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good article on the state of comic book movies and info on "Green Hornet"...

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good article on the state of comic book movies and info on "Green Hornet"...

Old 02-20-04, 06:59 PM
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good article on the state of comic book movies and info on "Green Hornet"...

From the hollywood reporter...

Old 02-20-04, 07:57 PM
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That took too long to load. Here it is without the link:

Feb. 20, 2004

Comic book genre ready to explode again at boxoffice

By Martin A. Grove
Comics comments: If you thought Hollywood's affection for comic books might be cooling, you can just fuggedaboudit.

The comic genre is ready to explode again with Columbia's "Spider-Man 2" and Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures' "Catwoman" opening this summer on the heels of spring arrivals such as Revolution Studios and Columbia's "Hellboy" and Lions Gate's "The Punisher."

Just this week, the list of nearly 70 comic book based projects in various stages of development grew as Miramax announced that Kevin Smith will write and direct "The Green Hornet," which the studio plans to turn into a major franchise. There also was word this week that Warner has cast Morgan Freeman as one of the stars of its fifth "Batman" episode, which starts filming in London Mar. 16. Freeman will play the head of Wayne Enterprises, the Gotham City conglomerate owned by Bruce Wayne. Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Wayne's butler Alfred, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy and Katie Holmes.

Why are comics so popular a source for movies and particularly for franchises? For openers, the comic book genre translates really well to the screen because it's the literary form that is closest to what action adventure movies are or at least have become in recent years in terms of style. Comic books are a highly visual medium with stylized graphics, sparse dialogue, brief storylines, unique costumes and well drawn heroes and villains. Moreover, filmmakers tend to be very comfortable with the genre's format because it's basically what they use when they create storyboards for action sequences. If you've ever visited a production office for an action film and looked at the storyboard drawings tacked up on the walls you've found yourself looking at the rough equivalent of a comic book. In particular, these storyboard drawings emphasize camera angles and the camera's point of view much the same way that the artists who draw comic books have done for years in terms of their use of perspective to put the reader right into the scene.

In addition, movies that are rooted in comic books are something Hollywood really knows how to market effectively. The superheroes who populate these films are brand names and visual icons that lend themselves very well to print and television campaigns. They're generally well known -- or, at least, well enough known -- so that moviegoers have certain expectations going in. They know which of these characters are able to fly or see through walls or turn invisible or hear something that's whispered halfway across the city.

To some extent, however, it's even better when audiences don't know too much about these characters' origins or backstorys. Smith, for instance, has already said he's pleased that in the case of "Hornet's" Britt Reid, who's the wealthy publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper, and Kato, his martial arts skilled chauffeur, people aren't overly aware of the storylines from the "Hornet's" 1936 debut as a radio serial and the comic books that followed that or the 1966 television series that ran for a season with Van Williams starring in the title role and introduced Bruce Lee as Kato. With Kato being Reid's chauffeur, a car clearly figures in the "Hornet's" tales, but in all likelihood just what this sci-fi style specially equipped vehicle was isn't something today's audiences are familiar with. That, by the way, should give Miramax plenty of room to do a lucrative automotive product placement deal. The less familiar the public is with the specifics of who the key villains were that the Hornet faced or with the details of their early storylines, the easier it will be for Smith to weave his own story for the movie.

That clearly seems to be the intent, given Miramax's press release announcing Smith's deal to write and direct "Hornet," which can be read in full on Smith's askew.com website. "Smith is keeping the plot a closely guarded secret," Miramax said, "and will only go as far to say that it would remain very true to ('Hornet' co-creator George) Trendle's characters with a few new twists." Whatever twists Smith and Miramax wind up going with in terms of storyline isn't likely to be something that audiences will be able to take issue with in terms of how well they adhere to or depart from the original and by now very obscure material.

In adapting comic books to the screen, filmmakers have much more latitude than they do in adapting a best-selling book that people have just read and that critics can be counted on to catch up with before seeing the movie. The comics go back so many decades and are generally difficult to obtain (although you can find some issues of some series for sale on the Internet) that no one is really in a position to take issue with what's on the screen. Also, if you're trying to write a 120 page movie script, it's a lot easier to start out with a nice thin comic book than it is to tackle a 600 page book that's bursting with characters and details you can't possibly fit into a movie. The comic book's characters are going to be driving the story's action while the best-seller's pages are likely to be filled with numerous peripheral but interesting characters who contribute little or nothing to moving the plot along. And with comic books that were published for many years, there's always a wealth of stories from which to pick characters and plot twists. Filmmakers typically wind up combining something from one issue with something from another and something else from a third and so forth in order to come up with the script they want to shoot.

Not surprisingly, films based on comic books tend to be among Hollywood's most expensive productions, particularly now that the industry has been pushing the envelope in terms of visual effects for so many years. Superheroes, after all, have to have super powers that let them do something that's visually interesting and challenging on the screen. Even comic book heroes who aren't endowed with superpowers -- mere mortals like Britt Reid in "Hornet" or Bruce Wayne in "Batman" -- need all sorts of expensive special effects to get them through their exploits.

The costs associated with adapting comics to the screen have soared even in the last few years since Miramax picked up "Hornet" in turnaround from Universal, where it reportedly was in limbo for about 10 years. In handing the project to writer-director Kevin Smith, Miramax's Harvey Weinstein has put it in the hands of a filmmaker with a longstanding affection for comic books as an art form and with a wide knowledge of the genre. In 1994, Smith sold most of his own comic book collection to raise money to make what became his breakthrough film "Clerks" on a $27,000 shoestring budget. He owns a comic book store in Red Bank, New Jersey called Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, which opened in 1997, and he plans to open a branch in L.A.'s Westwood Village this May.

While Miramax has certainly enjoyed its share of big boxoffice success via its Dimension Films label, these have basically been genre movies targeted to young adults such as the "Scream" or "Scary Movie" series or such family appeal adventures as the "Spy Kids" franchise. With "Hornet," Miramax really has the potential of a broad appeal tentpole franchise that could become for it what "Batman" is to Warner Bros. or "Spider-Man" is to Columbia.

Comic book based movie projects attract considerable media attention as they make their way through development, casting and production because their heroes are brand names that everyone recognizes. You can spend hours browsing the Internet for information about comic books that have already been turned into movies or that are presently in various stages of development hell in Hollywood. A search I did using Google to research today's column turned up 75,334 pages devoted to "comic book movies." I'd still be sitting there clicking "next" if I decided to read them all. Actually, it wasn't necessary to go very far at all into those pages since the first website that was listed turned out to cover the base quite well when it came to providing updated information about a wide range of such projects.

At efavata.com the alphabetical menu bar on the Home page offers dozens of titles that could interest fans of comic book movies. Click on "Catwoman," for instance, and you'll find endless details as well as some lovely photos of Halle Berry in her Catwoman costume. A chronology called "News and Rumors" reports the ins and outs of making "Catwoman" and casting its title role. Included, for instance, is what turns out to be this quite accurate note from Jan. 20, 2003: "The talk of Ashley Judd being replaced by Halle Berry is true." The site offers similar rundowns for dozens of comic book related titles, including "Captain America," "DareDevil 2," "Green Lantern," "Shazam," "Submariner" and "X-Men 3."

The genre's boxoffice success is also tracked in detail on efavata.com and, not surprisingly, it's considerable. In the site's ranking of the Top 20 comic book based movies of all time in terms of their domestic grosses, it's "Spider-Man," of course, that leads the pack with $403.7 million. Others in the top five are the 1989 "Batman" ($251.1 million), "Men in Black" ($250.6 million), "X2: X-Men United" ($214.9 million) and "Men in Black 2" ($190.4 million). As genres go, comics are a proven winner for Hollywood so it's no wonder there's no shortage of them in the pipeline.

Martin Grove is seen Mondays at 9:30 a.m., PT on CNN FN's "The Biz" and is heard weekdays at 1:55 p.m. on KNX 1070 AM in Los Angeles.
Old 02-20-04, 08:04 PM
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Originally posted by calhoun07
. Click on "Catwoman," for instance, and you'll find endless details as well as some lovely photos of Halle Berry in her Catwoman costume.
did i miss some new pics because "lovely:" is not really the word to describe it?
Old 02-20-04, 09:28 PM
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Eh... nothing particularly interesting in the article, except for all the Smith praise. I don't really see a new "boom" in comic book movies either. Nothing's changed

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