From Panel to Screen: Blade II.

For over a decade now, comic book movies have been some of the highest grossing films to come out from Hollywood. What started out as a fad has become it’s own genre. Over the next  few months, I’m going to be delving into each movie individually to try and find out what it is that’s made them a mainstay in modern Hollywood.

blade2Title: Blade II

Release Year: 2002

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer:  David S. Goyer

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman & Norman Reedus

 

 

New Line Cinema followed up Blade with a sequel in 2002. David Goyer, the writer of the first film, returned to pen the sequel, with Wesley Snipes returning in the lead role.

Sitting in the directors chair this time around would be Guillermo Del Toro. Guillermo Del Toro is a popular name amongst cinema fans because he’s had a successful run of both commercial and critical acclaimed films. Blade II would be his first foray into the Hollywood spotlight and would set him up to make future cinema classic Pans Labyrinth and eventually see him returning to the comic book movie world with both Hellboy 1 and 2.

The movie opens with Blade on the hunt for his old friend and mentor Whistler. Believed dead at the end of the first movie, Whistler is in fact still alive and has been captured and experimented on by a group of vampires. The decision to resurrect the character was probably made when the filmmakers decided they wanted to have Kris Kristofferson back in his father figure role to Blade.

After saving Whistler, we’re then introduced to Blades younger version of the character Scud, who is played by Norman Reedus. Reedus would eventually spring to fame amongst comic book fans in his role as Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead TV show. In Blade II, he’s basically already playing that character. He chain smokes throughout the entire film, has a grunge-South American look to him and gives attitude to everybody. What I liked most about his character, though, is that he’s wearing a Hellboy t-shirt throughout most of the film, and given that Del Toro would go on to direct 2 Hellboy movies after this, it’s pop culture foreshadowing at its best.

Blade, Whistler and Whistler junior form an uneasy alliance with a team of Vampires named The Bloodpack, in order to take on a ‘Reaper’ vampire who are a threat to both humans and vampires. The Bloodpack is lead by Ron Perlman (who will later become Hellboy for Del Toro) and is made up generic stereotypes like a red head, an Asian guy, an Irish fellow with a lot of facial hair and a bald guy with a face tattoo and larger hammer. None of the Bloodpack really stand out that much. They’re mostly just fodder for the Reapers to kill throughout the film. There are a lot of good scenes between Perlman and Snipes, though. The two bounce off each other really well, as they rival throughout the film. Perlman will often try to get the upper hand on Blade, only to be equally matched with an added Snipes grin. It’s similar to what we saw in the first film with Snipes and Donal Logue, but better because Perlman is pretty brilliant with what he’s given.

What was good about the first film is that it’s action was well paced and it didn’t try to be too overly complicated. Blade II does the same, but it does what good sequels do and adds to it. Thanks to the inclusion of The Bloodpack, there’s more variation with characters in action scenes, and it’s not all put on Snipes. We never really care much for the team though, but it’s Blade and his commitment to sunglasses in sewers that we’re here for anyway.

Del Toro is also an avid user and believer in practical effects over digital effects. With the expedition of one his later films Pacific Rim, a lot of his monster work is done with makeup and props. Sometimes it’s a little too noticeable that it is makeup (Perlmans character has burn scars for part of the film, and it doesn’t look too great), but it does add a good quality to the film. The downside though, is when it’s cut in with digital effects. When Blade first meets two members of The Bloodpack, there’s a sword fight. Most of this was done with stunt doubles and actors, but there are a couple of shots of characters jumping around that, were done digitally, that look shockingly poor. Granted, this film is 12 years old, and time is never kind to digital effects. But the scene would flow better without the addition of the digital effects shots.

Another thing that I found really distracting about the film was the poor ADR work. ADR is when dialogue is re-recorded and then added over in editing (or post production). This is usually done when a director doesn’t want to use an actors original voice (Darth Vader in Star Wars) or when the sound from recording can’t be used. It seems like nitpicking, but it is something that could have been avoided with a little more time spent on editing. Things like this, along with bad special effects, distract you and bring you out of a film.

I found myself really enjoying Blade II though. It’s more of what was good about the first, with additions like Norman Reedus and Ron Perlman to spice things up a bit. The villain never really stands out much (which is why I’ve barely mentioned it), and there isnt too much to the plot. But it’s a good R rated movie based on a comic book character. The success of the first film probably meant that Del Toro had some leniency from the studio when making this film, allowing him to work in his passion for monsters and horror more. And if Del Toro can turn a David Goyer script into a good film, you know you’re onto some talent.

Advertisements

From panel to screen: From Hell.

For over a decade now, comic book movies have been some of the highest grossing films to come out from Hollywood. What started out as a fad has become it’s own genre. Over the next  few months, I’m going to be delving into each movie individually to try and find out what it is that’s made them a mainstay in modern Hollywood.

from hellTitle: From Hell

Release Year: 2001

Director: Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes

Writer:  Terry Hayes & Rafael Yglesias

Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm & Robbie Coltrane

 

 

 

When I was talking to one of my friends about From Hell being the next comic book movie review for my blog, he seemed genuinely surprised that I was writing about it. He was surprised because he didn’t think it was based on a comic book. In his defence, it is only very loosely based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel From Hell, mostly taking its name, characters and a few themes and turning what is regarded as high mark for the graphic novel medium into a generic Hollywood movie.

From Hell is a take on the Whitechapel Ripper killings. Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) is tasked with capturing the ripper and solving the case. But what he discovers along the way leads to a much larger secret than he expected.

From Hell was the first of Alan Moores works to be adapted by Hollywood into a film. It’s also the reason why he would stay as far away as he could for future films based on his books.

The simple reason is: he doesn’t consider it a faithful adaption of what he wrote and he hates the movie.

Authors not liking films based on their work is not uncommon (Stephen King hates Kubricks The Shining), and it does change significant parts of what Alan Moore wrote.

This is mainly due to the filmmakers decision to leave the reveal of the Ripper until the final act of the movie, essentially making this film a ’whodunit’. Now, I know a film should be judged on what it actually is, and not what you’d like it to be, but this could have been a more interesting film if we’d have known the killer from the start. We’d then have more time to get inside his head, which is what the book does, and it could have been more of a psychoanalytical take on Jack the Ripper rather than us following a doped up Johnny Depp for a few hours as he tries to solve the case. Hollywood always get cold feet when they’re adapting works of Alan Moore, and they play it more safe to cater for the mass Hollywood audience, therefore often completely missing the point of Alan Moores books. His books are not safe. They’re bold and complex stories that aren’t always easy reads and they weren’t written with the intention of one day becoming a film.

Alan Moores books are always painstakingly researched and planned. A single panel will be several pages of script. Comic book writers often refer to his scripts as ‘how not to write comics’, because of how overly detailed they are.

The Ripper in the film is Sir William Gull (Ian Holm). Gull was a former physician to the Queen who had to give up practicing medicine in an official capacity due to illness. In the film, he’s actually played rather well by Ian Holm. He always has that slightly shifty look about him, like he is a man hiding something. The motivation behind the ripper killings is After his revel, when we finally see him ‘turn’ he plays the insane madman as someone who is trying to cling to something he’s lost. It’s like the Ripper inside him

It’s the lengths they also go to to keeps his identity hidden from us that becomes rather bothersome. Whenever he’s in shot, his face will be blacked out and silhouetted, while his voice will be dark and low. The film also likes to keep you guessing, dropping several hints along the way that various different characters might be the Ripper. There’s a recurring shot of coach steps dropping, the sound effect of which is the overly cliche ‘slasher’ sword. Each time the steps drop, a different character steps down them. It’s good to keep the ‘whodunit’ going for film audiences, it just doesn’t allow the film to hold to future watches.

There’s also much more going on, as Gull is a member of the cult group The Freemasons, and the Freemasons are a part of covering up Gulls involvement in the killings at the risk of exposing themselves. But this is all left until the final half hour of the film. It can’t decides what it wants to be, which only makes it an average film and nothing overly remarkable in the long term. It’s not even the best film based on an Alan Moore book.

I should also note, that as of writing this blog, I haven’t yet finished the book, so I’d be interested to hear what fans of the book make of the film.