Screen Studies-Bullet-time, Blood Spraying Time, and the Adaptation of the Graphic No
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From Film Adaptation to Post-Celluloid Adaptation
From Film Adaptation to Post-Celluloid Adaptation

Costas Constandinides

Costas Constandinides is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus. He is the author of From Film Adaptation to Post-celluloid Adaptation (Continuum, 2010). Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Continuum, 2010

Subjects

Content Type:

Book chapter

Genres, Movements and Styles:

Melodrama

Period:

2000-present

Related Content

Bullet-time, Blood Spraying Time, and the Adaptation of the Graphic Novel

DOI: 10.5040/9781628927931.ch-005
Page Range: 75–90

Using a concept such as graphic novel to discuss film adaptation is quite challenging for two reasons. The first reason deals with the fact that the term graphic novel is the result of a marketing strategy and thus is not widely acceptable among the community of comic book artists, and the second reason is that comic books and especially films based on comic books have been received as marginal and children-oriented popular forms and were not academically discussed under the umbrella of film adaptation studies until recently. The online interdisciplinary journal ImageTexT first published in 2004 by the department of English at the University of Florida is an affirmation of academia's current interest in comics; the emphasis that the journal gives on the form, style and aesthetics of comics reinforces the artistic validity of comic books and thus the necessity of examining this enduring, yet rediscovered medium (due to the lack of rigorous studies on comic books) in relation to its cinematic adaptation.

The term graphic novel was originally used by Will Eisner to describe his book-length comic A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories, which was first published in 1978.[1] Frank Miller's innovative and dark/violent artwork and Alan Moore's complex narratives began to shape a creative force that broke away from the conventional constructs of superhero comics and gave a new meaning to this concept that essentially maintains the vocabulary of comics, yet amplifies the interaction between words and pictures with engaging storytelling, dark iconography, and highly stylized choreography. Sabin writes that these new perspectives were possible because the length of the graphic novel set up new challenges for the creators in terms of atmosphere, the prolonging of suspense, and the development of characters.[2] The success of this reconceptualization of the medium by the aforementioned key writers is also attributable to the repackaging of comics into square-bound books, which were then marketed as “graphic novels.”[3] The term graphic novel is according to Sabin “the invention of publishers' public relations departments. It meant that publishers could sell adult comics to wider public by giving them another name: specifically by associating them with novels, and disassociating them from comics.”[4] This “invention” or transition enabled the publishers to place the art of comics on the shelves of leading bookselling brands on high streets and shopping centers; the key texts that marked the transition from fan shops to the mainstream were Frank Miller's Batman: The Return of the Dark Knight (1986) and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen (1986).

Comic artwork always had a special financial relationship with the film industry, which gave birth to another comparative/evaluative discourse that usually involves the fans. Still, the focus of this chapter is not to investigate the above relationship, which similarly to other transferences of media contents into the inglourious basterd that film adaptation is, is criticized for disassociating itself from the essence and imaginary of the original. This chapter attempts to interpret or understand the copresence of more than one medium in digital cinema by analyzing the new mixed cinema[5] moments included in the case study examples: Wanted (Timur Bekmambetov, 2008) and 300 (Zack Snyder, 2006). Thus another trait of post-celluloid adaptation is that it is not only a process that transfers content from an older medium to a new media object, but also refers to the persistent presence rather than absence of other media through their consciously visible manifestation in digital cinema. These are not clearly defined moments as they emerge from a media object that simultaneously divides and connects the real and the hyperreal.

Perhaps then the title of Tarantino's film is the best way to describe cinema. The final line of Inglourious Basterds (2009) spoken by Lt. Aldo Rain (Brad Pitt) “I think this just might be my masterpiece” after carving a swastika into Col. Landa's forehead, suggests that cinema has always been a vernacular where the visible presence or manufactured absence of hybridity is not simply a style, it is an inherent part of what cinema's cultural status was and still is: reinventing itself in ways that communicate its death and birth, its artistic qualities and guilty pleasures all at once. Inglourious Basterds's final line might as well intend to reactivate the question “what is cinema?”, but it certainly points to the direction that the fundamental nature of cinema is an irrepressible impurity in many ways. Nonetheless, the main argument in this chapter, which in effect reinforces the analyses in the preceding chapter, is that this mixed nature becomes visibly augmented through a multilevel dialectic between the graphic novel and moving images.

Previous chapters illustrated that it is becoming increasingly difficult to define a concept such as film adaptation as it involves a process whereby an intensified and accelerated confluence of media elements occurs due to the evolution of media technologies. Baudrillard has been discussed and quoted in Chapters 3 and 4 as a theorist that understands the potential of new technologies to create media platforms that may confuse boundaries, and as a thinker that explores the future possibility of technologies to create one new space that will allow us as producers and consumers of cultural products to coexist with screenless and pageless, or transparent media forms, which remediate older forms and most notably reality itself. Jay David Bolter writes that “we have not seen anything like the takeover of a univocal digital media world,”[6] however, it could be certainly argued that there are new practices and new perceptions that begin to formulate this single obscene space as a meaningful and viable condition, even if it does not exist in the present. On the one hand, Henry Jenkins has introduced or further developed such practices, but on the other hand, he rejects the idea of this single mediascape, which he describes as the Black Box (Bolter borrows the word holodeck to describe an identical logic or condition).[7] These practices can be expressed through “play,” “control,” “participation,” “resistance,” actions that certainly create a collision between old and new media forms. But until this future condition begins to shape our social structures and cultural production it would be useful to examine how the spaces of two different media forms coexist in a new form, which Manovich describes as Digital Cinema. This coexistence of forms either within a single media product or a line of products that complement the main narrative object point toward this confusion or even emergent obliteration of boundaries. While according to Bolter the cyberphobia Hollywood films of the 1990s are an expression of an “anxiety about the threat of digital forms,”[8] the recent blockbuster Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) expresses an unmistakable desire for immersion and immediacy.

The accomplished goal of Pandora's believability, and the 3D presentation were an attempt to realize presence (in a computer generated space) in the same way the term avatar indicates in computing, however the 3D presentation of the film was disappointing. This failure does not cancel the implications contained in the film, on the contrary, it reactivates the spirit of competition and we all now anticipate the new film that will overthrow Avatar from its ostensibly privileged pre- and post-cinematic status, a position that the latter film claimed from another film that indirectly raised the same question as Inglourious Basterds and Avatar : The promotional campaign of The Matrix stimulated our interest in the film by introducing the question “What is the Matrix?”. After the release of the film academia reacted with a frantic and celebratory reaction at the same time in an attempt to understand the new cinematic vernacular that the film launched. While Tarantino's film reaffirms cinema's cultural status as popular art, Cameron's vernacular is indeed imposing, yet it is quite monotonous as well.

The connectivity allegory of the film is twofold: first, it invites us to reconnect with nature and secondly it invites us to connect with the film via different media channels so as to experience this complete and wondrous environment. This revitalizing or hyperconscious use of video gaming and virtual community discourse in James Cameron's Avatar epitomizes the disassociation of science fiction and fantasy films from negative depictions of technology and the alien other. Fundamentally, Avatar does not offer more than its predecessors; it is a repetition of stylistic choices and motifs that reinforce cinema's need to survive through its collaboration with other media. Maybe Avatar differs from other examples because it expresses this need in such a precise manner rather than communicating a resistance to narrative cinema's invisibility.

The case study examples that this chapter examines are not film texts based on a literary narrative or films that routinely reproduce narrative cinema, but they are film texts that essentially shape a complex textuality that creates an anti-cinematic space, where the visual codes of comic books, cinema and video games meet in playful ways and contain an unequivocal promise. This meeting reflects the logic of merging, integration and conjunction in the competitive arena of media industries; and this economic shaping of cultural products creates new aesthetics that force us to rethink film adaptation, and specifically the adaptation of comic art, not only as a process but as a perceptible space due to its instantaneous transactions and interactions with other cultural forms. Films 300 and Wanted activate this financially exact, yet anti-cinematic moments that are not only a statement on their identity as a hypertext and a hypotext (see Chapter 1 for the definition of a hypotext and hypertext) all together, they are spaces that function as a super-metatext that is not a reading of the graphic novel, but a reminder of the ways that the audience can communicate or should communicate with this cinematic products, in the sense that they promise an experience through the coding and framing of action that hyperconsciously refers to a posterior text: the video game.

In his work on nonlinear narrative, Bruce Isaacs comments that one of the main characteristics of contemporary cinema that has been described as New Punk is the “hyper-revisionism of its content, aesthetically and thematically. The cinematic image is a commentary on film, and by extension, a running commentary on itself.”[9] In the case of 300 and Wanted the cinematic image is also a commentary on the economic shaping of the blockbuster post-celluloid adaptation and on video gaming and therefore it is questionable whether the image is still cinematic or it becomes a new media object. This chapter will focus on how 300 and Wanted can be seen as hyper-revisionist examples in a way that is more complex than Isaacs' understanding, but still meets the latter's observation in his book Toward a New Film Aesthetic (2009) about a body of work that attempts to theorize an alteration in the ontology of the cinematic image with an emphasis on how this new ontology can be seen as a site of meaning. One of the key arguments of Isaac's work is that the term metacinema acquires a new meaning, which refers to a visual cinema as spectacle that does not simply comment on the making of cinema; it constructs the mise-en-scène and other elements of cinematic language in ways that transform the traditions of realist cinema into simulacra (moments of likeness to and nostalgia for cinema prior to digital cinema or virtual cinematography) through hyperconscious references to cinema's vernaculars. Isaacs writes that “the ‘new’ cinematic image, divested on the burden of the Real, draws attention to itself as a component of a manufactured media. But it also declares its rejection of the once glorified ontological status of the image as reproduced reality (Bazin).”[10] The film texts in question do not only perform cinema through generic play and cinematic quotes; they perform the grammar of comic books and video games in a way that challenges the limits and traditional techniques of cinema. Sin City (Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, 2005) is probably the film that introduced this highly stylized iconography of comic books to the point that Bolter uses the word “faithful” to describe the relationship between Frank Miller's graphic novel (1991) and its filmic adaptation.[11] While, Sin City's relationship to its source text establishes an “obvious” faithfulness due to the remediation of the comic's color palettes and the stylization of the characters, the films in question are used to exemplify a multifaceted relationship between cinema, comic books, and video games that is manifested through moments that explicitly affirm and communicate the logic of financial diversification.

This dialectic of transition between the graphic novel and post- celluloid cinema also verifies the logic of remediation as there is an overtly visible imitation of style and form that exists in recent film texts such as 300 and Wanted, which are based on Frank Miller's 300 (1998) and Mark Millar and JG Jones' Wanted (2003) graphic novels. Certainly the contemporary graphic novel itself remediates or adapts to a significant extent the images of exploitation films such as the glorification of violence, the a la Russ Meyer voluptuous representation of the female body and the bodies of wretched characters, which are of course maintained and amplified through the ways comic book artists treat such stereotypes and gore with their drawing styles in an attempt to bring together the underground comix movement and the guilty pleasures of cult cinema much like the graphic novel Wanted does. In addition there are examples of films that have been adapted into graphic novels such as the horror cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Terminator, and the Alien Saga; these are but a small number of titles that display a cross-borrowing of familiar icons and narratives between moving and static images.

However, the films in question are closer to Bolter and Grusin's (2000) understanding of the double logic of remediation where in the case of Wanted and 300 the filmmakers seem to desire to erase the limits of the medium of the graphic novel by replacing static images with exhilarating motion and blood spraying effects.[12] However, these films perform the narrative and visual style of their source texts through time-segments that are neither filmic in the traditional sense of realist film narrative nor static; thus immediacy or reality do not seem to be the desired effect here, but believability is the key word. Bolter suggests that remediation also “describes a particular relationship in which homage and rivalry are combined” and based on this assumption it is obvious that films based on comics such as the case studies in question aim to challenge traditional filmmaking by representing far-fetched images convincingly through the appropriation of the traditional representational codes and texture of cinema; however, they do not offer new narrative possibilities as in the case of interactive television or computer games.[13] What is new about digital cinema's transactions with the comic art then?

According to Isaacs' analysis of the bullet-time effect in The Matrix virtual cinematography transcends the limitations or realist patterns of traditional cinematography, hence it forms a new aesthetic, where the image is not dictated by a realist mise-en-scène and narrative in terms of spatial and temporal ordering of a sequence or shot.[14] Wanted and 300 include similar hypermediated in-between moments or segments that contain an inherent promise for an active engagement with the product or products that will emerge from a number of adaptations, a promise of immersion (see Figure 5.1). These moments are examples of a mutual process of remediation, and therefore I argue that they purposefully lose their identity or reference to a specific media ontology within this process, not because they may seem to disrupt the traditional relationship between the spectator and the text, or the realist codes of cinema, but because they create (apart from a new aesthetic) a new mixed discourse, that visually confirms or reconfirms the logic of transmedia storytelling by promoting the ways with which the viewer/user can communicate with this product.

Figure 5.1. One of the many in-between moments in Wanted.


Static, moving and immersive become one in the form of a promise for coauthoring through the purchasing of coproducts that will complete the seemingly self-contained narrative of the main product. When the character of Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) directly addresses the audience asking them “what the fuck have you done lately?”, this being the final line of the film, he is essentially inviting the audience to act, to become an action hero like him, to experience his shift. The film ends where the video game could start as a response to his question. This choice is the last of a number of devices and techniques that aim to build a relationship between Wesley, who is introduced as an everyday individual, and the spectator. The video game is a powerful medium that reinforces this relationship not just through psychological reactions, but through physical reactions as well. While the filmic and video gaming conventions construct together an experience that might arguably fulfill the desire for immediacy, the status of the origin of this prolonged narrative confirms a shift in the way hierarchies have been perceived within the context of film adaptation studies. This practice does not challenge or reaffirm the cultural status of the origin of the main product in terms of elevated values of authorship as in the case of literature to film adaptation, even though fans of the art of the graphic novel might be a bit skeptic about film adaptations based on comic artworks. Still, I am referring to authorial values that were essentially shaped by educational systems and cultural institutions. When the comic book or the graphic novel enters this process of post-celluloid adaptation it reinforces Bolter's understanding of a transference that in this case erases the specificity of visual elements appearing in the shot(s). Although a number of film reviewers such as Roger Ebert express the view that the film adaptations of both Sin City and 300 are faithful to the drawings of Frank Miller,[15] I would argue that both films and especially 300 are faithful to the ontology of digital cinema as defined by Manovich (see Chapter 2).

The filmic case studies examined here epitomize practices that illustrate the cinegratography of motion through a playful manner that clearly refers to the techniques that are used to express motion in comic books or graphic novels . As a result the way violence is portrayed in the specific film texts tends to break away from traditional filmic practices due to the borrowings of visible elements from the stylistic agendas of the graphic novels. Thus cinema moves toward a process whereby live action footage becomes graphic in order to aestheticize blood/bleeding and amplify the balletic attributes and artistic explorations of slow motion violence. This action is complemented with graphic rather than photographic elements that were previously impossible to add seamlessly or hyperconsciously in films, but these elements were and still are inherent in the language of comic books.

The Matrix franchise has arguably initiated this intensification and acceleration of the in-between hypermediated moments with the refinement of the bullet time effect. It seemed that through this process there was also an attempt to remediate the illustrations or drawings in comic book panels through a hybrid image where the bullets and the visual representation of their speed can be visible through slow motion, while the camera moves around the action at a normal speed. The fact that the film is heavily influenced by comic books reinforces this observation along with the webcomics that were featured on the official website of the franchise; what the frame contains is an impossible and un-filmable action that is realized through virtual cinematography and graphic elements. This effect replaces several cuts by splicing shots captured from different cameras, which were positioned in a circle to surround the action. The dynamic visibility of the bullet in this image represented through a graphic motion line suggests a very slow span of time while the camera moves at normal speed. The virtual cinematography contributes to the creation of a continuous space as a background while the span of time that the iconic representation of the bullet suggests, is essentially steps before freeze frame; this in-between moment is both a remediation of the comic book vocabulary,[16] but it is also a moment that can work as a site of meaning not only about cinema itself but about the transition of time and space from graphic novels to cinema. The obvious difference here between the comic book vocabulary and cinematic form is the virtual camera movement, but like in comic books the way a bullet-time shot is constructed does not suggest an instantaneous moment of time, on the contrary it provides a sense of duration along with the dynamic virtual cinematography. In other words, this virtual camera movement simulates cinema by providing the illusion of movement in a comparable way to stop motion animation, but at the same time bullet-time shots splice together static and moving images to create a dynamic sense of unity by erasing the limitations of editing and by effacing the limitations of a comic book's gutter,[17] in the sense that we are given a complete view of the space of the action without different panels or shots offering fragmented perspectives of the fight choreography.

In the opening sequence of the film, the almost static image of Trinity's acrobatic move, just after the police officer attempts to cuff her, triggers this manifestation of impure cinematic moments in the film. Interestingly, the acrobatic move retains a sense of duration, while Trinity's opponent freezes. This connotes that Trinity is a lot faster than a normal human being and the sound effects highlight this idea. Despite the fact, that Isaacs uses this moment as an example that initiates a rethinking of the aesthetics of contemporary cinema, this effect may also trigger a discussion concerning the coexistence of another cultural form within this shot that its elements have obviously been transferred “in terms appropriate to the remediating media form.”[18] The whipping-like sound of Trinity's rise replaces the dynamic lettering of nonverbal sounds in comic books. Thus, sound in this case provides a very brief sense of time and not a single moment in time in a manner analogous to the system or “effects” created in comic book panels to connote the concept of time. In addition, the same sound that is used to dress the motion of Trinity, replaces another dynamic element of comic books that suggests duration of time: the motion line. Motion lines are actually reproduced for other applications of the bullet-time effect in The Matrix in a style that can only quote motion lines in comic books. There are a number of other elements that allude to the iconography of comic books such as the use of extreme high angle shots framing Trinity's fight choreography in the opening sequence of The Matrix Reloaded, but the main focus is on moments whereby the graphic and the photographic is combined in ways that renders the cinematic image as something else, an arrangement of digital bits rather than narrative beats that underline post-celluloid cinema's ability to reinvent itself through its interaction with other forms. The co-presence of different media forms reemerges in a similar fashion and other manifestations in Wanted and 300. This recurring pattern undoubtedly communicates a new trend, where moments in films challenge the seemingly seamless visual whole through a hyperconscious encoding of visual patterns that are appropriated in a playful manner. These films do not only perform cinema, they perform comics through moments that are neither moving nor still, neither photographic nor graphic. Digital Cinema now claims an imaginary that was only possible through the static iconography of comic books.

The story of the graphic novel Wanted unfolds around the character of a white collar worker who learns that he is the offspring of a murdered super-villain who belonged to an underground society of super-villains that became rulers of the world after a battle with superheroes. The super-villains run things in secret sustaining thus a belief in the world of the novel that super-villains and superheroes are fictional. The main character gradually discovers his superhuman gun shooting precision and joins the fraternity to refine his abilities and become a killing machine. The film version tones down the superhero genre elements and maintains the idea of a secret society of professional killers with special abilities that are motivated by a mythic textile mill device named the loom of fate that indicates potential threats that need to be exterminated. There are a lot of differences in the film's narrative since there is a different premise, however the film maintains the “nobody” main character who develops from act to act through situations that involve moral dilemmas that he needs to transgress almost immediately, unlike in the graphic novel, where the character behaves violently without going through mental conflicts. The persona and physique of the leading actor James McAvoy suggests a radical transformation from an everyday individual to a killing machine, thus there was immediately a need for a less dark narrative. The gory in-between action in the film is overtly performed, therefore it moves away from realist representations of violence in order to retain certain elements of the graphic novel's drawing and choreography.

The film 300 desires to generate a style, which is closer to the mythology of the source text than to a realist depiction of the historical battle of the Hot Gates between the Spartans and the Persians. The film is clearly stating its source by replicating the aesthetics of the graphic novel; the illustrative feel of the backgrounds and the painterly look of blood spraying in battle sequences aim to establish a relationship that highlights the artistic validity of the graphic novel and both endorses and transgresses Stephens Prince's following comment: “cinema in the new millennium is in transition from one mode of perceptual registration to another, and one of the striking ironies of this in-between period lies in the efforts of digital filmmakers to retain a film look […] even as that medium is disappearing.”[19] The adaptation of the graphic novel seems to be a process that creates a new post-celluloid impurity that refers to the rejection of a nostalgic drive or nostalgic debris in terms of exhibition. Digital cinematography is stranded on the island of the in-between; the impure in-between moments analyzed here are materializations of this condition. However, Bolter writes that “it is not clear that our culture wants the holodeck,”[20] in other words, a digital screen that reconfigures cinema's ontology. Wanted and 300's new in-between cinema is expressed through slow motion, and even though slow motion is not a new expressive choice, the manner in which it is used allows for the copresence of diverse visual codes.

Stephen Prince in his essay “The Aesthetic of Slow Motion Violence in the Films of Sam Peckinpah” examines the filming techniques of gunplay or battle sequences as developed by filmmakers such as Kurosawa in The Seven Samurai (1954), Arthur Penn in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and Peckinpah in The Wild Bunch (1969).[21] These sequences are montages of live action footage captured by multiple cameras, which intercut abrupt slow motion inserts with normal speed. According to Prince the first two films are key texts of the development from bloodless violence to a controversial stylized violence in Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah's gunplay sequences involve slow motion shots that show details such as squib work, crosscut with normal temporal rhythm shots. It seems that Prince and Isaacs suggest a similar point which concerns the disruption of time and space, however the first raises this point while examining the poetic or artistic effect of slow motion against violence as spectacle. Slow motion was used as an artistic expression of the moment of death, even though audiences reacted differently to such scenes, whereas the alterations of a film's temporal rhythms within a violent sequence today tend to demonstrate a hypermediated environment that quotes not only cinematic moments, but the vocabulary of other media forms such as Comic Books and Video Games as in the case of Wanted and 300. Even though, there is arguably a different way of thinking behind the cinematic structure of violent sequences now and then it seems that there are similarities since slow motion is also used today to enhance the balletic and acrobatic performances of the actors' physical responses to violence. Prince writes that “the bulk of the visual attention in the slow-motion inserts is devoted […] to the body's loss of volitional control over its actions”[22] and continues to interpret these visualizations as moments that rob the body of its intentionally responsive personality. Prince notes that the artistic transformation and tension that Peckinpah sought through these moments in order “to create a socially beneficial effect”[23] was not received as such, on the contrary, it was seen as pleasurable or too real. While Peckinpah's social agenda failed, these moments do operate as a combination of plastic and realist cinema by depicting space and time as “unstable entities,”[24] and by offering a truthful or authentic physical response of the characters to bodily pain and violent death.

I examine here one of the in-between sequences in 300 where two Spartan soldiers engage in a perfectly choreographed, thus plastic fight with a significant number of opponents. The sequence's duration is about two minutes long and there are only two cuts, after the first cut there is a two shot, which is a very brief exchange of lines between the two Spartans and then the director cuts to a wider camera shot and the action starts again. This decision seems to be similar to the continuous virtual camera of video games and the in-game dialogue moments, or cinematics where the action pauses so that the gamer can move to another level or for the story to develop or simply to add a cinematic feel to the gaming experience. The way blood is sprayed in this sequence cannot possibly aim for immediacy or realism as the action is obviously manufactured so as to look cartoonish. The scene develops through a variety of motion speeds from slow motion to normal temporal rhythm and abrupt alterations between fast and normal rhythm moments to enhance the exhilarating feel of the carnage. The representation of the characters cannot be better described than Roger Ebert's comparison to professional wrestlers: the film “has one-dimensional caricatures who talk like professional wrestlers plugging their next feud.”[25] Thus violence in the film is a spectacle that is simulated and performed in the way bloodless violence is performed in WWE arenas. The graphic rather than photographic quality of the blood enhances the fakeness of the action through the hyperconscious intersection of comic art and video game violence. Similarly to The Matrix the different temporal rhythms of motion and digital compositing replace the gutter between comic book panels that according to Scott McCloud allow the reader to mentally interact with the comic art's fractured imaginary and thus create a unified action and idea.[26] McCloud writes that this structure offers “a staccato rhythm of unconnected moments”;[27] although the action and choreography of the sequence under discussion is not unconnected, it still offers a staccato or fractured rhythm by inserting slow motion and then back to normal temporal rhythm within the same shot, effacing in a way both the traditional montage sequence and comic book's unconnected moments.

The structure of one of the most violent gunplay sequences in Wanted imitates the virtual camera conventions of a video game and also includes moments of conventional camerawork to reinforce the fact that the spectator is watching a movie sequence and not a video game trailer. Thus, the main character is framed in a similar way a third-person shooter is framed in a video game and this is juxtaposed with subjective points of view to maintain the subjective motion shots or subjective time warp shots which represent the superhuman ability of the main character, who can bend time and space in a way that allows him extraordinary shooting precision. The composition of these subjective point of view shots is organized in a way that is similar to a first-person shooter video game with opponents popping up in the screen space forcing the main character to react immediately and quickly like a gamer would do to avoid losing. The whole set-up of the scene feels like a video game level and this is reinforced by the fact that while the main actor runs through this space he collects ammunition from his dead enemies and switches guns in mid-air, which is also a direct reference to the dynamic choreography of the graphic novel toward the final pages where Wesley confronts Rictus and his gang. During this in-between sequence there are slow motion inserts that essentially allow for the addition of graphic elements that transform motion and violence so as to complete this hypermedia frenzy that renders these moments as something that exceeds narrative cinema. In his work on Cinema in the Digital Age Nicholas Rombes writes about a “hyper-awareness of self […], when the role of the spectator assumes an ever more visible role in the arrangement of a film's structure.”[28] Rombes briefly discusses literary reader-response theory to develop his hypothesis of an implied viewer. During the in-between moments in films like Wanted and 300 the viewer does not simply relate the schemata contained in the film itself in order for the film to be brought to life, but the relationship of the viewer with these carefully controlled moments becomes more complicated: the viewer is an implied video-gamer and an implied consumer at the same time. This relationship verifies the hypothesis that the in-between moment as discussed here is something anti-cinematic or post-cinematic as the implied film viewer momentarily assumes other roles, that are relevant to a wider media structure that is not specific.

In his essay “In Defense of Mixed Cinema”[29] Bazin used the term filmed theater to describe the film adaptations of Shakespearean plays such as Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), but did not perceive cinema's attempt to master the theater repertoire as something negative or decadent, on the contrary, it was a “proof of maturity.”[30] Bazin's defense of mixed media also underpins the in-between moment hypothesis as he pointed out that “cinema draws into itself the formidable resources of elaborated subjects amassed around it by neighboring arts during the course of the centuries.”[31] Should we make use of a term like filmed graphic novel to describe the adaptations under consideration in the same way the comic book uses the word novel to indicate a process of rediscovery? Cinema's “independence” as an art form lies in its unique ability to absorb/understand other forms and expressive experimentation as it technologically evolves. It may be argued that the remediation of the comic art's vocabulary serves as evidence of cinematographic maturity in the digital age, but these in-between moments are evidence of a more complex logic, which generates this explosion of media forms in contemporary cinema: a post-celluloid adaptation at large; a carefully controlled process that creates a cultural hegemony, which expands across media by building the illusion of a perpetual incompleteness.[32]



[1] Stephen Weiner, Faster than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel Stephen Weiner (New York: NBM Publishing, 2003), 17.

[2] Roger Sabin, Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art (London: Phaidon, 2008).

[5] Bazin used this concept in his essay “In Defense of Mixed Cinema” to describe the influence other cultural forms such as theater and the novel had on filmmaking. In Andre Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol. I, Hugh Gray, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 53–75.

[6] Jay David Bolter, “Transference and Transparency: Digital Technology and The Remediation of Cinema,” Intermédialités 6 (2006): 26.

[7] Bolter, “Transference and Transparency.” Bolter borrows this analogy from Janet Murray, who uses the holodeck from the television series Star Trek to describe the ultimate form of digital media. Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997).

[9] Bruce Isaacs, “Non-Linear Narrative,” in New Punk Cinema, ed. Nicholas Rombes, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), 137.

[10] Bruce Isaacs, Toward a New Film Aesthetic (New York: Continuum), 137.

[12] Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (London: The MIT Press, 2000).

[16] Scott McCloud uses the word “vocabulary” to refer to the iconography of comic books. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (New York: HarperCollins, 1993).

[17] McCloud explains that the “gutter” is the term used to describe the dividing space between panels. Understanding Comics, 66.

[19] Stephen Prince, “The Emergence of Filmic Artifacts: Cinema and Cinematography in the Digital Era,” Film Quarterly 57, 3 (2004): 32–33.

[21] Stephen Prince, “The Aesthetic of Slow Motion Violence in the Films of Sam Peckinpah,” in Screening Violence, ed. Stephen Prince (London: The Athlone Press, 2000).

[25] Roger Ebert, 300 movie review, rogerebert.com

[28] Nicholas Rombes, Cinema in the Digital Age (London: Wallflower Press), 58.

[29] Andre Bazin, What is Cinema? Vol. I, Hugh Gray, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

[32] Rombes notes that “one of the consequences of the digital turn is that forms of entertainment and art […] are perpetually incomplete. The model here is something like Wikipedia, where individual entries are updated at every moment.” Nicholas Rombes, Cinema in the Digital Age, 43. The author of this book introduced the term Incompleteness in a previously published essay “Film Remake or Film Adaptation? New Media Hollywood and the Digitizing of Gothic Monsters in Van Helsing,” in, Fear, Cultural Anxiety and Transformation: Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films Remade, eds. John Marmysz and Scott A. Lukas (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009), 243–263.