Do superhero movies really suck?

Posted by Sanjeev 
Sanjeev (Admin)
Chieh posted this link in the Mazingoulash thread:
[www.salon.com]

I finally got around to reading it (sorry, man!)...and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Like, I get that superhero movies are like "product", rather than art...in the same way anime has become. Afterall, the "otaku focus group" I referred to in that other thread is fully in use here. Fanboyism. A movie doesn't necessarily have to stand on its own two feet anymore--as long as it panders successfully enough to the built-in audience, you pretty much have your marketing vehicle in place. Good job.

But I still feel the writer of that article is being a bit too harsh. I mean, it's not like the source material is SO gods damned brilliant. I'm guessing that the Iron Man movies, for example, are overall more interesting than the average Iron Man comic. Obviously, there have been storylines in the history of the comic series that have been absolutely great (again, by genre standards), and that the movies can't touch 'em. But come on. The average Iron Man comic.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just being a fanboy apologist on behalf of superhero movies. Read the article and let's hear what y'all think.
Anonymous User
Man that was hard to read. For someone who complains about the formulaic nature of superhero flicks, that article reads like a 6-year-old's meandering journey through a wooded backyard.

The problem is that the author treats superhero movies as if they are supposed to be something other than a giant money-making hand-job to the fandom.

Look at it as if you were making the movie:

1. Here is the source material to create the movie. It consists of 500 issues spanning 30 years. You have two hours to tell a tale summarizing the 'origin story' and 25% of the remainder of the series.

2. Don't change it too much or the fans will eat you alive.

3. You have to make as much money as possible- make sure it appeals to the general public.

Any nostalgia driven product has a built-in recipe for blandness since it is designed to please two wildly diverging interest groups (general public vs. hardcore fans). Frankly that makes it amazing to me that we get stuff that is actually GOOD- like Batman Begins.

And he liked the Hulk movie? Really? I watched part of that on cable and I still felt like I wanted my money back.
I always hate guys that start dumbass reviews with "...and I grew up a superhero fan"... Cause clearly, he's NOT. This kind of article is nothing but the sort of overly critical "I don't like it" shitbrick that the internet is made of.

Its not clear to me what he wants super hero movies (or super heroes) to be. He cites several instances of how Batman should/could compare to various zombie movies.. but c'mon ZOMBIE movies???

What does he think they're supposed to be? Is there some greater expectation from the genre that's supposed to spring from them.. And as Sanjeev said, the source material is IRON MAN. I thought that the movie was a good personal story...for an international playboy who built his own suit of armor out of parts in a desert/jungle wasteland.

The superhero movie is in many ways its own genre, such as Star Trek, Godzilla, horror, kung fu or whatever "grindhouse" is... Its escapist fun and I think-needs to be evaluated on its own merits. It can be good and even excellent...it may not compare with Schindler's List or the Godfather but does it need to??
MSW
Honestly, I can't really disagree with the author of that article...But I'm not much of a superhero fan to begin with. :P


Indeed within the scope of the superhero and zombie films the author singles out. It does seem like the superhero genre plays it safe. Of course these arn't the only films within the respective genres. But within this scope, I'd be hard pressed to argue otherwise.

Shame though that the author overlooked The Incredibles, IMO the best film in the genre. But that oversight might have to do with it being "merely a cartoon", rather than a "legitimate" live-action film.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/04/2010 09:43PM by MSW.
Anonymous User
honestly I can't be bothered to read an article that long about something I don't care particularly about. carry on...
Sanjeev wrote:
>But I still feel the writer of that article is being a bit too harsh. I mean,
>it's not like the source material is SO gods damned brilliant.

The title of the article is definitely misleading, in that the article's not as simple-minded as it's suggested to be. He's really lamenting that as good as some superhero movies have gotten, there are still genre boundaries that aren't really crossed, resulting in a repetitive cycle of movies that look and feel the same (I was already starting to check my watch twenty minutes into Iron Man 2). That seems to be how I interpreted the article, stupidly sensationalistic title notwithstanding.

Is he being harsh? Yeah, I can see that.

(But I would add, Sanjeev, that just because the source material is limited doesn't mean that the adaptation has to be either--what he's yearning for is adaptations that exceed programming--a great example would be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? versus Blade Runner. The novel is a straightfoward detective story with the usual 60s sci-fi nihilistic bent/social commentary, and the movie is so much more expressive and eloquent.)

Akum6n wrote:
>And he liked the Hulk movie? Really? I watched part of that on cable and I still
>felt like I wanted my money back.

I thought Ang Lee's Hulk, though plodding at times, tried to give us some actual substance, and did it in a visually inventive way. I'm one of the few people I know who actually liked it. A lot. So that may be why I took to the article.

ChrisM wrote:
>Its not clear to me what he wants super hero movies (or super heroes) to be. He
>cites several instances of how Batman should/could compare to various zombie
>movies.. but c'mon ZOMBIE movies???

For me, a major problem with his argument is not that he doesn't stipulate his criteria, but that his criteria is so selectively and arbitrarily applied. The reason he uses the zombie analogy is that it's another popular and easily dismissed genre that has a set of predetermined and overused elements, and he's saying that zombie-movie directors have managed to "make genre films worth watching and remembering" because they contain "a rainbow spectrum of modes and moods."

I get why he makes the comparison, but his sampling of superhero films is quite narrow, and curiously, he doesn't include films like Raimi's Darkman, which absolutely bucks many genre expectations, or Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy and sequel, each of which possesses that very spectrum of modes and moods that he cites superhero movies as lacking. Also, his examples of "profound" zombie movies are a bit hard to swallow. Even the best are really not much more transgressive than the really good superhero films. I mean, I really liked Shaun of the Dead, too, but he's going to hold that up as something that no superhero film can ever rival? Please. And I hated 28 Weeks Later, which he cites as a glorious film and which I thought was an obvious and simple-minded chase flick, compared to 28 Days Later.

MSW wrote:
>Honestly, I can't really disagree with the author of that article...

Yeah, he makes so many points that are spot-on, whether it's about the Watchmen film contradicting the philosophical slant of the graphic novel, the death of Rachel Dawes being one of the few emotionally daring moments in the genre, or the way Kick-Ass starts off with such promise but devolves into silly crap.

There's some fanboy whining here, for sure, but he's pretty well-informed and he praises what he likes about the genre, too, so it's not mindless hating. He makes some good arguments, even if there problems with some of them.

The reason I even mentioned the article was that it reflects some of the (totally understandable) frustration I was seeing in that SKL thread. Just as people here are writing this guy off as a stupid, hating shitboulder, I imagine any fervent super-robot anime fan reading that SKL thread would call us crotchety, whiny old men, too. I mean, it's pretty much the same complaint, just about different genres.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2010 12:09AM by gingaio.
MSW
Yeah, GinGaio. I agree that author is to put it bluntly "cherry picking" of the various films to underscore his point.

Possibly the biggest reason superhero films may seem to play it safe. May likely involve the huge film budgets (in comparison to most Zombie films). More $$$ on the line tends to make studios more risk adverse.
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I get why he makes the comparison, but his
> sampling of superhero films is quite narrow, and
> curiously, he doesn't include films like Raimi's
> Darkman, which absolutely bucks many genre
> expectations, or Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy and
> sequel, each of which possesses that very spectrum
> of modes and moods that he cites superhero movies
> as lacking.

Hmm... Hellboy. The pathos and visual style of the comics were absolutely obliterated in Del Toro's masturbatory fan-fiction stab at the source material. There was literally nothing about those campy, over-detailed films that required the use of a relatively non-mainstream comic franchise to get up and going aside from the studio machine which produced them. Which, according to the director, was actually an obstacle because the character wasn't high enough profile for the studio initially. I think those two movies would have been better off if Del Toro had run with an original idea instead of reinventing someone else's wheel. Like, The Devil's Backbone is pitch-perfect cinema for all the same reasons the Hellboy films were utterly cringe inducing. Ugh.

Back on topic though... I liked comics until I started "reading" them. That's when everything fell apart. There are two main problems with the medium.

First, the system of production and consumption in which they are embedded is franchised to death in a risk-averse business model. That's why we keep getting the same characters and the same stories and the same universes and timelines and costumes and everything over and over. That's why your grandkids will know who Spiderman and Batman are. And why they will still be wearing the same basic costumes while they fight the Joker and Venom. When character arcs are not allowed to conclude they will inevitably plunge into stagnation. Stories that don't end are the opposite of good stories.

Second, the range of work within the genre that breaks from the franchise model usually suffers for it. Such works lack the editorial, narrative, and visual experience that ultimately serves to improve the quality of a body of work. They also lack the marketing that serves to connect them with a wider audience. Put another way, they're poorly drawn, shittily told underground books that are usually unreadable.

Examples that walk the line of being good, non-franchise comics that are ultimately labeled "graphic novels" because they actually conclude as opposed to carrying on forever like a daytime soap opera:

Deadwest by Rick Speard and Rob G
The Extended Dream of Mr. D by D+Q
Girls by the Luna Brothers
Giantkiller by Dan Brereton
Less-known Mignola creations like The Amazing Screw-On Head or Jenny Finn

All of those are excellent comic work that just manages to dodge the franchise curse. But the system makes it to their detriment. None of those will ever be made into movies. Ever. Screw-On Head came closest - it had a one-shot animation made which everyone who really wants to ponder the virtues of jumping mediums needs to see, but never will.

So... The most popularly consumed comics are, for reasons described above, shit. With that as a starting point, how can superhero movies be anything other than popularly consumed shit? The likelihood of getting quality superhero films will always approach zero until the system becomes willing to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And you can guess how soon that will be.
Sanjeev (Admin)
ChrisM, I think what the guy's trying to say (in his comparison with zombie movies) is that because zombie movies aren't necessarily fan-wanks and because they're not product marketing vehicles, the writers are more free to explore new ideas in terms of plot, characterization, and cinematography. Meanwhile, superhero movies ARE fan-wanks and marketing vehicles, so if they stray from the "formula", fans will bitch...thus hurting ticket/merch sales. I'm not *exactly* sure who the author's blaming: the industry or the fans...but either way he's basically having the "anime cooling off" discussion we've been having. [I personally blame capitalism...but that's just the natural progression of economy.]

MSW, I don't think The Incredibles really counts. It obviously appeals to comic fans, but it's more of a satire made for general audiences. I think what the author's getting at is why the fuck couldn't they actually portray Tony Stark contending with death when he was dealing with that blood poisoning thing? Or why couldn't they go deeper into his relationship with his father? Or why haven't they mentioned his alcoholism yet? Sure, it's a popcorn movie, but the movies coulda been so much "better" (for the sake of argument) if they weren't quite so shoe-horned into this mold.

But Chris raises a good point. Is fan-wank and marketing really that big a deal? Kaiju films are basically that--and I love the shit outta them. I could think of some bitchin' ways to break the mold and do shit that hasn't been done before ("art", not "product")...but I ain't holding my breath to see innovation like that in the movies that come out. And the same thing is true of kung fu flicks. Do I lament the fact that these molds never get broken? Not really...but I guess I've never really thought of it before. But then...doesn't that, therefore, make ME a fanboy (in the bad sense)--the thoughtless, unquestioning intended audience of these films? [Like, for example, the otaku who watch moe anime and have contributed to the creative bankruptcy in that genre.]

I *don't* think this is true of Star Trek (well...scifi space operas, in general). Because they're less product-driven, there's more freedom to step outside the boundaries and explore more diverse stories and story-telling. Plus space operas appeal to a larger subset of the public, so their projected audience is less inbred/insular (compared to comic or anime nerds, for example).

So, yeah, even if the author's delivery had a bit of a snobby air, I see where he's coming from. But, Chieh, Ang Lee's Hulk? Ouch. :P

And G, while I agree with your golden egg-laying goose metaphor, but I'm not sure I agree with your whole take on comics...and how that relates to the media-jump. Now, I totally agree that the franchising of the popular superhero stuff is not only quintessential stagnation, but it's also butt-fucked non-franchise stuff. That sucks. BUT while I normally agree that stories should *end*, I think there's something charming about the immortality of superhero comics. It's a sorta light medium that doesn't require too much emotional investment...and it's a nice way for writers to throw their pre-cut characters into a new situation (even if *new* situations seem fewer and farther in between...).

But whatever.

I think that's a separate discussion. I know I said in my first post that superhero comics aren't exactly examples of brilliance...but I think that's the wrong way of looking at this. Like Chieh said above, when you jump media, your limitations change so dramatically, that the old rules aren't necessarily still relevant. Blade Runner transcended Do Androids Dream... Why can't superheroes?

--
Sanjeev

'Us Massholes straight up just don't give a fuck. I still pronounce "Mazinger" as "Tranzor Z".'
-Nekrodave
MSW
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> MSW, I don't think The Incredibles really counts.
> It obviously appeals to comic fans, but it's more
> of a satire made for general audiences.

Yet he includes both Hancock and Kick-Ass...Both were advertised as satire.
Sanjeev (Admin)
And Watchmen, too.

And that's whole dimensions beyond satire!
I've only ever read the screenplay of Hancock, which isn't exactly "good," but which is pretty dark stuff, the sort of thing that you couldn't imagine ever being filmed (and from my understanding the screenplay and film were very different from each other).

True satire has a consistent mocking, critical bent throughout, and the problem with Kick-Ass is that it starts off satirically, but ends as a typical superhero film (e.g., there are no consequences to Hit-Girl being raised the way she was--it's just so awesome that she can reload with clips in the air). The same goes for the Incredibles--I mean the dysfunctional family premise was great, but by the 3rd act, the story was pretty much a retread of every Fantastic Four issue we've ever read, complete with the Mole Man homage. I'm not complaining, because I liked the Incredibles, but I don't think it's any more satirical--taken as a whole--than Spider-Man 2, which also has moments of harmless self-conscious comedy.

The thing about the Watchmen graphic novel was that it challenged the basic principles of the genre by featuring corrupt and irredeemable characters (Squadron Supreme came out first and also questioned certain tenets of the superheroic fantasy, but Watchmen took the critique further and developed it even more strongly).



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2010 10:24PM by gingaio.
Gcrush wrote:
>When character arcs are not allowed to conclude they will inevitably plunge into
>stagnation. Stories that don't end are the opposite of good stories.

In a serial genre like monthly comics, I definitely agree on the point of stagnation for story lines that keep going. But what about when characters are reinvented or repurposed for a new culture or era? Since we're talking about films, which are rigidly structured and intended to be viewed as standalone, unless sequels are involved, are you extending your argument to include characters who never seem to age or die from generation to generation? Films are not divorced from the social context in which they're produced, and so I wouldn't view Nolan's Batman as a continuation of Joel Schumacher's, for example. I would view it as an individual story with its own characters and narrative arc (played out over the sequels, of course) and distinctive sensibility.

>Second, the range of work within the genre that breaks from the franchise model
>usually suffers for it. Such works lack the editorial, narrative, and visual
>experience that ultimately serves to improve the quality of a body of work. They
>also lack the marketing that serves to connect them with a wider audience. Put
>another way, they're poorly drawn, shittily told underground books that are
>usually unreadable."

When you talk about the breaking off from the franchise model, are you drawing a line between, say, working with a publisher (no matter how small) and being self-published? If that's the case then, yeah, I can see the point because most self-published work sucks. But if we're talking about small independent publishers versus conglomerates with well-established characters (though really, in this age, almost everything is owned by a big company), then would the claim of suckitude still hold? Just not clear on what you mean by breaking off from the franchise model.

Given that we're talking about films, would independent films be considered as breaking off from the franchise model? I mean, independent films are and aren't franchised. They are in terms of using big studios for distribution (and being financed by studios to varying degrees), but the creative integrity is often still preserved, and the quality is often superior.

I think in talking about the McDonald's quality of superhero films, it's the point that MSW was making, that in any Hollywood flick of any genre, as the budget and studio involvement increases, the degree of personal creative vision similarly decreases (unless you're James Cameron or Peter Jackson or a similar exception). But then you also get gems like Slither, financed on the cheap by a studio and yet highly original and entertaining.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 12:36AM by gingaio.
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And G, while I agree with your golden egg-laying
> goose metaphor, but I'm not sure I agree with your
> whole take on comics...and how that relates to the
> media-jump. Now, I totally agree that the
> franchising of the popular superhero stuff is not
> only quintessential stagnation, but it's also
> butt-fucked non-franchise stuff. That sucks. BUT
> while I normally agree that stories should *end*,
> I think there's something charming about the
> immortality of superhero comics. It's a sorta
> light medium that doesn't require too much
> emotional investment...

I think you just came back to my point though. The superheroes with (capitalistic) staying power are, as you noted, a light genre. The system sets them up in a way that if they become a "heavy" genre they will un-do their staying power. You cannot have the Hulk comic without the Hulk. The Hulk is the omnipresent force which justifies the continuation of the narrative. Take out the Hulk and the franchise dies. With such risk aversion involved the comic will inevitably assume a static tone given enough time. The Hulk's story never really ends and because of that it never really changes much either. The Hulk comic becomes stale because of the Hulk. It's a machina ex deus set-up. The franchise machine keeps on chugging because of the god-like omnipresence of the titular character(s).

The transition from comic medium to cinema just exacerbates this effect.

Check this case. Where the Wild Things Are doesn't come from the comic genre, but it makes for a good working example. The original print medium was beloved for a variety of reasons, but most importantly it was a "light" work. It was easy to enjoy because there was nothing ambiguous about it and the images from that work became iconic in themselves. The live action movie, on the other hand, turned WtWTA ass over ear by being a "heavy" work. It retold the story as a brooding narrative exploring the ambiguous and often unresolvable tension of social relationships. The film attracted financial backing because it was leveraging the iconic source material to draw-in audiences, but it nearly ran afoul of the system because instead of being a children's movie it was a movie about childhood. Whoah. The studio tried unsuccessfully to put a stop to that shit and, unsurprisingly, audiences responded in kind. People said they liked the movie, but they clearly weren't speaking with their pocketbooks - it barely broke even. It was a solid case of critical success and financial mess. That's because you cannot rework a "light" genre into a "heavy" one without fundamentally altering the audience's relationship with the material.

Which is why I'm saying superhero movies will continue to suck until superhero narratives move past being a "light" genre. Which they cannot do until they are willing to let the Hulk die. And the Hulk will never die.


> Blade Runner transcended Do Androids Dream... Why can't
> superheroes?

PKD wasn't known for writing particularly "light" narratives in terms of accessibility. (I personally find some of his work nearly unreadable.) So that's a case of "heavy" prose turning into "heavy" cinema. Seriously. Did Blade Runner even have an ending in the classic sense? It barely even had the typical protagonist/antagonist tension audiences expect. The movie didn't really resolve any traditional driving tensions as much as it counterpointed them. Kill the bad guy? Naw. That urge goes completely unfulfilled. Let him die saving the good guy instead. Except, you know, the bad guy wasn't really all that bad and the good guy wasn't really all that good and, well, that's kind of like real life and there you have it. Also, tortoise!

As much as I hated the Freudian overdrive of Ang Lee's Hulk, it might really be the closest a superhero movie has come to being "heavy". Though it only went half way and in a goofy direction. The Hulk spends more time hauling ass away from conflict than he does smashing the shit outta things. The Hulk even goes full-on Oprah Winfrey with the overindulgent emotional wallowing. But the Hulk still had to fight mutant poodles and some campy super villain (DADDY!) in a huge tour de force of sound minus the fury. Meh.

Think about it like this. Could you imagine a transcendent adaptation of Flash Gordon? Or Conan? Or Spiderman? Sure. Will you ever see one? Nope.
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Gcrush wrote:
> >When character arcs are not allowed to conclude
> they will inevitably plunge into
> >stagnation. Stories that don't end are the
> opposite of good stories.
>
> In a serial genre like monthly comics, I
> definitely agree on the point of stagnation for
> story lines that keep going. But what about when
> characters are reinvented or repurposed for a new
> culture or era?

I stand by the statement with the following caveat - as long as any reinvented/repurposed character is popularly recognizable as another incarnation of its predecessor it will maintain the cycle of stagnation. So when the "original" Batman dies or retires or whatever, as long as another persona inhabits that mantle it will lead to the same result given enough time - a zombie franchise in any context. Eventually Taekwon-V will be as played out and stale as Mazinger Z. The only way to reinvigorate a character is to create one so repurposed or redesigned that it defies obvious association with its template. The son of the Hulk is still the Hulk is still Heracles. The association between the son of the Hulk and the Hulk cripples them while the distance between them and Heracles invigorates them. Dig?


> Since we're talking about films,
> which are rigidly structured and intended to be
> viewed as standalone, unless sequels are involved,
> are you extending your argument to include
> characters who never seem to age or die from
> generation to generation? Films are not divorced
> from the social context in which they're produced,
> and so I wouldn't view Nolan's Batman as a
> continuation of Joel Schumacher's, for example. I
> would view it as an individual story with its own
> characters and narrative arc (played out over the
> sequels, of course) and distinctive sensibility.

The context and self-contained nature of film is important (think social discourse), but I don't think it trumps the limitation I've imposed on franchise vs. quality. While Nolan's Batman is Nolan's Batman, in the grand scheme of things Batmans is still Batmans. The franchise effect superordinates anything Nolan could/would do with Batman, like killing him off in the third act.


> When you talk about the breaking off from the
> franchise model, are you drawing a line between,
> say, working with a publisher (no matter how
> small) and being self-published? If that's the
> case then, yeah, I can see the point because most
> self-published work sucks.

Yeah, that's a distinction I didn't explain well. Self-published is not the same as independently owned. While the external editorial process is often described as inimical to creativity it is quality's first line of defense against devolving into masturbation. That's why self-published work is usually just fanfic.

When I say "franchise" I'm referring to a system in which corporatized interests begin to dictate production and development over the long term based on a risk-averse model of popular consumption. Syndication is often the first step, but it does not automatically imply a franchise. The final leap from syndication to franchise occurs in a gray area where authorial interests are eventually subsumed by the production system.

Here's a shitty example of the range of work I'm attempting to cover:

Johnny Rotten's VICE comics to Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes to Jim Davis' Garfield.

That make sense?


> But if we're talking
> about small independent publishers versus
> conglomerates with well-established characters
> (though really, in this age, almost everything is
> owned by a big company), then would the claim of
> suckitude still hold? Just not clear on what you
> mean by breaking off from the franchise model.

See 1977's Star Wars versus Star Wars Epsiode I: The Phantom Menace. I'll admit it's not a clear cut (de)construction, but a fuzzy one that involves authorial intent and control, sources and means of capital production, and longitudinal audience consumption and familiarity.


> Given that we're talking about films, would
> independent films be considered as breaking off
> from the franchise model? I mean, independent
> films are and aren't franchised. They are in terms
> of using big studios for distribution (and being
> financed by studios to varying degrees), but the
> creative integrity is often still preserved, and
> the quality is often superior.

Indie films are closer to the non-franchise end of what I'm pointing out.


> I think in talking about the McDonald's quality of
> superhero films, it's the point that MSW was
> making, that in any Hollywood flick of any genre,
> as the budget and studio involvement increases,
> the degree of personal creative vision similarly
> decreases (unless you're James Cameron or Peter
> Jackson or a similar exception). But then you also
> get gems like Slither, financed on the cheap by a
> studio and yet highly original and entertaining.

Mmm, I'd agree with the point that as studio involvement increases the ability to produce a "heavy" product approaches zero. I'm basically saying the same thing, but I'm adding in the "why that is the case" part that was missing. Like most corporatized production systems, the source and means of capital production are risk averse, prioritizing investment in established franchises (characters, stories, actors) or seeking to develop franchises. That's why whenever we see the same old recycled stories they always feature a "bankable" (franchise) actor/character.

Which is also why I'd dismiss the bulk of James Cameron's work as rule itself instead of the exception. The more heavily funded it was the more it was connected to existing narrative/actor-franchises or franchise development. None of it struck me as particularly "heavy". The Terminator movies were fun, but about as thought provoking as an explosion can be. The gloss of predestination talk was less compelling than wondering if I might actually have an impervious metal robot skeleton living inside my body. (I do.) Same thing with Titanic. I was too busy contemplating how wet Kate Winslet's tits would get before the end of the film to give a shit about how people's lives unfold in the space before an inescapable fate (that only the audience knows about).

But bless you for mentioning Slither. One of my all-time favorite movies, though it was still a high-gloss reworking of Night of the Creeps.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 11:00AM by Gcrush.
Although all of you have seen the same predigested and regurgited tripe over and over again, that tripe is actually brand new to a lot of people and especially to a lot of little kids. The studios don't care about your long-winded deconstructions and dissections of genre archetypes. There's alot more little kids who think the Iron Man or Batman movie is the first Iron Man or Batman story ever and don't even know about the comics or history. These little kids have parents who take them to the movies. The studio makes more money from these families buying four or five tickets at once than they do from a bunch of overly critical, hyper-analytical toysnobDXers.
Scopedog Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> There's alot more little kids who think the Iron Man
> or Batman movie is the first Iron Man or Batman story
> ever and don't even know about the comics or history.
> These little kids have parents who take them to
> the movies. The studio makes more money from
> these families buying four or five tickets at once
> than they do from a bunch of overly critical,
> hyper-analytical toysnobDXers.

That's pretty much how a media franchise works in terms of on-the-ground consumption. But do you think superhero movies really suck or not?

I say they suck because their source material is insubstantial in the first place. Not that comic books can't deal with heavy issues, but that the majority won't because it threatens their ability to make money over time through repeat business.

What's your answer to the question? You pointed out that superhero movies make money because parents take their kids to see them. But is making money the same as not sucking? Why do parents take their kids to see Batman and Spiderman anyway? Are you saying that superhero movies are just a kids' genre?

'Cause if you're saying that, you and I are pretty much saying the same thing.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But is making money the same as not sucking?

No, but I think the influence of money on these projects makes any deep analysis of the genre ultimately futile.

> Why do parents take their kids to see Batman and
> Spiderman anyway? Are you saying that superhero
> movies are just a kids' genre?
>
> 'Cause if you're saying that, you and I are pretty
> much saying the same thing.

I also think any movie that includes superheroes but isn't marketed to families isn't a superhero movie.
josh fraser (Moderator)
Product is for me, in varying degrees either made for a select audience, to evolve the form, and push the medium , or it is there to support the machine and appeal to a common denominator.... which also allows one to finance the former. You have to cast a wide net in todays international market to fund big projects. It's a common thread among all products. From movies to shoes to cars. It is difficult to balance freshness and archetypal appeal at the same time, because mass consumer creation process generally has more chiefs in the kitchen to allow for it realistically.

I try not to confuse the two and become frustrated by the outcome. ;-)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 04:57PM by josh fraser.
"Long-winded deconstructions and dissections of genre archetypes" aside, do they suck in general? I guess it depends...:

Good:
- Superman I and II
- Batman The Dark Knight
- Iron Man
- Watchmen
- Spider Mens (the three kind of blur together for me, but overall I enjoyed them)

not great, but not horrible:
- The Hulk (Ed Norton version)
- Wolverine movie

Sucked:
- Fantastic Four
- Superman Returns
- Catwoman

Sucked, but didn't suck as bad as the Fantastic Four movie:
- all the X-Men movies, except the Wolverine solo one



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 05:07PM by Robaato D.
Robaato D Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "Long-winded deconstructions and dissections of
> genre archetypes" aside, do they suck in general?
> I guess it depends...:
>
> Good:
> not great, but not horrible:
> Sucked:
> Sucked, but didn't suck as bad as the Fantastic
> Four movie:

And good or bad, they all result in exposure and all publicity is good publicity. I wouldn't be surprised if the article led alot of readers to watch some of the movies in question in order to draw their own conclusions or to try and watch them in a different light. However, in my opinion, it would still be pointless to watch them as anything other than kid's movies(and what's wrong with that?), no matter how edgy or macabre some can be. I think we can all agree that the 1986 Transformers: The Movie is one of the greatest films of all time, but I would never argue that it had any artistic merit or integrity or that it could aspire to be anything other than an 84 minute toy commercial (that is the singular reason for the success of the TakaraTomy 2010 Unicron 24 years later...and I still haven't gotten mine from robotkingdom).



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 05:28PM by Scopedog.
Scopedog Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I also think any movie that includes superheroes
> but isn't marketed to families isn't a superhero
> movie.
>
This definition would preclude, just going off of Robert's list, Wolverine, Batman, Dark Knight, Iron Man 1 and 2, Watchmen, The Hulk, Superman Returns...uh, just about every movie he listed from being a "superhero" movie, based on the MPAA ratings and content and the fact that none of them is marketed as a Pixar-esque "family film" (none of these films is lower than PG-13).

You might want to remember that the above mentioned totally non-superhero movies are so wildly successful because they capture so well that 60% of moviegoers that consists of people between the ages of 18 and 49.

Hey, I love the '86 Transformers movie, too, but that one's actually closer to being a true kids' movie marketed to us kids still playing with Transformers toys. It's closer to being a kids' movie than, say, the Bay version.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 06:04PM by gingaio.
You know what movies suck? Vampire flicks.

Does Unbreakable count as a superhero movie?
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This definition would preclude, just going off of
> Robert's list, Wolverine, Batman, Dark Knight,
> Iron Man 1 and 2, Watchmen, The Hulk, Superman
> Returns...

Do you really think these aren't kids movies? (and whats wrong with them being kids movies?)
MattAlt (Admin)
"You know what movies suck? Vampire flicks."

Even "Lifeforce," starring Jean-Luc Picard!??!
Scopedog Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> gingaio Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > This definition would preclude, just going off
> of
> > Robert's list, Wolverine, Batman, Dark Knight,
> > Iron Man 1 and 2, Watchmen, The Hulk, Superman
> > Returns...
>
> Do you really think these aren't kids movies? (and
> whats wrong with them being kids movies?)

Dude, no one made any disparaging comments about kids' movies...in fact, a few of us even talked about how much we liked the Incredibles.

To answer your question, I think I already did in my previous post. I mean, how exactly are you defining a kids'/family film--as anything that could potentially be seen by a kid, or something geared specifically for kids? Because if it's the former, that could be anything from Blue-Ballin' Watchmen to Finding Nemo, and if it's the latter, then we're talking Pixar/Disney.

Put another way--would you take a six- or seven-year-old kid to see Wolverine or Dark Knight or Watchmen? And if you say yes, then I would question your experience with being around or having to take care of kids.

>all the X-Men movies, except the Wolverine solo one

Come on, Robert, X2 was great fun. It was the Wolverine movie that sucked.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2010 08:12PM by gingaio.
>Come on, Robert, X2 was great fun. It was the Wolverine movie that sucked.

My argument for why the X-mens movies sucked = boring characters I didn't care about and... well, need there be more? The only character I liked was Wolverine and I guess that's why I liked the Wolverine movie (sorta). Magnemo or whatever he is called was kind of cool too but overall I just thought they were just really clunky and boring... Dunno. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were into the comics growing up or something.

>"You know what movies suck? Vampire flicks."

Not as much as movies about leeches or vacuum cleaners.

I'm not sure what the argument about whether these are "kids / family movies" or not has to do with whether or not they suck or not by the way...
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> To answer your question, I think I already did in
> my previous post. I mean, how exactly are you
> defining a kids'/family film--as anything that
> could potentially be seen by a kid, or something
> geared specifically for kids? Because if it's the
> former, that could be anything from Blue-Ballin'
> Watchmen to Finding Nemo, and if it's the latter,
> then we're talking Pixar/Disney.
>
> Put another way--would you take a six- or
> seven-year-old kid to see Wolverine or Dark Knight
> or Watchmen? And if you say yes, then I would
> question your experience with being around or
> having to take care of kids.

The only movie in question with a rating higher than PG-13 is Watchmen and that probably counts as "a movie with superheroes that isn't a superhero movie". Whether Watchmen sucks or not is another matter. As far as I'm concerned, the others are all designed and marketed to excite and stimulate the imaginations of children (13+ in some cases) or excite and stimulate the child inside of adults. Some suck some don't.
Interesting discussion.

A few points:

Movies made now that deal with these subjects HAVE TO be franchise-ready because of the massive expense involved. It was stated in interviews that they had ideas for Watchmen prequels/sequels - which really boggles the mind. But if the people love the character enough (with their money), the studio will find a way!
This same funding issue means that the movie has to be watered down for the same "general public" who gets Dexter figures pulled from Toys R Us shelves and needs governmental bodies to protect them from scary movies, things that need to be labeled "do not use internally" that no sane person would ever think of using in that way, etc. The marketing is skewed toward the remaining humans who would dare subject themselves to a theater full of fifteen-year-olds texting each other and talking through the movie.

There was a thought mentioned that there would never be a superhero movie that transcended the genre, in a similar way to Blade Runner. I find that thought patently untrue. It may take some time before someone gathers the clout necessary, but eventually, someone will tackle whatever superhero story would fit that bill (or they will make the film by accident). Besides, what is the "heavy" content someone wants in their superhero films? Although the movie was overall not good, there was a scene in Daredevil that I found interesting that suggested a much more serious film. Matt Murdock is shown popping a number of pain pills after a night out on patrol - a stark opposition to the standard "wrapped midsection/coma from a beating" seen in many standard superhero films.
Someone mentioned Hancock, where the original script depicts the living hell that a real super-man would face in dealing with real life. Read this link for more info on that:
[www.filmschoolrejects.com]
And ask yourself - who would the unmade version have been for? Although Hancock was not the blockbuster of that summer, Tonight He Comes would certainly not have made as much money.

Isn't that what it always comes down to? Money. Film is a business, and for that reason, regardless of the source material, the studios will always err on the side of entertaining rather than thought-provoking at the budget level superhero movies provide.
Now if someone has 100 grand to finance my ultra-real superhero script, starring Judah Friedlander and Angus Scrimm, that does for superheroes what Jaws did for the water, drop me a line.

Check out my new film, BOOLEY!
[mrpotent.com]
Join the fans of Pheyden!
[pheydenfans.blogspot.com]
>Maybe I'd feel differently if I were into the comics growing up or something.

No, you're right. The degree of coolness/lack of suckitude with the X movies is directly proportional to the amount of time spent reading the comics in your younger years. Many reasons Wolverine sucked for me, but the biggest had to be that this was the third film in a row that had Hugh Jackman holding a dead or dying woman in his arms and screaming to the heavens.

> The only movie in question with a rating higher
> than PG-13 is Watchmen and that probably counts as
> "a movie with superheroes that isn't a superhero
> movie". Whether Watchmen sucks or not is another
> matter. As far as I'm concerned, the others are
> all designed and marketed to excite and stimulate
> the imaginations of children (13+ in some cases)
> or excite and stimulate the child inside of
> adults. Some suck some don't.

[en.wikipedia.org]

[wiki.answers.com]

[en.wikipedia.org]



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2010 12:28AM by gingaio.
>There was a thought mentioned that there would never be a superhero movie that transcended the genre

I guess the aforementioned "Unbreakable" is in that vein. It's a superhero movie...but barely. I liked that movie up until the weird "Animal House" style ending (with the titles "Flounder went on to become a sucessful corporate lawyer, etc."). What a let-down.

>Many reasons Wolverine sucked for me, but the biggest had to be that this was the third film in a row that had Hugh Jackman holding a dead or dying woman in his arms and screaming to the heavens.

Ha! That's certainly one of the most hackneyed, as far as movie cliches go... "Mendozaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!"

I grew up with the X-Men comics and cartoon and I still thought all three movies were pretty damn lackluster. I do still love how Storm's power in X-Men 3 is to make it foggy in San Francisco. Wow, what a fucking impressive power!

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
Yeah, but Halle Berry's hot. So nyah. :P

Anyway, just catching up now...so some random thoughts:
Chieh, I wouldn't call Kick Ass or The Incredibles satire because even though they featured some self-conscious comedy here and there, I sure didn't get the impression that there was any real criticism intended (granted, I haven't read the Kick Ass comic, so I don't know if that intention was removed for the movie). Watchmen on the other hand, is probably more critical deconstruction than even satire. And of course, that was butchered for the film.

Anyway, getting back to Gcrush's point about superhero movies never being able to transcend the limitations of the comics genre, we're saying the same thing (like you said, you're just elucidating the reasons). You're saying there'll never be a Hulk movie where the Hulk dies simply because he'll never die in the comics. Because of the mandate of capitalistic staying power. I agree. All I was trying to add was that the Hulk could die in movies...but he can't...and likely won't. They could portray Tony Stark as being eaten up by alcoholism--a disease more detrimental to him than any eastern European's vendetta--but they can't and won't. Even if Kent makes a movie about a superhero going through "deep" shit...it's not the same as an established, franchised comic character being portrayed as going through that shit.

I lament this. As does the writer of the original article. And I get that it's a combination of capitalistic profiteering and the endless waltz of fanboys and corporate-minded filmmakers.

And Scopedog, I don't think that the influence of money on these projects makes their deep analysis futile...but perhaps it makes the outcome (lamentation!) inevitable. Whether you call this thread "deep analysis" or not, I think the discussion is 1) relevant (because it's come up before in the anime cooling off thread, and in the Mazinfeffer SKL thread), and it's 2) good to have as a sort of "fanboy gut-check". Are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem? And how does one even define the "solution" or the "problem"?

[Oh, Scope, did Robotkingdom charge you for your Unicron?? I was charged immediately upon preordering it and I got mine last week...so if you never got charged, maybe they never got your order. If you were charged, definitely drop them a line.]

As for whether a movie is for kids or not, isn't that kinda semantical? I guess if I read Scopedog correctly, is just a function of that money aspect again. A lot of these comic superhero movies are attempts at establishing franchises, right (at least, the ones discussed in the original article: the Iron Man's, the Batman's, the Spiderman's, and the X-Men's...not so much Watchmen or others like that)? Well, part of what makes a franchise successful is whether or not it can be ingrained into a child's psyche. If a young child can get into Iron Man (and, really, this whole Avengers build-up movie series), they're going to be more apt to blow their disposable income on Iron Man comics and merch later in life.

I don't know if there was anything more implied than that...
>Yeah, but Halle Berry's hot. So nyah. :P

Believe me, the prospecet of watching Halle Berry running around in a skin-tight pleather outfit was the only reason I watched that movie, but even that couldn't save it...
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> All I was trying to add was that the Hulk could
> die in movies...but he can't...and likely won't.

The funny thing about this is that the movies actually can bring about an ending to a story in the way that comics won't...
[en.wikipedia.org]
I know it was a made-for-tv film, but it still killed off the television version of the Hulk once and for all. So if you consider the franchise of "Bill Bixby Hulk", it is most definitely over.

Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>Even if Kent makes a movie about a superhero going through "deep" shit...it's not
>the same as an established, franchised comic character being portrayed as going >through that shit.

It certainly would be simple to create a Superman analog to tear apart and deconstruct - although once Tom Cruise saw the script, he would "love it" and re-write it to take out all the good stuff...
I was tying to think of something deep to say in response, but I can only think of this: after Superman Returns, I don't want comic franchise movies to try and bring asinine realism and conflict into stories that don't need it. I think Superman Returns misses the mark on an even more primal level than the X-Men films.

Check out my new film, BOOLEY!
[mrpotent.com]
Join the fans of Pheyden!
[pheydenfans.blogspot.com]
DoctorKent Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It certainly would be simple to create a Superman
> analog to tear apart and deconstruct - although
> once Tom Cruise saw the script, he would "love it"
> and re-write it to take out all the good stuff...

I want to see a cinematic adaptation of Chris Ware's The Super-Man. That shit is unbeatable genius.




> I was tying to think of something deep to say in
> response, but I can only think of this: after
> Superman Returns, I don't want comic franchise
> movies to try and bring asinine realism and
> conflict into stories that don't need it. I think
> Superman Returns misses the mark on an even more
> primal level than the X-Men films.

That's the problem with Superman. He is the apotheosis of boring.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2010 07:55PM by Gcrush.
Attachments:
open | download - chriswaresuperman.jpg (24.3 KB)
>That shit is unbeatable genius.

Yes! One of my favorite scenes is with him and Jimmy Corrican where he askes Jimmy if he ever embezzled any company funds as "fun money" for the weekend...
Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Chieh, I wouldn't call Kick Ass or The Incredibles
> satire because...
>
Yeah, we're pretty much on the same page here; that's pretty much what I was trying to say.
>
> As for whether a movie is for kids or not, isn't
> that kinda semantical? I guess if I read Scopedog
> correctly, is just a function of that money aspect
> again. A lot of these comic superhero movies are
> attempts at establishing franchises, right (at
> least, the ones discussed in the original article:
> the Iron Man's, the Batman's, the Spiderman's, and
> the X-Men's...not so much Watchmen or others like
> that)? Well, part of what makes a franchise
> successful is whether or not it can be ingrained
> into a child's psyche. If a young child can get
> into Iron Man (and, really, this whole Avengers
> build-up movie series), they're going to be more
> apt to blow their disposable income on Iron Man
> comics and merch later in life.
>
You're right about the franchising, and this gets at the heart of what Mr. Crush was arguing, too.

But the way I interpreted the argument was, "These flicks may seem sucky to us adults because they're children's movies," and that's an important point because it both defines what these superhero movies are and establishes the main reason that we find them to be sucky.

It's like starting a discussion on the suckiness of the LA Clippers. And we're all sitting around trying to figure out why they suck, and someone says the Clippers suck because they're a D-League team instead of a regular NBA team. We can agree that the Clippers suck and play like a D-League team, but we would also say that the Clippers are technically not a D-League team and that saying so messes up our understanding of what a regular NBA team is (versus a D-League team) and why they suck so hard.

I would argue that that while these are not children's films, they are taking advantage of cross-media marketing to young kids via the toys and cartoons (which are truly children's material). It's precisely why an Iron Man cartoon was produced and aired on Nick, and why a Wolverine & the X-Men cartoon was also made, to appeal to that younger demographic, to condition them, you might say, in a way that the movies can't do as effectively because they're skewed for an older demographic.

[And if you think that the distinction between a children's film and a PG-13 superhero film is arbitrary or inconsequential, then you might want to check this out:

[www.commercialfreechildhood.org]

or, from a scientific perspective:

[www.medicalnewstoday.com]

Just because there's a toy line attached to a movie doesn't make the movie a child's product, too.]

By the way, I just remembered that I lost my Cobra Commander to you a couple of years back because of the Lakers. Damn!

>I want to see a cinematic adaptation of Chris Ware's The Super-Man. That shit is
>unbeatable genius.

I honestly could not get into Jimmy Corrigan (it totally sucked for me), but I kind of want to check this out.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2010 02:41AM by gingaio.
[www.youtube.com]

Does Iron Man anime suck?

I don't know, but I need to watch it now!
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's like starting a discussion on the suckiness
> of the LA Clippers.

This is a glorious deconstruction of the "specimen vs. species" dilemma inherent in categorical thinking. Somewhere Plato's ghost is beaming, though it's probably because he was a Lakers fan.


> I would argue that that while these are not
> children's films, they are taking advantage of
> cross-media marketing to young kids via the toys
> and cartoons (which are truly children's
> material).

I know what you're saying, but be careful you don't fall into the Clippers' Trap. While toys and cartoons have a high level of intentionality towards a specific consumer audience in their production they are not immune to appropriation. We're basically having a conversation on a BBS dedicated to the adult consumption of children's material. We even indulge in discussions about this type of re-purposing from time to time. And there are numerous empirical measurements that would suggest we are consuming in an "adult" capacity no matter how "childish" we might believe the material to be.

I think Scope had a point, but it didn't get fully developed. There is almost certainly an adolescent aesthetic at work within the franchised superhero genre - a set of values that appropriates the ambiguous complexity of adult issues through the relative safety of a wish-fulfilling world in order to tame them. As a superhero the Hulk deals with adult issues like loss and death, but without the threat that the Hulk will ever be lost or killed. But without facing truly mortal consequences the Hulk cannot "graduate" into adulthood. Thus getting back to my explanation for why the superhero genre, in its current incarnation, will continue to defy transcendence into a serious genre.

I'm suggesting that focusing on an adolescent aesthetic might help separate which works are less-serious versus more-serious. This would avoid the pitfalls of sorting works into tautological categories. Off the cuff, here is how I would unpack a story...

---

In the context of the story do the characters face life-changing scenarios?

If so, do they actually experience consequences from those scenarios?

Can the characters transcend those consequences without special powers?

As part of the audience, do you identify the scenarios and changes the characters face as truly life-changing?

As part of the audience, do you identify with the characters because they are basically realistic?

---

The more often you answer "no" to these questions the further away from a "serious" work you get. Nearly all superhero comics and films that I can think of involve at least two "nos", though they often go to different questions. So the Iron Man movies would be way at the bottom of the serious spectrum while Unbreakable would be near the top.

Thoughts?


> I honestly could not get into Jimmy Corrigan (it
> totally sucked for me), but I kind of want to
> check this out.

Mm, skip the Corrigan bits and go straight for the Acme Novelty Library: Annual Report to Shareholders. The Super-Man pages are cut up throughout the work (including the interior of the cover), but the whole volume is a work of transcendental brilliance. I suspect you'll enjoy most, if not all, of it.
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