Thursday, April 10, 2014
Are There Too Many Comic Book Movies?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.