So we’re gonna eschew the normal reviews this week. Not because there’s nothing to review, understand; we just got a new issue of Wicked + Divine, after all, and that’s always worth talking about. But unfortunately, I’ve been a bit under the weather. Nothing serious. Just a tenacious cold I can’t quite shake. So lots of sneezing, coughing, snot, and headaches. It’s the headaches in particular that’ve kept me from writing. Makes it hard to concentrate. Makes me a little ornery, too. So I’ve decided to write something that doesn’t require a whole lot of conscious thought. Something that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, and that’ll allow me to blow off a little steam to boot. A rant, in other words.
Why the hell do comics fans get so damn excited about funnybook movies? Seriously. I don’t get it. Why is the announcement of a film adaptation especially exciting, in and of itself? If the announcement involves Your Favorite Character being portrayed by a particularly good actor, or a good writer doing the screenplay, or an interesting director helming the project… If it sounds like it’s going to be good, in other words… I can totally understand getting into it. But the level of excitement I often see, just at the announcement that a comic has been optioned, with no information about who’s working on it, boggles my damn mind.
I mean, when I hear that a favorite book of mine is going to be adapted into film, the most enthusiasm I can generally garner is guarded optimism. Why? Because the vast majority of film adaptations suck. I had hope, for instance, that the Hughes Brothers might do something interesting with From Hell. But I was also pretty sure that they weren’t going to be able to do a proper adaptation of that monster of a book. So I kept my fingers crossed, went to the theater, and…
…wound up sitting through a fairly standard Hollywood detective story. It has its moments, and the fact that they worked in even a little bit of William Gull’s shamanistic dreamtime walkabout is impressive, under the circumstances. But that still doesn’t make it a good movie.
Now, I suppose I can understand some excitement on the part of super hero fans. I’m told that the Marvel movies have handled the characters and situations well. I still won’t go see one of the damn things due to the company’s absolutely abysmal treatment of Jack Kirby, but that’s a personal thing. I have no doubt that the films are, on the whole, well-done. And there have been enough of them at this point that I can understand people being excited to see what they’re going to do next.
I mean, hell. I enjoyed the Chris Nolan Batman films, and thought Man of Steel offered an interesting look at the development of the young Superman. So even though Batman vs Superman is sounding more and more like it’s going to be a train wreck, I can also see how they might develop the Man of Steel themes to create a more expansive spandex world. So I’m holding out hope. Guarded hope, of course. But hope nonetheless. So I guess it makes sense to me that somebody would look forward to more of the same stuff they’ve already been enjoying.
But I’ve had people tell me that the adaptation itself is important. That they’d rather have a bad adaptation than no adaptation at all. And that doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is it important that a comic, or any other piece of writing for that matter, be adapted into film? I mean, I like film. It’s a great storytelling medium. But I like comics as much or more. For that matter, I like reading in general. It’s a more active sort of entertainment that allows for more imagination and interpretation, and for the telling of deeper and more complex stories. So I don’t get it when friends defend some pretty indefensible shit just because it’s on their TV. Take Constantine, for instance.
I’ve kind of held off offering my opinion of the series because I have some friends who were involved in its production, and I didn’t want to publicly slag off on something that was part of their livelihood. But now that it’s cancelled…
I fucking hated that show. I’ll admit to having only sat through two episodes of it, but that was enough. They took some of the best horror comics in the history of horror comics and turned them into formulaic series television crap. They simplified the morality, simplified the characters, and worst of all… IT WASN’T SCARY. Hellblazer traded on a palpable sense of dread, and Constantine conjured up anything but. It was too white bread, too much in the heroic mold rather than the horrific. But beyond it being a poor adaptation… it just wasn’t good. The acting was poor, the dialogue leaden, the plots straight out of the TV writing playbook. Even when they adapted stories from the comic, they hammered them into cookie cutter series television structures that robbed them of all their interest, their frisson.
It just sucked. And yet, I’ve had friends defend it as “good enough.” Or “as good an adaptation as you’re going to get on network TV.” Or “it was bad, but at least it got made.” Well, fuck that. Fuck settling for crap. There’s already more good movies and TV out there than I have time to watch. Why should I spend one minute of that time on something bad, just because it’s based on something I like? In fact, when the source material is really good, why should I settle for anything less than work of equal quality? Dammit, Fanboys! THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!
Alright. Steam blown off. Headache pissiness satisfied. Hopefully didn’t lose too many friends.
Next week, illness willing, we’ll get back to writing about things I actually like…