Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Makes a "Good" Comic Book Movie?

It seems since the early 2000's that every other film or TV show that gets released is an adaptation of a comic book. Not just the big superhero stories, but even small press comics like "Scott Pilgrim" and obscure titles like "The Walking Dead." The question that's racking my brain is, "what makes any of these adaptations good as opposed to those that suck?"

Movies like "The Dark Knight" soar at the box office, while ones like "Daredevil" barely deliver. Which is strange, because "Daredevil" received two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert when it was released.

Do we just enjoy our heroes in dark, brooding atmospheres? Or do only the big names get any recognition at the box office?

Personally, I think it all has to do with the approach. Most fanboys will piss and moan if there aren't hundreds of tiny details represented on screen, even though it's a completely different medium and a set amount of time in which it can be covered. Not to mention most characters have decades worth of material to cover, and only, at best, three films to cover it all. If the right approach is taken, I think that any comic book movie could be good, even great.

The reason "The Dark Knight" rings so true to both fans and regular audiences is that it focuses more on the themes of Batman rather than a Let's-watch-Batman-Punch-A-Villain festival. If anything, Nolan has made the new Batman films more about what it's like to be Batman, rather than what it's like for Batman to beat some guy up.

I think more comic book movies end up in the junk bin because directors think that they can just go in, be silly, and come out on top. The source material is a comic book, so why should anything have to make sense or attempt to be deep and dramatic. It all lies in the adaptor's hands. If someone can take the main themes of the original narrative, present them with some tweaks to the story for time sake, and retain the original flavor of the story, then a comic book movie can be a huge success.

Then again, fans of the franchise will turn out to see it whether it sucks or not. Which just puts more garbage out there for people to see.

Case in point: "Green Lantern" with Ryan Reynolds.

I don't have anything against Reynolds, I think he's a fun actor and I'd have a beer with him if the opportunity presented itself. But the movie that they've put together and the approach that they've gone with doesn't feel like a Hal Jordan story to me. It looks as if they were catering more to the "Iron Man" crowd. Which is fine for people who like Tony Stark, but not for those who like Hal Jordan. The basic themes and attitude of the character don't seem to be present. Then again, this is all based on a trailer. Which, despite looking like it's going to suck, I'll see anyway. Why? Because anyone who has ever met me knows that I wear a Green Lantern shirt just about every week. I'm a huge fan of the narrative and characters, and I've wanted a movie adaptation for years. I just hope the film turns out to be better than I think it's going to be.

Thus, the plague of the comic book movie: If it's good, we'll see it and they'll make more. If it sucks, we see it anyway, they get more money, and they make more.


Watch for a post of "My Favorite Comic Book Movies" sometime soon!

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