Thursday, January 24, 2013

TERRIBLE Comic Book Movie Adaptations (the 3rd and Final Part)


Here is my conclusion to the worst comic book adaptations I have ever seen. Maybe someday there will be a fourth installment. I can only pray there won't...

Priest – I’m not familiar with the comic this movie was based on, but the movie seemed like it could have been cool. It wasn’t. There was only one thing that worked in this movie and that was Karl Urban. Thank God for Karl Urban. Priest was set in a post-apocalyptic meets dystopian future where religion rules what remains of society and priests, highly trained spiritual warriors, are humanity’s only defense against evil. Seems cool on the surface, but remember… it isn’t. So the main character priest guy goes after these vampires who are more like nocturnal demons with no eyes than Dracula or sparkly metro-sexual vampires. The vampires appear to be on the offensive, wiping out various outland towns and villages. Turns out their being led by a fallen priest who was turned into the first human-vampire… and it’s Karl Urban! The movie soon became a test of will as Jonny and I would anxiously wait for the next scene featuring Karl Urban.  Everything else just seemed stupid and forgettable. Priest suffers from a myriad of problems. While I say I know little of the comic, I do know it does not take place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. That aspect was invented by the Hollywood Mediocrity Machine (patent pending). Whenever you have people outside of the source material making such drastic changes to the plot, story or even setting, you are asking for trouble. I mean, what if somebody else decided to continue Bryan Fuller’s Dead Like Me without any involvement from the creator despite his heavy influence toward the feel, direction and mythos of the show?  Oh wait, that happened. So did S. Darko. (It can’t be undone, people!) Another issue was that the plot was implausible. No, I don’t mean that vampires exist. I mean that it took how many millennia for a human to be infected by a vampire? Really? How was Karl Urban’s character the first one? I call bullshit! This race of vampire had to have been smart enough to realize the benefits of turning humans. For one thing… humans have eyes! Those optical things do kind of come in handy don’t they?  Plus, a human-looking vampire can infiltrate human civilization. That certainly improves the odds of eating them! Honestly, Jonny and I were more fascinated by the dystopian society ruled by religion aspect of the story than a dumb Judge Dredd versus vampires plot. Thank God for Karl Urban. Both for helping us survive Priest and giving us a GOOD Judge Dredd! Which leads me to…

Judge Dredd – This movie should have worked. It had good special effects with details and characters straight from the comic. Then mistakes were made. Many, many mistakes. On the surface, Sylvester Stallone is a great fit for the title role of Judge Dredd. The character is portrayed as a snarling, tough as nails, takes no bullshit cop with the power to be judge, jury and executioner all in one. Plus, Stallone brought great star power to the movie. But someone apparently forgot to tell Sly Stallone that Judge Dredd NEVER TAKES OFF HIS DAMN HELMET! This might seem trivial to bitch and moan over, but it is a huge detail to overlook considering the authenticity to the source material and the meaning behind Dredd’s hidden façade. Judge Dredd represents justice at its most carnal, most brutal, but also most honest. Dredd is the uniform complete with helmet and it represents him just as much as he and the uniform represent the law that he serves, abides by and sacrifices for. In the same way that justice is blind, you don’t see Dredd’s face. Having Stallone walk around 95% of the movie without the helmet made Judge Dredd just another Stallone flick. It’s the same reason that lesser known actors were cast in the Watchmen movie. The goal was to see Ozymandias, not Tom Cruise as Ozymandias.  Thank God for Karl Urban. He left that helmet on the whole time. He got it where Stallone didn’t and probably didn’t care. (It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if Sly never even read a single Dredd comic to prepare for the role.) The plot to Judge Dredd felt underwhelming, as if nothing was really at stake. Seriously, Jonny and I both think that the best part of the movie was the ABC Warrior robot that Rico (Dredd’s evil clone brother who surprisingly looked nothing like Dredd) uses as part of his scheme. Most would argue that the biggest problem with the movie was Rob Schneider. Herman Ferguson was made to be this comic relief that felt akin to a Death Wish movie where Charles Bronson had to drag Pee Wee Herman around with him. Not only did it not work, it missed the bar for the usual dark humor that the Judge Dredd book notoriously brings. Instead it was like the boring version of Demolition Man (boring because Wesley Snipes wasn’t in it and let’s be honest, he stole the damn show in that movie!). Plus, Hollywood is obsessed with this idea of there always having to be a romantic subplot. The comic, however, never really shows any romantic desires on the part of Judge Dredd because such relationships are forbidden among judges. So having Judge Hershey kiss Dredd simply would not have happened as Hershey would have known better and Dredd wouldn’t have allowed it.  Sadly, the script seemed to be built on the best of intentions. Pat Mills, a writer for the Judge Dredd comic who helped to develop the character early on, penned the screenplay and filled it with lots of characters, images and details straight from the source material. Even the annoying Schneider was based on the Fergie character in the book. Like I said, the movie should have worked. I think the Hollywood Mediocrity Machine (again, patent pending) got their hands on the film project and turned it into mindless action cheese, which is sad considering how unique and complex the Judge Dredd comic is.

Jonah Hex – Jonny and I didn’t hate this movie, but lots of people did… and we can see why. If you are a fan of Jonah Hex comics, this movie will anger you. We have never really read those comics, so our knowledge of the disfigured bounty hunter is limited. However, I can tell you that the movie was really stupid at times. I know Jonah doesn’t have supernatural powers, so his talking to the dead thing was total bullshit. It was quite amusing to watch Megan Fox try to pull off a western accent and… well, attempt to act. Considering that she was paired with Josh Brolin, who is easily one of the best American actors today, it was all the more painful to watch. (I must also point out that her playing a prostitute in the Wild West was very misleading. Wild West hookers were not that attractive!) John Malkovich was his usual intellectual bad guy (i.e. Cyrus the Virus) which he has mastered to such a level that I am confident he was just phoning in his performance, yet he still managed to be one of the best actors in the movie. Brolin did a great job; he really made the best of a bad situation. (For the purposes of this review, situation is another word for script.) The best actor in the movie was Michael Fassbender, who stole the damn show as Malkovich’s crazy Irish henchman. He was freakin’ awesome and the main reason Jonny and I didn’t hate the movie. Hell, Fassbender’s good enough for me to encourage people to see this stupid movie just to check out his performance! So to sum up this wretch, Malkovich gets this super secret weapon that… I’ll just say it… it’s basically a nuclear bomb without being a nuclear bomb. You know that thing where a movie will take place before scientists split the atom, but want that end-all-be-all super weapon so the writer comes up with a ridiculous “not-a-nuke” thing? That’s what Malkovich had. (For note, I did like the steampunk nuke from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes… it was ridiculous and yet somehow awesome.)  So when President Grant finds out about Malkovich having the weapon (which I can describe only as fiery super-balls of death), he whips out the classic cliché “Get me Jonah Hex.” Yes, somehow this movie was a secret agent film set in the Wild West without Will Smith and giant mechanical spiders. I do have to question how the president knew of a random bounty hunter out west and thought so highly of him as to place the fate of the United States in his hands… the same hands, by the way, that had not long before fought for the Confederacy. (I wonder if the writer of Jonah Hex ever uttered the words “Wow, it writes itself!) So inevitably Jonah Hex and his side-kick Whore-girl save the day. President Grant commends Hex for a job well done and appoints him a US Marshall. In the last scene, Dirty Harry Hex throws the US Marshall badge he got into the reflecting pool in Washington DC and walks off into the sunset with his lady rental. Wow, words cannot express... the bile rising in the back of my throat.

Dragonball: The Magic Begins & Dragonball: Evolution – I am counting these two
because Dragonball started out as a manga. I’ve already explained why I don’t think a
Dragonball movie will ever work. These awful experiments in cinematic torture just prove my point.  Dragonball: The Magic Begins was a Taiwanese film that was so terrible, I have never watched the whole thing. In fact, a friend and I attempted to watch it at two in the morning, the golden hour for viewing bad cinema, and still couldn’t get through it! The only positive I will give that movie was that the actor they cast as Master Roshi was SPOT ON. He looked and acted exactly how I picture the eccentric perverted martial arts master to behave. It is because of that movie that my expectations were so low that I didn’t think Dragonball: Evolution was that level of bad. I reached this conclusion on the fact that I was able to watch the entirety of that movie. But holy shit was that movie crappy. It’s sad since the cast was great; you had Justin Chatwin and Emmy Rossum, both of whom are amazing on Shameless. Plus you had Chow Yun Fat, Jamie Chung and James Marsters. But good actors can only do so much with a shitty script. The film could have starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Kevin Spacey, Natalie Portman and Matt Damon; Hell, you could have raised Stanley Kubrick from the dead to direct and that movie still would have been a steaming pile of dog shit. Like I said before, I don’t think you can make a live action Dragonball movie work, but certainly setting it in our world with a white American high school student named Goku wasn’t the best idea.

Fist of the North Star – Again, Fist of the North Star (aka Hokuto No Ken) began as a manga, so I am counting this horrid excuse for a martial arts flick. Unlike the Dragonball franchise, I actually believe this could work as a live action movie (perhaps a future installment of Live Action Casting?). With the right cast, a good script, a passionate director and a great fight choreographer, Fist of the North Star could be awesome. This movie, however, was not. I can sum it up simply with this sentence: Martial arts master Ryuken was played by Malcolm McDowell.  I love Malcolm McDowell. I have the 40th anniversary Blu-Ray of A Clockwork Orange and have McDowell’s autographed picture hanging in my den. But seriously, I can’t use my love of the man to suspend my belief well enough to buy a British man as the practicing master of an ancient martial art. I don’t remember a ton about this movie but I do recollect that it was very low budget. Most of its money was probably blown with one cool effect at the beginning of the movie where Kenshiro made a bad guy’s head explode. In hindsight, I should have just turned off the movie there as it was all downhill from that point.  I remember the late Chris Penn played a character named Jackal which was a cross between a warlord of the same name and Jagi, a villain I would have much rather seen. As the plot was based on the first story-arc of the series involving Shin, there was no Raoh or Jagi or Rei. I do remember the actor who played Rufio in Hook played a similarly annoying character that died the exact same way! He was literally impaled on a sword! I couldn’t stop laughing at that. I would love to see a big budget attempt at Fist of the North Star. (Hell, with today’s computer effects, it wouldn’t even have to be that expensive to show the gore.) Considering how well 300 did, Fist of the North Star could easily be a success. With the right amount of love for the genre (think the Wachowskis and Speed Racer), a good filmmaker could really make this property into an awesome franchise.

Spawn – I’ve only seen Spawn once and it was in the theater way back when it came out.  I’m not sure what exactly turned me off about this movie. It wasn’t abysmal, but I didn’t like it either. It wasn’t Michael Jai White or Martin Sheen, I thought they did fine. I thought John Leguizamo did a good job as the Clown, though I think the character was written a little too over the top. I would have preferred a less comical (and less flatulent) interpretation like the twisted, evil Clown from the HBO animated series (fair warning, I am going to mention that cartoon repeatedly). I thought Spawn himself looked crappy. He really looked nothing like the comic book version and more like a cross between that fleshy CGI costume the movie Green Lantern wore and the Venom symbiote. The special effects weren’t all that great if I remember correctly. I guess one of the biggest problems with the movie was that it abandoned the dark adult feel of the comic (something that the HBO cartoon got right) in favor of a more kid-friendly action flick. Now stop to think about this a second. Spawn is the story of a vicious mercenary who is murdered by his allies, gets sent to hell and makes a deal with the devil to become one of his elite soldiers so he can come back to Earth to seek his revenge.  (Wow, I know what show can follow Yo Gabba Gabba!) Honestly, I hated the ending. Spawn uses telekinesis to remove a bomb remote from the heart of Martin Sheen’s character Jason Wynn (you know, the whole if his heart stops the bomb explodes thing). I haven’t read a ton of Spawn, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Spawn having telekinetic powers. He had energy powers, teleportation, spikes, claws, super strength, a healing factor, near invulnerability, magic chains and a magic morphing cape that could help him glide and form shields when necessary. I don’t remember him having super telekinetic powers. I also don’t remember the movie mentioning he had those powers prior to the climax. To me it just felt like a contrived ending where Spawn pulled a power out of his ass to conveniently conclude the movie with the good guys winning. Once again, I must say that the HBO cartoon of Spawn had it right. It captured the dark feel, the gritty tone, the violence and the feeling of a wayward soldier seeking a balance between revenge and redemption. If my sketchy memory of the movie is any indication, the live action Spawn was just forgettable.    

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – I can’t not bring up this movie; Jonny Prophet would never forgive me. Truth be told, I didn’t hate this movie, I honestly feel it wasn’t that bad. However, I am not familiar with the source material. Jonny is. Like most of Alan Moore’s famous works, film adaptations were made of them without his consent and changes were made. In this case, the script writers clearly decided to ignore what made the book interesting in favor of making yet another superhero movie, this time a silly one involving famous literary characters and historical legends.  But somewhere along the way, these writers must have decided that Allen Quatermain, Mina Murray, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde were not interesting enough (when you eliminate all the aspects of their personalities that made them interesting in the comic, who can blame them?). So the writers added two completely non-comic characters in Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray. Sadly, because of how badly the original members of the team are written, Sawyer and Gray are the most interesting characters in that movie.  The entire film is a farce of the source material. Aside from using the 5 original characters (practically in name only) there is not much else faithful to the comic. For me, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a dumb, cheesy action film using public domain superheroes with really nothing more of substance. The truth is that the book centers on “extraordinary” people, not heroes. Quatermain was an opium addict. The Invisible Man was a pervert. Mr. Hyde was a murderous cannibal. Captain Nemo was more interested in world conquest than saving it. But all of these details were either lost or glossed over for the film, which resulted in the adaptation of an interesting graphic novel into just another bland production from the Hollywood Mediocrity Machine (yes, the patent is still pending). Though there were some cool moments, the movie is largely forgettable. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does have one sad distinction, however. It was Sean Connery’s final film before his retirement. (Come on, Sean, Raul Julia didn’t get a choice in his final role being M. Bison in that craptacular Street Fighter flick, but you can still end on a high note!) Sigh.

Now comes the part where I reveal which of these crappy movies I own in my collection:

The answer is 6… Spider-Man 3, Batman & Robin, The Spirit, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Jonah Hex and Superman Returns.

Now comes the part where I try to defend myself:

I got Spider-Man 3 at Walmart on Black Friday for $2. It was worth $2 to me.

This past Black Friday at Walmart I got X-men Origins: Wolverine for $4 on Blu-ray. There is enough good in the movie to justify it… I think. All right, fine, I’m a sucker for Blu-ray… I admit it.

That same night at Walmart, I got Jonah Hex for $1. The Michael Fassbender performance alone is worth a dollar to me. Plus, Jonny and I can riff that movie to shreds.

Batman and Robin were included in a four movie set of the old Batman movies from Burton and Schumacher.

I got the Spirit from my local Blockbuster for $1. It was worth a dollar to me. (BTW, Jonny got his for a penny on Amazon, but he had to pay shipping. It’s sort of a personal victory for each of us.)

And I own Superman Returns because Jonny Prophet is a bad person! He got the movie at a ‘white elephant’ Christmas gift exchange and decided to wrap it up and give it to me! I got him back though. I gave him his very own copy of John Cena’s The Marine complete with his name in permanent marker on the disc so no second hand shop will dare separate Jonny from his gift. Take that, Jonny Prophet!  

2 comments:

  1. Priest was a manwha (Korean comic) that focused on fallen angels, demonic possession of the main character via forsaking God and battling Fallen Angels in three different time periods, with the Wild West as the main focus. So, the dystopian future war with Vampires and an order of Priests.Yeah, totally missed the mark.

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  2. F'N Toaster1/27/13, 8:12 PM

    Jonny Prophet said that the creator of the comic was going to make a future version of the comic to coincide with the film. Who knows if that will happen.

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