1. Fifty Shades of Grey (Focus Features, 3,646 Theaters,125 Minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language, Rotten Tomatoes Rating at press time: 31% Fresh (105 Reviews)): I have not read the book, but I did read the Wikipedia plot synopsis for them, the modern day equivalent of Cliff’s Notes. Actually, I read it to my wife and we both had a laugh, although not in the way EL James intended. Granted, there has to be a certain diffusing of quality from the book to the Wikipedia synopsis, but we could tell that the book was something where foreshadowing did not exist and plot elements and characterization spring up only when the narrative needs them to move forward (Upon the 15th demonstration of Christian Grey’s wealth, my wife asked how much money he really did have. I said as much as it takes to move the plot along.).
But the book is immensely popular, mind-bogglingly so. This is both discouraging and encouraging to the aspiring writer. Discouraging in the sense that paplike this gets made while it is impossible for you to get your foot in the door, encouraging in the sense that if you do get published and the stars align, you can become rich beyond your wildest dreams, no matter how bad your product is.
But that has nothing to do with the film version, however. What fans will be getting is a watered down version of the book (that’s not an NC-17 rating, folks). It will probably make a boatload of money. The sequels are already in the works. And there’s nothing the haters can do about it.
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service (Fox, 3,204 Theaters,129 Minutes, Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content, Rotten Tomatoes Rating at press time: 72% Fresh (107 Reviews)): Mark Millar is the master of the high concept comic book, typically featuring character very familiar to ones we have all seen before. Wanted asked what would happen if comic book villains secretly controlled the world, and the villains were all doppelgangers for DC Comics bad guys like the Joker, Catwoman and Bizarro. Kick Ass was Millar’s examination of how a superhero would operate in the real world, but its Big Daddy was essentially the Punisher meets Batman, with Hit-Girl his Robin. Nemesis was Millar asking what Batman would be like if he was evil, and Superior is his take on Shazam/Superman.
While it might seem that Millar’s work lacks a certain amount of originality, Hollywood loves him. All have been movies or are optioned to become one. And his work for Marvel’s Ultimate line continues to be backbone Marvel film adaptations are built on.
This film was based on Millar’s The Secret Service comic, which was Millar’s take on James Bond and the spy genre with a mentor/apprentice element thrown in. However, like with Wanted, the film has been changed from the comic.