Sunday, May 1, 2011

Should Have Been Called "Dead on Arrival" -- Reflections on "Dylan Dog: Dead of Night" (2011)

Oddly enough, it's the dead guy who has the most personality here.
Sometimes I like to imagine I'm a Hollywood executive -- which, after seeing most of the shit produced these days, I'm beginning to think is a fairly easy job -- being pitched an idea by a writer. But instead of being in awe of the pitch, I'm the bad guy executive who longs to rip the idea to shreds. After all, it's always more fun being the bad guy.

Here's what I imagine the pitch meeting would have gone like had I been in the office that day.

Producer (Me): [waving my hands like I'm helping someone back up a U-Haul] All right, all right, let's see here. Show me something special.

Writer: [confident] Do you read comic books?

Me: [grinning] Superhero shit. Yeah, sure. Course I do. I've seen all the movies.

Writer: Are you familiar with Dylan Dog?

Me: [confused] Is it a comic strip?

Writer: No, Dylan Dog! Dylan Dog. Dylan Dog? It's this incredible comic book series from Italy.

Me: Italians make comic books?

Writer: Yeah, and I thought the only art they did was on ceilings.

Me: Is it well-known here in the U.S. What am I talking about? Of course it isn't, otherwise I'd have heard of it. It's not like knowing about pop culture is my job or anything.

Writer: It sells a million copies a month in Italy.

Me: So, why don't you pitch this to Italian producers. I'm sure they'd be on this idea like flies on shit.

Writer: [getting nervous] Just listen to the idea before you pass judgement, all right. I know you'll fall in love with it.

Me: Okay, sure, kid. Shoot.

Writer: Here goes -- in the comic Dylan Dog is this private investigator who takes cases involving people's nightmares. He deals with all sorts of monsters and assorted weirdness.

Me: [rubbing hands together] Ohhhh, so there's sequel potential here?

Writer: Absolutely! [Gaining confidence again] Now, in the comic, Dylan's a romantic hero. He loves poetry, plays the clarinet, broods a lot, wears the same outfit all the time, and seems to fall in love with a new woman in every issue. He lives in London and used to work for Scotland Yard. He has a partner named Groucho --

Me: [interested] Like Groucho Marx?

Writer: Yep. He's a Marx impersonator who becomes friends with Dylan and becomes his sidekick. He's funny, always cracking jokes and puns, and is very helpful during fights because he always shows up in the nick of time with a gun, or something useful.

Me: [intrigued] You think our people on this side of the Atlantic will be interested in this sort of character.

Writer: [excited] I thought you might ask that! And, of course, the answer's "no!" Most Americans have little interest in any comic character that doesn't fit into the superhero mold. Dylan Dog's way too interesting and unique to make a movie based upon such a trippy comic book. Leave all that shit to the Italians, right?

Me: [uncertain] You seem to have me confused with a different executive. That's not why I asked the question.

Writer: [working up a sweat] I came up with an incredible treatment of the comic book that'll just shoot you to the moon! Okay! Instead of having Dylan as this romantic, brooding type, instead he'll be more like a tortured Sam Spade -- you know, a hard boiled detective in the Dashiell Hammett tradition. Sure, we'll keep a couple of his quirks from the comic to please the "fans," but he'll be much more American. In fact, there will be a voice over in which Dylan tells us everything we already understand in cliches, so that way the audience will know we're playing around with a genre.

Me: So, you plan on removing Dylan's personality.

Writer: Of course. It's not like he needs one. You see, in this treatment, he's a paranormal detective who has left the game because of the death of his girlfriend. But when a werewolf murders a smuggler and steals this unique artifact, he gets dragged back into the life of investigating monsters.

Me: What about his partner?

Writer: Groucho? Well, no one over here will get that reference -- especially the teenagers we'll be marketing to -- so we'll make him a zombie instead.

Me: A zombie?

Writer: Yep! Zombies are testing so well right now with the 18-49 demo. You saw The Walking Dead, right?

Me: It was good. Much more creative than this.

Writer: I know! In addition to zombies, we'll also have vampires. And we have some really cool twists for them.

Me: Like what?

Writer: Well, for one thing they will be selling their own blood to everyday folk at vampire clubs as an underground drug. And they'll hang out in a gang called the True Bloods.

Me: Isn't that a little bit obvious?

Writer: What do you mean?

Me: You're going to call them "True Bloods" and have them sell "V?"

Writer: No, they're going to sell vampire blood.

Me: Yeah, "V."

Writer: What's that?

Me: Nevermind.

Writer: Okay. So, Dylan's going to have to go through the vampire, werewolf, and zombie communities to try to get this artifact back before someone uses it to destroy the entire undead world. Along the way, there'll be laughs, jokes and lots of humor about monsters.

Me: Like what?

Writer: There will be jokes about how dumb and angry werewolves are, how snake-like and power hungry vampires are, and how cowardly and gross zombies are.

Me: Those sound like stereotypes. Will you be doing anything original with these characters?

Writer: Oh, yeah! Our black vampire has a gold tooth and speaks like a brotha! And the zombies have a support group.

Me: Are you kidding me?

Writer: It is supposed to be funny.

Me: So, let me get this straight. Dylan Dog is a movie about a dull, personality-less private detective who specializes in monsters. After a man is murdered and an artifact is stolen, Dylan is hired to get it back and has to try to locate it amongst a bunch of vampires, werewolves and zombies who all have reasons for having it. This leads to a series of scenes involving the monsters in which they don't do anything new or interesting. They're really just cheap copies of other, better television shows. Did I get this right?

Writer: Yep. What do you think?

Me: [shaking head] Is there at least some sex?

Writer: Of course, but you don't see anything.

Me: Damn!

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