Posts Tagged ‘adaptation’

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Comic adaptations from films are always a mixed bag as the different forms of storytelling don’t always work with a certain story. ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is interesting in the fact that the film it is based on, is in itself based on a 1967 novel of the same name meaning that this is essentially the third iteration of the story. It’s also interesting as it’s one of those instances when a successful Japanese animated film is turned into a manga/comic to allow a wider audience to experience the story (as well as making more money).  The book follows the same basic story, but as usually happens, strips quite a few of the side elements to try an create a more streamlined piece.
The film is one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful pieces of fiction that I have had the pleasure of watching many times, leading me to wonder how or if the book would do it justice. I wondered how the raw and powerful emotion would translate to a static medium without the aid of music or audible vocal emotion. Now I’m not saying that books can’t have the same level of power as film, because they can and in some ways can achieve it on a far more intense level. This is usually down to the fact that we have been introduced to the story/ characters through description and clever use of written language. When it comes to comics though, I find emotion translates far worse due to the fact that the description is generally no longer written as we have fallen into the ‘show, don’t tell’ mentality of the more visual medium. It doesn’t mean that a comic can’t achieve the same draw of the heart, it just means that the writers and artists need to work closely and try much harder to try and evoke the same kind of level of power as they have none of the liberties of sound and moving image.
They say that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and this is a statement that is generally true of stand-alone imagery, but when you have a book made up of hundreds of images it generally becomes much harder to find the statement true. Most of the images, if stripped back, work as a kind of filler, easing the reader into new environments or allowing the reader to see character movement. There is the odd occasion where an image stands out above the rest and lingers in the mind long after you finish the story. This is how you know that they’ve achieved the power.
Throughout ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ there are around 6 images that truly stand out with such emotional intensity that they hit the heart hard. Even though I knew what to expect of the story and I knew what was going to happen, I still found myself pulled left and right on an unexpected emotional rollercoaster ride. It’s amazing that fiction can manipulate ones emotions in such a real way as to bring about true feelings and here they’ve achieved it. I found myself audibly gasping at numerous points during the story and can even say that I felt a tear welling in the corner of my eye.
For those who have never heard of ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’, It concerns Makoto Konno, a junior in high school who’s life suddenly takes a turn for the peculiar when she comes across a device that allows her to ‘time leap’. This sets about a series of events that will change her past, present and future forever. At its heart it is a coming of age story about acceptance and love but it is told in a truly interesting way.
Time travel is a plot device that is often used in science fiction as an easier way of telling a basic story in a slightly more interesting way. It’s hard to find a story that truly justifies the use of time travel as story telling device, but here is one of those exceptions. Here the time travelling element is more a visual means of explaining how Konno’s mind is working and where she is in her mental state, rather than showing the effects on the much wider world. It does look at some of the external effects of her new found powers, but these are still shown within her tight unit of friends. With all that’s said and done, ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a beautiful coming of age story that is told in a powerful yet very careful way.
I don’t want to explain much more about the story itself as I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers, but I can say that it is a story with very little in the way of action but lots of emotional drama that’s far deeper then it first seems.  It’s a nice change from the usual comics that I tend to read and has more akin to fiction like the book ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami then anything superhero related.
The characters in the story may be few, but each has a deep personality that makes them truly individual from one another. There are only four main characters in the story including Makoto Konno. Each of them work at pushing Konno on her path through the story and help her realise what she wants in life. Her friends Kousuke Tsuda and Chiaki Mamiya both show the contrasts of personality with one being more about studying while the other is more about fun. They work as a visual split in Konno’s mind. We also have Konno’s Auntie who acts as the voice of reason and I Konno’s main guide through the story.  The writer has dialled back some of the other side characters in the story which I was a little sad about as they further pushed emotional buttons in the film, but I guess it does mean that the story is far more streamlined with more focus on an end point. What we do have works brilliantly though and if I hadn’t seen the film I wouldn’t have thought I’d have questioned any of these gripes.
The art throughout is truly fantastic and helps the story flow forwards at a natural pace without ever rushing it. Some of the individual panel images contain so much in the way of emotion, that it’s truly quite a remarkable feat. It’s amazing how an image of a completely fictitious character’s eyes can evoke so much and at the same time feel so real. The character design is just as brilliant, even if they are taken straight out of the film. Everyone is individual making the story easy to follow and means that the artwork never gets confusing. In the art department side of things there is very little, if nothing at all to fault.
‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a remarkable story on almost every level, from base enjoyment all the way through to being an emotional rollercoaster.  It really is a truly beautiful masterpiece of storytelling. A good story will take you on a journey, one that will make you forget about the real world until you’ve finished reading. This is one of those stories. How can something so entirely fictitious contain the ability to manipulate real emotions? It’s a question that can be applied to so many stories and can be applied to almost any visual or written medium, but it’s one that can never truly be answered. Why one person feels something while another doesn’t will always be one of those special subjective things that makes each one of us individual and ultimately is one of the things that can be linked to what makes us human.
So how does the adaptation hold up to the film and is it a worthwhile read?
I’d say that the manga holds up remarkably well and works well by itself or as a companion piece to the film. It’s a story that really should be experienced in any of its various mediums. Whichever you choose you’re in for a treat. As an emotional rollercoaster I’d say that the film version may work slightly better due to the added emotional pull that sound can have, but to deny the book of any emotion would be to do it a massive injustice. I have not felt like this after reading a comic in a long time and would argue never to the level.
I’d highly recommend the book and/or film to everyone who doesn’t just look for action in their storytelling and actually wants some truly raw feelings coming out of the words the characters say and the movement of the story. It’s a true masterpiece in any medium and a story that deserves to be experienced by everyone.

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After the brilliant Batman Begins and the very ‘meh’ ‘The Dark knight’, Nolan hits a new low with the final part of his trilogy with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.

You could argue that Batman’s lowest moment was with the wonderous ‘Batman & Robin’, but in my view ‘Dark knight Rises’ marks the lowest moment in Batman’s 74 year span, closely followed by ‘The Dark Knight’.  Now I know both films have a great deal of fans (well at least ‘TDK’ does) but for me both mark significant low points not only in Batman films but as far as ‘TDKR’ is concerned, low points in cinema in general.

I’ll just point out that this review is only really coming about because I have just finished re-watching the film for the first time since seeing it at the cinema and just want to vocalise my opinions. I will also say that the review will contain major spoilers throughout.

So where do we start? We may as well start with the opening set piece that takes place on a private jet. After some bad editing of them getting on the plane to a piece of music that feels less written for the film and more just pasted on top to try and divert from the films visual flaws, we get to hear the villain ‘Bane’s’  iconic voice for the first time. Not iconic in the sense it is amazingly powerful and emotive, but more in the sense of it sounding jovial, idiotic and frankly sounds like someone doing a really bad impression of Sean Connery (who I honestly believed was about to appear as a cameo after hearing Bane off-screen for the first time.) We then get a really boring hijack of the plane (well kind of) which has been done better in films like ‘Cliffhanger’ and ‘Executive Decision’.

What an awful beginning to what should be the darkest and the most epic of Batman films.

It just goes downhill from here with some of the worst direction and pacing I have ever seen in a film. The movie has none of the greatness that Nolan displayed with his earlier films like ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Insomnia’.  If anything it feels like a student film with a lot of money thrown into it. We have such great actors in the film, all of whom are wasted due to the inept script.

A great example of this can be seen in the handling of Bruce Wayne. I never felt anything towards him and never once wanted him to succeed. The way that his character is written makes him seem very arrogant which is ok in small doses but when applied to this extent, makes the character highly unlikeable and unredeeming. The same fault can be said about ‘TDK’ but here we have it to a whole new level. I guess you could say that the film isn’t about ‘Batman’ as you only see him for around 40 minutes of the 2 hour 40 run time of the film. But when he does appear he just brings the film down lower then ever.

It also doesn’t help that the characters are all thrown into stupid situations that are just beyond believable (or at least the solutions they come up with to escape them). The two biggest of these are ‘The Pit’ and ‘The trapped police force. We’ll start with the former:

‘The Pit’; A broken Wayne is thrown into a deep pit in the middle of a desert which was once home to Bane. Throughout his time in the hole Wayne builds back his muscle, fixes his back, watches some television, then eventually manages to climb out. If we get past the whole fixing himself back up, how do we explain the television reception in the pit. The picture quality they get isn’t too bad considering they are in the middle of nowhere, but when you consider they  are at the bottom of a deep hole its remarkable. It’s also really nice of Bane to allow Wayne to watch his villainous rampage through the city. It’s just so stupid and badly handled.  I’m not sure if we are quite getting to the ‘nuking the fridge’ idiocy but it’s getting there. There is also the actual climbing out of the pit which seems to be an annual event. I do not understand why they, after reaching the platform have to make a jump. If you look there are handholds all the way round. Why not just keep climbing? Would that not be the sensible idea as it seems to be the jump everyone fails on. If anything it feels like the pit is just a device used to get Wayne/Batman out of Gotham so Bane can have his merry little way with the city. Also, how does he get back to the city? Especially considering he looks quite healthy by the time he gets back after having his back broken and probably other broken parts to himself.  I am pretty certain that his injuries would have taken a lot longer to heal to a manageable state where he isn’t in constant agonising pain.

Many will say that your meant to suspend your disbelief. Which I think is true of film but it doesn’t help when the director has gone down the rout of what he calls ‘Ultra-realism’. It just doesn’t work. The second of the situations that I thought just didn’t work was when 99% of the police force are stuck under the city after Bane’s big bombing. What sort of police force would send almost everyone underground all at the same time. If they were smart would they not have set up lots of officers at the end of the tunnels in case Bane tried to escape. It again feels like a situation that just prolongs the film by an unnecessary amount.  It just feels badly written and handled really badly.

The timespan of the film is yet another thing that is handled pretty badly. Firstly we have the time difference between ‘TDK’ and ‘TDKR’ but we quickly find ourselves in a film that jumps forward in time at random and never really says how much time’s past. A good example of this is when Wayne escapes the pit (see two paragraphs ago). He manages to get back to Gotham city pretty easily with no money or transport, but we never know 100% how much time has passed (or if they do explain I missed it). There are numerous moments throughout the film like this and it just makes the film feel very loose and not particularly well constructed.

There are numerous other things that I thought were handled really badly. These include the really bad fight scenes that are just plain boring and what could have been one of the films redeeming features ‘the Robin reveal’. It could have been really clever and could have been a great way to finish a trilogy. But alas no, it feels like it was just something they decided to tack onto the end to both prolong and to try and keep fans happy after destroying the iconic villain Bane (I’d argue more so than Batman and Robin). The way that I would have handled it would have been simply having Levitt  enter the bat cave and for the Batman costume to rise up from the ground. But this time instead of being just one costume, next to it we have the Robin costume or even the Knightwing costume.

And finally before my final wrap up. What were they thinking with Bane’s voice. I’ve mentioned it before but it is just so stupid. It is arguably one of the most film-breaking fragments. They could have given him a dark chilling voice that evoked both the pain he was meant to be suffering while also delivering the hatred and the power he bestows. But no instead we get a reasonably high pitched badly monitored British accent that sounds like someone is talking through a computer. It is beyond believable that they went with this option (even though apparently this is the redone soundtrack as it used to be worse). I think it is also the fact it is an overly posh British accent that sometimes creeps into Scottish. It almost feels like Nolan is giving all fans of Bane from the comics the idle finger.

So….

As you’ve probably gathered I don’t really like this film. I will stand by my opinion that this is the worst thing to happen to Batman and marks a new low for comic book films. It has no redeeming features and for me at least is an overlong travesty that should just highlight why Nolan shouldn’t be allowed to touch big franchises again (I think he should go back to smaller projects as that is where his talent lies). Nolan has also helped destroy Superman for me as well which for me was an even bigger part of my childhood. But we’ll review that film at a later date.

I would never recommend this film to anyone and would say it is one of my least favourite films of all time. 2/10

I’m here today to compare and figure out which is better, Judge Dredd (1995) – directed by Danny Cannon or Dredd (2012) – directed by Pete Travis?

Firstly I know that it’s not good to compare movies and it’s better to take each movie on its own. But having tried to write separate reviews for each of these films I just can’t help it. As such I have decided to do a proper ‘VS’ section on this blog with these films being the first comparison.

One of the reasons I find it impossible not to compare the films is because I grew up reading Judge Dredd and still read it now. As such I have very strong feelings towards the character and his world, meaning I automatically analyse any media based on the property (sometimes unfairly, but most of the time I think I can clearly justify my reasons.).

 

BASIC BACK STORY OF JUDGE DREDD

In the future the world is a scarred wasteland after international conflicts leading to mass nuclear warfare. Most of the world is radioactive ‘hell on earth’ and is known to the people of the few surviving cities as ‘The Cursed Earth’. In the dystopian city of Mega City One (the main location for the Dredd comics), crime is an everyday thing that people take for granted. Gangs attempt to rule the city and the only things standing in their way are the ‘Judges’ (Judge, Jury and Executioner all in one). Of all the Judges in the city, one if feared above all others, ‘Dredd’. (Essentially Dredd is the ultimate badass who will only give up when he’s dead.)

The idea of Judge Dredd is simple at heart but can be as complex as the writers of the comics want to go. Dredd was spawned in issue 2 of the British comic publication ‘2000ad’ in 1977. This joint creation by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra was an instant hit and is now known the world over in almost all mediums (books, films, comics, videogames, board games etc…) Only 2 official feature films have been of the character. One in 1995 directed by Danny Cannon which came out to a pretty negative reaction and the other directed in 2012 by Pete Travis which aimed to fix the problems people had with the 1995 picture.

So let’s begin the review/comparison:

PLOT

Judge Dredd (1995) –

Dredd is convicted of a murder he did not commit and is sentenced to life imprisonment (after the Chief Judge stands down in order to spare Dredd’s life.) The true culprit of the murder sets about to take over the law department so he can rule over Mega City One. Dredd must find a way back into the city and clear his name before it’s too late.

Dredd (2012) –

Dredd and new recruit Judge Anderson are sent into Peach Trees (a 200 storey tall slum block – essentially a vertical city) to investigate the murder of three drug dealers. After raiding a drugs den they soon find the Owner of the block won’t let them leave easily and has locked down the entire block. Dredd and Anderson must find a way out before they themselves become bullet ridden bodies on the floor.

————–

Two similar films with two very different plots.

  • JUDGE DREDD: The 1995 film has the sort of plot that seemed very popular in the 1990’s and unlike most people I don’t see it as that much of a problem. You could argue that there are hundreds of Judge Dredd storylines they could have used (especially the ‘Judge Death’ storylines) but instead they go with a pretty formulaic ‘man sets out to prove his innocence’ story. Many critics and viewers a like didn’t like the simplistic story and the fact that the plot was very ‘Americanised’, but I think it works and to be fair Dredd has always been quite ‘American’ in style (It’s even set in America). It may not pick holes in the political system as much as the comics but it does the job. One thing that the story does really well is ‘scope’. We get a look at a large chunk of Mega City One and even get a look at the wasteland outside its walls. The plot also incorporates many other characters from the Dredd universe (as well as a few other 2000ad properties). Overall I think the plot works as a great introduction to the character of Dredd and proves to be an above average sci-fi plot. 7/10
  • DREDD: The 2012 film is much smaller in scale compared to the 1995 picture as it is mainly set in a large tower block. It tries to explain the city but struggles because of its limited locations. The story does feel like the sort of tale that is in the comics which is good, but what works in comics does not mean it’ll work in a padded out feature film. There just isn’t enough story to fill out the full run time of the film as essentially it consists of them trying to escape then deciding to go kill ‘Ma Ma’ (the head gang leader). It’s sufficient but really is as simplistic as they come. Also for a film which aims to make the story ‘more like the comics’ it fails to explain factors such as the Psi-Division (a select group of psychic Judges – one of which being Anderson). 4/10

CHARACTERS

DREDD

The main character of both films is of course the title character ‘Judge Dredd’. Both films provide a very different take on the character. (In my view neither is perfect):

  • JUDGE DREDD: The title role is held by Sylvester Stallone that many seemed to agree made a great Dredd until he takes his helmet off (not because it is Stallone underneath but because in the comics he rarely removes his helmet and even when he does you never see his face. in the 35+ years the comic has been running his face has never been shown clearly.) for many this was enough for them to instantly dismiss the film as a whole. For me I honestly didn’t mind. The main reason he takes his helmet off is because when you have a film with Stallone in you kind of have to show his face (well you kind of did in the 90’s.) You also have to remember that Dredd wasn’t as widely known around the world and as such was a gamble they hoped would pay off after the success of other comic book films in the years previous. (Without Stallone I doubt the film would have been made and I doubt he would have done it if you never saw his face.) Enough about the helmet issue. In my view, Stallone plays the part pretty much perfectly. He may not be the best actor in the world but his lack of acting and ‘woodenness’ help portray the cold character from the comics. (This is not to say I don’t like Stallone in other films. I think he can be a good actor and he usually does the job put before him, pretty admirably.) In this film he delivers each line like the character from the comic (even when he’s trying to add an emotional depth to the character). He also has the physical presence that Dredd is meant to have helping you believe why people would both fear and respect him… Stallone pretty much carries the film on his back with his portrayal of Dredd and as such you’ve got to commend him. 8/10
  • DREDD: For this version of Dredd we get the actor Karl Urban. Although nowhere near as big an actor as Stallone, Urban has in recent years been in some of the biggest films such as ‘Star Trek’ and ‘the Chronicles of Riddick’. He is a great actor and in terms of acting is far superior to Stallone. This is where my problem with him as Dredd lies. Dredd is meant to be ‘cold’ and doesn’t ever really show emotion (even though Stallone’s tried to). Urban just doesn’t have the coldness. He delivers each line with too much emotion and it just feels forced (almost like he trying to imitate Stallone’s ‘non-acting’) He also doesn’t have the presence that Dredd has in the comics. In the film he just feels like a member of a S.W.A.T team. For me I just didn’t believe in the character and as such just found him a kind of failure (Which I find sad as I usually really like Urban as an actor). 4/10

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS & VILLIAN

Interestingly both films use different supporting characters from the comics, so this is less a comparison of the actor’s portraying them and more on the strength of them as how they fit into the story.

  • JUDGE DREDD: The main supporting character in the film is ‘Fergee’ played by comedian Rob Schneider. When I first watched the film I didn’t like the comedicness of the character as I found it detracted from the reasonably dark storyline. Having reread many of the comics from the 90’s (and even many of the more recent ones) I kind of like the character now. It’s where the humour from the comics kind of comes through. He’s not great but he plays off Stallone pretty well. The main female in the film is ‘Judge Hershey’ played by Diane Lane. She is a strong female character and does all of the ‘thinking’ in the film. She is the character who is ruching against time to try and clear Dredd’s name. She is a good actress and she is great here. The main bad guy in the flick is ‘Rico’ played by Armand Assante. He does the job as a villain but never feels truly threatening enough for me. I find that you always need a villain equal to or more powerful than the hero. In this I didn’t ever feel that, He only managed to win against Dredd at the start by faking footage and faking Dredd’s uniform. I guess in the grand scheme of things he gets the job done but he never a great character (I think the problem is the character instead of the actual acting). Max Von Syndow also does an admiral job as Chief Judge Fargo. AS a whole everyone does a very good job. 7/10
  • DREDD: ‘Judge Anderson’ is the lead female in the 2012 adaptation and is played amazingly well by Olivia Thirlby. Anderson is a regular character in the comics and it is nice to see her translated well onto film. As the film focuses on the beginning of her career she only begins to become as badass as she is in the comics towards the end. But this doesn’t stop her being great. The problem we have is I think that she’s a far stronger character in this film then Dredd and as such I feel this impacted on the whole film. I didn’t care about Dredd and was just keen to watch Anderson’s development. The villain of the picture is Madeline ‘Ma-Ma’ Madrigal played by Lena Headey and again she never feels ‘evil’ enough. She’s probably a better villain and more comic like then ‘Rico’ from the ’95 film but she still isn’t amazing. You see some of her power coming through but never the full extent of how strong she is (considering she led her gang to take over the entire block). There are a few other incidental characters that do the job but no one else is standout. 6/10 (For Thirlby’s portrayal of Judge Anderson alone.)

VISUALS & AUDIO

Being comic book adaptations, both films aim to try and recreate the look of the comics. As with everything both take very different routes to doing so:

  • JUDGE DREDD: The 1995 feature uses model work and Matte paintings to help create the dystopian future for Mega City One. As such the effects haven’t really dated; they look like they did when the film was released. The director was very clever in filming almost everything in the city at night, thus helping the dark feel of the city. The ‘Cursed Earth’ bits are done during daytime which helps emphasise the vastness and the bleakness of the hostile terrain. Both play off one another perfectly and help create a great looking Judge Dredd. Dredd has always been one of the ‘darker’ comics and as such that is how I feel it should be filmed. The whole visual style is much akin to films such as ‘The Crow’, ‘Dark City’ and even ‘Blade runner’. It works really well. The costumes, weapons and vehicles all look like they’ve been pulled straight out of the comics and they are what I remember from when I was young and reading Dredd. Even the ABC warrior is great (although possibly slightly misplaced in this film). It is really well done and looks like it did in the comics. The music is typical of the sort of film it is with a strong score running through it. Nothing much to fault at all 9/10
  • DREDD: This is a tricky one because the film does look very ‘comic-booky’ but it gets boring very fast (at least for me it did) the outside shots look very ‘fake ‘ and CGI which is a shame and I think that it’ll look even worse it years to come. The film also uses a lot of slow motion which does look really good, the first few times then it just gets boring. They use ‘Phantom’ Cameras to film at a ridiculously fast speed meaning they can pretty much slow it down and pause a rain drop if they wanted to. It’s an amazing bit of kit but it can get boring. (It’s not even like its brand new technology or even the first film to be using it. Lars Von Tier used a Phantom camera in 2009 on his film ‘antichrist’ which used the tech a lot more artistically. Even the Jackass franchise used the same tech.) On one hand it does feel like a comic but on the other, the hand that looks at the film as a series of moving images, it sees it as a simple way of padding out a flimsy story with a shortish runtime by an extra 25%. The costumes, weapons and vehicles all feel too different from the comics and from what I remember. They also look far less practical and far more ‘silly’ some of the indoor sets look great but they can’t make up for everything else. The audio takes a very industrial feel which kind of works but sometimes just feel like there are faults in the soundtrack. It’s not bad and I can see what they were going for. They just failed to deliver 5/10

FUN FACTOR

This is where things become even more subjective but I will try to explain my reasons for enjoying/not enjoying each film:

  • JUDGE DREDD: I love this film. It is the definition of a well-made guilty pleasure. The story keeps the pace on-going and Stallone is always watchable on screen. The humour between him and Schneider is great and works really well. I just find this film a great piece of entertainment every time I see it. There are always bits I forget about as well which always gives the film a reasonably fresh feeling. It’s never boring and always enjoyable. 8/10
  • DREDD: I wanted to love this film. The first time I watched it I got around an hour in and just wasn’t enjoying it at all so I turned it off. I thought maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to fully enjoy it. I decided to give it another chance recently and was kind of excited to do so. I don’t know why I was so excited. To be fair it was slightly better than the first time but only marginally. I just found it poorly scripted and really badly paced. I got almost no enjoyment out of it at all and what little I did was from the character of Judge Anderson. 3/10

VERDICT

It’s pretty obvious which of these films I preferred before working out the average score (rounded up) based on all of the above sections. But let’s do it anyway:

JUDGE DREDD – 8/10

DREDD – 5/10

There we have it. I honestly think that the new film was a massive step backwards, both in terms of Dredd films but also Comic book adaptations. The ’95 flick has its problems but they are nowhere near as bad as the problems with the new film (which focuses all on ‘fancy’ visuals instead of story, characters, script, or anything else important.) This is just my opinion but if you want to see the better of the two Judge Dredd films watch the 1995 one (ignore the new one. It’s not even really worth a watch)