Sunday, January 29, 2012

My problems with the film adaptation of From Hell (2001)

The things that the film version of From Hell had going for it was a top-notch cast with the likes of Johnny Depp, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Richarson and Ian Holm who gives a truly terrifying performance as Dr. William Gull who is revealed as Jack the Ripper...

...sorry to spoil the ending.

The film is also atmospheric with both the streets and the prostitutes looking equally as dirty.

Johnny Depp is very good in the film and given his performance in this film and Sleepy Hollow probably 10 years ago he could have starred in a big budget Sherlock Holmes.

Unfortunately, I think moviegoers have readed a bit of a Johnny Depp satuation point given the number of big budget films he has appeared in since the days of From Hell. And this isn't a slam on Depp. I confess I'd probably be the same way as far as work is concerned.

So, at this point in time Johnny Depp name attatched to a blockbuster isn't as much of a draw as Robert Downey Jr. is.

But enough of that. Back to hell.

Apart from Heather Graham, this film seems to have everything going for it as far as being a really great film.

But I find myself on the side of creator Alan Moore as far as my criticisms towards this film.

Although, I do like the fact the film keeps the connection with the Freemasons being involved in Ripper murders, I do not like the changes they made to make the case more sensational.

The biggest thing about the movie that bothers me the most is making Inspector Abberline the psychic in the film. This is not historically accurate. There was an alleged psychic involved in the form of Robert Lees who assisted Abberline on the case.

Abberline isn't the opium addict who dies of an overdoes in his late 30's either. Actually Abberline was happily married and lives to a ripe old age of 86. I suppose this might have been the filmmakers attempt to make Abberline more a Sherlock Holmes type character and give him a vise somewhat similar to cocaine.

Although Moore's original novel might be seen as slow and plodding to some. It makes a better attempt at sticking to the facts rather than trying to make it a sensational and exciting whodunnit. I think the intrigue of the case speaks for itself and doesn't need the extra gloss.

What could have been a really great film becomes a very mediocre effort. I can see why Alan Moore doesn't want his name to be attached to any of these Hollywood efforts. They just do not do his best work justice.

One of these days I hope to see a Jack the Ripper film that sticks to the facts and doesn't try to sensationalize it.


mezzaninedoor said...


I adore the graphic novel 'From Hell' and I really like the film as well, I think you nail the issues with the film however I think the film is still a good adaptation with some great performances, it's a shame in the transition from the novel to the screen some of the judgement calls which normally have to be made where IMHO the wrong ones! Still good fare though and if you don't know the source material you probably would have less issue with it. I guess I would as I wouldn't know the historical accuracy problems.

Though I believe even Alan Moore took some pretty big assumptions given the time between then and when he wrote the novel.

Bret M. Herholz said...

I appreciate how difficult adapting a work can be. You'll never make everyone happy with your take on a story.

The thing I thought the film had going in it's favor was a top-notch cast (except for Heather Graham) and it was very atmospheric. The grittiness of Victorian London and some of the visuals were really nice.

However, I felt like the ruined it from being a truly great film by attempting to make it MORE exciting instead of simply trusting the quality of the original story to speak for itself.

I liked the film until I read the graphic novel and realized it could have been so much more.

mezzaninedoor said...

I read the graphic novel first and the film could have been more than it was but Iv'e seen a lot worse adaptations. It's just a shame it missed the critical mark it could have hit.

nilskidoo said...

I liked the film. I reccomend the directors commentary as well, which explains their reasoning for deviations from the comic.
As for Depp as a Holmes- I never considered that. While I don't think there is much he cannot do acting-wise, I do think he would be rather short for Holmes. For current actors, I would LOVE to see the also-great Chris Eccleston take a crack.