The Marvel Studios model continues to make converts, but it was not taken for granted that it would also happen in Italy.
where the “average” commercial cinema struggles a lot to expand its boundaries. The new Bonelli Entertainment label , such as Mainetti’s Goon Films and Rovere / Sibilia’s Groenlandia, however, represents a solid attempt to explore genres, with an even more international flair than other production companies.
On the other hand, Bonelli comics are translated into numerous languages, and form a constellation of characters who, even without always sharing the same narrative universe, can coexist in a long-term productive strategy. Thus was born, with Dampyr , the Bonelli Cinematic Universe, an ambitious project that aims to collect all the cine-television adaptations (animated and live-action) of the newborn Milanese studio.
The comic by Mauro Boselli and Maurizio Colombo offers Bonelli the opportunity to inaugurate his cinematic universe with a character that is not too risky, because it is based on topoi already recognizable by the general public. Harlan Draka is in fact a half-blood vampire hunter, a bit like the Marvel’s Blade , and faces monsters of various kinds in atmospheres ranging from horror to noir. The peculiarity, if we think of the film by the newcomer Riccardo Chemello , lies in the setting: we are in fact in the Balkans of the early nineties, during the infamous Yugoslav wars. Harlan ( Wade Briggs) is a charlatan who wanders from village to village with his partner Yuri ( Sebastian Croft ) and pretends to free local populations from vampires, relying on ancient popular beliefs. Monsters, however, really exist, and when Commander Emil Kurjak ( Stuart Martin ) witnesses the massacre of some of his squad members by these creatures, he sends for Harlan to see what he can do. Our down-and-out hero didn’t think he had to face real bloodsuckers, and he discovers his birthright: he’s a dampyr , so he’s destined to fight vampires.
The underlying scheme is no different from other action-fantasy narratives . There is a chosen one, there are monsters that prey on innocent (more or less) humans, and there is a main antagonist who moves the threads, moreover with an aesthetic characterization that refers to the villains of Underworld and John ‘s Thomas Ian Griffith Carpenter’s Vampires . In fact, Dampyr evokes certain trends of the early 2000s, but compared to Hollywood blockbusters more out of time (such as Morbius ) it does not need 70/80 million dollars to package the vision of him. The Half Miracle by Bonelli Entertainment , Eagle Pictures andBrandon Box is above all this: with a budget of 15 million, they manage to build a technically very valid production, thanks to professionals of absolute importance in digital effects, make-up, photography and set design. Many of them have very high-level experiences – Giorgio Gregorini , for example, won the Oscar for Suicide Squad – and it shows.
In short, Dampyr easily passes the examination of international credibility, with far better results than other productions that aspire to the same market. Its limit, if anything, is in writing. Even without major slips, the script does not infuse enough depth in the past of some characters (exemplary the emotional relationship between Harlan and Yuri), thus wasting the potential of climax. Therefore, a healthy dose of pathos is missing in the mother scenes, something that really makes us take sides with these characters, also because the development of the plot is quite predictable. The same geographical context, theoretically very rich in historical and folkloric implications, is left only as a background, without going into the merits of either the conflict or the local culture.
It is liberating, however, to finally see a hero who does not mind smoking, drinking and using foul language, accustomed as we are to the moralism of American cinecomics. Dampyr embodies the Italian way to the blockbuster already beaten by Freaks Out , digestible by international audiences – who will recognize a globalized language – but with some original nuances. Of course, one could argue about the flattening of narrative models, which mimic the American ones with few variations: Bonelli comics would not need it, as they already have a strong personality. Dampyr is a good first step on a technical and spectacular level, but the Bonelli Cinematic Universehe would do better to identify his own expressive code, the son of its prestigious publishing history. By doing so, it could really look to the future of popular culture, instead of contenting itself with replicating the past.