Friday, June 6, 2008

Dude, You're Getting Old

An EW writer (Chris Nashawaty) is bitching that superheroes ruined the summer blockbuster.

What an idiot! Star Wars simultaneously created and ruined the summer blockbuster.

No, the reason we have so many comic book movies is that the two Marvel properties that kickstarted the modern trend (Spiderman and X-Men) were helmed by two of our more talented directors (Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer) and both of them topped their original movies with even better sequels. We've got another talented guy (Chris Nolan) rebooting the Batman franchise, and while Singer's work on the Superman movie was not a box-office smash, it was not, say, an embarrassment.

That is, after all, what has killed superhero movies in the past. It ain't easy making someone who wears his underwear outside his pants look cool. Comic book art doesn't translate easily into the real world, and even a lot of the CGI used to make it work in modern movies is dodgy at best.

But people like them, so we get more. I think the new Hulk movie is going to work better than Ang Lee's both because the CGI--virtually unwatchable in the first--is better and more importantly, it looks like they're going back to The Hulk's TV roots. (You may have not noticed this, but The Hulk and Kung Fu were the exact same series. It's a popular formula.)

Anyway, I've digressed, but the author has made the classic error of selection bias. He compares 2006 to 1998 and singles out for celebration in 1998 Out of Sight, The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan and--I'm not making this up--Armageddon.

Now, I had totally forgotten Out of Sight. Don't think I saw it. I love Peter Weir, but The Truman Show featured a still-too-rubbery-for-serious-acting Jim Carrey. Saving Private Ryan, while loud and explosion-y, isn't a summer blockbuster in the truest sense. A summer blockbuster is supposed to be fluff and fun, and the opening 20 minutes of SPR rule it out.

So. That gives us Armageddon as this guy's go-to for a good summer blockbuster. OK, I'll give him that one. But on what basis were the characters in that movie not, in fact, comic book? Good lord, I was--unaware at that time of Michael Bay's oeuvre, actually--sitting there watching it going, "Wow, this is--what the hell is this? Oh! It's a comic book!"

Fun movie, but no less offensive to the senses than a superhero movie.

Now 2006 was a great year for movies, really, if not the summer blockbuster. You can find an assortment of films that would match those in 1998. But, yeah, if you hated superheroes, you'd probably prefer 1998 to 2006.

But then, that's the point, really. The article is called "Superheroes: Why I hate them!" and it should be called "Superheroes: I hate them!" There's no "why" there. It seems like he's just pissed because the stupid heroes of his youth--the Skywalkers, perhaps, the Jones, whatever--have been replaced with stupid heroes who admit to being superpowered. (Let's face it: Jedi Knights are superheros, and Indiana Jones rode a submarine across the Atlantic, a feat which requires super-powers, particularly if the sub actually dives.) Yeah, and my mom was a big Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers/Buster Crabbe fan. Life goes on.

Dude: You're getting old. Stop going to see movies that you know you're not going to like.

Problem solved.


  1. The reason why the latest round of superhero movies are so much better is the computer generated special effects can closely approximate the action in the original comics. The Silver Surfer and the X-men would not be as realistic and the destruction wrought by the villains would not be as baroque as it is with the computer. The Lord of the Rings is the perfect example. It is basically a superhero movie and would not be anywhere as effective using the old special effects. So the computer allows us to see the full range of action which is what comics are basically about.

    Also, Marvel has gotten control of its product and is producing the movies instead of selling it to some sleazy producer who wants to do a quick knock off to make money. A lot of these directors grew up with the comics. That’s why Jon Favreau did such a good job with Iron Man. And why Edward Norton will be great as the Hulk. They respect the canon.

  2. But it is hard to beat George Reeves sucking in his gut as Superman. Did you know that the famous episode with the mole people was a thinly veiled expose of the civil rights movement? The next time it's on check it out. Those liberal movie makers. Always with the hidden agendas.

  3. Yeah, the CGI is a big part, but this stuff could've been done with models and compositing, or could be done that way now, given the amount of money that gets poured into them.

    The problem with LotR is that Jackson turned it into a superhero movie, instead of leaving it as a--eh, "road trip"? Especially the second and third make you forget that the main characters are Frodo and Sam. That's why it works; they're NOT superheroes.

    And don't forget, the fact that, e.g., Bryan Singer and Chris Nolan went from their arty stuff to X-Men and Batman (respectively) gives a lot more legitimacy to it.

    "Would you do a superhero movie?" used to mean "Would you exile yourself to the kiddie ghetto?" (Though, admittedly, Donner didn't have that problem--but again his Superman movies were given a lot of legitimacy.)

  4. Never could watch those old Superman shows. Or the campy Batman stuff.

    I did like Flash and Buck, tho'. Picked that up from my mom....

    Oh, and I recommend Affleck in Hollywoodland. He was overlooked last year at Oscar-time.

  5. But the comic book styling will soon be as recognizable as film noir. 300 and Sin City are just the tip of the iceberg. The graphic novel style will be more and more prevalent as the kids who grew up on video games and Japanese cartoons come into their own. It will be like Tarantino time 12. No longer ripping off blacksploitation films but ripping off Frank Miller big time.

  6. Lord of the Rings was one of the first superhero movies to really be slavishy made copies of the book. Most other superhero movies took short cuts because of the limitations of the special effects. And every movie is basicly a superhero movie. A western where the hero's six shooter shoots twenty times without reloading. A dective story where Sam Spade can be beaten to an inch of his life and get up, brush himself off and go on with a hospital visit. Superheros all.

  7. Of course my favorite superhero has proscuito, soperatta, povolone, red peppers, lettuce, tomatoe, oil and vinegar on crusty Italian bread.

  8. Fair point, Troop. All the action movies are essentially about superheroes.


Grab an umbrella. Unleash hell. Your mileage may vary. Results not typical. If swelling continues past four hours, consult a physician.