Sunday, 9 August 2009

earlier this week a guy asked:" I don't understand how the goal of making a comic that's a good movie pitch or media property, is inconsistent with or divergent from the goal of making a good comic, period." Well, your blog is titled 'groovy age of horror,' so we may presume that it's all of a oneness to you. And to all the other folks who may be having trouble understanding, the fact is if you gear your project to be a good movie pitch, then you may feel secure in knowing there is not much that can be lost in the translation.

About the same time, I linked to the interview with Dan Clowes in which he said:
The executives would look at us as if we were insane. It's like saying, "We'd like to take $6 million of your money and shred it for an art project we're doing." The people who make the decisions in Hollywood are never the oddballs or creative types, so you have to tell them what they want to hear. It didn't take long for us to start saying things like, "We want to make another There's Something About Mary". We had no intention of doing that, but you must at least make the effort to be reassuring.
Twice in the last week or so, I've picked on Hollywood movies for being untruthful, either to the book or history. The problem with these movies is that everything about their style says that they intend to be taken literally. An example of the opposite tendency? Take Federico Fellini's Casanova. I never think while watching it that he is telling me what either the real or the folkloric Casanova is supposed to have said and done. I'm not even sure it's really 'about' Casanova at all, which this quote from Casanova actor Donald Sutherland, which I've transcribed from a filmed interview, supports:
"(Fellini) was using Casanova to try and make clear for modern audiences how this particular shallow fickleness, this inadequate perception of one's life, now seemed to be an epidemic among the nouveau riche in Rome. He wanted to attack a disregard for the future and a disrespect for the past. Casanova was his metaphor for this."
I get tired of hearing that Watchmen the book is about 'what if superheroes really existed?' and 'what if these superheroes were made appropriate to the cynicism of our times.' Any great book is not 'about' the contents of its plot. Moore's Rorschach is a brilliant artistic creation for what he has been emblematically made to represent philosophically, psychologically, politically, that is, the Objectivism of Ayn Rand. I find this 1964 Playboy Interview to be a handy summary of her ideas, perhaps the source Alan was using when he wrote the scene with Rorschach and the black and white mask (which I referred to in my critique of the Watchmen movie in which the scene is oddly missing, and I say oddly because it is the crux of the character, the scene that everything else should have been built around. In comic book terms, it's his 'origin'; who he is and how he came to be.):
PLAYBOY: "In Atlas Shrugged you wrote, "There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil." Isn't this a rather black-and-white set of values?"
RAND: "It most certainly is. I most emphatically advocate a black-and-white view of the world. Let us define this. What is meant by the expression "black and white"? It means good and evil. Before you can identify anything as gray, as middle of the road, you have to know what is black and what is white, because gray is merely a mixture of the two. And when you have established that one alternative is good and the other is evil, there is no justification for the choice of a mixture. There is no justification ever for choosing any part of what you know to be evil."
Being superheroes, which are essentially graphic symbols, they adopt the appearance of the idea or ideas that they represent. But in the diminished world of the movie they simply represent superheroes, which in these videogame days means toys with interchangeable parts and an entry in a dossier itemizing their abilities and power levels. In Public Enemies, the movie I saw and wrote about last tuesday, Baby Face Nelson just represents Baby Face Nelson, and his violent death can be moved to an earlier time in his life for movie-making reasons because it doesn't mean anything. And I'm not talking about depth of intellect here. The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare means something more than two animals having a race. It's not too complicated. Anybody can get it.

The reason the X-men became Marvel's most popular comic book in the '80s is because the meaning inherent in it appealed to a large number of readers. Alienated and rejected people find purpose in joining an alliance of people like themselves. There are two such, one constructive and the other driven by vengeance, from which the series derives its dramatic conflict. This idea at the heart of the series allows it to be expanded metaphorically forward, sideways (the acceptance of those who are different, such as gays) and backward (the plight of the Jews in Auschwitz). It's an idea that demands consideration on many levels. This doesn't mean that every X-men comic book or movie makes the grade, but it does explain, I believe, why the first film was a success:
Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe praised the X-Men films as "more than a cash-guzzling wham-bang Hollywood franchise... these three movies sport philosophy, ideas, a telethon-load of causes, and a highly elastic us-versus-them allegory." (wikipedia)

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3 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Hickey said...

Couldn't agree more. It always shocks me that the fans of a medium that was, after all, *built* on symbolism take everything so literally...

9 August 2009 9:58:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

What people who use comics for their movie pitch (and why it’s always a challenge to bring new readers into comics) don’t understand, is that comics are a language all of their own. If you take the time to understand the language, still pictures will move before your eyes. The things within them will come to life and talk to each other; will talk to you for that matter. Movie people can’t see that, so they can’t create that. They only see story boards in bound paper, which is not how a comic works at all. A movie doesn’t need the viewer to keep plodding along. It plays out if one, one hundred, or no people are watching. These days, anything but a great movie is like death in motion, each scene dieing for the next, until the movie is over. A comic can’t be that. The brain wont except it. A good comic waits for you to come along, and connect your life with it’s own; to take you into it’s world, and allow you to travel back in forth (though time) through it’s pages. It needs no projector, or electricity to come alive, only you or I. Maybe, that’s the magic for which Alan Moore talks about.

9 August 2009 1:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Duds said...

you could be on to something with that X men thing.........hurm.

10 August 2009 4:23:00 am GMT-5  

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