Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Realism in Films Based on Graphic Mediums

I agree with the view that comics and graphic novels are not being overlooked in today's society and are even flourishing. The rise of films based on comics has steadily risen, perhaps with the introduction of films portraying these stories as gritty and real, even though they are fantastic in nature.

Take for example the new films based on Spiderman, Iron Man, and especially Batman. While Spiderman deals with fantastic scientific non-sense to explain Peter Parker's condition, it still at least tries to explain it beyond having radioactive blood from a spider bite.

Iron Man takes explores the tale of billionaire Tony Stark being captured by enemies overseas and transfers the already pseudo-realistic portrayal of the hero to the Middle East, no doubt in order to update the series' relevance with today's audience.

And the newest incarnation of Batman, from Memento director Christopher Nolan is the quintessential example of a fantastic story being described through pseudo-realistic means. Batman, or Bruce Wayne, in the films Batman Begins and the wildly popular The Dark Knight is portrayed as the wealthy heir to his parents' multi-billion dollar industry. After his parents are killed in a botched mugging, Wayne trains with a martial arts master Ra's al Ghul in order to become a crime-fighter.

Wayne, like Stark, is a normal, albeit wealthy and incredibly smart man. Being that they are so wealthy, they are able to fund their crime-fighting ways, purchasing materials to create technologically advanced suits of armor and weaponry to bring crime in their respective homes to an end.

And yet another example of this is the recent adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen. None of the heroes (sans the incredible Dr. Manhattan) have actual superpowers. They have come to be heroes through realistic means. The brutal and cold Rorschach was the child of a neglectful and criminal mother, who would often beat him. After a rough childhood, he began his vigilante ways upon hearing of the notorious murder case of Kitty Genovese. He eventually became Rorschach when he discovered a strange fabric as a tailor that allowed blobs of black ink to shift in the fabric depending on heat from the body. He fashioned the mask and thus the black on white blobs earned him the avatar of Rorschach. The second version of the Night Owl came with a young man emulating an earlier masked vigilante whose avatar was chosen as the original Night Owl was a bird-lover. The second Silk Spectre came out of relation, as she was the daughter of the original Silk Spectre, one of the original superheroes of the 1950s and 60s. And like both Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, the vastly wealthy and intelligent Adrian Veidt became Ozymandias in order to rid the world of evil (and perhaps become evil himself in the process.) The only hero in the story that possesses any sort of supernatural power is Dr. Manhattan. Even his powers do not come from an alien planet or any such supernatural means. Rather, he is the product of an unfortunate accident relating to his scientific studies. Each of these characters has root in real-life means for vigilantism, which help to explain their quest for justice in the nearly unrecognizable alternative universe of New York City.

These examples from Watchmen, Iron Man and Batman, perhaps excluding Dr. Manhattan and Spiderman, are proof that sometimes heroes from these mediums can have at least plausible origins. This change in the normally supernatural and fantastic stories of comic books from the early days of the medium may be a contributing factor in the rise of popularity in late years. At the very least it can be seen as a trend in the medium, one which will hopefully continue to bring to life a once dry genre to a newer audience.

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