There are a few things I need from my comic book and cartoon-adapted movies. Without them, the movie’s not going to work and it won’t be worth the film it’s recorded on. These are my pet peeves when it comes to retelling the story of an established property. Producers, please take heed. If I can’t watch it, chances are the other average Jane Blows of the world can’t, either.
An undercooked plot: I’d love it if my characters have a purpose for what they’re doing. Give me a reason why the hero is doing what he’s doing and the villain’s main point early in the movie, hit plot points with decent pacing and wrap it up. Throw in special effects if you have to but make it secondary to the central plot.
Changed plot points: Writers need to read this bullet point, especially. The properties that were entrusted to you have been so for a reason. They were made famous enough to make a movie based on them for a reason. Let it be and work with what you’ve got. Do not change the reason for a villain’s established motive for revenge. It will not work. Very few comics have been able to do this and get away with it. If you can’t come up with a good reason to change the character’s purpose, don’t make the change.
Character appropriate actors: Casting is an important part of making a movie work. Do not choose an actor who has no resemblance to the established character. For instance, Thomas Jane was a poor choice for the Punisher but Ray Stevenson was excellent. Why? Because Stevenson looked like someone who would do the things Frank Castle was pushed to do. Tobey Maguire worked as Peter Parker/Spider-Man because he had the earnestness of Parker and the quick wit of Spider-Man down to a science. The actor or actress need to be believable in a movie that works on a property that requires you to suspend disbelief the entire time.
Tell the tale with enough villains: I can’t stress enough that villains need to be kept at a minimum to preserve story integrity. If they aren’t, you start running into the problem of too many villains, or what I like to refer to as “’Batman Returns syndrome.” Too many villains screw up the pacing of the film. Inevitably, there will be too many big names scratching for screen time and someone, probably the hero, will get the short end of the stick.
“Spider-Man 3” had this problem, and it’s one of the few times that I can’t say I enjoyed a film featuring my favorite villain: Venom. A flick that stands as a shining example of how to do multiple villains correctly is “Dark Knight.” The Joker and Harvey Dent/Two Face work well, and I loved how the pacing was handled. That’s how you introduce villains effectively and tell their stories.
If you’re going to make a successful film based off of established properties, at least take the time to care about the produced final product. It means the difference between a poor adaptation — “Elektra,” “Daredevil,” “Punisher” we’re looking at you — and something spectacular that stays at the forefront of the genre. “Dark Knight,” we salute you.
Lyndsey Mosley is editor of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org