Friday, July 6, 2007

A Look at Comic Book Adaptations

A massive slew of comic book adaptations is planned for the next couple of years. Having exhausted most of the major super heroes, the studios are now digging up the mass pile of second-rate comics from both DC and Marvel. Aside from the obvious sequels (the "Batman Begins" sequel, "The Dark Knight," "The Punisher 2") there is a hot steaming load of heroism coming to the screen. Here's a look at a few selections from the pile:

The most promising of the bunch is "Iron Man," which involves an armor-plated billionaire saving the world. The special effects are looking to be semi-decent and it stars the tolerable Robert Downey Jr. The director hasn't done much other than some bland, kid-friendly comedy, but at least he isn't Tim Story. Two of the screenwriters were involved with the excellent "Children of Men," but there are two others listed as well, who collectively haven't produced shit before this. We'll let this one slide for now.

In the inevitable-but-somewhat-pointless sequel department, we have "The Incredible Hulk," which ditches Ang Lee's Greek tragedy-inspired original vision for what instead is looking to be a film about a large green man who smashes things. The original cast has been replaced (really, everyone) and the director is the guy who brought us both of the "Transporter" films, which might indicate the studio wanted to take things in a different direction, i.e. dumb it down so it won't bomb this time.

There is an ass-load of lesser-known comics coming to the screen as well, with "The Sub-Mariner," "Thor," "The Flash," "Nick Fury" and "Iron Fist" all set for release between now and 2009. But what about black people? Oh yeah, "Luke Cage," which is about a really strong guy. Being really strong is kind of a boring super-power when you think of it, like being able to fly or shooting lasers out of your eyes (Superman = Most boring superhero of all time). Yeah, it gets stuff done, but it also shows a real lack of creativity.

You can almost see the thought process going on at the major studios in regards to these films: "You know, when we put interesting directors with original visions, such as Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan in charge of these film, we got intelligent, exciting movies that ended up becoming popular franchises. Let's try to recreate that success by putting total hacks in charge of the films and giving them sub-par material! Quick, give me another line of coke before this idea train I'm riding totally derails!"

Speaking of franchise opportunities, after Brett Ratner fucked the holy living hell out of the third "X-Men" film (really, was there a character in that film they didn't totally screw up? The stoic one becomes a rash, emotional wreck; the intelligent villain comes up with the world's most retarded attack plan, the brilliant leader/mentor causes untold damage by not sparing five seconds for some exposition. And so on and so forth), I guess they decided the best way to salvage the characters was to start farming them out for prequels. Hence, "Wolverine" and "Magneto" are both planned for release in the next couple of years. "Wolverine" I can see, if you do it right (which they won't), but "Magneto"? WTF?

Here are a couple of really absurd ones: "Shazam!" (Points for being esoteric, but does anyone really think this will be good? I'm having "Thunderbirds" visions of this one), "Wonder Woman" (this belongs in the 1970s and there it should stay), "The Avengers" ("What hero should we do next?" "Ah fuck it, let's do them all"), and finally "Captain America," which in case you have forgotten was actually done once before and will look incredibly silly no matter what they do to it.

And finally, it wouldn't be a list of upcoming comic book adaptations if someone weren't planning on ruining an Alan Moore comic, in this case the seminal "Watchmen." How do I know they will screw it up, you say? Fan boys are going ape shit about it and the director is a really big fan of the comic, so why shouldn't it be good? Because fan boys go ape shit about everything and they're almost always wrong because they want to see everything adapted into a movie regardless of how it would turn out. And every director who directs a comic book adaptation says they are a big fan of the comics. That's part of the problem. They try to make a comic book instead of a movie and the thing ends up sucking more than a Dyson vacuum in a wind tunnel. In this case the director in question is Zack Snyder. Sure his last two films were big hits, but they were also stupider than a bag of hammers. His general tactic is to take something he likes and dumb it way the fuck down, whether it be "Dawn of the Dead" or "300." Sure, he can make it entertaining, but this is only provided you don't feel like thinking it through. Do you really think this is the right approach to take with one of the most critically celebrated, literate, multi-textual graphic novels of all time? Do you think having leeches attached to your testicles is a cure for headaches? Then boy do I have a movie for you.

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