Comics Go To the Movies [04/12/02]

Much like the conversion of video games to film, comic books have never really seemed to fare well in the theatres (or on television in live-action). In fact, it's only rare that a comic to movie translation comes across well, while maintaining some similarity to the original comics. More often than not, the acting, script or overall production ends up shoddy. And that doesn't even take into consideration the liberties taken with the character's origin and backstory.

• Superman - Let's be honest. It's really hard to screw up Superman. You have to make a full blown attempt to make a bad Superman movie or television show. The original movie was excellently done, and even the sequel was pretty good, even if it did suffer the normal tendencies of a sequel. From that point on, though, the movie series was, well, forgettable. Now, there's another project that's been on and off with different directors and actors slated for it. They're going to have a hard time topping Reeves as Superman.
Batman - Unfortunately, Batman has not fared to well in the theatres. First there was the Adam West camp-fest, which took most of the caped crusader's dignity and crapped on it. Fortunately, Tim Burton managed to put together a fine film representation to bring back the dark hero. While Jack Nicholas stole the show as Joker, fans of Batman can't deny that he was represented well. But, then the sequels grew more and more ridiculous, straying from Batman's image to a Day-Glo, one-liner filled dork (Batman and Robin).
X-Men - While this fan favorite had only seen mediocre appearances in the cartoons, no one dared to touch it until the recent film by Singer. With such a huge cast and a history that would require multiple volumes to explain effectively, a lot of corners had to be cut to bring the story to the theatre. Still, they managed to do the series justice, even if in a Cliff Notes version. Since this movie saw such success, a series of sequels are planned, which will probably only serve to dilute the success of the original.
Fantastic Four - This movie was so bad it never even saw a VHS release. That's all I have to say about it. What do you expect for a $1 Million budget?
• The Punisher - I guess you could say that this one did manage to nail down the character effectively. I guess. The movie itself was fairly... uh... well.. okay. I guess if I hadn't been such a big Punisher fan at the time I might have been calling for someone's head. If you like guns, guns and more guns, then this flick was okay. IF you actually wanted something more than melodrama...
Captain America - Yes, the movie about how Steve Rogers became Captain America in his fight against the Red Skull. Unfortunately, the movie should have been called: "Steve Rogers and a five minute fight scene with Captain America". Was the costume rented out? Why make a movie about a superhero if you're not going to show him in it?
• Blade and Blade 2 - The part-vampire vampire hunter was never a big player in the comic series outside of the few Dracula series that saw the light of day. But, getting Wesley Snipes to do this movie and subsequent sequel was a smart idea. While fairly light on where Blade originally came from, the movies did create interest in this character.

The Independents - Don't think that coming from a less established comic company (like Dark Horse or Image) gave movie makers more incentive to get things right. Fortunately, there hasn't been as rampant abuse of the lesser known titles.

• Spawn - This movie almost got it. There was lots of action, lots of special effects and it seemed that they almost nailed the comic down. Unfortunately, they forgot to write a script before filming the movie.
Tank Girl - Should have got straight to video. In fact, shouldn't have been filmed at all.

And, I won't waste your time to complain about the track record of comics on the television. While the Hulk was okay (it never really felt like the Hulk from the comics), it was a far cry better than most (anyone else remember Generation X or the Flash?). Lois and Clark was okay, if you didn't want to see real Superman villains outside of Luthor. Witchblade is a far cry better than most, and some of the cartoons have managed to turn out decently, but on the whole, Primetime television is not a medium for comics to be successful on. Often there are too many decisions made on demographics (for commercial revenue) that influence the production rather than trying to stick to the original material.

Coming Soon - With all of this being said, it looks like Hollywood is jumping on the bandwagon, once again. With the success of the X-Men and imminent release of what looks like an excellent Spiderman flick, all of the major studios are lining up to put famous actors in spandex and beat the crap out of them:

• Daredevil - 20th Century Fox looks to star Ben Affleck as the blind Man Without Fear. Other characters include Michael Clark Duncan as the Kingpin and Jennifer Garner as Elektra. Slated for Early 2003.
Ghost Rider - Supposedly, Nicholas Cage is going to be in this flick, proposed for sometime in 2003. Wasn't too long ago when Nick was rumored to be the new Superman. I'll believe it when I see it.
The Fantastic Four - Another Marvel license that 20th Century Fox has managed to acquire. Cast has yet to even be rumored.
• The Hulk - This Ang Lee project looks to be heading for a summer 2003 release with a CGI Hulk from ILM.
Batman: Year One - Frank Miller's masterful telling of Batman's first year as a crimefighter has no current cast planned. Fortunately, Miller is co-writing the script, so it stands a chance of being fairly close to the original material.
Iron Man - To be written by Joss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon, expect this New Line project sometime in 2004 if it makes it that far.

With all of this being said, true comic fans must always live with a certain apprehension about their favorites making it to the silver screen. The track record is spotty at best, but we can always live with a little hope. Hollywood's going to get more than enough chances to disappoint or impress us in the next two years.

- - Vane

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