Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: Part Eleven (2007)



            The biggest comic book movie of 2007 was easily Spider-Man 3. It was a monster at the box office, making a whopping $890 million on a $258 million budget. Spider-Man 3 made the most money out of any of the films in the trilogy and was the third highest grossing film of 2007.
The main cast and director Sam Raimi all came back for the third installment. James Franco returned to continue his transformation into the villainous New Goblin. The Vulture was also supposed to be a bad guy; Ben Kingsley was in talks to play him. However, they decided to go with other villains. One of the antagonists was Sandman, played by Thomas Haden Church.

The producers also insisted that the character of Venom be included. Raimi did not want to put him in the film, and expressed distaste for the character. However, Avi Arad demanded that he appear. In the final film, he is played Topher Grace of That 70s Show fame.
Another character forced in by the producers was Gwen Stacy. In the comics, she is Peter Parker’s first girlfriend, who ends up tragically dying. She was played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Spider-Man 3 made a boatload of money but it didn’t match that success with critics and fans. The reviews were much more mixed than the previous two, leading to a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Many comic book and Spider-Man fans were unhappy with film. It’s usually considered the worst of the Raimi trilogy. One of the major perceived faults was the filmmakers trying to cram too much into one movie.
There were three major villains: Sandman, Venom, and Harry Osborn. Gwen Stacy was also included with no clear significance to the plot or reason for being there. Fans were also upset that Uncle Ben’s death was retconned to have been committed by the Sandman. Roger Ebert summed it up by stating, “Spider-Man 3 is, in short, a mess. Too many villains, too many pale plot strands, too many romantic misunderstandings, too many conversations…”

At the time, a fourth film with the same cast and crew was planned. In 2009 rumors surfaced that John Malkovich would play the Vulture and Anne Hathaway would portray Felicia Hardy AKA the Black Cat. Raimi also reportedly considered utilizing the villain The Lizard, who ended up being the antagonist in the 2012 reboot.
In 2010, it was announced that Spider-Man 4 was cancelled due to Sam Raimi leaving. 2012 would see the release of the reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield as the title character.


            The second most successful Marvel film of 2007 was Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. While nowhere near Spider-Man 3’s status, it did make a respectable $289 million worldwide. This was more than double the $130 million budget. The main cast all returned as did director Tim Story.

            The big news this time around was the addition of Marvel heavyweights the Silver Surfer and Galactus. Galactus and the Silver Surfer first appeared in The Fantastic Four #48 in 1966.
The Silver Surfer saved his homeworld (called Zenn-La) from being destroyed by Galactus, the devourer of planets, by agreeing to be his herald. Both of them have been crucial parts of the Marvel Universe.
For this film, the filmmakers were originally unsure if the Silver Surfer would speak. When it was decided that he would, the voice was done by Laurence Fishburne. The motion capture was performed by Doug Jones.

            The Silver Surfer is very similar to his appearance in the comics, but the same can’t be said for poor Galactus. Galactus is always portrayed as an enormous man in a crazy looking purple outfit. However, in this film he’s just a huge cloud. As you can imagine, this upset a lot of comic fans.
             Their basic story is the same, Galactus devours worlds and the Silver Surfer is his herald and used to be named Norrin Radd. I can understand why they didn't want to do a comic perfect translation of Galactus' iconic and distinctive design as that could be difficult to pull off, but they didn't even try to come close.
             Instead, they went with an extremely generic looking dark cloud. And of course in the comics Galactus can speak and have conversations as opposed to the silent film version. The Silver Surfer looks kind of cool, but the effects aren't very convincing. One major deviation from the comics is that he gets his power from the board.

            As with many comic book films, the reviews were negative. Rise of the Silver Surfer has a poor rating of 37% on Rotten Tomatoes.      

           Right off the bat, the film lets you know how terrible it's going to be with an incredibly cringey scene of Reed Richards dancing in a club using his stretch powers. The plot is formulaic and leads to an unexciting conclusion.

             Despite being awful, this version is much more entertaining and enjoyable than the dreary, miserable 2015 reboot.



            We come to yet another Marvel character being adapted for cinemas; this time it’s Ghost Rider, created in 1972. The film languished in development hell beginning in 2000, when Johnny Depp was attached to star. Stephen Norrington, director of Blade, was at one point supposed to direct. The job eventually went to Mark Steven Johnson, who made another Marvel film, Daredevil.

            The star was Nicolas Cage as the titular Ghost Rider. The supporting cast included Eva Mendes, Sam Elliott, Wes Bentley as Blackheart, and Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles.

            While the character of Ghost Rider is pretty cool, sadly the film is quite horrible. It’s very cheesy and has dreadful performances, and Nicolas Cage is over the top as usual. Critics weren’t kind to it and it has a pathetic 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.
            On the other hand, the film was a financial success, making slightly more than double its budget.


            Perhaps spurred on by the success of Sin City, another Frank Miller work was chosen to be adapted into a film.

300 is a 1998 graphic novel inspired by the events of the Battle of Thermopylae. The historic battle took place during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 B.C. The comic, like its filmed version, took some liberties with history.
The graphic novel did have some pretty amazing art, and the film wisely sticks close to the visual style Miller laid out. Overall, the film is quite faithful to the comic. Miller served as an executive producer and consultant for the movie. The film succeeds as much as it does mostly because of how true it stays to the source material.

The director was Zack Snyder, whose only previous film was the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead. He went on to direct more comic films, including the Alan Moore adaptation Watchmen and the Superman reboot Man of Steel. He’s also scheduled to direct the upcoming Batman/Superman crossover.

300 starred Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in his breakout role. Lena Headey appeared as Queen Gorgo, his wife. She went on to play Cersei Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones
This was also the first film for Michael Fassbender, who was later the younger version of Magneto.

300 was the subject of a bit of controversy. Part of this stemmed from its historical inaccuracy. However, the movie is presented as a story being told by one of the characters. There are also several outlandish moments that show that historical accuracy wasn’t the filmmakers’ main concern.
Furthermore, many criticized the political and social viewpoints there were apparently promoted by the film, some even going as far as to label it “fascist”. There were also some who took issue with the portrayal of Persians, viewing it as racist. Many Iranians were particularly upset and the Iranian government even made official statements denouncing it.

Despite the controversy, 300 was a success. It had a budget of $65 million, making a huge profit with its $456 million worldwide gross. It even got decent reviews, earning a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes.
There was a sequel released in 2014, titled 300: Rise of an Empire. Snyder did not direct but stayed on as a producer and writer. In my opinion, 300 is Zack Snyder's best film and it's leagues ahead of his later efforts like Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman. This is also the best comic book adaptation of the year.


            TMNT is the fourth film based on the Ninja Turtles comic series, but the first to be done in animation. It was originally announced in 2000 with John Woo as the director, but he went on to other things.
The job ended up going to Kevin Munroe, who also wrote the script. This was Munroe’s first feature, and he would go on to make Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and Ratchet and Clank.

            There were many well-known names in the voice cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar was the voice of April O’Neill and Chris Evans portrayed Casey Jones. Laurence Fishburne provided the narration, while Zhang Ziyi and Patrick Stewart also had supporting roles.

The voices for the Turtles themselves did not belong to celebrities. Leonardo was portrayed by James Arnold Taylor who played Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars miniseries as well as The Clone Wars, the 3-D series.
TMNT cost $34 million to make. It opened number one and eventually raked in $95 million globally. The reviews were mainly negative and it only has a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes.

            This film is a bit underwhelming, but it's significantly less embarrassing than the Michael Bay produced abominations to follow.


            30 Days of Night was based on a horror comic written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. The series actually began as a film pitch. When this wasn’t successful, it was turned into a comic book.
            The adaptation was directed by David Slade. Slade has an interesting resume. His first feature was the disturbing indie film Hard Candy.
            He also directed the music video for “Donkey Rhubarb” by IDM artist Aphex Twin. His third flick was The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, released in 2010. Since then, he has mainly worked in TV, directing episodes of Breaking Bad and Hannibal.

            The cast for this film included Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Ben Foster, and Danny Huston. It was, for the most part, a mediocre, forgettable effort.
30 Days of Night still made a decent showing at the box office. It only cost $30 million to make and made $75 million worldwide. Critics gave it middling reviews, earning the film a score of 53 on Metacritic and 51% on Rotten Tomatoes.

In 2010, a straight to video sequel was released, titled 30 Days of Night: Dark Days.


            Requiem was a sequel to the earlier Alien vs. Predator film. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much better than the first. The directors this go-around were The Brothers Strause, who went on to make the equally lackluster Skyline.
            Many fans complained that the first motion picture was rated PG-13. The Alien and Predator films in their respective franchises had always been rated R. This one corrected that perceived mistake, but it didn’t really help.

            The movie wasn’t screened for critics in advance. Once they got a chance to view it however, the reviews were mainly negative, as it has a paltry 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nigel Floyd of Time Out called the dialogue “unspeakable” and Ty Burr of the Boston Globe said the acting “stinks.”
            Another major flaw that many critics and fans pointed out is the awful lighting. Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times noted, “The action is rendered with such disconcertingly low light levels… that it can be a strain to simply see what is occurring on-screen.”
            I can't help but agree with the critics; there's not much to like about this film.

            Alien vs. Predator: Requiem was financially successful, however. It was decently low budget at only $40 million and made over three times that amount at the worldwide box office at $128 million.

            There has not been another film in the Alien vs. Predator franchise to date.

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