Favorite graphic novel films

I've done my fair share of ripping apart film adaptations over the years, even in cases of films I enjoyed, when the changes pushed on irreconcilable.  Most recent examples of this can be seen in my recaps of The Hobbit as I do a chapter by chapter read-through, paired with the movies.  Combine that with a tendency to be highly critical of details, well, it's easy for me to give the impression of hating something I actually like.

For a change I wanted to highlight some graphic novel/comic book movies (I'm sidestepping TV shows for the time being) that are near and dear to my heart for various reasons.  On a side note, I'm really hoping that Deadpool becomes a member of this list.

Tank Girl

 

There are so many ways that the movie is nothing like the books, but I just don't care.  If anything, they took a gloriously anarchy of events and shoved the idea and setting into a plot-line, without really caring how nonsensical it ended up.  The movie feels like it belongs within the stories of the comic book pages, and there are so many little visual tributes to the source material.  Many of Rebecca's shirts, the beer, the accessories on and about her tank, the spot on appearances of both protagonists and antagonists (Sgt. Small for example), and the snippets from the actual source material just ring so true.  There was dedication to Jamie & Adam's vision, and they were there as part of the process.

I'd say the whole post-comet apocalypse setting is a bit of a reach... but I should probably ask some Australians about that.  The W&P bit does rob of us of some... quality fart jokes though, but in return they do give us Malcolm McDowell.  The SF aspect is a bit wacky, but the comics don't go out of their way to stay realistic, and I've always been puzzled by how grossed out Sgt. Small is about two ladies kissing.  Overall, none of that is what I remember or what stands out.  Rebecca's humor, her antics at Liquid Silver, the costuming, the attitude, and the Tank, that's what stands out to me.   I probably quote from this movie in day-to-day life way more than I should.

Fun fact - in order to keep the film rated R they had to limit the number of times they used the word "fuck," resulting in some creative substitutions.

I do wish I could have seen the movie that was originally made, before it was re-cut and edited.

The Crow


In the spirit of full disclosure, I have two things to admit.  The first is for years I had no clue this was a comic book.  The second is I've dressed up as Eric Draven for Halloween, complete with bullet casing fastened in my hair.  I'm willing to admit I might be biased in my opinion of both the movie and comic.


Rewatching the movie 20 years after its release, I'm struck by how well it holds up.  They kept the effects simple, leaving less CGI to age poorly, and in my opinion, it benefits from letting the acting and setting convey the story rather than using effects as a crutch.  The biggest indication of it's age is the lack of ever present technology that we take for granted in our every day life.  That, and I suppose the whole goth club scene which I keep hearing died out in the 90's, but I wouldn't know anything about that considering the only type of clubbing I ever attend is the goth/industrial nights.

There are some narrative and minor plot point changes, but the film largely stays true to the comic book setting.  At the very core, this is a story about deeply felt personal loss, of anger at the forces that took it away, guilt at surviving, and an inability to turn away from reliving the memories again and again.  Characters were built out more, as was the mythos surrounding the crow itself.  Small details like the location and motivation of the attack, who died first and who was in intensive care for hours before dying changed.  The film loses some of the dark poetry, but instead translated it into Eric Draven as a musician, giving us his lyrics rather than those of others.  My preference for dark, personal, and potentially violent poetry as a depressed teen aside, I still find this to be a gorgeously done graphic novel.

Sin City

I went into this one having read the graphic novels first and was floored at how closely the movie matched them.  It was like watching an animation of the illustrations I had so recently paged through, and I really liked the dark, gritty, and creepy (this movie will change how you see Elijah Wood) noir graphic novel.  For me the biggest jar of the movie was that it brought volumes one, three, and four to the screen, rather than say, volumes one through three.  The whole experience was one of "this is what I want from a comic book adaptation."  Unfortunately, Frank Miller himself is a bit of a issue.  I have not seen Sin City : A Dame to Kill For (actually, I wasn't aware that it was already out until I started writing this post... whoops).

V for Vendetta


So yeah, the movie differs noticeably from the graphic novel, mainly in that it is greatly pared down, streamlined, and cleaned up.  Among other things, Evey isn't underage or resorting to prostitution to make ends meet, there's Fate (and therefore no love story between the Leader and Fate), and it's more of a generic "world falling apart" setting than this is the Britain that lost WWII.  There's no way for the film to encompass everything in the comic.  But the result is a beautiful piece of subversive art that captures the core of the source material and that on first viewing I was left surprised that the movie was made in the current political environment.

V is a terrorist who uses not only violence but art to fight against the cage built around them.  He's collected relics of culture that have been otherwise eliminated into his Shadow Library, an archive of artistry.  V kills his targets with an efficiency that unsettles the investigators, but at the same time he represents compassion and understanding, telling Evey that who she is inside is not dependent on the actions of those who seek to make her into a statistic.  The power of the comic is how it builds on the history that was and creates a today that could have been.

The comic has poetry, referential prose, but what the film really added was music, the soundtrack.  There is some music in the comic, but it's limited, present as a prelude or a small detail, less a part of the living story.  Additionally, they take the poetry of the graphic novel and infuse it even deeper into the story with quotation and rich word play.  This is part of the life that is brought into this adaptation.  The movie becomes about the infection of an idea and the strength of unity.  Evey doesn't become V, which is unfortunate, but she continues the cycle as storyteller and chronicler of the idea.

And while the movie pares away so much, development (or even inclusion of) many side character relationships and quirks, so many other passages and little details were left nearly complete.  We have Valerie's letter, when V comes for Delia Surridge, V's death, the dominoes, and much more.  Other changes, such as Gordon's sexuality, for me add to the story.  There is so much feeling and emotion brought in.  Perhaps ironically, the one thing they pared away that we all recognize these days is V as a hacker.

The Mask


It's honestly hard for me to know where to start in comparing the film and the first volume of The Mask.  The differences likely even outnumber the similarities, but like Tank Girl, the movie did such an excellent job capturing the idea of The Mask that I remain happy with the end result.  It's a story of chaotic, violent, and cartoonish madness, by someone who wants more from life.  The movie just decided to focus more on the cartoonish madness than the bloody chaos.

Starting off, we do get Stanley Ipkiss, and he is a bit of a wet rag, but where the movie keeps Ipkiss as the Mask for the duration, in the comics he goes hardcore asshole, ends up being killed by his girlfriend (in what could be considered a bit of preemptive self-defense), and several different individuals end up donning it for their own ends.  The role in the movie of Ipkiss becomes a blending of the different bearers, including that of his girlfriend and the cop hunting the "Big Head," and we see snippets of their antics laced throughout the film even if the context is modified.  I'm not a big Jim Carry fan, rubber-man humor isn't my bag of tea, but he nailed this part.

I think the biggest thing I miss from the film is Kathy, who I feel they attempted to vaguely preserve in Cameron Diaz's Tina Carlyle.  She's the romantic interest of Ipkiss, plays games with Lt. Kellaway, gets tangled up with the mob, and is the story's femme fatale.  Unfortunately she's more of a sex kitten sidekick role, though I think she would have been amazing given the chance to wear the mask.

Kathy certainly take the femme fatale role to a whole new level.

The comic's humor is darker and pulls on it's own absurdity, as the wearers lose their conscience and social inhibitions.  The movie takes the elements of best intentions gone wrong and blends it with outlandish disregard for reality.


Stardust


This one is on the list for adorableness.  This one is more of an illustrated novel than comic book, but it's sweet and enjoyable.  I actually have never read the graphic/illustrated novel version of Stardust, so it's a bit of a cheat including it at all.

Re-watching the movie was a reminder in how much I enjoyed this film (and left me wondering why it had been so long since I had watched it).  The story is delightful, layered, and magical.  Under the adventure and whimsy it has elements of a traditional fairy tale, but instead of a morality tale it focuses on the uniqueness of one's true self.  Or to quote another favorite movie of mine it has "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..."

The differences between the book and the film are staggering.  The book has a greater cast of characters and flavor text building and shaping the experience.  By and large most of various helper characters have been removed or otherwise consolidated into simpler details.  Little things, like our first hinted interaction with the star is her swearing, make for delightful details, but "fuck" is not exactly how we generally introduce a character in what approaches an all-ages film.  Other things from the book made it to the page with almost no changes at all.

Honestly, I really like the creation of Captain Shakespeare for the film.  I feel that he adds a lot to the theme of individuality, and is a really great vehicle for Tristan's growth.  The magical heritage that bestows a sense of true direction to Tristan in the book is useful, but I like the story better without that magical surety.  Oddly, I actually like it better as a more developed love story as well, even if some of that is at the expense of other characters.

Both versions give us the growth of Tristan from a dreaming, unfocused youth, to something of a hero, the witches, the royal brothers, the ghosts, and the feeling of a fairy tale journey remain.  I might actually prefer the film to the book, but they are both quite delightful.

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