Thursday, August 15, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: Part Eight (2004)



The big comic book movie of 2004 was easily Spider-Man 2. The budget increased $60 million to $200 million for the sequel. However, Spider-Man 2 made $783 million, slightly less than the first.

Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People), who did an uncredited rewrite on the first film, was the sole screenwriter for this one. Sam Raimi directed once again and the main cast came back as well. Willem Dafoe even came back for a cameo, his character having died in Spider-Man.
Interestingly, Tobey Maguire almost wasn’t Peter Parker. He hurt himself working on Seabiscuit and Jake Gyllenhaal was considered as a replacement. Maguire ended up recovering and no replacement was needed.
The villain for the second installment was Doctor Octopus. Early on, Black Cat and The Lizard were considered as villains. The Lizard would eventually be the main antagonist of the 2012 reboot. Doctor Octopus was played by the very talented Alfred Molina. Doctor Octopus or Doc Ock, is a scientist who gets four mechanical tentacles attached to him. 
His large appendages supposedly necessitated shooting in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio instead of the first film’s 1.85:1. Unlike in the comics, in this film he is Peter’s role model before his accident.
Spider-Man was very well received by critics and audiences. As of August 2013, it has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Sound Mixing.
I was never a huge fan of the Raimi Spider Man trilogy, but this is probably the best installment. This is largely due to Molina’s compelling performance as Doc Ock.


One of the better comic adaptations of the year was Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy. The film cost $66 million to make and took in a modest $99 million worldwide. Hellboy didn’t really have any stars; none of the cast were mentioned in commercials or listed on the poster.

The film got good reviews and deservedly so. It’s definitely among the better half of comic book films out there. Ron Perlman is awesome as always as the title hero.  The film was followed by a sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. There have been rumors of a third film, but nothing solid as of yet.


Another decent 2004 outing was The Punisher, based on the Marvel character. It was the first film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh. He had been a producer and writer for years. He wrote Jumanji, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Armageddon.
Thomas Jane starred as the Punisher and John Travolta gave a fair performance as the bad guy. It got mainly negative reviews, partly due to a budget of only $33 million. It only took in $54 million at the box office. The film was no masterpiece, but as far as comic movies go, it’s not among the worst.


Released in 2004, Catwoman was one of the worst movies ever made, and quite possibly the worst comic book film ever. Batman and Robin is close, but doesn’t quite reach the lows of Catwoman. 
Catwoman is actually painful to watch, mainly due to the editing. It takes the ADD, quick cut style to the extreme. There’s an unnecessary cut every few seconds in most scenes.
Another major problem is that the Catwoman character really only appears in name only. She isn’t Selina Kyle, the iconic comic character that appeared on film a decade earlier portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer. Rather, in this film she is Patience Phillips, a completely original character that never appeared in the comics. There is also a ridiculous amount of terrible, cheesy cat puns.
Halle Berry is the title character and her talents are completely wasted. Also, early in the film she can’t find a boyfriend. Not very realistic for someone who looks like Halle Berry. 
The director of this film was Pitof, who had worked on visual effects for French films such as City of Lost Children. His only previous directorial effort was 2001’s Vidocq. Thankfully, he has not directed a theatrical release since then.


Next we come to yet another sequel, Blade: Trinity. Guillermo del Toro did not return to direct this one and the duties fell upon David S. Goyer. Goyer had only directed one film previously, 2002’s Zig Zag, which also starred Wesley Snipes.
The third film in the series had major additions to the cast. One of these was Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King. King was a character in the comics, but he hardly resembles the film version.
The second was Jessica Biel as Whistler’s granddaughter who likes to make iPod playlists for killing vampires. Unfortunately, the film was not very good and is usually considered the worst of the Blade trilogy.


An unusual example of a comic inspired flick is 2004’s Alien vs. Predator. The characters obviously come from the film franchises that bear their names. 
But the idea of combining these franchises first occurred in comics starting in the late 1980s. In fact, these two even faced off against the Terminator, Batman, and Superman.
The film however, was unfortunately quite terrible. That’s not entirely surprising as it was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Anderson has made several clunkers, often based on video games. These include Mortal Kombat, and the first, fourth, and fifth installments in Resident Evil series.


The smallest comic book film of 2004 was the French film Blueberry. It was directed by Jan Kounen, who has since directed Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. The film is entirely in English because it was set in the American west. It was marketed as Renegade in the U.S.
It stars French actor Vincent Cassel, who gave a great performance in Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible and has appeared in many American films as well. Also appearing are Michael Madsen, Juliette Lewis, and Djimon Hounsou.
            Hallucinogenic drugs are a big part of the movie. They used some great computer animation to show us the geometric patterns the protagonist sees. The exact drug used is not mentioned, but it seems to be based off of ayahuasca trips.
           The film is adapted from the comic series Blueberry, written by Jean-Michel Charlier. It was illustrated by famed artist Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius. Moebius has an amazing surreal style. He contributed storyboards to many science fiction films including Alien, Tron, and The Empire Strikes Back.
            He also collaborated with Alejandro Jodorowsky on his abandoned adaptation of Dune.  I highly recommend checking out the comic series that Moebius and Jodorowsky worked on together, titled The Incal.


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