Comic/Graphic Novel Movies and Why They Don’t Work (Most of the Time)

Before you take out your old trusty pitchfork and torch to hunt me down (and flog me?), let me explain.  Have you noticed that those running from an angry mob either run into a building that they light on fire (Nightmare on Elm Street), or are instantly feared when confronted (Shrek) or they tar and feather you (United States history)?  Anyway angry mobs are bad crowds.  If I were you, I would avoid all contact.  Joining an angry mob is a slippery slope to drugs and gangs.

Actual angry mob!

So! On to my actual point now that I’ve distracted you.  Comic book movies just don’t seem to capture the already graphic piece of literature very well. Look at the film From Hell, sure Johnny Depp plays a handsome, opium addicted detective who falls in love with a whore (Heather Graham), but that doesn’t capture at all the point of the graphic novel written by Alan Moore.  Alan Moore did a ridiculous amount of research on Jack the Ripper and the scandal that is associated with that.  Moore chose to write the piece from the supposed Jack the Ripper’s perspective, adding an element of the uncanny to reading a piece about why whores were seemingly killed for no reason (uncanny is finding the familiar in the unfamiliar, and  in this case viewing a large portion of the piece of work from Jack the Ripper’s own eyes creates an unsettling feeling in the reader not unlike watching Michael Myers kill people from his point of view).  By completely changing the overall message of the piece of literature without so much as a thought to the consequences, it is no wonder Alan Moore hates everyone and takes his name off of every movie they make his books into.

He is very, very scary.

There are a ton of movies that qualify for the same spanking as From Hell, just to name a few: The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Wanted, Kick-Ass, Watchmen, both of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films, the list goes on.  Yet, for me to blatantly say that every comic/graphic novel film was shite (in the words of Simon Pegg, yes, you pronounce the “e”) I wouldn’t be doing you justice.  As you can easily tell, Iron Man 2 came out the other day, and I have already seen it (hence the inspiration for this post).  Granted though any movie they make of Iron Man isn’t going to even touch the current comic I’m reading called Invincible Iron Man, I still want to give that movie its due.  Without giving anything away, the blend of Marvel universe characters throughout the film without taking too much away from Tony Stark is masterfully done (unlike the blend of Marvel characters in Spiderman 3).  Films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight began a realistic approach to some of the less supernatural heroes of our favorite comic books.  If anything the style of the Iron Man films was done in response to how realistic they chose to make Batman in the Christopher Nolan films.  A great approach that eventually hits quite the brick wall given that Iron Man and Batman are quite literally the only 2 superheroes that are as important as they are without any actual powers.  I’m losing my train of thought here.  I’m not trying to say that every comic/graphic novel film is going to be terrible, but odds are it will not be as good as what it is based on (which remains true to most adaptations of written work throughout history).  So, please if you will, after watching a superhero movie that you really liked, do some research on the more popular pieces of literature that made it a candidate for a movie to begin with.  I do believe that is all for today.  Questions and comments are always accepted and appreciated.

Your humble servant,

Tucker Paul Stempler

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  1. I’m glad to see that you’ve incorporated what you learned from Donovan’s lengthy articulation on ‘The Uncanny’ in this post 😉

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