It can fulfill dreams you’ve had since childhood or it can cause you to burn your entire comic book collection in effigy. It’s...The Comic Book Adaptation.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, comic adaptations are most likely here to stay. Not that I’m complaining. In theaters this year we’ve seen the release of Iron Man 2, Jonah Hex, Kick-Ass and The Losers (Marmaduke too if you want to count comic strips.). And while not all of them were a financial success, one is good enough to keep the engine running.
Iron Man 2 may be an anomaly since it’s a sequel to a film that already proved successful, but it’s interesting to note how out of the films released, only one of them is a straight-up superhero adaptation. With all the superhero bombs we’ve seen, you’d think it would be the other way around.
So what makes for a better transition to screen: "tights and capes" or "everything but?"
Of course for fans it‘s all about taste. Not all people read superhero comics and while some read both, not a lot of people read "anything but." Movies like the Batman or X-Men films are like candy for fans of the superhero genre but can go horribly, horribly wrong for them as well. The adage goes "you can't please everyone all of the time," but the Joel Schumacher Batman films and X-Men Origins: Wolverine left many in a Logan-like berserker rage.
Then you look on the other side of the coin. While Wanted was a decent action flick, it was so far removed from the source material they could make another Wanted adaptation without seeming redundant. The same could be said for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I could eat Angelina Jolie and Sean Connery with a spoon but that’s not going to make me like those movies.
But how great is it when a comic adaptation just works? When Batman Begins debuted we couldn’t believe our eyes. This was the Batman we all knew and loved. The same goes for 2004’s Hellboy For the most part, that’s how you always heard and pictured these characters in your head. Thankfully, no matter what happens in the future, we’ll always have them to look back on with happy memories.
I think it’s safe to say there’s been even more luck with the non-superhero fare. Films like A History of Violence and Road to Perdition were nominated for Academy Awards. And not for visual effects either. They had mass appeal and it’s a safe bet the majority of moviegoers had no idea they were based on comic books.
Though sometimes that can be a major selling point. How many times now have we seen, “Based on the acclaimed GRAPHIC NOVEL!!” plastered on a poster or a commercial?
Hollywood has adapted regular books since the very early days of cinema but over the last decade or so they’ve really come to realize the power of comic book content. In fact, even some movies that aren’t based on comics made their way to the screen as a result of them.
Producer of last year’s Sherlock Holmes, Lionel Wigram, enlisted artist John Watkiss to create scene from his original treatment and bound them like comics to sell his pitch to studios. And, well…Sherlock Holmes 2 should hit theaters next year.
The latter half of this year and beyond we have tons of comic book films to look forward to/stay up late at night worrying about. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Thor, The Green Hornet, Cowboys & Aliens, Green Lantern and Red just to name a few. Plus, there’s still an immense number of comic properties just waiting to adapted. And don’t forget, if the new Spider-Man or X-Men films hit it big, that could mean countless reiterations of the same character and franchises every few years. Joy.
Which comic adaptations are you most looking forward to? Dreading? Which comic would you most like to see adapted?