Movies based on comic books have been a mainstay in theatres since the turn of the millennia and began dominating in 2008, when Marvel Studios figured out how to make a compelling narrative with lesser-known characters like Iron Man. DC’s cinematic entries have focused mainly on Batman and Superman but there have been forays with other characters to mixed success. Superheroes may be the obvious link to comic books; movies like The Crow and Hellboy were also based on comics. Even Men in Black was based on a comic. But just being adapted from a comic doesn’t mean the adaptation will do well, as will be seen with R.I.P.D.

R.I.P.D. was first published by Dark Horse Publishing in 1999. The comic, created by Peter M. Lenkov, Lucas Marangon, and Randy Emberlin, focused on the Rest in Peace Department, a unit comprised of dead law enforcement agents charged with making sure the dead remain dead. The comic opens with Sheriff Roy Powell and his partner, former South Side Chicago cop Irish Mckenzie, chasing down one of the dead. The fugitive is sent back to being dead, but McKenzie doesn’t survive the fight.

The story then switches to Detective Nick Cruz, who was gunned down in the line of duty while investigating a possible drug lab. Cruz winds up at a desk in a nondescript room and is given a choice – sign a contract and be allowed to solve his own murder. The catch – the contract forces Cruz to work for the RIPD for one hundred years, chasing down the dead still walking on Earth. He gets paired up with Powell and they start working on Cruz’s murder.

Cruz, however, has one other goal – to see his wife and daughter again. Powell finds him outside his old home, spying. Cruz’s wife has a visitor, his former partner, Nettles. Nettles has brought with him wine and a Barry White CD. Powell tries to drag Cruz off, but they both are interrupted by an APB. Michael’s Sword, a sword forged to defeat Lucifer, has been stolen. While destroying Lucifer is a long-term goal for the Heavenly Host, the current cold war between the two sides works for both. Better the devil you know and all that.

Cruz and Powell remain on solving Nick’s own murder and head to where he was gunned down. The house has new occupants, a young family. Powell suspects something is wrong. While the young mother is human, the baby and its father are dead on Earth. Powell and Cruz handle them, including the cleanup, Under the house’s floorboards is a portal, though one that won’t be in use again now that it’s been discovered.

Cruz and Powell manage to connect Nettles to the house and the drug ring, which is pushing a drug with Underworld substances added. The two dead cops chase Nettles to Hell, interrupting the challenge to Lucifer’s reign. Powell and Cruz recognize Michael’s Sword and bring an end to the challenge. Lucifer allows the cops to take the sword and Nettles out of Hell, expecting Nettles’ return in short order. Powell finishes his contract with that case and moves on. Cruz begins his 100 year-long contract dealing with the dead on Earth.

Dark Horse followed up the original run of RIPD with RIPD: City of the Damned, written by Jeremy Barlow and Drawn by Tony Parker. This new series introduces Roy Pulsipher and Nick Walker, acting as a prequel to the 2013 film, with the focus on Pulsipher’s early years with the RIPD.

Speaking of the 2013 film, RIPD stars Jeff Bridges as Roy Pulsipher, Ryan Reynolds as Nick Walker, Kevin Bacon as Bobby Hayes, Mary-Louise Parker as Mildred Proctor, Stéphanie Szostak as Julia Walker, Marisa Miller as Roy’s avatar, and James Hong as Nick’s avatar. Walker and Hayes are detectives on the Boston Police Department. After a bust, the detectives were left with a stash of gold which they split. Walker buried his in his small backyard under a small orange tree his wife doesn’t believe will survive the next winter. However, Walker gets second thoughts about the gold. Hayes tells him to relax as they roll out to a drug bust. During the bust, Walker chases the dealer deeper into the warehouse and runs into Hayes, who guns him down.

Next thing Walker knows, he’s sitting at a desk in a nondescript room across from Mildred Proctor. Proctor lays it down for Walker – as a crooked cop, he’s bound for one location. There is something he can do – sign a contract to work for the Rest in Peace Department. In return for one hundred years of service, he gets a chance to redeem himself. Walker is assigned to Pulsifer, a former sheriff, who shows the new rookie the ropes. The first thing is that the returned dead, called Deados, taint everything around them death, causing rotting and decay, as demonstrated by tracking down one in Boston. The closer they get to the Deado, the greater the decay. When they bust into the ruined apartment, the Deado escapes, making the news.

Walker finds out about his funeral and goes to it. When he tries to talk to his widow, Julia, she freaks out as she just sees an elderly Asian man claiming to be her dead husband. Walker gets dragged away and is shown what his avatar looks like. Still, Walker can’t let go of his past life. He spies on his wife, where he sees his old partner, Hayes, moving in on her. Hayes, however, is there solely for the gold Walker hid. He gets it, but is arrested by Walker and Pulsipher. The former sheriff figures out the key clue; Hayes is a Deado. The only thing keeping him from tainting his environment is the St. Christopher medallion on his wrist. With that gone, years of decay destroys Hayes’ home.

Hayes, however, is thinking several steps ahead. He knows that some of the stolen gold is in RIPD’s evidence vault. Several Deados have been arrested, all according to his plan. Hayes gives the word, then activates a device that slows down everyone at the RIPD except for his Deados. The Deados go to work, recovering all the gold, allowing Hayes to reconstruct the Staff of Jericho.

With both the effect and the Deados gone in possession of the Staff of Jericho, which will give Hayes the ability to reverse the portal the dead pass through, returning them to Earth where the sheer mass of them will cause the planet to decay. Walker and Pulsifer are put on suspension pending a review by the Higher Ups. Walker ignores the suspension; he has the best insight on Hayes having been his partner.

Hayes has everything he needs except for a blood sacrifice. His choice is Julia. Walker and Pulsipher race through Boston to catch up, avoiding or killing Deados in the way. They’re too late to stop Hayes from Killing Julia; the portal is reversed. Pulsipher works on destroying the Staff of Jericho while Walker distracts Hayes by being his ex-partner’s punching bag. With effort, the Staff of Jericho is destroyed, giving Walker the moment to shoot Hayes once and for all.

Julia does see Walker as who he is instead of his avatar. Walker is finally able to say goodbye and tells her to move on without him. Julia wakes up in the hospital; Proctor verifies that she’ll live. Proctor also gives Walker and Pulsifer the results of their review. Walker, being a rookie, is given a warning. Pulsifer gets another fifty-three years added to his contract. However, to offset the sting of the news, Proctor gives him a replacement cowboy hat, Pulsifer having lost his during the investigation.

The film is a loose adaptation of the comic. The characters are similar, but go beyond the names. Cruz and Powell aren’t as antagonistic on their first meeting. Powell is essentially the detective trying to make it to retirement, much like Roger Murtaugh of Lethal Weapon. Pulsipher is enjoying having a rookie to haze, but when Walker show his competency, the old sheriff is quick enough to respect him.

Cruz and Walker share many similarities. Both are young detectives; both have young families, though Cruz has a daughter where Walker doesn’t; both have partners who are involved with the forces of Hell. Cruz doesn’t know who killed him, but Walker does; with both, it is their partner who guns them down.

Different artifacts are involved, with different end results. Either way, the result is a drastic upset in affairs. The difference could be in two areas. The first is budget. Filming on location is less expensive than creating an entire Hell dimension through a mix of practical and CGI effects. The second is that Cruz and Powell weren’t driving the action; a lesser demon acquired the Sword of Michael and challenged Lucifer. Cruz and Powell were following Cruz’s former partner into Hell and stopped the coup since they were there. Walker and Pulsipher were actively investigating the stolen gold, directly related to why Hayes gunned down Walker.

The premise remains in the film; the Rest in Peace Department signing hundred-year-long contracts with deceased law enforcement agents. Several of the background cops at RIPD in the film come from the comic. If the audience was familiar with the comic, the movie would be a new pair of characters in the same setting. If they read the prequel comic, even the characters would be familiar.

That said, the film R.I.P.D. is a functional adaptation. It’s not perfect and takes some liberties, but the comic is recognizable in the end result. The film itself is a decent popcorn flick; one that an audience can watch to kill some time.

Next week, a deeper look at why the movie flopped at the box office.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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