Friday, March 11, 2005

They make them into cartoons.

Julie Saltman and some others blog about how Hollywood dumbs down comic books when it puts them on the big screen. (If that sounds redundant to you, hey, don't click on that link, 'kay?)

This is one of the best commentaries on comics vs. the movie version that I've seen in the last few months.
Comic book adaptations have been pigeonholed into the action-adventure genre in Hollywood. As it stands, that genre is antithetical to the antihero nature of many comics which are among the most popular these days (Hellboy, Constantine, Batman, even the X-Men). Consequently, we end up with films whose best elements seem to embody neither the original comic, nor the action-adventure genre (Hellboy in many ways was at its best as a comedy, X-Men was basically a star vehicle for non-star Hugh Jackman, etc.).

The best comic book films remain the first two Superman films, which were a great confluence of adventure, wide-eyed heroism, and Christopher Reeve's visionary portrayal of Clark Kent. (I hesitate to say they were perfect because they also sported some deep flaws left over from the biff-pow-bam Batman era.) The first Spider-Man film was pretty good in this regard, too (I haven't seen the second).

I passed on Constantine, in large part because I never cared much for the comic (nor for Keanu Reeves, for that matter).

I'm fairly frightened to think what the Fantastic Four film will be like.
I think that even when you allow for possible intelligence among movie-types that the visual style of comics means that moviemakers--who are usually very visual--get caught up with the action they are seeing rather than the substance of what is driving the characters in comics. Essentially, they take the two dimensional panels that usually have shadows, swooping, crashes, and if you are very lucky, jet packs, and leave the dialogue that rounds out the characters sitting on the page.

You have all this incisive political and cultiral commentary, and I am commenting on the comic discussion. I feel like I should try to insert a commentary on the degraded social contract.
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