Are superhero movies creatively bankrupt?

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201005061502 Are superhero movies creatively bankrupt?
That’s more or less what Matt Zoller Seitz is saying in this widely-quoted Salon piece:


The comic book film has become a gravy train to nowhere. The genre cranks up directors’ box office averages and keeps offbeat actors fully employed for years at a stretch by dutifully replicating (with precious few exceptions) the least interesting, least exciting elements of its source material; spicing up otherwise rote superhero vs. supervillain storylines with “complications” and “revisions” (scare quotes intentional) that the filmmakers, for reasons of fiduciary duty, cannot properly investigate; and delivering amusing characterizations, dense stories or stunning visuals while typically failing to combine those aspects into a satisfying whole.

As IRON MAN 2 is poised to become the biggest opening ever, it’s worth revisiting the genre and pointing out that as movies — like movies with themes and acting and set pieces that aren’t fights and so on — the genre has gotten as formulaic as the wifebeaters all of Marvel’s heroes wear. We’d slap Seitz on the wrist for conflating “comic book” with “superhero” in the above quote — and while we can’t argue that SUPERMAN RETURNS and Ang Lee’s HULK were the most daring attempts at a larger meaning, they still weren’t all that…successful.

What do YOU think? Are superhero movies running out of steam?

Comments

  1. And the “Of course they’re just superficial popcorn blockbusters! I go to the movies to be entertained, not to think!” backlash in 5, 4, 3, 2…

  2. “and while we can’t argue that SUPERMAN RETURNS and Ang Lee’s HULK were the most daring attempts at a larger meaning, they still weren’t all that…successful.”

    They were boring. Not that I really liked Iron Man all that much. The acting was fun, but the story just fell apart at the end. I thought The Watchmen was a pretty successful movie as far as deeper meaning goes, it just didn’t do great box office. I movie is only as good as the people who make it. One day you get a bad one, then out of the blue, somethng great. What can you do bet take it a movie at a time, wait, and see?

  3. What do I think? I think Ang Lee’s Hulk was a steaming pile of shit, that’s what I think.

  4. likefunbutnot says:

    Comic book movies are generally about creating a spectacle, not telling a story. Seeing the X-men fight on the Statue of Liberty is a lot more important to the movie version than knowing that Magneto survived the Holocaust.

  5. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Hollywood movies lack substance. Alert the media.

  6. Sturgeon’s Revelation:
    “Ninety percent of everything is crud”

    Meanwhile, I eagerly await Krrish 2…

  7. i think “superhero” is now a legitimate movie sub-genre (or maybe cross genre, as it tends to span both sci-fi and action). whether it’s based on a comic book or not, the superhero movie is essentially a staple at this point. it’ll wax and wane like any other genre, but i don’t think it’s bankrupt and i don’t think it’s going anywhere.

    saying the entire genre is in the crappier is an extreme generalization. it’s always been largely hoaky since it started to establish itself in the late 80s / early 90s. and i think that the 00s were probably regarded as some sort of superhero movie golden age by many despite being just as hoaky as any other time (see Daredevil, Spidey 3, X3, Catwoman, etc)… it was just “cooler” than before.

    so basically this guy’s argument is totally off point because he’s claiming that a lot of superhero flicks have “become” something that they always were (since the days of Donner’s Superman, really) — stuffed with celebrities, bloated with hype, and inferior (most of the time) to their source material. it appears that Matt is just realizing this right now.

  8. Scott Pilgrim looks brilliant.

  9. mark coale says:

    what superhero movie has ever been “outside the box?”

    I guess THE HULK and we’ve seen what most people think of it.

  10. Julian says:

    Well we got American Splendor out of it and Scott Pilgrim looks awesome, so I can’t complain.

  11. Mr Wesley says:

    I read this argument the week Kick-Ass came out. And I agree with Nick Marino, that super-hero movies are on the cusp of becoming a genre unto themselves. And like all genres, they’re going to develop their own set of tropes and cliches, which we’re already beginning to establish. But, with films like Kick-Ass, those tropes are already beginning to be manipulated, like with Kick-Ass and The Watchmen, so saying that the genre’s bankrupt is a little premature.

    And, like it or not, 99% of the successful super-hero franchises are based on episodic children’s entertainment of 40-80 years ago. As long as the movie studios are adapting successful comic books, they’re going to have to capture something of the tone of the source material in order to be successful. This is where Superman Returns and The Hulk went wrong, I believe.

    Finally… I won’t say what I really want to about Salon.com, but suffice it to say that I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything published on the site.

  12. What I don’t understand is why every other piece of pop culture produced by giant corporations for the mass market don’t seem to take it on the chin the same way these superhero movies do.

    Do most superhero movies look and feel exactly the same? Probably yeah they do. But what about most rom coms? Most horror movies? Most family fare? Most action flicks? Come to think of it, is there any specific movie genre regularly produced by the big studios that’s blazing new trails of creativity film after film?

    Matt Zoller Seitz is a fine critic, and I take no issue with his saying that he thinks these movies aren’t producing worthwhile narratives and why, but the process of making a lot of hay over the fact that superhero movies all act and feel the same seems more of a shot aimed at the particular genre that’s topping the box office right now more than it does a specific criticism labeled at the ins and outs of this particular brand of entertainment in some ways.

  13. As the editor of a french fanzine about comics, I must confess that comics movies adaptation often make me ashamed of being a comic-book fan… That’s quite a result, seing that I’m really proud of reading comics, and always ready to fight for lost causes like the entire run of Dazzler :p . But comics movies adaptations so far…. I prefer not to see them anymore and beg people to not associate those with comics.

    They are mostly very bad movies, empty shells that nobody will remember in 10 years, and go against all the efforts creators, fans and publishers, have made to make people realize that comic-books are not dumb and are not only super-heroes fights after superheroes fights.

  14. You are all missing the point — I think Heidi is saying (correct me if I’m wrong), that SR and Hulk One actually tried to go beyond the comics source material — and didn’t do so well with the $ (or babymen). And if there is an implied connection there, I could not agree more.

    That being said, what does “gravy train to nowhere mean?” That metaphor makes no sense. And if Watchmen had any “deeper meaning” (did it?) it’s only because it so accurately (more or less) translated the source material, which did have that “deeper meaning.” It completely followed the source material, it was just different source material. I thought Superman Returns had tons more “deeper meaning” because it was *new*, it wasn’t something I had read a hundred times before.

    I also love how some other site didn’t like IM2 it because it was a character piece. Ok. The argument against super-hero movies was the what now? Sigh. Why can’t we all just enjoy our moment in the sun instead of putting on Spock ears and dissing something made FOR us?

    Not a film critic and missing Alan Coil who would have had a great one on this today, right?

    Brad

  15. Synsidar says:

    The strongest point Seitz makes is that superhero movies — at least those based on licensed characters — are much more products than they are works of art. The product tie-ins are important to a movie’s success, if not critical. I’ve seen the IRON MAN 2 tie-in ads so many times on ESPN that I’m already sick of them.

    The commercialization of the genre is the basis for Seitz’s “gravy train to nowhere” comment. He pointed out that zombie movies can have artistic aspects and still entertain, whereas too many superhero movies just try to draw people in on the basis of individual elements. They don’t tell complete stories.

    Nothing prevents filmmakers from doing movies about original characters with paranormal powers, but they probably won’t be able to compete with movies based on licensed characters. How many people saw the telekinetics, et al. in the movie PUSH?

    SRS

  16. That helps on the gravy train. I guess I just don’t see how that’s a bad thing — yes blockbuster and cola placement but that’s what super-hero comics do: they are products with ads. And it is going somewhere: to the bank. Are we supposed to wish that instead of commercials and toys and go comics go there is an arthouse Iron Man where he spends the whole 2 hours talking to a bottle — in French?

  17. Rebecca from GHOST WORLD is also the Black Widow in IRON MAN TWO. The mind boggles.

  18. brenticles says:

    Couldn’t you change the words around and basically say the same thing about Romantic Comedies or Horror movies? It’s not exactly earth shattering that the studios crank out a lot of junk. There are plenty of movies in other genres that bomb but somehow those genres are dismissed on the whole.

  19. Why say “comic-book movies are Hollywood’s most bankrupt genre” when its obvious he just means superhero films?

    GHOST WORLD. ROAD TO PERDITION. AMERICAN SPLENDOR. PERSEOPOLIS.

    Sloppy, pure reductionist conclusions from a guy who’s proven in his argument that he’s only been exposed to— and loves as a fan!— that part of “comic-book movies” with the large Hollywood budget and sfx explosions. Sad part is, his sort of critical blanketfying is acceptable.

    32 years after Donner’s SUPERMAN, isn’t it time to demand from genre film reviewers the sort of development and nuance “comic-book movies” have undergone in the same time span?

  20. Matt’s observation seems unnessarily specific as it applies to any and all genres of film. A comedy/horror/action/period film directed by Vadim Perelman will be very different from one directed by Michael Bay. However, the implication that superhero and/or comic book movies are inhernetly incapable of any sort of cinematic depth is simply closed minded. I don’t believe that was Matt’s point, actually it seems the opposite. With all that comic books are capable in their native form, how is that the translation to the movie medium seems so lacking…

  21. I think superhero films have (on average) had a bit more substance than the average big-budget holiday movie, frankly. As you noted, Superman Returns had genuine ideas about both its title character and the genre. The Dark Knight had some interesting subtext about the War on Terror. Even Iron Man managed to feature good performances.

  22. good movies are good.
    bad movies are bad.
    any genre works and doesnt work, depending on the material and the people presenting it.

    are superhero movies dead?

    are westerns dead?

    are sci-fi movies dead?

    and so on…

  23. To Jimmy Palmiotti: yes, except that there is a danger that the repetition of some awful gimmicks in hollywood superheroes movies will perhaps become “rules” of the comic book movie genre.

    For example:
    – extreme “cabotinage” from otherwise great actors, because they think they have to overact their character (Daddy banner jumping on his chair, Green Goblin miowling in front of his mirror…)

    – special effects first, the story later…

    – wink wink references taking precious minute sof time that should instead be used to perhaps give more subtance to some characters

    etc…

  24. This reads like a screed in search of a complaint. An action-movie sub-genre (superheroes) isn’t The Bicycle Thief or Citizen Kane? Wow, color me shocked.

    I can’t quite figure out what the complaint here is. Superhero movies are being adapted from superhero comics, and they have “amusing characterizations, dense stories and stunning visuals” but somehow aren’t — what? Super-awesome-great? Why should superhero movies in any way be expected to achieve more than any other Hollywood blockbuster?

    For instance, I’d take Spider-Man II or The Dark Knight or Iron Man, as a story AND a movie, over tripe like Titanic or Transformers or (*shiver*) Gladiator. Those didn’t even have good stories! So.. where’s the complaint about the “satisfying whole” in those piles of garbage?

    And yes, Superman Returns and Ang Lee’s Hulk were “less successful” because they STANK. Not because they tried something different. THE DARK KNIGHT tried something different and succeeded both with critics and at the box office. What’s wrong with that one? In my opinion: nothing at all.

  25. Synsidar says:

    The problem I see generally with superhero movies, which is what Seitz was clearly writing about, is that the producers of one presumptively plan on doing sequels if the movie is a success. That immediately results in problems with the storytelling.

    Superman and Batman aren’t deep characters. Both of them can be described completely in one movie. To avoid repeating themselves, screenwriters make changes that might detract from the hero or are uninteresting to viewers.

    The Spider-Man franchise is being rebooted after three films, partly to save money. The X-Men producers are planning a prequel, which will be cheaper as well.

    The insistence on doing sequels is what separates the superhero movies from other genres, such as romantic comedies. If producers concentrated on producing the best ____ movie they could and only worried about doing sequels if one naturally occurred to creators, superhero movies wouldn’t have image problems. Director Christopher Nolan, re Batman:

    Nolan had originally not committed to another sequel, explaining that he does not normally line up projects right after completing a film, noting “Is there a story that’s going to keep me emotionally invested for the couple of years that it will take to make another one? That’s the overriding question. On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question: How many good third movies in a franchise can people name?”[81] He added the only reason he would return would be if he found a necessary way to continue the story, but he feared midway through filming another installment he would find it redundant.

  26. Whenever I see even clips of any of the Spiderman movies, I can’t help but agree that mayyyybe Superheroes have seen their day. It’s hard to come back from the age of ubiquitous postmodern self-awareness, I think for the Superhero genre specifically. While some movies like Iron Man and Kick-Ass use this attention to conceit cleverly, other superhero movies don’t seem to get it at all.

  27. I don’t think comicbook movies are any more creatively bankrupt than the comics they come from or are based on. The movie storytelling format needs to be cleaner and leaner, and make a much more broader audience happy. That leads to simplification and elegance… or beer-swilling lowbrow crap and innuendo.

    Or tear your eyes out utter shit like Kick Ass.

  28. Syn: The problem I see generally with superhero movies, which is what Seitz was clearly writing about, is that the producers of one presumptively plan on doing sequels if the movie is a success.

    SEX IN THE CITY 2. BIG TOP PEE WEE. CADDYSHACK 2. EUROPEAN VACATION. BREAKIN’ 2: Electic Boogaloo. HOUSE PARTY 2. JAWS 2.
    TABOO 2. DEBBY DOES DALLAS 2.

    ALL sequels made to “cash in” the success of the original.

    So how exactly ARE producers of “superhero movies” diffrent from their non-superhero-film producing brethren? Cause it can be argued, film-critic wise, that those sequels above also contain problems in their storytelling…

    [Yes, I’m calling that for SITC 2, pre-emptively.]

  29. Synsidar says:

    Doing sequels to comedies and low-brow, low-budget movies is substantially different from planning for superheroes to be franchises before production even starts on the hero’s first film.

    I’ve read two reviews of IRON MAN 2. Both reviews fault the film for not showing the leads out of costume enough, for bombastic but shallow action sequences, and for the characterization of Stark departing from what made him interesting in the first film. Two movies in, both critics wondered if the franchise is dying.

    SRS

  30. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Hollywood filmmaking is a creative wasteland. They’re making a film of Asteroids. Asteroids – a triangle shooting dots at amorphous blobs. There’s a film planned of the board game Monopoly. Marmaduke has a film coming out this summer.

    I am currently writing a script about a roll of paper towels in my kitchen. The challenge is finishing the script before I finish the roll of paper towels.

  31. mpneeb says:

    He’s mostly right. About superhero movies any ways. The high profile ones are, for the most part, pretty much paint-by-numbers ordeals. There’s not much difference between SPIDER-MAN and DAREDEVIL and GHOST RIDER and… I can go on, but you get the point.
    Which is why KICKASS was so much of a disappointment- while it started off as an attempt to take the piss out of super-hero movies, it just became one by the end with the bazooka idiocy and the jetpack (no, the word ‘cunt’ didn’t bother me).
    I’m not expecting too much deviation from the model already established in films like THOR, GREEN LANTERN, or CAPTAIN AMERICA. Sorry, but I can assure you, you have ALREADY. SEEN. THEM.
    And for the peanut gallery, quit complaining about Hollywood. Or whatever you think ‘Hollywood’ means. Presumably, you’re talking about the film making and promotion industry that is birthing IRON MAN 2 this weekend, right? The popular sentiment is that it’s boring and creatively stale. You’d be right of course, but you’re missing the point.
    Hollywood making a movie based on your favorite (50 year old) property is simply one corporate entity mating with another corporate entity. There’s nothing cutting edge, insightful, meaningful, or interesting about the latest Spider-man… whatever. However, if you want your favorite (fossilized) property to look good- you need Hollywood. You couldn’t make something like IRON MAN 2 outside of that financial and technical community called Hollywood. The money isn’t there, and frankly, the big companies are not selling the rights to the independent producers that could get something like that made (the quasi-independent efforts I can recall off hand, the assorted Punisher movies and Man-Thing, were unquestionably disasters). So if you don’t like ‘Hollywood,’ good for you. But you’re not going to do a damn thing about it. You’ll buy another ticket knowing full well what you’re getting. Because when it comes to these kinds of movies, it is the ONLY GAME IN TOWN.

  32. I just love how merely a couple of hack pieces by self-righteous ‘critics’ can always touch off another round of navel-gazing from comics fans. Seitz himself is too self-absorbed to realize that ALL commercial-oriented movies are normally vacant of meaning in the first place, and comic book movies are primarily being made right now to be COMMERCIAL properties first and foremost, with the hope of creating new movie franchises as another potential benefit. So if one is looking for high art, why the hell is anyone expecting to find it in commercial Hollywood blockbusters? Someone’s parked on the wrong avenue.

  33. There have been a ton of good comic book movies. Ghost World, American Splendor, History of Violence, Road to Perdition, Burton’s Batman, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and while reviled Ang Lee’s Hulk was a good film.

    But now there is a glut of marginal comic movies, but there has been a glut in the past too, Constantine, Art School Confidential (since the main story was used in Ghost World a waste), Daredevil, the Fantastic Four movies.

    It’s funny watching everyone get worked up over mid to less than glowing reviews. I understand you care and everything, but most comic book movies are ok at best. Entertaining is one thing, but just because something is entertaining doesn’t mean it’s exceptionally well made.

  34. Andrew Laubacher says:

    IF there is an intrinsic problem with super-hero movies (as opposed to “comic-book movies”) it is that the large budgets mean that few studios will be willing to take risks with them. The lower-budget entries are often cranked out quickly to take advantage of the trend (often killing the trend in the process with their low-quality product).

  35. No one would ever write an article about how movies made from novels or short stories all suck.
    Shrek was a kid’s book.
    It’s a Wonderful Life was a Christmas card.
    My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a one-woman play.
     
    MOST movies are adaptations of SOMETHING.

  36. It’s just frustrating to me, as a longtime comics fan, to see other fans enforce every “comic book guy” stereotype when it comes to movies. I saw Iron Man 2 and sure enough there was a local TV news wagon parked outside the theater. Do you think it was to gauge the critical response? No, it was to see the freaks.

    I got it when we as the nerd herd had no voice or outlet or even respect in Hollywood but now that we do, you would think we would only be satisfied by a 4-D, 5-hour version of Crisis on Infinite Earths where filmgoers could interact with the film by throwing virtual rocks at the Anti-Monitor. Look at all these movies we have now! This is Christmas, man! Open the presents! When you see Granov, Bendis, Quesada et al in the credits you should CHEER. We held on long enough and it HAPPENED! cheers all around.

  37. the first job of a super-hero movie (or any movie for that matter) is to entertain. well made or not if the movie entertains, it’s done it’s job. now does this mean that super-hero movies cannot have a deeper meaning? sure they can, but it better have explosions and butt-kicking and all kinds of action inbetween those doses of deeper meaning, ’cause nobody wants to watch an avengers movie with the characters having a two hour conversation at the mansion about what makes them tick, while jarvis brings them cups of tea. we are after all talking about super-heroes, which at their very core are about the action, the fights, the flashy powers, etc. take out or tone down those elements in a super-hero movie (or super-hero comic), then really, who cares? thanks for letting me rant!

  38. R. Maheras says:

    If “Superman Returns” and Ang Lee’s “The Hulk” were the best examples of superhero films pushing the envelope, then I don’t want the envelope pushed. Both films fell way flat in my estimation – especially “The Hulk.” In both cases, the creators took established characters and twisted them out of shape like pretzels, wringing out almost all of the endearing qualities that made the characters successful in the first place.

    If that’s “real art,” who needs it?

  39. MBunge says:

    I find it very odd to read someone arguing super-hero movies are “creatively bankrupt” in the wake of something like IRON MAN 2. No, it doesn’t have the human drama of the first film, but it’s take on the technological arms race that would follow the appearance of something like Iron Man is fairly clever and not something we’ve seen a billion times before in the genre.

    Mike

  40. Synsidar says:

    One of the nice things about the STAR TREK: TOS movies was that they had the characters age along with the actors. When the time came for the characters to retire, they did.

    When Paramount rebooted the series, they didn’t just recast all the roles; they actually changed the universe the characters are inhabiting. That will force some changes in future storytelling.

    If producers structured their superhero movies as, say, trilogies and told a character’s story completely within that trilogy, they might have more success commercially and critically with that character than they will if they try to do an unlimited number of sequels and wind up being forced to reboot the series after two or three films.

    SRS

  41. There’s no way to write this without sounding petty, but…

    I agree with many of the points above, but none of that needed to even be said.

    The article is full of misrepresentations, opinions presented as facts, and dubious claims in order to support the writer’s point. The article wouldn’t make it through a basic TV/ Film studies course without dripping with red ink reading “opinion”, “provide details”, and “needs more information”. He provides countless examples of claims that are either opinion or could easily be countered with movies he cites elsewhere in the article. As well as, by his definition, ONLY movies depending upon terror and fight or flight could meet his criteria for a resonant story.

    Its just lazy writing and a chance to get hits thanks to the release of Iron Man 2.

    But comic blogs always take the bait.

  42. The Beat says:

    As someone who often disagrees with Seitz, I see I misrepresented his point a little bit, but if you read the original article, his thesis is NOT THAT SUPERHERO MOVIES SUCK but that the recent superhero movie genre has not developed a larger vision in the way that other genres movies have – say zombie movies. And he DEFINITELY has a point there.

    Using DARK KNIGHT, SPIDEY 2 and X-MEN 2 as generally considered the best recent superhero movies, you can see how all of them are serious, well-meaning pieces of filmmaking. And DARK KNIGHT definitely comes the closest to making a larger statement — the fact that it was incredibly successful shows that Making a Larger Statement and Making A Successful Superhero Movie are IN NO WAY incompatible. Watchmen, Sin City and 300 were also trying to making larger statements (even if it was a very dumb one in the case of the latter.)

    I kind of think the first two Spidey movies succeeded AS movies, and the Batman movies kinda did, but the sloppy filmmaking (sorry kids) kept them from my top rank.

    NOW, moving on to such things as…the endless parade of Marvel superhero movies…if Robert Downey Jr. hadn’t provided such a breath of fresh air as Iron Man everyone would be burying that movie as a good remake of Daredevil. It was “okey” as a movie, but vastly uplifted by perfect casting. High jackman was also perfectly cast as Wolverine, but the Wolverine movie was….meh. Ditto Ghost Rider, Hulk 2, any number of Punisher films…nto to mention atrocities like Catwomen and Elektra.

    The disaster film was once a genre just like the superhero film. And these movies are fun to watch late at night — Helen Hayes! Charlton Heston! Ava Gardner! — until AIRPLANE came along and perfectly sent them up. But they are not good films in the larger sense in the way that even TITANIC and FOREST GUMP (as much as I hate it) are.

    PS: I just saw THE LOSERS last night and it was enjoyable as a well cast romp of very likable and attractive stars, with a quirky script that provided surprises. But it was still a very bad story with holes you could drive a hummer through. But this was a team action film not a superhero story.

  43. Alan Coil would have made hay of this, rest his soul.

    I see the larger vision that Heidi is saying, but it is a fine line when talking about movie Summer blockbusters. Zombie films have gone in several directions, but I’m not ready to place any of them in the blockbuster grindhouse that other movies go through (promotion/script doctors/ancillary/directors, et.)

    That said, I think there are some variations in the superhero genre. Fantastic Four is not serious, almost played for laughs. X-Men is more teen-level action, Dark Knight/Watchmen/Ang’s Hulk tried for higher ground, Kick-Ass is taking it another direction. I think we are seeing sub-genres and multiple paths within the “genre”. Some just haven’t taken off yet. But even if ONE does (i.e., Dark Knight) I doubt it would signify a sea change in the superhero film.

  44. MBunge says:

    “if Robert Downey Jr. hadn’t provided such a breath of fresh air as Iron Man everyone would be burying that movie as a good remake of Daredevil.”

    Uh, no. Granted, I haven’t seen the director’s cut of DAREDEVIL and perhaps it’s a spectacular improvement, but calling IRON MAN a good remake of DD makes you sound like you haven’t seen either film.

    Mike

  45. MBunge says:

    “The disaster film was once a genre just like the superhero film. And these movies are fun to watch late at night — Helen Hayes! Charlton Heston! Ava Gardner! — until AIRPLANE came along and perfectly sent them up. But they are not good films in the larger sense in the way that even TITANIC and FOREST GUMP (as much as I hate it) are.”

    I take this to mean you haven’t seen TWO MINUTE WARNING?

    Mike

  46. Not only did the Losers had a bad story, but Jason Patric as Max was just way too dumb and too way over the top.

    It was as if they were trying to make a Vertigo comic all too kid friendly.

    I think that’s what killed it at the box office.

    ~

    Coat

  47. but… if we’re looking at super-hero movies as a whole… aren’t superhero movies delivering “good” movies at about the same pace as the better zombie movies?

    My disagreement basically boils down not so much to whether comic movies are that great (they generally are pretty bad), but (a) if Seitz’s point that zombie movies are doing it right holds and validity, and (b) are Seitz’s arguments actual points, or opinions?

    Seitz’s examples are questionable. He holds up “Zombieland” as a great film, but by what standard? Aside from Bill Murray, it had virtually nothing new that hadn’t been done better elsewhere. Is Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” telling us that much more than Spidey 2?

    I’ll agree that “28 Days Later” was a great movie, not just a great zombie movie… and it did what all zombie movies do, which is make monsters of the humans as much as the zombies. But it’s not a new story any more than Tony Stark facing off against his turncoat pal in evil-equal armor.

    And as I said above, Seitz’s arguments aren’t arguments. They’re subjective evaluations of “this is good, that is bad”, and that’s not particularly useful. He does seem to have a criteria for emotional resonance he’s looking for, and takes his digs at the psychology of characters, but under his criteria, what would hold up?

    Is the gnashing of Bat-teeth over the death of Rachel Dawes and a city on the verge that much less resonant than the generic stricken tears in any zombie apocalypse film? How do you measure that?

  48. Heidi: Hugh Jackman was also perfectly cast as Wolverine ??

    Really? Turning a 5’2″ Canadian feral berserker from the comic books into a 6’2
    Australian song-and-dance man for the movies is seen as fidelity to the ORIGINAL source material?? Okay, I bought Jackman in the role… but “Wolverine” as conceived by Cockrum, Claremont and Bryne in those early character-defining X-MEN issues, he ain’t.

    (And they should’ve cast Angela Bassett as “Storm”, dammit.)

  49. Army of Dorkness says:

    1. I read comics. I’ve read some Iron Man comics. None of them have made me enjoy Iron Man as much as the Iron Man film did.

    2. I think Marvel is stupid, plain and simple stupid, for trying to bring continuity and a shared universe to their films. STOO-PID! Winks and nods, sure… Fury popping up everywhere, sure… now stop. Also, you can make an Avengers movie using all the same actors from Thor, Cap, and Iron Man and not try to make it all fit together and I think people will still buy into it. But the main reason I say that is I want more Iron Man films that have nothing to do with Captain America, Hulk, Thor, etc., and I’m not gonna get that if Marvel thinks they’re geniuses for trying to connect everything.

    So… make of that what you will.

  50. Someone thinks Bryan Singer’s Superman was a good movie??

  51. Henrik J says:

    “if Robert Downey Jr. hadn’t provided such a breath of fresh air as Iron Man everyone would be burying that movie as a good remake of Daredevil. It was “okey” as a movie, but vastly uplifted by perfect casting. High jackman was also perfectly cast as Wolverine”

    How is that different from every other “good” movie made? Both Iron Man 1 & 2 has good stories, but the actors are what made the movies great.

    Would Casablanca be considered a great movie if it featured Tom Cruise and Halle Berry? Would anyone go see The Godfather with Seth Rogen?

    I just think it is silly to hold comicbook movies up to these silly ideals that nobody would expect action movies or comedies to live up to.

    But then again Incredible Hulk is my favorite comicbook movie, and i am pretty sure that if Heath Ledger was still alive, that Dark Knight wouldnt have gotten half the praise it did. So what do i know? :P

  52. (@ Ed @ 4 comments up: TOTALLY shoulda have been Angela Bassett as Storm, which I got to say to Chris Claremont, courtesy of the cocktail I’d had before dinner, when I sat next to him at some convention dinner or another..Baltimore? Dragon*Con? they all tend to run together. Chris just looked at me blankly. Since the movie had just come out & done gangbusters, I’d earned the blank stare. Angela is a couple of years older than Halle, though..)

    Eh, this sorta hand-wringing & pearl-clutching always seems to happen when there’s some big comic book sequel. I don’t think comic book movies have nuked the fridge by any stretch. There’s still loads of stories to be told. (Oh please don’t let the Thor movie stink!) With any luck, the comic book movie market will reflect comics themselves better, & there will be more Persepolis-s to go with the Batmen & Iron Men.

    Comic book movies as I understand them, as a genre, really took off w/ that first Batman when I was in high school. The same questions about their merit arise almost every time there’s a release of this size.

    Can comic book themed movies be better/more? Sure. As mentioned above they are becoming a genre w/ tropes, etc. To visit another genre, spaghetti westerns were all a set style of movie, some wildly better than others. Without them, would Clint Eastwood’s later “Unforgiven” have been so powerful a film? Without the previously existing themes to play with?

  53. Brett says:

    Iron Man 2 wasn’t creatively bankrupt, that’s for sure.

    I saw the flick last night with a packed audience of others who apparantly didn’t think so either.

    People may say the original Donner Superman film is cheesy by today’s standards but in 1978, Richard Donner made many believe a man could fly.

    There haven’t been a whole lot since but for most, Richard Donner set the gold standard with Superman.

    Jon Favreau not only reset the gold standard but he raised the bar with Iron Man 2 doing what no one else has done since 1978: He made me believe a man could fly.

    And no, I didn’t feel that way with IM 1.

    I think IM 2 was so good because it stayed close to the source material, every single actor took the material seriously and delivered grade A performances — everyone from Paltrow to Favreau, Johansen (as Black Window brought the house down, in a comic-correct costume that didn’t look silly on screen) to Mickey Rourke and Downey Jr.

    Best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.

  54. Synsidar says:

    Batman might be an example of the problems people face when doing multiple films about one character. He and the Joker have been described as reflections of each other. Batman is as fiercely committed to fighting crime as the Joker is to causing disorder. That relationship could be the basis for a single novel. The two do their things separately, battle each other at a distance, confront each other, and realize, hey, we’re a lot alike. Jump ahead decades; they’re still doing their things, and haven’t changed a bit. Fill out Batman’s character a bit by having him drive away a potential love interest or turn down the chance to realize a childhood dream, because nothing else is more important than fighting crime. When the novel ends, Batman has been described completely. There’s no need to write another story about him. A writer might come up with different plots and supporting characters, but creatively, repeating his theme — that Batman exists to fight crime and nothing else — is as tiresome as repeating plots. Try to avoid the repetition by changing the character; the result is a different version of the character.

    That repetition is why Christopher Nolan and other directors try to avoid doing a series of films about a character.

    SRS

  55. Superhero movies are still new. Let’s keep that in mind. Other than Richard Donner’s Superman & Tim Burton’s Batman, I think the modern superhero movie starts with Blade. From there it’s been just about 12 years.

    In that time I think we’ve gotten one amazing Batman movie, two great Spider-Man movies, maybe one and a half great X-Men movies, an awesome Iron Man movie, and between the two, one good Hulk movie.

    Sure there’s been a few clunkers along the way, but I think considering how much money the studios need to invest in these films, they’re better than they would be otherwise.

    Even the idea of a sequel is still relatively new considering the history of film, and really what sequels have been on par with the original?

    These movies just need less studio interference and more creators with passion & vision.

    You can read my Iron Man 2 review on my site from the Marvel Friends & Family screening.

    K

  56. I can’t believe that no one here has a problem with Seitz dissing superhero films in favor of fricking ZOMBIE MOVIES!

    Anyway, I dissed Seitz in return in my new essay, “Seitz Warning,” which see.

  57. M.E. Baz says:

    “I think that adaptation is largely a waste of time in almost any circumstances. There probably are the odd things that would prove me wrong. But I think they’d be very much the exception. If a thing works well in one medium, in the medium that it has been designed to work in, then the only possible point for wanting to realize it on “multiple platforms,” as they say these days, is to make a lot of money out of it.” ~Alan Moore

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