On DVD: Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods
Directed by Patrick Meaney
Starring Grant Morrison, Karen Berger, Warren Ellis, Frazer Irving, Geoff Johns, Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Jill Thompson, Mark Waid and more.
Grant Morrison is one of the most prolific comic creators of our times, and this documentary aims to figure out why.
Grant Morrison is one weird dude. He’s also one of the most surreal comic authors of the last three decades. This documentary – a clip show with interview of Morrison, friends, colleagues and those who have studied him – attempts to follow Morrison’s life and career in order to explain what he is trying to convey in his works and why.
The two main concepts of the film are 1) Morrison’s life experiences with the reflections through his works and 2) Morrison’s beliefs of the comic medium and the superhero idea.
Life wise, Morrison chronicles his distinctive existence from the beginning, going all the way back to his youth in Scotland with his Cold War activist parents. His family’s rebellious lifestyle and acceptance of literature and supernatural beliefs proved to be a strong influence on his ambitious counterculture writings (and lifestyle in general).
Much of the documentary is Morrison going into his beliefs in magic, with experiences in telling friends’ futures, creating sigils (magical seals, which Morrison demonstrates how to make) and even explaining his famed “alien abduction” enlightenment in Kathmandu. These experiences, combined with his global travel and drug use in the 1990s, play a large part in the surreal and psychedelic storytelling Morrison is known for. In particular, The Invisibles is heavily covered as Morrison’s own sigil to spread his newfound enlightenment.
But of particularly more interest (to myself at least) are Morrison’s ideas on superheroes and the comic medium. Going back to his childhood and fear of nuclear bombs, Morrison was captivated by superheroes as a contrasting idea of hope and righteousness to the idea and fear of evil destruction from nuclear war prevalent in the Cold War. Morrison accepts superheroes as an idealized modern mythology to be celebrated, in a world that can be better and more remarkable than our own. This is decently covered going as early as his work on Animal Man to the more recent All-Star Superman, as well as comparisons to the grit and futility used by fellow Brit comic auteur Alan Moore.
Still, Morrison’s mystical beliefs and adventures overshadow this optimistic view for most of the film. However, I’m not sure if that’s a conscious decision or an inadvertent effect of Morrison’s inherent strangeness.
The main issue though with this documentary (aside from the learning curve to understanding Morrison’s thick accent) is that it isn’t a comprehensive look at Morrison’s work. A simple look at Morrison’s bibliography will show a plethora of titles either skimmed over or not even mentioned as this film, some of which probably turned people onto Morrison in the first place, such as Seven Soldiers or his recent work on Batman. Another look will show glossed over bits, such as the Flex Mentallo/Charles Atlas controversy.
The disconnect comes from wanting to learn about Grant Morrison the man, who has had these exotic adventures and has these bizarre beliefs about magic and reality, or Grant Morrison the comic writer, who has written these incredible epics and saga, reinventing classic characters and giving birth to strange and surreal worlds. Most of the comic fan audience would probably want the latter, filled with musings and anecdotes of his prominent works as well as more of his thoughts on superheroes and the comic medium.
But with Morrison, just as explained throughout the film and exemplified in The Invisibles, the man makes the comic writer as so much of him and his experiences go into his works.
With that said, this should probably have been longer than its 80-minute run time. Morrison is a fascinating individual, and this documentary will keep your interest throughout. It just concentrates on some periods and works more than others, leaving you wanting more.
The film is in widescreen. It’s a simple interview documentary with some art and photos spliced in. Nothing visually spectacular of the film itself. There is one instance where Freddie E. Williams II’s name credit during an interview spans the whole screen and lops off an “I” at the end. Someone probably should have fixed that.
The audio is pretty simple. The only rough part is getting used to Morrison’s thick accent, which Berger makes a crack at in the film, so we aren’t alone.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The review copy CineGeek received came in a simple CD jewel case with no extras, so unfortunately we cannot review these portions.
Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods offers insight into a truly remarkable individual. It doesn’t cover as much of his career as I would hope, which will only prove more difficult as time goes on since Morrison doesn’t look like he’s slowing down to let documentarians catch up.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Series 8/10
The Video 4.75/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features N/A
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10