Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past decade or so you will only be too aware that comic books and graphic novels are not only making the jump to the big screen but are dominating it too. For those who are fans of the original novels will be pleased with the majority of the big screen adaptations but not all of them do their paperbound counterpart justice. I’m going to have a brief look at the hits and misses of the graphic novel movies in the build up to the much anticipated Preacher movie.
First let’s celebrate some of the movies that managed to find the right balance between graphic novel style and cinematic prowess. Kick-Ass like a good tin of Ronseal does exactly what it says on the tin. The movies kick ass! The graphic novels of the same name have sections which would have proved difficult to portray on screen, more so in the sequel than the original but still. Jeff Wadlow who directed and adapted the screenplay for Kick-Ass 2 took certain elements and events from the book which could not be shown on screen at any age rating and managed to make it work. For those who do not want to know what happens in the book, look away now….but the scene in the movie where The Motherf*cker takes his racial stereotype crew, The Toxic Megac*nts into suburbia to find Night B*tch in the book The Toxic Megac*nts actually go into suburbia to kill a street full of children. The characters are a lot darker in the book but without having a scene where a group of nutcases kill a score of kids in the film, Wadlow still managed to make them sinister. Plus with only the one scene to really change is not as bad as it could have been.
The Watchmen is not only a staple in any graphic novels fan collection of books but a staple in modern superhero movies. It is a masterpiece. It poses a great question and almost reconstructs the superhero movie. Who watches the Watchmen? Although it doesn’t face the problem that Kick-Ass 2 faced in terms of scenes too explicit to show but Zack Snyder did have to manoeuvre around a particularly faithful fan base as well as the new superhero fans brought in by the first wave of the Marvel films and the Sony Marvel adaptations and even the DC brother Batman Begins. The cinema going audience had just got used to superheroes taking the main stage and here comes Watchmen which jumps on top of its soapbox and shouts not only do superheroes have problems but if they get out of control we are the ones in the firing line! Already having graphic novel movie experience under his belt with 300, Snyder knocked it out of the park. It’s a great film and won a hand full of awards too!
These are two quite large and obvious examples. Two slightly smaller examples are 30 Days of Night and Constantine, based on the Hellblazer graphic novels. Apart from small issues with both films, for example John Constantine is blonde and Keanu Reeves is dark haired…I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does! They are both good examples of how the graphic novel can be done just outside of the spotlight. Hellblazer is a unique graphic novel with a huge following and so would have come under fan boy scrutiny which any director who has taken on any comic book movies will tell you is huge pressure! 30 Days of Night is a less established graphic novel but it lends itself to the big screen it is a very visual story and with the cult success the film enjoyed I’d imagine the book sales boosted in the immediate aftermath. The casting for 30 Days of Night also helped it a lot with Josh Hartnett probably bringing in a lot of customers to a vampire film that few people would have been aware of. I’d imagine it was a similar decision to cast Keanu Reeves in Constantine, because not only have they changed the name of the well-established franchise it’s also a bit of a risk as it is a massive storyline which two hours could not even hope to tell…Daniel Craig should have been John Constantine, just saying! But both are stand-up films for fans of the books or not.
That’s a few examples of the ones that did either their book proud or at least didn’t shame them beyond any recognition. Wanted did exactly that. Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t terrible but it has literally nothing to do with the book. The film is about a fraternity that turn out to be evil and take out people for ‘the great of good.’ All the characters are human and a lot of emphasis is put on the ability to bend bullets. The books feature characters such as F*ckwit who is a superhero with down syndrome and Sh*thead a villain made up of 666 of the world’s most evil people’s faeces; including Adolf Hitler, Ed Geins and Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s about a league of super villains who control the earth after the death of the last superhero. Morgan Freeman’s character in the film is supposed to be based on The Professor in the book, in the book he was the last arch-nemesis of an intended Superman and keeps a snippet of his cape as a memento of destroying the last superhero. The graphic novel isn’t suitable for the big screen which is why it works as a book, it’s politically incorrect, mega-violent and has shed loads of sex in it to boot! The film was an enjoyable film but the ties between the two are so loose that it hardly warrants sharing the same name. I can imagine it left fans of the book with a very bitter taste in their mouth.
So with a brief look at the hits and misses of a handful of graphic novel movies how do we think Preacher will fair? Well, I’m firmly in the camp of it is a great book and that no amount of talent behind the film will do the book justice. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see it and believe me I am. But what if it’s another Wanted? I know the casting procedure has started and Cassidy and Arseface have been cast and they are characters who could have potentially ruined before the film has already started production. Joseph Gilgun strikes me as a good choice for Cassidy the hard drinking Irish vampire who is Jesse Custer’s right hand man. Gilgun’s been in films but they have been few and far between but he’s finally shaking his typecast and reaching for bigger and better roles. I believe him to be an inspired choice for the role. Ian Colletti is Arseface, a rockstar who survived a suicide attempt. Colletti fills me with less confidence as this will be his first movie role. But hey everyone has start somewhere and why not give the kid a chance! Finally Ruth Negga has been cast as Tulip, Jesse Custer’s love interest. Negga has been in plenty and has dabbled in fantasy before so she’ll be right at home. So they’re the cast we’ve got to work with so far, no Jesse Custer as of yet and he’s going to be the crux of the film’s success I’d imagine. Without going into to many plot details just by the brief character descriptions of those who have been cast we get the sense that this isn’t going to be a straightforward film. Jesse Custer a preacher from Texas is in a nutshell given powers by a creature Genesis. Genesis is a culmination of pure good and pure evil. The powers bestowed upon Jesse Custer give him powers equal to God’s. So he travels in search of God to hold him accountable, with the help of Cassidy and Tulip. There are plenty of secondary and tertiary characters whom they have affiliation with or run-ins with whom have their own unique quirks too. I’m starting to get worried that it may turn into a bit of a Wanted-esque adaptation.
If you look up any forums about the Preacher film online you will see a lot of angry fan boys who are angry with Seth Rogan being at the helm of the project. He’s writing the film for TV. Oh yeah that’s right, it’s going to be a TV movie. Not that, that should be a big deal but it sounds to me as if it may not have the budget to come close to doing the book justice. But this is where I will defend Seth Rogan. He’s obviously a fan and it’s a passion project for the guy. People have divided opinions on Seth’s take on Green Hornet, another graphic novel film which angered fan boys but in general isn’t a terrible film. Seth’s obviously a fan of the books and wants to write something that he’s passionate about. That doesn’t mean it’ll be good of course but it means he gives a damn and he’ll take the wrap if it isn’t all that he hopes it’ll be. It smacks of being too far big for a movie but then again if it gets pulled off it’ll be one of the greatest spectacles to watch and arguably an important film in terms of content and meaning. The western and religious aspects will be strong in the film which will instantly set it apart from other graphic novel movies. Preacher is scheduled for 2016 so there’s plenty of time for chops and changes but I’m both excited and cautious.
What do we think about the upcoming Preacher movie? Do you like or dislike any of the graphic novel adaptations? Join the conversation in the comments below.