Monday, March 24, 2008

A word on comic book movies from guest writer, Blake Spears

by Blake Spears

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be blogging about Hollywood's obsession with comic book movie franchises. Are they good, bad or simply a guilty pleasure. Although for me, I've always thought that even if the story is bad, as long as the characters are cool then that's all I need for an excuse to file it under guilty pleasure.

Over the last decade, studios have been buying up the rights for both new and old franchises with the hope of producing movies that will generate multiple sequels and spin-offs. Bryan Singer's, X-Men, was the start of the comic book movie revolution and after it took in $296 million world-wide, Marvel knew it was onto a winner and found studios banging on their door to take their pop-culture icons and materialise them on the silver screen, with mixed results.

After X-Men we were given Mark Steven Johnson's, Daredevil. Unfortunately, Hollywood's need to churn out something quickly for quick dollars, ruined what should have been an action packed heart stopper and turned into a super hero movie with lacklustre performances from it's big name stars, which was mainly due it's weak script and underdeveloped characters and rushed production (pick up the Director's Cut and you will find a much better, different and completely rounded story). Why they decided on an Elektra spinoff, that massively under performed at the box office, was anyone's guess?

When Spiderman web slung itself in to cinemas in 2002, Marvel rediscovered the paramount success they had with X-Men. Sam Raimi's version not only the most visually looking comic book movie made to date, but Tobey MaGuire's performance of Peter Parker, made us see that having "great power" really did mean having "great responsibility". Raimi's movie had all the elements that comic book movies should have. Struggle, despair, jealousy and grief were matched with love, romanticism, hope and happiness. It didn't take itself too seriously either. This movie showcased the classic battle of good and evil and it was the first comic adaptation that portrayed the moral of it source material. It showed us that it's not about who you are, it's about the choices we make that, defines our character and integrity.

Spiderman had heart and is still my favourite comic book adaptation and not because I necessarily think it's the best. It's my favourite because it is the truest representation of any comic book character, in movies, to date. If studios hadn't thought with their wallets and thought with their heads, we would have had a lot more adaptations like Spiderman and not some of the over-expensive, weak scripted and boring ones like Hulk.

After another publicly received failure with Ang Lee's, Hulk (personally though, I am a fan, even if it is boring n places), Marvel were looking down the barrel of another situation where the proverbial money was just burning their pockets. The light at the end of the tunnel came in the form of Singer's X-Men sequel (2003), which reigned supreme at the box office, taking over $300 million worldwide.

X-Men 2's success, started the ball rolling once more and saw Marvel properties such as The Punisher, Iron Man and Fantastic Four all green lit for production, again with mixed success. The positive for Marvel was that they established their own production company, which gave them pretty much full creative control on their projects. Fan boys around the world rejoiced and comic book movies not only stayed money makers, but became guilty pleasures for the fans and even the people making them.

Whilst the third X-Men movie was another success for Marvel, most fans of the characters were disappointed with the story as it deviated a lot from it's comic book roots and in the end was anti-climactic. Singer had committed to Superman Returns, but there was still hope with news that Matthew Vaughn (of Layer Cake awesomeness) had come on board and with him he wanted to bring Sentinels, the Phoenix Saga and the coolest of X-Men characters and massive fan favourite, Gambit. However the hope became short-lived and he left the project shortly after citing family reasons and we were stuck with that guy who can't tell a story to save himself and brought us the 3, very unfunny Rush Hour movies. Gambit was out, we got a vague visual reference to the Sentinels and the Phoenix Saga was butchered beyond a vague recognition. Fortunately the comic book movie masses found redemption, DC finally coming into the fray with Christopher Nolan's fantastic reinvention of Batman.

Next week- Part Two: Batman Begins and beyond........

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