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Originally published Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

'Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods': A documentary on 'the rock star of comics'

A movie review of "Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods," Patrick Meaney's informative if frustrating documentary about philosophical comic-book author Grant Morrison ("The Invisibles," "The New X-Men").

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods,' a documentary directed by Patrick Meaney. 80 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains profanity, sexual references). Grand Illusion, through Thursday.

What's it like to be Superman? Could he represent "a more pro-active God"?

Those questions reverberate throughout "Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods," an informative if frustrating biography of a mischievous, philosophical Glasgow comic-book writer who has been called "the rock star of comics."

The movie opens with Morrison walking onstage to the rafter-raising applause of an audience that has clearly studied his work. The director, Patrick Meaney ("Spy," "The Third Age"), spends the next 80 minutes collecting testimony from friends and fellow artists who try to explain Morrison's personality and impact.

The talking-heads format reveals its limits here. There's too much talk and not enough demonstration of what Morrison is all about. It's one thing to discuss Morrison's hallucinogenic experiences and his addiction to "chaos magic" (which means, more or less, that he can predict the future), and quite another to explain how this has influenced the darker, more "adult" direction that comics have taken during recent decades.

When one admirer claims that Morrison's "greatest creation is himself," or another apologizes for his interest in a lot of "weird" stuff, you may be forgiven for conjuring up the image of motormouth Dennis Hopper explaining Marlon Brando's excesses in "Apocalypse Now."

Meaney is on firmer ground when he's using examples of Morrison's work to suggest cause and effect, especially when he's tying Morrison's childhood directly to characters and plots in his comics.

Morrison's mother took him to see "2001: A Space Odyssey" several times when he was very young, his father was an anti-nuke activist who recruited his son to spy on government operations, and these adventures are reflected in the stories he dreamed up for the comics.

Unfortunately, the illustrations are fleeting, the captions disappear before they can sink in, and the Scottish-accented talk is sometimes impenetrable. Animated sequences might have helped to put his ideas across. The movie cries out for a bigger budget and a longer running time.

"Talking With Gods" is a title that promises much, and at times Meaney delivers. Morrison's childhood was clearly overwhelmed by utopian politics and fantasy, and the talking heads (including his own) can't help but suggest that a unique connection was made early on.

John Hartl:

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