With over 150 stories in recent films coming out of the pages of a comic – superhero or graphic novel, strip or any other variety of the genre – it’s hard to imagine what elements a typical movie adaptation of a comic should contain. But one thing is certain – if there is a production which comes closest to what such a remake would look like, it’s Streets of Rage.
The adaptation of an Israeli comic of the same name by writer Etgar Keret (best known for his short story forming the basis of Wristcutters: A Love Story, and illustrator Asaf Hanuka, who contributed art for the award winning doc-animation feature film Waltz with Bashir), is a fresh take on re-writing one entertainment medium into another by retaining the basic elements and translating the ambience of a comic in a visual piece.
Don’t think superhero movies, don’t think Sin City. Eran May-Raz and Daniel Lazo from Robot Genius, who created the short, have done a wonderful job in transforming one tool of storytelling into another. They utilise fundamental comic book elements, similar to the recent Edgar Wright feature Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Narration appears in square boxes, pulsating to articulate urgency, aggression or another kind of intensive emotion; actions are illustrated through the animated ‘BOOM’ and ‘POW’. But while in Scott Pilgrim those elements are mixed with standard feature film essentials, as well as some gaming motifs, Streets of Rage stays true to its origins. The short film is like a literal translation of the comic to the screen, adding the elements of movement and music, but without taking away the real spirit of the original source. The result – an innovative piece of filmmaking.
The comic itself is an interesting exploration of the idea of ordinary – the original work by Etgar and Asaf consists of six short stories describing different people aspiring for something bigger than life to save them from the ordinary combat of daily routine. At the end of the day, comic books are essentially about overcoming the ordinary. And while generally this is achieved through superheroes, science fiction, sorcery, mythology or adventures of ordinary characters who are experiencing a conflict, in Streets of Rage the ordinary routine is so mundane, the main character would rather make an unlikely trade – he feels ‘sad’ about his life and the lack of anything really terrible that happened “so that I could have rage like that”. It is a curious desire, perhaps, but one that exists fundamentally in the genre – introducing the idea of ordinary vs extraordinary.
All in all, Streets of Rage is essentially a reflection of the exact experience of reading a comic but told through an entirely different medium. An innovative idea of filmmaking, perhaps not completely feasible for feature film production, but one certainly worth exploring.