DM Haight

Comic book aficionados, for years, have had issues with Hollywood and their spin on the greatest (and not so greatest) comic heroes. It’s easy to understand. When we get films like The Green Lantern and Superman Returns, we all cringe at the blatant lack of awesome we all come to expect from the valley that spews out hundreds of films a year. What is hard to understand is the backlash from hardcore fans of certain heroes. Say whatever you want, but Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is damn good. The Amazing Spider-man wasn’t bad, and for the love of all that’s good, stop picking on V for Vendetta. It’s the hardcore readers who look at these movies and have all the enthusiasm in the world for their release. They buy all the merch, tweet about it non-stop, post trailers on Facebook, and blog about it voraciously, telling every soul who will listen (and even some who would rather not), that THIS is going to be THE film of the year BECAUSE it’s based on THEIR favorite comic book. But then they see the movie. And they walk out of the theater and they go home, and they tweet “That was the worst movie ever. I hate it, you should hate it #diemoviedie”.

But why? It’s a conversation no one really wants to have because a lot of the time the comic book enthusiast will stick to one absolute truth about that movie–it’s not the adaptation they wanted. But what many people fail to do in a situation like this, where they’re pinned in a corner with nothing to defend the film with, is that the expectation of a perfect adaptation is flawed. It will never be a perfect adaptation. Never.

Who in their right mind would want to watch a film based on a comic, but have to sit through all the crap dialogue they use to fill the gaps between action panels? Of course we want to see all the drama of the comics, and we wouldn’t want to miss out on a great story arc, but when we get films like X-Men, and Spider-man, or even Batman, do we really want to sit through a film that covers literally decades of history? From experience in cinemas, the answer comes from the people shifting in their seats by hour two of a film. I’m sorry to say, but the era of the film with an intermission is long gone. If you want to sit though twenty plus hours of back story, filler, and then ultimately get to your final clash, then that’s your prerogative. As for the rest of the sane world, maybe two hours and forty-five minutes is a good, full movie.

But then of course there’s those individuals who go around and tell everyone that what happens on the screen isn’t canon, and that it should be shunned for that. And to those kinds of people I say, “Have you ever seen a movie?” It’s among the more irrelevant things to say about a movie, because of course it’s going to be different from the source material. I’m sorry that V for Vendetta isn’t good because it takes the message of total anarchy and replaces it with anti-Bush rhetoric. Perhaps the rhetoric is more relevant than anarchy in a world over run by a lacking use of the word “no”. I apologize if the song you saw on the pages of that graphic novel wasn’t included because the story didn’t need it. And my apologies on behalf of the writer, director, and actors, not to mention editors, special effects artists, and the grip, if Evy Hammond wasn’t a serious love interest in the comic, and that her age is different. Oh, and to those who complain about Spider-man–silence yourselves. We all know the story of the web-slinger, we all love him, but what we don’t love is the guy or girl sitting in the back of the theater scoffing at every line of dialogue, or every CGI monster because it’s not what you saw in the comic you have sitting on your dresser. Perhaps, and this is crazy, it may be easier, more accessible, if you will, to the general audiences of cinemas to exclude certain characters, to change some scenarios around, or to change a character’s race or background. If we always stuck with the source material, do you know how many people would actually rush to theaters? The ones who read the source material.

The point of films, at least when it concerns comic books, is to make a character mainstream, to give it that push into the popular dialogue. Batman is famous because Adam West was so incredibly campy, and because decades later Tim Burton wanted to change that camp into something gothic. But then it, like our culture, evolved. We got The Dark Knight: a dark, atmospheric, detective drama about a vengeful billionaire out to enact his own justice to save a city he loves. Now this evolution occurred over time, like evolution tends to do. So do we complain that The Penguin is absent from the Nolan versions of Batman? Or that we don’t see Killer Croc, or that Catwoman is a bit different? Of course we do, because it’s not what we want. This, however, is unavoidable. Comic book lovers, specifically lovers of Batman, know that Bane has a Mexican accent, wears a luchadore mask, and needs his regular dose of Venom. But Tom Hardy’s Bane is British, wears a metal breathing apparatus, and we never quite find out what’s getting pumped into his body. There are two very different things happening here, but does that make one or the other faulty, or less interesting? Absolutely not. The Bane from the comics has his own charm, but it was never going to be the same Bane in the film without reverting back to the Adam West camp of yore. The Dark Knight Rises‘s crescendo and finale are already campy and sentimental enough to bring on memories (not necessarily good ones) of West’s run on the docks. Why would we want something else campy and sentimental in a series that sparked a new style of film making? It’s a similar story with Watchmen. And while I personally don’t care for the film, I find the graphic novel engrossing. But I also understand that unless we gave Zack Snyder ten hours on HBO or Showtime, we were bound to be disappointed. You just can’t fit those types of stories, those deep narratives, into film with a run time under three hours, and you most certainly have to understand that times and tastes change. This isn’t the same world Bat-man was incepted in. We’re different now.

The same can be said of comics of today being adapted. The Walking Dead is hugely popular, even if the zombie genre is winding up. But it’s good because of it’s departure from the comics. Daryl would not be swooning girls every week with his redneck swagger if not for the deviation from comic to television. Shane wouldn’t have had the crazy awesome build through insanity if not for a deviation. Yes, some characters are missing, and yes, some characters had been bitten too early, or not at all in some cases. Hell Tyreese didn’t even exist in the show until a few weeks ago. So tell me how bad the show is because it didn’t adapt the comic perfectly. Tell me how you hate Daryl, how you think Dale should still be alive, how The Governor is a terrible depiction of the guy in the comic. You can’t, because more than likely you sit in front of your T.V. or computer and watch the show religiously, just like those who haven’t read the comics.

What I’m trying to get across is that we need to focus on the quality of the films, and not how accurate they are as an adaptation. Let’s criticize the style, the narrative flow, the acting, the embodiment of characters we know and the ones we don’t. Instead of belittling the film for reasons that can be justified, let us look into the aspects of the film that can’t be justified. If a film is a failure, then point out its failures. But if a film does everything right except the accent of a certain him/her/it that you really loved from Spider-man #1980, then please, for the sanity of the rest of us, keep it to yourself, bring it up to friends with like interests, leave the kids in the movie section alone, and discuss the film critically, not cynically. You either love it or hate it; just think before you speak.

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