Saturday, April 26, 2008


The pics for the live-action GI Joe film are circulating online, giving rise to comparisons to “X-Men.” The suits look a lot like the "future soldier" armor you see in Popular Science and are missing the crazy colors of the toys and cartoon. Which makes perfect sense. What kind of elite military unit dresses like a costume party? And while the cartoon rationalization is that they're “specialists” pulled out from their regular units, it still begs several questions: like what unit dresses up in orange bathing suits and fishnets and was Shipwreck was pulled out from a 1940s merchant fleet?

Of course the internet is (or will be) aflame with nerdy indignation. One side will be aghast at the changes (the helicopter pilot should wear a cowboy hat, dammit), insisting even on parachutes opening whenever a jet gets shot down, while the other will welcome changes, countering with “X-men” and “Batman Begins,” which made the costumes more “realistic” while staying true to the basic concept of the material.

But the goal of live action adaptations of 80s cartoons is to cash in on nostalgia so either way is valid as long as it isn't done half-heartedly. A full-on cartoon assault would work if you treat it exactly like a cartoon like what they seem to have done with “Speed Racer.” It'll target the kiddie audience with people my age bringing their kids to see it.

A realistic version on the other hand would work if it did feel realistic, answering the question “what if this were true?” and trying to proceed as logically as possible from that, like Nolan's “Batman Begins,” banking on nostalgia but taking into account the sensibilities of an audience that has since grown up.

The key is in choosing which adaptation to do with which material. “Speed Racer”is perfect because there is no way you can rationalize an amalgam of NASCAR/ F1 (the game), demolition derbies (the destruction), football (the rabid fanbase), and professional wrestling (the characters). So faithful (and psychedelic) it is.

Batman, on the other hand, has always been a “realistic” hero, hence a film grounded on real-world physics hits better with audiences. I'm not so sure about “GI Joe” though. It's too weird and kiddie for a faithful adaptation but a realistic one might become a “Delta Force” with a bigger budget.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

* * * * *

But what looks bad is Frank Miller's adaptation (solo directorial debut?) of Will Eisner's "The Spirit." It seems he's missing the point of the series, hoping instead to turn it into a "Sin City" sequel. The trailers look great but the dialog is straight out of Miller's hyper hardboiled, misogynistic style.

Which is a shame.

No comments: