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Comic books as films: is it really a good idea?

Posted at 5:18 PM on May 25, 2006 by Euan Kerr

As long as I can remember I have loved comic books. I grew up with the British weeklies like the Hotspur and the Valiant. After crossing the pond got swept up in the tidal wave of independent comics which crashed across the US following such epics as Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" and Alan Moore's "The Watchmen"

Not surprisingly I have always looked forward to seeing movie adaptations of such tales. Yet in recent years, even as special effects have been able to easily replicate the wildest imaginations of comic book artists on the screen, I am beginning to reconsider.

There always seems to be something lacking in comic book adaptations, and in some ways even more than in adaptations of novelistic tomes. It's something to do with the reading process. A novel presents a large amount of information, and even the most comprehensive reader has to pick and choose what elements she will focus upon.

A comic is different matter. There's a lot less information, and images designed to tell a story efficiently. It's a marvelous medium, but it tells a very specific story in a very definite way. Its an experience of minutes rather than hours.

A comic creates a certain image in a readers mind with little opportunity for variation. Taking that story and transfrering it to the screen means there needs to be a lot of filling in. Doing that without making a movie feel bloated or hamstrung takes a deft touch. Few people have managed it.

It worked with "V for Vendetta." It worked for the Tim Burton Batman films. It kinda worked in "Hellboy" and failed pretty miserably in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

I went into "X-Men: the last stand" having carefully avoided the comic, hoping that might help. Tomorrow I'll let you know how that worked.

May 2006
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