Bad Spirits

Wondering why the recent film version of “The Spirit” did so bad? You might look into Neil Gaiman’s Law of Superhero Films:

Had a conversation with Paul Levitz the other day about Gaiman’s Law of Superhero Movies*, which is: the closer the film is to the look and feel of what people like about the comic, the more successful it is (which is something that Warners tends singularly to miss, and Marvel tends singularly to get right) and the conversation went over to Watchmen, which had Paul explaining to me that the film is obsessive about how close it is to the comic, and me going “But they’ve changed the costumes. What about Nite Owl?” It’ll be interesting to see whether it works or not…

As Neil points out, this very neatly explains why people didn’t like Frank Miller’s film of “The Spirit,” despite liking the films of Frank Miller’s “Sin City” and “300.” The “Sin City” and “300” films looked just like Miller’s comics, but the “Spirit” film looked nothing like Will Eisner’s original “Spirit” comics.

You can apply this to other comic-based movies, too. Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movie closely replicated the feel of Lee and Ditko’s classic Spidey comics. Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” got the vital essence of Tony Stark on celluloid. Tim Burton’s “Batman” movies succeeded because they got the look and feel of the popular parts of the Batman mythos on the screen, while Joel Schumacher’s “Batman” movies failed because they just got the unpopular “Batman” TV show on the screen.

Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” would seem to be exceptions to the rule — both films always felt like comics revisions more than comics tributes, but they work perfectly all the same.

Oh, and speaking of “The Spirit”: Rather than watching that movie, maybe you should get acquainted with some “Spirit” comics by Will Eisner and Darwyn Cooke instead…?

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