As you’re no doubt aware, Comic books have had a long synergistic relationship with the big screen. Even the more serious, and aptly named Graphic novels have inspired filmmakers in both their stories and their techniques. Few names, however, carry the same weight as famed graphic artist Alan Moore’s. When one of his works was adapted in 2001, that began a long relationship of subsequent adaptations. A journey that started From Hell.
In Victorian London, a cabal of prostitutes finds themselves embroiled in the secret of the century as their friend finds herself impregnated by the Prince of Great Britain. Fearful of the scandal of the illegitimate heir, a secret masonic society sends one of their own to fix matters. Soon the girls’ one-by-one end up horrifically dismembered and crack Police inspector Frederick Abberline finds himself on the hunt for the mysterious ripper known as Jack.
For a story as revered as this, it’s a pleasure to that some of the best talents from both sides of the pond have been brought in to do it justice on the big screen. Abberline is captured by the Johnny Depp who has had almost a lifetime experience in playing roles like this and in here feels like the precursor to troubled detectives to come. Aiding Abberline is Francis Urquhart himself playing Abberline’s boss and Robbie Coltraine as suited sidekick Peter Godley. Each feels like they stepped off the page, and the relationship between Abberline and prostitute fills this tragic tale with a current of hope. Like fellow Alan Moore adaptation, Watchmen, it tells a love story interwoven in a historical period wrapped with intrigue.
Taking its inspiration from the graphic novel, From Hell boasts some impressive and striking imagery. The depiction of London does feel accurate with murky streets juxtaposed with picturesque botanical gardens, highlighting the differences between the victims and law enforcement. Abberline’s visions (I’m not sure the real Abberline had visions but I digress) are not the only inventive visuals you’ll see, as From Hell uses some cutting-edge visual effects to help highlight the story. Despite this, it’s not a by-the-numbers adaptation of the graphic novel, so fans of the novel would have a fresh experience and less of a reason not to see it.
By entangling the facts with scandal, conspiracy theories and psychic powers, From Hell manages to make the sordid truth even more gripping. The plethora of talent also helps both on and off the screen. While the main conceit has been disproven, the tale is gripping enough to make you wish it did happen. From Hell is a fantastical journey through a dark point in society, and the fact that a lot of the events did happen, makes you wonder how much of this adaption is the truth the powers that be don’t want you to know?
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