30 July 2004

Comic book movies

All in all, the recent wave of comic book movies have treated us better than we had a right to hope for. The two X-Men pictures were smart and fun, playing well with the background of the comics and making the transition to film well. Hugh Jackman, bless him, nailed the impossible role of Wolverine. The two Spiderman pictures likewise came through with flying colors. Heck, I'd have been happy with the Spiderman "coming attractions" trailers alone.

I have the good, the bad, and the coming attractions in more detail...

Not that it hasn't been a mixed bag. Ang Lee's Hulk didn't quite work, but it was a noble failure that had its moments. Daredevil was a turkey --- Ben Affleck? --- but even it had charms: the inspired casting of Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin, the inspired performance of Colin Farrell's Bullseye, and the inspired motorcycle-leathers style of DD's costume. Apparently Catwoman is also a turkey, as the filmmakers felt that they didn't need anything beyond Halle Berry a bullwhip and torn leather. (Yeah, I know: they were almost right.) And okay, the less said about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the better, but at least it put money in Alan Moore's pocket, which is a good thing.

But surprise, surprise: Hellboy delivered in spades. It was lively, fun, gorgeously shot, somehow managed to look like Mike Mignola's art, and was chock full of the amazing Ron Perlman, the only actor on Earth who becomes subtler and more expressive when when you put a few pounds of prosthetics on his face. Maybe someday I'll come back in a later post and sing the praises of Hellboy some more; in spite of a bit of limp screenwriting in the ending, the film is a gem.

So this just makes a comics lover want more, and it is more we shall have.

We have third installments coming for both X-Men and Spiderman, done by the same people. We have a director's cut of Hellboy coming on DVD, with a likely sequel there too.

Better still, we have a proper Batman movie being shot right now. Will wonders never cease?

Christopher "Memento" Nolan is directing Batman Begins. Looking at the trailer, it's obviously heavily inspired by Frank Miller's dark, gritty Batman: Year One comic. The cast boggles the mind. Michael Caine is playing Alfred! Even if you aren't Batman lover enough to know who Jim Gordon and Ra's Al Ghul are, you have to be impressed that Gary Oldman and Ken Watanabe will be playing them. (And as someone who thought the only way to cast Ra's was to get in a time machine and scoop up Omar Sharif when he was thirty years younger, I stand corrected.) Plus we get Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, and a bushel basket of good character actors, with Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne.

It gets better. Neil Gaiman has scripted a picture called MirrorMask that's in post-production now. Dave McKean, the mad genius artist who did all those Sandman covers, is directing. Jim Henson Pictures is producing it, and the budget is low --- down to neither of them getting paid --- which is good news, because they're keeping control. Neil says that when he previewed it to the Sony people responsible for distribution, an exec said "That was like Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast ... on acid ... for kids ... "

So I feel just a tiny bit of anticipation for that one.

Last up, for our sins, it seems that rumors of the death of Constantine were, alas, greatly exaggerated. Keanu Reeves plays shadowy un-super-heroic occultist John Constantine. It's a bit of an odd casting choice considering that in the comics he's a ragged, chain-smoking, working class Brit with blonde hair. Other than that, they haven't changed a thing. Except to give him a big gun. And take away his trenchcoat. And give him a love interest. And add a few explosions.

You can't have everything.


Erik said...

And while we're at, let's not forget that Fantastic Four is being shot right now (though billed, oddly, as a romantic comedy; uh, oh), and Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez are hard at work with their star-studded cast making Sin City. Between you and me, McG's dropping out of the Superman project is a good thing.

Jonathan Korman said...

The Fantastic Four movie has been brewing a long time, and all of the rumours are that it will be as bad as it sounds. I had hoped it had died on the vine, but no luck.

I had not heard about Sin City! The cast is amazing. Mickey Rourke is a clever choice for Marv: a role for which his plastic surgery gone madly awry is an advantage.