Kevin Smith

Clerks (1994, Kevin Smith)

Clerks operates on intensity. But it’s mostly dialogue and there’s not a lot of action. So director Smith relies on surprises, whether visual, in dialogue, in plot. At its best, Clerks is creative with its constraints. At its worst, Clerks is lead Brian O’Halloran whining (badly, I might add). There’s a lot of whining. Only O’Halloran is supposed to be the viewer’s POV; Smith structures the narrative from this negative place. That POV allows for a lot of the humor–and it gives Jeff Anderson’s sidekick character more implied depth than O’Halloran gets–but it does get annoying at times. As Clerks progresses, Smith gets a lot less inventive and not just with the filmmaking, but with the narrative.

The film ends up being about O’Halloran and his place in the universe. While it does start with O’Halloran, it’s more about his juvenile behavior in his relationship with his girlfriend, Marilyn Ghigliotti in the film’s best performance. O’Halloran isn’t good and Smith doesn’t know how to direct him to be better. The script requires a lot of charm for the part to work and O’Halloran doesn’t have it. He even gets less likable as the movie goes on and he becomes less and less imposing a protagonist.

Maybe if O’Halloran were actually structured to have everything go on around him, but Smith doesn’t set things up well. Clerks is a lot of solid creative impulses running out of steam before they’re anywhere near finished. Same goes for Smith’s script–he’s got some interesting questions but the answers never surpass mediocre.

Anderson’s fantastic, O’Halloran isn’t. There’s amusing support from Jason Mewes, problematic–but earnest–support from Lisa Spoonauer (in the film’s most problematic role).

Great photography from David Klein, great editing (for the most part) from Smith and Scott Mosier.

Clerks goes from better to worse to a little bit better, but having a strong sense of itself for the finale doesn’t make up for all the time it spends floundering.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kevin Smith; director of photography, David Klein; edited and produced by Scott Mosier and Smith; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Brian O’Halloran (Dante Hicks), Jeff Anderson (Randal Graves), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica), Lisa Spoonauer (Caitlin Bree), Jason Mewes (Jay), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob) and Scott Mosier (Willam the Idiot Manchild).


The Flying Car (2002, Kevin Smith)

Maybe halfway through The Flying Car, I noticed one of the retakes of Jeff Anderson. The short takes place while Anderson and Brian O’Halloran are stuck in a traffic jam. Smith is setting up the viewer for a joke while Anderson sets up O’Halloran for the same one. Great dialogue, excellent performance from Anderson. It’s a fine little thing.

Except then there’s the retake. There are a few of them, two on Anderson, maybe two on O’Halloran. The entire short is unimaginatively shot–Smith either shoots one or the other. No rapid fire exchanges in the same framing (which only happens twice).

Anyway, that retake. Smith shoots it from outside the car, showing the windshield and–presumably–reflections of the world outside. It immediately gives Car a different, better feel. It seems less gimmicky, more natural.

The dialogue and joke are great, but Smith’s lack of imagination hurts Car bad.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kevin Smith; director of photography, Learan Kahanov; edited and produced by Scott Mosier; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Brian O’Halloran (Dante) and Jeff Anderson (Randal).


Batman: The Widening Gyre 6 (September 2010)

655565Maybe DC did the whole “New 52” thing so they’d never have to address the terrible developments in Widening Gyre.

I’d respect them for that motive.

It’s just not a bad finish, with Smith killing off a familiar DC character, but a bad issue overall. Batman breaks into the Fortress of Solitude for a date with Silver. He’s got on his goofy white snow Bat-suit. Smith writes him actual banter with the goat head guy.

Then there’s the callouts to Frank Miller–Smith reveals Batman wet himself in Year One and the idiot shrink from Dark Knight shows up. It’s almost like Smith set out to write a comic to show how not to write Batman.

Oh, I forgot. There’s even banter with Deadshot. Batman ties him up for making a joke, not for committing a crime. It’s hideous.

Smith excessively congratulates himself for his singularly atrocious Batman characterization.

CREDITS

The Blood-Dimmed Tide is Loosed; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, John J. Hill; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 5 (April 2010)

655564Oh, no, it’s another one with potential.

Smith doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger–he just has Bruce running off to avoid it. Bruce and Silver in Aspen, even in the few scenes they have, is terrible. Their trip is juxtaposed against Tim Drake Robin narrating. Smith writes all the Robin narrations the same, so it’s bland but not terrible.

Silver barely has any lines, which is great.

And then Flanagan pays an homage to the sixties show and Smith has a Tim Burton movie line in the dialogue… They’re finally being as obvious as they should be. If Gyre’s just lucky fan fiction, Smith should be aware enough to embrace it.

There’s a slight hiccup towards the end, but it has a surprisingly effective close. Smith all of a sudden decides to be authentic with people’s emotions.

It’s the first nearly okay issue.

I’m going to regret making that compliment.

CREDITS

Mere Anarchy; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 4 (February 2010)

655563Uh, oh, there are getting to be things I like here. Smith has turned it into a domestic–Batman fights crime while Silver waits home for him. The stuff with the new goat guy revealing his face to Bruce too soon is dumb; Smith can only rationalize comic book logic so far.

But it opens with a little bit about the relative lack of danger Silver Age goof villains had–before the Joker appeared (while not technically accurate, Smith sells it)–Smith’s trying things a little again. He’s treating Widening Gyre like it’s disconnected from the other Batman comics, which I do like.

He still writes Silver poorly. One can tell he’s writing the dialogue for Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. He also writes Catwoman poorly–and Flanagan draws her even worse–but he’s trying to give Batman a grown-up problem.

The ambition is nice. Comic’s still lame though.

CREDITS

The Centre Cannot Hold; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 3 (December 2009)

655562This issue’s easily the best and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a romance montage–Bruce and Silver off in paradise during the day, Batman out at night. There’s some stuff with the goat vigilante, who Smith writes like Brody from Mallrats and that scene is awful… and Smith writes Silver awful and the whole thing of unbelievably rich people romancing is lame… But, somehow, the issue is a lot better than expected.

It’s awful to be sure, but Smith’s trying something in his Batman narration. Bruce is learning. These self-observations are trite and beneath Dr. Phil, but Smith is trying.

Flanagan’s art doesn’t help. He gives all the superheroes besides Bruce long, dirty nineties hair. Tim Drake Robin looks like a girl.

Smith does get in an extra guest star–Aquaman–who he writes a little better than Batman, but not much.

I still loathe the comic though.

CREDITS

Things Fall Apart; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 2 (November 2009)

655561More flashbacks, more guest stars… and some fat jokes. The child murderer at the open is practically a lookalike for Silent Bob. Batman keeps thinking of him as the fat guy, but he doesn’t actually catch him, someone else does.

Then Silver St. Cloud shows up. I’m skipping some of the lame narration to get to Flanagan and Smith having a disconnect. Once Silver shows up, Smith’s got Batman going on and on about his age–and Silver’s. Except Flanagan draws them both basically as twenty somethings. Certainly not as people in their late thirties or forties. It’s unclear what Smith’s going for.

Smith writes Silver worse than he writes Batman. He also writes Gordon poorly. Maybe Alfred isn’t terrible. Superman is all right, I guess. But there’s more than enough bad Batman to make up for the rest.

The cliffhanger is a success though, Smith manages a good surprise.

CREDITS

The Falconer; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 1 (October 2009)

655560Leave it to Kevin Smith to try to make Batman sound hip. He also sounds really self-aware, which doesn’t really work for the character. I was half expecting Smith to make a gay joke, but then remembered it’s the one thing DC editorial won’t allow.

This issue has Batman teaming up with Robin in flashback, then Nightwing in present, then heading off on his own to Arkham. All while Smith overdoes the narration. His Batman is desperate to stay relevant–making notes to check pop culture references and so on–while he thinks about retiring the Robin mantle.

If it weren’t for Walt Flanagan’s art, if DC had paired Smith with an established comic artist, Widening Gyre might not read like a vanity project. But with Flanagan–who’s competent but clearly not professional–Smith’s script feels like a long joke at the reader’s expense.

He does pace it okay though.

CREDITS

Turning and Turning; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Green Hornet 10 (December 2010)

gh10.jpg
Smith finally figures out how to pace a comic book. It’s a shame he does it for his last issue.

There’s a lot more Smith-type humor in this issue, which both works and doesn’t. As for his revelation Mulan is a lesbian….

It opens up certain possibilities but closes off a bunch of other ones. He also does it at the very end of the issue so he can turn it into a joke instead of having to deal with it. Given he just got done having the original Kato (oh, yeah, he survived… no explanation) avenge the original Hornet, one would assume Smith would want to establish a strong relationship between the characters.

But no, he just turns it into a joke.

What’s worse, he finally got chemistry between the characters (he was being too clean before).

It’s a harmless series. It might even develop into something good.

CREDITS

It’s in the Blood; writer, Kevin Smith; artists, Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau; colorist, Ivan Nunes; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Green Hornet 9 (November 2010)

gh9.jpg
Ugh. What’s worse than Smith doing three action scenes and calling it an issue? Doing one and, essentially, a chase sequence and calling it an issue.

Sure, there’s some of his banter between Britt and Mulan, but it’s barely banter.

What’s far more interesting about this issue is the supervillains. The young Japanese guy has turned into an outrageous villain, something Smith avoided prepping. Either he skipped it due to space concerns or because, while it works, it’s exceptionally anti-Japanese. Smith’s villain is a too smart man-child out to destroy the U.S. because of WWII. Except he can’t even concentrate long enough for that plan–too many video games, presumably–because he’s so moronic he needs to risk his business profits killing the Green Hornet… and orphans.

Smith actually gives Mulan some character here, but it’s too little, too late.

I think the issue reads in three minutes.

CREDITS

Orphans; writer, Kevin Smith; artists, Phil Hester and Jonathan Lau; colorist, Ivan Nunes; letterer, Troy Peteri; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

Scroll to Top