trinityvixen: (thinking Mario)
[personal profile] trinityvixen
I caught this article on Tor.com about the renaissance of the comic book movie. Despite the $$$ made by The Avengers, I have a suspicion that comic book movies, specifically superhero comic book movies, are actually on the wane. Not necessarily in terms of quality, but I think the fad it going to start petering out.

Anyway, it will surprise no one that I disagree with a lot of points in that article. I have a long post as to why I disagree, but I summarize it up in an image for those not interested in the rant.

Because she never mentions this guy:




Don't get me wrong, the comic book movie renaissance owes a lot to movies that came before Iron Man, Blade, in particular, to my mind. And Iron Man would never have been made had there not been profitable franchises, X-Men, Spider-Man before it to start the trend. But by 2007, with Spider-Man 3 and X-Men 3 running on fumes (as [livejournal.com profile] ivy03 said to me at the time, "breaking all the toys" before someone else got a chance to play with them), there was a real chance that this trend was going to die, big-budget, high-concept Batman Begins sequel on the horizon or no.

Enter Iron Man. A movie made by a notoriously tight-fisted and, worse, brand new Marvel Studios that was really 90% improvisation on the part of the director/writer and lead actor, neither of whom were especially tried-and-true commercial successes. Jon Favreau had Elf. (And indie cred. That and $5 will get you a cup of coffee.) Robert Downey Jr. had, like, just completed his umpteenth stint in rehab and/or prison. (And also had indie cred with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. See above comment about coffee.) And yet, if not for their combined, insane genius, Iron Man could have been yet another Ghost Rider. In a year with a most heavy-handed (and hearted, because of Heath Ledger's death) The Dark Knight dominating the box office, Iron Man did something fun, and, more importantly, memorable.

Let's face it, comic book movies are always going to be derivative on some level, but until Iron Man, most the films made were based on highly visible franchises within pop culture--at least, most of the commercially successful ones were. You didn't have to read the comics to know who Spider-Man was, even if he wasn't, say, Superman. Blade might not have had the most pop culture penetration, but it did have vampires, and what else did you really need to know about the character once you knew that? Iron Man was a song by Black Sabbath, which, if you were lucky, people knew. Favreau and RDJ took a character with limited street appeal and even less pop culture presence and turned it into a smash success. They made something people never forgot (unlike some of the 3 hours of The Dark Knight which I have definitely forgotten, and that's saying something for me).

And The Avengers would never have happened without it. That's the real reason it was so important. It accomplished the comic-to-movie transition for the team comic. Marvel Studios was able to build a stable of characters that it brought together in a way not seen since Abbott and Costello met the entire Universal line of monsters. It melded commercial appeal (because we all admit they did this for the money, which they are now drowning in) along with the perennial tease that made their comics sell so well: buy our stuff or you'll never know what happens to your favorite characters. Money, more than loyalty, drives these franchises. They make more money if you like it--if you make a movie that, yes, tries to do some of the things the Tor.com article cited as important--but with the way Hollywood has restructured to make all their money in the first weekend, they don't have to make it that good to get your money.

The woman at Tor.com wraps up her assessment of the state of comic book movies like so:
"But the trend overall seems to be heading towards creative, careful comic book films that know the formula for success and honor the fandoms they come from."

We can certainly hope so. But they did make another Ghost Rider movie, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

The other issue I had with her article is her assertion that there is some kind of mandatory "tone" that movies must get right about their source material which completely overlooks the fact that even the franchises considered tonally consistent (say, Batman) had a lot of different tones for many, many years. I don't think the tenor of a film needs must match that of the source material. In fact, I think some of what failed about Watchmen was the effort to maintain the tone of the source material--which is kind of ridiculously bleak--and it came out as just oppressive and dark in a generic and depressing way that wasn't fun for three hours of movie. (To be fair, there are a lot of reasons a movie adaptation of Watchmen failed.) I think tonal consistency is more important.

We can agree, however, that Catwoman was terrible. I think I might have to revise my previous statement that Ang Lee's Hulk was the worst comic book movie ever made. Hulk was bad. It made me angry enough to want to smash things (irony!), but I don't think I was as vicariously embarrassed for people in that movie or as prone to laughing out loud to relieve the awkwardness as I was with Catwoman.

Date: 2012-05-17 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xannoside.livejournal.com
Didn't read the linked article because I'm in the middle of a few things, but I agree that this really isn't the start of (yet another) comic book movie renaissance.

What we're seeing now is the actual production of films based on properties that were optioned years ago, and the success of the Avengers franchise has far more to do with the (intentional or otherwise) well-paced release of a series of Marvel-IP films that (for the most part) perfectly walked the line in-between nods to the comic-reading audience and remembering that the general public needs enjoyable, exciting blockbuster experiences.

That they were successful comic book movies wasn't because of the "comic book" part.

No one outside the uber-geeks remembers that A History of Violence was based on a comic book.

The closest thing we are to a "comic book movie renaissance" is that Hollywood has realized, for real and true, that comic books represent a well of potentially valuable IPs and we won't be relying on stars and geek-directors to be bringing those properties to the screen anymore.

Date: 2012-05-17 07:21 pm (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
Pretty sure that the article means "superhero comic book" specifically, when it says "comic book".

Which is often a thing that annoys me, because I loves me a whole lotta non-supers comics. But still, I know how the culture in general sees comics.

Date: 2012-05-17 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
I have not liked a lot of the non-super hero comic book movies, though. I'll add a caveat that I didn't see American Splendor or Ghost World, which everyone says are great. But I saw From Hell and A History of Violence, and they did nothing for me. It may be subject matter of those works.

Date: 2012-05-18 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] six-demon-bag.livejournal.com
Speaking of non-super hero comic books, have you read The Sixth Gun? Very, very good stuff. Just picked up the third trade and looking forward to reading it this weekend.

Date: 2012-05-23 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
I have not. I'm always looking for more comics to read, so I'll look into it. Is it still ongoing? These days I find myself frustrated if I can't complete a story (definitely bored with infinite serials).

Date: 2012-05-23 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] six-demon-bag.livejournal.com
I believe it is still ongoing, but I'm not sure and I doubt it will be one that goes on forever. Another very popular series by the same author, Cullen Bunn, is The Damned and that one was done in just one graphic novel. A cursed undead man unravelling a mystery involving rival demon crime families in the prohibition era. Last I heard, Showtime had picked up the rights to make a TV adaptation, but I don't know if that's still going to happen and I was annoyed about it anyway because their plan was to take it out of the prohibition era and put it in modern day Chicago. /rant

Date: 2012-05-17 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
What we're seeing now is the actual production of films based on properties that were optioned years ago, and the success of the Avengers franchise has far more to do with the (intentional or otherwise) well-paced release of a series of Marvel-IP films that (for the most part) perfectly walked the line in-between nods to the comic-reading audience and remembering that the general public needs enjoyable, exciting blockbuster experiences.
The pacing of releases was key for Marvel, especially with the way they did it, every summer, for a few years to build up a ritual as much as a back story. People get really mad that movies like Thor and Captain America were "just prequels to The Avengers" which is mean-spirited and reductionist besides being stupid. Of course they are, that's how The Avengers becomes something people want to see.

Good point about the time from option to opening, too: these movies are being pushed forward by, I would guess, the momentum of things like X-Men and Spider-Man; from the timing, I'd say both those franchises' insanely successful (commercially, yes, but also critically) second films. These movies were in the works before the first downturn (X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider, Elektra, Watchmen), which is key: they were being invested in after success but before failure or fatigue were well established, meaning they had a fighting chance, to, well, fight for themselves.

I knew A History of Violence was a graphic novel! Go me!

I worry about the "renaissance" as you outline it. To date, I think the people who've done best with movies haven't necessarily been fans but have seen some truth in the original product that money-cruncher hacks have not. Nolan is a great example of a non-geek guy making great hay out of the Batman legend. He rebuilt Batman on the idea that Batman was an idea, and he has to operate in the marketplace of ideas like everyone else (including the secondary market he creates by just being). But Nolan is an exceptional talent in many ways. Look at what Michael bay is threatening to do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...

Date: 2012-05-17 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xannoside.livejournal.com
I agree, director who understands the idea is key, geek follower or not.

There are a lot of directors that I would prefer to not see do a super-hero film, and Bay certainly tops that list.

That said, I almost kind of want to see a Wes Anderson X-Men movie. :P

Date: 2012-05-17 08:02 pm (UTC)
ext_27667: (Default)
From: [identity profile] viridian.livejournal.com
I completely agree with you that we've already had the renaissance of comic book movies. I feel like there will still be a few good ones here and there, but really? What's left to make or reboot RIGHT NOW? Rebooting Spiderman? YAWN and TOO SOON.

Date: 2012-05-17 08:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
The worst thing is that you know they're doing it for the wrong reasons. Critics would not stop bitching about The Avengers and its ancillary movies being nothing but PR vehicles for toys and shit. This irritates me because it lumps together The Avengers with something like The Amazing Spider-Man. Sony is only making a goddamn Spider-Man movie five years after the last one to keep the rights to the character in house because they know it would be INSANE if Marvel could put Spider-Man into any sequel to The Avengers. They're doing it out of fucking spite, not because their movie is good or will even do well. Versus Marvel making a movie that will also sell a good deal of action figures (and, in my case, paper cups and napkins). It's not the same at all.

It also ignores the fact that Sony is contributing to the burn-out factor, ruining the fun for everyone by dragging down a great character whose franchise has already seen better days. Sony could make SO MUCH MORE MONEY if they would just sell the rights back to Marvel for a percentage of the FUCKING INCREDULOUS AMOUNTS OF BAZILLIONS TRILLIONS OF MONIES a Spidey-having Avengers sequel would have.

Date: 2012-05-18 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jethrien.livejournal.com
(and, in my case, paper cups and napkins).

And masks.

Because we all know what you really wanted were the masks.

Date: 2012-05-23 02:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
I cannot deny that this is true. I love that Thor hat inordinately, but the Iron Man mask was a real conversation starter.

Date: 2012-05-18 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] six-demon-bag.livejournal.com
It's peaked, so I would assume it's on it's way out..at least temporarily. I love this comic book movie era though. Speaking of Ghost Rider...did the sequel already come to the theater and leave or has it not come to the theater at all? Bad as it was, I enjoyed the first one (once I'd seen it and gotten over my expectations). I was just thinking about RDJ today and how you can see his Tony Stark a little even back in 1986's Weird Science (one of my all time favorite films). Oh and it's funny about Iron Man 'cause I always thought of him as one of the lamest superheroes as a kid. : )

Date: 2012-05-23 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
The Ghost Rider sequel is already gone (it was in theaters in February), alas. You'll have to see Ghost Rider peeing fire on DVD.

RDJ has always played some variety of himself, more or less controlled as a part called for it. That is to say, he taps his inner (and mostly outer) asshole and runs with it. I found his cocaine-fueled performances as a younger guy exhausting. Now that he's older and a little more sarcastic about his caustic sense humor, it's much more tolerable.

Date: 2012-05-18 04:47 pm (UTC)
avram: (Default)
From: [personal profile] avram
Iron Man was a song by Black Sabbath

Somewhere out there on the Internet, there must be a furious review of the first Iron Man movie by someone pissed off that they got the origin "wrong". "He's supposed to be turned to steel in a great magnetic field!"

Date: 2012-05-23 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
HAH! Thank you for that.

Date: 2012-05-28 05:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saikogrrl.livejournal.com
Fuck me, I love Tony Stark.

I am reading all the Steve Rogers/Tony Stark fic right now and GOD, THE FEELINGS, I HAVE ALL OF THEM. <33333333

Date: 2012-05-29 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trinityvixen.livejournal.com
Interesting. I don't think The Avengers did much to further that slash, really, but you go right ahead and enjoy.

Date: 2012-05-29 10:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saikogrrl.livejournal.com
Really? I thought there was quite a bit of URST XD plus they are both super hotties.

And what about the civil war storyline ending? And apparently that AU where Steve and girl!Tony are married? There was this blog that explained it really well, will have to link you. :-D

Date: 2012-05-29 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saikogrrl.livejournal.com
Anyways how are youse? LTNS :-D

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