Rumors are circulating again that an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s stellar comic book Y: The Last Man is not completely, totally, absolutely dead. In fact, if those whispers are to be believed, Louis Leterrier himself is interested in resurrecting the recently dead project.
With that optimism on the line, I’d like to politely offer 7 things for the filmmakers to think about while tackling the best graphic novel that Stephen King has ever read.
Knock Us Out Early
There is a chance here for the opening sequence to crush audiences. It’s shown vividly in the comic book, and bringing the vision of every man on earth dying with blood burbling out of his eye sockets could be even grander on the big screen. Hook us with a jaw-dropping, global death sequence, and we’ll be on the line for the rest of the run time.
Be Careful Casting Yorick
Earlier in its production history, the name Shia LaBeouf was tossed out as a main contender. This was for two reasons. 1) D.J. Caruso was directing and b) everyone was suggesting LaBeouf for every role ever.
However, this casting is completely wrong. For one, whoever plays Yorick can’t come to the role with baggage – so it needs to be someone who is not nearly as well known or type-cast as LaBeouf. However, the difficulty there is finding someone who can demand the kind of budget the film needs while not having his name overshadow the character. That could prove challenging.
Secondly, a lot of people I talk to seem to think Yorick is a bumbling sort of geek (which would have been perfect for Lebeouf). This baffles me because I always read the character as an offbeat, charismatic winner. He might do nerdy-old magic, but he’s also from a wealthy family, has a super attractive girlfriend, and is brimming with confidence and one-liners. Plus, it won’t be a travesty to reverse the skinny-geek-becomes-hero trend going on in films right now.
Back when D.J. Caruso was going to helm the project, he mentioned that he would go live-action on Ampersand – Yorick’s pet monkey. No CGI. This is a definite must. Ampersand plays a big role in the story and would be on screen nearly as much as Y. A CGI monkey would look absurd, and has the potential to ruin the entire film. If you don’t want to spring for the cost of a real monkey, cast Shia in the role.
Keep the Humor
Any adaptation of this graphic novel needs to be categorized as a comedy. Sure, every man gets brutally killed, there’s a post-disaster feel to the society, and there’s a lot of breasts being cut off all over the place, but the damned thing is hilarious. Not only are Yorick’s remarks clever, but the book even uses slapstick-esque events like Ampersand throwing his poop or getting loose to facilitate serious plot points. Without all that comedy, the film will seem far, far too heavy. Plus, comedy shows us humanity in the darkest times. Please don’t make Y into The Road.
Don’t Sell The Amazons Short
Talk about a challenge. Most American filmmakers have no idea what to do with female characters. They especially fumble the ball when those characters are strong. The Amazons are incredible characters, and there’s a real chance here to develop an amazing female villain. A memorable, bad ass, female villain. It’ll take hard work, but don’t over-sexualize or trivialize those women. Make them well-rounded and fierce, and you’ll most likely create an iconic figure that stands out from other films. Especially other comic book films.
Don’t Lose Focus
It might seem easy or tempting to structure the film solely around Yorick and his story or simplify it (please see next entry) by making it a cross-country adventure to go find his girlfriend. The story is so much more than that. Spread the wealth by focusing on Yorick, Hero, and those wacky Israeli military bad asses. Give every character the story they deserve and it will match the tone of the book and create something more dynamic than the usual hero’s journey.
Plan For the Future
As you may have noticed, most of my suggestions come directly from the first collection of comic books. That’s because there’s no need to condense all ten into one film. That might seem like a gamble (not being able to tell the rest if the film doesn’t prove itself monetarily to a studio), but shoving that much story into a flick would either leave out a ton of great stuff or feel far too cramped. Develop it as a trilogy and split the books up that way. There’s plenty of material to work with, and there’s nothing that should keep you from swinging for the sequel fences right off the bat.