December 4th, 2015
In the spirit of The Beast Must Die’s (excellent) contribution to that S.M.A.S.H. event, here are nine statements on movie adaptations:
1. The only good adaptations are the ones that take maximum liberty with the details of their source material. Think of the way Blade Runner strips Philip K. Dick’s novel down to its bare bones then builds a damp, wheezing engine on top.
2. Adaptations that are painstakingly faithful to the surface details of their sources provide a unique opportunity to see the original clearly. Dave Gibbons’ contributions to Watchmen have never been more obvious than they were in the light of that movie, which mimicked the composition of so many of his panels while conveying the weight of none of them.
3. The only good adaptations are the ones that overlap with their source text in a way that creates a separate, overlapping narrative – see, for example, the mix of hyper-fidelity and brutal compression in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
4. Different mediums have different strengths and affordances so it makes sense to identify the things that, say, a book does that a movie can’t before trying to turn one into the other. The delicate waltz between Charlie Kaufman and Susan Orlean in Adaptation is proof that this approach can pay off.
5. Becoming overly fixated on the process of adaptation can easily become an excuse not to solve the underlying problems, hence why the “delicate waltz” of Adaptation ends with one dance partner farting a hole clean through his trousers.
6. A memorable performance in an adaptation of a favorite work is a gift to the source material. The wobbly PG camera work might neuter The Hunger Games movies as movies, but Jennifer Lawrence’s performance brings something extra to the Katniss of the books.
7. A memorable performance in an adaptation of a favourite work is a curse to the source material. There are lines in the Scott Pilgrim comics that I cannot read without hearing Michael Cera’s voice now, and this is not always appropriate for the rhythms of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work.
8. The best thing an adaptation can do is to provide financial security to a working artist. Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore both live in the house that Jack built now, and this alone is enough to justify the Hughes brothers version of From Hell.
9. All adaptations are equally useless.
None of the above should be taken as anything other than an endorsement of our rolling Omni-brand, Lego be praised and all hail The Virgin Money Street of Light™!
You can read more on movie adaptations and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at the London Graphic Novel Network site, including a very sexy poem about your inevitable doom by the Kraken podcast‘s very own
February 13th, 2015
We were so hot for Plok‘s extensive and illuminating reading of Guardians of the Galaxy (you know, the one with the raccoon that thinks it’s not a raccoon) that we invited him back to talk about X-Men: Days of Future Past, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen page and their role in a series of movies that are just full of “great” men…
You all know this guy, right?
…So, goddamnit, after all this time, they finally have a chance to make a genuine statement about difference in these X-Men movies. Or, rather: the X-Men franchise itself has that chance, and takes it. They don’t want it to, obviously…would like it to somehow be other than it is, even though the way that it is, is all their own doing. Oh, it almost breaks your heart, doesn’t it? Watching them floundering around trying everything they can try just to miss the point, yet the point still comes through, the meaning still comes out, inevitably. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind, and all that. Instant karma…
Or, maybe not “Instant Karma”, actually. Not primarily.
I have to be honest with you: this is the only lens through which I can view X-Men: Days Of Future Past where it even counts as a movie that’s about anything. For what’s really happened here? I am, I freely confess, just a bit too old to have been tagged by the famous Kitty Pryde Nerd Crush – myself, I always liked the skinny, scared Jewish kid from the suburbs who was smarter than she thought she was, with the fairly-useless power – Chris Claremont used to talk about how maybe if she phased her hand through some loose rope for about an hour, maybe gradually the fibers of the rope would unravel – but Ellen Page was so astonishingly born to portray a film-version Kitty Pryde that she threatens to make actual even ALL the different kinds of Kitty Pryde out there, even for me who never really believed in about half of them. The Chess Grand Master. The Yogic Flyer. The Pro-Solar Mechanic. The Perfect Girlfriend. And just look at her whaling away on the thing, for heaven’s sake! From the second she wheeled to face Vinnie Jones in X3, perfectly improving on a Paul Smith cover (uh, it was a Paul Smith cover, wasn’t it?), my nerd-breath was absolutely taken away. Every time she’s been on screen, she’s been acting the CRAP out of this real-life-Kitty-Pryde thing…but you hardly get to notice it, because I think she’s been given, all told now, about ten-and-a-half minutes of screen time to do her thing. Even here, in what was really HER story in the comics, she’s doing dramatic things, badass things…even when it seems all she’s being asked to do is be hurt by Wolverine’s abduction of her storyline, she is heroically soldiering on and doing everything you and I probably couldn’t without breaking down and breaking right in two. Holy shit, and does anyone imagine that Ellen Page couldn’t have carried an X-Men movie? Wolverine would still be in it, you know. He would have a pretty cool part, in fact! Why you could even still have given Hugh Jackman top billing…but it would’ve been Kitty’s story, and so it would’ve been the right one, instead of the wrong one.
December 30th, 2014
As a special festive treat, we convinced the man known as Plok – A Trout in the Milk; writes bubbles around people who write circles around your favourite bloggers – to write up his thoughts on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, ultimate power and anachronistic/non-anachronistic adolescence as initially expressed to Illogical Volume after the author had suffered through a fairly hellish travel experience that ultimately led to a trip to Hairmyers Hospital (shout outs to the ghost of George Orwell!).
It’s a long one, but trust us, it’s worth it! Over to you Plok!
I haven’t done any blogwriting in a while, so this might be a bit…uh, rambly.
Apologies in advance.
So here’s me in some Mindless Ones comments, possibly being a prick about the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie:
“The Steve Gerber/Al Milgrom Guardians series from the Seventies is, for me, about as close to perfect as SF superhero comics ever got. I would’ve followed that thing to the ends of the earth; it really meant something to me. And it is so dead and gone for lo these thirtyodd years or whatever, that’s it’s like it never even happened. I saw a little of it boomerang back in Farscape,and it’s been suggested to me that this Guardians movie is like a brainless, artless, heartless attempt to do a Marvelized Farscape…
“’My’ Guardians have been 100% completely broken down and recycled to the point where the thing in the movie only contains naturopathicmedicine levels of that thing I liked, and that only because (possibly) it’s partly copying a copy of it that wasn’t even made in the world of comics in the first place…
“Gerber’s Guardians were a bunch of war vets who couldn’t fit in after their side finally won, and struggled with intense repression and thoughts of suicide. Nagged on by a mysterious, possibly omniscient being, they executed a number of SF psychodramas designed to bring them back to life, kicking and screaming all the way…and also a bit like Star Trek. But it didn’t last. After Gerber left the title, the characters were reemployed by Jim Shooter for his Korvac Saga, diminishing in relatability as they went on…a characterdriven book surrendered its characters to the milling process of the Shooter Era, and the major conceits of the Guardians were ground out. Mark Gruenwald kept Vance Astro from ever making it to space, during the Nineties Starhawk lost his specific symbolic heft in the same stroke that took away his mystery…and I don’t even know where Nikki ended up. I hope somewhere nice. And I didn’t see any of them again until maybe Farscape came on the air, though I can’t say for sure if Gerber influenced O’Bannon at all. But Farscape had the same sort of characterbased use of conventions as well as approximately the same setting and scenario, and a friend did cause me to wonder if maybe the GotG of today didn’t partly come out of a “hey let’s do a kindasorta Farscape thing” calculation…
“Gerber’s Guardians was about what stock SF situations of the Forties would be like if they were all populated by people from the Seventies…everything that happens is impossible to believe and totally absurd, but if you don’t find a way to take it seriously you’ll crack up. But then if you do take it seriously you’ll just crack up anyway, and so there must be an answer to absurdity butwhere is it? That’s the sort of thing that interests me, especially when it’s dressed up in SF and superhero costumes and (hello, Andrew!) Menippean satire.
Has GotG got anything like that in it?”
Yeah. I know. It doesn’t. But did I have to be such an arch motherfucker about it? Obviously it doesn’t, obviously it bloody well can’t. My beloved Guardians of the 70s were “cinematic” comics long before Alan Moore arrived at Warrior!, but they were never the type that could be made into cinema, at least not without losing everything they were ever about in the first place.
July 31st, 2014
I’m going to become quite unpopular among my friends, I suspect, when I say that I didn’t like Guardians of the Galaxy very much at all.
I didn’t *hate* it — it had an excellent cast, the effects work was as good as you’d expect, and there were a few good lines of dialogue (I was the only one in the cinema who laughed at the John Stamos line, as the only people who know about him in Britain are Beach Boys fans — and indeed there has just been a massive amount of drama about Stamos among Beach Boys fandom, which made me laugh a little harder than I otherwise would). Sometimes it’s a bit too knowing about the pop culture tropes it makes fun of (this is definitely a post-TV Tropes script), but it occasionally does interesting things (there’s one neat little twist when a very, very, obvious third act reveal straight from Screenwriting 101 *doesn’t* turn out to be true).
It also actually had some scenes with colours that aren’t orange or bluish-grey — not many, but a few. This is increasingly rare in the cinema these days, and is to be applauded. I’m sure I even saw a glimpse of yellow at one point.
But one of the reasons Marvel’s films have been so successful is that they have been *superhero* films. This one isn’t
May 31st, 2014
The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki, 2013
Before we start, a warning: this is probably not a fun night at the movies for your eight-year-old, unless said child is prematurely obsessed with flat-head screws. I mention this not out of a new-found commitment to providing consumer advice but because my friend Adam was frustrated by the apparent inability of movie reviewers to clarify this matter for him.
Studio Ghibili’s long standing trust in the ability of children to stay interested in quiet moments and make sense of the senseless is admirable, but The Wind Rises seems to have been made in a different spirit from, say, Howl’s Moving Castle (which combined frantic scene-shifting with portraits of stark devastation to great effect) or Princess Mononoke (which grew slowly, steadily monstrous in front of the patient viewer).
This film is realised with the lush, painterly attention to detail that characterises Hayao Miyazaki’s other movies, but this is definitely a film of and about our world. Its magic is not of the kind likely to intrigue a child into attentiveness: its wonders are the result of late night meetings as much as they are the product of dreams, and even its most hard won miracles taste of ashes.
May 7th, 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie, brought to you by the power vested in me by the great state of Wyoming
While I will surprise approximately no one by saying that the action in this movie was nowhere near as inventive and exciting as the violence that gives The Raid 2 its reason to exist, this movie still confounded my expectations by impressing me more with competence than raw thrillpower.
March 12th, 2014
Ah, let’s indulge in some time travel shall we? Let’s go all the way back to September 2009, when Sean Collins had this to say about Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds:
It is, in other words, a deliberate assault on the facts surrounding the deaths of millions and millions of people, including the systematic genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust… It’s morally monstrous and its practitioners are moral monsters.
Oh, wait, shit. That’s not quite right. That’s what Sean C. had to say about Nazi-sympathizing turd-monger Pat Buchanan. Sorry everyone, but problems like this tend to occur when you start to mess around with history, you know?
In order to find what Sean actually thought of Inglourious Basterds we have to go back even further, to August 2009 no less! It was a kinder time, a gentler time, a time where a man could read an essay on the cathartic, history rupturing violence of Tarantino’s latest picture without any danger of stumbling onto this long winded response.
Here’s what Sean actually said about the film:
…Inglourious Basterds may be the punkest movie I’ve seen in I can’t even think how long. Maybe ever. It’s about nothing less than the power of art to destroy evil. It’s about how important it is to love film more than the likes of Hitler hate life. It’s about how movie violence, art violence, art designed as a FUCK YOU, can help you deal with the violence that so terrified Chamberlain’s cohorts and to which Hitler and his cohorts were so indifferent. It’s Woody Guthrie’s “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” guitar slogan made literal. It’s a lingering closeup on the bloodlust-saturated eyes of Eli Roth, the beautiful Jewish torture-porn poster boy and enemy of good taste, as he empties a machine gun into the bodies of members of the Third Reich. And it’s a total fucking fantasy. Yet that’s what makes it so vital.
April 15th, 2013
Spring Breakers, dir. Michael Bay, 2013
You might think that it would be impossible for Bay to top his Transformers trilogy, that those merciless tributes to the twin glories of steel and flesh represented the purest distillation of his art. On the other hand, you might not think that he could get any lower than that seemingly never-ending explosion in a cliché factory.
Whichever side of the divide you found yourself on, Spring Breakers renders your opinion obsolete. This movie is Fear and Loathing to the Transformers trilogy’s hyper-modern war movie (with Florida standing in for Las Vegas just as Vietnam blurs into Iraq). It’s the Saints Row to The Dark of the Moon’s Call of Duty. The adventures of Optimus Prime and co might have fleetingly simulated what the disorienting frenzy of 21st Century warfare would look like if it was fought on American soil, but Spring Breakers is the real deal – the story of four girls fighting the war at home with nothing but day-glo bikinis and raw fantasy. 
Oh, yeah, and did I mention guns?
Because – *SPOILERS* – guns are important too.
April 4th, 2013
OR: last year I went to the movies and all I got was a sense of temporal displacement!
DREDD, dir. Peter Travis, 2012
This relatively low-budget attempt to graft a late seventies vision of the future onto the present day doesn’t quite come off seamlessly – the opening drone-cam riot shots would be much more convincing without the sci-fi data overlay – but the grim lack of distance between these three (equally imaginary?) time zones ensure that this bolted-together aesthetic is effective rather than ridiculous in the end. A lot of the credit here has to go to Karl Urban, who sets the tone of the movie by somehow managing to play the perma-frowning Dredd with a straight face:
Like Urban’s Joe Dredd, DREDD (the movie) treats exposition as little more than a series of snappy situation updates, necessary only because they point the way from one dynamic lesson in pain compliance to another. The result is a lean, efficient action films that you suspect the Judge himself would approve of. The rules are established in the opening scene and are ruthlessly enforced throughout: you get a quick report of the location and nature of the crime in progress (the irradiated ruins of a future America; whatever takes your fancy) then whooosh, before you can say “hot shot” the situation has been resolved with the maximum amount of acceptable violence.
Because hey, when you fuck up, he’s got to fuck you up, right?
There are obvious affinities here – with Robocop, say, or with your Carpenter movie of choice – but these reference points never threaten to overwhelm the movie. Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s almost/alternate score Drokk is far more heavily indebted to Carpenter’s work, for example, and while the soundtrack that plays out in its place is less immediately striking it’s also perhaps better suited to DREDD’s relentless utilitarian drive. The aesthetics of past, present and future might me all jumbled up here, but there’s no time for reverence in this movie – everything is judged by how well it performs in its specific moment in the field.
Still, I’d be remiss in my duties as a reviewer if I didn’t point out that there are certain plot similarities to Batman Incorporated vol 2, #6, and while I don’t know how Peter Travis and Alex Garland were able to travel through in time in order to rip that script off, I’m glad that they did all the same - this is a joke about the seemingly manditory you comparisons with The Raid, you can tell it’s a good gag because I feel the need to flag it up like this. Since we’re all pals here I’ll assume that we can all agree that the similarities between DREDD and The Raid are worth talking about – in the same way that its resonances with this Moebius strip are worth talking about – but that simply saying “The Raid” is in no way the end of the conversation. There are many different ingredients in DREDD, and the end result might have familial similarities with various other movies, but it’s overwhelming flavour is still undeniably that of “Judge Dredd”.
As my good pal (the devil)Andre Whickey has pointed out, there are several different types of Judge Dredd story, and this is a great example of one of them - Judge Dredd as straight action story. While this means that DREDD can’t touch 2012′s Day of Chaos story (for example) for either political complexity or gonzo fanboy thrillpower, it does mean that this is Judge Dredd at its most insidious, a compelling story of good guys vs. bad guys that doubles as a cheap, spooky reminder of the fact that authoritarianism can always be made to look both necessary and cool using the right tools: