Documentary – Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts

Getting into the spirit of being a comics fan, Steve Taylor-Bryant watched the Sequart documentary, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts...

Hello, me again. I found another documentary film directed by Patrick Meaney on the Sequart website (see Steve's review of their documentary about Grant Morrison here) and so here I am reviewing something for you all that I originally had no intention of writing. The biggest difference this time is I am familiar with the work of the creator the film is about, Warren Ellis, as I had read Transmetropolitan a few years ago after a friend who knew I was obsessed slightly with Hunter S. Thompson thought I’d enjoy it. I didn’t quite know what a force of nature Ellis was though, or what a fascinating individual he was, or how ahead of his time he seems, and Captured Ghosts is a brilliant education into the man.

A lot of comic book writers and artists seem famous nowadays. It’s suddenly cool to like comics, a lot of them have branched out into film and television, and the advent of the internet and social media has made these guys and gals accessible to all, but one man was at the head of all that and it was Warren Ellis. Ellis grasped the idea of the internet like no one else at the time, including having three machines installed in a comic convention in Germany so he could answer fans questions in real time without having to travel. He had a forum, well used by fans and fellow creatives, before anyone else and from those early days of the internets a community was born, people met and fell in love, and Ellis got to pick and choose creative people that he liked the sound of to collaborate with, people who maybe wouldn’t have had the careers they have had without that opportunity.

Ellis is a fascinating man, and comes across on film as a genuine bloke with his own frailties but also a mixture of the online persona he created for himself, described in the film as “Internet Jesus” or “Drunken, Abusive Uncle of the Internet”, and I don’t think from Captured Ghosts I have even scratched the surface of the real Warren Ellis, or whether anyone has for that matter. What I did get from the film though is a creative force that truly grasps the concepts we were promised growing up, rocket ships and the like, and how we have been let down by our past and how frustrating that is. His stories, whilst futuristic in tone seem always to be grounded in some kind of reality, or at least plausibility and I think the more shocking and frightening aspects of his back catalogue happen because of how real he has made these futures. He really does seem like the mad scientist that wants the future quicker, and that can only help creativity.

The film includes lots of interviews with people from the comics world, with futurists and engineers, and also with Hollywood big shots like Joss Whedon and Helen Mirren, and a deeper exploration into his catalogue of work than I can offer here and it makes for essential viewing, but for me it was watching and listening to a man who knows exactly what he wants, who is often frustrated at not getting it, that makes the film so inspiring. He is a huge star within his world who still thinks he can be better and wants to be better and wants the world to be better and you can’t help but admire him. Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts is a great documentary on a fascinating man and long may these types of films be made.

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Image - Sequart

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