Monday, July 15, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: (Part Six: 2000-2001)

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5


                 The 1990s had proven that comic book films were a bankable commodity. However, the 2000s demonstrated this several times over. The first major success of the decade was 2000’s X-Men. The X-Men were created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics and were one of the most popular comic titles for decades.
                Development on the film began in 1989 with James Cameron attached. He left to work on Spider-Man, another film that languished in development for years. At this point, the film rights reverted to Marvel.
                In 1992, Avi Arad produced an animated show for children based on the X-Men for Twentieth Century Fox. The show was a hit and caused Fox to buy the film rights in 1994. According to IMDB, there were 28 drafts of the script written, including one by Joss Whedon.
                The film was finally released in 2000 and was directed by Bryan Singer. This was his first big budget action picture. Before this, he had mainly done dramas like The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. X-Men featured Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in his first major starring role and he became a huge star as a result of the film.
The trilogy largely centered on Wolverine, sometimes to the detriment of other characters. Many comic fans have complained that way too much attention is given to Wolverine. In the comics, he is not necessarily the main character and Cyclops is in fact the leader of the X-Men. Cyclops often gets pushed to the side in the movie versions.

The story also focused on Rogue, played by Anna Paquin. Paquin went on to star in the popular HBO series True Blood. Another important character is Professor X, who was portrayed by Patrick Stewart. Stewart played Captain Picard on Star Trek and was a fan favorite for the role of Charles Xavier for years. There were many other famous actors as well, including Halle Berry (Storm), Ian McKellen (Magneto), and Famke Janssen (Jean Grey). Cyclops was played by a relative unknown, James Marsden.
The X-Men did not wear the costumes they wore the comics. Those were blue and yellow spandex and could have easily looked ridiculous on screen. Instead, they wore black leather, which upset many fans of the comics.
The film was a huge success and made almost $300 million at the worldwide box office. It was now proven beyond a doubt that superhero films could make a lot of money. This spawned many other comic book films in the coming decade.

The other three comic book films that were released in 2000 were all relatively minor. One was a sequel to the animated Heavy Metal, titled Heavy Metal 2000. It was directed by Michael Coldewey and Michel Lemire and featured the voice of Billy Idol.
There was also another sequel to The Crow. This straight to video installment was titled The Crow: Salvation and was directed by Bharat Nalluri, with Kirsten Dunst appearing as the female lead.
This movie was not quite as bad as the second Crow film, but that’s not saying much. This one is at least not painful to watch. However, it's still cheesy and lame. It’s filled with terrible music and Eric Mabius just doesn’t cut it as the star.

Finally, we have G Men from Hell, directed by Christopher Coppola. It acknowledges its roots with beginning credits that look like comic book panels. The quirky film was clearly made on a low budget and in my opinion, really isn’t that entertaining.


The best comic film of 2001 was Ghost World, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, originally published from 1993 to 1997. Clowes co-wrote the screenplay and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, making it the first comic book adaptation to be nominated in this category.
Ghost World was directed by Terry Zwigoff. Zwigoff previously made the fascinating documentary Crumb, about the famed underground comic artist Robert Crumb. I highly recommend checking this film out. Zwigoff went on to direct another Clowes adaptation, Art School Confidential. Ghost World stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi.

Another major comic adaptation of that year was From Hell, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell. It was published in serial format from 1989 to 1996. This was the first Alan Moore work to be adapted into a film. However, the movie took liberties with the source material and Moore was not a fan. This ended up being the first step towards him disowning all filmed versions of his work. In fact, he refused to even be credited on later blockbusters V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
From Hell was directed by the Hughes brothers, who made Menace II Society and The Book of Eli. It starred Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, and Ian Holm.

Also released in 2001 was Josie and the Pussycats, which was originally an Archie Comics title published from 1962 to 1983. The directors were Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Can’t Hardly Wait) and the cast included Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid, and Rachael Leigh Cook.
Furthermore, we have Monkeybone, based on the graphic novel Dark Town by Kaja Blackley.  It was directed by Henry Selick, known for The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Unlike those successful films, Monkeybone flopped hard at the box office.

Finally, there were two very small films: Tales from the Crypt: Ritual, the third and final film in the series, which starred Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), and Faust: Love of the Damned, a Spanish film directed by Brian Yuzna.

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