Saturday, June 13, 2009

Further Thoughts on Adaptation and Rebooting

Why do we have an image here of the heinous film Van Helsing? Before I proceed, let me say it was one of the worst films I have ever seen.
So - may I also say, for me, it was one of the most disappointing films ever. I am a major Universal monster film geek, and was hoping that this film would capture the essence and update the whole cycle. The beginning of Van Helsing echoed that essence; what followed was simply dreadful. It did not follow the heart and soul of the originals. Why am I bringing this up?
Well for one, Star Trek, as my "review" below says, did a pretty good job of following the original. Except for, say, their handling of McCoy, that movie made an homage to the original by simply updating the sensibility of the whole narrative for the audience today. It worked.
What really fuelled my thoughts of Van Helsing though was watching Speed Racer, the movie, the other night. As a six and seven year old, I watched the Speed Racer cartoon every day after school. I don't like race cars and auto racing - unless it's done Speed style. When the film came out a year or so back, I obstinately decided there was no reason to see it. How could live action Speed possibly compete with my memories of cartoon Speed?
As with Star Trek, the Speed Racer film worked admirably. The essence of the entire film was distilled throught the cartoon. If it was part of the cartoon, it was somehow melded into the film. What was added, for the most part, allowed our "modern" sensibilities to digest the film and usually worked to add to the cartoon-fan's enjoyment. Maybe Spridle giving the finger to the villain was a touch too much, but overall, this was fun. Nothing more than that, but for the cartoon series fan, that was enough. It was cool.
So I am still holding out hope that the Universal monsters will make a return somehow. But when an old, scholarly vampire hunter becomes an acrobatic Hugh Jackman, you know you are on the wrong track. This was not a sensitive update for the fan. It was a slaughter of all we held dear. Universal made very calm, psychological monster films, set in a fantasy reality where monsters didn't want to rule the world. They just wanted a victim or two. Van Helsing was a kung-fu movie.

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