Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fragments of the Rock of Miller

Sure I loved "Sin City," it was a triumph of style and a new way of looking at
comic book films. If Blade stuck his foot in the door and X-Men and Spidey blew the door open, Spidey 2 ripped the door off its hinges saying "We will never be the unloved step child again!"

But "Sin City," wow, "Sin City" established a new visual marriage of film and book. "Sin City" says don't worry about making the comic film real, make the film the real comic. Make it breath like a comic, move like a comic and feel the grit of a comic. If only "Sin City" had been made before DareDevil....

The funny thing about it, I'm not really a modern Frank Miller fan. I loved his 'DareDevil and 'the Dark Knight Returns' but the 'Sin City' stuff left me a little bored. Somehow on screen its amazing, but on the page, it feels like Raymond Chandler on smack. (not in a good way) And bombastic "Film Noir" is like "naked bears," it's redundant and something that nobody wants to see.

Still, "Sin City" has done for Miller what nobody can do for Alan Moore.... Translated him into celluloid with heart and style. And it has made Miller, the man who gave us the script for "Robocop 2," Hollywood Hot.

Two issues worth talking about:

1) Miller has been given the holy grail of comics, (not the Watchmen) Will Eisner's Spirit. This makes me ill. The stories in the Spirit were dark and character driven, but with warm humanity. Next to Jack Cole's Plastic Man, it is the first great modern comic, decades ahead of its peers.

I feel like Justin Timberlake just covered songs from "The Animals," "The Velvet Underground" or "Iggy Pop." (If you don't know or care who these
guys are it's cool, but the are all major innovators of their time. Without The Animals you would never have had the Stones or hard dirty blue rock, Without Iggy Pop or The Velvet Underground you would never have had Punk music) .

Frank Miller is great, I really think he is one of the great writers and artists of the comic book medium, but he is limited to pain, anger, violence, grit and by his own depraved sense of sexual bondage. Will Eisner's Spirit has a very optimistic side, a small wink with the punch, that Miller doesn't even know exists. In a way, Eisner knew more about the depths of coruption and evil. His characters are more real and full. They have a much farther fall to the "Dark side" then Mileer's extremist stereotypes. Miller is all about extremes. Can Miller truly direct? Who knows what Miller can do on his own, he has never truly directed, has he? Why not let him take baby steps before giving him the Ming vase?

Why not let Michael Bay direct "Love & Rockets?"

Many modern fans think "The Spirit" is a "Dick Tracy" clone. This is a great error. "The Spirit" is nothing less than a subtle pop masterwork. Eisner is the "Johnny Cash of the comics world," and he will continue to influence the creatives, long after the sheep that don't know any better have retired to their mobility chairs.

Brad Bird wanted to direct this movie. Brad Bird!! Warner picks Miller. sigh... Wouldn't it be great if you, me and all like minded fans of quality comics, got Brad Bird, Sam Raimi, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and went over to Miller's house? We could
beat him upside his baldspot with a Marv action figure.

If creating a Spirit movie was an easy no brainier, I'd worry less. but I think a movie based on The Spirit is a very difficult chore. It's not bombastic material like SIN CITY so you can't just go for style. Eisner created a very filmic palette. If you don't feel Eisner in every shot and movement, if his dark, yet comical, human characters don't feel both real and exaggerated, it will just be a movie about a silly man within a blue suit wearing a mask.

Much of the time, The Spirit was about the nobody. The little man who would be a minor note in any other story. That was Eisner's magic, the blue hero was sometimes just the background for a great piece on character. This movie has to have great character actors playing these roles. This is probably one of the most "Artistically" difficult challenges of the genre.

Think of what Miller could have done with DareDevil. Please, not Denny Colt!

Still, maybe there is hope.

In "Ghost of Eisner Looms Over The Spirit" written by Cindy White over at, producer Michael Uslan says he promised Eisner not to let someone ruin "The Spirit" in a botched comic to movie operation. (of course I don't believe Uslan knows what "no compromise" means, this is the man that gave us an American Reeves as John Constantine!):

When producer Michael Uslan promised the late Will Eisner that he wouldn't't compromise the integrity of his seminal comic series 'The Spirit' in his attempts to get a feature-film version made, he didn't realize how difficult it would be to fulfill that goal. Now, after years of coming up against a Hollywood establishment that just didn'’t get it, Will Eisner'’s The Spirit is finally in development as a feature film under the creative guidance of none other than Frank Miller. .

..Now Playing recently sat down with Uslan, who has already successfully brought
several comic properties to the screen, including Swamp Thing, Batman and Constantine, to talk about the upcoming Spirit film.

"...Will Eisner'’s The Spirit, being done on an independent basis, ....I'’m getting chills right now talking to you about it, going down the back of my neck. God, I wish he was here."”

Eisner, who passed away in early 2005, entrusted Uslan with the rights to the project because of the producer'’s track record and his faith that he would do the character justice.
(John Constantine and Alan Moore may not agree, ya arseface!! Okay I'll shut up and let you read...) But even Eisner was beginning to get impatient with the proposed film'’s long gestation period.

"“I promised Will that we would do this movie the right way,"” Uslan says. "And nobody was going to touch it. And he was getting a little frustrated with me those last few years because he didnĂ‚’t see things happening. I just absolutely refused to compromise."”

Uslan tells horror stories of pitching the project to studio executives and hearing suggestions that immediately told him he was talking to the wrong people. "“I went around to the studios, to financing and distribution companies. They said, '‘Well, this is real interesting material, Michael. Of course, we'’ve got to get him out of that suit and tie and hat. So a cape or a cowl maybe?'
And it was, '‘Goodbye.'’ 'This is great material Michael, but what'’s his superpowers?' I said, '‘His greatest superpower is his humanity.'’ He says, '‘Well, fine, but how about he really did die and now he'’s supernatural and he'’s got all these supernatural powers?'’ '‘Goodbye.'’"”

The project finally gained forward momentum when Uslan walked into the office of producer Deborah Del Prete, who turned out to be a fan of Eisner'’s and 'The Spirit.' The last element fell into place with the hiring of artist/writer/director Frank Miller, who will employ all three talents in the making of the film.

“There'’s nobody else," Uslan says. "And when I first pitched it to Frank his first thing was, 'Come On. I can'’t do this. How can I touch the work of Will Eisner and bring it to the screen?'’ And then two minutes later it was, 'How can I let anyone else do it? I have to do it.'’ There'’s nobody else who knows Eisner, who knew Eisner, who understood Eisner, who understands both the comic-book medium and the motion-picture medium, who had done these things with Sin City that were directly applicable to a successful translation of Will Eisner'’s The Spirit from a printed page to a cinematic image. It had to be Frank."”

The film will be shot in a similar style to Sin City with "“lots of green screen"” and projected images behind live actors. Miller is currently in the process of storyboarding the film, using Eisner'’s actual drawings for reference.

"“He'’s got a huge wall,"” Uslan says. "“And on the wall he has gone and he has cut out every panel, sequence, page, from all of Eisner's Spirit work that would any way plug into the story that we're going to tell and the characters we'’re going to tell. And he has jigsaw-puzzled them across the entire wall to form the basis of the storyboard for the movie. And then he'’s changing the dialogue as necessary. And where he doesn'’t have the connective tissue panels, Frank is drawing them. Making them up. So Will Eisner is storyboarding the movie with an assist from Frank Miller. And it's proof positive that this is the only way this could happen in order for me to do this the right way."” (Okay...let's see what happens...please Frank...It's Will Eisner!!)

Okay, remember when there was counting in this thing?

2) Miller's book "300" is being directed by an interesting man and if "Sin City" is the burning city of the revolution of comic movies, then this may be the call to storm the castle.

Take a look at these amazing "Video Diarys" of "Frank Miller's 300":

Frank Miller's "300" Video Diary 1

Frank Miller's "300" Video Diary 2

Frank Miller's "300" Video Diary 3

Frank Miller's "300" Video Diary 4

Frank Miller's "300" Video Diary 5

Note: director Zack Snyder's next film after "300"....."Watchmen." More on that later

No comments: