Thursday, April 10, 2014

Are There Too Many Comic Book Movies?

As they enter a summer with several more comic book movies on the horizon, Patrick and Adam Riske discuss when enough is enough -- or even if enough is enough.

Patrick: I've been feeling lately that I'm tired of so many superhero movies; I think I said as much on our recent Captain America podcast. But then an article by Devin Faraci at Badass Digest told me I was wrong, and that there are really only two to four a year.

The more I thought about it, the more I guess I realized he's pretty much right? It used to be that they were all released within a few summer months, so maybe that contributed to my fatigue. But now they're being spread out all year; Thor 2 came out in November, Cap 2 in April. So why is it that I start to feel exhausted every time another one comes up?

As someone who doesn't treat the genre with any more reverence than any other kind of movie (you're a unique internet snowflake in that regard), how are you feeling about the superhero movie? Are we oversaturated, or is it what Devin Faraci suggests and I'm just overreacting?

Adam: I don't think you're overreacting. 1) If you feel this in your gut, you are on to something and should ignore someone telling you that you're wrong. Fuck them.

I'm definitely burned out when I read announcements for the next superhero movie and when I see the trailers for them. My immediate cynicism and bitching about how the superhero genre ruins movies is at full throttle at that point. As the release date gets closer, I tend to be more indifferent. I approach Thor, Captain America, etc. as a "please entertain me" proposition. And they usually do entertain me as I watch them. My main gripe I guess with these movies after the fact is that I don't care about them at all, let alone remember them. I really enjoyed The Winter Soldier but I could go the rest of my life without seeing it again.
I think that's the reason we feel over-saturated. The comic book movie (with a few exceptions, but The Dark Knight was 6 years ago) is cotton candy. And I don't want to eat cotton candy four times a year. We might also get four movies about the shittiness of the American Dream, but those movies are steak and have more on their mind than a superhero movie. I can eat steak four times a year. I don't want cotton candy the same amount.

The sad thing is that it wasn't always like this. We chatted briefly over the weekend about Spider-Man 3, which is a movie I have never disliked as much as most people. It has problems, but there are moments in that movie that are really strong emotionally -- specifically some of the break-up stuff with Mary Jane and Peter. And Spider-Man 2 is scene after scene of characters dealing with problems of actual human stakes I can relate to. Hell, even Spider-Man has the the guy and the girl falling in love. I was hoping Black Widow and Captain America would get together at the end of The Winter Soldier because then they seem like human beings to me. It makes no sense why these two beautiful people, who clearly enjoy being around each other and are in similar situations with their careers, interests and lifestyles, wouldn't want to give it a shot.

I think the reason you might (and I definitely) feel over-saturated is because these movies are increasingly becoming more and more empty calories. They are mindless. Even when they're good, most superhero movies give you nothing to talk about and the studios have cracked the formula -- it will always taste like Coke from now on instead of something new.

So while I am fine with watching a superhero movie every three months, I'm worried about the effect they will have on the industry and on filmmakers. Can  you imagine how shitty movies will be when the generation that grew up on superhero movies (instead of Spielberg, Scorsese, even Tarantino) take over?
Patrick: A lot of them are empty calories, but not necessarily more so than many big-budget blockbusters. And while I'm often exhausted by the end of summer after seeing a bunch of shit blown up for three consecutive months, it doesn't quite feel like the fatigue I feel with comic book movies. Maybe it's because I was such an avid Marvel reader and have a more personal connection to the material that the "empty calories" approach is wearing me down.

And, to be fair, with something like The Winter Soldier, we're not really talking about empty calories anymore. That's a movie with something on its mind -- it sneaks some thoughtful commentary into a mainstream blockbuster. We often complain that we want more big expensive movies to do just that.

The more I think about it, the more I'm starting to think that maybe it's not even the movies I'm reacting to. As Devin Faraci points out, there are only a couple a year. I think it might be that we spend all year talking about those four movies (you know, in articles just like this one). You and I aren't just writers on a movie website; we both read a lot of online film "journalism." The sites we frequent can't get enough of reporting on every casting announcement, release date, easter egg -- every single aspect of every single superhero movie becomes click bait. So it's probably not the fact that there are more superhero movies being released (though that feeling certainly creeps in when I'm waiting for The Winter Solider to start but first have to sit through trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy). It's that the discourse focuses so much on the few superhero movies that come out that I'm exhausted by them before they're even released.

What say you?

Adam: The Winter Soldier makes steps toward having more on its mind but I'd debate it's not going far enough. These movies should be steeped in subtext because they're seen by more people around the world than any other movies. Even though The Winter Soldier has some, it's not as much as some of the X-Men movies have. I'll give The Winter Soldier credit for some of the military industrial complex touches but I think more could have been done with it. The fate of the world never feels at stake to me and it should, right?

I can see what you're saying about reading information online about superhero movies being a hindrance that causes us to be tired of them before they're even out. However, I'm of the opinion that if the movie is good, no amount of "news" beforehand can damage it. I like movie news. After all, I'm the spoiler champion of the site.
What wears me down is that these movies will never fucking end. The Marvel Studios movies taught the film industry that everything should be an endless cycle instead. So why should I give a shit about these movies frankly? The outcome is irrelevant. The villains need to stick around so they can come back, the heroes will die but only temporarily so they can come back, etc. I feel so manipulated by it. At a certain point, it's like I'm watching The Amazing Sony-Man or CEO Marvel: The Winter Earnings.

I was curious what you thought of this - are superhero characters the new mid-80s to mid-90s Tom Cruise? Like Tony Stark is awesome. Black Widow is awesome. Thor is awesome. Spider-Man is awesome. It keeps you at arms length I think.

Patrick: Hmm. We may agree to disagree on the amount of commentary going on in The Winter Soldier, since I felt like the whole movie was bursting with stuff about the NSA. And though the fate of the world wasn't necessarily at stake (in that the earth was going to explode), I thought the movie was smart not to deal with the "world" but with the fate of the people in it, if that makes sense.

Adam: What's the NSA? Just kidding. I know you mispelled NASA. It's all good.

Patrick: Let me get back to this idea of "too many superhero movies." I think a lot of it does have to do with the conversation around them (which, I remind myself again, we are contributing to RIGHT NOW -- how do you like being inside The Matrix, Adam?), because I end up being tired of the movie before it hits theaters. I didn't love The Amazing Spider-Man, but I could possibly be somewhat positive about the sequel if there was a trailer I liked. Instead, there's a teaser for the trailer and then the trailer and then a second trailer and then a third trailer and then a clip and then another clip and then a release date for two more sequels and then the announcement of a "universe" and then the "news" that Marc Webb won't be directing Amazing Spider-Man 4 but he IS directing Amazing Spider-Man 3 and then this week's announcement that Drew Goddard is directing a Sinister Six movie and somehow I'm supposed to still be looking forward to Amazing Spider-Man 2. I don't agree that it has to do with the quality of the movie at all; it is possible to talk something to death no matter how good it is.
And you're right -- there is no end in sight. Maybe we just have to reframe how we look at these movies. If we accept that they're here to stay (and right now they are, but I do think it's still a fad), they can become a genre unto themselves. As long as filmmakers are willing to explore some other ideas within these movies or approach them in different ways, that can be ok. We don't usually complain about too many horror movies because there are many different types of horror movies; the sense of sameness isn't there.

Adam: I'd be totally fine with superhero movies being a genre. If they want to create an element (ala Tony Stark) then more power to them. Maybe that way I'll get back my regular action movies of the '80s and '90s which were built around a movie star or some cool high-concept like a bus with a bomb on it which will explode if it goes below 50mph.

Patrick: I think we're still at a point where the people writing about these movies and covering their productions are people (like me) who grew up reading/loving comics, suffered through some bad years of these characters being brought to the screen and CAN'T BELIEVE we now live in a world where comic book movies are the biggest thing in the world and being done right. The next generation of movie writers won't be so reverential towards them because they never grew up in a world without them. Maybe that will be the turning point.
Adam: You know what I'm more tired of then superhero movies though? Morgan Freeman!
Like, I wanted to see Lucy and then I saw Morgan Freeman and was like "Ugh, I know what this is now."

Patrick: He only does the one thing now. It's not even his fault. You know what would really be a nightmare? A superhero movie with Morgan Freeman! Ha ha. J/K, Nolan fans. Me and Luscious Fox is tight.

Adam: The best thing Morgan Freeman has done in years is when his Lego character says "...sneakin' around the corner..." and then falls. I laughed very hard at that.

To your point about talking a movie to death, I'm going to change my mind and agree with you. I just remembered how sick of the Oscar nominated movies I usually am by the time that show comes around. I'm hoping this Spider-Man flood is an anomaly. I've never seen anything like it. It has to fail, right?

You're probably right about more themes being in The Winter Soldier than I'm giving it credit for. I think there may be a reason for that and it's not flattering to me as an "objective journalist" -- if I'm being honest, I'm over these movies and am ready for them to fail. I shouldn't want this but I do.

Sorry for being a Debbie Downer.

Patrick: Well, this took a dark turn. I feel like the conclusion we've arrived at is "No, there might not be too many superhero movies. We're just sick of hearing about them so much, which will change with the next generation. You know, the one that comes after we die."

So now I just have to wait to die.

41 comments:

  1. Fun discussion as always guys but I think you need a little tough love here - it's like you're punching yourselves in the face and saying, "Ow! My face hurts!" I could read movie-related "journalism" every minute of every day for a million years and never HAVE to read about superhero movies - take Amazing Spider-Man 2 - I checked out some initial reports - got the idea that Jamie Foxx is Electro, saw something about Shailene Woodley NOT being cast as Mary Jane - I've read NOTHING about that movie or the further sequels in MONTHS. I don't need to. Sounds like you guys don't either! You're all exhausted and depressed because there's too much awesome nerdy stuff happening? I'm just picturing a nerd sitting on the King of the World throne in a castle made of comic books and computers with his feet up on a jock ottoman looking all pouty and bored. I suppose you have a secret sex dungeon full of bullies giving you atomic wedgies just to get your rocks off now?

    You're movie news addict-nerds in need of an intervention - do we need to take you out to a spooky cabin in the woods (without wifi) to get you through the withdrawal?! Because I've got one and it's TERRIFYING.

    P.S. On a more serious note I do get the potential downside of these movies pulling funding from more artful and interesting stuff, but don't you think that's being counterbalanced by the increased accessibility of independent filmmaking with cheaper production capabilities and growing alternative venues like Netflix and VOD?

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    1. I just want to be happy. Like Pharrell.

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    2. I try to avoid most of it too. But even seeing it's out there all the time and having to scroll past it (or whatever) contributes to the bombardment.

      I don't mean to complain about too much awesomeness. I just wish it could be tempered a little. I like all kinds of movies. I'd love to talk about some of the other ones, too.

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    3. Sol. I agree with your P.S. point. I think my big gripe is that superhero movies have replaced the standard action movie. Too many are ghettoized to VOD/Independent theaters or star actors that are in their late sixties.

      For example, everyone should be talking about The Raid 2. It should be a big box office hit but instead it is playing at boutique theaters while CA2 is getting all of the press. CA2 is really good. Raid 2 is truly special.

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    4. The Raid 2 was AMAZING! And everyone should go see it! It's getting a wider release this weekend!!!!!

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    5. I think it's maybe because I compartmentalize Comic Book Movies as almost being outside of what I consider MOVIES to be (I don't have much of my collection organized, but all of my comic book movies are on their own shelf), that I don't really see them as drowning out the public discourse on movies in general, but I see what you're saying. F This Movie is about the only site I visit on a daily basis so I might be just ignorant of how bad it's really gotten - I just want to be happy. Like Pharrell.

      That's a fair gripe, Adam, and you've hit on a specific sore spot for me because while the downtown multiplex I can walk to is still showing fucking Divergent in its 4th week, The Raid 2 is only showing in the bigger multiplex outside of the city that's a pain for me to get to. It should be the biggest thing going! I've been trying to spread the Gospel of The Raid amongst my friends but when no one's heard anything about it, it's a tough sell.

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  2. I guess that all depends on the quality of said comic book movies….Considering we are hitting a point where not only are we getting beloved characters brought to life on screen at a near alarming rate, we are getting the most truly comic inspired stories yet! Although shifted and morphed to fit existing continuity and live action settings, we just got The Winter Soldier, Days of Future Past, and soon a Batman VS Superman (World's Finest) type film. No longer are they just taking said characters and applying them to an existing action script, (Die Hard 2) instead we are hitting nerd paradise when not only are they making these films to get our money, they will get that no matter what, but they are reaching out to the comic writers and giving us the in depth stories and unleashing them in bold phases ala Marvel. It's sort of incredible. Sure, it seems like overkill, but almost every film that follows the next is better than the next and all intertwining and connecting…what is there to complain about? Sure, there will be some stinkers now and then (Green Lantern, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four) but it is currently nerdsville and we are the mayor. It is likely plateauing soon, but for now we should count our lucky stars they are spending BILLIONS of dollars to give us not just actors in costumes, but actual amazing comic stories that give our hearts, as well as our eyes boners. bah bah bah baaahh I'm loving it!

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  3. I think that I'm really lucky that I go see all Marvel comic book movies with one of my good friends who is absolutely OBSESSED with them. She reads everything, actively looks for spoilers, and sees each of them in theaters multiple times. We saw Captain America on Friday, and she'd already seen it on Thursday. And she was still excited. I think I feed off that excitement, so seeing these movies is always an awesome experience.

    Side note: Did no one else notice that when she's not in her Black Widow gear, Natasha is wearing an arrow necklace? Like for Hawkeye. So, yeah, probably not going to get with Captain America...

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  4. We've only been getting good comic book movies for a few years now, so hopefully we'll see more interesting stuff in the future as the genre settles down and opens up for filmmakers with interesting ideas. Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man will be a big test, since I love both directors and neither property fits into the Avengers/X-Men/Batman/Superman mold.

    I spent last month reading a ton of Marvel comics thanks to a super cheap Marvel Unlimited promo, and it was a lot of fun. Comics are the opposite of self-contained. They rely on long arcs, returning characters, and a particular kind of continuity (a kind where characters never die and nothing really changes). I can see why that mode of storytelling isn't for everyone. I'm not even sure it's always for me, but there's still room for "comic book movies" to be more than fluff. Scott Pilgrim was technically a comic book movie, and it's one of my all-time favorites.

    The internet is cool, but the never ending pre-production movie coverage is a problem. Sure, a problem that can be avoided by not reading sites that cover that stuff, but that's not easy for film fans. I suspect the noise is even noisier when popular media mix (like comics and movies, or TV and George R.R. Martin). Maybe that will settle once the comic genre is either less of a novelty, or is gone forever.

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    1. I agree in that I personally think that, at least on the Marvel Studios side of these movies, comic book movies have the potential to just get better and better, with the arrival of something as good as The Winter Soldier as an example. The directorial talent assigned to two of the next big movies, James Gunn with Guardians of the Galaxy and Edgar Wright with Ant-Man, would indicate as much to me. And they are getting bigger stars with the likes of Robert Redford and Micheal Douglas, too, which I think helps lend more credence to these movies and the genre as a whole.

      As for the oversaturation of news before movies are released, there's not much I can say about that. I think it just boils down to not reading those stories when you come across them and not letting it bother you so much that they are there. Not to hassle you too much for this, Patrick, but I think the same could be said for post-credits tags. If you don't care for them, you can just leave when the movie ends. You're not required to watch them.

      Personally, I hope comic book movies are here to stay, but that they just get better with the attention of greater filmmakers and screenwriters.

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    2. I'm very excited about Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man but only because they are the new James Gunn and Edgar Wright movies. They could direct a remake of North and I would be interested.

      Not to open pandora's box, but I'm going to open it anyways...does it only bum me out that these movies get AMAZING casts who should be in a movie more substantial (just my opinion)? These are casts for Oliver Stone in the 90s type movies or a Tarantino movie. I feel like some talent is getting squandered.

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    3. They're not being squandered if the movies are good, right? Or if the actors get to be good in them?

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    4. I'm coming off as a crumudgeon, I know. I just get bummed out when I see actors/actresses who have given amazing performances in the past and they have very little to do in a Marvel or DC movie except deliver quips and expository dialogue. I love acting and these are not actor's movies.

      Long story short, these movies are not for me even if I wish they were.

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    5. I feel like we could be having the same conversation if you were someone who just didn't like horror movies.

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    6. You're right but I see all of these movies so I feel ok giving my opinion about what bothers me about them. BTW...we're less than 6 months from SMM!!!!

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    7. You know, people say a lot of bad things about you. I mean, like A LOT. But you really do put your ticket money where your ticket mouth is. I appreciate that about you. You know, no matter what anyone says.

      #ScaryMovieMonthPhaseTwo

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    8. I know what I'm doing. Station.

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  5. "So why should I give a shit about these movies frankly? The outcome is irrelevant. The villains need to stick around so they can come back, the heroes will die but only temporarily so they can come back, etc. I feel so manipulated by it. At a certain point, it's like I'm watching The Amazing Sony-Man or CEO Marvel: The Winter Earnings."

    You really hit the nail on the head here, not just for superhero films, but superhero comics of the past decade or so. The editorial and executive heads at the Big Two companies, but mainly DC, are less focused on telling stories that uniquely suit each character (i.e. stories that end) and more concerned with yearly "everything you know is wrong" epic events. Characters are merely "managed" until then to fit into place when these events hit. As creative as the recent Marvel films have been with tone/genre to suit characters before the big team-up movie, it actually only deflates the huge build up because no earthly threat stands a chance against the monetary power of the sequel potential.

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  6. "Can you imagine how shitty movies will be when the generation that grew up on superhero movies (instead of Spielberg, Scorsese, even Tarantino) take over?"

    I'd like to respond to this quote before giving my thoughts on the entire article.

    I think the argument in this quote is very, VERY flawed, because it assumes too many things about where a director gets their influences. Most directors aren't influenced by a single genre, but of all the genres they soak up (they'll probably only soak up certain elements of these genres anyhoo) and of real life stuff happening around them. Steven Spielberg didn't just make adventure serials and pulp sci-fi, and Quentin Tarantino didn't just make 60's/70's genre films.

    Now, onto the actual article. I don't mind that there's so much discussion about the movies, but I really despise the fact that these movies will never end. Without an endgame, a climax, I can't get invested in this series as a franchise. It's like how I can be really invested in certain James Bond movies (Goldfinger, Skyfall, From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Goldeneye) but couldn't care less about the series as a whole. Why should I if there's never going to be an emotional payoff that justifies these movies as a franchise, as opposed to a handful of films I really like and a bunch of bleh?

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    1. You're not wrong that my arguement is flawed about the next generation that was raised on superhero movies. It was perhaps too reductive. I just think that branding is really going to hurt movies if it gets any more out of control.

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  7. I recently re-watched Spider-Man (2002, Yes we've reached the point where I have to specify which web spinning incarnation we're discussing), and I was struck by how pivotal this movie is to the evolution of graphic novel adaptations. Raimi's Spider-Man was the segway from the campy Schumacher Batman films and the earnestly enduring Donner Superman before Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America could arrive. More importantly this movie has a lot of heart which appears to be lacking from the new Spider-Man adaptations and the gun for hired Marvel directors. Sam Raimi loves Spider-Man and that energy carries over into the filmmaking. Instead of going all Far Away and marking release dates, how about more personally driven fan films? Meanwhile you can always save your Sony-Man money for Guardians of the Galaxy or squirrel it away for Ant-Man.

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  8. http://www.filmoria.co.uk/2014/04/x-men-producers-wants-mystique-gambit-deadpool-spin-movies/

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  9. http://www.slashfilm.com/venom-sinister-six-before-amazing-spider-man-4/

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  10. I agree with Patrick. The (non) news saturation is really off-putting. When I saw the headline: "Mark Webb will NOT be directing spider man 4", blood started trickling out of my nose and ear.

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  11. All this low-hanging fruit and Hollywood just realized everyone likes apples.

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  12. "We don't usually complain about too many horror movies because there are many different types of horror movies; the sense of sameness isn't there."

    Patrick, I'm not a horror fan at all - I like maybe five or six such movies - so I acknowledge I'm speaking from a certain ignorance here, but I couldn't disagree with this statement more. Every day, I walk past a subway ad for Oculus - oh, look, a horror movie about some sort of ghost haunting children! We haven't seen that since, what, Insidious 2? The Conjuring? Sinister? And sometimes there are horror movies about people trapped in a house with people/things trying to kill them - was that Evil Dead, or was it You're Next, or maybe Cabin in the Woods, or possibly The Purge?

    You may say it's the many nuances and personalities that sets all those movies apart, but couldn't you also say that for comic book movies? Spider-Man is an awkward young adult, Thor is a warrior prince-god, Jonah Hex is a quasi-supernatural cowboy... Some of their movies are great, and some are awful, but I can't agree on the sameness point. And to compare roast beef with Tuesday, as a high school buddy of mine likes to say, if sports fans can have dozens of games to anticipate and talk about every season, why not an X-Men movie once a year or so, and a Marvel movie every two or three months? It's a cliche, but it's true: no one is forcing you to see these flicks.

    Also, like Sol, I gotta serve up a bit of tough love here. You guys fairly consistently do podcasts on the big-ticket movies, which I love listening to, but what about all the other stuff? Some recent notable movies without episodes devoted to them include Before Midnight, Lincoln, the most recent Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave, the latest movies from the Coen Bros., Woody Allen, Miyazaki, von Trier... but we did get full eps on RoboCop, X-Men Origins: Carrie, and Pacific Rim. I'm not complaining about any of this - it's your site/podcast, so of course you have the prerogative to cover/discuss anything you like - but I do know I've heard you guys sigh about the glut of comic-book movies far more than I've heard you discuss the state of Jesse and Celine's relationship, and that's kind of a shame. ;)

    Finally, some food for thought: could it be that the many conveniences of modern life, especially cell phones, sort of necessitate outsized, comic book-y films? If Romeo and Juliet had been able to text, with dueling a thing of the forgotten past, their story would've been a lame rom-com. Speaking of which, Jesse and Celeste Forever totally deserves an ep. :)

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    1. I can appreciate that you're not a horror fan, but I think it does color the way you're lumping a lot of the same movies together (which doesn't refute your point -- there are similarities with a lot of them, especially studio horror). One of the things I love about the genre is how many subgenres exist within it. Filmmakers have found so many ways into horror (some by choice, some but budget necessity) that I could watch exclusively horror for all of October and not feel like I'm seeing the same thing over and over. And I do exactly that.

      I think the comic book/superhero genre could get there some day, and I say as much in the article. It's a pretty new genre. Not counting the occasional entry in the '80s and '90s, it really has come into its own in the 2000s. If it sticks around, I think we'll see the same thing start to happen. I hope so. Right now we're getting a lot of origin stories. In just over a decade, we will have seen four or five major properties rebooted from scratch. I'd like things to branch out a little.

      And once again for the record, I know no one is forcing me to see the movies. For now, I still like going to see them. I like way more of them than I dislike. The point of the article comes down to the conversation around them, not the movies themselves.

      I wish it was technological advances that were driving the rise of the current blockbuster (in some ways it is, as far as FX go). I think it has much more to do with something Vince Mancini wrote about on FilmDrunk just yesterday:
      http://www.uproxx.com/filmdrunk/2014/04/tentpole-strategy-explained-blockbusters-losing-money/

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    2. Wow - I'd suggest anyone that follows Patrick's link also read the full story linked to within that article - strange days, indeed. If there aren't too many comic book movies now they're sure as hell is going to be.

      In a previous column I joked about there being an F This Videogame! By the sounds of things, if you want to get ahead of the curve, you should start F This Movie Videogame! because that appears like it's going to be a big part of studios' future business models - probably a bad thing for both movies and video games!

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    3. Clearly you haven't played Cap Crush Saga

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  13. I think you're on the right track, especially comparing all movies (outside of the Nolan Batman movies), that they're like cotton candy and too much can make you sick of them.

    While I liked Captain America I wouldn't say I loved it, and I think the very same could be said for many comic book movies. The only Marvel movies I would consider "great" are X-Men 2 and Spider-Man 2, and that's probably because they seemed fresh at the time, and hasn't become stale.

    While I really like Winter Soldier, The Avengers, and even Thor: Dark World they all go through some of the similar beats, and are kind of indistinguishable at times. Good portions of the movie are just there for the spectacle, and are just random ships exploding. That being said these spectacles are well done, and far better than what you'd find in a Transfomers movie, but I feel like I've seen the same scenes more than once.

    The bigger picture though is that there are far too many blockbusters these days. At one point there was only a few portioned out in a year, and the anticipation was there on most occasions. You would only find a Titanic, or an Independence Day, or an Armageddon once every few months. Now the year is jam packed with them, and in the Summer it seems like there is a new 100+ million dollar movie every week. Sure Godzilla, Transformers, Noah, Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow, Fast & the Furious, Planet of the Apes, Jupiter Ascending, Hercules, The Expendables 3, and I suppose Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles* aren't technically based on comic books, but they all go through similar motions, and don't add anything to the genre. It's hard to find blockbuster movies that actually standout, which leads to the "it was okay" mentality so many people have these days.

    I can't count how many times Patrick has said a movie was "just okay, or it was good", but that's pretty much the way it is today. Many of these movies are okay because they are well-made, well-acted, and interesting to a point. But usually the minute you leave the theatre you forget everything you just watched, and while you enjoyed your 2+ hours (which is another issue altogether, that these movies are often too long), none of it was memorable, and I rarely find myself wanting to rewatch the movie. That being said I do have hopes for some of them, like Godzilla and The Edge of Tomorrow. But instead we'll probably just end up with another Pacific Rim and Oblivion.

    So I don't think the problem is the amount of comic book movies, but instead it's more of a combination of all the blockbuster movies. Sure they're usually good, but rarely would I say they're great!

    *Yes I realize TMNT was originally a comic, but the movie isn't really based on any of the source material.

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    1. This is a spectacular comment. So spot on. I feel like there are so many blockbusters that we don't have "event" movies anymore.

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    2. It is true. but it's also true of ALL movies. Ten percent are great, ten percent are terrible, the rest all fall somewhere in between. I don't think it applies to only blockbusters.

      But yes, there is more of an emphasis on blockbuster-sized movies these days, especially as far as the movie theater goes. The mid-size movie is pretty much dead; you're either $75 million+ or you're >$10 million and go straight to arthouses, VOD and Netflix.

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    3. The second point is bang on, as that's what Hollywood is keen on producing these days. But as to the ten percent of blockbusters being great, I am not sure the last few years can support that.

      I'd say the last truly great blockbuster on all accounts was Inception in 2010, since then I can't think of one. There are a few that would be in consideration though; Looper, Super 8, Ghost Protocol, and Gravity (if that counts).

      Last year is great example though where there were about a dozen okay to very good blockbusters, but nothing that exceptional. The only truly bad blockbusters of 2013 (in my opinion, of course) was White House Down; After Earth would probably be there as well, but I gleefully passed on seeing that one.

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  14. I agree a lot with what you guys are saying here but what I hope is that Captain America 2 is actually the beginning of a new trend in Comic movies. This seemed to be the first one, aside from X-men, with something morally to say and to say it well. Now looking at the slate they have coming next, Guardians of the Galaxy looks completely different in its take on "Heroes" and Ant Man seems to be a crime caper from what I have heard, plus it has the great Edgar Wright attached to it. Maybe this is wishful thinking but I have high hopes that the genre is moving in a better direction in the next few years. I am not as jaded by it yet but I might be right there with you, Adam, if things do not begin to evolve.

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  15. I come onto this site to escape AMC Movie Talk discussions. ;) JK. Great article, guys.

    These thoughts have crossed my mind more than a few times.

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    1. I can't stop listening to that shit. In reference to Captain America 3 and Batman/Superman opening the same day, one of the people said "they're gonna chip in someone's dip". They also said Crispin Bale.

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    2. I'm currently watching the latest Versus episode which has to do (a little) with this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1eSTdh4y4Y

      Sorry Patrick.

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  16. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the movie news sites point.
    These movies used to be all about the anticipation of them, primarily fuelled by the name recognition and pre-existing emotional investment. With The Dark Knight, I knew every minutia about that production and engaged very deeply in online communities about it. When the movie finally came out there was an element of sadness that the anticipation and build up phase was over, despite loving the end product. Now there is no time or energy for anticipation, because its only ever a couple months between movies and there are too many movies in production to feel connected to without it consuming all of your life. Now, I just cant be bothered with it and don’t really follow productions very closely at all. However, if I maintained the position of trying to participate in the never-ending anticipation/production/marketing/release cycle, I would most definitely feel burnt out.
    Disengaging from that aspect has been fantastic for my overall enjoyment of the movies while I still retain awareness of what’s going on. So now I don’t feel like there are “too many” because they are more in line with all the other movies out there, rather than being viewed as “special” and therefore demanding.

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  17. Part 1:
    I have found my life to be drastically different for the better since I stopped following movie news. Trailers can't be truly avoided, but I don't pursue them. There are times when a TV spot will come on television that I'll actually turn away or change the channel because I just...I just can't do it anymore. The last time I actually watched a TV spot ended with me potentially having the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spoiled for me. I don't even go to Slate anymore because they're just as likely to ruin something for me as anyone else these days. A lot of times I'll go to a movie and see a trailer (they can't be avoided there) for a movie I didn't even know had been greenlit, and that's exciting; going into movies knowing nothing about the casting contributes to a better experience, as well. When I saw the first teaser tag at the end of Winter Soldier I think it was my first time finding out those two characters were being put into the movies (it's possible I had heard something a while back but cared so little that the information completely fell out of my brain). So that tag didn't excite me, but it did provide information I didn't know.

    I'm not defending comic book movies. There are some bad ones out there (though they still make me happier than most other summer blockbusters like Transformers and World War Z because at least superheroes have shaped our modern mythology for the last 75 years), but the feelings you guys have laid out about comic book movies are my feelings for pretty much ALL movies these days. I feel totally disenfranchised from the major studio system. If it wasn't comic book movies it would be something else. Who am I kidding, it IS something else. Every cartoon or TV show that was ever successful has been bastardized into a sub-par film, and now they're doing board game movies. It's a symptom of the society we live in where budgets are higher than ever before and substance is at an all time low.

    I'm not burned out on comic book movies, I'm burned out on Hollywood. One thing is successful so they make three dozen other things to try to be exactly like that first one, taking away everything that made that first thing special. This system is very broken and very unsustainable. For me, comic book movies aren't the problem, I think the problem lies with the studios and the way finance, produce, and market the same thing all year long. I'm more likely to get upset at, say, Maleficent (which my step-daughter is DYING to see) than I am at X-Men 17 because the X-Men have always been that thing while Maleficent is a forced epic designed to capitalize on children's recognition of the character while luring in older (as in teenage) audiences with the battles. The X-Men were there first. They were using their mutant powers to fight bad guys over 50 years ago. This other garbage wasn't. X-Men and superheroes have more justification for existing at the multiplex than most of this other stuff that's being fabricated to be LIKE The X-Men or superheroes.



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  18. Part 2:
    Another example: I'm more upset about 22 Jump Street than any comic book movie on the schedule because the last one, 21 Jump Street said and did all it needed to do. I can't imagine it has anything else to say. Cynically, I suspect the only reason it exists is because there's money to be made there. Any story ideas probably came waaaay late in the process. Of course, that's speculation and therefore an empty argument because I have no inside information and ALL movies are designed to make money. But comic books have always been a serialized medium. Having a lot of comic book movies is inherent to their nature. They have an excuse for existing while 80% of these other big-budget boom-fest do not. Some (including comic book movies) earn their place; most do not.

    I miss the days of the 50 million dollar blockbuster, when the other movies of the year cost a fraction of that. But those days are gone. Hopefully audiences will tire of expensive movies filled with explosions and attacking aliens soon, but I'm not going to hold my breath. In the meantime it's a struggle to try to find things to like and appreciate in a market where originality is a rare commodity.

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    1. You're dead-on about lack of originality. The problem isn't that Hollywood is obsessed with glomming onto existing properties, it's that they do it in the laziest way possible. Comic book movies can be great as long as some thought is put into how to use works on the page to make something interesting on screen. With a few exceptions, most comic book movies think people are satisfied with just seeing characters and scenarios they recognize. As long as someone can say "I know that guy!" then who cares if there are resonant themes or compelling characters? It's the same as "comedies" that think a pop culture reference is the same thing as a joke. It's super cool that we have the tech to render comic-accurate versions of the most popular DC and Marvel characters. Now do something interesting with them.

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