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Tag Archives: adaptation

Gerard Way (yes, that Gerard Way) has always loved comic books. He and Gabriel Bá launched the first issue of The Umbrella Academy in the fall of 2007, and I first read the comics a few years later. V had copies of both The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, and let me borrow them. I was instantly hooked.

February 15th saw the release of a live-action adaptation of The Umbrella Academy, and as of last Monday night, I’ve finished my first run-through of season one. Holy god damn, that was amazing.

The story follows an unconventional family. Years ago, several dozen children were born on the same day, with none of their mothers having shown any previous signs that they were pregnant. Wealthy eccentric Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of them, six of whom demonstrated incredible superpowers. Together, the children fought crime as the Umbrella Academy. That was then. Before Ben died. Before #5 went missing. Before Luther departed for the moon.

Now, Sir Reginald has died, and the surviving children have come home to pay their respects, but are interrupted as the long-lost #5 makes an unexpected reappearance. He claims he’s been in the future, and that he’s come back to help the Umbrella Academy stop the apocalypse, which is now only a few days away.

Given that Way and Bá created an intensely bizarre world together, but it’s a beautiful framework for the Netflix adaptation to be built upon, and build it does. As they prepare for the impending end of the world, the Hargreeves siblings bond and bicker, healing some old wounds and inflicting new ones. Luther attempts to lead as he once did, but can’t conceal that he’s not the same person he was before he left for the moon. Diego tries to maintain his activities as a local vigilante, but a previous relationship with Detective Eudora Patch complicates things. Allison, despite her celebrity status, struggles with her recent divorce and separation from her daughter. Klaus battles addiction and ghosts of his past. #5 is adjusting to reverting to his thirteen-year-old body and finding a way to cope with his PTSD. Ben is still dead. And Vanya, the “normal” one of the family, just wants a place to belong.

The casting of the characters couldn’t have been more spot-on. Robert Sheehan (Klaus) and Ellen Page (Vanya) aren’t strangers to superhero universes (Sheehan starred in the early seasons of Misfits and Page played Kitty Pryde in multiple X-Men films). They’re joined by a stellar cast, including Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige as Hazel and Cha-Cha, a pair of time travelling assassins who are sent to ensure that the apocalypse takes place as scheduled.

The Umbrella Academy‘s soundtrack is killer too, as should be expected of a series with Gerard Way at the head. From a solo dance party scene featuring Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” through #5’s fight scene set to “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” by They Might Be Giants to Way’s own cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” in the closing credits of the final episode, it’s pitch perfect.

Over the course of 10 episodes, you get more character development than we’ve seen in the comics (so far, but with story arc #3, Hotel Oblivion, we’re starting to see more, and Way has mentioned several more planned story arcs). Considering the relatively sparse nature of the original plot of The Apocalypse Suite, I’m happy to see that the showrunners have blended some elements of Dallas into season one, giving us a far more well-rounded bit of story. I don’t doubt that Netflix will pick this one up for a second season, and I look forward to seeing my favorite dysfunctional super-family again soon.

 

Peter Jackson’s first prequel to his sweeping epic Lord of the Rings film trilogy premiered last week. Thanks to some forethought, my friends and I were able to attend a midnight release here in Colorado.

The Hobbit has been one of my favorite books since before I could read. When I was a child, my father would read the book to my siblings and me, and we would pretend that we too had been swept away into grand adventures in Middle Earth. Naturally, like many other fans, I was curious as to how Jackson would be able to adapt one shorter book into a film trilogy. I was not disappointed. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is but the first film that will present the beginning of the story we saw concluded in The Return of the King in 2003.

Now this adaptation covers the first portion of The Hobbit, but it expands upon it, including bits from Tolkien’s extensive body of work. Characters and events from The Silmarillion and the other tales from Middle Earth are brought into play for the film, adding a considerable depth that is expected of Jackson’s adaptations (for example, the love story between Aragorn and Arwen in the LOTR film trilogy is told in an appendix at the end of The Return of the King in the books).

The Hobbit opens with the incredible Sir Ian Holm reprising his role as Bilbo Baggins as he is preparing for his 111th birthday, as shown in The Fellowship of the Ring. He begins to reminisce about how things came to be, and we are soon transported sixty years back in time. Martin Freeman (best known as John Watson from the BBC’s Sherlock) portrays a younger Bilbo, and magnificently captures all of the mannerisms first portrayed by Holm back in 2001. Bilbo is quite content to stay at home until a chance encounter with Gandalf (again played  by Sir Ian McKellen) brings a host of dwarves to his door.

What do you mean we "all look alike"?

What do you mean we “all look alike”?

The dwarves (Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, Ori, Balin, and Dwalin) promptly and hilariously make themselves at home at Bilbo’s, much to the hobbit’s bewilderment, but answers quickly appear with Gandalf’s return and the arrival of the dwarves’ leader, Thorin Oakenshield. It seems that years ago, Thorin’s ancestors were driven from their home in Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, by the arrival of a terrible dragon known as Smaug. Now they seek to return to Erebor, kill the dragon, and claim his treasure hoard, all with Bilbo’s help (as the scent of hobbit would be unknown to Smaug, unlike the smell of dwarf, elf, or man).

The next morning, Bilbo finds that the dwarves have gone on their way, and he quickly rushes off to join them, realizing that is his chance to experience a true adventure. He is soon swept up in a journey that takes him from the Shire to Rivendell to Goblintown and beyond. Bilbo slowly transforms from quiet homebody to burgeoning adventurer.

As is expected of a Peter Jackson film, the visuals are simply breathtaking. Going back to Middle Earth feels like going home. The score is just as entrancing, aided by lyrics from Tolkien himself. Despite the expansion from the texts, the film never felt too long. The casting was perfect, with the dwarves being highly individual (my initial fear, as there are thirteen of them). The plot is well balanced, establishing moments that we know will be coming, such as the inevitable confrontation with Smaug. The shining moment of the entire film, however, is the riddle contest, in which Bilbo first encounters Gollum and finds the ring which sets so much in motion. Gollum is again played (motion capture and voice) by Andy Serkis, and he’s more real than ever before.

And so, to make a long story short (too late), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great beginning to another powerhouse trilogy. I can’t wait for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013, but until then, I’ll be sure to see part one at least two more times. Don’t just take my word for it. See it for yourself.

Three and a half years ago, Stephen King released a short story collection entitled Just After Sunset. Twelve of the stories in the book had been previously published, leaving one new title to bring the total up to that wonderful number of thirteen. That story was N.

N. was one of the most terrifying stories that I’d read at the time I first encountered the book, and it still chills. King crafted a phenomenal series of layers of narrative. N. is the story of a psychiatrist named John and a patient referred to in his records only by his first initial, the titular N. N. is suffering from insomnia and severe obsessive compulsive disorder that he claims stem from a visit to a field near John’s home town. When N. eventually commits suicide, John is driven to investigate more, to see if there was something that he could have done to save his patient.

The outer layers of the story focus on John’s investigation and the impact that his own visit to the field has on his family and friends. It’s eventually revealed that part of the madness that comes upon the people who visit Ackerman’s Field derives from a series of standing stones in the middle of the field. There are seven stones (a bad number) there when the field is viewed by the naked eye. Gazing through a filter of some sort such as a camera, however, reveals an eighth stone. Is it there? Touching each of the stones in turn seems to prove that there are eight, but the other stone isn’t always there. N. believed that something, some Lovecraftian horror, lurked in the center of the stones, and as long as there were eight (a good number), it would be contained. “Eight stones would keep them captive, but if there were only seven…they’d come flooding from the darkness on the other side and overwhelm the world,” he said. Was he right, or is it only a delusion?

I recently returned to the world of N. Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev collaborated with Stephen King to transform his novella into a skillfully paced graphic novel.  If you’re a fan of well-written horror, I would highly recommend giving N. a read, in either format. The graphic novel maintains the delightful and terrifying prose that King is known for, and shows just how unsettling uncertainty can be.

King himself has said that, despite the Lovecraftian atmosphere of the story, it’s actually inspired by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, of which Lovecraft himself said “No one could begin to describe the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds.” Time to add that to the list of stuff to read tonight.