Monday, January 05, 2009

On the Spirit, LXG, and the latter incarnations of the Crow:

(No scans for this one yet, but I reserve the right to come back to it as I find them, 'kay?)

So, I haven't seen the Spirit. Like a lot of people. Over at Doomkopf they hated it. Actually, that's being kind: my keyboard doesn't have that Transmetropolitan skull-and-crossbones key. Over at his Permanent Damage column, Steven Grant takes the rather more charitable view that Frank Miller has had more hit movies than you probably have, and this was his first try on his own. Well, maybe; and there does seem to be a lot of the ol' schadenfreude, if not outright gloating, over the Spirit's seeming failure. I say seeming because I don't know, maybe it'll find it's audience on DVD or repeated cable showings or something.

And on cable right as I type this: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. With "DVD extras" during the commercials. Reportedly, the filming was so horrible and he clashed with the director so fiercely, that it as much as drove Sean Connery into retirement. I've seen quotes from Connery, to the effect of that the notion of making another movie isn't worth the probability of killing a director. (What's the director commentary like on that one? "Ooh, Sean was pissed this morning! I said, 'Hey, save your murderous rage for the screen, tiger!' He glared at me! Directing is awesome!")

I wasn't expecting to see Connery in the "extras," but he just appeared for a moment in a segment about the car. Of course, the swarmy hosts also pointed out that "LXG" was written by the same guy that wrote V for Vendetta and From Hell. They don't mention Alan Moore by name, and why should they? Then you have to get into a whole thing about him not be involved with the movies, not wanting or even watching them. (Or so they say.)

I really liked V for Vendetta, and have yet to finish the book. (I keep getting individual issues, it wasn't always a trade!) And while it's probably not high on anyone's lists, "LXG" probably isn't the worst superhero movie ever. (The guys at Doomkopf were working on that as well, but I wanted to finish this thought before I read that!) And while there are several I haven't seen--you know, let's start there. I've never seen Catwoman, and I have that one--the Oldest swears its good, but I think at one point he may have actually thought cats could bring him back to life, too. Steel, Superman IV, Supergirl: for some reason, I don't think I've seen a combined five minutes of them.

But, I've seen a lot of terrible ones as well. Every version of the Crow after the Brandon Lee one: terrible, or worse. And even the first one gets away with a lot: I remember a Film Threat article that instead of a review, ran it as a seance with Bruce Lee: "The only thing that movie has going for it is Brandon's death. And the sad thing is, it'll probably work." "Shut up dad, don't queer my deal." And the TV version still puts my teeth on edge: a cleaned-up version of the first movie, dragged out episode after episode, as an early test music delivery system like Smallville or Gilmore Girls. (I'm being harsh, since those shows obviously brought something else to the table, which is why they lasted longer than...however many miserable episodes the Crow ran. Seriously, that show made Night Man look like it sweated artistic integrity.)

And I'm almost positive I saw the Spirit TV movie in 1987. Now, it was a comic book movie at a time where there was just about nothing. (I know I watched the short-lived Sable series as well.) But it didn't do much for me; not so much because of the quality (or lack of) of the movie itself, but because I had only a vague idea of who the Spirit was. Were Spirit comics available on newstands in my lifetime? I'm thinking not. Maybe the Warren reprints, but I couldn't find Vampirella back then, so I doubt the Spirit would have been easily found.

To this day, I've read barely a handful of Spirit stories, and only a few of those by Will Eisner. And I didn't really care for them: the Spirit seemed like a coat hanger that more interesting characters and plots hung off of, and not like an interesting character himself. Plus, he got beat up a lot, what's up with that? It never seemed like, "the Spirit gets beat to hell but never gives up and struggles through and wins in the end." It just seemed like, "the Spirit got beat up, and looks it." Or maybe, "Crap, that chick suckerpunched the Spirit! Sucker!" I'm probably wrong, but it doesn't seem like I'm going to be jumping up and down for the DVD either.

Of course, even before the Spirit came out, people were already starting to piss and moan about Frank Miller's next potential movie, a version of Buck Rogers. Like a lot of people, the first thing that came to mind was Lance Blastoff and Tales to Offend. I've read a lot of Miller, and that one's funny once, but not one I'd care to revisit. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that Miller would bring all his excesses to the goddamn Buck Rogers: a tough-yet-slutty Major Derring, a foul-mouthed "comic relief" Twiki that wouldn't be funny, a future that was repressed and seedy and looked kind of fake. Eh, it's tiring just to imagine that. Maybe Miller would go that route. Maybe he'd play it completely straight. Who knows? Hell, who knows if he's gonna get to do it anyway; but it seems unfair to burn it down before he's even started it. Well, unless he casts a Twiki, in which case yeah, burn away. I liked the TV show as a kid, but Twiki was born there and should be left there.

(I did have a thought that all those space opera spaceships, with their seemingly simplistic controls and shiny chrome finishes, were actually extraordinarily complicated and computerized; "idiot proof" fighters created by highly intelligent scientists, in order to ensure that any idiot could fly a rocket into a space battle. Because if any idiot can do it, well, the scientists wouldn't have to. "OK, the button that says 'UP'? Push that first. That one there fires the 'lasers.' Good luck!")

If Miller doesn't get to do Buck Rogers? I was walking the dog, and thinking about how Frank's going to pooch it; and I realized who should get to do the movie: Howard motherlovin' Chaykin. Take your Chaykin-hero, Reuben Flagg, Blackhawk, what have you; throw in some skirts that are slightly less tawdry than what Miller would bring, add a bunch of pointy-looking spaceships, bam! Chaykin could do it. If he got the greenlight. And had, um, any interest at all in working in Hollywood; Chaykin could very well have better/less aggravating things to do. And I don't think I've quite articulated why he'd be a good choice, but it's only a late-night rant brought about by a bunch of things wandering into my field of vision over the course of an evening.

(It's late for me, I have to be up at four! New post Tuesday, though!)


SallyP said...

I find myself torn. Miller and Chaykin are both artists that I used to admire, and have come to loathe. American Flagg and Power and Glory were fabulous. Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage was an atrocity. Same thing with Frank Miller.

I don't know if they should do Buck Rogers straight or as a comedy, since I suppose it could go either way.

googum said...

See, I still dig Chaykin, but haven't picked up Collateral Damage or his recent Marvel stuff. The Marvel stuff in particular seems like him slumming. And his Challengers series had some ideas, but seemed like Chaykin vs. Fox News. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, mind you.

Jim Doom said...

Hey Googum, thanks for the shout-outs.

Sea_of_Green said...

When I was a kid, I wasn't picky at all about the quality of a super-hero film -- I was just thrilled to see film representation of any sort of the heroes I read about in print. All that's changed. I guess that now that super-hero films have become more sophisticated and big-budgeted, I've gotten a WHOLE lot pickier about which ones I see.

I'm avoiding The Spirit like the plague.

I still wish the writing in live-action films was as good as it is in most of the animated films and series. :-\