Friday, October 25, 2013

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


            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 anything to do with it or even be credited.
            The film had been in development for quite a long time, with Terry Gilliam, the director of Brazil and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 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 and eventually, the job went to Zack Snyder. He had previously directed the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and the adaptation 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 cutting out some subplots and the famously altered ending. The theatrical version also omitted the story-within-a-story that is "Tales of the Black Freighter", but it was included in an animated version for the DVD and Blu-Ray.

            Some of the performances in Watchmen were great, and 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.

            Also, while the comic had some violent moments, the movie was not subtle in its depictions of over-the-top violence and turned Watchmen into an action film. In Snyder's defense, I will say that using such a complex work as source material was a daunting task, and it easily could have turned out much worse.  

            Many people still consider it among the best comic book adaptations, and there are undoubtedly aspects of it that are very well-done. If you still haven't seen it, it's worth checking out and making up your own mind about it, especially if you're into comics.

            Watchmen premiered in more theaters than any other previous 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.


            Easily the worst film in the X-Men series so far was the clumsily titled 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 9 times, the most of any comic book character. However, Robert Downey Jr. has played Iron Man 8 times if you include his Incredible Hulk cameo and will tie Jackman in 2018 with Avengers: Infinity War.

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

            X-Men Origins featured the first cinematic appearances of a few notable X-Men. One of these was fan favorite Deadpool, who was created in 1991 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. Sadly, the film version of the character was quite different from the comics in both appearance and personality. 

           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.

           There was a hint that the character would come back in sequels, but the intensely negative reaction from fans meant that version of Deadpool would never be seen again.

            This film also was the first cinematic portrayal of Gambit, as he was intended to be in the original trilogy but kept getting cut out. He was played by Taylor Kitsch here and doesn't get much screentime.

            The Blob appeared for the first time as well, played by Kevin Durand of Lost and Legion. Logan's brother Sabretooth is in this but is played by Liev Schreiber instead of original actor Tyler Mane and looks nothing the version seen in the first X-Men, which made no reference to them being related. There was even a small appearance by a digitally de-aged Professor X.

            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. Its Tomatometer score is pretty low at 38%, but this is probably better than it actually deserves.

           This film does have some entertainment value in a "so bad, it's good" kind of way and any fan of awful movies should give it a watch.

            X-Men Origins was pretty much ignored by all future films and they didn't shy away from contradicting it like in First Class when they had a completely different version of Emma Frost. However, it was made fun of in the 2016 Deadpool solo film.


            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, who had already made U-571 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Since Surrogates, Mostow has made only one feature, the relatively low-budget 2017 film The Hunter's Prayer, which starred Sam Worthington and flopped hard.

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

           It's pretty boring and formulaic, despite some interesting ideas here and there. Bruce Willis stars and phones in his performance. The supporting cast includes Ving Rhames in silly looking dreadlocks, Rosamund Pike as Bruce Willis' wife, and James Cromwell as the inventor of surrogates.

          The movie is about a futuristic society where most people constantly use robotic surrogates that look like idealized versions of themselves. This could be an intriguing concept for a movie, but the execution just falls flat and the final product is mediocre at best. I can't recommend watching this to anyone, even if you're a hardcore science fiction fan.


            The Haunted World of El Superbeasto was an animated film directed by Rob Zombie, who 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. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.

           It only has five reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with 3 being negative and 2 positive.


            Whiteout was based on a limited comic series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber and 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. Also, Whiteout has an abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score of 7 percent.

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