What do the biblical murder of Abel and the modern murder of Mitchell Siegel (whose son Jerry would go on to co-create Superman) have in common? Yeah, I don’t know either, but apparently the connection between these two incidents is explained in Brad Meltzer’s upcoming novel The Book of Lies — and to promote the book, Meltzer’s people put together the following viral marketing video starring Buffy and Firefly creator Joss Whedon, God Is Not Great author Christopher Hitchens, The Year of Living Biblically author A.J. Jacobs, Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof and others. It all sounds rather contrived to me, but make of it what you will:
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.
While reading David Bordwell‘s interesting piece on the various reasons for the recent wave of superhero movies, I came across a link to this article that Ken Tucker wrote for Entertainment Weekly in 2000, shortly before the first X-Men movie came out and proved that there was life in the genre beyond the obvious, iconic household names like Superman and Batman.
It is fun to read Tucker’s list of recommendations, as he begs the studios to ditch the campiness of earlier films, etc. But I am also struck by this bit near the end, which touches on the status at that time of the long-in-development Watchmen adaptation:
The other comics-fan dream is a movie of Watchmen, the landmark 1986 DC Comics 12-issue miniseries created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. An epic alternate universe teeming with non-established original heroes that worked as a rousing tale and, as Mike Richardson, publisher of Dark Horse Comics, puts it, a “deconstruction of the superhero genre,” Watchmen–first optioned by Joel Silver (The Matrix)–now lies dormant with producer Lawrence Gordon (Mystery Men).
More then 10 years ago, it was a different story. “Everyone was talking about Terry Gilliam! Terry Gilliam!” says Watchmen fan and Dogma director Kevin Smith. In the late ’80s, after Gilliam, the visionary director of Brazil, had been tapped by Silver to adapt the comic, the plug was pulled. Budget was one big factor. “The joke going around was that it was $1 million a page,” says Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm, who wrote the first Watchmen draft. “That was back when $120 million meant something.”
There was also the mission impossible of distilling Watchmen’s sprawling and intricate narrative into a two-hour flick. Says Hamm: “We felt constantly crestfallen about what we couldn’t get in.”
Both Gordon and Gilliam declined to comment on Watchmen’s past or future, but Gibbons thinks that its time may have passed: “It was most likely to happen when Batman was a big success, but then that window was lost. If this new X-Men movie is a big hit, maybe that will open up another window. But to be honest, I’m not holding my breath.”
So, did X-Men open up another window? Yes, and how!
If anything, I think the ground is a lot more fertile now for a Watchmen movie than it was back in the ’90s. And why? Because, like the man said, Watchmen is a “deconstruction of the superhero genre”, and bringing that deconstruction to the big screen would have been a whole lot dicier a few years ago, if there were only one or two big-screen superheroes to deconstruct.
I am reminded of a headline that appeared in the Associated Press back in July: “‘Watchmen’ aims to answer typical superhero films”. Exactly. Writing a comic book in response to an entire genre of comic books is fitting. Making a movie in response to a comic book begins to look like overkill. But making a movie in response to an entire genre of movies is fitting, once again.
So in a way, it is a good thing that the Watchmen movie has never been made before. No matter how good the scripts were, or how apt the directors and actors attached to the project may have been, the movie itself would arguably have been coming out at the wrong time. The movie would have lacked the context that the original comic book had. But now, that context is there.
Of course, the long development process has had its downside, too, the most recent manifestation of which is the lawsuit that Fox has brought against Warner Brothers in an effort to prevent the release of Watchmen, or at least squeeze some money out of them before the film comes out March 6. For details, see Nikki Finke, David Poland, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times and the lawsuit documents themselves.
The Guardian reports that about 50 “sneak peek” screenings of Billy: The Early Years are in the works, to help raise grassroots interest in the Billy Graham biopic before it opens October 10. The story also mentions that Graham himself, in “frail health” at 89, has not yet seen the film, but two of his children have: one, his daughter Gigi, is “publicly praising” the film and has been hired to help promote it; while the other, his son and presumptive heir Franklin, “has been too busy travelling lately to comment”, according to his spokesman. Eh? “Too busy”? Even to issue a brief statement, or to give a quick thumb up or down? Of course, Franklin’s reluctance to comment on the film may have little to do with its quality, and more to do with what the Guardian describes as his being “publicly peeved” that the Graham family was “never shown a script before the movie was made.” At any rate, apparently the film will be opening in only 20 states, at first, “most of them in the south and lower mid-west, where most evangelicals live.” The rest of the country will just have to wait.
‘Tis the season for modernizing stories from ancient history, it seems. NBC is already developing Kings, a series based on the relationship between the biblical monarchs Saul and David. And now, says the Hollywood Reporter, Mandalay Pictures has picked up the film rights to Julius, a graphic novel by Antony Johnston and Brett Weldele that re-imagines Julius Caesar as “a London crime king who is beloved like royalty by the public. His generals, however, conspire against him.” F. Gary Gray is attached to direct the film, and one of Mandalay’s executives told Variety that Gray “has a vision for this adaptation that will satirize obsessive consumerism while providing a thrilling ride for audiences.” Glad to hear they’ve got that covered. Interestingly, this graphic novel is not based directly on ancient history, but on Shakespeare’s version of the story. So there are several layers of interpretation here: Shakespeare’s adaptation of history, the graphic novel’s adaptation of Shakespeare, and the movie’s adaptation of the graphic novel. Got all that?
Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 — CDN $4,010,000 — N.AM $32,147,000 — 12.5%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $13,430,000 — N.AM $116,415,000 — 11.5%
Journey to the Center of the Earth — CDN $9,650,000 — N.AM $88,110,000 — 11.0%
Step Brothers — CDN $9,600,000 — N.AM $90,888,000 — 10.6%
The Dark Knight — CDN $42,790,000 — N.AM $471,493,000 — 9.1%
Pineapple Express — CDN $5,440,000 — N.AM $62,932,000 — 8.6%
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor — CDN $7,450,000 — N.AM $86,649,000 — 8.6%
Tropic Thunder — CDN $3,060,000 — N.AM $37,033,000 — 8.3%
Mirrors — CDN $617,292 — N.AM $11,125,000 — 5.5%
Star Wars: The Clone Wars — CDN $833,493 — N.AM $15,505,000 — 5.4%
A couple of discrepancies: Journey to the Center of the Earth was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #11 in North America as a whole), while Vicky Cristina Barcelona was #10 on the North American chart (it was #11 in Canada).