Saturday, July 19, 2008


Very rarely does a movie sequel prove to be better than it's original. Lately, with the trend of popular comic book film adaptations, the sequel, very often, has been much more successful, such as X-Men 2 (2003) and Spider-man 2 (2004). With the release of Batman Begins (2005), the comic book adaptation and DC comics ushered in a new beginning in comic films. Unlike Superman Returns (2006), while trying to cash in on the same concept, met with much more criticism and less success. The much-anticipated sequel to the Batman franchise began with not just the announcement of the return of director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman but with the announcement of a new villain. As in Batman Begins the introduction and first-time movie appearance of second-string villains such as Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul (although fan favorites, and mine!) the next villain had to be a major one to be a success and they found one with actor: Heath Ledger as The Joker! With past bat-villain flops such as Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, both film-makers and fans knew it would be hard to give new life to Batman's number one arch-nemesis having so impressively been played by Jack Nicholson in 1989's Batman. With the new Ledger-Joker, the most dangerous and psychotic of Batman's villains, gives more of an intensely disturbing depiction with Ledger's overly eccentric and scarred Joker. Not only would young actor's role give even more hype and excitement to the movie but also would Ledgers untimely and tragic demise (Jan. 22, 2008) six months before the initial release of the film.
  Although the focus of the movie is on Joker, as he almost steals the show; the plot of "The Dark Knight" is about Batman dealing with the reputation he's created in Gotham City and how his presence has affected the crime rate. With bands of roaming vigilantes dressed up as Batman are creating havoc alongside the chaos of the Joker and his rise in the crime world it proves what Gordon, now police commissioner said in the last scene of Batman Begins foreshadowed: "escalation". All of the cast of Batman Begins returns but with one exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes instead of Katie Holmes and the addition of Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and as the new secondary villain: Two-Face (previously played by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever (1997). The Dark Knight is a long and intense movie with an impressive story and deeply thought provoking themes. If not for Batman, you would almost mistake it for a blockbuster true-crime story which make it all the more real and disturbing and great!

    Since its release, "The Dark Knight" has become the #2 all-time in the USA box office (above Star Wars (1977) and just below Titanic (1997) and remains the most popular comic book movie as previously held by Spider-man (2002), now in the 8 spot.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


    I first became a "Hellboy" fan in 2001 when I discovered the first graphic novel while working at a local comic book store. Since then I have been a devoted fan of all things Hellboy, including anything B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) related! When the first movie was released in 2004, I was blown away by director Guillermo del Toro's film until then the I had only seen Del Toro's American film "Mimic" (1997) and would search out his Spanish-language films such as "The Devil's Backbone" (2001) and later "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006). Already impressed by del Toro's vision and imagery I was eagerly awaiting Hellboy's sequel this summer.
    I have realized over the years being both a moviegoer and comic book fan that the line between comics and movies has been severely twisted. With older classics such as Richard Donner's "Superman" and Tim Burton's "Batman" (1989), which I had grown up adoring. I was always aware that any comic book adaptation has to have an equal mixing of both the comic book and the moviemaker in order to work. Like "Batman" (1989) which was delightfully dark as Batman should be it was also very Burton, ("Beetleguise", "Edward Scissorhands") at that time still a young filmmaker. And in recent years with Marvel comics burst of film franchises like "Spider-man" and "X-Men" which were very successful although somewhat dwindling the third time around, all has the directors style but still remains devoted to the comics original flavor.
    Like "Hellboy", whose original creator Mike Mignola had a lot of involvement with the first "Hellboy" movie as well as the sequel, however it is noticeable that Mignola's presence is somewhat lesser and del Toro's style has completely overtaken the film. Not only has del Toro taken liberties with the film but he used this sequel as an opportunity to have a little "Fun" with "Hellboy" which, as far as I'm concerned, is too much!
    "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" is remarkable, the special effects the imagery, the inventiveness. Its downright overwhelming, its no longer dark and mysterious as the Hellboy comics were originally, now, its bright and funny!? What happened!? Don't get me wrong, Ron Perlman as Hellboy is fantastic, I met him shortly after at a convention. Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) is incredible. I was even overjoyed that this movie would introduce a new B.P.R.D. agent from the comics into the movies: Dr. Johan Krauss! On first seeing his ectoplasm suit and hearing hi voice (although humorously voiced by "Family Guy"/"American Dad" creator and voice: Seth MacFarlane. Although Krauss now sounds more like Klauss, the goldfish from American Dad, which I enjoy watching.)
    The failing of Hellboy 2 starts with the soap-opera level love story between Hellboy and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and not to mention Abe Sapien becoming smitten with the new character Princess Nuala, which goes so far as to have him begin drinking and singing annoying love songs (Come on! WTF!)
     The final stab is the overly convoluted story that has no basis in the Hellboy comics! We've gone so far from the original concept of Hellboy and a far turn from the original film that I dread to see if and when there will be a Hellboy 3, will Hellboy return to his roots marked with dark, Lovecraftian stories or will be off to the north pole to fight an evil Santa Claus. Guillermo del Toro, stop please and re-evaluate your situation before it gets too much for us to handle. I cannot even think about what's going to happen when his vision of "The Hobbit" will be released in 2011 (Really!) and they've already slated for "The Hobbit" in 2012! I can't wait…