We’ve had some good examples of graphic novel characters given justice on the big screen recently but there are still some whom I feel have either been on the receiving end of a shambolic portrayal or not been given one at all. In reality there is a fine line between a “comic book” and a “graphic novel”, both in subject matter and artistic style. Our first book-to-screen translations such as Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and others certainly fell into the ‘comic book’ moniker, a title these translations wore on their sleeves for better and for worse. The thing is, the world of cinema and superhero cinema has not just changed radically, it has matured. Audiences, and fans especially, will always kick up a fuss whenever a director decides to give their particular favorite a do-over in an attempt to modernize it but really… one cannot fight against the nature of the beast that is Hollywood.
I’ll discuss four characters whom I feel are either most deserving of an adaptation or a re-telling, and since I’m a liberal person I’ve decided to pick two from Marvel and two from DC.
The first character that has yet to be done but really deserves his own film is Dr. Stephen Strange. I already wrote a piece a while ago about the possibility of a Dr. Strange film and of his origins so I don’t think me regurgitating that entire post here is a good idea, I’ll just leave the link if you want to check it out. The shortened version goes like this: Dr. Stephen Strange is a surgeon who, through a series of events, becomes a sorcerer/paranormal investigator and crosses paths with other Marvel characters on many occasions. I want to see a Dr. Strange film because, to be honest, Hollywood has failed to give us a good sorcerer story ever since Harry Potter graduated from Hogwarts. Very few films have successfully managed to what happens when ancient and occult magic is brought back into the world as we know it and the results of such. Percy Jackson tried it (and is trying again soon if I’m not mistaken) and Disney attempted it with “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” but largely failed. Sure, there are pitfalls aplenty in writing a film based around the origins of Dr. Strange but if the casting and direction hit their marks then it could be a damn good film which could neatly bolster the fantastical elements of Marvel’s universe.
We’ve seen goodness-knows-how-many male superhero films but asides from the god-awful Halle Berry “Catwoman” film can you honestly count on one hand the amount of major adaptations that have involved a heroine? Wonder Woman, real name Diana Prince, is long overdue a film adaptation. The idea of making a solo-flying film for a character who is undeniably the genre’s most famous female icon is sure to be sending shivers down the spines of the folks over at DC because there are just so many pitfalls they can fall into. Diana’s origin story, like her friend Kal-El, is a hard sell in a cinematic setting. When I reviewed Man of Steel I touched upon how impressed I was that Nolan & Snyder managed to sell me on his origin story which frankly I felt was absurd prior to that do-over. Whilst I was mulling over my thoughts on Man of Steel I found myself wondering if it was now possible to do a proper “Wonder Woman” (if they even call it that) film. Now… I’d say that it is, but if they do so they must alter the origin story a bit. Rather than make Diana Prince an Amazon from a long-lost secluded island make her a soldier in the US military who, through a series of events (down to the writers here) becomes a super-soldier akin to Marvel’s Stephen Rogers/Captain America. Now, who could portray such an iconic character when the stakes are this high? Actress and former MMA fighter Gina Carano was absolutely phenomenal in “Haywire” and could totally own the role.
Either way, “Wonder Woman” will be an extremely hard adaptation to pull of but if it is done well it could be the start of something special.
The less said about the way Venom was treated in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” the better but suffice to say he totally ****ed his story up. Okay that was a bit harsh on Raimi, who has gone on record saying that he never wanted Venom in the film and that his inclusion was something forced upon him by the studio higher ups. Contrary to what people might have gleaned from Spider-Man 3 Venom and it’s host Edward “Eddie” Brock are not clear-cut villains, they are perhaps the best example of “Anti-Heroes”. I feel that there is considerable space and opportunity for Marvel and Sony to do the story of Eddie Brock justice during the ongoing “Amazing Spider-Man” series. I think the most interesting mechanic behind the character/s is that the Venom Symbiote has a residual and adaptive memory so it takes on and learns traits/knowledge from its’ various hosts. This is why the Symbiote bestows the powers of Spider-Man, its’ first human host, upon Eddie Brock. The trade-off is that the Symbiote, like a growing child, amplifies the aggressiveness of its’ host and makes them unstable and unpredictable. Add this to a person who already has a wildly rotating moral compass such as Eddie Brock, and you have a volatile mixture capable of great good or great evil – sometimes both at the same time. Why not re-introduce the character as an anti-hero and have him eventually work (even if begrudgingly) with Spider-Man when it becomes the obvious course of action? That would be much better than a stock villainous cameo… Seeing how a troubled person toes the line between saint and sinner whilst wrestling with phenomenal powers.
When it comes to portrayals which completely miss the mark there is one which sits atop the throne: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role as Mr. Freeze in the notorious “Batman and Robin” is legendary for all the wrong reasons. Batman has a number of memorable enemies such as The Joker, Two-Face, and Ras Al-Ghul but none of their stories come closer to having the emotional impact of Victor Fries, something which the 1997 film completely squandered. Victor’s origin does not read like that of your typical super villain, it reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. If you ask me the best villains are those born of tragedy. That is why “Chronicle” had such a massive impact and why Aaron Eckert completely blew audiences away with his portrayal of Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight”. There is an element of similarity in the way Batman and Victor Fries came to be, they were both born out of immense tragedy and emotional turmoil, in fact the only thing separating them at their cores is that one chose the path of the hero and the other the path of personal righteous villainy. There’s just so much potential for this character to have a highly sophisticated, dramatic, emotional and hard-hitting appearance in a well-crafted theatrical Batman film. If directors want to brave taking this character out of cryo-storage they should run with a similar story to that found in his introduction episode from “Batman: The Animated Series” in the 1990’s titled “Heart of Ice”, an episode that is commonly regarded as one of the greatests episodes in the entire series and was an episode which even won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program. Casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Shakespearean villain was such a poor choice of casting but who could play the role now? If I was asked that question a decade ago I would have said Patrick Stewart in a heartbeat but now… who knows, the right person will eventually appear I’m sure but they must get it right this time. Any character (factual or fiction) deserves a second chance and I really hope writers of future Batman movies will allow Mr. Freeze to make a proper comeback when the series is once again rebooted.