A few weeks ago we were at Graumann’s and saw some five coming attractions. Four of them seemed to be based on “graphic novels.” Actually, one was based on Spiderman, which was still called a comic book when it debuted, before everything got all artsy-fartsy. I’ll tell you what I think, my friends. Comic books are bubble gum. Now, you can chew up a piece of Bazooka (after reading the Bazooka Joe “graphic novel” inside the wrapper), put it on a plate, and cover it with the finest French gourmet sauce, and what do you have? It’s still bubble gum. And these endless movies based on graphic novels are about as appetizing, and as fossilized, as the stuff you could scrape off the bottom of your theater seat, if you want to root around down there.
Which is preamble to saying most emphatically that this film is not bubble gum. It is true fantasy, with a hard base of reality. Very hard; this is a disturbingly violent film, but not a whit of it is gratuitous or unbelievable. This is not a fantasy to take your kids to, even though it’s about a 10-year-old girl. Things are at stake here, real human beings are involved, there is not a heroic hobbit anywhere in sight. The director, Guillermo del Toro, describes himself as a “nerd from Guadalajara.” He has been the graphic novel route with Hellboy—which I sort of liked, here and there—but this is on an entirely new level. And get this: He made it on a budget of $5,000,000! That’s amazing! Five mill was chump change 20 years ago; now it’s in the charge-it-on-your-credit-card range. Hell, Little Miss Sunshine cost $8,000,000! I don’t know how he did it, as the SFX are first rate. See this!