Monday, July 23, 2012

In Which I Come to Terms with Comic Book Movies

I don’t read comics. I sort of know a lot about them but trying to maintain decades’ worth of inter-connected fictions has created worlds as impenetrable as they are ridiculous. I used to watch a lot of comic book cartoons though and I still do watch a lot of comic book movies. They give the interesting characters and ideas a more comprehensible place to shine. However, now that this summer’s Avengers, Spider-Man, Batman triumvirate has come and gone, I find myself far less excited for the future of the genre.

I think it’s because it’s starting to move past me and what I value. I loved movies like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy for how independent they felt and how they brazenly tossed outside certain comic book trappings in favor of intelligent realism and deeper themes. Conversely, I enjoyed films like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 for its combination of splashy, 60’s comic fun with surprisingly poignant introspection and character studies. It was certainly interested in faithfully bringing the comic of to the screen, but with any good adaptation, mere recreation wasn’t and shouldn’t be the ultimate point. At least, that's my opinion.

Now that may all sound like a precursor to me talking all sorts of mess about The Avengers and Marvel Studio’s grand unified comic book movie theory but that’s not true. I have problems with certain pacing and scale things in The Avengers, and Thor, but overall I think it’s a really funny, breezy, self-assured, well-written movie with lots of great little character and action beats. It’s kind of a shame a few other movies had to be sacrificed to make it work, only the first Iron Man  and Captain America movies work for me because of their independence. Overall though it’s an achievement and a good movie in it’s on right. Plus at least it sort of acknowledges how crazy, messed-up and kind of stupid the “cosmic and magic comic stuff coming into an otherwise mildly futuristic real-world world” plotline really is.
"Comic-book movies aren't one "great epic master narrative": they're all ultimately indistinguishable."- Armond White, an idiot who occasionally has a point

However, after this year’s Comic-Con and all of its fandom-pandering "phase 2" fluff nonsense, I’ve realized that I just can’t care about this far-more comic book literal post-Avengers movie world we seem to be entering.

I don’t care at all about a Thor sequel, or a Captain America sequel, or a movie where a tree-man and a talking space raccoon team up to stop not-Darkseid.

Iron Man 3 could be neat but that franchise is so dependent on Robert Downey Jr.’s charisma that where does it go once his contract expires after this? Plus his new suit color scheme is garbage but that’s irrelevant.

Moving beyond Marvel Studios, the new Wolverine in Japan movie might be alright but imagine how much better it could have been in Darren Aronofsky had stuck around to direct?

There’s not enough information out yet about the X-Men: First Class sequel to pass any sort of prejudgment on it but that last one was pretty good.

I actually thought the Spider-Man reboot was mostly inoffensive but I have no interest in a sequel. While too-soon reboots may give newcomers a good place to get on-board, they also give old-timers a good place to bail.

Can DC even get it together and make a Justice League movie, or any other non-Batman/non-Superman movie, that doesn't end up a Green Lantern-style mess?

There are precisely two upcoming comic book movies that threaten to break my new-found shell of cynicism. From DC, it’s Man of Steel because I think Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan’s radically different styles could gel in a really fascinating way. Plus, the “Superman as Jesus” thing to me is the only compelling way to do the character on film these days. He’s not a just superhero, he’s the embodiment of the idea of the superhero and that requires a different, larger, more mythic approach. Something a little more detached. It can’t be like a certain other series where Superman spends ten years wandering around, doing all sorts of Superman things like forming the Justice League, fighting all sorts of Superman villains and saving the world from Darkseid of all people before being like “okay, NOW I’m Superman.”

From Marvel, it’s Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man because it’s the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim doing… Ant-Man.

I also wouldn't mind a Black Panther movie.

Or another Ghost Rider.

Or Stephen Colbert as Dr. Strange. Think about it...


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