With a budget rumoured in the region of $20 million and a box office return of $1 million, you can see the reasons why Dylan Dog has taken three years to make it across the Atlantic. Box office failure however does not necessarily mean bad film – take Blade Runner or The Shawshank Redemption for example. What does make a bad movie however is the total bastardisation of its source material, which in the case of Dylan Dog is the Italian comic book series of the same name by Tiziano Sclavi. Another aspect to factor in of course is the fact that Sclavi’s comic has been adapted to acclaimed cult status in 1994 with the brilliant Dellamorte Dellamore.
The film is set in New Orleans where we discover Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh), a former private investigator for flesh eating monsters and the like who has since called time on his supernatural affairs for the mundane simplicity of your more traditional P.I. The recent death of a former girlfriend sees Dylan spend his days catching philandering husbands with his wannabe partner Marcus (Sam Huntington) trailing behind him.
They’re called to a new case when the daughter of a wealthy importer asks Dylan to investigate the death of her father. After a preliminary investigation Dylan senses the murder is caused by something dark and sinister, and rejects the opportunity to return to his former career. Later that evening however, Marcus is murdered in grisly circumstances in Dylan’s office which leaves him no alternative but to step in and get to the bottom of this case, and soon enough Dylan once more finds himself in the murky underworld of vampires, werewolves and zombies.
While it’s true that Dylan Dog maintains an awareness of where its origins lie with several nods towards the comic such as Dog’s red shirts (missing from Dellamorte Dellamore!), this only really serves to gloss over the glaring faults than provide any comfort for fans of the source material. Brandon Routh is badly miscast as Dylan Dog – who was created as a penniless investigator, both a surrealist with a strong anti-bourgeois rhetoric. Routh with his clean cut, anaemic, sterile performance is far removed from the world weary detective that we should expect.
Perhaps it’s simply down to the translation that Dylan Dog is such a misfire, after all Dellamorte Dellamore was an Italian production directed by the great Michele Soavi. I think this would be an overly simplistic assertion though, as it’s patently obvious from Sclavi’s work that atmosphere and humour as dark as treacle pervade the pages of his creation. Dylan Dog meanwhile often opts for slapstick humour which raises eyebrows more often than a smile, and its monster orientated face-off at the end is reminiscent of overblown American fantasy rather than European subtlety. My own instinct is that the certification killed the movie, with investors likely to be leaning on the filmmakers to produce a lightweight PG-13 film, suitable for a broad audience – which is exactly what Dylan Dog is not.