From panel to screen: Ghost World.

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.

GhostworldposterTitle: Ghost World

Release Year: 2001

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Writer:  Terry Zwigoff & Daniel Clowes

Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi.

 

 

Ghost World is an indie comedy drama from 2001. It’s based on a comic by Daniel Clowes, who collaborated with writer and director Terry Zwigoff on the films screenplay. It follows the lives of two mopey teenage girls, Enid and Rebecca, who have just graduated high school and must now move onto the next part of their lives. Along the way Enid, played by Thora Birch, befriends a recluse music collector Seymour, who is played by Steve Buscemi. What starts out as Enid taking pity on Seymour turns into a close friendship as the two discover that even though there’s a considerable age difference, they have more in common with each other than their peers.

I’ve never read Ghost World. I checked to see if it was available on ComiXology so I could read it before writing this, but it’s not on there. So I can’t fairly comment on the differences between the comic and the film. I’d also never seen the film until watching it for this blog.

It’s a pretty good film, and what you’d expect from a coming of age indie movie. The main focus to begin with is the friendship between Enid and Rebecca. Rebecca is played by a rather young looking Scarlett Johansson, who turns out to be the more sensible one of the pair. Enid seems more stuck in her adolescence. She struggles with keeping jobs because she doesn’t want to work for “the man”, and even goes as far as dying her hair green for a 1976 punk rock look. It’s little like that view you have as a teenager when you think you know everything about the world, but you don’t because you haven’t quite grown up yet. You’re still viewing everything through the clouded safety of adolescence. Rebecca manages to keep her job and pesters Enid throughout the movie to move out and get an apartment with her. She seems more comfortable with letting go of her high school teenage years and moving into adult hood.

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And then the two discover an advertisement in the paper from a lonely man trying to reconnect with a woman he once had a short lived moment with. Seymour is played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi, who is at his ‘given up on life’ best. He struggles socially and spends most of his time collecting old music records.

Enid and Rebecca decide to respond to Seymour’s advertisement in the paper and set him up on a blind date. From then on, at first out of pity, they follow him around and become a part of his life.

It’s Enid who becomes close to Seymour. She feels like she’s losing Rebecca since finishing high school, so Seymour becomes her new friend. And then the film just plays out their relationship together. Enid tries to set Seymour up on several dates until she eventually realises she feels something for him herself.

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I think the film as a whole captures really well that time in your life when you’ve just left high school and you’re moving into adulthood. It never tries to be too over ambitious, instead it’s a more quiet approach to things. It doesn’t have the pop music soundtrack that most films like this have. Music is used very little for the soundtrack. When it is used, it usually reflects the taste of either Seymour and Enid. Seymour is into old style Jazz, while Enid is currently going through a punk phase.

It’s a cute film with a few moments of quirkiness to it, but it became more a cult film than a box office hit because it doesn’t have that main stream appeal to it (This happens a lot with comic book movies that don’t have superheroes in them). I’d never seen it before I watched it for my blog (and as I said at the beginning – I nearly forgot about it).

It’s available on Netflix in the UK and should be easy enough to find on DVD.

 

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Blade.

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. 

 

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Title: BLADE

Release Year: 1998

Director: Stephen Norrington

Writer: David S. Goyer

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue.

 

 

Blade always seemed like an interesting choice of character to turn into a movie. He made his debut in comics in the early 1970s, first appearing in The Tomb Of Dracula series by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. At first, he was a supporting character, and was created to fight vampires in the Marvel universe. He has had several of his own titles over the years, but none of them lasted that long, and he never really broke out like other supporting characters. I, personally, have been reading comics pretty steadily since I was 8, and I’ve read my fair share of Marvel comics, and I can’t recall Blade appearing in any of them. Even recently, in all the big marvel events like Civil War and Secret Invasion, stories that happened after he broke out as a movie star and when he was a little more well known, he was never used. Almost to the point were it’s like comic book writers don’t know what to do with him.

spiderman_bladeMy first experience with the character that I remember, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, is the character turning up in the 90s Spider-man animated cartoon show. They did a vampire storyline were the vampires never bit anyone, instead they drained the plasma from their victims through their hands. This was because the cartoon couldn’t have blood sucking vampires, so it had to make do with plasma draining vampires (and because children know what plasma is, right?)

 

The film itself is also pretty significant because it’s one of the few R rated (or certificate 18, for English people) comic book/super hero movies. Movies like this aren’t usually made with that high of a rating because they need to be family friendly in order to make money. The majority of comic book movies are 12a (which is something I’m going to go into more when I write about Spider-man in a couple of weeks) in order for the studios to make back the money they spend on these things and turn a profit. But Blade got lucky, because it came out on the back of Batman & Robin, which was very much made to cater to the family friendly audience, and it ended up severely under performing at the box office (because, as we’re all well aware of – Batman & Robin is not a good movie).

Also, with Blade not exactly being a big household name, they had freedom to do pretty much whatever they wanted to do with the character and the film, which turned out to be a blood-filled action movie full of bad language. And what they did worked, because they spent $40 million making Blade, and it made over $100 million back at the box office and even went on to get two sequels and an unrelated TV series.

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Now, onto the movie itself. Blade is the story of a half human, half vampire who has all the strengths of being a vampire but none of the weaknesses. His mother is bitten by a vampire when she is still pregnant with him, and he is torn from her dying womb and adopted by Whistler, who decides to turn Blade into a vampire slayer. The films villain, Deacon Frost, wants to do away with mankind, and let vampires become the dominant species on the planet. In order to do that, he needs to unlock the secrets of an old vampire God La Magra. Blade must stop Frost before he can do this, and along the way he’s going to kill a lot of vampires, and make Donal Logue wish he’d have died in the first scene, because this dude goes through hell for Deacon Frosts cause.

I watched it again recently for the first time in years – and it holds up pretty well. Some of it is very dated to the late 90s, like the outfits and the underground club dance scene that opens the movie. But other parts hold up better, like Blades costume. He decides to go for the long leather coat and body armour look. He only works in black, and he still looks like a bad ass. I was also thinking that a lot of the costume design in this movie looks very inspired by The Matrix, but after some imdbing found out that The Matrix came a year later, so this is pre-matrix black leather.

Wesley Snipes is also pretty great in the lead role, and managed to help turn a supporting character from a comic into a movie star. They never give him much dialogue, the exposition is left to other characters, but in the action scenes he’s really solid.

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But even though this film isn’t as campy as other super hero movies, it’s still full of stuff that makes no sense. Like, for example, Whistler, who is Blades old and wise trainer, but still thinks it’s a great idea to smoke next to a fuel pump that’s in use (he smokes whilst filling up Blades motorcycle (I’m not making this up!). And then there’s Donal Logues character, who is Frosts main henchman. He is lit on fire right at the beginning of the film, has both of his hands chopped off and goes through a lot of rough stuff, He pretty much has the worst day you can have and still thinks he can take on Blade, before finally meeting his match against a zip-wire.

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And my favourite thing about this movie, which is another thing that I list under ‘making no sense’ is that, with the help of a little sun tan lotion, vampires can go out walking in the daytime. There’s a scene which is set in the middle of the day, were Frost is holding a little girl hostage. In a park. In the middle of the day. But he doesn’t burn up to a crisp because he has factor 50 on and he’s stood in the shade. So much for taking out the comic book campiness.

z0y2aZeqPIThe DVD also features an alternate ending. When Frost is possessed by the evilness of La Magra, he has one final confrontation with Blade. The ending that ended up in the final cut depicts Frost as being possessed by having extremely red blood shot eyes and looking very pissed off at everyone and everything, the alternate ending depicts Frost as a giant whirlwind of blood. They made the right choice in choosing their ending, because the whirlwind of blood would not have aged as well as the sword fight that’s in the film.

But the film is good in what it sets out to do – be a badass, vampire slaying movie. There’s plenty of it, the film rarely feels like it’s boring and dragging, which is also help by it’s running time being just under 2 hours.

So now a character that no one had heard of has become a huge commercial movie star, and Marvel have had their first taste at big screen success. But what came next was even bigger. Next time, I’ll be looking at Bryan Singers X-men.