Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Year in Film - Part 2

It was a good year for the comic book adaptation. I've never been into reading comics, even as a child, but I've always enjoyed seeing them brought to life, from television shows to cartoons to movies. Something about the format disagrees with me-- I can't help but just start looking at the pictures and skipping several frames ahead, skipping over the dialogue. That's my problem, but in essence they are just stories like any novel or even screenplay, for that matter. And because comics are inherently so visual, they just happen to make great movies.

In my opinion, a great adaptation (novel, comic, magazine article, play, television show, etc.) tells a complete story without giving you the feeling that something was left out. Three of my favorites from 2005:

Sin City
This was undoubtedly the most entertaining film of the year. One of those rare movies that almost leaves you breathless with excitement. Hyper-violent, of course, but in the same fun, over-the-top way as something like Kill Bill. Having taken a look at the original artwork, it's remarkable how Robert Rodriguez was able to copy the book almost frame-by-frame. It's even more interesting to know that the actors essentially just worked in front of a green screen, often without any other actors around. I'd known that all the backgrounds/effects were digital, but to know that the actors didn't always interact with each other his surprising, considering how fluid the performances are. And on top of all that, the film wasn't that expensive. It makes you wonder about something like King Kong needed such a big budget.

A History of Violence
I didn't really know anything about this movie before I saw it. I'd just heard that the reviews were good and few people I knew had seen it and really liked it. I was surprised, then, to learn during the credits that it was a comic (sorry, graphic novel) adaptation. I sometimes forget that comics aren't always about superheroes and the like. They can be human stories, like American Splendor or Ghost World. Although, what this film does share in common with other comics is its violence. There are only a few scenes of it, but it is certainly graphic when it's there. And in a way, Viggo's character is kind of like a real-life super hero, saving his family and several of his customers. A History of Violence also features one of the year's unique yet extremely erotic sex scenes.

Batman Begins
Back to a conventional comic. We all know that the last couple Batman films had been terrible. What's so great about this film is that it treats its characters like real people. This is something that the recent comic book films have done so successfully (X-Men, Hulk, Spider-Man). While Batman and Batman Returns are great, fun movies, they still seem to be treating the material as strange and highly stylized. The universe of the previous Batman movies is completely unlike our own, whereas Batman Begins and the other adaptations I mentioned all seem like they could be going on in our world with us noticing it. It was also nice to see Chicago play Gotham this time around, not New York. There's nothing dark or scary about Manhattan anymore-- unless shopping really frightens you.


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