Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gene Siskel Didn't Respect Movies (But Who Can Blame Him)

In 1994, Siskel and Ebert reviewed the movie version of Double Dragon.  It's in this review that Gene Siskel says, "...I can save everybody in Hollywood a lot of time and money with this advice: don't try to make a movie out of a videogame, the material simply won't stretch."  This attitude is, of course, not uncommon.  Let's face it, the movie and TV industry tend to make it easy to be a snarky shit.  Often, when I've held out hope that they finally won't completely fuck up something I'm apparently dumb enough to want to see done as a movie (a good movie, mind you, not the stupid shit that keeps getting made), my hopes are far more often than not dashed right to hell.

"Okay, the ads suck, but the ads always suck, I'm sure Ghost Rider won't be all that bad."  At the time, I would've been happy had that movie met Daredevil's standards, fucking Daredevil!

Uh, ahem, okay well back to my actual point.  That point being, when you say X can't be adapted into a good movie, whether X is a videogame, comic book, novel, TV show, song, internet meme, whatever, you're knocking movies, not their source material.  It would have been far more on target for Gene Siskel to have said, "...don't try to make a movie out of a videogame, movies are just too limited a medium."  Technically, I don't really believe that movies are too limited, though the industry frequently seems to bend over backwards to prove otherwise.  I mean, it's gotten so bad that movies like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are now generally considered to be good!  To me, that's a bit like when comic fans placed 1978's Superman on a pedestal for decades, proclaiming it to be the comic book movie high watermark, when in reality it wasn't that good.  Better than fucking Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, though.  And Ghost Rider.  Fuck those movies.  They, and too many other films, stifle the imagination far more than they nourish it.

And if you think I'm being too hard on movies, consider how many times you, your friends, whoever, rolled their eyes at the notion of a movie based on something, um, not immediately artistically respected.  For example, how often have you read or heard something in the area of: "They're making a movie based on Ninja Turtles!  Obviously quality isn't a concern."  On the other hand, it's strange and interesting what in our society becomes iconic.  Like Batman, for example.  There have been a fair number of people who've called 2008's The Dark Knight "awesome."  Books like The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, and The Killing Joke are generally hailed as classics, at least in the comic community (do they count?).  I've often imagined Frank Miller sitting down with whoever was in charge of DC Comics back in the mid-'80s, laying out his idea for what would have become The Dark Knight Returns, only to have been met with: "Hello!  Have you actually read this shit?  It's kiddy crap!  No one wants some 'dark, mature' version of this!"

For what it's worth, I hear that's more-or-less what Stan Lee was told, back when he was a young writer, and requested doing stories not necessarily aimed at small children.  So it's highly possible writers like Dennis O'Neil, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore were met with this kind of hostility when wanting to take the stories they worked on in darker and, arguably, more humanistic directions.

The thing is, the early Batman comics aren't what many would consider "good."  If one were to make a movie or TV show out of them, faithfully copying them word for word, I imagine the result would likely be at least as campy as the '60s TV show, sans the self-aware humour.  What's interesting is that Batman didn't have to stay that way.  For better or worse, other writers and artists came along and offered up their, for lack of a better term, more "grown-up" versions of Batman.  Not too long ago, Grant Morrison was able to write, with Frank Quitely as artist, All-Star Superman, which many comic critics praised.  Ditto, Darwyn Cooke and DC: The New Frontier.  The point is, all of these acclaimed comics were based on characters and ideas traditionally not considered, well, "good."  So, in my opinion, subject matter shouldn't matter.  If it doesn't hold up well by today's standards, it's up to the artist, writer, filmmaker, whoever, to change it as they see fit.  If those changes don't work, it's their fault, not the original material.  That's kind of like the old saying about the handyman who blames their tools.

So the consistently poor adaptations of videogames, comic books, old TV shows, what-have-you says a lot more about current filmmaking, and the apparent lack of vision within it, than it does about its source material, good or bad.

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