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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Un-Wanted




Wanted is going to be coming out soon. While the skepticism remains, it has original comic author Mark Millar's blessing, so hey, I'll give it a shot. That isn't going to stop a bit of unhappiness on my part at the changes being pushed onto the film from who-knows-what direction that divert it dramatically from the graphic novel to the silver screen, most noticably the "Super-Villians" being swapped out in favor of "Assasins".

Lets preface this just a scooch: I'm not against changes that are better for the literature-to-film transition. I understood why Peter Parker was given organic web shooters. I don't care how bright the 17 year old is, I'm not going to buy him forging metal, wiring electronics and triggers, and creating a web-juice formula that NASA would probably stab jaws to get a hold of. So the web shooters being a part of him make sense. In Daredevil, they cast an African-American as Kingpin, but hey, Michael Clark Duncan is a big fella. That's cool.

But Wanted isn't a story about assassins. Wanted is about Super-villains. Not only that, it's about Super-villains who won. Even deeper then that, it's not just about Super-villains, but a guy growing up, coming of age and enjoying the dark pleasures that such unlimited power brings. It's about a battle between the inherent greed of people who not only want ultimate power, but want everyone to know they have it. The ones who want to shepherd with a shotgun, not a crook. Assassins? Just a wee bit shy of Super-villains. So why change it?

Here's my theory why: they don't want people to know this is a comic-book film. They are betting on the loyalty of fan-boys to drag them into the theater to watch a film that bears a passing resemblance to a property they love, while herding in millions of people who they're worried would scoff at the comic roots of the film should they find out. Would they? Maybe. Spider-man, Superman, you're not gonna hide their roots. Spider-man ain't gonna cut it as a story about a justice-loving gymnast. Superman wouldn't work trying to pass itself off as a hang-gliding strongman. Maybe there are people that shunned these films because of where they came from.

And lets not just pick on Wanted, because this isn't the first time, is it? Stardust, V for Vendetta, even League of Extraordinary Gentlemen dodged the bullet of a frightening label: kids stuff. It's sort of a Catch-22, isn't it? These stories may not get any respect if they're put forwards as a film based on a comic book, but at the same time, these stories may have put a little respectability into comic-based films, if only people knew they were...well...comic-based films. It's a frightening proposition, it's a gamble, and a gamble that will have to occur before change happens, but at the same time one that will not occur because it's a gamble. Vicious cycle.

So there's no answer. Not from me. Essays are supposed to propose an answer, but I don't have it. People are surprised when I tell them V for Vendetta was a comic first. Would they have seen it before? Would they have respected the film if they had? Their interpretations would be different. How nice, if we heard a trailer that started "Based on the Best-selling graphic novel by Neil Gaiman..." It would take more change than the movie industry itself could provide, but a revolution in perceptions of an art form.

But we can hope. Tell people you know about comics as films. Let them know that there's something out there other then underpants-on-the-outside man. If you care, at least. Who knows what could happen. Maybe there's a glimmer of hope for a solution after all. Tell people who seen Wanted where it came from if they liked it. Hell, tell them if they don't. Change starts somewhere.

1 comment:

Roque said...

Of course, "Graphic Novel" has a lot more official sounded tone than "Comic Book" and what is a grpahic novel but a collection of comic books? Still, comic book willl always have the stigma of being "for children".