The Source Material
Today marks the inauguration of a brand new column here at Pop Modern, “Tridaptation.” It gives us three writers the chance to not just react to pop culture content, but also to dabble in role-play and wish-fulfillment. Every time this column rolls around, we’ll all focus on a common source material that we love dearly and outline how we’d adapt it to another medium. This week we’re taking a look at Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man, a graphic novel series which focuses on what the world would look like if all men on the planet but one suddenly died. Stick with us as each of us takes a crack at turning this epic into a feature length film.
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Joss Whedon
Main Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Yorick Brown (I’d actually prefer a relative unknown actor for this role, but JGL could play the character perfectly), Danai Gurira as Agent 355, Rinko Kikuchi as Dr. Mann.
Plot: So, here’s my issue with Y: The Last Man as a film adaptation: it’s composed almost entirely of characters traveling and meeting different people. Because of this, it would work perfectly as a TV series, with each season covering a volume of the comics, or branching out and taking the ideas further. Keep the Dr. Mann/355/Yorick/Amp relationship at the center, absolutely keep Altar and her crazy backstory, and for the love of God, just shoot that final scene exactly as it is in the comic. It could be one of the greatest adventure shows of all time, rivaling Lost with an intricate mystery behind it all, and a story that is actually about the characters from the start.
Pitch: If you tied my hands up and absolutely had to make Y into a film, stick to the first few issues or so. If you’re in it for the long haul, whoever writes/directs the picture needs to realize that years and years are passing by that aren’t covered in the comics. And most importantly, realize that Yorick was never and can never be a schlubby nerd learning to talk to girls and be a man. This is why I didn’t choose Jay Baruchel or someone younger for the character; Yorick has sexual experience, a gorgeous girlfriend, and decent people skills. The most interesting part of his character is his death wish and inability to lead well and make decisions, not his awkwardness. Levitt can play young, and Whedon can punch up the dialogue with the right amount of humor. Johnson knows how to shoot both action and quiet conversation, so I think this combo would make a perfect Y: The Last Man something, be it TV or film. I just want it to happen so badly, I’ll take anyone competent at this point. Nobody would choose anyone but Gurira for 355 if they’d seen her on The Walking Dead: those characters line up almost perfectly. And Kikuchi as Mann is not only culturally accurate, but I’d also really like to see the young actress get a chance to stretch her acting chops with two other strong presences for such a long journey.
Main Cast: James McAvoy as Yorick, Jennifer Lawrence as Beth, Rashida Jones as Agent 13, & Ampersand as that one monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean
Plot: The plot would involve the main story points of the books, with only minor glimpses at the external plots. The “other Beth” and the astronauts would probably be cut in order to make time for the series. I think the movie could do a Batmanesque trilogy to really capture the series, as one movie might be a little too rushed for the exploration of the themes. We can have character development and still try and keep the last scene, ala Stanley Kubrik.
Pitch: The Nolans know how to work with comic books. Christopher is known for taking independent movie concepts, and turning them into great blockbusters. He and Jonathan could write a killer adaptation of Y:the Last Man, and make a really cool adaptation of the source material. Nolan is also known for humor within dark movies, which is really what Y:the Last Man is: a combination of terrible events with funny interludes.
James McAvoy would be a great Yorick, as he has the right balance of cool guy and loser, which would play into the movie. Plus he isn’t the most beautiful movie actor, which makes him more suitable for the role. Jennifer Lawrence would be a great Beth, as an unexpected non-heroine role would be a revelation for most of the audience. The character is supposed to be somewhat air-headed, which I think Jennifer could play quite well. Rashida Jones is radically under-appreciated, but I think she could make a great Agent 13, as she proved that she could play a decent action star, even in the movie Wanted.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Main Cast: Andrew Garfield as Yorick Brown, Nicole Beharie as Agent 355, and Rinko Kikuchi as Dr. Allison MannPlot: Open in medias res on the group’s confrontation aboard their train to the Midwest. Tell the events of the first days of the plague and Yorick’s escape from Washington D.C. in flashbacks. Keep everything limited to Yorick’s perspective, finding another way to establish the Israeli stuff. From there, pick the most interesting vignettes to tell (the male astronauts arc, Yorick killing someone for the first time, the Japan arc, and maybe one or two more sequences depending on time constraints).
Pitch: As my cohorts here have pointed out, Y: The Last Man would be tricky to adapt into a single film. It’s a series and a concept that begs detailed exploration. Admittedly, the property isn’t nearly popular enough to sustain a series of films, but it would thrive on television (even as a Netflix series or something like that). Still, let’s pretend for a minute (as we’ve already been pretending for several minutes) that we have to stick to feature length. That means the plot is going to have to be truncated to the vignettes that matter most to the overarching plot. Luckily, Y: The Last Man is built to be modular in that way. It’s best to start somewhere in the story where all the characters are together already so as to not waste time in exposition, letting the D.C. and Boston arcs get filled in with dialogue and flashbacks.
As for the cast, I think we here at Pop Modern are all agreed that you need an everyman who plays dopey and charismatic equally well. Ideally every role would be filled in by relative unknowns, but if we’re aiming for a rising star then Andrew Garfield would be perfect. The other two roles were a little harder for me to fill, since there really aren’t enough African-American or Asian-American women working in the industry right now. Still, Beharie and Kikuchi have respectable resumes and would do well. In terms of the writing-directing team, I figure Vaughn may be the best to re-frame his story. He doesn’t even have to script it, necessarily, just offer a plot outline. I picked Trevorrow as director for his work on Safety Not Guaranteed, a movie which has a similar tonal blend to Y. Plus, the guy’s directing Jurassic World, so he has to have something going for him.