Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a 2016 USC film-school grad, does a regular feature here called BASED ON, looking at literary works adapted into TV or movies.
As you probably already know, the COVID-19 pandemic forced movie theaters to close. The studios responded by offering their films on VOD (video-on-demand) under the banner: “Early Access.” Interestingly, the move towards paid streaming has created stratified pricing that you wouldn’t see at the theaters. Some 48-hour rentals go for $20, while other films that aren’t selling well carry one-off purchases for five dollars less.
Listed below are the films based on previous source material.
Written by Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan; based on the DC comics characters. Rated R.
The movie gave super team leader Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) a Catholic backstory that I don’t remember from the comics. An opening animation sequence shows an unappreciative Harley left at a convent, where she’s raised by nuns. As an adult, the one photograph on her desk is that of her and two nuns, all smiles. Quinn later adopts a teenager Miss Keo (Anna Mikami) showing her capable of the same nurturing instincts modeled to her by the nuns.
Written by Jeff Wadlow and directed by David S.F. Wilson; based on the Valiant comic character. Rated PG-13.
The film surprisingly asks some philosophical questions that I found neglected in the comic series. On one hand, technology enhances the lives of those soldiers who’ve given limb and, in the case of the title character, life, for country. In another light, we witness the dark side of the military-industrial complex inventing the next best killing machine. Think of it as the best parts of the Paralympics meeting the worst parts of Full Metal Jacket.
written by Michael Green and directed by Chris Sanders, based on the short story by Jack London. Rated PG.
The film follows the anthology style of the London’s story, which I first read in grade school. Be warned, though, the movie used CGI dogs. They're believable enough for humans, but I don’t think it would fool my parents’ Papillon, who usually barks at real dogs on the television. The harsh, unforgiving and largely indifferent nature of the “wild” was nevertheless depicted accurately.
Written by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde based on the novel by Jane Austen. Rated PG. The best of the current early-access VODs. Click here for the full review.
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, based on, the H.G. Wells novella (although uncredited). Rated R.
I enjoyed the original Wells work far better. Out of all the things one could do after having invented invisibility, the film puzzlingly has the title character fake his death and stalk his “widow” (Elisabeth Moss). The book avoids the sporadic, gratuitous violence of the film. Wells’ invisible man starts off as an innocent pest, but believably turns sinister as he can see the power of an invisible terrorist: shuttering schools and putting a town on lockdown. The book is a much more suitable metaphor for our current virus pandemic.
Image: Universal Studios (Invisible Man), 20th Century Studios (Call of the Wild), Warner Bros. Pictures (Birds of Prey)
Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.