22 March 2009

Manila Times column for 22 March 2009: "Filming graphic novels"

original post here.

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Filming graphic novels

It’s always exciting to see how filmmakers would turn graphic novels into film.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, “graphic novel” is the “new” literary category that pertains to a type of expanded comic book where the narrative contained in the material is often of novel-length. Like a novel, the graphic novel’s story is complete, unlike traditional comic books where each issue is usually an installment of a running series. However, there have also been graphic novels that were once released as a limited series, such as Watchmen, and later collected into one book.

Graphic novels tend to have more mature and adult themes, often dark ones, unlike the typical comic book stories that center on humor or the superhuman abilities of superheroes. This is what we saw in movies based on graphic novels such as the recent Watchmen film. This one even takes it further, as the story sets off upon the death of a superhero, and the whole essence of the superhero mythos is deconstructed and examined.

In the past, there has already been a body of work based on graphic novels. One of my favorites is V For Vendetta directed by James McTeigue based on the graphic novel of Alan Moore and David Lloyd. This film centered on the exploration of sociopolitical change as triggered by a sophisticated freedom fighter named V. Another favorite is another Moore creation entitled The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was creative of Moore to collect famous literary figures and throw them in one narrative and set them off in a mysterious adventure.

Other good graphic novel-to-film adaptations are Road to Perdition, Sin City, 300, and Constantine, to name a few. Most—if not all—of these films reflected a darker storyline, probing deeper into the limits, excesses or challenges of humanity and criticism or defiance of societal structures.

Perhaps filmmakers like Zack Snyder, director of 300 and Watchmen, are challenged to put the two-dimensional imagery on a three-dimensional plane. The graphic novels themselves could serve as storyboards as what happened in 300 where Snyder tried to closely adapt the Frank Miller graphic novel, making each shot correspond accurately to each panel of the novel.

But aside from the great art, at the heart of it all is, I believe, the story it has to tell. No matter how great an artist renders the visuals, it’s the stories that propel the narrative forward. I think this is what attracts filmmakers to turn graphic novels to films. And as a viewer who equally loves film and literature, I hope to see more of these adaptations in the future.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com.

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