Feb 07 2012
by TJ Fink
The Super Bowl is an interesting time for non-sports fans. I know all the rules of football, understand most of the strategies, and genuinely enjoy a competitive game, but somehow it’s still infuriating to some of my NYC friends that I have no interest in picking a side. Oh well.
In truth, I look forward to Super Bowl commercials much more than the actual game. Some of them might be god-awful, but every now and then a clever ad pops up with some actual entertainment value. Segue time: I caught the latest Avengers teaser on Sunday night, and it got me thinking about the current state of superhero movies. My instinctive reaction to the trailer, of course, was “Holy shit! How could this film be anything short of amazing?” But then my cynical side chimed in and started an argument.
Nerdgasm TJ: Whoa, I get to see Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow bring the pain all in one movie?? I’m totally in.
Cynical TJ: Hold on there, sport. Remember last year’s crop of superhero flicks? Hollywood’s always been hit-or-miss with this genre. Three words: Spider. Man. Three.
Nerdgasm TJ: Ugh. But come on, Joss Whedon wrote and directed it! He had a hand in Captain America: First Avenger, and that turned out OK.
Cynical TJ: Joss Whedon? Dude, he directed an episode of Glee in 2010.
Nerdgasm TJ: Well yeah, but what about his work in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, huh? What about Firefly? Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? Thor?
Cynical TJ: Dude. Glee.
Nerdgasm TJ: Shut up.
I mean, Avengers is riding on the shoulders of (at least?) six separate Marvel franchises, not to mention their mutated Hollywood versions. It has an ensemble cast and a talented writer/director behind the project. In short, it has the potential to be awesome.
But superhero movies aren’t always awesome, are they? That goes double for sequels, prequels, and/or reboots of previous failures (who exactly was clamoring for another Ghost Rider?). Even films with massive budgets, gifted actors, and top-of-the-line special effects can flop, and if you’ve read this far then at least five examples have already popped into your noggin.
“Quick, Robin! Which one of us is currently lactating the most?”
With this in mind, here are some free tips Hollywoodians can use to construct near-flawless superhero movies in the future. They won’t listen, of course, but I’m only writing this as part of my court-mandated anger-management therapy anyway.
#1 Stop with the reboots/prequels/sequels to past failures and experiment more with original characters
I know the most powerful movers and shakers of Hollywood are in this for the cash. I know that. Why mess up a formula that clearly works? Make awesome superhero movie from beloved comic book characters, complete with satisfactory origin story-> appease comic book nerds while retaining general mass appeal -> take their money -> promise a sequel worthy of their movie-ticket dollars -> break promise -> take their money -> repeat until money influx slows down, then reboot the franchise.
But come on, we like when you try out an original protagonist every now and again. Unbreakable was awesome (so much so I’d wish for a sequel if I didn’t know any better), The Incredibles was highly entertaining, and Hancock was…a valiant effort.
I’ll absolutely admit that reboots can be a great idea, like with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s Batman; they truly have something unique to bring to the table. And yes, the character development in X-Men: First Class surprised me in a lot of ways (all good). But with Avengers, this will be our third live-action Hulk in a decade.
Superman Returns didn’t do so hot in 2006, so what do we get seven years later? Boom! Reboot. Spiderman 3 was a goddamn tragedy, and what’s the franchise’s next move? Rebootylicious, baby. And I know I already mentioned Ghost Rider up there, yet holy shit! That sequel is somehow in production. Which brings me to my next point…
#2 Don’t ever cast Nicholas Cage as anything or anyone
Yeah, I’ll admit this argument doesn’t exactly stand on solid ground. For the longest time, I’ve just had a personal vendetta against the guy. Not as a human being—I’ve hardly read enough about him to know what he’s like in person—but as an actor. There is not a single movie he’s starred in that I’ve genuinely enjoyed, with exactly one exception: Kick-Ass. This wasn’t a superhero movie per se, and even a smidgen of Cage is too much for my taste, but his whole Adam West thing is pretty good (for the record, I love this movie).
“Some of my best performances happen when my body’s on fiiiii-yyaaaar!!”
[Note: I’m certain there are watchable Cage movies out there, but that’s an expedition I’m no longer interested in embarking on. Call me close-minded.]
#3 Don’t let subsidiary love interests overshadow the plot
We get what you’re going for, Hollywood. Throw in some rom-com elements for the girls = put some more fannies in those seats. I can deal with some of that, I suppose. Love is an emotion that will be forever relevant (and marketable!) for our species, and it undoubtedly has its place in certain story arcs. But when Love starts to edge in on Ass-Kicking’s screen time, certain fanboys start to get all antsy in their pantsy. By the middle of Spiderman 3 I was praying Mary Jane would get Sandmanned to death just so Peter would stop whining and turn that lame-ass engagement ring in for some sweet, sweet pawn store cash. I have a similar gripe with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which begins and ends with that stupid wedding. Not that anyone really stuck around the theater long enough to watch that scene, I guess (ugh, except me. I was so young and foolish).
More Unreal Posts