Thursday, February 19, 2009

‘Youngblood’ is a bad movie just waiting to happen

I’ve heard it said that no one sets out to make a bad movie. Bad movies, like natural disasters, just sort of happen.

I’m not sure that’s entirely true. For example, I think Uwe Boll, director of “House of the Dead,” “Alone in the Dark” and “BloodRayne,” among other crimes against humanity, may indeed set out to make bad movies.

Then there is Brett Ratner, a director who can take an otherwise successful film franchise and turn it into fertilizer. Hannibal Lecter and the X-Men are his two most notable victims.

“Red Dragon” is a pale parody of its predecessors, “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal.” Meanwhile, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is a bloated, incoherent mess that disposes of major characters as if they were dirty diapers.

Having sullied the X-Men, Ratner is obviously the perfect choice to take on another superhero franchise — one that is already so awful even he can’t ruin it.

He now has his chance. Hollywood trade publications reported last week that Ratner will direct a film based on Rob Liefeld’s “Youngblood” comic.

During the height of the comic-book boom of the early 1990s, several popular Marvel Comics artists decided to leave and start their own company, Image Comics. Liefeld, who had drawn “X-Force” for Marvel, was one of those artists, and “Youngblood” was his flagship series for Image.

Somehow, Liefeld became a minor celebrity even outside the world of superhero comics. Director Spike Lee featured him in a Levi’s ad.

What superhero comics have to do with blue jeans I’ll never know, but even more incredible is how popular Liefeld became as an artist.

I learned a lot from reading Liefeld’s comics back in the ’90s. I learned, for example, that severe scoliosis and a lack of feet are no obstacles to being a superhero.

“Youngblood” is representative of everything that went wrong with comic books in the ’90s. So, what would a faithful movie adaptation of it look like?

Ratner could follow the lead of Zach Snyder, director of “300” and next month’s “Watchmen.” Snyder’s films try to stick as closely as possible to the look of the original graphic novels. If Ratner did that with “Youngblood,” most of his special-effects budget would have to go toward making his cast look like a bunch of deformed mutants.

It’s impossible to overstate just how bad an artist Liefeld is. He apparently can’t draw feet, so he usually draws characters so that their feet cut off at the ankles. When he does bother to draw feet, they end in points, like a ballerina standing en pointe.

All of his females have impossibly contorted spines, which Liefeld seems to think makes them look sexy. His male characters are so over-muscled they can’t put their arms down. And everyone, male and female, has an impossibly small head.

If you think Peter Jackson had problems trying to make Hobbits look smaller than humans, imagine the amount of CGI you’d need to make a normal human being look like any of Liefeld’s superheroes.

On the other hand, Ratner could save a bundle of money on sets. A truly faithful adaptation of “Youngblood” wouldn’t need them.

You see, Liefeld apparently decided one day that his comics didn’t really need backgrounds. Maybe he thought drawing backgrounds was too much work. Maybe he thought no one would notice. In either case, his comics started to depict a lot of anatomically impossible people standing in the middle of otherwise blank panels.

Somehow, however, I doubt Ratner will try to adhere to the visual style of Liefeld’s artwork. So, while I don’t expect “Youngblood” the movie to be any good, there is a fair chance it won’t be as bad as its source material. Of course, a “Youngblood” movie directed by Ed Wood would likely be an improvement on the source material, too.

To get a “Youngblood” movie that’s actually just as bad as the comic books, you would need a director who actually sets out to make bad movies. Fortunately, I think Uwe Boll is otherwise engaged.

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