Thursday, November 6, 2008

Let's All Go to the Lobby and Never Come Back.

(Note: Originally, in the first half of this piece, I made my first attempt at [what was hoped to be] an on-going criticism of what I oh-so-cleverly labelled "talking heads," that photoshop shortcut a lot of artists seem to use these days wherein they digitally repeat panels instead of [God forbid] having to draw the same thing more than once. But frankly, I was unable to say quite what I wanted to say. It's still an idea I may call up from the minors one day, but honestly, now that I think about it, it's not even a practice I've been noticing as often. So maybe some day. Anyways, on with this crap.)

Like a lot of you, I was really looking forward to the Iron Man movie, and like a lot of you, I was far from disappointed. I generally think the summer movie season to be, at best, a big snore, and this year (so far) has done little to dissuade me of that. But no, Iron Man was great. I’ve been a fan of Jon Favreau’s for years. And Downey playing a rich womanizing alcoholic? That’s just smart casting. So yeah, great movie.

The Incredible Hulk (henceforth referred to here as Hulk, for brevity's sake), I wasn’t so excited about. I didn’t see the last one since, like so many Ang Lee movies, it was directed by Ang Lee. But I figured I’d see this one ‘cause I like Edward Norton and Tim Roth and it looked like it’d be okay. I hadn’t planned on seeing it opening weekend, but my hand was forced a bit. See, in Kevin Murphy’s A Year at the Movies, he explains how Hollywood bases each movie’s success on its opening weekend. No matter how bad it is, if a movie hits number one at the box office the week it opens, Hollywood pats itself on the back and throws itself a hot tub party before cranking out a shitty sequel. This isn’t an exact science, of course, and there are obvious exceptions. But I still can’t shake the feeling that if I had just waited a week or two to see Austin Powers 2, then Austin Powers 3 (which I didn’t see on opening weekend, or any other weekend, for that matter) would never have been made.

But then Windowpane comes home after seeing Hulk on opening day and off-handedly remarks that there’s a cameo at the end. I hadn’t known there would be any such thing and would have liked to have kept it that way. God bless Window, y’know, he didn’t say who it was, but imagine my surprise and delight while watching had I no knowledge of any cameos whatsoever. Then, Russell comes home ready to punch a hole through something because some dickhead at work out and out told him who shows up at the end. Then, Carmen tells me that her sister called her and blew it for her, too. Well, fuck it, I figured, and me and her went that day before I would have been forced to knock a loudmouth’s teeth down his throat.

And even though it equaled Iron Man in pretty much every area (leading lady notwithstanding), I actually liked Hulk a wee better, and all because of a one-liner. Y’know, when I watched Predator as a kid and Schwarzenegger throws a knife into a guy and quips, “Stick around,” why, I thought that was the most witty and urbane thing a chap could say in a situation like that. Fast forward ten years to when I watch it again, and my eyes roll nearly audibly. Sure, that kinda shit can still be kitschy and fun, but so can hanging out with my grandma, which also doesn’t cost me $10.50. So, now remember in Iron Man when all the bad guys really open up and give it to him with both barrels, resulting only in a bunch of little dings in his armor? Yeah, I know, it was rad. But then before he lets loose on them, he goes, “My turn.” Ugh. That’s not even kind of clever. Does that one line ruin the movie? Christ, no. But since the Hulk is generally not a really chatty character (in dramatic representations, anyways), I don’t have to worry about any cornball shit like that. The closest Hulk came was the requisite “Hulk smash!” which is more a catch phrase than a one-liner, and it really hit me right in the giddy nerd spot.

One thing that doesn’t hit my giddy nerd spot, but rather bull’s-eyes my pissy cynic spot is the adaptation of the Mark Millar/J.G. Jones book Wanted. Wanted was, I believe, the first thing I ever read by Millar, or at least the first of his work that made a real impression on me. It’s very Fight Club-y, which is A-O.K. with me. And from what I’ve read about the flick (I normally eschew reviews of movies I have any intention of seeing, but no danger of that here), it comes off as Fight Club meets The Matrix (at least, that’s how the yokels who write poorly orchestrated reviews on the IMDB describe it. But isn’t Fight Club just The Matrix without The Matrix? Or The Matrix just Fight Club with The Matrix? And aren’t all of these just the “Den” segment from Heavy Metal?). But it’s like this: Fight Club is a fine adaptation in that it really succeeds in keeping the original spirit of the novel. But it also wasn’t a dopey summer action blockbuster.

It seems the going wisdom is to expect nothing more from these movies than tits and explosions. And that’s fine by me, I love tits and explosions. But I don’t see the necessity to rape decent source material in order to serve up tits and explosions.

A lot of times, people complain that a lack of faith to the source material automatically equals a crappy adaptation. I disagree. I think Catch-22 is a really good movie, although it departs greatly from the novel. But if you’ve read the novel, you can see that it doesn’t exactly lend itself to film.

So all right, fair enough. But if you take a fairly action-packed comic like Wanted, which, being of a visual medium, can lend itself to film, why fight it? Why buy the rights to the comic and then re-write it until it no longer even remotely resembles the original? God forbid somebody with some actual creativity and talent get their hands on it.

And then further to the re-writing, it is a totally pussified re-writing and, worse yet, a pussified re-writing that thinks it has balls. Like a junkyard dog that’s had its teeth yanked yet still tries to gum trespassers into submission, it’s pathetic and more than a little embarrassing to witness. The comic can be pretty goddamned disturbing at times, which personally, I enjoy in my fiction—to be challenged, to be fucked with. I also enjoy it in movies, much more so than “popcorn’ ” movies, which make me feel like I’m being condescended to. And that’s hardly any “fun” at all. If I wanted that, I could track down my cunt of an ex-fiancée and hang out with her.

The comic Wanted features truly evil supervillains committing all sorts of vile and heinous acts (which, as the 21st century marches on, is not easy to do. When we have so often been exposed to [particularly in popular culture/fiction {I’m not sure what the difference is, really}] all sorts of evil sonsa’bitches, from John Wayne Gacy to Freddy Krueger, it sure ain’t easy coming up with more genuinely scary individuals. But Millar does it, God bless ‘im), not the least of which being enjoying a life of true hedonism on the backs of work-a-day suckers like you and me.

However, the movie Wanted features, what I gather, truly philanthropic assassins who keep the world peace by killing those deemed necessary by the Loom of Fate (if I never write those words again, it’ll still be too soon). Aw, isn’t that nice? They’re cuddly little anti-heroes, li’l teddy bears who fuck and have back tattoos.

Wesley, the main character in the comic, learns nothing popularly considered positive by the book’s end, at first rejecting the life of power and greed forced on him by familial ties, before deciding on his own terms to grab the brass ring with both hands. It’s a fairly disgusting peek into the dark side of humanity, and it kept me giggling the whole way through.

Wes’ final line in the comic of “This is my face while I’m fucking you in the ass,” appears to have been changed in the movie to “What the fuck have you done lately?” Oooh, a curse word. That’s enough to make something edgy and “now,” isn’t it? Besides, we don’t want any of that, y’know...that sort of...well, anything that sounds, y’know—gay. I mean, sure, the line in the comic is not meant to be taken literally, but I guess people won’t find the “fun” in that sort of “mean-spiritedness” (which is a word I ran across more than once in the negative reviews of the movie [which somehow came off as even more moronic than the reviews that called the movie “fun”]). And speaking of gay stuff, I can all but guarantee you the homosexuality (there wasn’t a ton of it, but still) depicted in the comic was the first thing excised from the screenplay. Guys are there to slaver over Angelina Joile and her weirdly shaped mouth, not to see a bunch of queers.

And now it appears Chosen, another Millar book, is next to be given the Hollywood treatment. So when that comes out, just replace the pertinent words above (y'know, the title, the star, the female lead) with Chosen's respective ones, and save you and me a lot of hassle.

To paraphrase Bill Hicks, movies suck and there needs to be less of 'em.

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