Saturday Night Comic Book Movie Double Feature: British Edition

I know there are more British movies based on comics than just these two (some of which I’ve already covered, though), but mostly, I just decided it was funny to pair these two together.

Tamara DreweTamara Drewe (2010)

Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe is based on Posy Simmonds’ serialized graphic novel of the same name, and while it’s been a while since I’ve read it, it has the same mood that I remember. It’s full of mostly unlikable but sympathetic characters.

Gemma Atherton as Tamara herself, at least for me, is the easiest for me to relate to. She’s a late bloomer who finds her power and sexuality later and is happy to use it to her advantage. But she also gets angry (justifiably!) when people underestimate her. She’s a troublemaker but she’s earned it.

But all of the characters are imperfect and fun to watch — the cast of this movie is amazing. I especially loved Tamsin Greig’s Beth (but then, Black Books forever!). These are all complicated, troubled people. While their choices aren’t always good ones (or almost, never good ones), they understandable within the context.

The overall plot is meandering and dramatic and mostly deals with the intricate relationships between people. Last-minute drama both feels out of place and appropriate.

Unless you knew the source material (and Simmonds did base her book on Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd), there’s not much here that would indicate this started its life as comic. Frears’ direction is open and honest, and the cinematography, with its lovely, lushcolors, points to a larger feeling and mood. It’s maybe a bit longer than it needs to be and absolutely begins to drag toward the end (I think cutting Simmonds’ book down to the essentials would’ve served this movie more) but still entertaining and a delight.

The comic and the movie seem to compliment each other, though, while being their own things. They make good companions but it’s OK to consume one without the other.

However, I want to see more Simmonds material adapted to film (I know Gemma Bovery is in the works, or was). She has a unique and powerful voice and a good sense of people and storytelling. Her work is uniquely suited to film and she absolutely deserves it.

DreddDredd (2012)

I put an impromptu call out for comics based on British comics and I said “that weren’t the Dredd movies.”

But you know, you take what you can get. And many people I trust responded with “It’s good!” So I decided to watch Peter Travis’ Dredd.

I am a huge fan of dystopian fiction, but I’ve never read the Judge Dredd comics. But regardless, I really loved this more than I expected.

Everything is smoggy and daylit — different from the neon cities of Blade Runner and does provide a great modern update. Most of the movie takes place in the interior of an apartment building, giving it a great “haunted house movie” kind of feel.

We never actually get to know Dredd (Karl Urban), but who cares? The movie is more about the young Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and evil Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). I adore how the rape threat is brought up but minimized (and Ma-Ma shuts it down when she can) and there’s no romance tossed in. The women in this movie are allowed to be who they are. These women are given intelligence and agency in a movie where they didn’t need to be. That’s pretty awesome.

It’s a super stylish and while it has some of that turquoise/orange thing, it’s dirtier and weirder. it’s immediately about this world. It’s not as gory as it could be, thankfully — there’s some blood, but the movie never dwells on it. It’s still a big dumb action movie, but a surprising and satisfying one.

It’s a movie that’s smarter than you expect while still fulfilling the parts that want a dumb action movie. It’s not intelligent cinema, but it’s more fun than expected. It defies clichés and delivers. I think more people need to watch it.

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