Directed by Paul Goodwin, Future Shock! is a terrific new documentary which looks at the history and influence of the long-running weekly British comic book magazine 2000 AD (still being published after nearly forty years).
The film takes us back to the England of the mid-70s, a period of bleak prospects for the young, ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher in office, crippling garbage strikes, a modern day Jack the Ripper on the loose in Yorkshire, and punk rock just waiting to explode. It was within this simmering cauldron that the controversial weekly comic book magazine Action was first born out of in 1976. Withdrawn from sale not long after its debut due to concerns over its strong depiction of violence (particularly in a youth gang story called ‘Kids Rule, O.K.!'), editor Pat Mills retreated (by his own admission and lingering regret) to the relative safety of science-fiction, where violence could be more tolerated since it was depicted in a fantasy setting.
2000 AD was a hit, mostly with its prime target audience of younger males, from the moment it appeared on the UK newsstands in February of 1977. The popularity of Star Wars later that year only helped its cause. Soon, older teenagers and even young adults started digging the combination of futuristic ultra-violence with stories containing clear and often clever observations and commentary on the social, political and moral climates of the times. This was particularly evident in 2000 AD’s most popular creation, Judge Dredd, who dishes out tough and merciless justice (“I am the Law”) in the futuristic dystopian American metropolis of Mega-City One. It was the curious and unique mix that came from English writers and artists doing their take on American culture and society, which made the Judge Dredd stories so fascinating.
Featuring interviews with Brian Bolland, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Mills and many more artists, writers and creators, Future Shock! celebrates the history and success and great times of 2000 AD, but the downsides of the industry and working with the publisher (Fleetway Publications) are not left untouched. A familiar story within the comics industry, artists and writers had to sign the rights to their work away if they wanted to cash the check, and editor Pat Mills had to guide the comic’s survival through the wholesale poaching of much of its best talent by DC/Vertigo in the US.
Also discussed are the clear influences which Judge Dredd had on Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987), as well as the two official live-action Dredd films: Danny Cannon’s awful Judge Dredd (1995) starring Sylvester Stallone (which flopped both creatively and commercially) and Pete Travis’ Dredd (2012) starring Karl Urban (which made even less money at the box-office than Stallone’s version, but was a terrific, violent and much more faithful adaptation of the character and his environment. One of the best and certainly most underrated comic book adaptations of recent years, and an amazingly trippy experience in IMAX 3D).
An informative and entertaining look at a comic book title that's been as highly influential as it has been maligned.
Caught up with this amazing documentary a few night back. Directed by David Gregory, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau is a riveting account of the attempt by visionary South African director Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) to write and direct a radical new version of H. G. Wells' classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau . What was initially to be a relatively small budget feature quickly mushroomed out of hand with the signing of Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, and after only a tumultuous few days of filming in North Queensland, the enigmatic and sensitive Stanley found himself unceremoniously dumped from his dream project, the producers and studio (New Line Cinema) fearing he was ill-prepared for the realities of a big-budget shoot, not to mention working with the notoriously difficult Brando and Kilmer. John Frankenheimer was bought in to take over directorial duties on the film, which was universally panned when it finally hit the screen. Stanley's once-promising filmmaking career never really recovered, and the experience virtually sent him into hiding for a long time.
There's a lot more to the story, but best to see and hear it for yourself. If you love docos about filmmaking, and particularly about the chaos and uncertainty of filmmaking, and an artist's struggle to get his unique vision across in a big studio film, you will love Lost Soul. It's out in Australia from Monster Pictures, though I'm now keen to obtain a copy of the US release from Severin Films, which looks to have a lot of bonus material that is unfortunately missing from the local release (which only has the trailer as an extra).