Tangmonkey Forum

Submit to pulp

October 2001

Download the word version, perfect for printing and handing out on street corners!
In this issue:    Spooks, shocks, Satan, and the Return of the Living Eeyore! .
From Hell *****

The comic book movie has had a long and troubled history. Like most genres, it has had its share of missteps, like Batman and Robin and Blade, and just plain prat-falls, like The Punisher and that young Superman show on WB. But thankfully, every once in a long, long while, a movie like From Hell comes along to remind us that while comic books may be just for pre-teens and gas-station attendants with high-school equivalency diplomas, sometimes they harbor a deep-seated deviancy that translates remarkably well to the cesspool of moral corruption that is the silver screen. From Hell takes place in the dank, seedy world of 19th century London, a city over-run by prostitutes, drugs, and other elements reminiscent of a Victorian version of Robert Downey Jr's house. Someone dressed suspiciously like Bela Lugosi is cutting up hookers in the Whitechaple district, and it's up to Johnny Depp's Inspector Abberline, a kind of opium-addled Frank Black, to solve the mystery. Several challenges stand in the way, however, namely clumsily working in a love interest despite the fact that every woman in the movie has visible syphilitic sores, and how to pump up tension with a car chase in a world where even horse-racing took place at prudish speeds. The first obstacle is overcome fairly successfully with Heather Graham, whose endearing struggle with an Irish accent more than distracts from her mysteriously unscabby complexion. The second problem, however, is not so successfully handled with the jarring addition of a carriage chase sequence. Generally speaking, in terms of excitement, carriages are the automotive equivalent of wood-paneled station wagons, making a high-speed chase about as nerve-shattering as backgammon. Nevertheless, the scene is there, as inappropriate as jihad jokes in a mosque, reminding us once again that no matter how smart the director, or how talented the writer, the modern audience still has roughly the same filmic esthetic as Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor, only with less subtlety. Maybe this explains the current glut of films inspired by comic books, which, let's face it, are presented in essentially the same format as Dr. Seuss books, and therefore don't lend themselves to any more intellectual depth than Rob Schneider's The Animal. Clearly, any medium that spawns a character actually named 'Captain America' can't lay claim to much more respectability than Choose Your Own Adventure novels. From Hell, however, is the exception. Its source material is a meticulously researched, brilliantly constructed, phone-book sized tome by Alan Moore, a notoriously insane writer whose resemblance to a grim Charlie Manson is the least of his problems. The book is thick with detail, plot, and characterization, all of which translate to the screen as easily as Swahili. It's not that the mediums of comic books and film don't have a lot in common. After all, both consist of a fine balance between dialogue and image, and both are aimed at the lowest common denominator's retarded younger brother, but for some reason, comic book movies tend to fall somewhere between Delta Force sequels and the Red Shoe Diaries series, and sadly, as good as it is, From Hell will probably never overcome the stigma that plagues the genre. It's a shame, really. I always thought Brad Pitt would make a great Captain America.

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