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Friday, October 25, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: Part Thirteen (2009)

WATCHMEN



            Watchmen is one of the most iconic and influential graphic novels ever made and often considered the best graphic novel of all time. It was originally published in 1986 and 1987 as a limited series. The artist was Dave Gibbons and the writer was the legendary Alan Moore. Gibbons served as a consultant on the film, but Alan Moore refused to have to anything to do with it or even be credited.
            The film had been in production for quite a long time. Terry Gilliam was at one point attached, but he declared the work to be “unfilmable”. Then Darren Aronofsky was supposed to direct, but that fell through as well. Eventually, the job went to Zack Snyder. He had previously directed the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and the adaption of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300. However, his style over substance method of filmmaking was inappropriate for a work such as this.

            The graphic novel is amazing, but the film fell far short of its potential. One major reason for this is that Watchmen is inextricably linked with its medium. This is illustrated by a quote from Moore where he states, “What I'd like to explore is the areas that comics succeed in where no other media is capable of operating.” Furthermore, Gibbons called it a “comic about comics.”
            The adaptation got the visuals right, but was misguided and perhaps too literal. There was also way too much in Watchmen to put into a single movie. Really, it needed to be a series of films or a miniseries.

            Snyder was very faithful to the graphic novel, except for the ending. In the comic, a giant squid that is presented as an alien attacks New York City. In the film, Ozymandias causes a series of explosions that bear Dr. Manhattan’s energy signature. Therefore, the world is united against Dr. Manhattan. The theatrical version also omitted the story-within-a-story that is Tales of the Black Freighter. The story was included in an animated version for the DVD.

            Some of the performances in Watchmen were great. The best was given by Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was also excellent as the Comedian. However, some of the performances were subpar, especially Malin Akerman’s.
            Watchmen premiered in more theaters than any other R-rated film. Unfortunately, it still didn’t do as well as expected. The budget was sizable at $130 million and the global box office was only $185 million. Reviews were mixed, giving it a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.


X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE



            Easily the worst film in the X-Men series so far was the 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In fact, I’d rank it among the worst comic book films, period. The film was a prequel to the X-Men trilogy that solely focused on Wolverine. You know, just in case the previous three didn’t revolve around him enough.

            This was Hugh Jackman’s fourth time playing Wolverine. This made him the first actor to play a superhero four times since Christopher Reeve. Counting his cameo in X-Men: First Class, he has now appeared as Wolverine 6 times, with a 7th coming in 2014. The closest actor to him in terms of superhero portrayals is Robert Downey Jr. with 5 appearances as Iron Man and a 6th ahead in 2015.

            The prequel was directed by Gavin Hood. At the time, he was mainly known for Tsotsi, but he was also the director for the upcoming adaptation of Ender’s Game, starring Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley.

            X-Men Origins featured the first appearance of a few notable X-Men. One of these was fan favorite Deadpool. Deadpool was created in 1991 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. However, the film version of the character was quite different from the comics, upsetting many fans. Many referred to the character, played by Ryan Reynolds, as “Deadpool in name only”. One of the main complaints was that they sewed up his mouth. Seeing as Deadpool is often referred to as the “Merc with a Mouth”, this was somewhat of an odd decision.

            This film also featured the first appearance of Gambit. He was intended to be in the trilogy but kept getting cut out.
            Despite being a terrible movie and getting critically lambasted, X-Men Origins was a box office success. $373 million was the final tally, more than doubling the budget of $150 million.



SURROGATES



            The Surrogates was a comic series written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Brett Weldele. It was published by Top Shelf Productions in 2005 and 2006.
            Directing duties for the film went to Johnathan Mostow. He previously directed U-571 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

            Surrogates didn’t turn out so well. It opened number 2 behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and ended up making $122 million at the box office. This was not even close to enough to double the budget of $85 million. Critics weren’t happy with it either. It only has 39% on the Tomatometer.


THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO


            The Haunted World of El Superbeasto was an animated film directed by Rob Zombie. Zombie also wrote the comic the film was adapted from. The movie was released straight to DVD.

            Zombie recruited quite a few notable actors to lend their voices to the film. Unsurprisingly, his wife Sheri Moon Zombie was one of them. Others included Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson, Sid Haig, and Danny Trejo. Despite the decent voice cast, El Superbeasto ended up being pretty terrible. It's extremely over the top and fails at almost every attempt at humor.


WHITEOUT



            Whiteout was based on a limited comic series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber. It was published in 1998.
            The filmed version was directed by Dominic Sena, director of mediocre films such as Kalifornia, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Swordfish, and Season of the Witch. Whiteout starred Kate Beckinsale.


            The movie flopped commercially and critically. It made a pathetic $17 million worldwide, which was significantly less than the budget of $35 million.

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