Comic book movies
As a kid I loved comic books. I still like comic books. But Hollywood keeps getting it wrong, in my opinion. In a 28 page comic, there is plenty of room for three (basic) layers of conflict.
A - The immediate issue (Bad guy versus hero)
B - The character arc (What the hero is after over several issues)
C - The character becoming more fully aware (the relationship to the self).
Somewhere, somehow, "we" were told that stories using voice over were worse than stories not-using voice over, so voice over should be avoided, as a storytelling device. I say, "bunk."
Take "Wolverine" for example. The movie was weak. No offense to Marvel, et al. It was weak because the basic story telling conventions about heroes is avoided. It's all A story. We wait for a B-story until after the credits, and the C-story, the hard-boiled inner voice we hear in the narrator is gone. We, the audience, cannot hear the inner turmoil propelling the hero to action. And the consequence is Wolverine is paper thin, but in the comic books, he's not. He's complicated, "deep" even, in a Rousseau kind of way: man v. beast (think Tarzan, if you will) contained in one individual. In the pages of the comics, there's even irony as Wolvie says one thing and does another, and tries to reconcile the two.
True, as far as it goes,
...however, internal dialog/monologue is very hard to pull off over an entire movie without it getting in the way and becoming stilted or unintentionally comic. It mostly works in hindsight or with the silent speaker having soem kind of foresight or advanced knowledge...
(but then, if they knew what's coming, inferred by the voice-over talking about a life-or-death moment, so obviously they are alive after the moment to think out loud about it... why would the character continue the action, you're distracting the audience and bogging down the story by adding one of these sidebar dilemmas of predestination vs. free will. And it throws you off the real point, much like this whole paragraph did... woah!)
People come down on opposite sides of this issue, very well shown in the audience's like or dislike for the "voice-over" version of "Blade Runner" vs. the Director's Cut version.
For me, it boils down to this; that film is a medium apart from books, apart from radio drama, apart from stage, apart from comics/graphic novels. They of course have overlaps and intersections, they influence each other, but they stand apart, and to "force" one to strictly mimic the other doesn't serve the best interests of the story or viewer. Never mind being very uncommercial.
You're never going to be 100 percent happy with a book turned into a movie. How could you? People spend far more time with a book than a 2-hour film. They linger over passages, they go back and re-read them, the books may include a lot of extra scene-setting that you hope can be done visually, some you can't, like smells and flavors, and then again there is often a lot of back-story and off-stage character development you just couldn't find room for in a 2- hour movie. You can take eight pages just to set a mood in a book; you may not be able to afford eight secodns to do the same in a movie. Why try.
I thought Lord Of The Rings was one of the best such adaptations in recent time, yet there were many fanboys out there that STILL weren't happy... and that took THREE movies to tell.
Comics/graphic novels are an interesting hybrid, because they are very closely tied to the influence of Film and TV, (Tv and before that, film visuals strongly influenced how artists created comics styles, ) and with making movies based on comics, the circle closes in upon itself somewhat.
Hollywood has a creativityproblem - the success of a particular film/genre combination encourages rampant film making of similar film/genre combinations. The more films made the chances of getting a good one increases, but the chances of getting a lot of bad ones also increases. This seems especially true with comic book / graphic novel movies.
Does Hollywood go about comic book inspired film making using the "monkeys at typewriters" method - that is - eventually something good will come out of it? The fact that DC and Marvel have their own studios indicates the films will keep coming at us, good or bad.
For every 1 Dark Knight there will be 10 Elektras, Hulks and Wonder Women (I shudder at seeing Lindsay Lohan with a magic lasso).
It has been said that a Comic Book is a perfect storyboard. Certainly the visuals are being followed or inspired by - but I agree that the non-visual aspects of comic book movies is being forgotten. The studio system cannot be blamed - this monster has a long history of turning out drivel. Effects artists and sound designers, editors and pretty much everyone but the writers and directors are also without blame, as presumably these are great gigs for your reel. But the blame falls with the writers and directors of the bad comic book movies. They seem to rely upon the "built-in audiences" and less upon their skills. Perhaps some comic books should not be made into movies at all.
However the movie must not be compared with the source material, as Mark has illustrated in his post. A comic book or graphic novel could devote pages to a fight scene or back story. A screenplay may simply say "they fight." This is a simplification, as the fights seem to get more screen time than anything else.
Perhaps someone needs to make a movie out of a non-action-based comic book or graphic novel. A Scanner Darkly comes close - though the source material was a short story, not a graphic work, the end result is a visually interesting character driven movie.
As for LOTR, I was a bit upset that Tom Bombadil did not appear in the films. I thought he was a great character!
The screenplay for "Wolverine" was written by David Benioff, a very fine writer, and his current novel is compelling, so I know he knows how to tell a story.
[Mike Cohen] "the non-visual aspects of comic book movies is being forgotten." YEP!!
[Mike Cohen] "As for LOTR, I was a bit upset that Tom Bombadil did not appear in the films. I thought he was a great character!"
So was I, but only in that they *could* have left him out of the wide release version and added it in for the 47-disc Peter Jackson's Über-Vision edition (which rumor says he is still editing now and is set for release "when hell hath indeed frozen over").
But alas, lil' Tommie Bombadil is missing from even that copious edit.
But to get my post on subject, I really liked The Shadow with Alec Baldwin (whom I can't stand at all but liked the movie anyway). To me, The Shadow felt like what the story should feel like when done right. Every once in a while I pull it out and watch it just for fun.
The other problem I see often in comic book and SF movies is that the producers buy a property or option a title/character/universe but really don't know or care to know anything about it, so the first thing they do is they want to do things to the character or story that alienate the viewers that made this property worth buying in the first place.
Ang Lee never read any Hulk, I'm told, before making his movie, and he wound up giving away the Banner secret identity in like the first ten minutes... when the secret of Banner/Hulk's duality is a keystone of the property. Lee was all about the form of imitating the panels and PIP effects of a comic book....the Hulk was an apparent afterthought. Why buy the name "I, Robot", and then don't make a movie based on an Asimov story.... WTH? Ghost Rider, The Punisher (either one)... there's more. Kevin Smith talks about Jon Peters developing a Superman movie and not knowing anything about Superman and wanting to make some pretty horrible choices, choices a five year old wouldn't make... The guy that wrote Star Trek Nemesis (I mean "Emesis") was supposedly a fan, but he'd never actually seen an episode of the show. Time after time you see directors and producers call for changes to the parts that didn't need changing, in the name of "updates".
Look, I'm not screaming for them to slavishly follow every nuance of fifty-odd years of cannon or continuity, there is room for "updates" and "re-imaginings", but the whole point of these characters and their origin stories, what makes them valuable properties that draw an audience, is they have this accumulated base of established material to them, things that are part of pop culture, the cultural DNA. To totally ignore that to satisfy ego is to waste everyone's time and money in making a film that the key audience will consider a "bait and switch".
"You don't tug on Superman's cape".
You just... don't.
AMEN!! I love your passion!
[Mark Suszko] "The guy that wrote Star Trek Nemesis (I mean "Emesis") was supposedly a fan, but he'd never actually seen an episode of the show."
Yes, many people have tried and failed to reimagine a property that "has been in the hands of fans" for yesrs, and have failed to recognize the "mental and emotional equity" that the fans have in these stories.
I always want to cut any Star Trek movie or series slack because it has been such a part of my life for 40 years or so. But Enterprise could have been good if Scott Bakula was not in it -- not to mention the new species that exist in a prequel that never existed in any of the subsequent series. Say what?#@!?
It reminds me of the kind of nosedive that Stargate SG1 took when Ben Browder, Claudia Black and the doctor woman whats-her-name, that all came from Farscape and the producers must have thought that they'd bring that audience to the Stargate franchise. Me, I thought it was pathetic when they signed on.
Long-running stories have a market advantage but they also carry a great "limiter" in that the audience comes to these stories with a degree of emotional expectation already in place -- far more than is normally found in a 1.0 story.
But hey, I *loved* the new JJ Abrahms Star Trek. Fun stuff.
Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry
[Mark Suszko] "You're never going to be 100 percent happy with a book turned into a movie."
Cross-comparing genres (whether the book is better than the novel or vice versa) isn't the issue. If you had to put a fancy word on the issue, I'd use "diegesis," others might say "narratology." From my observation, there is a wave of neo-formalists coopting filmmaking as story-telling. When I was a script reader and coverage writer, the producers were always saying "no voice over," and I would ask "why?" I found no good reason for such silly prescription, for a "should."
With LoTR, the narration moved a lot. We might say, the character and action was juxtaposed between the three struggles: The immediate issue, the character arc, and the becoming fully aware. Not only did Froto face these struggles, but every single character did. That's compelling story telling whether its a novel, film, or pantomime.
Let me also point out what a fine movie is "Shawshank Redemption."
Here, here, Shawshank Redemption was brilliant, but it owes a lot to the Stephen King story which was wonderfuly lived up to by the screen writer, producer and director, not to mention the actors. Bravo.
Have a wonderful day.
Thought I would throw in a couple more movies which I thought came close to or beat the book,
Chronicals of Narnia (first one, The Lion, witch and the wardrobe)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Moby Dick (which I read 3 times in my youth)
Have a wonderful day.