Six of the Best: Graphic Novel Adaptations

Six of the Best: Graphic Novel Adaptations

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Comic Book Movie Theatre 220x150 Six of the Best: Graphic Novel AdaptationsWhen adapting a popular graphic novel for the big screen the director and his team face any number of challenges. Perhaps the most difficult of all is keeping the legion of source material fanboys happy, a feat which often boarders on the impossible.

While an entirely faithful adaptation is simply not always possible due to the wildly different media in which movies and graphic novels operate, the best graphic novel adaptations are always careful to embrace their source material and give heed to what made it popular in the first place.

A small disclaimer at this point. It can be a little tricky to define what constitutes a ‘graphic novel’ and some of those listed below were actually comic book series initially that were then compiled into one whole novel. However, without getting bogged down in definitions, let’s just say I’m only including work based on a specific story-arc that rose to prominence in its graphic novel form.

Not all adaptations need to retain every single element of their original creation right down to their very look (though some of the best ones undeniably do). What really makes a great adaptation is whether they capture the themes, mood and tones the source material sort to convey in the first place.

The six movies selected here differ wildly in terms of their content and especially in their visual style, yet all six are incredibly striking and memorable movies in their own right.

Watchmen Banner Six of the Best: Graphic Novel Adaptations

After his own attempt to adapt Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel proved fruitless, Terry Gilliam deemed the story unfilmable. For decades it remained in limbo with four different studios and countless directors and screenwriters attached to it at one stage or another, none of whom were able to put a workable project together. Cut to 2007 and director Zack Snyder, who to date had only the Dawn of the Dead remake and the critically divisive 300 adaptation to his name, finally began filming his long-awaited adaptation of Watchmen and many people were unsure as to whether he’d manage pull it off.

After its release in 2009, not everybody was convinced but for me he did a remarkable job. For the most part, he achieved this by sticking faithfully to the source material wherever possible. No concessions were made to tone down the film’s content to achieve a more family-friendly certificate; this was a subversive superhero movie for adults which combined Cold-War paranoia with an intensely bleak narrative. So much of the film is lifted directly from the novel, including both the dialogue and the visual look found in the comics. Snyder created an impressive, if occasionally cartooney, world where you become immersed in the visceral and disconcerting vision of an alternative reality. Obviously given its release being a good few decades after the Cold War has ended, the movie loses a degree of the political intensity found in the novel, but Snyder still does a great job of creating a sense of impending disaster and of a doomed humanity. The one major change which the director has made to the film’s conclusion does actually make more sense in retrospect and certainly doesn’t detract from the film’s message.

The highlight for me is the wonderful montage crafted over the film’s opening credits which does a perfect job of depicting the historical development of the Watchmen and also the alternative Watchmen universe over the twentieth century, all set to Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a Changin’. While some critics saw the strict reverence to the source material as a hindrance, bogging it down in Cold War politics which are perhaps no longer relevant, for me this only helped to immerse the viewer in its unwelcoming vision of human history.

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  • DukeofDuke

    Wonderful article..! Watchmen is a more complex and mature film than Batman Begins on almost every levels, but unfortunately weighed down by the verdict of two-faced critics who despise anything and everything coming out of Synder’s stable(Dr Manhattan is my fav Superhero thanks to Watchmen’s last act) and so is Sin City. If only, We have a super breed director who can combine Synder’s Visual taste, Terry Gilliam’s randomness, Nolan’s story telling and Quentin’s penchant for suave dialogues backed by Disney/Fox marketing, We have a Golden Goose on track to break Avatars record.

    Watchmen could have made a serious dent to The Dark Knight in its complexity and legendary status had it followed 12 Monkeys template in creating a genuine panic We care for…but Zack went for Cold War era which tellingly had no effect on the audiences to take the threat seriously.

    Watchmen, Sincity and V for Vendatta like Tarantino’s earlier films gets better after every view.

  • Jax

    The choice to change the ending from the Watchmen and rewrite LXG into something that its not ruined them for me – Its a shame how what many people including me consider to be perfect stories from Alan Moore have to be changed cos people think it would better if…
    I agree with other example but add Racketeer as better than the original the same with Hellboy

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    I thought the film’s ending was superior. The giant squid was one of the few really terrible flaws of the novel.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    I thought Kick-Ass was fantastic. Surprised not to see it here.

  • bfg666

    Sin City is fun and definitely Rodriguez’s best movie, and probably one of the most faithful adaptations, but to call it one of the best should imply that it has the same intensity. And it hasn’t. By far. When Marv is grinding some Joe’s face on the pavement, it hurts in the book. In the movie, it’s just fun. This is only one example but everything in this movie follows the same rule. I don’t know if it’s the film’s comic book visual style or (more probably) Rodriguez’s lack of talent but the ruthlessness of the book didn’t translate from page to screen at all.

  • bfg666

    It could, even if it was somewhat toned down compared to the comic.

  • Momus

    I would expand the list a bit to include Ghost World, Scott Pilgrim and The Crow