Monthly Archives: February 2006

In praise of comic book movies

March’s Empire has a special section on comic book movies, to coincide with the releases of V for Vendetta, Mirrormask and X-Men 3. Irritatingly, they’ve gone for a 1960s Batman “pow! bang! smack!” pastiche for the cover(s) but we’ll let that pass.

The first bit of (potentially) good news is that V gets a good review. 4 stars in fact. I’m not going to punch the air yet however, because the reviewer wasn’t sufficiently critical of From Hell (it wasn’t “so so” it was dreadful!), but it definitely looks as if it may have potential.

Alan Moore still won’t be going to the premiere though, and I have to admit I admire his obstinacy. For those of you who don’t know, Alan Moore has for years had a series of rows with publishers over his intellectual property (or lack thereof) and thus when his work came to the attention of Hollywood there would inevitably be fireworks. After a bizarre legal incident whereby he was sued for copyright theft over the film version of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (screenplay by Susanne Lamido‘s brother, Lib Dem trivia fans!), he’s taken the extreme solution of demanding that his name be removed from all the work he has written but doesn’t own.

Moving on, Empire publishes it’s list of the Top 20 all time best comic book movies:

  1. X-Men 2 (2003)
  2. Superman the Movie (1978)
  3. Batman Begins (2005)
  4. Spider-Man (2002)
  5. Blade (1998)
  6. Road to Perdition (2002)
  7. Oldboy (2003)
  8. Sin City (2005)
  9. A History of Violence (2005)
  10. Superman II (1980)
  11. Hellboy (2004)
  12. Danger Diabolik (1968)
  13. Akira (1988)
  14. Mystery Men (1999)
  15. Hulk (2003)
  16. Dick Tracy (1990)
  17. Popeye (1980)
  18. Batman Returns (1992)
  19. Ghost World (2001)
  20. Constantine (2005)

Hmmm… controversial. I can’t comment on 7, 9, 12 and 20 as I haven’t seen them (bizarrely in 9s case given my love of the original and its writer). I think it is strange though that this list includes Superman 2 but not Spider-Man 2, which is surely superior? Batman Returns and Ghost World are too far down on this list in my view while Sin City (a triumph of style over substance is not, in itself, a triumph) and The Hulk are far too high. 2,3 and 4 are all superior to 1 in my view (I’d settle for any of them in first place) and where’s Flash Gordon (given my trouble yesterday, I wouldn’t dare allege a Ming conspiracy!)? For that matter, given some of the dross here, what about Men In Black?

As for the “greatest unmade comic book movies,” I have to say I’m not slavering for a Watchmen or Preacher adaptation. My general rule is that good comics make bad films – a rule that doesn’t necessarily apply the other way round and is constantly broken, but it is a trend nonetheless. Thus, hoping that someone will make a good comic into a film is a mug’s game.

Personally though, if you want a really ace film, my dream would be Skizz directed by Danny Boyle. Skizz, written by Alan Moore Smithee, is Brit-antidote to ET; basically alien crashlands in rundown 80s Birmingham, befriends a teenage girl and is hunted by a South African lunatic. It isn’t the best comic in the world, but it has moments of brilliance and the opportunity to subtly deconstruct Spielberg’s more saccharine version (in fact, Skizz was written before ET was released, but it was a deliberate cash-in) would be delicious.

I saw Millions last week and loved it, and the John Williams’ ET mobile phone ringtone convinced me that Boyle’s the man for the job. Are you reading this, lottery moguls?

Half-Baked Incineration Policy

Ming’s podcast question hotline is a great idea and it is a shame they didn’t go with it earlier.

Unfortunately, it was let down by the content. No Mr Campbell, it is not a matter of deciding between incineration and recycling. There is a third option which is usually labelled as “incineration”: energy from waste. In other words you burn waste product and capture energy from it – as energy efficient as most gas or oil powered generators and even more so if you make it part of a combined heat and power system. And there is a fourth option which ought to be at the top of everyone’s agenda but gets sidetracked: waste reduction.

A lot of things – not least of all paper – are environmentally very expensive to recycle with little gain. Indeed, environmentally speaking, surely burning used paper has got to be better than growing crops specifically for the purpose of energy production – at least you get a double hit? Plastic is a tricky case: because of the way much of it is treated, it is often much more environmentally friendly to burn, but there’s a lot of mileage in regulating to standardise the plastics we use for packaging and thus make recycling more viable.

The claim that incineration discourages recycling is utterly spurious. Think about it. If it is true that an incineration industry discourages recycling (actually the EU’s top recyclers are also top energy from waste generators), then it is equally true that a recycling industry discourages waste reduction. If you are going to employ such simplistic arguments then the only conclusion is to oppose both.

A more sensible approach is to have an integrated recycling and energy system in which the two work hand-in-glove. A more sensible approach would be to tightly regulate incinerators to ensure that only modern, efficient and zero-emissions systems can be used. A more sensible approach would scrap the landfill tax and replace it with a tax on packaging at source to discourage creating unneccessary packaging in the first place. Yet the FoE lobby, which unfortunately Norman Baker pays too much lip service to, actively works against it. Not for the first or last time has the environmental lobby proven to be a hindrance not a help.