Archive for May, 2018

The problem with comic book films.

My favorite comic book has always been 2000AD. I like American comics but overall I have always preferred this British Sci-Fi anthology. In a word 2000AD is anarchic. Anarchy permeates its world view. It has been a home to some classic stories: Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, Slaine, Halo Jones, Zenith etc etc. It’s most famous character is Judge Dredd and he epitomizes the outlook of the weekly. Dredd isn’t a superhero, in fact he is the complete opposite but I’ll get into that anon. In this day and age we live in the Marvel cinematic universe: they produce sleek and slick films by the bucketload. I enjoy them for what they are and what they are are high-concept films.  These are films that have one broad concept that can be easily distilled into a sentence thus eschewing nuanced character development and the layered, the ambiguous and the  difficult. The high concept film works. Dredd should work within this framework for he is a lawman in a post apocalyptic America that has the power of judge, jury and executioner. With that in mind the money should flow and the films find a ready made audience for comics equal big bucks but it hasn’t worked out that way. Here is my take on why. 

Judge Dredd first came to the screen in the 1995 eponymous film starring Sylvester Stallone as the titular character. It was a mess but remember this was the 1990s and comic book films weren’t ubiquitous and streamlined like the Marvel megaliths today. As discussed Dredd should be an easy sell for he is a lawman in a post apocalyptic America that has the power of judge, jury and executioner. However, his problem is a stark one namely Dredd is a fascist not a hero. He is a clone that comes from a long dead Chief Judge called Fargo. America has been destroyed in a nuclear war and those that remain live in mega cities that are controlled by the judges.  In Dredd’s world America is no longer a democracy in and since Hollywood produces films with an American-centric view that’s a massive problem. Particularly when trying to sell a film to an American audience.  Basically, then the villain in Megacity One is the public. The judges have big bad’s such as the Sov Bloc and the inter-dimensional Judge Death but by and large the public is the enemy. The film is aware that selling an anti-democratic fascist American anti-hero that loves busting heads is a problem. Their solution: go to a story that sees Dredd start as a fascist but ends up as a democrat. It failed because it wasn’t true to the character and it was a flop. 

Most of us fans thought that was the end of that but in 2012 ‘Dredd’ was released. This was a darker film and more in keeping with the comic. The premise was simple: a day in the life. It looked like a high-concept film but again Dredd isn’t a hero so violence abounded and it flopped. It is a pity as the world of Dredd has so many possibilities but hey why produce that when we can have three different Spider-Men in as many years? I don’t know where comic book movies are going anymore. I don’t know why I’m paying to go and see them. I do know that Marvel are a monopoly and their fanbase picks apart any other franchise that doesn’t adhere to it formula (hey it’s all connected! We have the bit at the end that shows this explicitly! Aren’t we clever!) Dissent is not allowed. Star Wars is following the same trend. It is a franchise I love but a large part of the  fanbase cannot tolerate a story that doesn’t chime with its world view. Sci-Fi is in a bad state. The high-concept rules and the adherents are not happy with feminist voices, left-leaning voices or indeed anything that supposedly deviates from canon. Dark days indeed. 

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