I’ve been a crazed, insatiable, doomed-beyond-all-hope-of-
When Tim Burton’s subversive interpretation of Batman was released and my inner fanboy compelled me to stand in line on a cold rainy night with the other lunatics, I didn’t argue. It’s too bad that the warm glow of my rose-colored enthusiasm was clouded by the ugly realization that the movie sucked. As did the descending sequels. I soon found the truth in Sturgeon’s Law.
I love comic books, but I hate superhero comic book movies.
Unfortunately, in spite of bigger budgets, better actors, advances in CGI and the herculean efforts of gifted filmmakers such as Bryan Singer, Christopher Nolan and Kenneth Branagh, “Hollywood” keeps on doing it wrong.
Unhappily, what usually happens during the disastrous transition from page to screen is the writers and artists from the comic books gets lost in translation. I dare anybody to find a trace of Frank Miller’s DNA in the dull and generic adaptation of Daredevil. In the vacuum that’s left behind are the same costumes, the same recycled plots and the same loudmouth villains. It’s the same old same old, except more of it.
Ironically enough, if X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Iron Man, Swamp Thing, and The Hulk comic books were as awful as the movies, they wouldn’t sell. What’s worse, since these bad movies are reliable cash cows for the studios (remember, even Ang Lee’s ambitious failure, The Hulk, made its money back), there isn’t any incentive at all for the Ferengi bean-counters in Hollywood to try anything different.
To be fair, there have been a few happy accidents: The Incredibles captures the exuberant spirit of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s dysfunctional superhero family better than the Fantastic Four did. The Crow is a razor-edged black diamond of a movie that resonates with a melancholy beauty. And the monstrously underrated Unbreakable is M. Night Shyamalan’s masterpiece and his Waterloo. Can you really blame filmmakers for wanting to play it safe after seeing what happened to Shyamalan?
The problem is, too many mainstream comics in America are populated by The Guys In Capes, and that dog won’t fly anymore. How many times can you read dumb stories about masked vigilantes beating people up? Conversely, that’s why I think what works in Iron Man are the scenes where Tony Stark gets out of the armor and becomes Robert Downey Jr. Trying to fit a superhero into the Real World is more trouble than it’s worth; it’s like attempting to imagine an universe where matter and anti-matter can coexist.
Not surprisingly, the comic book movies that work for me are the ones adapted from innovative, non-mainstream comics like The Road To Perdition, Ghost World, American Splendor, RED, Wanted and Persopolis. Is it really surprising that Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore don’t want to live in the superhero ghetto anymore?
It’s time to take the silly props like the capes, PJs, secret identities, and the Bad Guys Who Want To Rule The World, and dump them in the toy box where they belong.
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