Dylan Dog (US - DVD R1)
Gabe weeps softly for Brandon Routh, Kevin Munroe and Tiziano Sclavi....
One time supernatural detective Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) has been living in pseudo retirement for years as an everyday private investigator. While working mundane infidelity cases Dylan is hired by a client named Elizabeth (Anita Briem). When Dylan realizes that Elizabeth’s murdered father was likely done-in by something unnatural, he decides to avoid the case altogether, least he be drawn back into his old work. Soon after, however, Dylan’s sidekick Marcus (Sam Huntington) is killed by the same supernatural creature (he is quickly reborn as a zombie, and allowed to continue working alongside his employer), and the retired detective once again dons his black coat and takes to investigating the underworld underground.
Even if it had been good, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night was destined to be a tragedy, simply because similar comic book adaptations had already beat it to the big screen. The tragedy of this situation is that the Dylan Dog comic book series actually predates both the similar Hellblazer and Hellboy series, and was a major inspiration on both (Hellboy creator Mike Mignola even illustrated the covers for the Dark Horse reprints of the series in the US). There’s something genuinely depressing about the originator of a subgenre being considered an old hat cash-in by general audiences (outside of Italy, of course, where Dylan Dog is still quite popular). Tiziano Sclavi, the creator and sometimes writer of the Dylan Dog comic series, also wrote a book that Michele Soavi based Dellamorte Dellamore, aka: Cemetery Man, on. The film recalled some aspects of the Dylan Dog series, specifically the look of the lead character, who was played by Rupert Everett, the visual basis for Dylan (the Francesco Dellamorte character also made some guest appearances in a few issues), but is not an actual adaptation of the comic. Since Dellamorte Dellamore’s 1994 release, where it was largely ignored by non-Italian audiences (sadly), Guillermo del Toro made two Hellboy movies, and Francis Lawrence made an adaptation of Hellblazer called Constantine. All three films were relatively successful, and have a reasonably effective presence in the pop culture conscious (not to mention other, non-comic-based monster hunting movies like Van Helsing). It wouldn’t exactly be a stretch to assume that producer Scott Rosenberg (who also produced Men in Black) took this all into account, and that Lawrence and Del Toro’s achievements led to his belated take on the decades old character.
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, beyond the fact that it’s generally just uninspiring on every level, is disappointing in its willingness to embrace clichés, and habit of straight-up stealing elements from other films without any sense of homage. I’m not quite familiar enough with the source material to hot-bloodedly accuse Munroe and his screenwriters of missing the point of the exercise, but I recognized too little of what I’ve read in this film, and too much from other, similar work ( Blade, Underworld, Constantine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so on and so forth). Even the creature designs recall other, recent productions. The filmmakers recognize that their film should be a horror/mystery/comedy hybrid, but fail to capture the real fun of any genre. The mystery is predictable, and the Philip Marloweisms are awkward, the horror is definitively PG-13 in nature, and the ‘funny parts’ fall flat with very few exceptions. With a dousing of non-ironic wit, some creepy elements that push beyond an average episode of R.L. Stine’s Goosbumps (I really wanted to see the cannibal zombies tear up the superzombie), and some less cliché-driven jokes it would actually be quite easy to overlook the hackneyed premises, ridiculous plot holes, and lack of intrigue.
I appreciate the concept of telling Dylan’s back-story along with his comeback story (even if the back-story is way more intriguing), the continuous introduction of series mythology (cannibal zombies, living ghouls that are addicted to vampire blood), and the attempts at giving Marcus a full story despite the brief runtime (I really wanted to like the zombie problems more than I did), but otherwise there isn’t much goodwill earned by anyone other than the actors. Routh and Huntington are both charming enough to set slightly above the source material, enough for the film’s utter failure to not damage their reputations too heartily (Huntington’s character is pretty obnoxious, and a step down from the comic sidekick, Groucho, who apparently couldn’t be used due to rights issues), and Diggs does his best with the difficult, mustache-twirler dialogue without ever shining through it. Munroe mostly succeeds in recreating a comic book look with his choice of framing and palette, and the car, gun and wardrobe are true to the source, but the techno clubs and fashion choices are all wrong. The modern timeline is a constant problem. The blatant modernity of the film continuously butts heads with the material’s old fashion, hard-boiled nature. Better filmmakers like, say, Guillermo del Toro (I know, way too obvious) have the ability to refer to an environment as modern, but create an ‘out of time’ feel that makes more sense in a stylized, referential work. Munroe also fails to capture any of his TMNT action chops in live action, which isn’t a total surprise given the film’s budgetary constraints, but disappointing.
This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is more or less exactly what I expected considering the film’s age, and the trailer’s promise of dark, comic book colour palettes. The standard definition compression rears its head in the form of fuzzy wide-angle details, slightly dulled hues, minor edge enhancement and general compression noise. The noise is usually most persistent on bright, warm colours, like the red of Dylan’s shirt. Other hues fair better, such as the omnipresent neon green and blue, but there are definite impurity issues, and signs of bleeding. There’s noticeable grain over the entire print, and there are some really awkward gradation blends, but nothing beyond the norm, my Blu-ray eyes just make me notice it more these days. Detail levels are good enough to never create a problem in understanding the frame, and close-ups are generally pretty sharp.
This Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack pulls no punches. Actually, it kind of throws extra punches, or at least makes the current punches a whole lot louder and bassier. This sound mix is, rightfully, hyper-stylized, so every sound deemed important enough to be audible on the track is cranked to relatively aggressive levels. The film’s small budget doesn’t allow for much in the way of action, but the occasional fisticuffs with werewolves and superzombies are rife with monster roars, air-cutting limbs, and directional momentum. The climax features a few neat rear channel effects as the monster moves behind the viewer and Dylan fires off a few blind rounds. Composer Klaus Badelt’s (who, get this, worked on Constantine with Brian Tyler) score is largely nondescript, but it adds plenty of oomph to the track, and fills out the stereo channels pretty well.
It seems that Fox was right to hold Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and dump it with zero expectations, and it seems that audiences were right to largely ignore it. It’s not devastatingly bad, but it’s mostly boring, and wastes the original comic’s neat concept (which has arguably been pounded into the ground by other comic adaptations inspired by the original Dylan Dog books). Brandon Routh, who has gained some real goodwill following Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, doesn’t have a chance to flex his acting muscle, but isn’t a void of personality as I’d feared from the trailers. The bottom line here is that fans will likely hate what has been done to their favourite character, and non-fans will prefer the antics of Hellboy and John Constantine. This DVD looks and sound fine, but features zero extras.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 26th July 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kevin Munroe
Cast: Brandon Routh, Taye Diggs, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, Peter Stormare
Genre: Action, Comedy, Film-Noir and Horror
Length: 106 minutes
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