from Graphic Novel to screen...

Don't kid yourself, it's not that easy to reproduce a graphic novel into a feature length film. Some valuable efforts have come and go but there aren't many that have duplicated the feel & intensity to turn the page in anticipation of what's going to happen next. The latest to try this arduous task is Scott Pillgrim Vs The World, which does what no other movie has done before- recreate the authenticity of holding a comic book and the visual gags that come with it. I have yet to see it but its director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz & Shaun Of The Dead) seems to have made visual eye candy out of -well- visual candy.

Many film fans would kill me if I didn't mention Sin City, which no matter how visually delighting or visionary it might have been, had its faults & was the product of a director that was trying to hard to please both film fans and graphic novel enthusiasts. The result? a mixed bag which had its highs but also had its lows because of its lack of substance and pulp obsession. Director Robert Rodriguez's style for the picture was astounding, using mostly black and white cinematography and occasional shots of eye popping yellow & red (to name a few). It's a violent and completely unnecessary picture- a graphic geek's wet dream & all the better for it. A sequel is in the works but has been postponed countless times in the last few years, let's hope second time's the charm.

Those of you that have caught up with this year's crop of movies will surely be reminded of Kick Ass, which was not as stylish as the films listed above but still had its own defining way of telling the story, every once in a while using comic book squares to remind of time going by or location. Its violent comic book root was also kept intact in celluloid, even enraging the most popular of critics Roger Ebert, who wrote that Kick Ass -which features a violent 10 year old superhero spurting offences & chopping people in pieces- was "morally reprehensible". He might be right but then again, all graphic novels are & they might just not care about that. So do its fans, which invite the overdone violence as a real come on.

Of course, there could familiarity when remembering movies such as 300 & V For Vendetta were first based of a graphic novel but many do not have the slightest clue about the source material & the fact that it was actually much more violent on page than on screen. With 300 , a craze came out of Hollywood for more novels to get translated. I never really understood the love that came with Zach Snyder's movie about the sparta, it was too corny and crass to fully engage me in a convenient manner. Then again, the 300 million dollars it made makes the makers of this film completely oblivious to my own opinion of their movie. No matter, I'd rather watch paint dry than encounter their trashy film again.

Not everything based on the graphic novel must be violent and totally devoid of a brain. I can thin of three examples that fit the bill of my theory. First off is American Splendor, which came off based upon late cartoonist Harvey Pekar's life and gave birth to an ingeniously inventive film starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar & Hope Davis as his wife. The fact that not many saw this movie, only enhances the fact that not every comic book based movie will make money. Ditto Ghost World, which might just be the best and most haunting comic book movie Ive ever seen. There are no ghosts and this is not a horror movie. Instead it's based on Robert R. Crumb's cult comic book of the same name, which has to do with two graduating high school outcasts that do not know what to do with their lives, they are stuck in their own Ghost World, a place where only their way of life and assumptions are correct. It's a beauty of a movie that won critical acclaim but did not make any movie.

& what to make of Sam Mendes and his Road To Perdition, a film that is starting to look more and more as one of his only good ones (along with American Beauty). Its style compared to all the other titles mentioned above is simple and cinematic, a hybrid of the kind of filmmaking directors in the 1970's used to revel in doing. It's one of the forgotten gems of the past 10 years, which leaves me clueless as to why this has happened. If you haven't seen Mendes' film, you're in for a real treat.