frame-by-frame from the comics. The battle of Bullseye and Elektra in 2003 was almost exactly the same. The shots were from the same angles, the dialogue was the same, and both ended with the ace of spaces to Elektra’s throat. The only difference is the location. In the comics, it was a parking garage. In the movie, it was rooftops. In a questionable movie (that I will still defend), this was straight from the comics in the truest form.
Punisher torture scene
My favorite scene in the 2004 Punisher movie is actually another that is straight from the comics, verbatim. Frank hangs a criminal from the ceiling and begins to describe what the criminal will feel when Castle begins to burn his flesh. He describes a “cold sensation”, shortly before sticking ice cream on the man’s back. The man, believing himself to be dying, gives all the information Castle wants. “Isn’t science fun?” The scene fits well with the tone of the movie and is exactly accurate to the comics.
Doom takes Silver Surfer’s board
Let’s get this out of the way immediately. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not a great movie. That being said, it really did try to bring one of the biggest villains and most believed heroes in the Marvel Universe to the screen, as well as one of the best story arcs from the Silver Surfer. Doctor Doom took the board from the Silver Surfer, thereby taking his power as well. This is actually one of my favorite parts of the movie, which is not saying much. It was a nice nod to the comics.
Reed Richard’s nerd speech
In the same movie, Reed Richards gives a speech to an army officer, basically going along the lines of, “I was a nerd in high school, but now I’m the one in charge.” The speech is a decent one, but most don’t know that it is actually straight from the comics. In the Galactus storyline in the Ultimate Universe (known as Gah Lak Tus in the Ultimates), Reed gives the speech word for word to Nick Fury. It’s a very nice adaptation, especially in the similar circumstances around Galactus.
Avengers – Ultimates volume 1
Speaking of the Ultimates, the entire outline of the Avengers movie is actually roughly based on the Ultimate Avengers volume 1 (although the Avengers are known as the Ultimates in the Ultimate Universe). The idea of SHIELD forming the Avengers is specific to the Ultimates. The outline of the Avengers is very specific to the Ultimates volume 1. After being assembled, the team takes on the Hulk, who is going rampant. Later, an alien invasion by a group known as the Chitauri (who are also known as Skrulls), where Hulk joins them in the battle. There are some differences, but it appears that the Avengers itself was based on the first volume of the Ultimates.
Captain America wakes up in SHIELD’s care
Once again focusing on the Ultimate Universe, there are many moments in the modern movies that are pulled straight from the Ultimate Marvel comics. Captain America’s awakening is one of the big ones. In the original comics, he was discovered in ice and revived by the Avengers themselves within the first five issues. The scene of Captain America waking up in SHIELD’s care and going on a battle through the SHIELD compound is from the Ultimates. It’s rather close to the scene, although not scene for scene.
Winter Soldier: “Who the hell is Bucky?”
Speaking of Captain America, the Winter Soldier storyarc is one of the most celebrated of Captain America’s career. Bucky, the long-dead sidekick of Captain America, has survived and has been brainwashed into an assassin. The movie did a good job of representing the story arc, from Falcon and Crossbones’ involvement to the idea of an assassination at the beginning. The one big crossover, however, comes with the moment that Captain America first comes face to face with Winter Soldier. He says, “Bucky?” The Winter Soldier then responds famously, in both the comics and the movie: “Who the hell is Bucky?” It was a wonderful moment and nod to the comics.
Spider-man lets a robber walk
As one of the first movies in the age of modern comic book movies, the first Spider-Man movie followed the original comics in a way that most movies don’t. It pulled several classic scenes (two of which are on this list) and was very true to the Spider-man known in comics. The best example of this is Peter Parker letting the robber walk. The thief running down the hallway to Peter, Peter stepping aside out of vengeance, and therefore killing his own uncle was very representative of the comics. It was a very accurate depiction from the comics.
Mary Jane on the Brooklyn Bridge
In the same movie, Mary Jane awakens and finds herself on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Green Goblin offers Spider-Man a choice of saving his girlfriend or a load of innocent children. The scene is very closely paralleling the comic, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”. This was the classic moment of older Spider-man comics and was very nicely reminiscent. The big difference is that instead of accidently snapping Gwen’s neck, Spider-man saves Mary Jane and goes on to defeat the Green Goblin once and for all. The scene is very reminiscent and very well done.
Gwen Stacy’s death
Then, there was the reboot. Although not taking place on the bridge, Gwen’s actual death in the Amazing Spider-Man 2 showed the other half of the scene very well. The Green Goblin still drops Spider-Man’s love from a high place. Spider-Man webs Gwen, but not enough to save her. Her neck snaps (and her head is smacked also) and Spider-man holds her as he weeps. The movie attempted to follow the scene from the comics, and did pretty well representing it.
Comic book movies straddle the line between honoring the original story and making an original story themselves. Over the past years, we have seen different portions of the comic books adapted to movies in varying degrees. Most times it’s specific scenes, occasionally it’s entire plotlines. Which is your favorite?
Personally, I look ahead at the plethora of Marvel movies rapidly approaching and I wonder, what scenes will be adapted next? Truly, only time will tell.