Lights! Camera! Aaaaaand...
cue Titano, the Giant Ape! Action!
They're movie references, okay? Marlon Brando? Starred in the then-notorious, now-really-tame 'Last Tango in Paris'? Played Clark's daddy in the Superman flicks, got paid millions for about fourteen minutes of screen time, and got top billing over Reeve and Kidder? Yeah, him.
Fans of the current 'Lord of the Rings' flick should take note: your hero-du-jour Peter Jackson has single-handedly ratcheted the bar for genre film adaptation up a few dozen notches. Jackson did something that almost everyone uniformly agreed would be all but impossible: he delivered a film version of 'Lord of the Rings' that appealed both to fans of the original material and to the wider, non-devoted audience.
In doing so, Jackson sent us, the movie-going audience, a startling holiday gift, one that I think we had long ago lost sight of: we're entitled to high expectations. No more thinking, "Oh, it's a genre film, and an adaptation at that, so I'm not really expecting anything overly wonderful." That kind of thinking has given way to, "Hey, if that Peter Jackson guy could deliver so incredibly well on something as complicated as Tolkien, on a relatively cheap budget, then that slate of Marvel and DC adaptations had better be damned terrific. You hear me, Raimi?!!"
The news site 'Comics2Film' (http://www.comics2film.com/) currently lists over 460 comic book film and television adaptations in various stages of development. The usual caveats apply: being listed doesn't mean a property has a lock on getting made. They call it Development Hell for a reason.
Screenwriter William Goldman said it best in describing the number one rule about understanding Hollywood: no one knows anything. For all of their demographics studies, focus groups, and track records, the studio suits are all just flying by the seat of their pants, pretending to know *exactly* why things happen the way they do. Right.
So when you wonder why someone greenlighted a film version of 'Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.' starring David Hasselhoff, or the 'Generation X' television movie that ran on Fox a few years ago, just remember that the particular someone with the power to okay a project at that time thought it would work.
And got it wrong. It's just one big crapshoot.
I don't want to seem overly cynical - they get it right a lot of the time too. Warners has had an impressive run with their DC-based animated series over the last ten years: Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, and Justice League. Four for four, all doing well in syndication, with the same core creative teams across the line. That could be where the Warners execs have made their best decision-making: trusting that Paul Dini and his people know their craft. It's a lesson that far too many micro-managers never learn: if you trust your people's own high standards and their collective ability to work up to those standards, you'll wind up with good products.
For years now, though, producers have had an old saw to fall back on when comic-to-film adaptations haven't worked, referring to the difficulty in maintaining the film's appeal to the original fan base (and generating a positive buzz) without shutting out potential audience members who wouldn't be caught dead reading a comic book. Thanks to Peter Jackson, the giant door to the Fortress of Solitude has been slammed shut on that excuse, thanks to his obvious care and devotion to his work.
So when is that Spidey flick opening, anyways?