I first encountered the legend of Dylan Dog back when I was trying to cover foreign comics while at Comics Scene and then wrote about the film adaptation a while back over at Famous Monster of Filmland. A PI in the world of things that go bump in the night sounded like a lot of fun. That the Italian comic has been running for decades also spoke to its creative spark and the genius of Tiziano Sclavi. Then I saw that this was going to Brandon Routh’s third film based on a comic book and figured he was 1 for 2 so far (entertaining in Scott Pilgrim, not served well by Superman Return’s lousy script) and might improve his average. He had certainly improved as an actor, as witnessed by Fear Itself and his recurring role on Chuck.
The trailers certainly made the movie look lighthearted and wonky, much like the comic source material so there was reason to be encouraged. The movie then opened and closed so fast there was little time to determine what went wrong (and if anything went right). 20th Century Home Entertainment pulled out all the stops (including a fun, interactive Facebook page) to promote the DVD, which arrived last week, making you think maybe this was some sort of overlook gem that just needed better marketing.
Nope. The film is still a creative misfire that pays the barest lip-service to the comics and carved its own niche of awfulness. Set in a supernatural New Orleans, the film features Routh as Dylan Dog, a former PI specializing in monsters but now just down on his luck. He’s lured back in to the world of vampires, werewolves, and zombies by those who wish to keep their existence low key so angry mobs don’t show up on a weekly basis. He’s hired by Elizabeth (Anita Briem), who saw a werewolf murder her father and steal the movie’s McGuffin, the Heart of Belial. Yes, rather than your typical investigation, Dylan immediately gets dragged back into the monster realm in time to prevent the end of the world.
The story moves on with layers of convoluted plotting and nowhere near as much fun as one had hoped. The screenplay from Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Sahara, Conan the Barbarian) once more does Routh a disservice, robbing him of a chance to act and project any charm or character whatsoever. He’s not the only one who should wonder how this mess got a green light because the appealing ensemble includes respected names like Peter Stormare, Sam Huntington, and Taye Diggs. The humor flatlines, especially between Routh and Huntington (who should have played better together since both had the misfortune of being in Superman Returns) the monsters are not scary, and everything has a careworn feel to it. We’ve been there, seen that, and can’t be made to care for a single thing between the opening seconds and the end credits.
Kevin Munroe, who previously gave us the most recent relaunch of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, has the right pedigree and background to have made something from the concept but he shot what was written and never once injected an inventive angle, scene shot, or bit of character business. The film plods along like its undead characters, shuffling from scene to scene, seeking an exorcism to rid it of the demons plaguing it.
This was a movie shot on a tight budget and should have scaled back its story to fit the dollars available. Instead, everything feels tired, overdone and cheap. A potential franchise was wasted and frankly, after saving the world in the first story, where can you go with a sequel?
The home video release looks fine on Blu-ray with a clean and unspectacular transfer. The audio does its job as well.
Despite the tremendous marketing push, the DVD offers up zilch in the way of extras. Not a trailer, no commentary, nothing about the Italian title it stole from…nothing and that’s a disappointment because at least those could have been fun. Clearly, the notion of entertaining the masses was not high on anyone’s mind when work commenced on this flop.
Go find the Dark Horse comes and immerse yourself in those instead.