It’s been reported that New Line cinemas is looking for a director for the long-gestating adaptation of the comic book series Y The Last Man. While some bemoan the prominence of franchises and sequels, I’m hoping they’re developing the project as the beginning of a series, rather than a standalone film.
Right now, film adaptations of genre novels place a premium on the ability to build franchises. Look at Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit. But adaptations of creator-owned comics tend to be self-contained films. The Losers turned a 30 issue series into a 97 minute action film. Brian K Vauaghan spent two years trying to adapt his 60 issue Y: The Last Man into an action movie.
There seemed to be room for sequels, but there was much more closure at the end of the film than after 20 or so issues of the comic. Josh Wigler of MTV’s Splash Page explained the differences with the comic.
One of the script’s greatest changes involves Yorick Brown’s girlfriend, Beth. At the outset of the Vertigo Comics series, Yorick begins a heartfelt proposal to Beth via telephone just as the man-killing plague sweeps across the planet. In Vaughan’s script, however, Yorick and Beth have a face-to-face moment before she leaves to catch a flight. The outbreak hits while she’s on the plane; in the books, she’s already in Australia.
As a result of this change, the stage is set for a resolution to Yorick and Beth’s relationship by the end of the movie, as opposed to at the end of the character’s world-spanning adventure seen in the Vertigo series. That’s not the only departure involving Beth’s character — there are some other big ones that I won’t spoil for you here.
I always thought Y worked for many of the same reasons as The Walking Dead: soap opera and adventure in a post-apocalyptic world where just getting some mustard for your hot dog is a struggle. (And of course both are incredibly well done.) Many (myself included) think Y would be a better TV mini series than single movie, and in a world where The Walking Dead rules and post-apocalyptic survival shows are a staple of every fall schedule (Revolution), even an ongoing series would seem a no-brainer…except for the all-but-one female cast. That could be a hard sell to a network exec. It works for a single movie, but then the story would lose so much impact. Thus…unfilmmable. but New Line is sticking with it.
I don’t know if I would agree. I liked Y The Last Man, but a lot of the middle was filler. While I think it could be turned into an excellent six hour trilogy, a sixty hour TV show would be pushing it. With a film series, you have a lot of the soap opera elements especially if the first movie doesn’t have a happy ending.
Currently, only superhero films are made with the understanding that there will be built-in sequels. I’m happy with those. But there are many genres of comic books that haven’t been tapped, especially with Maxi-Series, the usually creator-owned comics with a clear beginning, middle and end, although that comes after 30+ issues. There’s certainly enough material to adapt to make Y: The Last Man a series of films, exploring the adventures of the last man on Earth after a strange event left only women as survivors. The same is true of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’s Ex Machina, as well as a lot of material published by Vertigo, such as Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasy series Sandman, Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon’s supernatural Western Preacher, Scott Snyder’s period horror piece American Vampire, Brian Aazarrello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets, Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic (although this one could also be an excellent standalone project) and Warren Ellis/ Darick Robertson’s sci-fi journalism piece Transmetropolitan. Though there’s potential in other series as well, especially Jeff Smith’s fantasy saga Bone, Mike Baron & Steve Rude’s science fiction epic Nexus, Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Oeming’s cop drama Powers, and the feudalism era manga Lone Wolf & Cub.
The rise of sequels isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when there’s so much source material. Hollywood films demand increasingly complex narratives, as explained in Steven Johnson’s excellent Everything Bad is Good For You. Creator-owned comics have provided these types of narratives, so it’s only natural to share that with filmgoers.
There is an obvious risk with any series that the first movie won’t be successful enough to merit sequels. Writer/ Director Andrew Stanton had mapped out a John Carter of Mars trilogy, before that became one of Disney’s biggest flops. Though that was a risk that anyone telling a longer and more ambitious story has to deal with. It’s something writers and artists will remember from the first time they told their story.