Comic books adaptations are all the rage these days, and even if Marvel and DC seems to have taken the lead, Dark Horse comics have gotten into the mix on occasion. Well, this weekend has two films that had been ‘inspired’ by comic books and one of them is director Robert Schweitzer’s “R.I.P.D” that had been inspired by the comic book series written by Peter Lenkov and illustrated by Lucas Marangon. I wasn’t expecting much with this comic book adaptation, and even with Jeff Bridges’ amusing performance it comes off as your poor man’s “Men In Black” because it just lacks the creative morbid humor that made the comic series work.
Veteran Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is a cop who wants to do right by himself and to his wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak). Despite his concerns with money, Nick always seems to try and choose the high road. And this ends up with him not only being killed in action, but he now finds himself in some sort of afterlife for deceased policemen. Recruited by Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), Nick is partnered up with a veteran cowboy R.I.P.D. lawman called Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges). The two go about their routine arrests until they stumble onto something big; big as in “apocalyptic Huge” and Nick’s old partner Bobby (Kevin Bacon) may be involved.
I do have to admit that while “R.I.P.D.” isn’t part of my monthly comic book purchases, since it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I did manage to read several issues of the series. What made it work was the clever art that gave it a colorful upbeat look, some gooey effects and its morbidly dark sense of humor. It was dead cops and demons, as the demons hatch their own schemes to take control of the material world. It was clever in the ways it used real-world stuff with the occult. That while it wasn’t that groundbreaking, it made for an entertaining read because of its blend of playful comedy and horror elements.
Well, this film has merely been inspired by the comics and so while it has the core set up of the plot intact, it is different. Latino Nick Cruz has been replaced by an American called Nick Walker. While some of the changes did work for its storytelling purposes, it did fall into that huge area of predictability. I am not sure what screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi were thinking, they had the right material to come out with something fresh, and yet, they seemed to have chosen to ignore the material’s strong points and instead, they decide to have the adaptation wrapped around a movie built for its lead performers. Gone are the creative characters that made the comic book work, and instead the creatures we get all look liked “Mr. Hyde” from that other comic adaptation (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). The story is very contrived, and it lacks the clever touches of the source material. This is just another ‘buddy flick’ at heart, as we get to see Reynolds and Bridges just exchange banter (sometimes funny often boring). The two struggle to create a chemistry that is vital to this type of movies.
I guess one change I did kind of like (okay, again I only read some of the early issues) was the use of the avatars. I thought this presented a real opportunity to make jokes and make me laugh, but the direction just did not have the proper timing in making that Chinese Guy (James Hong) and the sexy supermodel (Opal Pavlenko) work to its advantage. The jokes were there, but unfortunately the best jokes about the avatars were all seen in the trailer. I think this was one of those films that had been ruined by its own trailer, as I barely laughed let alone even smiled. Mary-Louise Parker did present some credible humor as with the set up for the R.I.P.D., but they all looked so familiar that I found myself not really interested. Nick and Roy do come as cops with the ‘old guard and the new guard’ , and they work in some ways, if it wasn’t for Bridges’ performance (who channles his inner "True Grit"), the film would’ve failed miserably.
The special CGI effects weren’t all that impressive but then again, they also weren’t all that bad. The creature designs have that monstrous zombie look that made them feel weird but without personality. The action comes usually with some comedy into them, and some shots came as a homage to the comic books. But this was all standard fare, and the action wasn’t anything we’ve seen before. They lacked emotional content and so when the action came, it was all shallow because it did not have that sense of urgency. Really? who many times have we all seen an ancient artifact dangerously close in bringing the apocalypse? The plot devices were all very predictable and uninspired. To make things worst, it does not really develop the devices it had introduced, and so intended funny scenes became relatively dull, and so once you get to the action, you really wouldn't care anymore.
“R.I.P.D.” is one film that should’ve embraced its B-Movie potential, and stuck much closer to the source material. I am glad that comic books are becoming the rage these days, and I understand that the good comes with the bad, but really, this was a wasted opportunity to introduce something fresh to mainstream fans. I just couldn't get into it because it felt like a film I have seen many times before. Yeah, it wasn’t terrible, thanks to Bridges’ wit and deliver, but it is nothing more than a RENTAL for fans of the comics and a skipper to everybody else. [2 Out of 5 Stars]
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