Comics, comics, comics. It seems that lately we have comic movie news coming out of our ears. This once humble art has truly never been so popular since the Dark Knight and The Avengers relentlessly buggered the movie box office into submission and became a domestic favourite. If I hadn't just been for a walk in this crazy jungle heat, I'd swear my arse was sore from all the news of Ant-Man, Man of Steel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2 etc. being constantly prodded at me.
Twenty years ago, it was a completely different story. Comic adaptations weren't trying to be super-realistic back then, they were trying to literally sell the theatrics that comics were known for, and at a time when comics were relatively primative in comparison. Today, the Quantum Geek presents two features released in the same month. One of them I'm quite fond of, the other is getting my boot up it's bottom.
One of July 1994's releases was the Alec Baldwin-led The Shadow, from when his minions weren't yet capable of recording his phone rants. I like Alec Baldwin. From that particular acting family, he's the least crazy, the most honest and he's also pretty funny. In the '90s, he was hot property, gaining popularity for bringing Jack Ryan to life in Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, to starring in critically acclaimed fare like Glengarry Glen Ross and then having away with Kim Basinger. He was also pretty awesome in the remake of Walter Hill-written thriller The Getaway and Anthony Hopkins survival movie The Edge.
In The Shadow, old time radio play and comic book character Lamont Cranston is brought to life in 1930's New York City by Highlander director Russell Mulcahy (who is now better known for making shite films than he is for making Highlander). It has a Sam Raimi Darkman vibe to it, at least the character does, but this is a comic book superhero that has influenced many other popular characters. With the power of invisibility and the ability to cloud and manipulate mens minds (Jedi tricks right there), this is V for Vendetta meets The Untouchables, only with dual-wielded Colt 1911s, maniacal laughter and a big fat hint of the paranormal.
Arch enemy Shiwan Khan (John Lone, who dresses like a Mongol, as does his henchmen, and they all get away with it) has an atom bomb that he intends to use against the US as a means of ransom. Yep, an atom bomb in the '30s, who'da thunk it? With ally cabbie/chauffeur Moe Shrevnitz (the late great comedy and drama actor Peter Boyle) by his side, The Shadow punches and shoots and Jedi mind tricks his way around New York, while falling for classy dame Margo Lane. What the hell else do you need to know. It's full of magic, goons, guns and fisticuffs.
The Shadow is a mix of old time studio production and early CGI animation mixed with cartoon animation, but actually scores brownie points for doing that well without coming across as a bit "Roger Rabbit." The overall film has a good look and Baldwin is curiously good as Cranston. And I say curiously because makeup removes any notion of this being Alec Baldwin for the majority of the film. He himself looks like a goon for the most part, but pulls off that tricky little job. This helps when you have supports by other theatrical legends such as Tim Curry.
|"I'm just a sweet transvesti-" "NO!!!"|
Now for a movie I really have a beef with. Maybe it's because recently I've felt the need to smack the lips off Jim Carrey's face, but my real problem with The Mask was that I was one of those comic book fans it flipped the bird at, with such flagrant disregard for the source material. With The Shadow, all they had to do was remain true to the essence of the character, at the least. With The Mask, what they did to Stanley Ipkiss was virtually like what WWE wrestler-turned-porn joke Chyna did with She-Hulk. They literally fucked with him, and therefore they fucked with readers of comics legends Dark Horse.
|"Oh, you faithful comic book fans, you're so generous and stupid."|
For those of you that read the comic and never saw the film. Do it, just don't spend money on it. For those of you that watched the film or not and never read the comic, Stanley Ipkiss becomes a homicidal raving lunatic monster when he puts the mask on and goes on the most insanely and comically violent rampage across the city, learning that he is invincible under the influence of the mask. It involves slaughtering droves of cops and criminal scumbags alike...
Turning that into a cartoon parody hero isn't just like a precursor to Jim Carrey denouncing Kick-Ass 2 for its violence after starring in it, it's like turning the Punisher into a Hello Kitty character for a fucking Avengers appearance. If Carrey doesn't like violence in movies, he should stay the fuck out of those kinds of movies, not star in them so that they have to ruin it for his sake. Will Smith has a way of ruining great movies just like that with his need to promote endorsements, but even he doesn't ruin a great idea this much.
There are many likeable aspects about The Mask, of course. Peter Greene always makes for a great villain, though his grounded style is overwhelmed by Carrey's over the top cartoonisms. Peter Riegert (National Lampoon's Animal House) always made a great cop, like in The Runestone. Knowing about such movies before this, I kind of hoped they were going in a direction where he'd get to run around a police station with a Mac-10 while cops get slain left right and centre. Nah, this is a kids movie born of one of the most fun violent adult comics of all time. But there's Cameron Diaz...
I know people are going to disagree with me, but whatever your favourite comics or novels may be, you'd understand if they were turned on their head to appease to the majority that never even read the damn things. It's fun for kids and fifteen year olds, but looking back, it's actually dumber to me now than it was two decades ago. Then there was Son of the Mask, and I really wished Jamie Kennedy had been murdered by Ghostface on the set of Scream 2. Talentless little twat!
There you have it, geeks. Enjoy the rest of the month and I will return once again in August with more classics from the past!