Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Graphic Novel: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2 (2003)

Alan Moore’s team of Victorian superheroes returns in another ripping yarn. This time Mina Harker, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll and the Invisible Man face down the Martian invasion from THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. Dr. Moreau and John Carter of Mars also make appearances. No doubt there are plenty of other literary references that I missed on the first reading; Moore’s work has a fantastic density. On the basis of his epic comic WATCHMEN alone he should be regarded as one of the premier writers of his generation. His subsequent books, like LEAGUE and TOP TEN, continue to combine the fluidity of film with the detail of fiction.

Artist Kevin O’Neill can’t go unmentioned. The opening battle on the surface of Mars has almost no dialogue. Just O’Neill’s staggering illustrations.

Volume 1 was adapted for the movies in name only last year. Moore’s plot was jettisoned, and the characters of Dorian Gray (not only ageless but indestructible) and Tom Sawyer were added to the roster. Sawyer was the studio’s idea, a way to appeal to the American audience. Good plan – build identification by sticking in a character from a book most people were forced to read against their will. If they’ve read it at all. The movie’s not good, but it’s also not the disaster it’s made out to be. The first 45 minutes chug along nicely before it collapses into a muddle.

Sean Connery played Quatermain. I loved his rationale for taking the part. He said that he was offered both THE MATRIX and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but as he didn’t understand the scripts he turned them down. When the script for LEAGUE left him baffled, he said yes at once.

Connery has dropped out of his latest film, ostensibly to focus on his memoirs. But others say he’s gotten fed up with the mechanics of big-budget filmmaking, particularly in the wake of his publicized fights with LEAGUE director Stephen Norrington. I don’t see why Connery can’t keep acting in smaller films along the lines of FINDING FORRESTER. Except, you know, good.

Good Scene, Bad Movie: Blood Work (2002)

Before striking Oscar gold with MYSTIC RIVER, Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Brian Helgeland teamed on this soggy adaptation of Michael Connelly’s novel. It departs from the book’s plot in ways that Connelly addresses in his latest, THE NARROWS.

There is one terrific scene between Eastwood and actor Rick Hoffman, currently onscreen as an odious lawyer in CELLULAR. Hoffman found a man who’d been shot by the killer Eastwood is pursuing. Because of a police error, the man died before an ambulance could reach him. Hoffman recounts the story bitterly, repeating certain phrases. It immediately creates the sense that this is a tale Hoffman’s character has told many times before, and will be repeating for the rest of his life.

Miscellaneous: Link

I can’t resist Rex Reed when he’s in a bad mood, even when he’s gunning for filmmakers I like. Here he dismisses David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman among others as “film’s new hacks.” Plus, he reveals the who and the why in THE FORGOTTEN, so now I don’t have to go. Thanks to GreenCine Daily for the link.